roadside reflections

We are working our way to toward the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I have an appointment with the Wright Brothers and the Lost Colony of Roanoke waiting for me.

This morning my GPS spoke assurances that we would arrive in 3 hours and 26 minutes. However, it failed to anticipate the RV tire blowout that would occur one hour into our trip. For now we sit parked on the side of the Interstate sandwiched between opposing sounds of speeding traffic to my left and chorusing tree frogs to my right. The cacophony of contrasting sounds makes me smile as I reflect on the diversity of lifestyles living side by side.

A lifestyle of busyness has its appeal and going and doing has inherent rewards. Yet, there is also special beauty to be found in the sitting still. Today we are getting an unexpected taste of both.

Whichever side of the guardrail you find yourself on today, do it with intention. If you are going, go confidence and be open to what God will show you along the way. If you are in a season of staying, let your song be heard above the busy roar so those who slow down can reflect on the beauty that you enjoy everyday.

is it possible to have community on the road?

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:

  1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
  2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goalsthe 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.

community in an rv on the road
Super Bowl Sunday at the Fulltime Families Rally

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.

rv community on the road
The Newlywed Game hosted by the Nomadic Homeschoolers

New beginnings

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.

community on the road in an rv
Taco Tuesday potluck sponsored by the Nomadic Homeschoolers

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.

community for kids
The kids marketplace at the Fulltime Families Rally

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 our first year, we decided to devote our travels to more community based events. We attended the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and a Fulltime Families rally and it rocked our RV world.

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.

Michael and Crissa Boyink have two older children and have been Rving since 2010. When I said before that I am a newbie, to me these guys are the extreme opposite of that! I first met Michael and Crissa online after I heard a Family Adventure Podcast interview featuring their family. Since that time, I have enjoyed reading their weekly newsletter and using the resources on their Ditching Suburbia blog (such as their crowd sourced Where To Go interactive map). If you’ve been a Faith Takes Flight reader for a while, you may also remember that I wrote a guest post on Ditching Suburbia about how we downsized our possessions to fit our new RV lifestyle. We got the opportunity to meet up with the Boyinks in person at the Fulltime Families rally (they wrote a blog post about their rally experience here) and it was a lot of fun to interact face to face. Here is their take on finding community on the road:

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.

We’ve written so much about community we created a dedicated category for it on our blog.

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:

-Connect yourself to another organized group of traveling families. The two we’ve found most useful so far have been Fulltime Families and Nomadic Homeschoolers.

-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.

community on the road
Before and after: the time I used social media to help my child make connections

-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?

RV upgrade: adding a Splendide 2100 washer/dryer

From Trent:

We’ve come a long way baby…From days of muddy city streets filled with animal feces and chamber pots thrown out of 2nd story windows, to our modern-day concrete jungles complete with hand sanitizer stands at every big box entrance.  These little bottles of gel stand like sentry guards challenging you to enter without a hand baptism (or full submersion if you prefer).  If you manage to sneak past these guardians, your evil shopping cart handle will probably infect you before you can reach for your virus infected paper money to pay for those chemically sprayed vegetables. Soon, we will all have to enter our own personal protection bubbles to shield us from anything harmful before we venture outdoors. But I digress…

Staying out of the dark ages

Washer and dryer machines keep us clean and out of the dark ages. These wonderful machines give us back so much time that was lost to washboards and squeegee rollers.  The Ledeboer’s declared that we needed these modern marvels inside our tiny home on wheels.

Splendide washer/drayer install in three easy steps

How does one go about installing two large machines in a tiny home with a skinny hall you may ask?

First, find a good friend with a strong back.
-“Check”

Splendide 2100 install

Second, combine the washer and dryer into one machine.  (I didn’t know this was possible until just a few months ago.)
-“Check”

Third, cut a hole in the side of your RV for the dryer vent, first making sure it is in exactly the right location.
-“Umm, not check”.

I accidentally cut the hole for our dryer vent in the wrong place. Thankfully, the remedy was fairly simple. This is the text conversation that I had with Heather when she came back to the RV while I was at the hardware store looking for a solution:

splendide install

Thankfully I did return from the hardware store with a work-around. Watch the full video for details on how we overcame this Splendide install dilemma.

A note from Heather:

We went back and forth about getting a washer/dryer combo unit in our RV. There were pros and cons to each option which included:

-Cost: A few hundred dollars up front vs. paying per load at a laundry mat.
-Time: About 10 minutes a day vs. an hour+ each week at a laundry mat.
-Effort: Locating a used model and learning how to install it vs. finding a laundry mat in each new location we travel to.

We tried to weigh these various factors: how much it would cost to purchase, how often we would use it, and the weight that it would add to our RV.

In the end we felt that the pros would outweigh the cons. We found a used Splendide 2100 model on craigslist for $600 and as Trent outlined above, learned some valuable lessons in the process. Now that we’ve had our Splendide washer/dryer for several months, I can confidently say that I am glad we decided to purchase one.

New laundry routines

As you may expect, the drum size of our Splendide is significantly smaller than our previous stackable front loading machine. This necessitates more frequent washings in order to stay on top of our laundry. I’ve established a daily routine, putting in one load each morning. I’m no longer as picky as I used to be about separating out our lights and darks because it is easier to run one load a day by simply throwing everything in together. By the end of the day I find time to pull out the dry clothes and because the load is small, it’s quick and easy to put everything away. Prior to RVing I had no idea that there were combo washer/dryer units. I do enjoy that once I start the load I don’t have to do anything else until I’m ready to pull it out and put it away due to the fact that it automatically begins the drying mode once the wash cycle is completed.

I can see that it might be nice to have some quiet time in a laundry mat as I catch up on our laundry once a week. However, there have been many weeks in which I have been thankful that we didn’t need to work that into our routine. In addition, our youngest still struggles to have consistently dry nights. Each time I need to wash his bedding, I appreciate that I don’t have to go any further than my bedroom closet.

Although our kids loved the novelty of washing their own clothing at the Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead, I am not ready to adopt this into our regular routine and I’m thankful for the advances we have made since the days of emptying chamber pots into the streets!

splendide (early model)

How about you? Did you know there were combo units like this? If you have an RV, do you have a washer/dryer? Why or why not?

First six months in the RV: our highs and lows

Six months ago our family said good-bye to what had always felt normal and moved into our RV full-time. Now that we’ve put a half of a year between us and the honeymoon moments, what have we learned? What has been hardest to adjust to? Has anything surpassed our expectations? Have we had any moments of regret?

faith takes flight

LIVING FULL-TIME IN AN RV: THE HARD STUFF

While there have been many, many aspects to traveling full-time in an RV that we have loved, there have been challenges. Below are the top 6 areas of difficulty in these first six months.

Healthcare:
I wasn’t prepared for the potential difficulty of finding healthcare on the road. Apart from regularly scheduled dental and eye exams, it seemed rare to visit the doctor before we started on our trip. Yet, I took for granted the convenient ease we experienced if and when we did need to make an appointment.

There are an abundance of healthcare options wherever we go. However, we sometimes are moving so fast that to make an appointment, we have to try to call a town next on our itinerary rather than one where we are currently staying. Such was the case when Hunter developed a toothache while we were in Springfield, IL. I was on the phone attempting to set up an appointment in St. Louis, MO. We had a three day window that we would be in the St. Louis area: Thur-Sat. It felt like an impossibility to be seen as a new patient with only 1-2 days notice. However, we were able to find someone that could see him that Thursday and his tooth was successfully attended to. In addition to our trip to the dentist we have also needed to see a chiropractor (twice) and an eye doctor.

Despite the apprehension and general dislike of the situation, we have been able to successfully schedule an immediate appointment every. single. time. Its been a continual reminder of God’s provision and I’ve been humbled by my perpetual propensity to worry in this area.

Mail:
Again, this is an area that I took for granted. It is so much easier to receive mail when you are staying in one place! Currently our in-laws receive our mail and forward it on to us periodically when we are staying somewhere long enough–that is the tricky part. The faster we are moving from one location to the next, the harder it is to order something online or have mail forwarded. This first half of our trip has included the most frequent movement. We anticipate that once we get to Florida things will start to slow down.

Fixing things:
It was no surprise to us that living full-time in an RV would require fixing things, regularly. However, being prepared for that reality hasn’t made it any more enjoyable. We’ve had our share of repairs.

washer/dryer install

However, we’ve also had several improvement projects: installing a washer/dryer, adding solar panels and adding a vent fan to the loft. (When I say “we’ve” had several projects, I mean “Trent”). Each of these improvements have necessitated a willingness to learn something completely new. I am continually impressed at his “let’s figure this out” attitude.

solar panel install

Relationships:
While our core family relationships have benefited from our traveling time together, there are inherent challenges to finding community on the road. Once again, the faster we are moving from one place to another, the harder it is to connect with others. That said, we have had the chance to briefly meet up with two different traveling families so far. And our upcoming time in Florida will likely change the tide of what has been “normal” for us in this area thus far. There are many other full-time families wintering in Florida at the same campgrounds we plan to stay at. We look forward to seeing what this will be like.

fun with friends

Lack of routine:
Trent and I were cut from the same cloth in this area. We both thrive on a somewhat predictable schedule and routine. We’ve had an abundance of what I might call “un-routining” so far on this trip. While it works for a while, we recognize that we do best if we can maintain routine as much as possible. For us this can be as basic as keeping our morning and evening rhythm intact.

Moving the RV:
I love our RV but I am so glad I don’t have to pull it. It’s 41′ of challenge. Trent has already found himself in a few very challenging situations. He’s squeezed his way through windy one-lane backroads driving to our WWOOFing assignment. He’s backed up into super tight RV spots. Trent has been directed into residential streets by a traffic cop in downtown Nashville. And for the creme de la creme: he even had to back his way out of my brother’s long, very uneven gravel driveway in order to make the tight turn onto the single lane street (see photo proof below).

The first time we tried to exit this driveway it took us an hour before we figured out that the only way to make it out was backward. If that wasn’t enough, Trent repeated this exit a total of three times during our stay in order to take the RV to Camping World! This, my friends is no small feat.

Backing up the RV down a very un-even driveway

I’ll sing it from the prairie, I’ll shout it from the Smoky Mountains and I’ll chant it in the Louisiana swampland: my man is da’ bomb diggity when it comes to hauling this home.

LIVING FULL-TIME IN AN RV: THE GOOD STUFF

Now that we’ve gotten the not-so-nice things out of the way, let’s talk about the super awesome parts of RV living!

Learning:
I’m a learner. That’s not a flippant observation, it’s an official StrengthsFinder diagnosis. As defined on their website:

“You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence. The thrill of the first few facts, the early efforts to recite or practice what you have learned, the growing confidence of a skill mastered — this is the process that entices you…”

It may not be possible for me to fully encapsulate how gratifying it has been to learn on the road. Forever I will now connect Abe Lincoln with New Salem and think of the town he grew up in as I recall walking the same path with my own children. Laura Ingalls Wilder feels as accessible as her stories because we’ve been to the banks of Plum Creek and visited her Little Town. I now know the difference between Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson (and I’ve seen both of their hats–as well as Lincoln’s)! I’ve been to the upper, middle and lower parts of Mississippi River and can better understand the major part it had to play in our country’s history.

the Smoky Mountains

I see the connections being made in the minds of our kids. We consistently reference things we’ve seen, done or learned as we build on new understanding. “Oh look, they made a flower with Andrew Jackson’s hair in this locket kind of like the hair wreath we saw in the Lotz house!” This entire process has been akin to listening to an ever-expanding symphony of understanding building to a beautiful crescendo in our minds. We are entering into the grand story with more rich understanding of the pages that have already been written.

jr rangers

Intentional interaction:
While we have been blessed to enjoy a large amount of time together as a family in the past, our time together on the road full-time has built in new layers of connection. For the first time since we began homeschooling four years ago, Trent has been involved in an integral way. This additional aspect of our homeschooling routine has allowed Trent and I to capitalize on the areas of our strengths with the kids. We are also able to wrap up the school day with greater efficiency. In addition to the change in our school routine, we have enjoyed implementing family routines allowing us to eat all our meals together and end the day with a family read aloud (currently Farmer Boy).

full-time rv highs lows

Squelching Spending:
Walking through a store like Home Depot in order to purchase caulk is much less likely to end up costing more than expected. The temptation to also grab _____ because it happens to be on sale or would look perfect next to my ______ is almost laughable. I ask myself:
Do we need it?
No.
Do I have a place for it?
No.
I walk away. It feels good. Sometimes I am almost tempted to go to the thrift store just to walk around and come out empty handed. Then I remember that I am still dealing with a book addiction which would not end with me looking nearly as self-controlled. We will just stick to the Home Depot example.

Creative License:
Again and again we’ve found that when we get outside our “typical” environment we begin to tap more easily into our creative side. This has been true for this trip as well. Since moving into our RV, I’ve made more time for writing and Trent has begun playing around with video creation and editing. It’s fun to take the excitement of our exploration and be challenged to transpose that creatively for others to enjoy as well.

Personal Development:
Along with areas of creativity, I’ve also appreciated being stretched in new directions through our experiences. I recently wrote about one stretching situation: our family’s decision to package and hand out care packages as we come across people who are in need.

Another opportunity to step outside our comfort zone was our recent visit to a Southern Baptist church. We intentionally selected this particular congregation because we expected to be one of the only white families in attendance. We wanted to worship the God we know and love, in an environment that was very unfamiliar to our family. The entire service was a wonderful mix of familiar packaged differently! We were welcomed so warmly by everyone we saw; it was almost embarrassing. I’ve been in a few churches that did an amazing job of making you feel welcomed from the start. This one surpassed them all. “Well done people of God, well done!”

baptist church

MOMENTS OF REGRET?

Have we ever looked back at our decision to sell our home, quit our jobs and leave our friends with regret? Perhaps this answer is best addressed individually as each member of our family has a different, equally valid, perspective.

Tanner (5): I like being in our RV. Travel days are fun because we get to play time on the ipad and get to have fun. We get to go to really fun places. Some of my favorites have been children’s museums and special places. Sometimes I’m sad that we don’t get to see our friends back home. I didn’t really know what it would be like to live in an RV but know I know it is fun.

Quinten (7): I like traveling. I get to eat apples, bananas and pretzels in the car. I also get to listen to stories and play technology on travel days. Sometimes we do things that are kind of boring like the Civil Rights Museum. But mostly its been fun.

Ashlyn (10): I really enjoy traveling. Its really fun to see all the different places. It’s so fun to learn about history and all the different places we are at or learn why something was built. When we first moved into the RV it was strange and exciting. But, after we were in it a while, it just felt like home. It’s fun to play with my brothers. There’s new games and ideas you can come up with because of all the new plants and different kinds of soil. Depending on where we are staying we can come up with lots of new games outside. The only downside to traveling in an RV is that you can’t bring your friends with you.

Hunter (13): No regrets. It feels like our family has traveled at a good pace that has been the perfect mix of traveling, doing new things and then staying in one place for a while. We don’t always have a good internet connection. This can make it hard for me to access my digital library. However, I’ve had a great experience on the road so far.

Heather (38): No regrets. I’ve discovered that most things that I’ve found to be worthwhile have also been challenging. This has been true for parenting and homeschooling and it’s also true for traveling. I’ve also found that people are often more likely to regret things they haven’t done than things they have. I never want to shrink back from the fear of the unknown or from dreams that have been planted in my heart.

Trent (38):  No regrets.  Sure there are things I miss, but the opportunities this journey had brought us, far outweigh the negatives.  Don’t mistake living on the road full-time with your family as a “permanent vacation”. It’s not easy and there are moments when I want to hitch up and return to stationary life.  Nothing worthwhile is easy.  Don’t go through life always asking “what if ?”  No matter what your considering, evaluate the worst case scenario and if that’s acceptable, take a calculated risk. This world has enough arm chair quarterbacks.

Curating a free 50 state book list to share with you

In days past when our home also had a driveway, porch and patio furniture, we had so many books that my husband gifted me with a locally crated bookshelf one year for Christmas. In addition to new book titles, I collected old books acquired from thrift stores and garage sales. These old books became part of my home décor. Our bathrooms had baskets of books and our librarian knew us all by name. Books and reading was an integral part of our family culture.

When we were in the planning stages of our suburban exit strategy, books became an area of concern. They are heavy. After all, they carry the weight of changed lives and struggles overcome. Heavy things are not welcomed in RVs; they are donated, given away or stored. While we had parted with many possessions willingly, this was a challenging area.

A family book auction ensued, with each child bearing the responsibility and right to ransom a predetermined number of books from storage. These chosen few titles would adorn the bookshelf in our RV loft. Those that remained were packed away, banished from family life to silently wait as we gallivant around the US.

Our Book life on the road

Perhaps one of the aspects of suburban life that I miss the most is the ease of book acquisition. Requesting a new title from the library or ordering a used copy online was easy and hassle-free. I’d grown particularly accustomed to pairing our reading selections to things we were learning about in Science, History or Geography. Requesting a basket-full of titles on a weekly basis was not unusual. E-readers have since become a presence in our lives, but we still miss our weekly library visits and the resulting trip into the house laden with the weight of new literature.

Creating a 50 state book list

Transitioning away from this routine has at times put me in a sate of withdrawal. To cope, I recently diverted my attention to the next most logical endeavor—curating an extensively thorough book list organized geographically. My logic was this: If I could no longer acquire baskets of books, I could perhaps focus on a few that would make the most sense for us to enjoy. Why not choose books with a geographical setting matching that of our travels? In order to choose a children’s book geographically aligned with our current location, I was going to have to set to work to find and organize applicable titles. Creating a book list organized by state seemed simple; until my husband wisely pointed out that I’d need a minimum of 100 books if I wanted even an average of two books per state. Undaunted, I set to work. How hard could it be?

Turns out, it’s pretty hard. A lot of books don’t divulge the US state they are set in without some considerable digging. Other books give this information, but take place in a variety of locations. Some states are like the popular kids in school and seem to get all the attention (hello California and Florida). While at first glance other states appear to have not been invited to the party at all (looking at you Idaho). Enlisting the help of my librarian (thank you April), Amazon, Goodreads and a handful of discovered resources, I developed a list that left no state left out. In fact, I even included a section of books for the Mississippi River as well as a few for Canada.

sharing my 50 state book list with you

In the end, my 50 state book list contained over 300 titles of children’s chapter books organized alphabetically by state. Not only that, but they also include a plot summary and a link to find the book online. This was not a simple project, nor a quick one. I decided this was not a resource to keep to myself. Surely others would find this state book list useful. Perhaps you are one of them? Simply sign up for my blog post newsletter by clicking the “sign up” link in the lower right hand corner of my blog. You will receive an email auto reply with a link to download your own copy of my 50 state book list.

If you know any other bibliophiles (a person who collects or has a great love of books), will you do me a favor and share a link to this post with them? I’d love knowing that the time I put into creating this list is benefiting others as well!