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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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?
Do I have a place for it?
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.
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.
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!”
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.