Family RVing: living well while traveling the country

Have you ever had the urge to sell the house and go explore the world? Chances are, you know a family doing just that. We often think of these families as being extraordinarily brave, but my friend Rachel, who spent two years traveling the U.S. in an RV with her family, says, “You can totally do it. It’s not like we’re special . . . we just sold our stuff!” That was how it began for this nature-loving family: they listed their stuff for sale. 

Rachel is a coach and meditation teacher. She is married to Adam and they have two children, Caelan (eight) and Ellie (four). The kids were five and two when they purchased the RV and set out. Now, they have been settled in Salt Lake City for just over a year, but their travel days are not over. With the sale of the RV they spent two years in, they purchased a smaller one, and plan on doing more off-grid travel, visiting national parks without worrying about hook-ups . . . “a closer-to-nature experience,” says Rachel.

Rachel and I talked recently about family, travel and balancing it all: 

Tell us how you came to the decision to sell your house, buy an RV and hit the road with your family. 

A friend of mine said she was going to travel and I thought, ‘Gosh, I wish we could do something like that!’ I had just sold my acupuncture business, our pets had recently passed. It was a culmination of things. Before, there was never a reason to leave. We had businesses, girls in school. But then we had this thought: We can figure out where we want to live by city-shopping our way around the country. We were very intentional about where we wanted to go based on criteria for living there. 

So what were you looking for in a town? 

We had four criteria. We were looking for a small town; it had to be under 100,000 people. We wanted progressive education options and accessibility to nature. We wanted to be on a trail within thirty minutes of home and be within driving distance to a national park. And the fourth thing . . . it must have been mountains! We wanted to be in the mountains. We soon realized that no place had all four things. I thought we’d have that knowing, like . . . this is the place. But it didn’t happen like that. 

What else surprised you? 

Right away, we understood that the trip was going to take longer than expected. We thought we’d RV for a year. But it was going to take at least one and a half to two years to see what we wanted. We needed to stay in places a little bit longer. We realized we needed, on average, two weeks per place. Another surprise came after just a few months, when I went to the grocery store by myself. I came back and looked into my husband’s eyes and said, ‘Honey, we have to get away by ourselves!’ We needed time to connect as a couple. I wondered how we’d let that go for months at a time. And I had forgotten what it was like to have a minute to myself, to have my own thoughts. We have to have that time. When my door is closed, the girls know. I’m meditating; I need twenty minutes.  We also now have one-on-one time with each kid, giving them even just ten minutes that is completely theirs. They love it. 

What did you learn about yourself and your family? 

The first six months, I put so much stress on myself as far as homeschooling. I compared myself to the Waldorf schools we were touring, and I almost quit. It got easier after I let go of the “compare-itinitous” and focused on what’s really important. Friends encouraged me to “just live well.” This permission to just live well changed things. We were going on hikes, and doing all these things. There is only a certain amount of bandwidth for a six year old. Actually, my favorite moments were always in the mundane. Out of two years of travel, the things that stick out the most are simple moments in nature. Just being. We had a picnic lunch one day and Caelan was walking across this log. There was this big mountain behind her and she’s just walking across the log. It happened in a flash, but it’s one of those memories forever ingrained—the colors, the grass, the warmness of afternoon sun.  

Can you talk about balance? Your need to be in your family, and out in the world? 

When we were traveling, I felt like I was buzzing. That was because I wasn’t meditating. As the conscious creator of your reality, you have to take responsibility for being solid. It’s a choice and responsibility. It’s not like it’s easy. It’s a matter of showing up. The world isn’t going to invite you—you have to take initiative to show up how you want to show up. I work to slow down my inner metronome. The rate at which the world is moving is always faster. When we were RVing, I was working in a different career path and it wasn’t fulfilling my purpose. I have seen a shift now because I’m doing what my soul is here to do. Now I’m finding it’s much easier to balance family life with my work. Because it doesn’t feel like work and I can weave it in and out in different pockets of life. It’s not work, it’s just me. There is no separation. 

I love that! It can now weave into the whole of your life. It’s not a push and pull! 

Yes. It all comes through who we are as people. How do I do everything? I don’t. I’m focusing on living well. As a family unit, being happy and healthy. I do my stuff while the kids are having their rest time or I’ll wake up early. You have to do what works for you and your family and your values.

What does home mean to you?

The first thing that comes to mind is the sacredness of the family. You have this relationship with yourself, your surroundings, a heartfelt space you can hold. And you can create a physical space . . . it has to come from inside. I want to be intentional about my thoughts, words, actions. If things aren’t aligned with my values, then it’s easy to get outta whack. That sacred solid ground comes from within; it has to radiate out from us. At the end of the day, it’s really all about love.  

To keep up with this family’s adventures, follow Rachel on Instagram. If you’d like a community of support through meditation, breathwork and journaling, check out Rachel’s FaceBook meditation group

This is the second article in a series where we hear from moms regarding family, travel and home. You can keep up by following the the blog (and receive your freebies, including how to create your own unique family travel experience).

What to do when you’re a tired mom

Last week was a bit bumpy in our household and homeschool. Between sickness and lack of sleep, tempers were lost. I should mention that I was the first to lose it. 

I get triggered when I don’t feel valued. Wouldn’t it be great if my twelve year old could read my mind, and then go, “Thanks for doing all those dishes, Mom! Now that you’ve created a clean workspace, I’m going to get started on my work right away!” 

It’s probably more accurate to say that I get triggered when I don’t value my own worth and my own needs. Instead of expecting my daughter to be a mind-reader, I could say to myself, “You’ve worked really hard. You need rest and some quiet time.” But this is where I’ve often struggled: putting my oxygen mask on first. I want to make sure everything is taken care of before I’ll go check-in with myself, before I’ll take the breath I need, say hello to my essential self.

In this instance, I was worried she wasn’t going to do her work. And the thoughts spiraled: she’ll never have a strong work ethic, she won’t learn anything, she’ll fail, I’ll fail. None of these are true, but it is crazy how they can control a moment—a terrible moment when I’m an angry mom. 

Wouldn’t you know I’d just written a blog on patience! However, it wasn’t about what to do when your kid says, “I hate you!” into an already mom’s about to explode atmosphere. It was about staying in the process; how patience is about milestones. So I was challenged to look at our breakdown as part of our process . . . to see ways we can readjust, create new boundaries and better routines. This week, we’ll recommit to some structure around our work cycles. I will speak my needs instead of expecting people to read my mind. 

A few months ago, we had a similar breakdown concerning getting to dance classes on time. Instead of issuing punishments for what happened while she was hotheaded, we decided (once we were all calm) to matter-of-factly discuss expectations. We wrote down a list of things that need to happen (or not happen) in the hour before dance class and who is responsible for each task. Things have been running smoothly since then. 

Similarly, I’m not going to punish myself—I’m not an “angry” mom, I’m a mom that needs to be well-rested and needs to have time to create and to connect with herself. 

So . . . What to do when you’re a tired mom of a preteen? Let everything be as it is in the moment, it’s not perfect and it sucks. But go do something to take care of yourself. When you are ready (it may not be today) talk about expectations, small adjustments. Write it down, commit to it.

Patience: it’s about milestones

“All the way across! You did it!” I laugh. “Elle, you did it!”

She was not quite five. She wore a t-shirt with a picture of kittens on it, a white skirt with gray capri’s underneath; socks, no shoes. We were at the park. It was before the play-equipment was replaced, and so the monkey bars were still there—eight, thick yellow bars from one perch to the other. I watched her little body swing and sway, eyes focused on the next rung, feet hovering high above the sandy bottom. She went from one end to the other, one motion of her arms at a time. 

This is a milestone, I thought. Her first time maneuvering the entire set of monkey bars. I hoped I could remember it. 

Being Elle’s mom has helped me to recognize milestones—her first words, her first steps and first lost tooth. The day she went to school. The day she graduated elementary. 

But still. I am a slow learner when it comes to recognizing my own milestones. I was always a sprinter, a chaser of solutions, forever seeking satisfactory ending points. My eyes were typically set on finish lines, not processes. This had a lot to do with the way I was schooled; a lot to do with living in my head, at the expense of hearing my heart. A lot to do with thinking I could control outcomes.

Being with Elle helped me to see I cannot control outcomes. 

But still. I wanted to cross my own, metaphorical, set of monkey bars—the great divide between here and there, between the inner me and the outer me, between my soulful, creative self and my responsible, dutiful mom self. There was so much inside of me that didn’t seem to be represented on the outside. 

Elle and I walked the six blocks home from the park, hand in hand. It would be a few days before I could sit down alone, in silence. While she was at preschool, I would write. I would sit in my backyard or walk the beach. I would feel nature’s processes. And I would hear what my heart had to say. 

Though it felt like stillness, it wasn’t inactive. It was patience, in action. I was faithfully moving forward. At the time, my feet were so firm on the ground, I couldn’t see that I was making my way across the monkey bars, too. Bridging together the inner and outer me . . . an endless pursuit.

It’s hard to recognize our own milestones, isn’t it? If you’re still reading this, pause now and give yourself credit for how far you’ve come. Tell me about your milestones in the comments.  Where in your life are you actively being patient?