Amy and Craig Koehler had the time of their lives last fall.
They visited friends and relatives all over the western United States. They camped in national parks, stayed at resorts, climbed mountains and drove almost the entire length of the Pacific Coast.
But after three months of traveling, the former Highland couple were ready to drop anchor -- at least for a while.
"I missed home more than I thought I would," said Amy, 48. "I missed family and friends, and I missed a space of my own. And this may sound odd, but I kind of missed my stuff, too."
The Koehlers made a bold move last summer by selling their house and most of their possessions and putting the rest in storage.
Craig is a retired lieutenant colonel with the Illinois State Police. Amy quit her job as a research analyst manager at Anheuser-Busch. Their two sons from previous marriages are grown.
"It's exciting to let go of the attachments," Amy said in an Aug. 5 story in BND Magazine. "It's been very freeing. People talk about this movement to simplify, simplify, simplify your life. Well, that's what we're doing."
The first stop on the Koehlers' trip was a friends' house in Lake of the Ozarks. They forged on to Colorado, spending time at Rocky Mountain National Park, Pike's Peak and Glenwood Springs; viewing elk and other wildlife, zip-lining and soaking in a natural hot spring.
Their first camping experience proved challenging because it rained, and their tent leaked, but they solved the problem quickly with silicone weatherproofing.
After Colorado, the couple cut north to Flaming Gorge in Utah, Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Yellowstone National Park.
"I wrote a blog about Yellowstone and called it 'Planet Yellowstone,'" Amy said. "In some parts, it was like, 'Are we still on earth?' It felt like we were on Mars."
Next came time with friends in Montana, hiking in Glacier National Park (Amy's favorite spot) and a resort stay in the wilderness of Northern Idaho.
The Koehlers checked out Seattle and Cape Flattery, Wash., the most northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States; Olympic National Park, the California redwoods, Lake Tahoe and historic Virginia City, Nev.; Yosemite National Park and Little Grand Canyon (Craig's favorite spot) before ending up at a niece's house in the Los Angeles area.
One of the couple's highlights was seeing Game 6 of the National Baseball League championship between the Cardinals and the Giants. They were house-sitting near San Francisco at the time.
"We put 11,700 miles on our (Hyundai Sonata)," said Craig, 52. "We had our oil changed twice and the tires rotated once, but no problems."
Today, Craig and Amy are in the metro-east, celebrating the holidays with his parents in Carlyle and her father in Shiloh.
They're headed to Florida for a few weeks after New Year's, and then they've arranged to do some house-sitting in Centralia.
The Koehlers eventually want to rent a place in Breese and later in Troy to determine which community they like best. They eventually plan to buy or build a home.
"The biggest thing that Amy and I realized is that we need a home base of our own," Craig said. "It's funny, it can be a noose around your neck. But when you don't have one, there's no place to kick back and relax. You may be visiting friends and family, but it's not your own house, and you have to be on their schedules."