Before 2019, Jack Lighton and Giovanni Di Stadio had never stepped foot inside an RV or a motor coach. Today, they live in one.
“In 2019, we had six separate vacations booked, paid for, and planned, and all six had to be canceled because we couldn’t go for whatever reason,” says Di Stadio. “We lost pet sitters, flights were canceled, hurricanes, work… You name it, it all came up. On the sixth trip that dissolved into nothing, we said, ‘Our vacation starts today. Put the bags back in the car— we’re going somewhere else.’”
Their weeklong road trip that July would ultimately transform their lives. The couple traveled to several motor coach dealerships in Florida along the way and ended up taking the plunge and purchasing a 45-foot Entegra Cornerstone.
“After missing all of these vacations, not having any work/life balance, and not wanting to leave our dogs whenever we went on vacation, I became obsessed with the idea of tiny homes and this magical concept of super-downsizing and being out in nature,” says Lighton, who is the former president and CEO of Loggerhead Marinelife Center. “We saw this motor coach and I said, ‘Gio, this is a tiny home on wheels—this is my dream!’”
And so it began. Lighton and Di Stadio sold their home in Palm Beach Gardens at the end of 2019 and moved into their new motor coach, traveling all over the country and completing renovations along the way. Di Stadio—who spent decades as an interior designer running the luxury Palm Beach–based Interiors by G—took their vision and brought it to life in their new 475-square-foot living space.
“We could see the bones, just like with a house,” says Di Stadio, who has retired from design and currently owns MPG Motorcars in Stuart. “But we quickly learned it’s a little different and more complicated than working on a home because not only are you dealing with smaller square footage, but you’re also dealing with very unique, crazy-shaped walls.” They modified what they loved most about maximal living to fit the motor coach, including a double-vanity master bathroom, a full-size walk-in closet, a king-size bed, and a “virtual rolling office” space that converts into a buffet and dining table.
At the forefront of their renovation is minimalism and sustainability. “As a conservation couple, this has been an aha moment on so many levels in terms of stuff and how much water and electricity we use,” Lighton says of their usage monitoring and overall waste reduction. “When we had the big house, we weren’t aware of things like how much water and electricity we were using. If more people had a better understanding of what they’re buying and using, I feel like it would be a little bit of an aha moment like we had. The breath of fresh air from shedding stuff has completely changed our life.”
Living the minimalist lifestyle, the couple can now focus on what’s most important to them: their rescue dogs, travel, and environmentalism. This past summer, the latter brought them to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, where they met with the founders of Canada-based nonprofit SeaLegacy (sealegacy.org). Founded in 2014 by Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen, the organization focuses on the conservation and health of our oceans—and Lighton and Di Stadio were asked to spearhead two new branches of the organization. SeaLegacy plans to make a formal announcement later this year, but Lighton filled us in on the changes.
Lighton will serve as CEO of SeaLegacy, and he will also be at the helm of SeaLegacy Enterprises, a new for-profit arm of the organization that will specialize in impact-based initiatives related to SeaLegacy’s mission. Di Stadio has been brought on as a general partner with the organization’s new SeaLegacy Impact Fund arm, where he will work with venture capitalists to help fund startups focused on creating “technologies for good” (products or technology that help consumers and our planet, such as ecological, ocean, agriculture, and food technology).
“What we’re allowing the brand to do is really unique in the marketplace,” Lighton explains. “We’re allowing philanthropists to support SeaLegacy’s mission through donations, and then we allow impact investors to join the SeaLegacy brand from a for-profit investing side to help identify companies, tools, and technologies that can improve our environment and the ocean. The fact that they asked us to join them to cofound this next chapter is really exciting.”
Lighton, who led Loggerhead in Juno Beach from 2013 to 2020 and is currently a board member of Friends of Manatee Lagoon and Discover the Palm Beaches, says he is looking forward to SeaLegacy’s global and local ocean conservation outreach, particularly related to seagrass restoration and manatee habitat protection. “We’re really honored because Cristina, Paul, and Andy [Mann] have built this world-class sustainability and conservation brand, and we have long been huge fans of them personally and of their work,” he says. “We’ll be traveling a lot between wherever we are down to Florida and the Bahamas.”
Of course, they’ll be flying for many of those business trips, but the motor coach home base makes some work trips convenient and special—as was the case when they were able to drive up to Vancouver Island this summer for strategic planning meetings with SeaLegacy. “The scenery that we’re experiencing is just breathtaking,” says Di Stadio of the Canadian landscape. “Every corner around a mountain is the next beautiful scene. I’d rather see that than the back of someone’s seat on an airplane.”
Over the past couple of years on the road, Di Stadio and Lighton have seen much of our beautiful continent, including stops in Everglades City, Florida; Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; and Flathead Lake, Montana. Spending so much time in the outdoors, says Di Stadio, has given them both a newfound appreciation for nature that goes far beyond their work in the field.
Life on the road isn’t for everyone, something the couple is quick to point out to those itching to give it a go. “We have friends who ask us if they should do this, and our answer is always, ‘If you have issues in your relationship, then moving into 475 square feet is not going to improve that,’” says Di Stadio. “Thankfully, Jack and I were already used to working together side by side and being in each other’s faces 24/7. So it totally works for us.”
After more than 20 years together, Lighton and Di Stadio say this chapter of life is only enhancing an already wonderful life together. “We made the decision to sell the house and never looked back,” says Lighton. “It was the best decision we’ve ever made.” Di Stadio agrees: “I wish we did it 10 years ago, I really do.”
Jack and Gio’s top tips for living the good life on the road
Test the Waters. If you are new to the RV/motor coach life, consider buying used until you are certain this lifestyle is for you.
Go Big. The first thing every expert RV-er shares is that you should buy the biggest motor coach you can possibly buy because everyone who buys a shorter or smaller motor coach always ends up wanting the bigger model.
Inspect and Maintain. When purchasing an RV or a motor coach (even a brand-new one), you must hire a certified RV inspector to check for underlying issues. And know your tires’ date codes. It’s imperative on heavy vehicles to know the age of your tires and to inspect and replace them when necessary. RVs and motor coaches are complex machines—you must have a rigorous annual maintenance plan to ensure everything is up to date.
Follow the Rules. If you have a large motor coach, it’s critical to purchase a “big rig” GPS that only routes roads and highways that can accommodate your size and weight. We recommend the Garmin RV 1090 as a backup to an onboard system.
Map it Out. Plan stops well in advance. The software and mapping tool RV Life Trip Wizard maps every trip detail and helps confirm reservations.
Connect. Install a high-speed data network hot spot on your vehicle that enables you to work from the road anywhere you visit.
Join Up! If you have a diesel motor coach, join the TSD Open Road fuel program. It offers huge fuel savings, and you get to fuel up with the big rig semitrucks! And Harvest Hosts is a fantastic membership club that pro- vides access to beautiful stopovers at farms, museums, wineries, and other unique destinations.