How we got here

We are the Awesome Family. (No, really)

This blog is going to be our documentation of our adventure from “the norm” into something more extraordinary. We are joining the ranks of families that have given up, for whatever reason or duration, their brick and mortar homes, and are living full time on the road.

Our plan is to try this for a year. And if we like it, then we’ll go for another year. And we’ll do that until we decide we’ve had enough. (if we decide we’ve had enough)

So, here’s a little bit about our background:

We met a great couple here in Raleigh by sheer happenstance. We moved here on a whim (we’re kind of naturally gypsy)… pretty much threw a dart at a map, and landed here.  Wait… let me back up a little farther.   Let me start with why we’re able to even write this blog:

I work in the gas and oil industry. I work for a third party company, helping drilling companies get their holes drilled. I might elaborate later, but, that’s not what this is about… so I probably won’t. But, because of the industry that I work in, I work a schedule that is advertised as 30 days on, and 30 days off. The pay is better than working a 9 to 5 doing the same thing anywhere else in the world. Now, while I pester my employer about getting all the overtime I can, I still enjoy a substantial amount of time off. They pay for me to travel, and aren’t even based in the same state as us. In fact, my company has people that live all over the world. So, as long as I can get to an airport, I am employed. When “the call” comes, I have my suitcase already packed, I simply let them know what airport I’m flying out of, and they issue me a ticket. I fly wherever they need me, spend my time doing the best I can, and then let them know where I need to fly into to get back to the family. Up until now, those airports haven’t changed… but, I’ve talked to my boss, and he’s onboard with our plan.

So, that takes care of how we pay for things… I have a job that doesn’t tie me down to a brick and mortar house. And since we’re not tied down, we decided to do what most people wait to do until their retired…. travel!

Ok, so… onto how we got to this city. We lived in Denver for a bit, and the gypsy in us started acting up… so, it was time to move. We had friends in Raleigh that said they loved it. It was a low cost of living, jobs were competitive, and there was lots to do with our kids. At the time, my job was brand new, and we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to handle the lifestyle of a travelling oilfield worker. We wanted to make sure that if the job didn’t work out, we weren’t stuck somewhere with no local economy. So, we loaded up the truck, and we headed to Raleigh. Stayed a few nights at our friends’ house, and found suitable housing just as fast as we could. We spent two years in an apartment where we could spend less than what we were used to, so that we could save save save. Of course, the saving never happened. It’s funny how when there’s discretionary money at the end of the paycheck, it’s spent without discretion. We spent two years living on a reduced budget, making better money than we’ve ever made, and didn’t have a thing to show for it. The low rent that our apartment complex was asking started encouraging “low rent” tenants. The folks that were there when we first got there were starting to move out, and we started wondering when we should follow suit. Soon after we left, a friend of ours who stayed started telling us that the neighborhood has really started to get bad. It’s a shame, because it was a nice little refuge to go home to. We moved to a house, with a one year lease, and again, our plan was to save save save. We’re doing a bit better this time, but, halfway through our lease, our plans have changed again. We had pulled our girls out of public schools half way through the lease in the apartment, and now, there really were none of the typical ties to a community. We still have local friends, and some of the relationships we’ve started through our church are really starting to blossom… but, those aren’t the ties that I mean. We’re renters, I work remotely, and our kids are homeschooled. And except for the pots and pans hanging off our wagon, we’re about as gypsy as they come. It was inevitable that the thought of going on the road full-time occurred to us.

The next ingredient came in the form of our friends who take care of our vehicles. I like to think of myself as mechanically inclined (especially since I used to make my living as a mechanic), but, I’m not ubiquitous. I can’t change the oil in my truck in Raleigh, while I’m on an oil rig in Equatorial Guinea. (I’m not even going to try). My wife (and co-author) is not a mechanic. And even though she’s pulled through and worked magic that apparently only moms can… she’s done things and accomplished things that I would seriously have probably just paid a professional to do, if it were left to me, she’s not prepared to be under the hood worrying about tracking down some knock, or squeak.

Back to our friends; they were referred to us by a friend of a friend, and have become not only good friends, and invaluable to the health of our vehicles, they have also become the doorway to our future. They run an auto repair shop, not just some shade-tree operation. As I write this, it occurs to me that we haven’t talked to them about divulging information about them on our blog. If they sign off on it, we’ll get some sort of information about them and their shop so that local people or anyone travelling through the area can look them up. But again, I’m getting off track… As their kids are grown now and (sort of) out of their house, our camping enthusiast friends decided that the 32’ camper they had, needed to be replaced with something more size appropriate to the two of them.

With their camper on the market, and our family in the market, a deal was struck. The journal that follows is going to be a little bit of a lot of things. It’s supposed to be a story for our friends to follow our experiences, because we won’t be local, but we still want to share our lives. It’s going to be a logbook for us, so that we can refer to it, make corrections, and make this experience as relaxed and easy as possible. It’s going to be a diary we keep on our kids’ behalf, so when they’re older, and their comprehension of things is more developed, they can go back and look at their childhood journey with a new set of eyes.

And hopefully, it might help the next group of emerging gypsies learn from our experiences, and of course, our inevitable mistakes.

8 thoughts on “How we got here”

  1. I wish you much luck and adventure on your journey! We live in Sequoia National Forest and homeschool our daughter there. I invite you to check out my blog of homeschooling/kid’s projects etc. if you have the time and interest. Take care and happy traveling!
    Karen
    http://kartwheels.org/

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  2. Thanks for all of the information! We would be very interested in some pictures and the organizational side of it – what kind of RV are you living in? Maybe I just didn’t get far enough into your blog to find that. I really am to the point in this process where I need to see it to understand how it’s going to work out. Even though we’ve been to RV shows, I can only look at so many floor plans…those don’t include all the “stuff”!

    Europe sounds fun! We found a company called New Horizon that custom builds…for a price, of course.

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    1. Natasha, Mary here, I’ll work on a response post with some pics of how we actually fit it all in the camper! My signals nonexistent right now, so as soon as i can find some good wifi i’ll put it up!

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  3. Hello! Ok, so 32′ – how’s that working out for everyone? We have been planning and researching and saving now for the past few years and are looking to head out for 3 years within one more year. Our family of 4 (mom, dad, daughter age 6 and son age 4, and the dog, among other pets) are looking at a 36′ 5th wheel to move into. It will have the bunks in a slide. How has everyone adjusted to the space constraints? Mind you, our current home is quite small as it is, so its not like we have a ton of stuff or big expectations to begin with. We are used to a simple life, I just can’t quite get my head around moving the kids’ “rooms” into bunks. I am guessing they will adjust better than I will! Please help me by giving some more info on how you all have grown to live in your space? Where do the kids keep their “stuff” (mine love to collect rocks, leaves, acorns…) not to mention homeschooling stuff, a few toys and books… Do you just accept clutter? Thanks!

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    1. Mary might have a different take on it… I only spend half of my time “at home”, and when I do, she and I have very different opinions about how tidy things need to be… Not that I’m a slob, but it’s easier for me to have things out where I can find them. Mary believes in “a place for everything, and everything in it’s place”.

      Because I travel for work, there’s a gap between how things are organized when I’m gone, and figuring out what to do with my luggage when I’m home. My work clothes stay packed, but, occasionally I’ll come home with laundry needing to be done (which means a bag out of place in the camper). I try to keep a spot in the back of the truck for my suitcase. It’s hard sided, so it fits nicely under the cooler. I have a backpack with my computers, and my other day to day stuff that can’t stay in the back of the truck. Again, I’ve introduced another “bag out of place”. I’m sure you were more interested in the dynamics of the kids and the space they’re limited to, but, part of the limited space issue, is the common areas where “things go that won’t be there very long”. Everyone in the family has to change how they do things when my backpack is unloaded, because it takes up floor space in front of the couch, or part of the couch, or the kitchen table.

      As far as the kids go, and space for them; Mary and I have been talking about this subject a lot lately. We’re starting to plan out how we’re going to accomplish getting our Europe travels handled. Because of the differences in the RV industry between here and there, we’re resigned to pretty much doing our own custom build here and shipping there. And once you resign yourself to having it built custom, some doors open to how you’d REALLY do things if you could.

      So, here are some issues that we’ve come across. First, our oldest girl is kin to the Jolly Green Giant apparently. Twelve years old, and 5’9″. Which means that the bed that “they” decided would fit anyone, doesn’t. The bunks in our trailer are 6′ long, and that’s just not enough to stretch out. There are occasions when “the middlest” or “the boy” want to sleep in our bed. When I’m at work, that’s not an issue. When I’m home, there’s just not enough room in our bed for three. (We can sort of squeeze five for story time, but, they better be short stories!) But, I’m a big sucker, so, it’s usually “the boy” that wants to sleep with Mary, in which case I can swap pillows and take his bed. But, sleeping in a 6′ bed isn’t nearly as comfortable as it sounds, I promise.

      Also, using the fold out couch doesn’t work so well, ’cause whoever built this thing didn’t think people who buy campers would ever weigh more than 75 pounds. That’s my sarcastic way of saying that there’s not enough cushion to stop the springs from hurting all night long when an adult sleeps on the couch.

      Also, we have three kids using one “closet” for all their clothes. They each have a tote that slides under the lower starboard-side bed for toys and personal items (and by personal items, I mean the rocks that they can’t bear to leave where they found them!). Our kids collect things too… and if you knew Mary, you’d know that clutter is her arch-enemy! We also let them use the fourth bunk as storage for some of their larger things (guitars, jewelry boxes, etc).

      Storage for them gets cramped. It’s difficult to keep organized, and generally just difficult to manage. There is no “hanger” space for them, so, their stacks of clothes need constant maintenance or they tend to fall when we travel and become big piles of wrinkles.

      One of the things we’ve been looking into are “coffin lockers”. I’m not sure what name they’re sold by. When I was in the Navy, every person had a locker under they’re mattress that was the length and width of the bed, and about six inches deep. We called them coffin lockers. Mary found some the other day that could be ordered longer than 6′, and could be configured so that there was actually a small desk incorporated into it for sitting up and writing, as well. I think that having coffin lockers for the kids would make life immeasurably easier for them.

      After passing our 1 year anniversary on the road, we’re also moving towards getting the kids curtains on their “racks”. Everyone appreciates a bit of privacy, whether is the oldest needing a break, or the boy wanting to sleep in a cave!

      We had a cabinet in the camper where “they” wanted us to put a TV, but, we’re rebels, so, that’s where we keep the schoolbooks. Mary’s really going to have to answer some of this, because it’s her system. I really thought if we could be as “digital” as possible (kindle, word documents, etc) it would be better, to keep weight down. Mary has been saying a lot lately, that she thinks she prefers paper books to having to print the odd lesson out. There is space under the couch where we keep the art supplies – pencil boxes, coloring books, paints… There’s actually still a lot of open space under the couch, too.

      Ok, this response is getting a bit long… maybe we ought to just turn this into a post, and get some pictures in it to show what we’re talking about. Internet is lousy at the park we’re in now, but, I’ll have Mary try to answer your questions a little better than my rambling!

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