A few years ago our lives got turned around. In a short span of time, we went from stay-at-home Mommy to stay-at-home Daddy. This was hard for my husband Garrett and for the next couple of years, he was forced to accept the new role. He was missing being able to travel and being active in the workforce. Garrett began to think, by changing our lifestyle we could experience new adventures with our kids as a family.
It was around this time that our son Edison was a few months old and I, Carolyn returned back to work. Pressures from both work and home life were causing so much stress and anxiety. I was experiencing mood swings and panic attacks. We were unsure what was behind these emotions but discovered that clutter and disorganization were a major trigger. Knowing that we would have to downsize by more than 90% to take on a mobile lifestyle was encouragement enough for us. We must minimize to lower stress!
Now we had never been big spenders but through circumstances, during our marriage, we accumulated some substantial debt. Our goal has always been to get free of liability as quickly as possible to better provide for our growing family. When we realized we might do that by simply cutting out things that society deems necessary, the answer was, “Let’s do this!”. We would quit trying to ‘live up to the Joneses’, we would sell our house and become nomads.
Why We Chose Our Fifth Wheel
As we were considering what would work for our family we were drawn to 5th wheels because of storage space. Knowing we needed to bring items for the whole year for our family of 5 we were conscious of storage. This particular model (2018 Highland Ridge Light 295FBH) drew us in because the bunk space was at the front over the truck bed instead of at the back like most bunk models. It works perfectly for what we need for the kids; they each have their own bunk, there are enough drawers and closets in the room to accommodate their clothing and toys, and there is a fourth bunk we can use for storage. The closet space in the master is also very spacious. It is divided into His and Hers with drawers underneath. We use one side for our clothes and the other side for storage of items that still need to be organized/digitalized/donated, as well as our printer. Finally, the middle section is set up as the office with two small drawers for supplies and a station for the laptop. To gain all this space in the master we did have to give up the desired outside kitchen but, come to think of it, we haven’t seemed to miss it.
As we were shopping for our full-time home only one travel trailer caught our eye, the Grand Design Reflection 312BHTS. Unfortunately, at the time it was a bit out of our price range. The Class A’s we toured were just for fun knowing they were considerably more expensive and because if our rig breaks down our whole house would need to go into the shop (Not appealing in the least).
Our Goals Working On The Road
Garrett has experience working for the government as a CBP officer. The bureaucracy was wearing him thin and he had great plans to own a business doing something he loved. In 2015 he started GS Lighting Solutions, a theatrical lighting company catering to small companies and non-profits. He has assisted in upgrading and programming lighting systems and equipment for area churches and theaters as well as event lighting for concerts, conferences, school dances, and wedding receptions.
Garrett plans to continue offering services wherever we go, depending on the local needs. He is also looking into how content creation can work in our lives. He continually adds to his skills in this avenue of videography, drone work, content editing, etc. He has had some success on his YouTube channel, as well as managing our family channel, Diary of a Family.
Garrett is also master of all things childish. He successfully manages our household of three under 8-years-old. This includes meals, errands, RV chores, and homeschooling two!
I have worked for a large medical system here in the Pacific Northwest and have worked as a floor nurse on a busy Medical Surgical unit for about 3 years. Then took on a new role supporting this unit and several others as a nursing educator. Through the last year I have worked on many projects, including opening a brand-new hospital, a ‘once in a lifetime’ event.
As this ‘office job’ keeps us tied to the Washington State area, limiting our movement, our scheme is to escape this spring 2019. I will work as a travel nurse, taking contracts all over the United States.
Our First Time On The Road
September 1st, 2018 was our first run out, meaning it was our maiden voyage away from the house and property we were selling. Tall Chief RV Resort was our destination and we were so excited about finally being ‘on the road’. Technically we had moved into our fifth wheel a month before, but sitting in the driveway of an empty house, watching realtors take strangers through and praying for a buyer all the time was not even to be counted as part of our nomad life.
So, pulling into this beautiful Encore park held so much excitement and meaning for us! As Garrett did what Garrett does best (do the doo-doo duty), I went scouting for the ‘perfect location’. Not exactly sure what to look for in a spot, I searched the map for 50amp sites per the request of Poop Man. Amazingly, late on a Saturday afternoon of a three-day weekend, there was one 50amp site left, it was meant to be! And no sooner had we parked and leveled than we met our neighbors, Matt and Kristy Bialko and their three kids, a full-time family from Ohio. We quickly realized we were already subscribed to their channel Our 18 Summers and it was so easy to get to know their family and to hang out and talk. Totally epic!
A Trip We Will Remember For sure
Recently we drove to Leavenworth, Wa to celebrate Garrett’s birthday. We remember this particular trip with humor as it was the first time I drove while towing. Leavenworth is a beautiful Bavarian-themed town situated in the Cascade Mountain Range, (the key word is ‘mountain’). Our approach on State Route 2 had us entering Leavenworth from the west after traversed multiple mountain passes with at least three heart-stopping uses of turnout lanes.
Finally, in town, we determined that our calculations were a bit off on the location of the RV Resort we reserved; Instead of being just a mile or two outside of town it was actually 18 miles, 30 whole minutes, up single lane mountain roads!!! Of course, this discovery was made too late for us to bail from the helm. And so, we found ourselves venturing over yet another mountain, this time with no curb after that thin, white line. Then, as we headed down a very steep gradient, disaster! The Hairpin-Turn-of-Death loomed below us! “What do I do?!” I asked Garrett. “Just keep driving” he replied. And before I could hyperventilate I maneuvered the rig as a professional operator may have done. I remarked on a social media, posted later that evening that read, “I almost wet my pants!”
How Our Family Lives In and RV
When It Comes To Kids
Involve them in the process. Whatever their ages, you can prepare your children for fulltime life just by making them part of the conversation. For example, we knew most of the kids’ toys would have to be parted with as well as giving up our outdoor loving kitty, so we began preparing Emma and Timmy for these changes. We had many a repeated conversation about letting go of “stuff” so we can have adventures when we moved out of our house. A quick reminder that there would be much less space in the trailer was enough to shut down the normal shopping time question, “Mommy, can I have that?” From prepping the house for sale to taking numerous trips to the second-hand store with unnecessary belongings, the kids were in the thick of it, even helping declutter and paint.
Now that we are full time we incorporate the kids into our plans which means “Move Day” is anticipated with great excitement. At ages 7 and 5, Emma and Timmy are always asking what to expect at new locations and sharing ideas for fun family outings. Did you know that Mini Golf is a ‘happening’ game? More fun to play than even riding bikes or going on hikes!
Don’t forget to keep it exciting. Emma, Timmy and even Edison were so enthusiastic to live in the ‘new house with wheels’. Every other question was focused on where we were going next and what we were going to do. Our first time dumping the black tank, everyone had to be right out there watching Daddy attempt a task he wasn’t looking forward to. But everything’s an adventure, including dumping the black water tank!
Keeping Life Organized
As we’ve settled in we still attempt to make even the most mundane of RV chores into the “best thing they’ve done all day!” Some of the things our kids look forward to on a weekly, sometimes daily basis: Shopping, playing at the park, riding their bikes, attending church, a new location/campsite for the weekend, meeting a new friend who also lives in a trailer, even helping haul dirty laundry. Life has to continue on with work, chores, and schoolwork; but now, somehow everything is new and exciting.
Routine helps. If at all possible, keep your child’s environment and routine as stable as possible. Have you ever been in an unfamiliar place, doing something you aren’t too good at, all while being sleep deprived? As an adult, you may find yourself being grumpy and out of sorts, some of you might even become anxious. Children are much more susceptible to changes in their schedules and environment. When we go visiting, that first night at Grandma’s house, none of the kids go to sleep well and sometimes Edison is up several times before morning. Subsequent nights become easier as they become familiar with their environment.
For older children, the environment may not disturb their emotional well-being as much as being uncertain of what to expect or even simply not getting the rest they need. Emma and Timmy can have emotional swings and not get along well when an event has interrupted their typical bedtime. Just last night we were entertaining our friends Kent and Lisa of Livin’ Light RV and the kids didn’t get settled in bed until two hours after their bedtime. Today we attempted to ride around the campground but a certain 5-year-old was “too tired” to walk up hills and so proceeded to inform the whole Thousand Trails resort with a shrill song of agony! It’s moments like these that can crush any parent into utter embracement so, if at all possible, maintain a daily ‘norm’, it helps with the attitudes. Simply put, tired kids have short fuses!
Have patience. Living in a small space with many little bodies who wiggle and squirm, yell, scream and make messes can be trying on even the calmest of adults. Just knowing this fact going in can make it easier for you, the adult, to adjust to being so close to your children. Now is a great time to start imagining the rainy day when everyone is crowded into 300 square feet of shaky fiberglass. Your sanity may depend on a prepared “bag of tricks” created to entertain. Maybe PlayDough or bubbles? A few board games or library books? How about baking some favorite treats? When living so closely together sometimes parents need an ‘ace’ up their sleeves to manage the natives. And if all else fails and you can’t keep it together, GET OUT OF THE TRAILER!
Our Adventure Is Just Getting Started
How long will we do this? Oh, we have heard that numerous times since hitting the road 2 months ago. Our answer, “Until we are done”. Some people first starting out have a reluctance to cut ties with everything they are familiar with. They hesitate to sell their house and all their belongings, thinking to a time in the future where they may possibly regret becoming nomadic, and that’s totally ok.
We have no plan, no thought to the end of RV living. Since selling up, this has been an all or nothing endeavor, not only for the experiences we will have as a family but also for our mental wellbeing. We’re not saying we will always live in a trailer and travel, we just have no endgame planned. Perhaps in a year or two, an exit plan may be important for us
The journey of selling a house and moving into a trailer is over. Now comes the adventures on the road. First stop, somewhere warm! I am turning into a white, hairless, ice-cube lady from too many years in the Pacific Northwest. We are beginning to plan for next spring. As soon as next April we hope to be signed up with a Travel Nursing company and have a contract for a midwestern state. We are also contemplating taking the whole month of October off to see friends in Arizona and to attend the Full-Time Families Rally at Albuquerque, NM Balloon Fiesta and NomadFEST 2019 in Wellington TX.
Already we have met some of the most wonderful people on the road, without leaving Washington State. We are eager to be on the road and crossing paths with other full-time RV families!