JOE OWENS & JAMIE SCHORLING: @GO_SEE.DO
By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas – 7/22/19
For the one hundredth and sixth installment in our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orcas, we are pleased to share the story of Joe Owens and Jamie Schorling. You may know them as Go See Do.
Normally, I would reach out to potential interview subjects online after coming across a picture or social media account that inspired me share their story. Things went a little differently this time. While camping at the Dessert View Campground in Grand Canyon National Park last Spring, our camp neighbors had a punctilious bulldog who caught the attention of my step daughter. Their attractive green VW camper-van caught my attention, so I took her over to meet our neighbors and their pup. After talking for a bit I learned that they had recently taken the plunge to full time vanlife and thought they would make exciting interview subjects.
That moment has lead us to this one. I am very excited to share the story of Joe, Jamie, and their bulldog Buckwheat. They have been on the road for nearly a year. Making the most of the miles and smiles as they go.
Check out the interview below and you can revisit my trip report from Spring of 2019 when we met here.
What do you consider to be your job(s)?
We wear a variety of different hats depending on what we are doing! Joe is a retired military and now a professional man of leisure, and Jamie is a traveling veterinary ophthalmologist. Buckwheat our English Bulldog is lazy. Those were/are our careers, anyway. But as far as our lives go on a day to day basis of travel, Joe is generally the chauffeur and Jamie is the navigator and planner. Buckwheat sleeps. At campgrounds, Joe’s jobs are unpacking, campfire maintenance, and grilling. Jamie’s jobs are also unpacking, food prep, and organizing and re-packing. Buckwheat rolls around in the dirt and chases squirrels. Joe is the photographer, and Jamie keeps a journal of our life. Buckwheat snores and farts.
Tell me about your vehicle. What do you call it?
We live in our 1977 VW Bus Westfalia called Squirtle the Turtle (it’s green), also known as The Money Pit, the Toaster on Wheels, and Home. We purchased the Bus in 2012 through an ad on TheSamba.com.
What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you bought?
None, really. Joe has wanted a VW Bus for as long as he can remember. After months of searching, he found Turtle! We love the smiles, the happy honks, and the thumbs ups that we get when people see Turtle puttering down the road. We have considered modernizing to a vehicle that has a few more creature comforts, but we enjoy the nostalgia of the Bus too much!
Have you made any upgrades or changes to it?
Absolutely! The motor is original but has been rebuilt. We reupholstered the front seats, replaced the canvas pop-top, painted the exterior (original color), installed a solar panel for power, and added a Thule for storage to the top. If you ever want to put a marriage to the ultimate test, replace a canvas pop-top together in 90 degree heat. We also removed the original refrigerator and use that space for storage and for the batteries charged by the solar panel. We purchased a high efficiency Whynter portable refrigerator for food storage. We also have new tires, which were replaced after a blowout that of course damaged our two-day-old new paint job!
What is your favorite part about it living/working out of your vehicle?
Simple freedom to go, see, and do what we want, when we want.
What is your least favorite part about it?
Turtle is 41 years old. It breaks down a lot and few mechanics know how to work on it. On the upside, sometimes it starts right back up after a gentle kick in the fender. It’s slow. We go about 20 miles an hour uphill, and angry drivers behind us flip us off. We do not have air conditioning or heat, so we are often at the mercy of Mother Nature, but we are good at adapting and learning to reroute our path to stay in pleasant weather. Lastly, our space is very limited, so the rule is if we add anything (even a T-shirt!), something else has got to go. It helps us maintain awareness of what material items we really need.
How many miles have you put on your vehicle?
In 11 months, we have put about 30,000 miles on Turtle. The odometer only goes up to 99,999, and it is about to roll over again. We have no idea how many times that has happened in the past 41 years.
What is the best place you have taken it?
Tough question. We have been to about 38 states in 11 months and enjoyed some amazing places. Yosemite is the unanimous favorite. But if we take our responses off the beaten path, Joe’s favorite is Cannon Beach, OR, and Jamie’s favorite is Olympic National Park, WA. Buckwheat’s favorite is Kalispell, MT because he got to go tubing down a river.
Is there just one?
NO WAY! We struggled with the previous question! Here are a few: Lake of the Woods, OR; Lake Pend O’reille, ID; Elk Country RV Resort, CA; Big Pine Key, FL; Ruidoso, NM; Redwood National Park, CA. Centralia, PA is by far the creepiest – it’s a ghost town over a coal mine that is still burning. The Blue Ridge Parkway, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, Grand Canyon and Sequoia National Parks need no introduction.
Favorite road you’ve driven?
Beartooth Pass up to almost 11,000 feet of elevation at about 15 miles an hour. Crater Lake is a close second. Both are white-knuckle driving with beautiful views!
In one word, what describes your approach to life?
If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living from a vehicle, what would you tell them?
Expect the unexpected, and learn to laugh and adapt. Think that adversity is hilarious. Every day you learn something new that makes life a little better. We are constantly learning from the people we meet on the road.
It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your lives where you became conscious that you were those kind of people?
We have both been curious and adventurous gypsy souls since we were young. Interestingly, we both chose highly structured career paths and if not for those choices, we would likely have never met. We both feel very fortunate that our lives came together at a point when we were each ready and willing to take a new step in life’s journey.
You have found a strong place in the community of travelers. What values do you think your home or family instilled in you, that you take on the road?
We were raised in families that taught and allowed us to experience and enjoy the outdoors. Both of our families helped us to understand that if we work hard, we will reap the benefits. Our reward for hard work early in life is the freedom to live on the road now. We also learned that enjoying life does not necessarily warrant many material things. We are both very close to our families, and we are grateful for their love and support of our lifestyle.
I admire your outside the box approach to career and home. Do you see yourself as someone who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened?
We feel that everyone that chooses to quit their job, sell almost everything, and live a traveling lifestyle has taken a leap of faith! That said, Joe has planned to take this path for years. For Jamie’s part, she feels that Joe’s smart life choices and retirement provided her with an opportunity to live a dream. Life as a traveling veterinary ophthalmologist is definitely unconventional. It requires organization and planning, and there has been a definite learning curve that will continue to evolve with time.
Where do you want to go next?
We will spend the summer in the Pacific Northwest. We originally had our hearts set on Alaska this summer, but there just is not enough time between Jamie’s job commitments. We want to spend a few months there, so we are now aiming for Alaska in summer of 2020. We hope to enjoy the seasonal colors in the Northeastern US this fall. Jamie’s job will take us to Hawaii in November for a conference. Beyond all of that, we do not have any plans to stop traveling in the foreseeable future. If we ever do, Joe will likely brew beer and Jamie will continue her traveling veterinary ophthalmology venture.