A life on the road
Does your life need a bit more adventure or unconventionality? What would a life be minus the yard work, house cleaning, maintenance, rent/mortgage, office, and carpool? What if you could just take off in a RV and travel North America?
Last week, I had the pleasure of hosting friends who did just that. Wouter and Clementine were living a quiet life in rural Four Oaks outside Raleigh. Clementine rode horses. Wouter was a programmer for a local logistics company. They had their first child 2009 and felt there was something missing.
Clementine craved more meaningful social connections. Wouter longed for open spaces like the ranch he worked on once in Montana when he first moved to the US from The Netherlands. Clementine got very curious about the possibilities of a different life after a fortuitous conversation with a friend who had described a satisfying life with her family on the road.
It was 2010. The economy was still suffering from the recession. No one was buying RV’s and Wouter and Clementine were able to purchase a big 40 ft RV for a great price. Clementine donated her horse. Wouter decided to work for himself as a contractor. They began to unclutter their lives and prepare for a new adventure.
Wouter said, “The first year, we saw all the beautiful places including multiple national parks. It was breathtaking, but we still craved connection with other families. We got in touch with the Full Time Families organization." Their motto is “life on the road is best with friends.”
Full Time Families holds rallies in different places across the country and have about 2000 members internationally. Wouter an Clementine's family has grown on the road. In 2011, their son was born. Recently, Clementine delivered her third child at an October rally in Albuquerque, NM during the balloon festival. The local news covered the event.
Full Time Families provides many resources that assist families on the road from road schools to midwifery options. Wouter explained, "rallies are held throughout the country where families get together for a week or longer. There can be anywhere between 10 to 30 families. This is where we meet new friends and catch up with old friends. Kids play together all day long, sometimes in organized games. Everyone appreciates the time together before each family goes their own way until the next time we meet again."
Clementine said, “I can just open my door in the morning and walk outside with my cup of coffee and connect with my neighbors.” The family spent two memorable winters near Breckenridge where the kids became expert skiers. That was a favorite spot. Clementine said, "Once we’ve had our fill or the weather changes, we move on." The family is headed to a winter rally in Florida complete with a field trip to Legoland.
The couple has met several families over the years. Some are still on the road and some are off. I asked Clementine what would happen if Wouter wanted to get off the road. She said, “If Wouter wanted to stop, we’d stop. Both of us need to be on board for this to work. My kids have just grown up with this and don't think that it's different. They think things like houses for cars aka garage doors are strange because they are not used to seeing them.”
I was curious about some practical things like residency and mail. Wouter explained, “The digital world has made this kind of life a lot easier. We chose South Dakota as our state of residency because it has no state income tax and it is a home school friendly state.” The couple pays for a mail service that takes photos of the envelopes so they can ascertain if it’s important enough to have forwarded to a campground.
I visited the RV while it was parked in Raleigh at the fairgrounds to get an up close look at this life. I pulled up and Clementine opened the door to the RV and waved me over. Her tiny chihuahua greeted me. I entered the RV and the first thing that stood out was how large it was. I was surprised by the size of the kitchen complete with a double sink. There’s a shed with storage, a desk, and a sewing machine. The kids sleep up in a high bunk and the couple have a cozy bedroom which also holds a cradle for their new bundle of joy. It's home.
Wouter and Clementine recently returned to Raleigh to empty out their storage unit. There was only one thing they really wanted to hang onto -- artwork created by Clementine’s father. I happily volunteered to display it on my walls until they settle down and want it back. It doesn’t appear that they will settle anytime soon, but it’s clear that they have a wealth of experiences to draw on when they decide where to settle when they are ready.