How We’re Exploring the Country in an RV for a Year — With 4 Kids
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Shortly after my husband and I got back from our 10 year anniversary trip to Hawaii — and right before I gave birth to our fourth baby at the end of 2016 — it struck me that we were spending so much energy (and money) maintaining our American Dream that we couldn’t show our kids America.
We lived in a beautiful home, with more than enough space on a large lot, in a great school district. But our house and our life were draining us. We were exhausted just trying to keep up. We spent our weekends running between little league games and housekeeping, and we were always stressed.
I couldn’t stop thinking about how we could give our kids the gift of travel. Not until a wild idea struck me. Let’s buy an RV, I thought. Let’s spend a year exploring!
Had either my husband or I ever so much as driven an RV? Nope. Had we even really camped much? Nah. But as soon as we settled on the notion, things started to come together. We began to seriously move forward in March of 2017, and we sold our house in November that year. Our official launch date was January 5, 2018, and we’ve been on the road for six months now.
The joys of living with kids in an RV
We’ve visited more than 14 national and state parks and monuments in half a year, including Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Yellowstone and Glacier National Park. We’ve already fit more into our time on the road than many will in their lifetime, and our kids are learning every day about the importance of preserving, respecting and listening to nature.
We are road-schooling our two oldest children (who just completed first and fourth grade) using an online curriculum and supplementing their studies with the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger program. There are also plenty of educational trips to museums and zoos.
Our life has become one big field trip. From map-reading to geology and time-zone math, there’s no shortage of lessons to be discovered on the road.
We have spent a lot of quality time together as a family since moving into our RV which is actually quite spacious, relatively speaking. We all have our own private sleeping spaces, and living in this small space isn’t bad most days.
Living in a small space means we can’t hide from each other for long. But there’s an upside to that: my husband and I always know what the kids are talking about and see the games they’re playing. A lot of great conversations about important topics have organically developed, and it has made us more open and honest with each other.
The lows of living with kids in an RV
We haven’t eliminated our stress. In fact, I’d say our stress levels hover around the same as they did before we sold our house. We simply swapped one kind of stress for another. But we have four kids, so it would be unrealistic to think we could live a stress-free life, no matter where or how we lived. We deal with the same parenting struggles we did before, but we like to joke that the views are better this way.
We miss home every now and then. Our kids have had to say goodbye to friends, and we don’t see family as much while on the road. It’s a little isolating. But I was a Navy brat growing up, and I had to say goodbye to many friends, too. I have a lot of empathy for our kids, but I also know how enriching this experience will be. (And, unlike me, they now have the ability to FaceTime, text and game with friends!)
Date nights, unfortunately, are non-existent. It’s next to impossible to find babysitters we trust (or are in our budget) as we travel. We’ve done it a few times for very special occasions, but it’s simply not a regular thing. Then again, it wasn’t really common when we lived in our house, either.
That’s not to say we don’t make time for just ourselves. We like to stream our favorite shows — Wi-Fi permitting — after the kids go to sleep, while enjoying some local beer or wine from wherever we are staying at the moment. And yes, we do have our own room with a door that locks.
Affording full-time RV travel
As a blogger and online content creator (my main blog is BabyRabies.com, a pregnancy and parenting site), a book author and photographer, I am able to work full-time from the road. My husband left his job and manages most of the road-schooling and the other moving pieces of, well, moving. It’s nearly a full-time job just booking sites and planning our route!
We used some of the money from the sale of our home to help purchase our RV and truck, and our expenses are pretty minimal — especially compared to what we were paying to live in our house. We do our best to stick to a tight budget.
There are a lot of families living this same life right now, and they are all making it work in so many creative ways. If you want to hit the road full time, but don’t have a job that will let you work remotely, see what other people are doing to afford this lifestyle. Check out the #FulltimeFamilies hashtag on Instagram to find other families traveling, as the name implies, full-time.
A temporary arrangement
Will we be traveling around the country in an RV forever? No. We have an end date in mind, though we still aren’t quite sure where we will settle or what that will look like. We are viewing this trip as a bit of a reset for our whole family — a way to reprioritize what matters and to spend a year making incredible memories together. Sure, the youngest will probably not remember any of it, but we like to say he will remember this trip in his bones.
It’s a part of who he is and who he will be. You can’t tell me growing up and learning to run in sprawling national parks doesn’t leave an impression. We will likely end up in a traditional house again, and our children will likely go back to a traditional school. But travel will remain a priority for us, and we will design our future with that in mind.
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