A few months prior to our departure, while parked in a cul-de-sac, my husband, Geoff and I were having a fairly common discussion which included topics like, "We are not getting ahead; Life is stagnant; Work has lacked excitement and vigor for years for years now; 4 more years and our oldest son, Connor leaves for college - the beginning of his own life apart from us; If we are going to break the cycle, change it up, expand the experiences, then it is now or never [at least for us with Connor].2. Why do you think so many families think a traveling lifestyle is out of reach for them?
We would break this into a few reasons.
F.U.D. - Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt of course play a huge role in this. I think it is difficult for a lot of people to comprehend and except that one is going to pile his family into a vehicle and travel aimlessly around the country and "all will be ok". I think all the "What ifs" flood the mind and it mentally becomes exhausting trying to figure out what one would do to pre-solve all of the "what ifs".
Cost - "How can I afford to quit my job and pay all the expenses of travel for a whole year? The mortgage, the bills, on top of travel expenses..."
Relationships - The thought of leaving one's family and friends can be emotionally heart wrenching. I am sure the thought of being cooped up with immediate family members is just hard to contemplate too. In addition, the thought of leaving clubs, sports, traditional life and other roles and responsibilities is difficult for many.
Career - We believe there is a strong thought that if you leave your job and travel for a year you will loose your spot in the "Career" you have been building. And that you might disappoint the business or people you have been working for.
However, I will also reserve that a traveling lifestyle is just not for everyone. There are people that outwardly state that they just prefer to stay still, not travel, not be cooped up, and despite being happy for us it is just not something they want to do. Most found it very inspirational too.3. Opening yourself up to travel means opening yourself up to the unexpected. Please share one unexpected reward and one unexpected challenge that you and your family have met in your many years together on the road. How have each added richness of your travels and your lives?
One unexpected reward is the immensity of the family bonding that occurs when you travel as a lifestyle. We had been on plenty of vacations, but there is nothing like living in a confined space and seeing amazing things every few days. The boys, Connor (15) Ethan (11), due to age & interests, had quite different lifestyles when living at home. They rarely spent time together. Our traveling lifestyle, since they only had each other, grew to a much stronger "brotherhood."
The unexpected challenge was the lack of personal space and the dynamics that it imposes. Living shoulder to shoulder with no escape means rebuilding you expectation, tolerance, judgement, and response systems. You just can't have it your way, you have it have it "everyone's" way if you are going to co-exist. Ultimately though, this has made us all far better people and definitely contributed back to the family bonding.4. Many families begin preparing for long-term travel by selling off their homes and possessions. You and your family went another route; please share with our readers what your master plan was and how it has paid of in spades.
A personal bias here, we think selling a bunch of your personal possessions is a great idea. Lightening the load, as we call it, be it commitments, possessions, financial responsibilities, etc. is all very liberating! It is often difficult to let go of personal possessions but "less is more" in all sense of the word in our opinion so do it. We decided that we needed to "downsize" the volume of clutter in our life, so we did a full review and purge of everything on our whole property. Things either went a) to the motor home b) to craigslist c) to the curb d) Good Will, e) to the waste bin or f) to the shed (our version of a storage unit). I'd recommend starting this process with the shed.
But from the very start we knew we never wanted to sell our home. We committed to be on the road for one year and we equally looked forward to moving back into our home at the end of the trip. We could not afford to pay the mortgage and leave it empty so we had two choices if we were going to keep our house: long term rental or short term rental (vacation rental). Long term has the attraction you don't need to "manage" the property on a day-to-day basis and a lot lower risk in the sense you can expect a monthly rent deposit. Short term has the attraction of potentially higher rental income, plus but it comes at a huge cost. You have to leave the house furnished (accepting it may be damaged), you have a rolling set of customers you have to please, you have to pay the difference between the rents and mortgage on slow months, your home needs to be in a location supportive of short term/vacation rental, and you or someone else needs to "manage" the property on a day to day basis. For us, it worked best to doVRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner). I then staged, setting up, and managing the property whilst we traveled. We were never fully covered our monthly home expenses but we were able to come close.5. What is the one thing that you would share with other parents who are wanting to make this leap with their own families?
Reach out to multiple families who have done this and draw upon their experiences and suggestions. Ultimately everyone does it a little bit differently, none right or wrong, but the experience they share might enable you to significantly enhance your own experience (both in preparing and on the road), and keep "F.U.D" at bay too!