Do you have what it takes to leave home and family in the name of travel? There is a way to have your cake and eat it, too! Today’s story is told by our guest blogger, Cat Holladay, from The Compass is Calling, where she will share how her family made the decision, worked and saved, and now lives in their RV, touring around the United States.
Full-Time RV Family
In 2012, as my husband and I shared brunch at a café in New Orleans, our beloved home at the time, we set a crazy goal. In 5 years we would take a year off – no jobs, no commitments, no strings – to travel the world. At the time, we didn’t have a firm plan on what the year would look like, but we did set a budget goal and plan to reach it.
We had always wanted to see the world and the American work-life balance with two weeks of vacation a year just didn’t allow that. While there were a few changes to the plan over the years, like having a child, in 2017, we put in our notices and set off on an adventure across the US in a motorhome.
So far, we have visited 12 states, 17 national parks, hiked countless miles and become closer as a family than ever. The current plan is to settle back into a stationary lifestyle in August when our son begins kindergarten, but until then, we will to continue to enjoy every moment of this amazing opportunity.
Making Our Goal Happen
After setting our goal, we laughed – who does something like that?! It’s certainly not part of the American Dream. But we were focused now. Having a goal gave us the drive to save every extra penny over the next five years to reach our savings target. Both of us worked good jobs, but saving that much still required significant discipline and sacrifice. Both my husband and I wanted to ensure we could not only have the time off, but truly enjoy and fully experience the places we visited.
We created an amazing budgeting tool and savings tracker which we use to this day. Once we had control over our money, we focused on getting rid of all debt. About two years in, we began selling our possessions in preparation. While scary at first, this was one of the most freeing feelings imaginable. Try it sometime!
When it came time to begin planning our actual trip, we flip flopped from sailing around the world to motor-homing across the country to hopping planes from country-to-country for the year. In the end, we decided to buy a 35’ motor-home to travel the United States. We have seen much of the world through our regular travel, but we hadn’t seen much of our own country! Plus, a motor-home would give our son a consistent “home” and we felt this was important because his environment would be constantly changing.
Having never owned a motor-home we were honestly nervous. But we read books, blogs, and joined many Facebook groups for full-time families. To our surprise, there are TONS of families who live and travel full time in motor-homes, 5th-wheels and travel trailers. These things gave us the confidence needed to take the plunge and make an offer on a 2012 Tiffin motor-home.
In July of 2017, we left suburbia and spent 4 months stationary in Virginia. While working, we used this time to learn the ins and outs of our rig, test the lifestyle, practice systems and procedures, etc. When we left Virginia with no home, no income, few possessions (whatever we absolutely needed for the trip), and a stomach full of nerves we had only a tentative plan: to stay south for warmth through winter and see as much as we could.
We set out on our family adventure for the next year with an intentional uncertainty of where it might take us.
Life in the RV
Living full time in a motorhome has shown us that we don’t need much to be happy. We need our health, a shelter, and each other. So far, we’ve experienced many ups, downs, challenges, and curveballs. But we wouldn’t change a thing.
We’ve seen more of our country in the last few months than most people see in a lifetime. We’ve connected with our country in ways we never imagined. The United States has bewildered us with incredible landscapes, amazing ecosystems, and truly genuine people. We find that the full time camping community is extremely tight knit – many have the same routes and we’ve seen some of the same families from stop to stop. Our son has made friends in nearly every campground, no matter the age difference.
Life is slower, and that’s a good thing. Having the luxury of changing plans last minute to follow weather or another family is something everyone should experience in their lifetime. This lifestyle has also taught us to appreciate the small things. Learning how to conserve water, monitor tank and battery levels, and find good wifi are things we will never take for granted again.
Traveling in an RV with Kids
Honestly, living in a motorhome with a child has its challenges. In our case in particular, because our son is an only child, we are often the only people he interacts with for days on end. Without family close by, we don’t get a break from one another – and that can be tough. There are no days off or family close by to watch him for a few hours. For those thinking of traveling full time with the family, be sure to think about this. We’ve adapted and adjusted coming up with various ways of keeping him entertained and fulfilled, while still giving ourselves personal time.
Travel days can be especially tough for little ones. With my husband outside the rig doing the blue jobs and me preparing the interior of the motor-home for travel, our son is often in the way. These mornings he practices his letters, draws, and does other quiet activities at a table out of the way. Everyone is happy.
Another consideration with kids in an RV is the rig itself. Kids have lots of energy. As comfortable and innovative as RV’s have gotten, they are not built like sticks and bricks homes. Things break easily, connections become loose when jiggled too often, etc. The first few months we had to constantly remind our son he could not run, jump and karate kick around inside. That’s hard for kids to remember, especially when they get excited. Luckily, we haven’t broken anything beyond repair yet!
So What Does it Cost to Live in an RV Full Time?
We actually get this question A LOT. And honestly, you can have this lifestyle on virtually any budget – it all depends on the sacrifices you want to make. Every family we meet has a different budget and as such, a different way of camping.
During our travels, we met one family who lives on half our monthly budget, but they boondock for weeks at a time. We specifically planned to stay in RV parks nearly every night of our trip so naturally our costs are higher. We met another family who seem to live extremely luxuriously in RV parks, eating out several times a week, taking many booked tours in the cities they visit, etc. The point is, you can make this work on almost any budget. You can read about our budget here.
And there we have it!
Thank-you Cat for sharing your journey with the Traveling Outside-the-Box community! Making a dream come true doesn’t usually happen overnight. Just like Cat’s family, it takes planning, working, and budgeting, to change your lifestyle and get to where you want to be. If that happens to be RVing, head over to The Compass is Calling, to read more about their family’s adventures.
If you need help with the planning stage, click here. Or for more inspiring stories of families making travel work for them, check out the rest of the Affordable Travel Series. As always, keep dreaming, keep planning, and most of all, keep traveling outside-the-box!
Cat Holladay is a freelance travel writer, blogger and photographer focusing on family travel for every budget. She has been quoted as an expert by The Washington Post, The Simple Dollar, RVing Planet, Creative Travel Guide, Digital Travel Guru and more. She is the founder of www.thecompassiscalling.com. After more than a decade as a VP and operations manager in the corporate world, she stepped back to focus on working to live, not living to work. She now spends her time traveling the US in an RV with her husband and their 4-year-old son – writing and photographing about family travel and budgeting along the way. Follow Cat on her blog, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.