An Unexpected Road

full-time rv living, journey

Six months ago, if you would have told me the journey we would be on right now, I would have said you were crazy. Like completely nuts.

Because in the middle of January, we were still recovering from the chaos of moving our coffee roasting business to a new location and surviving our first Christmas season running a commercial roastery and retail store. We were preparing to expand our wholesale accounts and upgrade our retail space. We saw a clear path to success if we were willing to put in the hard work and time required. However, after prayerfully evaluating the toll all that work and time was taking on our family, in early March, we decided to sell our business. And with that huge and difficult decision came a bigger question: what now?

Backstory

When we moved back to Iowa a little over four years ago, we knew it would only be for a season. When we established a brick-and-mortar business in our little town, we figured our life here would be more long-term than we had anticipated, but we were willing to remain as long as God asked us to. Once we sold the business and that reason to stay was no longer relevant, we began to wonder if our time in Iowa was coming to an end. As my husband and I prayed and talked together, it became clear that God was doing something in us. He was awakening a restlessness that has been lingering in the background during our time here, but which has been growing in the deep places of our hearts for several years.

Why an RV?

Why not move to another house or city or state like normal people? Why was living in an RV even on the table as an option for the next step for our family? Good questions.

The answer: YouTube.

Our family regularly watches videos about tiny house living and couples and families who travel full time on a boat or in an RV.  In recent years, I have been intrigued by the idea of living in a much smaller space, but doing that with kids seemed out of the question. However, seeing other families live that lifestyle compelled us to ask, “Could WE do that? What if OUR family lived in an RV and traveled around to amazing places?” Once those questions were spoken aloud, there was no turning back. We were super excited about the idea, so my husband and I kept it between us and committed it to prayer. Very soon after, we agreed to start moving forward with steps to make it a reality. It was absolutely incredible how much peace and unity accompanied our decision! Moving a family of five into a space the size of most living rooms is certainly not a mainstream way of life, but it just seemed to make sense for us. Maybe in some ways, that is why it made sense. Because we do not aspire to having our family look normal in this culture. Because we would like to spend more time with our kids, having adventures and making memories. Because we’d rather live with less than pursue a lifestyle that feels busy and burdensome. The idea of full-time traveling and the freedom of the open road felt increasingly like the perfect fit for our family. The more we talked about it, the more excited we became!

Sharing our vision

First things first, we needed to tell our kids.  After all, they were the biggest factor in our decision to sell our business, and our desire to spend more quality time together as a family was a large part of this decision as well. We explained to them that we were going to turn our lives upside down to pursue a full-time RV lifestyle. For the most part, they were so excited! The only hesitation was from our oldest, who was concerned about the number of Legos he would be able to bring along. That line of thinking was quickly dismissed once he began to realize the adventures we would be able to have!

After we shared our plans with the kids, we started down the list of family and friends we wanted to tell, starting with our parents. We were a little nervous to share our plans with people, but nearly everyone was supportive and excited for us. Especially those who know us well. There were a few valid concerns and questions, but we were able to explain our plan of action and motivations in further detail to confirm that we have, in fact, thought this through. Once we began to tell more people, the reactions were a little more varied. Several people told us they had always dreamed of traveling around in an RV and regret never doing it. Others asked why we would ever want to do that. Most people were thrilled for us and shared the opinion that it would be a good fit for our family.

Finding our new home

So, as soon as the news was public, the proverbial ball started to roll smoothly and quickly. Within a few short months of committing to our plans, we had sold the business, concluded another year of school, sold or donated most of our belongings, sold our house, purchased a truck, and moved in with my parents. Whew! It was an overwhelming and hectic time, but once those monumental tasks were checked off the list, we were ready to find our new home on wheels! Sometimes the search was super frustrating because we kept going back and forth about the type of trailer we wanted and the features that were non-negotiable. After all, this is going to be our everyday, all-the-time home, not just something to camp in on the weekend. That fact made me give more thought to the layout and size of the trailer and be pickier than I might have been had we just been looking for an occasional-use camper.

After several weeks of looking online at literally thousands of floor plans and models, and after seeing a few travel trailers and fifth wheels in person, we finally found our rig! Amazingly, it was only a ten-minute drive from my parents’ house, and we purchased it for the exact price we were wanting to spend. Our new home is a 31-foot fifth wheel with a separate bunk room, and it even has the white cabinets I really wanted! We are currently doing some upgrades and modifications, so I will do a post about that when they are completed. I can’t wait to see the finished product and to share the before and after photos with you! It’s going to be awesome!

Answers to your questions

My guess is that you may still be curious about a few things. Like what is it really going to look like for a family with three young children to be on the road full time? To be honest, we don’t really know what it will look like. We have an idea, because we have done a lot of research and we follow people on social media who do this. But, we won’t really know how it will all play out for us until we just get out there and do it. We can, however, shed some light on our plans to make a successful transition to this way of life.

When will we Leave?

Right now, we anticipate moving into the fifth wheel sometime late summer or early fall. We will stay somewhere fairly local as we learn the ins and outs of RV life. Since my husband will continue to work at his regular job for several more months, we will plan to stay within 45 minutes of his job most of the time. We also hope to spend a few long weekends traveling to places a bit more exciting and picturesque than Central Iowa. Once it starts to get cold again, we will park the camper and move back in with my parents for the winter.

Because snow.

Obviously.

We are hoping to officially begin our adventure in the spring of 2018, but if we aren’t ready to leave by then, we may find some other local spots to stay while we finish our preparations. We have a lot to learn and figure out before we can launch, and we want to save an adequate amount of money for emergencies and for the repairs that we hear are inevitable. We are prepared for that process to take longer than we think it will, but we would like to leave as soon as we are reasonably able.

How can we afford it?

Although quite personal, I think that’s a completely valid question, and I would probably ask you the same thing if the tables were turned. First of all, just to dispel any myths, we are not independently wealthy. We don’t have trust funds. We didn’t inherit vast amounts of money. We didn’t make bank on the sale of our house or business, as one person has suggested. We made a little money on those transactions and put all of it toward purchasing our truck and RV with cash. While we do not have a giant room full of gold bars, we do have a few things going for us. Like the fact that we are debt-free! {insert Dave Ramsey scream here.} We have no debt payments of any kind, including a mortgage. Although my husband earns only a modest salary at his current job, we’ll be able to save a good amount of money while we live with my parents and have virtually no housing costs. (Thank you, Mom & Dad!) Also, as far as the cost of living goes, RV life can be significantly less expensive than life in a traditional home. Of course, our gas budget is going to increase, but a lot of other expenses associated with housing will be much less or even non-existent. Even still, we will have to eat. And pay for healthcare and insurance. So, a consistent income stream is imperative to keep us rolling. (See what I did there? 😉 )

At this point, we are planning to establish several ways of earning money while on the road. I would like to do freelance transcription, editing, proofreading, and writing. In my pre-momming days, I was a paralegal/legal assistant, and I think the skill set I developed in that career prepared me well for those tasks. There are several websites that offer that specific kind of work, so I will be pursuing those and other virtual assistant opportunities.  I also plan to start blogging more frequently and intentionally. Hopefully, one day, that can lead to a little bit of income for us. I have even considered doing some type of Etsy shop, but I have not yet given it much thought or energy.

As for my husband, he is further developing his eBay store and adapting it to function well while we are on the road. He is also planning to pick up jobs here and there and to take advantage of the world that is work camping (or Workamping). As we have researched, we have found that there are job opportunities all over the country for those in the full-time RV community. This may include being a campground host or doing other kinds of work at a campground, but it certainly isn’t limited to that. My husband is a hard worker and has his own unique set of skills that will definitely come in handy along the way. Again, we are not sure how exactly this will all transpire, but we are open to figuring out what works, and we are committed to making it happen!

Where will we go, and how long will we be gone?

We used to live in Colorado and Washington (the state), and there are many people we want to see and spend time with in those places. Also, visiting Yellowstone, Yosemite, Arches, Joshua Tree and the Grand Canyon are some of the absolute must-dos on our list. Since all of that is in the western United States, it makes the most sense to head that way first. We would love to spend some time driving down the coast and then maybe spend the winter in the Southwest and/or Texas. After that, we’re not sure. We eventually want to visit New Orleans, New England and a lot of places in between, but those stops will have to come later on in the journey.

As of right now, we really don’t know how long we’ll be gone. We initially said one year, but I can’t see how we can visit all the places we want to in that short amount of time without taking it at a grueling pace. And we certainly do not want to do that! We’d like to take our time and really see and experience the places we visit. We want to have the option to spend more time in some places, either because we love it there or because we need to pick up some longer-term work. We don’t want to be dictated by the calendar if we don’t have to be. Part of the excitement in this is the freedom! Putting an ending date on the journey before it has even begun seems too rigid and limiting for this kind of adventure, don’t you think?!

How will our kids go to school?

While this is actually one of the more difficult transitions for a lot of families who choose this lifestyle, this is the one thing I feel pretty confident about! We already homeschool our kids and always have. They don’t know any different. I don’t know any different. The upcoming year will be our fourth year, and I think we have a good system going. When we leave, we will just have to move the system on the road and add in some really awesome hands-on experiences!!  I know there will be some adjustments with having less space and having Principal Daddy be more involved, but I am extremely excited for the kids to do more real-life learning along with their normal book work. It will be a new adventure for all of us, and we are looking forward to it!

Pragmatist Turned Dreamer

Although my husband and I both love adventure and new experiences, when it comes to being a visionary or so-called dreamer, I am certainly not that. I am the planner. The number geek. The realist. Some may say, the pessimist. I am not typically one who thinks about pursuing a path that is completely different from the norm, at least without some hard data. I need numbers, facts, statistics. I need to know and talk to real-life people who have successfully done something before I can step into it with confidence.

But this.

With this, things have been different. I have been able to join my husband and excitedly dream about this adventure and the experiences we will have as a family. Even though I cannot even begin to predict where this journey will take us or, honestly, what even one day will actually look like, I am excited to step out in faith to walk down this unusual, unexpected road. I NEVER would have imagined we’d be taking this path. Never in a million years. But that only further convinces me that we are doing the right thing. That this is a God-designed course that will take us to places we can’t even understand right now.  I know that any picture we might have of what this journey will be like is probably going to look completely different when the {actual} rubber hits the {actual } road. But that’s ok. For maybe the first time in my life, that’s part of the excitement.

I can’t wait to share more details with you as our plans continue to take shape. We have just begun this journey, and it’s bound to pretty amazing. I hope you follow along as I document the process of getting on the road, being on the road, and all the awesome moments along the way!

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