A family of 4 crammed into an RV. With teens. For 6 years. What could happen?
Mostly, as it turns out, an adventure. Make sure you read our top 20 adventures from 6 years on the road.
But, stuff happens.
People are people.
And - make no mistake. Ditching the suburbs is entirely changing everything about how you live day to day. There’s excitement in that. But also stress.
In no particular order, here are our top 10 challenges from our 6 years on the road in an RV as a family of 4.
1. Passengers not Travelers
We left West Michigan with three travelers and one passenger. Miranda didn’t want to go. We called her “the black hole of anger in the back seat”.
She came around. We had all travelers for a few years.
Then our son Harrison declared he was “done traveling”. He was 17. We agreed to keep traveling together for another year, then we’d work to launch him off on his own.
Ditching Suburbia Manifesto Shirt
Suburbia-ditchers have different values than most people - tell the world what they are:
Simpler Living. Closer Family. Richer Education. Uncommon Adventures.
Styles available: t-Shirts, tank tops, and hoodies.
Colors available: black, navy, gray.
That was just over a year ago. He’s doing well. And yes, traveling some - but on his own terms.
2. Turning Homeschooling into Roadschooling
MsBoyink - like most homeschooling parents - has always been concerned that she’s “doing it right”. She’s written about the various programs and curricula we’ve used.
The year before we hit the road she finally felt like she had done it right. She had planned the school year with structure and order. Then I pulled the rug out from under her. She had some angst about changing our approach to learning.
We adapted and became more like “unschoolers”. We learned to let the road provide most of the teachable moments. Then we fill in a bit here and there with traditional book-based curriculum.
3. Meeting People
There are fellow suburbia-ditchers that we “know” from the internet, but whom we’ve never met. It’s hard to arrange meetups between two moving targets.
It’s not any easier with stationary friends. Our travels will take us right through someone’s home town, but between our schedule and theirs we just can’t find a time to connect.
We’ve learned to “purpose to meet” others by adapting our plans. And we’ve learned that we need to get over our “inner introvert” if we’re feeling lonely.
When we launched I had a much more stable income than I do now. The demand for the type of web development and training I was doing dropped off.
We’ve adapted. We changed our business focus. We cut our expenses by taking camphosting jobs. We’re finding “non-slimy” ways to monetize this site. I’m actively working on the book that will be the cornerstone of that effort.
We’re not yet financially where I’d like us to be, but we have a direction.
5. RV Bubble
Mountains. Rivers. Lakes. Woods. Deserts. Oceans. We’ve parked our RV with views of all of these. Views we never would have been able to afford otherwise. It’s been an awesome way to live.
There is a “cultural bubble” around the RV lifestyle.
Frankly? It’s a white middle/upper class thing.
One of our goals for getting out of the suburbs was to experience a different culture than the one we lived in. Turns out that’s hard to do as a white middle-class RVer. RV parks and campgrounds are largely filled with the same type of people.
So we’re going to do more WWOOFing gigs. This will get us out of campgrounds, out of the RV bubble, and immerse us in the lives of other people. We hope to truly get to know them over weeks and months of working side by side. Not just casual campground conversations.
6. Insect Invasions
Our first few years on the road were blissfully invasion-free.
Oh - there were bugs. But outside, where they should be.
That didn’t last.
We’ve dealt with:
We picked these up in Mobile, AL. I found an army supply line from the grass, over the cement pad, up the trailer leg and down the frame rail. We moved all the food out to the truck and bought every type of ant trap on the market. It took days to get rid of them.
- Asian beetles
Minnesota gifted us Asian beetles and we had them with us the rest of the way down the Mississippi. I kept a cup of soapy water handy to knock them into. I’d fill that cup up at least once a day.
- Fruit flies
We love buying fresh produce at farmers’ markets but it often brings the fruit flies in. Fruit flies are the ninjas of insects - easily able to avoid any effort to swat them.
This is our current guest. We’re finding stinkbugs in every nook, cranny and drawer. We have to shake out the bedding before crawling in for the night.
7. Staying Fit
We weren’t hardcore athletes when we lived in the suburbs. RV life hasn’t made that any easier. Between:
- Poor weather
- RV parks without safe places to walk, run or bike
- Allergies & other health issues
- Lack of routine
Getting any kind of consistency with exercise is a challenge.
I’ve started the “Couch to 5K” running program. Again.
MsBoyink is trying to walk more.
We’re hoping that our choice to do more WWOOFing gigs also helps us get out of our chairs and off screens more each day (without killing us in the process).
8. Extended Family Involvement
We’ve missed out on parts of nephews and nieces lives:
- Colorguard competitions
- Dance recitals
- Archery shoots
- Gymnastic competitions
Our kids grew up fast. These kids are as well. We catch what we can when we are back in Michigan, but most of these events happen during the school year when we are gone.
9. Truck Repairs
Yea, I know. You can’t live on the road and not expect repairs on the vehicle.
Expecting is one thing. Planning is another. Getting a vehicle repaired while traveling fulltime is a dance of last-minute scheduling.
Overall our truck has been awesome. I even put together an ode to our truck. But - poor thing - since being on the road our truck has:
While each of those incidents was stressful, we’ve generally had a good experience recovering from them.
Either we could flex our schedule or the shop could flex theirs. Too-busy shops have referred us elsewhere. RV parks worked with us so that we didn’t have to jump sites while the truck was gone. The shops have provided loaner cars or were within walking distance. Insurance covered the big costs.
10. Trailer Repairs
Overall we’ve had good luck with our RVs.
The first was a used 31’ Rockwood fifth wheel. Our current RV is a 34’ Wildcat we bought new.
But you can’t live in these things and not expect repairs.
The first fifth wheel ended up needing a new roof.
Our current trailer just came back from a paint shop. The gelcoat on the nose faded and the factory covered the cost of repainting it.
Those two incidents are the only times we’ve had to move out of our “house”. In one case we rented a cabin at an RV park. The other we booked a local AirBnB room.
For other repairs we’ve either had a mobile RV Service business come out to our campsite or I’ve just handled the fix myself (see the tools I carry for this purpose).
You might read this list and think - that’s a lot of challenges. Maybe it’s not worth ditching the suburbs after all?
Scan back through the list above.
Income. Fitness. Friends.
We would have had many of these challenges even if we had stayed in our suburban house. There might have been challenges there that we haven’t even thought of while traveling.
I can also look back through these challenges and see how God revealed himself to us in them.
So no, no regrets. Well, one, actually.
How About You?
What challenges have you found on the road?