Real Estate

Our Decision to Sell Our House, Hit the Road and Live in an RV

published Sep 18, 2017
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(Image credit: Hayley Lawrence)

If you had told me a year ago that, today, I’d be smack dab in the middle of selling my home, I would never have believed you. If you’d told me I was selling my home to uproot my family, buy an RV, and roam the country for an indefinite amount of time, I may very well have asked you if you’d recently suffered a hard knock to the head.

And yet, here I am. Or, to be more accurate, here we are – myself, my husband, our 6-year-old daughter, our 4-year-old son, and a white German shepherd to boot. In roughly a month, we will no longer be homeowners living in the little beach town we’ve loved so much. Instead, everywhere will be home… and nowhere, all at once.

To understand how we came to this decision, you have to wind the hands of time back about four years. My husband and I had been house-hunting for months to no avail, and then we finally found ourselves under contract. We were supposed to close the week before Thanksgiving of that year. Only, the person we were buying the home from ultimately backed out at the last minute. In addition to losing the money we’d put into the home inspection and appraisal, we lost hope.

A few months later, we found ourselves teetering on that precipice between excitement and disappointment once more. We’d just made an offer on a house we’d fallen hard for, and the waiting game had begun. That night, as I lie sleepless in bed, I jostled my husband awake so he could share the burden of my anxiety.

“Babe, if this falls through too, I think we should sell all of our earthly belongings, buy an RV, and start traveling the country.”

“Babe, if this falls through too, I think we should sell all of our earthly belongings, buy an RV, and start traveling the country. We can chronicle our journey and call it ‘An Awfully Big Adventure,'” I told him, to which he replied with something along the lines of “You’re crazy” before passing back out.

My visions of vagabond grandeur would have to be put on hold, though, because we got the house. For nearly three years, we lived in our little coastal ranch-bungalow. It was the first home we brought our babies to that we actually owned. We spent idyllic days combing the nearby beach for treasures cast from the sea, and we were happy homeowners.

Only, I could never seem to shake the lingering ache in my bones to see more. Prior to having kids, my husband and I traveled often, which kept our wanderlust at bay. Having kids, it seems, has only intensified that need to see the world – to show them the far corners and foster their affinity for different cultures and perspectives.

My husband and I both also began to question the life trajectory laid out before all of us during our formative years. You know the shtick: school, college, job, marriage, house, babies, retirement.

For many of us who aren’t independently wealthy, that means working a 9 to 5 or something similar five days a week to afford the mortgage, car payments, childcare, and keeping up with the proverbial Joneses. This was the rut we found ourselves in: constantly working, hardly traveling, living for the weekends. But what if we could re-orient our lives so every day felt like the weekend?

(Image credit: Hayley Lawrence)

This was not, by any stretch of the imagination, an easy decision to make. It’s not the normal life path people typically choose, so the revelation of what we’re doing is met with everything from disapproval to skepticism. People have questioned whether we’re making the right decision for our children, and whether or not we’ll be safe on the road.

And you know what? We’ve had all those worries, too. In the end, however, we feel like the memories we’ll be making with our kids will be worth it. The experiences we’ll all have together will make the hard stuff feel more bearable.

Hard stuff like selling our house, for example. And taking our kids out of an incredible school district so we can homeschool them while we’re on this journey. Make no mistake – those were losses. We mourned them as though we were mourning the loss of loved ones because, well, in a way we were.

But we were in a unique position to sell our house for much more than we bought it for, meaning we could pay off all of our debt and buy our RV outright. To live a debt-free life where each day has the potential to provide an inspiring new backdrop? It called to us. “If not now, when?” we asked ourselves. The answer was more than a decade down the road, after our children had graduated. And, if we’re really being honest, the current state of the world made us wonder whether such free-spirited traveling would even be a possibility five or ten years from now.

Our excitement bubbled over at the thought of being able to teach our children in a way that was tactile and experiential. Instead of just reading about historic battles in books, we could take them to the very ground where those historic battles were fought. We can watch them peer up in wide-eyed wonder at the monolithic faces of past presidents carved into the side of a mountain. We can illustrate how different ecosystems work by actually visiting them: forests with trees so big cars can pass through them, salt marshes teeming with aquatic creatures, ponds, mountains, prairies, and more.

“Our excitement bubbled over at the thought of being able to teach our children in a way that was tactile and experiential. Instead of just reading about historic battles in books, we could take them to the very ground where those historic battles were fought.”

Once we made up our minds to do this, we focused on moving forward. We’ve also welcomed any chance to open a dialogue with those people who may not understand our life choice. We get a chance to explain to them why this is important to us, and how we are going to make it work. We get to tell them about the massive (and welcoming!) network of fellow full-time RV’ers we discovered upon deciding to give this a go. We get to talk to them about the countless other families across the country like us who are – for at least some time — raising our children on the road: a wayfaring band of little humans who are free-thinkers and explorers.

No, this decision was not easy to make. We did not take it lightly. But we are finding it’s helping us grow. Over the last three months, we have sold nearly all of our worldly possessions, save for what can fit in the RV. It was an exercise in embracing minimalism and re-prioritizing what’s important and necessary. You know what we found? All that stuff had been weighing us down. They were pretty things, and silly things, and play things… but we had a lot of baggage. Now with this newfound clarity, no matter where life takes us in the future, we feel committed to maintaining this sort of minimalism. As cliché as it sounds, we want to collect memories, not things.

Which brings us here, to this point in time, waiting for the sale of our house to close. Sometimes, I’m gripped in momentary panic: Can we do this, really? Then I breathe, reboot, and remind myself that we aren’t reinventing the wheel – many people before us have chosen this lifestyle, and many people after us will yet. That knowledge (and about a million Google spreadsheets worth of research) reassures me on the days I’m filled with doubt, which are few and far between. Most days, though, I’m just ready to get this show on the road.

Julie Sprankles and her family are going to keep Apartment Therapy updated about life on the road. So pop into the comments and let us know: What do you want to know about RV living?