This was written beautifully by our youngest daughter. We wanted to share her story and her perspective on full-timing parents.
My name is Daniana and I am the youngest daughter (and personally I would say best but Mom and Dad both say I’m only their favorite 21-year-old) of Stacy and Justin. While I am only one of the two biological children (three children total), I believe my close relationship to my sisters ensures me that the following thoughts are shared by all of us. If you have your own children and want to travel full-time in your RV but don’t know how your children will react then give this a read.
“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” That’s a quote by John Muir that my family accidentally found while off road riding in a state park when I was little. We found a sign in the middle of nowhere with this quote printed in big bold letters and ever since the words have resonated within our hearts.
The whole family loved to travel and experience new places and my moms love for waterfalls and bears have always driven her to state parks and off the beaten path locations. Even though by the time I was ten my older sister was moved out, whenever we had a chance to spend a vacation with her we would travel to far away places to hike up trails, smell the fresh air, and clear our heads. Almost every weekend my parents and I would travel somewhere to either ride our dirt bikes and quads or camp in a beautiful state park.
All of this seemed to stop in 2008 when my parents and I moved out of California and into Maryland. The family vacations became scarce, all of our off-road toys were sold, and my mom stopped being a stay at home mom. It became hard to go on vacation when my family wasn’t able to do all the chores around the house that my mom was able to do when she stayed at home. We still managed to go on some weekend outings but the before preparation and the after cleaning added more stress than the actual trip relieved.
In November of 2009, awaiting the retirement of my dad, we decided to move to Pennsylvania to settle down. We signed a 6 month lease on a tiny apartment where during the week my mom and I would stay while my dad lived in our toy hauler on base in Washington D.C. and commute back to Pennsylvania every weekend until his retirement. Travelling stopped completely. The trailer was basically permanent in Washington D.C. and when my dad came home we just wanted to spend time with him.
Finally, in May of 2010, my dad was freshly retired and we moved into THE house. THE house is the home military brats never seem to have. THE house is the house I would always come home to for holidays and eventually my kids would go there and spend the day with Nanny and Papa in the yard. We traded in our toy hauler for a better trailer and started traveling more. Both of my parents still had jobs so it wasn’t often but when we did venture out it was always freeing. There was always something that I noticed in both of my parents every time we went camping, even if it was just to get away from our house. They were happy. Any outsider would see my parents as happy. And they were! My parents love each other and make the best of every situation but it seemed as if they gained their souls back when we would travel and truly became filled with happiness.
The summer after my first year at West Virginia University was the summer that I accidentally found out about my parents wanting to live in their RV full-time and travel.
I was sitting at my sister’s dining room table scrolling through Facebook when I saw a comment my mom had made on a full timer’s post. It mentioned wanting to sell the house, live in an RV, and travel the United States. I do have to admit that at first my stomach sank. The house that I had spent the last five years in was finally THE house. My sister’s and I immediately called my parents and asked what was going on, to which they admitted to us that they were going to reveal all when they knew all the information towards the end of summer.
(exert from Stacy: We were still in the planning/research stage and it was a huge jumbled mess in our own head. We weren’t sure what we were actually going to do yet. I had posted a question on a full-time RV group (that wasn’t a closed group), trying to gain more information. And I’m old … Ha! So I didn’t realize it was something that everyone outside the list could see as well. It made us feel terrible, as we are very close with our daughters and wanted to tell them personally, when we had more of a plan in our own heads. Definitely regret this! And I’ve learned more about Facebook! We did then sit down with them and explain and talk and let them ask questions.)
The way we found out is one thing we all wish was done differently. My advice is that if you are truly thinking that this is what you want to do and you are already making plans, don’t keep this from your kids no matter what the reason is. If they ask you questions that you haven’t figured out yet, just repeat the “I don’t know” answer we have been giving you for years and we will understand. After all, we are the kings and queens of that response even though we claim to know everything.
After hanging up the phone call with my parents, all of us were quiet. We didn’t know what to say, think, or do. I personally was a little mad that they would just want to leave and see us even less and change everything that we had just gotten used to. Eventually, my older sister, Britney, said, “They have both sacrificed everything for us to make sure we are always happy. Now that we are all out of the house, it’s their turn to always be happy. They deserve this.” And just like that, we were all on board.
Truthfully, the cons of not seeing my parents as much as I would like and having Hallowthanksmas (Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas) in October before finals season and opening 6 months worth of junk mail when I finally get to visit my sister because my mom isn’t doing that for me anymore is nothing compared to the lesson the whole family has learned together: Life is too short to wait around for the perfect moment to take that vacation or do that thing you have always wanted to do. That perfect moment most likely will never come. My parents wanted more in life so they changed their life. The happiness that my sister’s and I have seen grow in my parents is amazing. They finally have life in their eyes and the drive to do something crazy. I myself took a gigantic leap and I’m currently writing this blog piece from my temporary apartment in Australia partaking in the most amazing internship opportunity by myself. This is something I would never have done if my parents didn’t show me by example how brave I could be. My sister’s recently took a much-needed vacation and then went to an Imagine Dragons concert (jealous) because they work hard and have earned it. They also try to spend less time doing household chores and more time doing fun activities they love like playing one of the numerous board games they have. This too is something they have learned from my parents. And trust me, I believe the last time Britney took a real vacation was probably back in 2011 or 2012 when she visited from California and we went to Watkins Glenn.
The point is, sit down with your kids and speak from the heart. You’re always wanting to hear every piece of information about our lives since you are our parents. It should be understandable that when something big happens or will happen in your lives, we want to be included in some way, shape, or form. I’m assuming you have been amazing parents thus far and they will remember your sacrifices and they will support you 110%. Do remember that your life isn’t the only one that will change. As long as their life is entangled with yours in some way, they will need an adjustment period as well to figure things out and ask questions about their lives that you may not have realized would be affected. Don’t worry if they don’t take it well at first. Let them warm up to the idea and reassure them that even though everything is changing, it’s a good kind of change. And you never know, in 5-10 years they may join you out on the big open dirt path to live simply, give more, and expect less.
Thank you to our daughter, Dani, who really poured her heart into this blog post for us. She is a beautiful, 3rd year college student. When she moved to college over 6 hours away from home, it was the empty nester feelings that definitely got us thinking about where we wanted to go in our life. I hope that someday our 3 girls are adventurous enough (and I know they are) to do something crazy like this. We recently met a beautiful family. Mom and dad on the road for 20 years, and in the last couple years their daughter and son both joined them in their own RV’s. It was something fun to think about maybe our girls joining us!