One year ago, I lived what most would classify as a pretty normal life. My husband and I worked (probably too much), and we spent a lot of spare time DIY'ing our sweet little fixer-upper by the beach in Charleston, South Carolina. Packing lunches and cobbling together costumes at the last minute proved part of our day-to-day, as our daughter had just started kindergarten. Life flew by at an ever-quickening pace. As happy as we were, though, one persistent thought plagued us: Is this how our life was supposed to look? So we did something radical — we sold our home and practically everything in it to travel as a family in an RV full-time.
Granted, we didn't make this decision lightly. But with each passing day, we became more convinced it was the right decision. We constantly felt the tug of travel in our bones, the dull yet persistent ache of wanderlust. And we felt strongly that with everything going on in the world there was no time like the present to live with more intention — especially where our two young children were concerned.
One year ago, the idea shifted from the hushed, late-night whispers of a pipe dream to an actual path we decided to pursue. It's been almost six months since we hit the road. It is often said there is no better teacher than travel, right? For me, that adage rings truer than ever. Here are a few of the life lessons we've learned along the way (so far).
We knew going in that downsizing from a 2,000-square-foot house to a 350-square-foot RV would be a task and a half, so we purged dramatically. We became regulars on Facebook swap sites. We held yard sales. We donated. Countless moments during this process gave us pause, whether it was parting with something sentimental or questioning whether we could live with so little.
But you know what? We've happily and willingly gotten rid of even more since our journey started. In a home, it's so much harder to spot things that have outlived their use. They get tucked into corners, shoved under beds and stuffed into the notorious junk drawer. In an RV, anything not used or truly loved sticks out like a sore thumb. You take stock of what's important, and you get rid of the rest. It's that simple.
When we told family and friends our plans, well, we were met with more than a few raised eyebrows and expressions that clearly read, "Are you insane?" However, we did what any red-blooded person would do before making a big decision: We googled.
In doing so, we discovered a massive network of other like-minded individuals and families out there rocking this lifestyle. Blogs like Gone With the Wynns, Mali Mish, Less Junk More Journey and Ditching Suburbia (the list goes on and on) became our most frequently clicked bookmarks. We joined the Fulltime Families Facebook group. Before we'd ever bought our RV, we had a welcoming support system of strangers in place.
Prior to setting off on this grand adventure, we honestly didn't know for certain what we were getting ourselves into. In the thousands of miles we've since traveled, we have been blown away by just how breathtaking and interesting our country is. As soon as you start to think you can't be any more impressed, you turn a corner and you're staring at the most stunning vista you'll ever see... until you hit your next stop.
However, we don't live in a perfect society. People are flawed, and travel doesn't exempt us from experiencing that. From roadside gun stands plastered with anti-Semitic rhetoric to racist comments, ugliness has occasionally become an uninvited guest in our travels. But the good we've experienced far outweighs the bad.
Let us start by clearing up one major misconception about RV life: It is not cheap. Once you factor in the cost of gas, park or membership fees and all of the fun excursions you inevitably take (read: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter), the cost of this lifestyle really adds up.
However, you ultimately hold the cards. If you need to save money, you can live frugally. You can limit your travels. And you can take advantage of the myriad free or nearly free perks out there. Case in point? We had no idea the Bureau of Land Management maintains free (or very inexpensive) campgrounds all over the country. One of our hands-down favorite spots we've stayed so far was at a stunning site near the base of a mountain range in New Mexico (pictured above).
On any given weekday, you might find us splashing around in the pool or taking a hike through the desert. After the kids' schooling is taken care of, we have carte blanche to do whatever we want. The only pressure placed on us now is self-imposed. It's very liberating. I mean, who makes the rules anyway? Who says one lifestyle is superior to another? There's room for everyone to live their own truth.
People tend to idealize travel to other countries — we did, always dreaming of European vacations and African safaris. And while those are still worthwhile dreams, we've come to appreciate how much America truly has to offer. Every time we leave a state, we prattle on about the things we need to do on our next trip. The major attractions like the Grand Canyon and Statue of Liberty are amazing, but RV living also brings to life everything on the map between those stops.
We decided at the onset we weren't going to place parameters on our journey. Rather, we intend to enjoy the ride while it lasts and let our kids steer the conversation about a stopping point. However, we now know it doesn't matter if that point comes a year from now or 10 years from now — we will forever feel like there's so much more to see and do. We're OK with that too.
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