If I could travel the United States reading good books and comparing what I see before me with the pages in my hands, I’d be a lucky lady.
Hi.My name is Heather and I’m a really lucky lady.
Two weeks ago our family ventured to the eastern edge of North Carolina. We explored the Outer Banks with abandon and adoration. Among our adventures, we learned about the Lost Colony of Roanoke. I was intrigued to uncover a piece of our Nation’s past that is often historically hidden.
It turns out I am not the only one who has found fascination within this dormant mystery. Author Caroline Starr Rose was so stirred by this same story that she set out to write her own ending. Her book Blue Birds explores what happens when cultures clash with mistrust and fear begins to dominate decisions. Reaching deeper, she develops the idea of what it means to be loyal and how far friendship can go before everything is tested. Both my daughter Ashlyn (11) and I consumed this fast moving historical fiction novel in the span of a week. The ending includes an intriguing twist and became a good conversation starter between the two of us.
“You must create more margin so you have room for what’s important, not merely urgent.” -Michael Hayatt
Its 4:33PM and we are driving home from the Lost Colony National Park. I’m slowly digesting the reality that once again my high school history education was grossly lacking. The US had English settlers before Jamestown? And they disappeared? Mind. Blown.
We’ve been gone for several hours and are just minutes away from our RV home. Trent looks to his left and spots a crowd of people gathered on top of a sand dune. Absentmindedly he says, “Look at all the people, I wonder what is going on over there?”
“Let’s go see,” I reply, testing his both his curiosity and the boundaries of our spontaneity. He raises his eyebrows and responds by tapping the blinker. Within moments our van is pointed in a new direction.
Before we launched into our new RV living lifestyle, there was one particular aspect we wondered about most: is is possible to have community on the road?
Since hitting the road, this topic of RV community has been discussed repeatedly between Trent and I. Additionally, it has been talked about over campfires with new friends and its been questioned by blog readers.
What does community look like for nomadic travelers? Is it possible to obtain? How it is similar or different from a more traditional living situation? These questions are multi-faceted and with only a little over 6 months of travel time under our belts, I feel ill equipped to even comment. Yet despite my rookie status as a full-time traveler, I will lay my humble two-cents on the table.
Defining our terms
First things first. I feel it is important to define the terms that we are using when we speak of community. Webster defines community in the following two ways:
a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals: the sense of community that organized religion can provide.
In the first description, community becomes implied simply by nature of our location or a common characteristic. In this sense we are part of the “RV community” by default each and every time we pull into a RV park.
Yet what I believe most people are after is found tucked more solidly within the second description. Here there is a feeling of belonging, strengthened by common interests and goals.
However, to complicate things further, Trent and I are not entirely satisfied with option #1 or #2. Our hearts long for something greater. Something reflected in the pages of Scripture. We read about the new believers in Acts chapter 2 verses 42-47 and our hearts salivate.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
Within the framework of this example we might redefine community in the following way:
An interdependency with others connected by a common God-given vision with the goal of authentic fellowship aided by close proximity and mutual interests.
Basically we want our cake and to eat it too. We don’t just want to live near others. We don’t simply want to have common interests. We want more depth and breadth added to the entire mix. Admittedly this is a high standard–so much so that in our 17 years of marriage we’ve only sampled tastes of it. Yet, our longing remains.
To a degree I believe we will continue to hunger for this unique community until heaven satisfies our hearts. Yet, because I believe our longing was placed there by community’s creator Himself, I refuse to settle into apathetic relational atrophy.
Community on the road?
Our current lifestyle goes directly against the stream of convenient community. We’ve given up the built-in neighborhood. Our church building is ever-changing. At times we move too frequently to receive mail. If the postman can’t even find us, how could we possibly experience authentic community with others?
It may seem illogical but incredibly I’ve talked to women who have cultivated more connection on the road than they found in their former neighborhoods. We’ve heard about teens who traversed the unknown and discovered their own tribe of traveling friends. And remarkably, accounts from military families who say that their relationships on the road are stronger than they were while on active duty, caught us off guard.
“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out that there are so many of them in the world.” ~Anne of Green Gables
Again and again we’ve heard from families who planned to travel for “just one year” who now have an open-ended travel itinerary simply because they realized they didn’t have to forgo relationships just because they happened to have nomadic tendencies.
EARLY TASTES of community on the road
While it’s too soon to make long term predictions on what this full-time RV community could look like for our own family, I can tell you what we’ve tasted so far:
-We’ve seen over 100 full-time RV traveling families.
-We’ve sat at the pool and recognized everyone else present.
-We’ve enjoyed spontaneous dinner guests and game nights.
-Our kids have attended co-op style homeschool classes and game nights.
-Hunter had a tent sleep-over two nights in a row.
-Trent went to a men’s movie night.
-I attended an IKEA ladies day out, a mini marriage seminar and a Christmas sock exchange.
-The two of us played the newlywed game with a large group of other couples.
-Ashlyn learned how to weave and taught others how to make fabric scrap dolls and friendship bracelets.
-Quinten and Tanner enjoyed countless light saber wars with neighboring boys.
-We enjoyed co-op meals.
-I taught a class on how to brew Kombucha tea and another on how to help your kids memorize easily.
-Trent taught a class on the basics of installing solar.
-We weathered a tornado warning in a parking garage amidst playing kids and crock pots of cheese dip.
-We worshiped and prayed together.
I’ve been floored by how many wonderfully unique people make up this RV community. Their stories would blow your mind. A single widow RVing with her two teens and two-year-old twins. A family of 12 fighting their dad’s brain tumor diagnosis by living life and making their dreams a reality. A Canadian family who wrote a book about the battle they faced against flesh eating disease and the way God miraculously provided healing. A man who is hiking 1,000 across two AZ and UT while carrying a flame. Families who have fostered. Families who have adopted. Families who have also experienced the grief of stillbirth. I could go on and on…
To be honest, during our stay in Orlando, we had more opportunity for social interaction than we could ask for. However, despite the abundant relational opportunities surrounding us, relationships don’t automatically equal community.
This winter has been a lot like moving into a new neighborhood. Yet, the introductory questions have drastically differed from my former norm.
“What state did you launch from?”
“How long have you been traveling?”
“How long will you be here?”
“Where do you plan to travel this year?”
“What’s your story? What got you into this lifestyle?”
Beginning a relationship based on location based questions is intriguing. Yet like any other kind of friendship, time is required in order to develop depth. Depth can be difficult to obtain in traveling timeframes–yet, not impossible.
SHALLOW VS. DEEP
While depth of relationships are often developed over stretches time, it is possible to accelerate the process. I’ve adopted the intentionally mindset. If I see someone I want to get to know, I take quick action. I’ve initiated morning walks, dinner get togethers, fireside chats and game nights. While I’ve not yet had enough time for those relationships to mature to a aged perfection, they do have a favorable jumpstart. The upside is that I’ve met some really fantastic women. The downside is that I’m not currently parked next to any of them.
“Dear me, there is nothing but meetings and partings in this world.” ~Anne of Green Gables
The process reminds me of standing next to a campfire on a cool evening. I stand as close as I can for as long as I can and then I have to turn to warm up the other side. While the proximity is right, the conditions are fantastically favorable for friendship. As soon as the proximity is off, it’s way off. I’m states away from people I ate dinner with just a few weeks ago.
I’m too new to know how this works out in the long run. Others have told me that they continue to ebb and flow in and out of proximity–meeting up with old friends and making new ones as they go.
PLACES VS. PEOPLE
Without a doubt there are relationships to be had if you are willing to pursue them. Herein lies the rub. At times there is a choice between the pursuit of the location or the people. For example, our goal for the next 6 months is to explore the east coast. However, we’ve met some great families who are traveling west this year. By nature of our chosen places, we will miss out on spending time with those people. Due to some family events, we need to move up the east coast relatively quickly. Yet, our east coast traveling friends are on a slower timeline. Unfortunately this means they will be trailing a few weeks behind us. We will do what we can to align our schedule to overlap with others however, for the next 6 months we are admittedly putting “places” in a high priority position.
Should our travels continue beyond this first year, I anticipate that the pull between places and people would begin to yield much more heavily toward people. As a result, I expect that we would begin to pursue places which are in close proximity to the people we wish to see rather than the reverse. What I don’t know is how close to our ideal “third community” definition we can get while on the road. In that arena (like all others) I’ve resigned myself to remember that God has never failed to provide for us. I believe that if He could create a partner for Adam out of a rib (Genesis 2:18-25), He can certainly provide community for us on the road.
A different perspective
In an effort to provide a more balanced perspective on the subject of community, I reached out to friends we’ve met online and on the road and asked for their insight.
The Walkers were the very first full-time family we met on the road. We’d gone two months without meeting another family and our social tanks were on empty. What a gift it was to connect with them! Since that time we’ve reconnected on multiple occasions and our kids have formed sweet bonds. To get to know them better, check out their Trent & Siobhan YouTube channel and listen to their music on Spotify!
Full Time Community – The Walkers’ Perspective:
For us, community on the road was a saving grace. To make a long story short, we had spent our first 8 months in our RV without community and we were very discouraged and about to give up when we made a last-minute decision to attend a rally with other families in New York. That decision was the best decision we had made since “launching” and we wished we had attended a rally or meet-up earlier. We went from not knowing ANY other full time families to meeting about 50 at one time! It was absolute bliss for all of us to spend four full days NOT having to explain to anyone that we live in an RV on purpose…lol! There is just something special about regularly spending time with people who share a common lifestyle. Since that time we have made a point to attend more rallies and meet-ups to continue the process of forming relationships.
This community of nomadic people, as a whole, couldn’t be more diverse but we have this common bond of homes on wheels and no matter our nationality, color, financial status or level of education we ALL still have to empty the black tank.
Marissa and Nate have been traveling since May of 2015 with their adorable young daughter, Hensley. We met for the first time at the Fulltime Families Rally in Tallahassee and then again when we went to Devil’s Den (click here to see that video) and then again briefly in Orlando. Their popular Less Junk More Journey vlog on YouTube as well as their blog is a great place to get to know them better. Here are Marissa’s thoughts on community on the road:
Community is one of the most overlooked aspects of fulltime RV living, but it is one of the most important. We set out on our journey hoping to just run into families at campgrounds who were living the same lifestyle so we could interact. It was 6 lonely months before we met our first fulltime family, just as we started to think they were as mythical as unicorns.
After including community as part of our travels our experience has been more fulfilling and enriched through these relationships and even friendships. Making community a vital part of your family travels opens amazing doors that you didn’t even know was possible.
Gaby Cuda from RVShare and I have corresponded via email with the mutual connection of blogging and RVing. I asked for her feedback on this topic of community and she was happy to share.
Finding meaningful connections on the road isn’t difficult, but, like all relationships, it does entail some work on both sides. In all aspects of life, relationships must be not just forged, but fostered. The wonderful thing about the RV community is that so many RVers are eager to join forces and share stories. What binds us together is our love of exploration, freedom, and of course, our rigs. There are plenty of ways to meet like-minded individuals – check out an RV show. Join an RV club. Strike up a conversation with your campground neighbors. You’ll come across many people in the RV world that have the same outlook on life as you – and that’s one of the strongest foundations for a lasting friendship. When you look for it, you’ll see community all around you, whether it’s in a neighborhood, a church, or a cluster of campers.
We have more friends (and deeper friendships with those friends) out on the road than we had back in our suburban life.
We never expected that.
But road friendships don’t happen by chance. We purpose to meet people. That often means changing plans. We chose to prioritize community over a fun museum or National Park visit. We went from Michigan to Texas by the way of Washington, DC in order to caravan with friends just a little longer.
And friendships look different than in the suburbs. We used to see friends more often but interact at a shallow level. Now we see people less often but interactions are deeper.
And we’ve gotten better at saying goodbye. We’ve learned to appreciate the sadness that comes when leaving friends. If there is no sadness, then the visit wasn’t a good one.
I am so encouraged to hear these perspectives and I love how the Boyink’s have chosen to view their goodbyes: “If there is no sadness, then the visit wasn’t a good one.”
How to find others on the road
While our stay in Orlando was on the extreme end of the social spectrum, we’d experienced the isolation end of the spectrum for much of the three months preceding. Here’s what I would suggest to other families seeking to make connection on the road:
-Make efforts to attend a Fulltime Family Rally. The rally we attended in Tallahassee at the beginning of February was great. We’ve heard from many that attending a rally was the game changer in helping their family see this lifestyle as a sustainable, long term choice.
–Fulltime Families also has a new family finder on their website. Members can update their location and see if other families are in their area.
-Use social media to your advantage. I’ve found other families in our area through Instagram. At the Fulltime Families rally I asked other parents (via the private Facebook group) for help in connecting my slow-to-initiate daughter with other girls her age. Within 20 minutes a small tribe of girls showed up, crafts, snacks and an umbrella in hand and friendships were born.
-Build margin into your travel plans. We’ve been most starved for interaction with others when we are moving too quickly to facilitate relationship building.
–Initiate. This is not a time to wait to be pursued by others. You have to be willing to make the first move.
I’ve put my two cents out there, now it’s your turn. If you are a traveling family, what has your community experience been on the road? If you are not a traveling family, are there questions I didn’t answer?