Couple Leaves High Paying Jobs To Become Full Time RVers To Reduce Stress And Spend More Time With Each Other.



RV Road Stories: Linda & Howard Payne

Burnt Out From Stressful Careers, Middle-Aged Married Couple Joins The Full Time RV Lifestyle With No Regrets

Howard & Linda On The "Wave", Or The North Coyote Buttes [Courtesy/The Paynes]

The American Dream means many things to many people. Whether driving in the wilds of Alaska or the Arizona desert, life takes little detours. For Howard and Linda Payne, their dream journey has just begun.

In 2004, the couple from Louisville, now 53, made the decision to go on the road after taking a 12-day trip to Alaska with a tour company that took them out into the wilds.  “We didn't take cell phones or laptops and we didn't have access to TVs or newspapers,” recounted Howard in a recent interview.

Without the distractions, they become immersed in the natural surroundings and were able to re-connect as a couple. “We recognized that we are our happiest while out in nature and discovering new places.”

What followed that journey of a lifetime was a “short depression” he continued.

Shortly after, he and Linda decided to give their lives a major overhaul.

Then 41, the couple had high paying jobs and the comfort that affords, though that came with a high price, Howard recounted.

“At minimum, we needed to downsize our lifestyle and take on less stressful jobs.  But that didn't seem like enough. We're both hard-wired to work hard and improve the companies we work for, so we determined we would eventually put ourselves back in the same position.”

“In 2003, our company was bought by a large national title company and I became an "employee" rather than an owner and took over management of seven offices.  Linda came out of semi-retirement to manage my largest office.  We had the dream home, the cars, the country club and all the status symbols of the American Dream,” said Howard.

The company was centralizing operations, cutting back on staff, and “generally making things more difficult.

“We were making really good money but here was a lot of stress. We had become more like roommates in our big house than a married couple.”

Linda came up with the idea of getting an RV. The plan was to simplify their lifestyle to the point where they no longer needed the high salaried jobs, and to travel, and enjoy nature, they both love.

The Paynes On Key Largo At Sunset During Fishing Trip [Courtesy/The Paynes]
Keystone Cambridge Fifth Wheel On Howard & Linda's Truck [Courtesy/The Paynes]

“We wouldn't make "the number" we were shooting for that would allow us early retirement from the corporate world, but we could start having the experiences we were hoping for in retirement much earlier and while we were healthy,” Howard explained.

He began to look into it and found out there was something called full-time RVing and “a whole underground society of people doing it.”

The RVers didn’t have houses, just an RV and loved the travel and the freedom. Howard and Linda had never RVed before “nor had we actually ever been in an RV.” Still, they were “pretty sure” they would adapt, Howard said.

“After a month of research and determining that we could make money on the road to help cover our expenses, we made the decision to quit our high-paying jobs, sell our big house, our cars, and all our stuff and become full-time RVers.  We were 41 and liked the idea of going against the grain of society to obtain a deeper happiness.”

Since then, the couple that love nature, watching wildlife, and discovering natural beauty, have built lots of stories of “unforgettable hikes and paddles, and wildlife encounters.”

“We have RVing stories that range from the hilarious to the tragic, and we have met the most wonderful people — people that don't care what your financial status is or what your education is or what your vocation is,” Howard said.

They’ve met some of the “most wonderful people from all walks of life,” including emigrants from South Africa who have taken them there on safari, and Canadians they have traveled with internationally.

“We have expanded our friendships beyond belief, and we establish deeper relationships because we don't have the distractions of "normal" life and we actually listen to each other.”

To date, Howard and Linda have been to 33 national parks, over 50 other designated federal park units, and hundreds of state parks.

They’ve hiked overnight at the Grand Canyon, Glacier National Park and Smoky Mountains National Park, and taken multi-night backpacking trips in Voyageurs National Park and Isle Royale National Park. 

The Paynes Capture A Rainbow Over Weston Hills [Courtesy/The Paynes]
Howard & Linda Representing Their Company RV-Dreams.Com [Courtesy/The Paynes]
Landscape Of Weston Hills With RV Parked [Courtesy/The Paynes]

There have been “floats” on the Buffalo National River and Canyonlands National Park on the Green River.

“The natural beauty we have seen is sometimes mind-blowing,” Howard said.

‘We have zero regrets. May 9 was the 12th year anniversary of us living in our RV. I tell people all the time, ‘Because of these last twelve years, the freedom we've experienced, the places we've seen, and the people we have met, I could die tomorrow perfectly content with no regrets’. We have made a lifetime of memories in these last few years.”

Often it is people in their early 60s they encounter on the road, though, “Younger and younger people are getting into it,” Howard noted.

“It’s not new for people to retire and go out on the road but before Internet it was like being a pioneer,” he said.

Today, “We live comfortably in a large RV. We have internet and satellite TV.”  This past week the couple spent nestled in the Smoky Mountains, near Gatlingburg, Tenn., at an RV resort. They’ll likely spend the summer in the region to be close to Louisville where Howard is in the process of selling the home of his parents, both of whom passed away in recent years. With Linda’s family — her mother and sister - now in Florida, home base in their 5th wheeler Cambridge. They haul with a pickup, and Linda drives along in a Jeep Liberty, making their temporary homes convenient for side trips and errands.

And though there are comforts, there takes a certain attitude to become full-time RVers, who tend to have a bit of “risk-taker” in them, Howard said. He recounted a time driving through mountains in Wyoming when they lost their truck engine and it had to be replaced.

“Stuff happens, things go wrong. If you feel you have to eliminate every risk, this is probably not a lifestyle for you. If you are terrified of the unknown, this is probably not a lifestyle for you. If you freak out when things happen and your well laid-out plan changes, this is probably not a lifestyle for you. If you are generally negative, this is probably not a lifestyle for you. It's a lifestyle for the adventurous, the flexible, the positive, and the resilient,” said Howard.

The mishaps, he added, become “campfire stories down the road.”

Donna Christopher

A graduate of  Western Connecticut State University  with a degree in Political Science, Donna has written for HAN Network, Daily Voice, Hearst Media Group and more. She enjoys traveling and taking pictures.  


Louisville North Campground

Make Sure To Stay At:

Louisville North Campground is located only 1 1/2 miles from downtown Louisville, KY. This campground is convenient for area attractions and events. Easy off/on access to I-65, I-64 and I-71. 

Download PDF File