We have now been living and traveling in our RV for 4 years. Wow, has that gone incredibly fast! We wanted to share our whole story of what put us on the path to full-time RV living, and how we got to where we are. Our About Us page has a little bit of information, but we are asked by so many people, what was our Ah-Ha moment, and why did we decide to sell everything and live and travel full-time in our RV. So here is our story.
To understand our “now”, we want to share our past story. Our lives came together in 1991, and we were married in 1992. We met while Justin was serving on active duty in the Navy Seabees. We lived and traveled all over the world, uprooting and moving our family every 18 months to 3 years. Our time in the military was very enjoyable, and we wouldn’t trade our experiences for anything. The long separations were hard, but we always remained positive and grateful. A year before Justin retired from the military, we were on a mission to find our dream home, so we would (say it with me now …. ) never have to move again! It took us just over a year to find the house with everything we wanted, but wouldn’t leave us house-poor. Stacy actually purchased the home on her income alone.
Our desire was a big country home with some land so we could have privacy, but a small community to feel part of as well. Justin went to work full time, with more overtime available than he wanted. Stacy continued in her corporate career she had been in for over 25 years. We settled right into the normal American life.
To truly understand our decision, we need to share how we spent our weekends while living that American dream. Our weekends were almost more busy and more stressful than our work week. With over an acre of land, there was at least one day a week mowing the lawn or removing snow, tending to the garden we created, finishing a project in the house, or planning for the next. That garden was amazing and produced enough veggies for Stacy to start canning and preserving quite a bit. That took time too. During volleyball season, you quite often found us cheering on our youngest daughter at a high school or club tournament at least one of those days during the weekend. We also had to fit in grocery shopping and laundry. Our Sundays were typically spent prepping for the next work week. Once in a while after a long workday, in my high heels and corporate work attire, I’d visit the grocery store for the weekly grocery shopping, and that was always a wonderful gift to ourselves because that meant we didn’t have to go on the weekend. Busy was an understatement. But we didn’t know it! We were exhausted! But this is what the American dream was, right? Stacy often crawled into bed on Sunday nights and would mutter “I just need one more day off”. But even on a 3-day weekend, that same statement was said.
After 5 years in our home, our baby graduated from high school and was accepted into the forensic’s program at WVU. Which was about 5-6 hours from home. Between her freshman and sophomore year, she checked out of the dorm and came home for the summer. For the first time in our married life, we had planned a 9-day vacation without kids. With our daughter home to watch the fur-babies, we were on our own schedule. We traveled through Upstate New York, and Northern Pennsylvania while enjoying some amazing hiking, waterfalls, and history.
During one of our 11-mile hikes through Letchworth State Park, we had a lot of time to talk. It was almost time to go back home, to our crazy busy life. Over a bottle of wine and a beautiful sunset that night, Justin’s one question set us on a path to where we are today. “How can we do this more often?”.
The Next 40 Years
Before our daughter left to go back to college, she indicated that the following summer would look a little different. Since she was going to be renting her own apartment and getting a part-time job, she would most likely not come home for the whole summer. As a mom, that moment was both sad and super amazing. We did it! We raised another confident, daughter who was spreading her wings. We considered ourselves young parents to be empty nesters. Both of us still in our 40’s, we started to look at what the next 40 years (or so) would hold for us. Is this what we wanted to do? Go to work, come home, mow the lawn, and go to work some more? For 20-30-40 more years! We had bought our dream home. And yet, we never spent time in it (other than sleeping). We had a list a mile long of things needing to be done – you know … that next project! Visiting our family, which was over an hour away, was unfortunately always last on the list. With opposite days off, they didn’t find the time to come visit, and we didn’t either. Was this how things were supposed to be? Was this truly living the American dream?
Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car, and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it.Ellen Goodman
The (sort-of) Decision
The only final decision made on that 9-day vacation was that we wanted more time together. And we wanted time to live more intentionally. Tomorrow is never promised and we had seen so many people in our life have beautiful retirement plans that never got to happen. We arrived home with plans to make changes in our life. But what changes? How could we really pull this off and make it work? Full-time RVing wasn’t quite on the radar yet. We had many thoughts. Maybe we would just take a year off work, rent the house out and hike the Appalachian Trail. Logistically, we couldn’t make that work. We tossed around a few ideas and thoughts in the next few weeks.
The Clear Vision
Remember the wine? Pretty sure it may have been magical wine. Ha! Well, we brought some home! The next few weeks were spent sitting on the couch after work without the TV on. Talking about what steps we could take to live a more meaningful, fulfilling life. If we didn’t have the two houses (we also had a rental property across town) we wouldn’t need our jobs to pay for them. If we didn’t need our jobs, we would have that time we so desperately yearned for. But we have to work, right? Our thoughts were sometimes reckless and radical but eventually brought us to our epic decision to full-time RVing.
We have always lived pretty simple, within our means, and never really owed a lot of money to anyone. We didn’t have a lot of stuff. I mean it was almost a necessity with the constant moving in the military. Stacy also decided to stay home and raise our girls for about 12 years, so having the new best things was not an option. Yes, we had a mortgage on our home, but we also refinanced to a 15-year loan and paid extra each month to the principal. If we had a vehicle payment, we would dump extra money on the principal each month, but we also typically didn’t have car payments. We didn’t need the best new “things” all the time and never had a credit card bill. I tell you this because this was one of the most important factors for us. Justin retired with a very small pension from the military. Could we live on that? Could we go from a combined income of $10,000 a month to just $1,800? Yes, those are real numbers!
After a few more weeks, full-time RV life kept getting mentioned. We had owned and been traveling weekends and vacations in an RV for close to 15 years already. In fact, we had taken that 9-day vacation in our RV. Could we live that tiny? Could we downsize our 2200 square foot home to an RV? When we decided that full-time RV life was our way to live a life more intentionally, we put a 2-year time period on that plan. We would do a few last-minute upgrades to our already relatively new home, we would get a really nice nest egg in our savings account, and find a more suitable RV to live in, and we had 2 homes to sell. Well, with everything else in life, when you plan something, it just takes over and if it’s meant to be, it happens. Did it take us 2 years?
Selling Our Stuff
I won’t lie! There were 2 very real panic attacks. There were doubts. There were tears. And filling that 2200 square foot house with stuff we thought we needed, and then getting rid of it all for pennies on the dollar, was a hard pill to swallow. We invited our daughters over and told them to take what they wanted, and we spent months selling as many of our bigger items as possible, donating some, and sending some to a local auction house. In the end, it is just stuff. Our memories are what we carry forever. We did all this while still holding down full-time jobs. Check out our blog What To Do With Sentimental Items When Downsizing here.
Nine months, almost to the day we decided to sell everything and move into our RV full-time, we handed over the keys to our dream home and drove out of that driveway. We put our two PA homes on the market at the end of the fall, and they sold, 30 days apart. We never expected that, but we live under the pretense that if it’s meant to be, it will happen. And boy did it happen fast!
The Last 4 Years
We would be lying if we told you the last 4 years have been rainbows and unicorns every day. RV life is still life. Things break. Things go wrong. The epic plans you spent months making get canceled, and there are disappointments. There are breakdowns, broken slides, flat tires, broken shackles, and bad fuel (ask us how we know!) But what we can tell you is that it’s all been amazing, beautiful, and totally worth it. Even the not so good things that happened. Because these things taught us lessons, gave us memories and stories to tell. As we sat here today writing this, we both agreed there are zero regrets. We have made so many memories and a few mistakes. We are living our American dream. Life unchained! Do we miss the money? We do not! At all! Which really surprised us. Our life is so full of adventure, we don’t even think about it! We always have what we need and want!
The Next 4 Years
So what’s in store for our next 4 years? We truly don’t know! That’s the beautiful part of living life on your own terms. We travel in a general direction, where we want and when we want. We stay as long or as little as we want. We aren’t in a hurry. We eat when we’re hungry, and sleep when we’re tired. Sometimes we even eat dessert before dinner. We smile so much more! Life is about chapters, and we still have so much more to see and do. We have had our first grandchild, and the freedom to spend more time with our girls and now our grand-daughter is high on our list of priorities. We still want to travel and visit people who can’t.
Full-time RV life isn’t for everyone. And that’s the beauty of living life on your terms. You get to choose what is best for you. Whatever you do, just live. We only have one life that we know of. Make the most of it. Where there is a will, there is a way.
We hope sharing our story gives you something to think about. Let us know what questions you have. We’d also love to hear your ah-ha moment!
Here are a few more blogs we think you’ll love!
- What To Do With Photos When Downsizing
- Our 3-Year Nomadiversary and Our 15 Tips
- Our RV ~ What We Looked For When Shopping for an RV
- The Best 30+ RV Hacks!
- RV Accessories for the Kitchen
- The Best Tips for Organizing Your RV Stuff
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