Debra and Barry Benton took to the road three years ago. After selling their house of 25 years, they bought a 2014 Winnebago Itasca and headed off to live and work remotely. The first year was a blur of travel and moving as they started learning the best way to enjoy their new lifestyle. It also got lonely at times with less interaction with their friends and family back in Dallas. While not having roots gave them freedom to explore, it also created some hardships as well. So they set out to build a community of like-minded people.
Luckily they had stumbled into a conference where they met other nomads who had to continue working while living on the road, the RV Entrepreneur Summit. There they met some wonderful (and honestly, crazy) people who quickly became close friends. Knowing how hard it can be to find new friends and a community, they set out to help others find the support and friendship that they enjoyed.
First Came The Virtual Campground
In 2020 (a month before the world shut down), the Bentons decided to buy The Virtual Campground, an online business and community started by another RV nomad. Here was a way they could help other RVers and create the community they wanted.
A year later, they are building The Virtual Campground, which offers RVers resources to learn more about this lifestyle and to feel connected. The website, social media platforms, and growing YouTube channel are great resources for RV renovations, travel tips, RV maintenance and repair, and much more. And of course, one thing lead to another…
Next Came Camp Carpe Diem
While virtual communities are wonderful, especially these days, it is so much fun to be in person too! And the Bentons wanted to help people connect to one another not just The Virtual Campground so they decided to take it into real life! After a night out with the Pishna’s, Camp Carpe Diem was born. Bringing together their various interests and talents, they decided they could offer people a chance to try new things while also connecting to other RVers and hopefully build their own nomad family.
Barry has been a professional photographer nearly all his adult life. Starting in high school, he has been winning praise and earning a living through his photography. While his professional photography usually involved portraits of people, he enjoys taking landscapes most. Several years ago, he also realized that he really enjoys teaching others and helping them get that perfect shot. He and a partner started Benton Downs in 2017, a photography workshop business where they can teach others the skills needed and take them to places where the students can create their own art worthy of hanging on the wall.
Now, in addition to his day job in portrait photography, Barry spends his time scouting locations and creating workshops. In addition to their popular Arkansas Fall, Big Bend National Park and night photography workshops, Barry is excited this year to be hosting a workshop in Ouray the weekend before Camp Carpe Diem (CCD). This is also great for anyone attending CCD as they will benefit from this extra scouting weekend when Barry takes those interested to a few of the locations from the workshop to capture their own great shots. Barry is a patient teacher who can assist in helping others understand their camera better, teach the basic principles of photography, and ensure the timing and light are best to capture a good picture.
Debra made a career in communications and events management. She is the organizer and ring leader when it comes to our weekend of events. As the wife of a photographer, she enjoys the hikes or trips to get to the beautiful sights and often tags along to meditate or explore an area while he does his thing.
Get to Know Them
Give us one fun fact about each of you.
Barry: “On one of my overseas trips I had to go to Moscow to photograph some lawyers and all of my gear was confiscated at the airport. I had to spend three days in Moscow trying to locate a local photographer that spoke English that I could hire and have them come help me photograph everyone. But, I had a lot more extra time on my hands to tour the city.”
Debral: “I once attended The Masters. I don’t play golf nor ever watch it, but was invited by one of my partners at work so attended, without Barry. Realizing now how hard it is to attend, it was likely a bit wasted on me.”
What’s your favorite place in the entire world?
“Great question and one that we continue to explore to find. One day, we know we will get off the road so we want to find our place to live as we travel. Ouray is a strong contender along with many spots in CO. We love the mountains.”
Do you have a mantra?
“Bentons try new things.” We said this over and over to our boys so they would try new foods or activities. So we had to set a good example. In fact, this helped Debra try stand-up-paddleboarding recently and now she is an enthusiast.
Register for CCD today!
Click here to find out more about Camp Carpe Diem and register today.
For more information
Debra & Barry sat down with Ken and April for interviews, once on their Craft Beer Travel & Adventure Podcast and once on The Virtual Campground. So check out those interviews here: Craft Beer Travel & Adventure Podcast and The Virtual Campground.