When we are asked about our full-time story, the beginning is always the hardest to tell. It is layered and complicated. Like a lot of couples, we had corporate careers and were working more hours than we were spending with our children. We were successful in our jobs and were rewarded for our hard work, but it never felt like enough. In fact, it was too much. In a matter of years, we gave birth to two sons and fostered four children, two of which we adopted. With four children under age six, we were busy. Special needs appointments, medical appointments, community activities – we’ve all heard this story, right? Our calendar was full of activities and distractions that, on the surface, all looked good and right. The reality is that we were exhausted, cranky, and missing out on connecting with each other.
Travel was a part of both mine and Jason’s lives long before we were married. It is a passion that we have always shared, and it is one element of life that we did not sacrifice when we became parents. We bought a home that didn’t overextend our finances. We filled our home with used furniture. We used coupons, saved our pennies, and made it a priority to devote any extra money toward travel. Our children are incredible travelers because it has been so normal for them. Weekend trips all over California were staples in our family, and how we tried to balance the grind we were in the rest of the week. Imagining a life on the road wasn’t a stretch. It was a risk, but not a stretch.
The Right RV For Our Family And Budget
Prior to purchasing our camper, we had never traveled or slept in one. For this reason, we wanted to keep things small and simple. It was tempting to purchase a bigger camper with amenities like a fireplace and dedicated kid’s space, but for the purpose of keeping our costs low and our learning curve a bit less steep, we went with a used camper that has one bedroom and one slide. (2006 Keystone Cougar Fifth Wheel 290EFS) We fell in love with the floor plan and huge windows, and can honestly say that we are madly in love with our home and are so glad that we trusted our guts to keep it simple.
Our truck is a 2016 Dodge RAM 2500 Extended Cab. We chose it for the diesel engine and towing abilities. We bought it used (see a theme here?) and got incredibly lucky to find it in such great condition. It was previously owned by a farmer who has a habit of upgrading his trucks ever 30,000 miles and only buys trucks that make comfort a priority. We couldn’t believe our luck! We have seat warmers, remote start, and a few other sweet details that were happy surprises. With so many bells and whistles in the truck, we were amazed that it was more affordable than the brand new models that had less leg room and zero upgrades. Patience pays off when searching for a setup!
Work Life On The Road
Jason worked for a corporate bank as a Systems Analyst. In a short few years, he had a couple of promotions and became an Officer at the bank. When he shared our life changes with his boss, Jason proposed a part-time remote position. He provided the case study he had done when traveling for work to prove that it would be possible, and his boss was interested. Because the bank didn’t have any remote positions or any plans for one, this was new territory. Jason put together a detailed plan and it was presented to the board. They approved, and we are so grateful for their trust in Jason and their willingness to try something new. Jason truly has the best boss and works for a wonderful company.
In addition to working for the bank, Jason helps with a tech startup. That’s slow going right now, but we are confident that the business will build in time. Additionally, he takes on his own clients who have technology needs. Being in I.T is a true blessing, as Jason’s line of work can be done from nearly anywhere.
Prior to this lifestyle, I (Kate) worked for a big health insurance company. I was in National Accounts, then moved to the Global Team, working with peers all over the world. I wore many hats and was the right hand for the Director of Global Quality, and Office Administrator. As the Civic Affair Lead, I was responsible for site activities that resulted in fundraisers for local non-profits and was also the Chamber Ambassador for the 1,000+ employee site. My decision to leave that job was for my love of books. I spent just shy of a year as a Publishing Manager, transitioning into our new lifestyle with that job. Now, my job is to homeschool our four children and the majority of planning our travels. Sometimes I consider doing some freelance work again, but I’m not rushing into any decisions. The gift that this lifestyle has given to us is not only more time together, but we are also debt free and can live on far less than we once did.
Feeling At Home On The Road
Our favorite experience so far has not been singular. It’s more like a feeling, actually, and it has happened a few times. Have you ever driven through a downtown you’ve never seen before, or around an unknown bend in the road and thought, “This feels like home”? When that happens, we pay attention. We don’t know what the future holds, but one of the reasons why we travel full-time is because we had no idea where we wanted to live. This is our way of exploring opportunities and possibilities in different places, so when we arrive in a new town and it feels good to our bones to be there, we celebrate.
We have seen incredible things! We have hiked to waterfalls, down desert cliff sides, and have done our fair share of fun touristy things. We have visited with friends along the way, seeing their cities through their eyes. We have hidden away in forests for weeks at a time, and have been social in city settings as well. But hands-down, more than anything we have seen, tasted, or climbed, our most cherished experiences are when we feel safe, alive and at home in a town. Those little moments remind us that we made the right decision to live this way, and it gives us the confidence to make the right decisions at the right times in the future.
We Do Anything To Boondock
We love to boondock. It is our preferred way to live and travel, and it is what we do the majority of the time. Our rig is not equipped for it, but that doesn’t stop us. In fact, little does…and this can be a problem sometimes. We have gotten into some sticky situations when arriving (or attempting to arrive) to remote locations, but the good news is that we’ve only had a few mishaps and they were all preventable. We call them learning opportunities and move on.
Learning The Hard Way
Our very first learning opportunity was before we hit the road. We were going to be listing our home soon and were about halfway through the remodel of our camper, so we decided to take a trip to try boondocking so that we could evaluate how our remodel would work out in remote situations. We found a spot on a mountaintop, read the one review for it, and headed out. We arrived at night in the dark – mistake number one – and didn’t put down our camper to go scout the spot – mistake number two. The review we were trusting turned out to be inaccurate and misleading.
The short of it is that at 3 am, we were hair pinned around a very sharp turn on a cliff, on soft dirt, terrified. Our children were so amazing. They remained calm, trusted us to find a solution, and really earned their adventure stripes! We decided to park there for the night with our hazards on so that we wouldn’t be hit in the dark by another vehicle. Just as we were starting to put that plan into motion, several Sheriffs arrived on the scene. There was a rave in the forest that they were called to respond to (crazy, right?!) and we were in their way. With their help, we inched closer to the cliff so that a few of them could pass to get to the rave. Four of them stayed behind to guide us up the mountain.
We woke up the next morning to the most incredible views of the ocean, a valley, and fluffy white clouds that surrounded us. We will never go back to that place again but sure had a great time once we were safe. It’s a crazy story, but we tend to learn things the hard way and surviving that situation with humor, grace, and appreciation for each other was a major sign to us that we could handle anything that this lifestyle might throw at us. So far, we have.
RVing Is Made For Our Colorful Family
Our home on wheels is 32 feet long and we have managed to fit six people and a puppy into it. Point being – you don’t have to empty your retirement account to make this lifestyle work with kids. We get asked about space quite a bit, but the questions we get most are about managing special needs and adoption parenting on the road. Each family is different but if you are parenting kiddos who are not atypical, you are already prepared for this lifestyle. You’re scrappy, tough, resourceful, and understand how to roll with life when it doesn’t go as planned. Look at full-time RV living as a way to quiet some of the noise in your life, simplify schedules, and get back to the heart of why you wanted all those sticky, nutty, funny, wild babies in the first place.
We realize that we live unconventionally, even within the full-time community, because our home is very full of people and maybe others would need a little more space. We totally respect that and have looked at bigger models from time to time…mostly between the hours of 4 pm and 6 pm when nobody remembers their name or their manners. We don’t think that our way is the best or right way. We just know that, for now, it works for us and that gives us the confidence to encourage other families to find what works for them. There is no wrong way to do this. Honor your family, trust your gut, and roll on!
Let’s Talk About Internet
We require internet phone connections to maintain this lifestyle. Our income is not possible without these two things, so this is one area where we think it is wise to invest some dough but even more importantly, time and research. Because we boondock so much, we rely on reviews of locations to determine if we will be able to work from any given spot. The views might be incredible, but if we can’t get connected, it’s not an option. Fortunately, there is plenty of remote camping that has stunning views, great hikes, AND strong connections.
The nuts and bolts: We have Verizon i-phones, and use a Tmobile hotspot for our internet. We use a NetGear LB1120 Cellular Modem and an Amplify wireless router. We occasionally use our hotspots on our phones.
Our Advice To Fellow RVers
If you are new to remote or wild camping, know your tank sizes, monitor your water usage, and get comfortable with finding creative ways to stay in one spot longer. Keep resources on hand – extra water, propane, and gas – in the event that you need any of them and cannot get to town quickly. Scout before you camp! If the reviews of a location mention trick turns or washed out roads, don’t risk it. Find a safe place to drop your camper, and take a drive in your tow vehicle or toad to investigate.
Do your best to avoid arriving in the dark, and always be considerate of others. If you roll up on another camper, keep in mind that they are likely there for similar reasons that you are – space, peace, privacy, and quiet. Respect these things and you’ll do just fine. Don’t overstay the day limit, don’t burn fires when there are bans and don’t leave dog droppings or trash in the wild. It might sound like a lot of rules, but these things keep our world wild and allow us to continue to wild camp. It is such a bummer to arrive somewhere to find trash, and we have seen locations shut down because they were mistreated. Respect nature, appreciate the access to public land, and have a great time!
Leaving Our Path Open For More Adventures
When we decided to relocate from our small town, we had no idea where to move. That unknown evolved into our lifestyle, which is a mix of taking our time to enjoy the country and taking some time to explore towns and states where we might like to live someday. We have no idea if we will live in a brick and mortar home again. Maybe we’ll do this forever, and upgrade our camper someday. Or maybe we will end up with some land, and a small hobby farm. Or maybe a yurt? A cabin? We’d love to sail the world!
We are leaving our options open, and are just so thankful for what we are able to experience now. We are enjoying the small moments, and are open to whatever the road has for us next!