Life Riding Shotgun With The Hewston Family

We started full time RVing because we wanted to travel and see as much of the world as possible, starting with our own country. We wanted to expose our kids to as many opportunities as possible and show them what the world has to offer. We wanted to teach our kids to appreciate nature and how to be self-sufficient. We wanted to show them historical sites, get up close and personal with wildlife and learn how to be environmentally friendly.

Our Life Before We Started Full-Timing

We are a military family. Both my husband and I served full careers in the United States Air Force. After I retired, I worked as an executive at the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. When my husband retired, he didn’t want to go back to work right away. That’s when we decided to sell everything and travel in an RV. We’re fortunate that we don’t have to work since we have retirement income coming in every month. We’ve met tons of creative full-timers in our travels who make enough money to fulltime by doing a variety of jobs. It’s very interesting and it can be done. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Our Set-up

We wanted a 5th wheel because they are affordable and offer lots of space and a functional configuration for our family with a bunkhouse for our boys.

Our Adventures So Far

We are often asked what our favorite experiences are and that’s an impossible question to answer. Everything we’ve done is unique and special and amazing. There are a few things that stand out to all of us when looking back at our travels so far, though. Seeing the Aurora Borealis in Alaska was definitely a life highlight. We got to help tag black bears in New Jersey and even got to crawl up in the sleeping bear’s arms and take pictures, which was a freaky experience. We witnessed baby sea turtle nests hatching in North Carolina and were in awe as they raced toward the ocean. We met the sitting President of the United States on a golf course in Washington DC. Who does that? We’ve been on some epic hikes that are on most people’s bucket lists, like The Wave and Havasupai Falls. Our entire full timing journey has been full of epic experiences that we’ll never forget.

Traveling with Our Boys

Traveling with kids is much easier than most people think. We’ve been traveling with our kids for over 20 years. I always like to say, “kids are portable”. Truth is, they’re resilient and adapt easily to traveling. Of course, it depends on their age and attitude towards traveling, but we think that introducing kids to travel early helps them adjust more easily later. We even had a baby while traveling fulltime, which was a complete surprise. Another surprise was how easy it was to prepare for a baby while living in an RV. They really don’t need that much and again, they’re totally portable. Homeschooling was the most intimidating thing for me, but now that we’re in a routine and have the hang of it, it flows smoothly. Traveling makes homeschooling easy because the science and history are hands-on. We mainly focus on math and reading/writing/language. Just be sure to follow your state’s homeschooling laws and you’ll be fine.

Boondocking on a Limited Budget

We love boondocking, which is camping out in nature, usually on public lands, using generators for electricity and the water we have in our potable water tank. Boondocking allows us to really get away from it all. We get to hear the sounds of wildlife, like elk bugling and coyotes howling. We get to see all the stars in the universe, spot the Milky Way and wish upon shooting stars. Our best memories are when we’re boondocking. Our budget for campgrounds is only $25 per day, so we take advantage of weekly rates, military discounts, Sam’s Club discounts and we use Passport America when traveling and only staying somewhere for a night or two. There are tons of ways to save money when camping.

We have a limited budget. Who doesn’t, right? And no one wants to travel fulltime and have loads of debt and bills to pay every month. So, living on a budget is definitely a priority. We have set expenses for camping, groceries and fuel based on our budget. When we get our tax refund each year, we set it aside and organize it into accounts for repairs, medical expenses and entertainment. There are several ways to keep expenses down, especially with entertainment/attractions. For example, we have a Science Center membership that offers reciprocity nationwide and gives us a 50% discount for children’s museums, zoos and aquariums. When traveling, visiting the National Parks is a must and a National Parks Pass will pay for itself and save you hundreds each year. We can’t always stay within our budget, but we do our best and have managed to stay on-the-road for 4 years now.

 RV Repairs on the Road

Every time you drive down the road, your home is going through a 10.0 earthquake. Repairs and renovations are inevitable. We bought our 5th wheel new, so it came with a warranty, but we also bought an extended warranty. We are so glad we did. Even if you buy used, you can still buy an extended warranty and I would highly recommend getting a good one. We got a great one and it has covered all of our repairs in 4 years of full-time travel. For tires and renovations that are not covered under warranty, we set aside money each year to cover those expenses. Let’s face it, no one wants to deal with repairs, leave that to the professionals. We’d rather be exploring or relaxing on the beach.

We Don’t Plan on Stopping Anytime Soon

When we started full timing 4 years ago, we decided we would travel for 5-10 years. We’re still on track to do that. We’d like to explore all 50 states and we’ve got about a dozen left, so a couple more years should do it. After we’re done full-timing, we plan on moving to Panama and exploring Central America for a few years. Then, we plan on moving to either Japan or Thailand and exploring Asia for several years. We never want to stop traveling.

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  1. Joelle, my wife, just gave birth to our newborn, Emma, a few days ago and we’re so excited to start full-timing again! I can’t agree more with your statement of kids being portable, resilient and that they adapt. So many of our friends are afraid of the idea of traveling with a baby, yet we have no problems with it 🙂 Look forward to reading more of Life Riding Shotgun!

  2. Thank you for your service! I’v always wanted to see the Aurora Borealis. What an amazing thing to see! Your family seems so happy traveling full time. The United States is such a great place to start. I can’t wait to have all these experiences when we hit the road again with our little girl.

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