2 people, 1 RV, 1 year: Florida travel writers complete American journey

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Travel writers Susan and Simon Veness were trying to escape the rat race when they hit the road for a year in an RV.

“For the last 20 years we have been working flat-out, seven days a week, never took time off,” Susan Veness says. “We didn’t take vacations, and we were so burned out that we just needed to hit the reset button.”

The Venesses took off in their 36-foot RV – dog Ruthie and a subcompact car in tow – with a route in mind that went to Michigan, then across the country to the West Coast before swooping down across the South and back home to Apopka.

“The challenge was to try and see as much of the country as we could. We really wanted to see America,” Simon Veness says.

Their mission was completed, mostly, and ended recently with a stay at Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World. There were bumps along the way, including mechanical difficulties, a stretch of 19 days without hot water, tight mountain passes and harrowing bridges that might have contributed to high blood pressure.

“We met a lot of mobile technicians in those first months,” Susan says. After two months and another frustrating RV repair, they considered pulling the plug on the 12-month project that had been in the works for four years.

“So we had to take the rig in, stay in a hotel. We spent a couple of days really just saying we’re not sure we can do this,” Susan says. “And then we bucked up our courage and decided, yeah, we want to keep going. And then, for months, it was just beautiful. Smooth sailing.”

“The last six months were the gravy. They just seemed to go so fast,” Simon says.

The Venesses are the creators of “The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World” book sires and the “Brit Guide to Orlando and Walt Disney World” guidebook. They have written for blogs, magazines and newspapers, and their trip updates have appeared in The Independent newspaper in the U.K. The second edition of Susan’s “Walt Disney World Hacks” book came out in April.

They submitted another book days before heading out in the RV. This fall, their new book “111 Places in Orlando That You Must Not Miss,” will be published.

Their on-the-road workload was “doing this easy stuff that we can do remotely rather than the press events and the openings and the restaurants and everything that goes with it, which is what makes it feel like you’re on a treadmill,” Simon says.

A stand-out state for Simon was Utah, he says.

“Absolutely everywhere we went, there was a stunning panorama … amazing national parks, just incredible vistas right throughout the state,” he says.

Another highlight for the couple was watching “wave after wave” of sandhill cranes at Wilcox Playa in southeast Arizona, Susan says.

“We spent a whole evening one night watching these birds flying in from literally out of the sunset into this wildlife area of marshlands, where they were settling for the winter,” Simon says.

“It was mind-blowing watching those. The noise, the site, the backdrop. It was like a David Attenborough nature documentary. You’re sitting there open-jawed for hours watching those,” he says.

Travel writers Susan and Simon Veness stand with their 36-foot Winnebago, their home for a year, while rolling across the country. (Courtesy Veness family)

So much togetherness in such tight living quarters was not an issue for Venesses, they said.

“We’re always together. For 20 years all of our work has been together. So that was really the easy part,” she says.

“Our office is only 11 feet square [at home], and both of us are in there pretty much every day,” he says.

Along the way, they decided their initial itinerary was too ambitious, so they opted against Washington, Oregon and northern California, which allowed them to slow their pace.

Simon says he eventually got used to the conditions of driving an RV.

“You’ve got to be dialed in all the time because it just takes one small give in the road, and it throws you off course because of the weight of the whole vehicle,” he says.

“By the end of the trip, I didn’t want to stop because I love the view from the cab,” he says.

The trip covered more than 35,000 miles between the RV and the car in 22 states.

The Venesses check out Mount Rushmore, one of several landmarks visited during their RV adventure. (Courtesy Veness photo)

Once they got back to Florida, they stayed at Disney World before heading back to their house.

“We really wanted to end the trip where, really, everything for us started. We met through Disney, you know, we got engaged to IllumiNations [at Epcot]. A huge portion of our work has been around the theme parks,” Susan says.

They say they missed their Florida neighbors; they didn’t miss the humidity.

They plan to write something about the experience, but they’re mulling the best angle to take. They believe they’ll make another RV trip, but for a shorter duration and in a smaller vehicle.

“We definitely want to do more,” Simon says. “We still have unfinished business out west.”


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