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COVID-19Leaving the rat race behind

Have RV, will travel

Pittsburgh millennial leaves behind apartment for life on the open road

Pittsburgh native Brett Weinberger decided to leave her small NYC apartment behind for life in an RV. Photo provided by Brett Weinberger
Pittsburgh native Brett Weinberger decided to leave her small NYC apartment behind for life in an RV. Photo provided by Brett Weinberger

For Brett Weinberger, it is the journey that matters.

The 25-year-old recently ditched her apartment in New York’s East Village and her bedroom view of a brick wall for an RV and a plan to see as much of the United States as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Weinberger, a Pittsburgh native and graduate of Community Day School, is a procurement manager for Freshly, a prepared meals company. In March, Freshly decided its employees should work from home due to the novel coronavirus.

“That was the weekend where everything went crazy in the U.S.,” said Weinberger. “All of my friends were leaving the city, fleeing, going wherever they could to get out because it was so bad in New York —and I was in the epicenter at the time.”

She decided to give up the month-to-month lease she had in New York City and headed back to Pittsburgh — temporarily.

Rather than do what many millennials have done during COVID-19 and move back in with her parents until Freshly called her back into the office, Weinberger opted to buy an RV and continue to fulfill one of her passions: travel.

“I decided to take this opportunity to do something while we have this freedom,” she said. “I love Pittsburgh but I have the flexibility right now. I don’t have a family or anything tying me down. I want to be elsewhere and see more of the United States.”

Before the pandemic, Weinberger’s wanderlust led her to visit 27 different countries, taking in stops in the Caribbean, Central America, Europe and Southeast Asia. Through that travel, she realized she prefers to stay in youth hostels rather than fancy hotels to be “closer to the culture,” she said.

Travel is a part of Weinberger’s life. She has visited 27 countries spanning the globe. Photo provided by Brett Weinberger

Because of her passion for seeing the world — and the fact that she owns minimal material possessions due to life in a small apartment in New York City — an RV seemed the perfect situation.

“I realized, why not travel as much as I can, given the restrictions,” she said. “So, I’ll explore the United States, even though I can’t go to Canada and who knows what the restrictions will be for Mexico. I figured the RV is the best way to go.”

RV sales, which had been declining in 2019, saw a spike in 2020 as travelers became wary of flying because of the pandemic. When the country began opening back up in May, RV sales saw a 170% increase in some areas compared to the same time period last year, according to the RV Industry Association.

This bump in sales complicated things for Weinberger, who was new to the RV universe.

“Growing up, we never even camped in an RV,” she said.

She began looking at various websites like RV Trader and RV Share but had a difficult time finding an RV that met her needs.
“Everyone had this idea, so all the ones I had looked at were selling like crazy,” said Weinberger. “Even if I found one, by the time I called the dealership or went and saw it, by the next day it was already gone.”

She eventually found one in Ohio.

“It’s bigger than a camper van and has all of the amenities I would need to be able to comfortably live and work from,” she said. “That’s the big one. I need to be able to work from whatever setting I put myself into.”

Weinberger next had to acquaint herself with the necessities of RV life, becoming an expert on things like sewage tanks, hoses, elbows and blocks to keep the vehicle level. She plans to begin her travels in October and to stay at various state parks during her trek, which she has already begun to map out.

So far, she has plans to visit the Finger Lakes, Mammoth Cave and the Great Smoky Mountains.

“After that, I’m going to work my way toward Texas,” she said, adding that she plans to eventually end up in the West. She intends to follow the weather and head where it’s warm.

Some amenities she will need on her journey include old-school, physical books.

“I don’t know if I can just go to the public library because I’m going to be living mostly in parks and off the grid, but I prefer hardcover to electronic, so I have to figure that out,” she said.

Internet access is another necessity. Weinberger will need it for both work and her love of binge-watching television programs.

“When I watch a show, I get hooked, I have to watch all the way through,” she said. “I don’t watch anything on television, like a current season of anything, just because I hate having to wait another week for the next show to come out.”

That interest will be put on the back burner, though, as Weinberger plans on spending most of her free time taking in the outdoors, hiking and building relationships with people living a similar lifestyle.

As for her parents, Weinberger said they have become accustomed to her lifestyle and love of travel.

Her mother, Bari, said that she and her husband Mark are proud of Brett, recognizing the courage, independence and creativity necessary to reimagine her life.

“Like any good Jewish parent,” Bari said, “while it’s hard to let go of worry, we are excited about the opportunities ahead of her to see and experience the world in new and different ways.”

It is that experience that Weinberger is most excited about.

“I have this giant chunk of time where I don’t need to be situated in one place,” she said. “Very few of us could say they have this opportunity in their lifetime, given how the modern-day workplace was structured previously. This is the first time, at least in my life, where I’m getting to choose where I live, where I work. You know, it’s not just a weekend vacation in my life.” PJC

David Rullo can be reached at drullo@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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