Fifteen years ago, San Luis Obispo County residents Rick and Kathy Howe sold all of their worldly possessions, including their home, and set out to live a nomadic lifestyle that has since led them to four continents and countless memories.
The couple, who met during a volunteer event at public radio station KCBX in San Luis Obispo in 1990, have now traveled in their motor home to 48 U.S. states, 12 provinces and territories across Canada, most of Mexico and more than 50 other countries on four continents outside of North America.
“Freedom to roam, to see the world, to move with the seasons, and to literally be able to begin each day with a decision of where you want to go and what you want to do … the sheer independence of it all is the best thing about our lifestyle,” Rick Howe said.
Howe, who worked as a service manager at San Luis Obispo’s Sunset Honda before joining his wife at her property services company, Manderley Property Services (she sold it in 2001), said he had always dreamed of traveling the world one day.
“I even made an attempt at building a motor home when I was in my late 20s,” he said. “Never finished it, but the dream was always there.”
The couple, both in their 70s, now spend their days roaming the world in a 19-foot 2007 Tiger motor home, nicknamed the “Tortuga,” which means turtle in Spanish, sharing less than 100 square feet of living space.
“Kathy and I get along extremely well and always have, and this is a prerequisite for extended small vehicle travel,” he said, adding that they have owned four different motor homes and learned to love the freedom of a small vehicle.
“If your goal is to travel, and particularly to travel in other countries, you will quickly learn that small is better anytime you’re moving, and for us, moving is the whole idea,” Howe said.
The couple has shipped their vehicle between continents four times, including from South America to the United States and from the United States to the United Kingdom.
Often, they choose to leave it in storage areas at campgrounds or long-term parking at European airports as they travel back to San Luis Obispo County during winter months to visit with family and friends and attend doctor’s appointments. Sometimes they bring the RV with them, staying at an RV park in Morro Bay or with friends.
Freedom to roam, to see the world, to move with the seasons, and to literally be able to begin each day with a decision of where you want to go and what you want to do … the sheer independence of it all is the best thing about our lifestyle.
They’ve learned how to live affordably on the road, preferring to live simply, with few belongings and even fewer needs. It’s a lifestyle they consider liberating.
Rick Howe is emphatic that they can live and travel in other countries for the same amount of money, if not less, than it would cost them to live and travel in the United States.
So, they keep on traveling, embracing the intricacies of foreign travel and fulfilling childhood dreams of seeing the world.
The charm of Turkey for its history, ancient sites and museums, and the extraordinary openness of the people make it one of their favorite destinations.
The country has fallen into war-torn strife since the couple spent five months there at the end of 2012.
“We are concerned by what we hear in the news about what is happening there today and can only hope that the Turkey we know and love will not become something else in the future,” Rick Howe said.
Other favorite destinations include Colombia, Scandinavia for its stunning, quiet beauty, and Peru for its indigenous people and their continued impact on modern society. Closer to home, the Howes enjoy eastern and western Canada and Alaska.
While their favorite destinations span the globe from Turkey to Peru, one commonality between them all is their appreciation for the people they meet along the way.
“People were friendly in every country we visited,” Kathy Howe said. “Once they got comfortable with us, they’d invite us into their homes, share things, help us solve problems, you name it. The biggest lesson wasn’t a new one, it was an affirmation: People are people are people, all over the world.”
Her husband agreed.
“Everyone wants to be able to live a productive and happy life, they want to take good care of their children, they are much more likely to be friendly and welcoming to travelers than the opposite, and many of them will bend over backwards to be helpful to someone in need,” he said.
They’ve also befriended fellow globetrotters.
“There aren’t as many Americans out there traveling independently like we do, but lots of Europeans, and we are fortunate to have made good friends in half a dozen countries around Europe and Australia,” he said.
In the spring, the couple will once again ship their motor home overseas, this time with extended travel planned in Europe, Central Asia, Mongolia and Russia.
From there, the Howes hope to carry on to Australia, New Zealand and southern Africa before either returning for a second visit to South America or coming home to North America.
They plan to travel for as long as their health allows — and for now there is no end in sight.
“We try very hard not to travel on any kind of schedule, so the last thing we would do would be to assign a date when we’ll be done,” Rick Howe said.
Despite their endless wanderlust, they are always happy to return home.
“When we return to San Luis Obispo County, we are reminded of what we’ve always known — there are few better places to live than right here,” Rick Howe said. “The Central Coast will always be home to us.”’
Follow their travels at http://travelin-tortuga.com.