Sean and Christina Conlon took to the road in 2020 to launch their Paws For Love tour, volunteering with fire stations, after-school programs—and any place eager to open their doors (and hearts!) to the transformative love of a certified therapy dog.
In about a month, the Conlons will celebrate two years of life in an RV. Their travels have brought them to more than 30 states with their two adorable golden retrievers Maverick (9 months) and Nash (4).
“A dog has such a unique way of bringing out a person’s true self,” says Christina. Here they talk about bucket list locations, unexpected challenges on the open road, and the ripple effect of kindness that began with their therapy dog Nash.
On therapy dog Nash’s early impact:
Christina: There’s a lot of research on how petting a dog reduces so much anxiety and stress within a person. One of the most incredible things that we saw early on in our RV travels was during an afternoon volunteer event at a special needs school just outside of Houston, Texas. Nash met a girl named Ava Joy. Immediately, she clung to Nash so deeply, and it was one of the most incredible things to see their instant connection.
When we had to leave it was so hard. Ava cried. But what was incredible was that we’ve been able to keep in contact with her teachers, and we hear that Ava has prayed for Nash every single day throughout the whole of last year. And she still talks about Nash. We can’t wait to come back to Houston and surprise Ava. The impact Nash had on her after just an hour of play—it was just so cool.
On their two dogs, Nash and Maverick:
Christina: We joke that Nash is our stubborn boy, but he's also very intuitive. If there is any intense emotion, he's very aware and wants to bring comfort. He’s such a good dog.
I once accidentally slammed my finger in one of our drawers. It was terribly painful, and he ran over to comfort me. Sean was like, look at how he's reacting. He was right there, right at that instant. And you cannot teach that. Nash went through a lot of training, but that's the stuff that can't be taught.
Sean: The goal is to get Maverick trained as well and he would be an amazing therapy dog. He loves to snuggle, and he loves people, so I think he’ll be a great fit for that role, too.
On the life-changing decision to live the RV life:
Christina: We strategize and do as much research as we can before making a decision. Over several months, we talked about what it would be like to sell our stuff and travel in an RV to volunteer with Nash.
Sean: It was a crazy idea but business for us was slower during the pandemic. And we saw it really as an opportunity where we could go and spend the year doing something really, really impactful.
The unexpected signs that told them to travel:
Sean: We didn't want to push our own agenda in this. We thought if this is what we're supposed to do in this season, we hoped God would make it clear, and let it be known that this is where He wanted us. And the dominos fell into place. Everything from our sponsorship deals to getting our RV for the price that we did, especially when we initially thought both were out of reach. It all lined up and fell into place to the point where you can't even call it a coincidence because it's even more powerful than that.
Christina: And so that's, that's really when we knew, when those doors were just flinging wide open, that we were supposed to be walking through them.
On the unexpected perks of RV life:
Sean: We have spent more time with family these last two years than we have in the last 10 years combined. It provides a more simple life where you can focus on the things that matter—like, experiences or seeing family and meeting people—instead of just the consumption of things.
Christina: RV life totally changed our life in ways that we never expected, we will never be the same people that we were before this.
On bucket lists and big dreams:
Sean: I had always dreamed of going to Flathead Lake, Montana. I'd always seen pictures on the Internet. It looked so majestic and beautiful. So, we were able to do that, but along the way, unexpectedly, there were a lot of amazing places that popped up along our route. South Dakota, for example, is one of the most beautiful states we've ever been through, and they are the nicest people.
Christina: We initially thought we were going to see everything in a year. And we joke that this is why people stay on the road. You just can't see it all in a year. We’ve decided to do places in seasons. We haven't been out East at all, but we plan to. We want to do all the national parks out West and then do a season out East.
On the unexpected challenges of RV life:
Sean: A lot of popular RV campgrounds fill up fast—and they can be expensive when you plan on staying a month at a time. We started to get creative with our new RV which now has more boondocking capabilities. We have a good solar setup and a good generator. That way, we can just pull into Harvest Host and camp for the night.
Otherwise, there were months when we were up in Montana where we spent $2,800 or $3,000 to just park our RV!
On volunteerism that builds community:
Christina: Last year, we joked that we didn’t have a lot of privacy, but that meant that we met a lot of people. They’d hear about the volunteer work that we were doing and they’d say, “I’d love to volunteer, but I don’t know where to get started.”
So earlier this year, we put together a volunteer event one afternoon at a food pantry. We let people at the campground know where to sign up, and they came out and gave a few hours of their time.
Sean: We went from volunteering as a small family to volunteering on a greater scale with other RVers. Some of them bring their kids because they want them to learn the value of service. One of the early families to volunteer with us is actually going to be one of the seRV ambassadors next year because their kids were just radically changed by the experience.
Christina: Basically, with the help of Lippert, we are set to launch a volunteer database called “seRV With Purpose”. It connects vetted nonprofits with volunteers all over the country, and it’s going to go live at Lippert Getaway 2022 in October.
From RV loneliness to community impact:
Sean: The indirect by-product of volunteering which we never saw coming was that other people want to get involved and do volunteering as they travel. It's turned into something that's radically bigger than us—and it’s making an actual impact with a pain point that people have. Some people that travel in RVs are lonely and want to feel attached to a community, even when they live nomadically.
Christina: All it took was an invitation that was, ‘We're going to be there for three hours and we're going to pack some meals for some hungry kids.' And 99 percent of the time the RV community around us said they wanted to join.
They were sold on the idea because it leaves an impact on the community that they are driving through. And when they leave, they know that they left their mark in a special way.
More on building an RV community:
Being on the road can absolutely be lonely or leave you feeling disconnected, and we want to bring people together through service. Putting together this database is going to be such a help to other RVers because going out and finding volunteer opportunities is not as easy as you would think. There are a couple of other things that we're working on to help with that, but for now, this is already making an impact.
On (finally!) finding a comfortable RV mattress:
Sean: It’s a known fact in the RV community that when you buy an RV, the mattress will not be good. The manufacturers are not at fault because everybody has a different sleeping style and requirement. So I would venture to say 70 to 80 percent of the buyers of RVs would switch out the mattress anyway.
It's really important for our YouTube viewers to have a quality mattress, and a lot of them don't know where to look. But we found Brooklyn Bedding and that led us to RV Mattress.
Christina: Now we sleep on a RV special size 70” x 80” (not a queen, not a king) Signature Hybrid. We’ve always made it a priority to have a quality mattress, and it was a struggle that we had when we were buying because these RV beds are different from regular beds.
Sean: So you can't just go to Walmart or Costco and buy a mattress in a box. It’s not going to fit.
Christina: But now, every time we get in bed we're like, finally! It’s like the mattress we had at home before we left. It’s so comfortable.
Thank you, Christina and Sean! We loved chatting with you—best of luck on your new RV adventures! And please stop by our Dream Factory when you come through Arizona!
By: Clara Vela