Blogs and social media can seduce us into only presenting our best sides. Our most fun moments. Our highlight-reels. We want to impress you and have you think we are cool, happy, successful, radical, and awesome people living the best life evah!
It’s like an ongoing resume-writing experience where you try to wordsmith a job that was really “catching chickens to send them to the slaughterhouse” into “poultry management”.
True? Yes. Slightly-spun and polished? Definitely.
We’ve talked with several people and families about transitioning to a more mobile lifestyle lately so I feel compelled to try and paint a more accurate picture of this life and include the not so fun moments.
Decision fatigue is the weariness that comes from continually having to choose. If you google the phrase you’ll discover it’s a real thing.
It’s why if you are in prison and up for parole you want to be before the board early in the day. By the end of the day decision fatigue will set in and it’s easier to just send you back than make another decision.
It’s also why grocery shopping can be so overwhelming (26 different varieties of peanut butter?).
In this travel lifestyle decision fatigue comes into play when deciding where to go and what to do.
When the world is quite literally your oyster how do you select one option? And do it without feeling the “opportunity cost” of what you didn’t decide?
Weather patterns help. Trip “themes” can help - like wanting to be in all 50 states, or visit all the capitals, or all the major-league ballparks, or every location in Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere” song.
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No matter how hard we try to choose the right pace to travel there are days that just plain get long. Reasons for this vary:
- The route looked great on the map but turned into 40 miles of stop and go.
- We got a late start and weren’t prepped with travel food so missed lunch.
- We had to wait for a Christmas parade to pass.
- The roads were crazy-busy or crazy-bad.
We’ve had some not-great family times on these days, with short tempers and poor interactions. Usually after some food and rest and “not all in the truck” time we’re good again.
We used to say that we didn’t like to drive more than 4 hours a day, but there are times when we have to make tracks.
In those moves we’ve started traveling two longer days in a row, boondocking overnight if possible, then taking a couple of down days in a nicer park to rest and catch up on school and work.
Familiar (easy) vs. New (hard)
As we move through areas of the country that we have been in before we have found there is a temptation to return to restaurants, parks and towns that we have been in before.
The familiar is easy, and if we enjoyed it the first time around the attraction is that much greater. And sometimes that’s OK. Sometimes you are just hungry and want food and a meal that you’ve had before and know you will enjoy is perfect.
We try to remember that we set out to find adventure and adventure is rarely in the familiar.
We’ve purposefully chosen different meals, different RV parks and different experiences even when the familiar is available. We recently started to challenge ourselves with getting off the interstates more as a way of seeing different views in already-visited regions.
We are determined to not repeat a work-camping experience even if it was awesome.
We don’t want to trade one rut for another.
Balancing Work & Exploration
We are not retired. We still depend on income from client work and training to keep fuel in the tank. Balancing that need with the desire to get out and explore is an ongoing juggling act.
I don’t have a formula to give you other than be flexible.
There are times I get up early and try to get a solid day in before noon, leaving the afternoon to get out.
There are times I sling my laptop on my back while exploring for the day, ready to grab wi-fi and launch something if the right email comes in. There are days I wave the family goodbye as they head out and I hunker down to make some serious progress on a project.
Those days can be frustrating and I have to remind myself that I could be at home in Michigan, sitting in my suburban house’s basement with only small windows to see the outdoors through.
I don’t really track “work hours” but do get worried sometimes about not working enough. Or I can feel guilty about doing fun things during the work day.
I hate the word “intentional” because it gets so overused, but when it comes to finding community while traveling intentional is really the best word to use.
Community is out there. There are other nomads, other families, other people living this way. There are also stationary places that welcome travelers.
But you have to seek community out as it will rarely find you (although that can happen). You have to get over your introverted self and figure out how to start conversations. You have to be willing to alter your plans such that you will be in the same RV park as another family.
You have to get comfortable contacting a relative stranger and saying “hey - looks like we are in the same area, want to meet? We aren’t axe-murderers, promise!”
We’ve gone in streaks, but since we left Michigan in November we’ve had some great communal experiences. We caravanned with friends (indeed changing our plans in order to be with them longer), met new families, and are now getting to know the owners of the ranch/farm we are staying at and the occupants of the small town it resides in.
So, in the middle of all this travel, new experiences, new foods, new locations, and change we have two teens in the house. Our oldest is a few weeks away from turning 17 and youngest is 15.
They each haven’t been always fully on-board with this lifestyle. One hated it initially but now loves it. The other loved it initially and now struggles at times with it.
We’ve had angst-filled conversations about traveling, school, friends and every other concern any teen has but with the added aspect of what life would be like if we weren’t traveling.
RV’s don’t have to move and don’t have to be in campgrounds.
The main reason we are currently parked at a Texas farm is for the almost-17 boy. We really felt he needed a chance to do physical work while working for someone else.
He’s expressed desires to do some solo international travel and/or to purchase a car as part of moving out on his own. He’s motivated to join the working world and earn money towards those goals and that wasn’t going to happen in the typical RV park or campground.
God blessed us with what - so far anyway - feels like the perfect place to be for these needs. The farm owner runs a construction company so is able to employ the boy doing work related to that, in addition to offering non-paid but physical chores around the farm itself.
Our girl is an animal lover and has thoughts about becoming a guide-dog trainer. She also wants to learn how to ride a horse (and not just take your typical tourist horseback rides). This farm has horses, dogs, and cats.
Being here is like a dream come true.Miranda on the farm
Our next puzzle is what comes after this farm. We’ve considered being seasonal campers in one particular small-town campground situated close to places for the boy to get a job at. Or we might try and replicate the farm experience somewhere further north. We’ll see.
We’ve always homeschooled, and it’s been an ongoing puzzle. Just about the time you figure out a good approach or curriculum for a kid, they grow and change and it no longer works.
We made it through for a long time with MsBoyink being the main “teacher” but as the kids grew into their teen years we are trying to find external resources for them and have MsBoyink be just the coordinator.
We’ve had great successes and great failures.
- We’ve had to deal with other instructors doing things in a manner we didn’t feel was appropriate.
- The kids had to deal with assignments being turned down because they contained religious content - even though the site has other content with religious elements.
- We’ve struggled with having enough bandwidth to get class videos to play, and struggled to understand why certain content had to be delivered via video.
- We’ve struggled with the “right amount” of school - especially if it starts to prevent being able to fully experience what is around us while traveling.
College is the another puzzle. A college degree seems required for just about any job these days, yet we are reading horror stories of post-graduation debt-levels and underemployment.
How do you advise a high-schooler when the tried and true formulas of the past are failing? We don’t yet know if our kids are college bound, or traditional-college bound, or how colleges will view their travel experiences against the traditional job and after-school activities of other applicants.
This is a puzzle we haven’t solved yet. I’m mainly hoping the marketplace will recognize the ridiculousness of the current situation and offer other ways to get educated and get a desireable skillset without the high debt load. Efforts like the Saxifrage School are steps in the right direction.
Turn off the TV. Turn off commercial radio. Don’t go into stores. Don’t to to church. Drive into a remote rural area and park yourself where you don’t see a road or another house.
Now, what holiday is coming up?
We were 1/3 into December and hadn’t yet listened to Christmas music or done any shopping and unless we took action the Christmas holiday would slip past us completely unnoticed.
It was hard to imagine that being possible, but for us this year it’s completely true.
We need to start some Advent-related readings. We started playing Christmas music. We intend to decorate a bit. Gift-giving will require some thought both in what to buy (when space is tight and needs are few) but also how to shop when it’s all an hour plus away.
I’m happy to think that we aren’t being passive about Christmas, just letting the advertisers, family parties and church-planned activities dictate what Christmas is. But with that comes the need to be active and define what Christmas should now be and do it, so that we don’t wake up on the 25th both disappointed and having failed at celebrating the true reason for the Holiday.
This is not an exhaustive list of the challenges we see living the way we do, but enough that I feel like I have balances the scales a bit with what we normally post.
What About You?
If you travel fulltime, what downsides have you encountered?