Our full-time journey began when life happened and things were not going according to plan. The stable jobs and home that we had worked hard for all our lives and were engrained to believe that meant we were succeeding, were suddenly both gone after the company we worked for went bankrupt and a home mortgage refinance went terribly wrong. This left us being faced with the decision to collapse or break free from the “norm”… We chose to begin a new adventure.
With our 5-year-old in tow and a new baby on the way we took the leap and within about 3 months, we went from a white picket fence family living in 1700 square feet to about 350 square feet in a home on wheels. Our story is unique in the fact that we have family who also full times (Shalene’s parents}, they were with us every step of the way. From moving out of our house, figuring out what to keep in our tiny home, to buying the trailer when our baby was just a week old… and then teaching us “fun” things like how to empty our black tank. Our whole family now travels and conquers the road together!
Our Comfortable RV
We live and travel full-time in our 2017 3150BH (Bunk House) Imagine Travel Trailer by Grand Design; it’s 36 feet long and has two slides. Our tow vehicle is a Ford-F150 Ecoboost truck.
Our decision to purchase a Grand design was all about quality, function, and design. After looking at numerous other trailers and driving the sales people mad with our list of wants and needs; we finally found our ‘Imagine’. The second the door was opened we knew it was home. Ultimately we ended up choosing the bunkhouse model because it gave us the comforts of a tiny house with the functionality of a travel trailer. We have two separate bedrooms with doors to close off the spaces and then a communal living area in between. As for the design elements that sold us; our trailer boasts light colored floors, dark brown cabinets, an electric fireplace, large shower, and stainless steel appliances. The modern eclectic look, the quality of a good brand, solid manufacturers guarantee.
Becoming Happy Campers
Before traveling full-time we were overworked, overstressed and underpaid living in the fast lane of Southern California. Every day it was a battle between living to work and working to live with one week of vacation per year. Each week was spent working 12 plus hours a day and our lives only happened on Saturdays. We had good jobs and wore multiple hats including Human Resources Director, Field Operations Supervisor, Emergency Medical Technician, Non-Emergency Medical Dispatcher, and Transportation Driver. We had the house, kids, cars; mortgage, bills, and debt.
Now, after taking to the road and simplifying our lives both mentally and physically we are debt free, and in control of our destiny, all while living happier, healthier lives. We have become a part of the ever-growing community of Nomadic Work Campers. We seek out temporary jobs all over the country that last anywhere from 2 months to 8 months and then we save to be able to take a few months off in between jobs to travel at a faster pace, sightsee, relax and just spend time with our kids.
Number wise we make considerably less money than we did before, but it feels like so much more as we financially needless. The jobs we work offer wages and a free or low-cost space to park our trailer with full-hookups and often other perks as well; this last year we paid for one week’s worth of campground fees. Road life has given us the opportunity to expand our travels to all 50 states, possibly out of the country someday and do things we never imagined we could do.
RVing Has Made Us More Connected As A Family
The most memorable experience we have taken from the full-time life so far has been watching the incredible bond between our boys grow. With our old life before our second baby was born we feared that our boys would grow up disconnected as they are six years apart; and between parents working, being in school all day and daycare they would hardly ever see each other. When our lives changed, we ended up bringing our two-week-old baby home to our tiny house on wheels and a homeschooled brother anxiously awaited his new playmate. This life has given our children the opportunity to be an active part of each other’s lives; their friendship and love are humbling.
This life has also allowed us as parents to relax and allow our children to get dirty, splash in the puddles and make messes; by removing so much stress you learn to not sweat the small stuff and just make memories instead. We have watched our boys learn to value experiences over stuff and break free from shyness when the opportunity to play with other children arises. My wife and I have also transformed our relationship; 15 years together and we have never been as close as we have become in the last two years. You would think that a family of 4 with a big dog in tow would want to be separated when we can, but the truth is we are always on top of each other! We bought a bunkhouse so the kids could play in their room and they still come to the living room to be with us. Being close has only made us closer in body, mind, and heart.
The Good The Bad and The Messy
Funny/Crazy moments on the road have been plentiful! From learning to back up a 36 foot trailer, to maneuvering in tiny gas stations, travel days with two kids, a clogged black tank, leak in the roof, slide coming in uneven, dead batteries, forgetting to unhook the emergency chains before unhitching, popped breakers and trusting an RV GPS a little too much.
The funniest would have to be when we forgot to turn off the water after we flushed out our black tank. We have a built-in flush valve that basically sprays fresh water all over the inside of our ‘poop’ tank to help clean it out and prevent build up. One day we were dumping and flushing when a neighbor came over and we got distracted. The tank got closed but the water didn’t get shut off. Several hours later I went to the bathroom and noticed the toilet was crooked and leaning forward. I called my wife in to take a look and she quickly dismissed my concerns saying everything was fine. So we both stood there peering down at the toilet while I pushed the flush lever, when suddenly a projectile wave of water, pee and paper came spraying up into our faces! Clean up wasn’t fun, but we realized our error and got the water off and tank emptied again. Looking back it was hilarious! But we narrowly avoided disaster as the tank was so full it was pushing the toilet up and if left any longer it could have exploded resulting in a flood and extensive damages. Lesson learned! Never get distracted when dealing with black tank issues!!!
Finding The Balance For Our Family In An RV
Full-Time life on the road has its own unique set of challenges when it comes to babies, kids, and dogs. We have found that when we have long travel days planned its best to leave at the kids bedtime so they can sleep for much of the time we have to be on the road. Tablets, DVD players, card games, music, coloring, and toys are our best friends! We stop often to let the kids and dog stretch …and always have snacks on hand and smarties [candy] for bribery [hahaha].
Our boys share a bedroom and they have become accustomed to our set up and break down routines for travel, but it has been fun watching the baby grow traveling and become more aware that our house was following us down the road! Clean up is much easier in a smaller space, but it does happen more often because messes happen faster.
We are always doing projects and crafts; we have even made this a part of our holiday routine. We cannot carry around boxes full of decorations so we only keep the essentials with us like a small Christmas tree and ornaments. For each holiday we make paper crafts with the kids and buy dollar store decorations to make it festive and fun!
The baby slept in our room in a co-sleeper bed until he was 5 months old when we moved him to a pack and play in the bunk room. We removed the sofa bed from their room so they would have more floor space for play. Once our little one was able to crawl out of his little crib we moved him to a floor bed and now a regular residential light weigh toddler bed. Big brother sleeps on the top bunk where we built him a railing for safety (manufacturers obviously don’t have kids). We think its extremely important for kids to grow up in an accessible, fun, imaginative environment; and we worked hard to decorate their space in such a manner.
Full-time life is very doable with kids, we do have to binge and purge clothes and toys every season or so…out with the old and in with the new. There is a trail of items we have donated all across the country! It really is amazing how little you need to be happy and functional once you get used to a somewhat minimalist life. I would say about 75% of what we own and haul around the country with us belongs to our kids! We even had to invest in snow/rain boots and heavy Winter coats this year, its a bit of a juggling act; but we just switch out our closets according to the seasons.
Our dog is a German Shepard mix and she has also become accustomed to tiny life, she loves all the new smells when we arrive at a different place, and inside she gets away from the kids by hiding out on our bed. But most of the time the dog and kids play together or cuddle in perfect harmony.
Internet On The Road
For Internet and Phone service we use Verizon Wireless and a Jet Pack. Verizon has done extremely well with a signal as we travel, we have never really encountered any dead zones; only decreased signal sometimes but that’s to be expected when you’re in the boonies. As for streaming, 90% of the time we can watch Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and YouTube with no problems with minimal load times. RV Park WIFI is never reliable, and signal boosters do help when streaming with the jetpack. Overall we are very happy with our service and the price [though phone and internet is our highest monthly bill]. We also have cabinets full of movies; we’re self-proclaimed Disney nerds here!!! We aren’t just camping, we’re living. So sometimes we go hiking and exploring…other days we stay home and watch TV.
Where We Stay While Traveling
In between work camping jobs, we mostly membership camp with a family Thousand Trails membership that piggybacks on Shalene’s parents TT Plan. Thousand Trails memberships are worth it if you plan on using them a lot, the parks are usually nicely kept and in great locations with decent amenities.
As for boondocking, we have only done it on travel days in between RV Park stays as our kids are little and we don’t want to subject them to extreme temperatures or rural locations. We have stayed in Wal-Mart Parking lots, parked in front of a Costco, Cabellas (they had a free water and dump station), an empty Toys R Us lot, a wildlife sanctuary and various other one-night stay locations.
Through our travels we found freecampsites.net which has been a valuable tool to find us spots like parks and even private property that allows for one or two night’s of FREE parking; sometimes even with electricity! Boondocking is always a fun experience, we saw our first fireflies sitting in camp chairs having a glass of wine sitting in a Costco parking lot.
When the idea of work camping was presented to us as a feasible way to make an income and make traveling full-time a reality; I just got onto the computer and started searching. I read up on everything I could find and educated myself as much as possible, then I started sending emails. After our first job [which was Amazon in Kentucky] I created a “Family Resume” to send out to potential employers and be upfront about the fact that we were two women and we had kids. Traveling and work camping with kids and not fitting into the typical bill of ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ as many ads advertise for is just something we have had to persevere through and stay confident; knowing that we won’t be what every job wants and being okay with that only motivates us to try harder to find that perfect adventure.
Honesty is the best policy when trying to work camp with kiddos, you must let employers know ahead of time what they are getting into as these aren’t typical jobs. We will be living and working at the same location and so will our kids. There are plenty of opportunities out there, you just have to find them. Our presentation is half the battle as we have had multiple job offers this year based off of our resume alone; include lots of pictures in your work camping resume and make it informational/fun.
When working full time we typically look for jobs that can offer us opposite shifts and days off together for family fun. Right now we have been lucky enough to have Grandma and Papa here in Indiana with us to watch the kids, so we are both able to work together on the night shift. We use lots of websites to find work camping jobs, but the main resource being workamper.com with the Gold Membership.
Adventure As Far As The Eye Can See
The original plan to full-time was only for a Summer, but after traveling to 18 states in 3 months we were hooked; there was no going back to a ‘normal’ life after that. Our plans now extend as far as the eye can see, we live in the now, but the full-time life has become a part of our identity. We are Nomads. We do plan to downsize considerably after our boys are grown and on their own, but that won’t be for a while still as our kiddos are only 8 and 2. Our eldest is already planning his full-time life, he wants to backpack across Europe and live in a van; we couldn’t be more proud! If we eventually do decide to settle down somewhere we will never own a home on land again. The only way would be in a semi-permanent tiny house that we can still move once or twice a year. The people and experiences on the road far outweigh any of its downfalls and we take our roots with us wherever we go. Home is where we park it.
Currently, we are in Indiana working with the Amazon CamperForce Program and we have accepted our 2019 Spring/Summer Work Camping job. We will be headed to the Mid-Western States, but we are not quite ready to announce our new adventure just yet!