We launched from our house in June of 2015 on what we thought was a 1 year trip. My kids were then ages 11 and 4.
We sold the house in August of 2017 and almost all of our belongings in May 2018.
Ask me anything but assuming the topics will be related to RVing, fulltime RV living, home/roadschooling, and being a nomadic family.
Proof on Facebook on our Family's page and my LearnToRV page:
how do you make income, what are taxes like?
I have a normal 9-5 job for a large consulting company doing software development work. I work from home and my home that just happens to have wheels and my yard changes regularly.
We were able to pick a state of residency. We picked Florida so we do not have to pay state income tax. Oh and we get Disney discounts.
Do you homeschool your children?
Yes. Honestly, it was the scariest part of taking off on the road- being responsible for the kids' schooling. My daughter was public schooled until 5th grade and now starting in "10th" grade says she has no desire to go back to public school.
My son was "unschooled" to start (kid led learning)- with just learning as we lived and interacted. We have recently started some curriculum-based math, reading, and science.
How are your childrens' social lives considering they won't physically be near friends for more than three weeks?
It's 3 weeks at a time. We are members of an organization called Fulltime Families that has 1,500+ member/families around the US who many live and travel just like us.
Through that, we have friends who we traveled with on and off for up to about 6 months at a time.
We hit popular snowbirding hotspots in the winter where there are a lot of friends that we know.
We can truly be with other families as much or as little as we want throughout the year, so long as we stay flexible with our plans.
Do you always stay in campgrounds or do you spend time off-grid?
How safe are the campgrounds where you have stayed? Any incidences of theft while you were away on hikes or whatever?
99% of our time has been spent in campgrounds and RV parks. We rarely go off-grid as we have been slaves to hookups (electric, water, and sewer). Though, 2 weeks of dry camping without hookups at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta has renewed my want to get away from it all. Hopefully 2020 becomes the year of boondocking (aka off-grid camping).
Campgrounds have been very safe. Every once once in a while my spidey sense will tingle and I'll lock some stuff up and keep the kids on a bit shorter of a leash. I did have my first incident in 9 years of RV camping that I had a bike stolen in Jacksonville. I partly blame myself for ignoring the spidey sense and knew I should have locked stuff up. It was recovered but we won't get back through there for another month to get it back.
Which areas of the country have the friendliest people and which have the rudest?
Campers/RVers are a special breed. They're probably the friendliest. We kind of forget that we live in a special community and are confused that not everyone waves or stops to chat when we leave the parks/campgrounds.
But areas- probably "the south" are friendliest until you get to Florida.
Rudest- I can't really say outside of drivers. Pennsylvania (our home town state) still stands as the most aggressive drivers anywhere, beating out Atlanta, Florida, and California.
How many states have you visited?
I think the official number is 32. We have driven through a couple but unless we sleep a night, we don't count it.
Link to a map-site with our states selected: https://www.amcharts.com/visited_states/#US-AL,US-AR,US-AZ,US-CA,US-CO,US-FL,US-GA,US-ID,US-IL,US-IN,US-KS,US-KY,US-LA,US-MD,US-MI,US-MO,US-MS,US-NC,US-NJ,US-NM,US-NV,US-NY,US-OH,US-OK,US-OR,US-PA,US-SC,US-TN,US-TX,US-UT,US-VA,US-WA
How did you keep your son from aging?
Well crap on a cracker- that sucks for a typo. He’s 7 now!
How do you all get and maintain privacy & alone time in such a small space?
That took a long time for someone to ask. I expected it earlier. How do Mommy and Daddy get it on?
Mostly late at night.
Part of my RV floorplan requirement was that the kids and us both have a hard doors. As well, I didn’t want a floorplan that had the kids’ room right outside of my room.
Otherwise, we swap babysitting with other families or Grandma and Grandpa come to visit and get date nights.
What is the best state that you've seen on the road?
Utah. Absolutely beautiful everywhere we turned.
But, way too rural for me to actually live there.
Do you feel qualified to roadschool your children? And how does it work, do you have to answer to some criterias?
Each state is different and my experience is only with Maryland and Florida. The Homeschool Defense League (HSDLA) is a good resource on what is needed in each state. Maryland required that you prove that schooling is happening on a regular basis. Florida, we joined an “umbrella school” and only have to report attendance (ie, the number of days we performed school).
And honestly, we were wholly unprepared to take on schooling at first. We initially hired a “homeschool consultant” to help us get started.
We learned as we went and now do feel qualified for it. There are so many resources available and we have a network of friends to lean on.
I've seen that you haven't been in Hawaii yet. How will you manage to drive to Hawaii? Are you gonna buy a submarine?
My first thought is pontoons but then I worry about the length of time the float will take. We don't quite realize how far Hawaii is because on paper maps, it's always just to the left of Texas.
So then I think of renting Jet engines but I don't know if my straps are long enough and worry about damaging the rubber roof.
Which leaves me with going there for Disney's Vacation Club timeshare hotel and flying. We almost did that a few years ago- fly to the hotel and spend a week. Then change islands and spend a month. Might not be RVing, but would be part of the adventure.
Are you able to fit in/manage extracurriculars like sports, model Congress/United Nations, etc.?
What are your/your kids' plan for future education and training? i.e. college/university, vocational school, etc.
Do you think they could 'leave the nest' and be on their way to self-sufficiency to maintain a nomadic lifestyle? If you grew up the way you are raising your family, would you have been able to obtain and maintain the kind of job that lets you be nomadic right off the bat?
We have done a few extracurriculars- there's one family who offers online Irish dance lessons and we spent summer in Orlando so that my daughter could shadow a photographer Magical Pix by Candi Clark. We do have friends who have stayed stationary for a spell to allow their kids to participate in sports and other things.
My daughter is eyeing up college but still doesn't quite know what she wants to be when she grows up. She loves photography and has been inspired by the photographer she shadowed. She very much wants to participate in the Disney College Program.
My son is 7 and just wants to be a kid for now. :)
The couple of kids that I've seen graduate out of nomadic homes have mostly gone to stationary lifestyles while they either save for college or go straight into school.
I'm not sure what it looks like for us. My daughter has talked about everything from a homestead to a van to an apartment with friends. And my son, well- he says he's living with us forever.
I spent seven years growing up on the road as a child as a touring musician's brat. My mother, my grandad, & two uncles formed the core of the country & western group The Last Straw Band. They chased the nashville dream across the C&W/Honky Tonk circuit in the late 70's across most of the united states, even internationally for a while as part of the A list touring the Caravan Circuit. We too would spend anywhere from two to six weeks before moving onto the next location. It gave me a very broad view of the world and people in general, but also left me with a number of maladaptive socialization and relationship forming issues that took me many decades to..er..mostly overcome. It left me at considerable socialization deficit when we settled down as I entered high school. I simply didn't know how to be anywhere or around anyone for any protracted lengths of time. I'd never built up the skillbase, or comfort zone familiarity. Have you considered this element in your children's development? What's your plan?
I think the big difference of traveling for work vs. traveling for leisure is that we ARE able to put the kids' socialization to the forefront. Being part of an organization called Fulltime Families gives us a community that "moves with us" so to speak. While we might only see people for a couple of weeks at a time, we will very much likely see those same families down the road again. We've adapted travel plans so that we could roll along side of friends for a few months at a time.
If you were to do it again would you go full RV (Class A or C), a travel trailer or build out your own skoolie?
We just had to make that decision last year as we traded up rigs.
Fifth wheel works best for us. Easy to hitch up, solid to tow. But most importantly, floorplans that work for us.
Our top priorities: * dedicated ROOM for the kids (not just bunks) * kid's sleeping quarters that weren't right next to Mom + my room * plenty of cargo carrying capacity (fulltiming is heavy)
Skoolies never did it for me. I don't care for the look and don't believe I could fully stand up inside one without worry of hitting my head (5' 11"). Plus, I like slides for extra room when setup.
You're a dad to your wife AND yourself? Both nice and fucking weird dude.
Self-love is important!
What are the common misconceptions about you and your family when you tell people about this?
Well, thinking a little more about it - it's a common misconception that we're out here alone and all by ourselves.
We are members of an organization called Fulltime Families. It's 1,500+ other families just like us who live and travel in RVs. We are able to find friends (new and old) as we travel as or as little as we want.
In fact, I'm sitting now at a rally that will end up being about 70 families. Quite a few who we know already and who my kids look forward to seeing again. Plus we'll make new connections and will be mindful to connect up with others down the road.
Have you ever thought of traveling outside of the country?
When people ask where your from, where would you say?
What are the challenges of traveling through different states?
1, thought of it and we’ll likely drive thru Canada to Alaska. Can’t do it for long due to job restrictions (must work within the USA and have paperwork if I go outside of it).
2, we adults stumble on it. Sometimes we say Maryland because that is where we lived for 13-14 years before going fulltime. Other times we say Pennsylvania because that’s where we grew up. Or Florida because that’s where our driver’s license is. But often, my son beats us to the punch: https://youtu.be/P9pGNTko1l8
“We live and travel the country in our camper.”
3, we don’t have any issues. People with exotic pets and some weapons have to be more particular and selective.
What's your favorite fruit?
But I hate the fabled "Dole Whip" at Disney. Go figure?
What was the impetus for you and your wife to pursue this kind of lifestyle?
If you can pick an example, what has been one of your fondest memories during the last 4 years?
We've had a rough go- daughter had cancer when she was 13 months and then within the span of 2 years, we lost my Grandma + her husband then my Mom died at age 53.
As my mom fought cancer, we fell into buying a pop-up camper and a campground membership and really enjoyed 30 nights in it. We had plans for a second kid and my wife didn't want to camp with a baby in a pop-up.
Mom died and now enters our behemoth 42' fifth wheel. We got that and spent 200 nights in it over 3 years. Over the course of all of it, I found that I could work from home while camping.
Jokes of, "hey, let's sell the house and go on a 1 year trip" went from my wife calling me stupid to, "why not?"
I give the health history as it was a major driver- it's cliche but "tomorrow isn't guaranteed". My work allows it and I was able to take our show on the road.
That 1 year trip has been going on for 4+ years now.
BEST MEMORY - watching a Mardi Gras parade in Mobile, AL (which is where the Mardi Gras started). I remember watching my and my cousin's kids play together while we were catching beads and interacting with the street performers. It was a moment that was so unlike anything we would have experienced before. Never would I have ever traveled from Pennsylvania/Maryland to Alabama for it, but there we were.
Oh and the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is freaking awesome. Been twice and will be back.
What would be your advise to some one who would like to do something like this is future but is too scared to start it?
Start with RVing in general. Go on weekends and stretch it out to week+ trips.
Research all you can.
Know that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Crap happens and crap can be magnified by being in a small house.
How much money on average do you go through on a weekly basis?
Unfortunately, that’s an impossible question to answer.
The big expense is lot rent: some days we go through lots of money with $200/night sites and others are $0/night.
We then have fixed costs of truck payment, RV payment, insurances, utilities (cell phones + cellular internet), groceries, edutainment, restaurants, and then bucket funds.
How does homeschooling your children work, while on the road? I would think being out all of the time will be very distracting for them, as it would be for me.
They have a pretty good schedule. Wake up, eat breakfast, and then do schoolwork. My daughter works back in their bedroom. My son waits for my wife and I to get up and be ready to help him but works at the dinner table.
Approximately how much are your monthly expenses? I'm sure the very depending on lot rent prices but on average what do the look like?
It greatly varies. I’ve spent $200/night and $0/night (well, $500/year membership fee and then $0/night for camping).
My truck is running me $650/month and trailer is $575/month. But, being picky- we bought both new.
My cell phones/internet cost run about $350.
My surprise cost was laundry at $1.50-3.00 each for wash and dry. We are a single wear family and we’re doing 6-9 loads weekly. We bought a combo washer/dryer.
We also have various membership costs.
And fuel. Truck tows at 7-9 mpg and 11-14 around town.
You are living my dream! Maybe not so much my wife’s dream, but she could be convinced! I have so many questions.
What truck did you go with? How many miles are y’all putting on a year?
Are you finding the “durability” of the fifth wheel a problem being that it is so heavily used? It seems like so many RV’s sacrifice enduring quality for weight reduction.
What has been the “worst” part, or maybe biggest regret?
Is getting decent internet connectivity an issue?
Are number 2’s forbidden onboard?
What has been your favorite spot to camp at?
1, when we got our fifth wheel, I made jokes for years that we should go fulltime. My wife called me stupid and completely nixxed the idea after 3 seasons. And then we both got a hair up our bums that it was “now or never” with our daughter finishing 5th grade and moving to middle school. Mid-February we talked seriously and we were on the road by mid-June.
2, we have had 2 trucks now. First a 2012 and now a 2018 Ram 3500, Laramie, dual rear wheels, crew cab, long bed, 4x4, with 4.10 gears. Mileage sucks. We upgraded the truck last year when we upgraded the camper to a 21k fifth wheel toy hauler. We put about 15k miles a year on it.
3, yes and no. Little stuff comes up- the kids destroyed every drawer slide in the bunk house and we had to replace them all with better quality and I beefed up many of the mounting points. I’m a pro at repairing and replacing the bottoms of drawers.
Honestly, IKEA dresser and desk are fairing WAY worse in the garage of the toy hauler than the RV furniture ever did.
Seating comfort is a big issue and we’ve replaced mattresses, sofas, and other seating.
Oh, and I ran my first rig overloaded by 1,000 lbs and the frame buckled after 2 years of fulltiming. That wasn’t fun.
4, not keeping a budget. We traveled for 3 years like we were on vacation. There was always local eats and always were edutainment places we justified going to. We WAY overspent and ended up paying the piper in big ways.
We are now “religous” budgeters and have a monthly budget prepared and reviewed between my wife and I before each month. And then we re-review it 2-3 times as the month proceeds to move money between categories as needed.
5, no but I carry both AT&T and Verizon on unlimited data plans. I’ve paid for upgraded campground WiFi a couple time and have driven to cell service a couple of times. But checking cell service is one of our criteria for picking places.
6, number 2 is encouraged. We want everyone to (makes hand gesture) “make.” Some guests go to the bathhouse to do it, but I always tell them I’d poop at their house, they can poop at mine. Just use extra water.
7, favorite spot to camp at... Key West with our own personal huge tiki hut was pretty awesome. This thing was L-shaped and 40’ or so on the long side and 20-25 on the short side. 2 TVs, couch, chairs, dining table/bar for 10-12, full size fridge, toaster oven, and sink.
Disney World is a favorite.
The Balloon Fiesta RV parking sucks but the event is amazing.
And we were in a beautiful river-side campground in Lincoln City, OR for the 2017 Solar Eclipse. Beautiful campground, amazing experiencing totality. It was so beautiful, it made you cry.
I’m very easy- give me a spot to park, friendly people, and friends nearby and I’m happy.
You’ve mentioned that you’re working and your kids do some schooling.
My question is, what does your wife do?
Any fun hobbies? Side gigs? Just being an awesome wife?
Mostly being an awesome wife and mother.
She does have a fledgling business, Traveling Creations, making vinyl creations: https://www.facebook.com/travelingcreations.mandie/
She likes to have enough work to have something to do but not so much that it feels like work.
This is my parents dream, and they plan to start Summer 2020. My mom is retired and pops retires May 2020... But they fight and bicker non-stop about everything, my pops driving, money, you name it, but they share the love of camping and golf and on their bucket list is to golf in every state. What tips do you have for getting along when your annoyed with each other? and budgeting? And making a long lasting relationship work for two people that bicker three floors apart let alone sitting side by side?
I have family who bicker like that and while it's 100% odd to me, it works for them. So maybe it isn't as harsh to them as it seems to us.
But really, to make it work- you need to be able to find time to yourself. Sitting outside or going for a walk. My wife sometimes looks forward to going to do laundry or get groceries. Running errands is her "me" time. Plus, she'll go get her nails or hair done.
Budgeting it something we all should be doing. Establish a monthly budget, track it, and live to it. I can't give a budget as fulltiming is different for everyone- your tastes, how far you move between trips, and all that impact it. I've seen $1,000 to $10,000/month budgets.
Maybe you won't see this, but have you been to Wyoming? And if so what were some of the standouts (always wanted to go)
Wyoming has been on my bucket list since we launched and we haven’t made it.
Ironically, I’m still terrible with geography but that general area has Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Glacier National Park.
I’m hoping we get there next summer.
How much would I need income a month to do this? (I am on social security)
Why did you start this trip and why has it continued so long after the initial year?
It's cliche but, "tomorrow isn't guaranteed". My daughter had cancer when she was 13 months old and my Mom died at 53. Meaning on her schedule, my middle age was when I was 27.
We RVed extensively before we took off. 50/50/100 nights in the first 3 years. Spent 2 Christmases in the warmth of Florida vs. the cold of Pennsylvania/Maryland.
It started as a joke and became real as time went on.
We could, so why not?
We continued so long after because it's such a big country. Our original plan was 60 weeks with weekly moves. First, moving weekly is exhausting. Second, it didn't account for travel hiccups (rig issues, sickness, tiredness, etc).
About 5 months in, we found we really liked it but didn't want the pressure of an end date that we "had to see it all". So we took the end date off of the table and now are doing it until it stops being fun or practical.
have your kids any friends or were they ever like: dad I just made friend why do we have to go!?
just wondering. how do they go to school
Rarely as most of the kids they connect with are other families who also are fulltimers. They know we'll meet up/travel together down the road again.
School is traditional homeschooling.
Sorry I have multiple questions here, hope you don't mind.
Do you feel your daughter and son misses out on anything?
Looking at your other replies it seems you have great connections with the family thing. Are there other people their age too?
The reason I ask this is I, with my parents, moved into a caravan when I was 13, up until I was 20, for me though it felt more negative and seemed to hurt me a lot, things I'm still trying to learn to move on from. I was unfortunately more at a singular location, and in a foreign country, on a campsite of mostly expats, so it led to not knowing the local language, no one my age, and any old connections I had were lost. All local "communities" were for 60+ expats and I couldn't join them. Campsite communnities are/were great, but it's not the same.
On top of that my home-schooling was simply by myself reading books, with no help or guidance, as I was above my parents' own abilities. In your situation are you being hands on, or hand off? Will they take any official exams/get qualifications? (I am not familiar with exams / etc in the US mind you)
I'm more less in the opposite situation to you here, where I experienced the same situation but from the childs point of view. I'm open to sharing my experience too if you have any concerns.
I appreciate the perspective. There are similarities that you were in an RV and at a campsite, but I think that's about it.
Yes, the kids are surrounded by friends their age. Right now, we're at a gathering of 70 families and each kid has a dozen or dozens of other kids their age. We have met up and will meet up again with many of these same families and kids down the road.
For homeschooling, we have a variety of resources at our disposal. The kids have been taking classes with Florida Virtual School where there are professional instructors. As well, we have the large community that we can lean on if we need tutors.
Does the RV have the same "homey" feel that a normal house would?
In terms of parking restrictions, are you allowed to sleep overnight in a dense urban area?
1, they can. From the factory - no, they don’t. Same with a new home build. Those are more plain and sterile. RVs are mostly drab and brown.
But if you look at #rvremodel on social media, people do some amazing stuff!
We haven’t except for our kid’s room.
2, legally? Probably not.
We are way too big and conspicuous to do it. 44’ camper and 22’ truck. We stick out like a sore thumb!
Ever considered doing this but in Europe, Asia etc. If so, what would be the country/place you wanna visit the most?
I have never considered going international. First, my work wouldn't allow it. Second, I fear the language barrier.
But, if I did- I'd love to do some island hopping and live the beach bum lifestyle for a while.
What is the most beautiful stretch of road and why is it US95 between Lewiston and Boise?
If that's the case, I'm sad we haven't driven it!
For us, it was driving west on I-70 from Denver towards Moab. I think its called Glenwood Canyon.
What is the craziest person you have encountered along the way and what did they do?
We haven't had many crazy experiences.
The wife + kids helped friends serve food at a homeless shelter in southern Florida and came back with some stories.
And then we've had a couple of very angry neighbors. Once there were shouts from inside of the RV that were alarming.
And the worst was probably the guy who decided to give me all of his political views until his wife saved me.
Late to the party but any recommendations on campgrounds in the NJ/PA/DE/MD area?
We are Thousand Trails members and tend to utilize their parks in those areas.
Hope that helps.
how you will make another kid? i dont think there are rooms for both of you.
Like, where do babies come from?
We are done having kids.
But, if we weren’t- we have room where a sofa bed is. That could either be used or a bunk bed put in its place.
How are your family dealing with being away from friends?
There was an initial loss/grieving period as we left our hometown and the friends we had before. Their lives were busy and we found they didn't keep in touch very well (even with us reaching back).
BUT, what we did find is a community of other families through an organization called Fulltime Families. Now our main circle of friendships are nomadic like us (or ex-nomads who have moved to stationary houses). We connect with other families and go to events where there are gatherings of 20-70 families at a time. Through the connections we make at events, we are able to find travelers on the road who we travel with or visit. People I see today, I've seen before and will see again down the road. Maybe even side by side travel for a few weeks to a few months.
What is the hardest part of parenting while traveling?
Same as not-traveling, honestly. Our yard doesn't dictate our rules.
Consistency in rules and rule enforcement is key for us. What's OK one day is OK the next; what's not OK is always not OK. Consistency between my wife and I is also incredibly important- I don't think it works if different parents have different rules.
How do you manage to eat healthy while on the road?
We have a kitchen (stove, oven (2, actually- propane and convection), fridge, and pantry). We can eat as healthy or not as we want. For instance, my daughter just made 2 batches of cookies in the last few days!
We have friends who do Keto, are vegan, gluten free, do Trim Healthy Mama, and we’ve done Whole 30.
Eating at the local delicious restaurants are the hardest thing to turn down.
best & worst experience of doing this?
The worst, dealing with near catastrophic frame failure back in September 2017. We went from me thinking we had a flat tire to realizing that the whole camper's frame had started buckling. 106 degree day and I sat by the side of the road for 6 hours trying to remove a piece of the camper to be able to get underway to a campground where we could deal with it.
Best keeps repeating- it's when I get to stand side by side with my wife and kids as we watch something (grand or unique) that we likely wouldn't have experienced otherwise.