Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lessons Learned in One Year in a 30’ RV with Three Kids

life lessons learned from a year of traveling in an RV with 3 kids


One year. On July 4th it was one year since we moved into our RV. It’s been a busy year. We’ve met some amazing people and seen some amazing things. We’ve also learned some real life lessons. Here are a few of the lessons we learned:


Stuff is Replaceable or Unimportant

When we moved from Georgia to Morocco, I brought so much stuff that I didn’t need. We spent three years getting rid of stupid stuff I had brought because I thought I needed it. So when we decided to move back to the US and into an RV, I thought I had it down and I had narrowed us down as far as I could. We shipped back one pallet of stuff, and the clothes and electronics that we brought over on the airplane. However, even as far down as I narrowed it, I have still found more stuff that I didn’t need – like the mega blocks that weren’t getting played with and have already been given away. In fact, each place we have stayed longer than a week has seen us taking a donation bag (or two) over to Goodwill. Now there are certain things we like, but we have definitely decided that we don’t need any of it. It’s all replaceable, but time with our family is not.


Appreciate the Great Outdoors

When you live in 240 square feet, you quickly realize that you don’t want to spend all of your time inside. In fact the boys have quickly learned that any and all toys, games and activities are more fun to do outside than inside. This is not a bad thing. The boys spend plenty of time in the sun and fresh air. They ride their bikes, meet new friends and get lots of exercise! As a family, we spend more time hiking, swimming and exploring and less time in front of t.v. screens and laptops. Now I’m not saying we are device free (Not by a long shot!), but my kids know the importance of getting outside and it’s much more appealing to them when the alternative is being squished in next to an annoying little brother!


Seek and You Shall Receive

We are a family on a budget, a tight one. Yet we have been able to do quite a bit in places that we have visited. How? Well, I have seeked – a lot! Each time we arrive in a new area, I seek out free and cheap programs at the libraries, state and national parks and other government run programs. The boys have done everything from making Lego movies to watching parades to a class on making maps, all completely free, thanks to programs like this. We’ve been to free concerts, parades, festivals and playgrounds. We also seek out Jr. Ranger programs and find out what the local kids are doing. In addition, we made the investment into membership in the Western North Carolina’s Nature Center, and received an ASTC membership that has given us the opportunity to visit tons of museums for free. I found out about this by simply asking around. Talk to people, search the internet, pick up local newspapers and magazines, and there is something to do everywhere you go!


Planning isn’t Everything

When we first started this adventure, I wanted to plan every minute. I was planning it like a vacation. You pick where you want to go because of the activities that it has there. However, soon into this adventure I learned two things. 1.) You don’t always get to go where you want. 2.) There’s really something to do anywhere you are, so it doesn’t matter. Some of the coolest things we’ve done – playing on the beach near Lake Michigan, amazing science museum in Kalamazoo, exploring an old fort in Kentucky, rolling down sand dunes in Indiana – weren’t on anybody’s plan or itinerary.


Sometimes You Have to Compromise

When we lived in a “stick and bricks” house or apartment, I tried hard to buy as local and organic as possible. I still do. However, I have learned that you can’t have everything. A lot of our workamping locations this year have been in small towns and rural areas with few options. I have seeked out farmers and farmer’s markets and found natural food stores. And I have learned that sometimes it’s okay to shop at Walmart. Similarly, when we first started homeschooling, I wanted every minute to be a learning minute. Obviously that was impossible, and as the year has gone on, I have compromised more and more until we found a pretty good balance between work and play – and play disguised as work. :P Compromise is an inevitable part of life – especially when you live in an RV!


Patience is a Virtue

If homeschooling has taught me nothing else, it has taught me patience. After 9 years of teaching in a classroom, I thought homeschooling would be a piece of cake. Yeah, right! First, when you teach other people’s kids, they look at you as someone special. When you teach your own kids, you’re just mom. You’re the same mom who took away their Kindle and who makes them brush their teeth. You’re not unique or different or special and they save their worst behavior just for you. Secondly, when you teach in a classroom, the kids go to enrichment classes, lunch, sometimes even recess without you. When you homeschool, you’re it – all day, every day. So I learned patience. I practiced patience. And sometimes I lost my patience. But all in all, we all learned that if you stick it through, the end result is pretty awesome! Just take a look at these portfolios the boys put together to showcase all they learned this year.


Good Friends are Better than Fine Wine

One of the best things about the past year is the people we have met. Some we met in passing and only spent a few hours or a few days getting to know. Others developed into friendships that will last a long, long time. With these people, we have exchanged e-mails, become Facebook friends and started some postcard exchanges. If we had settled down in one place, we wouldn’t have ever met these people and our lives would be lacking as a result.


Time is Priceless

For so many years, I only say my children for an hour a two a day and often I saw my husband even less. When we did see each other, it was all business and we rarely enjoyed each other. Enjoying each other was saved for one day on the weekend – if we weren’t too busy with errands and chores – or for those elusive vacations. Well, I certainly won’t say that every day is a vacation in this lifestyle, but we certainly spend more quality time together. We go for walks together. We swim together. We have time to visit museums, national parks and zoos. I have gotten to know my children and my husband better in the past year than I have in the last twelve years. I can never lose the things we’ve done, the places we’ve seen or the conversations we have had and that alone has made the last twelve months worth it.


Alone Time is Even More Priceless

Now I love my family and I love spending time with them, but I never realized how much “alone time” I got when we all went off to our separate jobs and schools each day. The first few months of being together all the time, I started making unnecessary shopping trips just for five minutes to myself. It took some time to adjust, but I can say that I now cherish the moments when I get to sit alone and watch a video or go for a walk with my husband just the two of us. Also, because these moments are so much less frequent, we seek them out purposely. This summer, my boys have attended summer camp programs at the Boys and Girls Club three days a week. One of the days they are there, my husband and I purposely take off and do things just the two of us. Time without your kids helps you maintain your sanity and this lifestyle forces you to take more advantage of those moments and to enjoy each one.


The Best is Yet to Come

When we started this part of our journey, we committed to a school year. However, as the year has gone one, we have realized that this journey is nowhere near over. I was asked the other day how long we were planning to live like this and I answered honestly – I don’t know. We will live like this until something happens to indicate that it’s no longer a good fit for our family. Until then, there are so many places we want to go and so many new things to see. I’m sure that the best parts haven’t even happened yet.



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