By Jim Hannaford
Everyone has a place they call home, but Kyle and Olivia Brady have more than one. They have strong roots here on the Eastern Shore, but they also love chasing what’s beyond the horizon.
In the fall of 2015, the young couple loaded up their small second-hand travel trailer, got in their truck along with their new dog, River, and hit the road. They explored the country for the better part of five years, and things have worked out really well for them.
“We just wanted to have freedom and a break from the grind that we kind of felt was wearing us down,” says Olivia.
Kyle grew up in Fairhope, and Olivia was from Magnolia Springs. They met when they were both working as servers at Big Daddy’s Grill on Fish River. When it came time for their grand departure, she was also working a second job at a blueberry farm while he stayed busy as half of the popular musical act Kyle & Karl.
“We were in a good place – we were making enough money and we loved our house that we were living in,” she says. “We just felt we were lacking something. It felt like we were just going through the motions and were kind of on autopilot.”
They planned for a year, and got really good at saving money. They sold most of their stuff, packed up what was left, and rolled out of town. Though some people were surprised at what seemed like a sudden uprooting, most of their friends were supportive.
“No one thought it was too out of the blue for us to do that,” says Kyle, “and we knew from the start that we would do this as long as it feels right.”
A CHANGE OF SCENERY
They weren’t looking for fame and fortune, but they did end up finding a livelihood as well as some notoriety. As the adventuresome duo known as Drivin’ & Vibin’, they have literally hundreds of thousands of followers online. It’s ironic because, when they set out on their life-changing odyssey, neither had done much camping at all. They learned quickly, though, and today they are widely embraced as trusted and down-to-earth experts on RV living.
They spent their first night away from home in a state park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, some 500 miles from Fairhope. From there it was on to some majestically scenic areas in Colorado and Utah that have become almost sacred ground for them. They have returned to the Rocky Mountains many times, and they continue to be powerfully drawn to the colorful deserts of Arizona.
“There’s so much diversity in the landscape out there,” Olivia says, “and the wide open skies have a place in our hearts now.”
At first, they stayed at campgrounds and RV parks, but soon found that “boondocking” was directly up their alley. The term means camping for free in undeveloped areas, in places without electricity or water but with an abundance of breathtaking natural beauty.
At first, their home away from home was a compact 16-foot camper that wasn’t really set up for long periods off the grid. It didn’t even have a generator, just a small battery and a couple of solar panels. They upgraded continuously and eventually moved into a much larger 24-foot Airstream Argosy that they renovated themselves. This larger RV trailer has a big bank of lithium batteries, more solar panels, and bigger water tanks. These days they can stay in remote areas for about a week at a time.
“It’s the ultimate act of freedom,” says Kyle. “We’re totally self-contained, we’re creating our own power, and we’re managing our own water.”
And it’s not all about solitude and communing with nature. They have found a community of like-minded souls along the way, and they often make plans to meet up at favorite spots. They have made strong, lifelong connections through casual conversations around a campfire.
For a while, Kyle and Olivia supported themselves with an online Etsy store that sold collectibles that they found at thrift stores. Their specialty was vintage prints, which could be stacked so they wouldn’t take up a lot of precious space in the camper. As orders would come in, they would stop at small-town post offices along the way and ship them out.
As their social media posts got more attention, they learned how to make it pay off for them. Those web pages have ads, and more viewers and readers means more revenue. Today they have several streams of income that are a direct result of following their passion.
“Everything started by accident,” says Kyle. “Over the years it just organically grew, and then we realized if we learn a little bit and put some more effort into this we might actually be able to make some money from it.”
Their business partners include two other couples they met while traveling. They’ve combined their efforts as Movin’ Vibin’ Getaway, which creates articles and videos on camping and travel for a variety of websites. They even employ some part-time writers and editors to help create content.
Two other companies they are part of have more specialized roles. “RV Masterclass is our online platform for educating RVers in a really in-depth fashion,” he says, “and RV Digital Strategy Agency is where we help RV clients optimize their online presence through content creation.”
They never envisioned leaving town as a career move, he says. “But I do think it is a product of taking a risk and following your heart. I believe that because we approached RVing with such an honest intent in the beginning that all of these fun things came our way.”
This helps to illustrate that their life aboard the RV isn’t just one long vacation. Besides being a home on wheels, it’s also an office. They have three separate cell phone plans to make sure that they can usually get an internet connection. There are plenty of times when they are writing or editing stories or uploading photos or videos when they would much rather be hiking a canyon trail or wading a clear mountain stream.
“We’re still working all the time and doing the monotonous tasks and chores,” Olivia says. ““It’s not too different from regular life, but we do have amazing views while we do all of these things.”
AND BABY MAKES FOUR
They were ahead of the curve, of course, but more people than ever before are traveling in RVs, and a huge new wave of enthusiasts came in last year with the COVID pandemic. It was kind of a perfect storm – people were looking for a way to be socially distant and realized they could work remotely. Those suddenly bigger crowds at campsites made it hard for Kyle and Olivia to even find a vacancy at some of their go-to places.
They decided last year they would pull back a bit and spend more time back home in Fairhope. They would become part-timers rather than full-timers, so their spruced-up vintage Airstream would have to spend some time in storage.
There was another important factor, too, and her name is Nora. Traveling with a baby girl along wasn’t as smooth a ride as they’d hoped it would be initially, but she’s made some great strides. Their daughter is only a year and half old, but she’s already been on three extended trips. Like her parents, she seems to have hit the ground running when it comes to a life on the move. You can see it in the smiles on her sweet little face in pictures they’ve posted from Florida’s Atlantic Coast, southern Arizona, and the Big Bend area of southwest Texas.
Their well-traveled dog has become the little girl’s best friend.
“She and River get along great,” says Olivia, and Kyle quickly adds, “River gets more hugs and kisses than we do.”
They found the female shepherd-hound mix at the Baldwin County Animal Shelter in Summerdale about six months before they first left town. “I felt strongly that we needed a travel companion,” Olivia says. Kyle wasn’t sure until he saw those sad eyes at the shelter. “And then he was like, ‘Oh, we’re definitely getting a dog.’” And they are certainly glad they did. She embraces the outdoors like they do, and loves to lead them up on hikes.
BACK TO THE SHORE
So things seem to have settled down a bit back where they started almost six years ago. After typically traveling for 10 months out of the year for half a decade, they have slowed their pace, at least for now. Kyle and Olivia are a little older and a lot wiser, with a greatly broadened worldview. They also seem to be more at peace, having a much clearer idea of what’s happening on the other side of that horizon. After all these countless miles, they have many incredible experiences to look back on and to build upon.
“We’ve found that we really like having the balance of both,” Olivia says. “I don’t think we’ll ever stop traveling but we do see the benefit of having a home base now. It’s where our family and friends are, and it always feels like home, despite all of the places we love around the country. We’re happy to have our roots down here and have it as our base, the jumping off point for our adventures.”