Cramped RV Opens A Big, Wide World

The pandemic has taught thousands of Westporters that they can work anywhere.

Joe and Ashleigh Saponare knew that already.

In 2018, the couple hit the road. They’ve traveled around the country ever since.

Joe — a 1998 Staples High School graduate whose father Joe Sr. is Westport’s animal control officer — manages his PsiMac Apple consultancy — remotely. Ashleigh quit her former jobs teaching English, yoga and mindfulness, and now works for Go Zen!, whose animated programs help children learn social and emotional skills.

They work in their RV, in coffee shops and anyplace else with WiFi. They hike before breakfast, take fewer showers than before, and move whenever the spirit moves them.

Ashleigh Saponare works remotely, in Oregon.

Being together in the cramped quarters of an RV has strained their relationship. But the wide open spaces of national parks and other natural wonders has strengthened it.

Joe Saponare and the RV, in Gardiner, Montana.

Joe and Ashleigh have branched off on their own American dream. But the roots lie here, in suburban Westport.

From his early days at Kings Highway Elementary and Bedford Middle Schools, Joe’s life was shaped by access to technology. His Staples mentor was computer teacher Jim Honeycutt. When Joe hated his first corporate job, Jim encouraged him to call TBI, the Apple service provider then located on Post Road West.

Joe left later to start his own business. Life was good. But he and Ashleigh kept watching YouTube videos of people living nomadic lifestyles. They worked remotely, and documented their adventures for homebound viewers to enjoy (and dream about).

The couple spent 2 years trying to figure out how to join them. They realized that payments on an RV would be only slightly more than their car. They planned how to work from the road.

They found a renter for their condo. Three years ago next month, Joe and Ashleigh flew to California to pick up their new home.

They headed up the California coast, to the Pacific Northwest. They spent a lot of time in Montana, working and looking at bison.

They headed south, and fell in love with Sedona, Arizona.

Joe and Ashleigh Saponare,, in Sedona, Arizona.

Everywhere, the couple met people who wanted to talk. They offered tips on what to see, where to eat. Their desire to help was genuine — and invaluable.

In March of 2020 Joe and Ashleigh were temporarily back in New York, visiting friends. Coronavirus was closing in.

“We realized our lives were going to change,” Joe recalls. “We knew we had to be in a stable campground, near the outdoors.”

They headed back to Sedona. Despite the pandemic, it was a “great experience.” With tourists gone, downtown was deserted — so much that wild boars roamed the streets.

The couple hiked every morning. They had the trails to themselves.

Then it was off to Boulder. They stayed in the Rockies through the holidays.

“Once we took the leap, it changed our lives,” Joe says. “We’d sit somewhere in a town working. We’d get to know the people and the place. We’d take hikes they’d recommend. Our work and our lives were integrated so much better.”

Ashleigh Saponare at Wind River Canyon, Wyoming.

Ashleigh adds, “The morning routine of primping, and putting on a professional outfit, is not necessary.” They fill that time with hikes, meditation or yoga.

Of course, life was not always perfect. “We had epic fights in epic places,” Joe laughs. “It’s hard to have a relationship in a van. But after a normal domestic argument we’d open the door, and on one side would be Pacific Ocean waves. On the other would be rolling hills. That puts everything in perspective.”

A view of the Grand Canyon — and Ashleigh, outside — during the pandemic.

Also in perspective: the amount of waste 2 people produce, even in a van.

Living in a tight space magnifies waste. Ashleigh and Joe constantly throw out excess packaging.

The travelers’ eyes have been opened wide, both say: to the prevalence and effects of wildfires. The number of homeless people, particularly in warm climates.

And, says Joe, “I know it sounds trite, but I’m open now to much bigger ideas. I’m not trapped in the bubble of day-to-day experiences. There is so much natural beauty. There are so many great towns, with different ways of life.”

Joe Saponare at Glacier National Park, Montana.

Still, he notes, “people everywhere are a lot more similar than different.”

The prevailing wisdom is that the US is deeply polarized — divided into 2 opposite camps, with no overlap or even real contact.

In fact, he says, “sitting in coffee shops, we’ve had great conversations with lots of people. We didn’t realize we had completely different political views until the end.”

This month, the couple are temporarily back in the area. They’re seeing friends and family, checking in with their East Coast roots.

It’s great to have roots. But the West beckons.

Joe and Ashleigh also have wheels.

(Joe and Ashleigh blog about their adventures. Click here to see.)

6 responses to “Cramped RV Opens A Big, Wide World

  1. Such a nice look at a wonderful, vagabond life style…read with great pleasure and a large dollop of jealousy.

  2. Michael Calise

    Dream Team

  3. Loved this post! I moved out to Denver from 2014-2017 and am now back in Westport but miss the West. My partner and I just returned from a road trip to Denver/Boulder/Breckenridge. Magnificent country. Kudos to them!!!

  4. Richard W. Alley

    Great story – Passed it along to two of my Grandchildren who spent last weekend hiking in Sedona. – Coincidentally, Joe’s Grandfather was an old friend, also an ace mechanic who operated his service station on Wilton Road near the firehouse for many years. My father-in-law, Dutch Dennert also had his car serviced there and kep Joe supplied with fresh vegetabls when he stopped for a fill-up or repairs. Joe was always friendly, smiling and I’m sure would really love the tales of his Grandson’s adventures. – Dick Alley

  5. Joe is my computer consultant. I remember when I called him for some help and was so surprised to learn what he was doing. He logged into my computer and fixed it from Sedona. It is a new world. So many people can now work away from “home base,” In my next life I would be doing what he and Ashleigh are on to.He has local staff that can do home visits. Great service from PSI and I can highly recommend them if someone needs technical assistance with their computers.

  6. Caryl Beatus