Guest Post: How to Afford Traveling the World Full-Time with 2 Moms and a Trailer!
We at 7 Wayfinders have been getting A LOT of questions on how to afford traveling full-time. We always respond with the same thing- we just went on the road doing exactly what we were doing before we left! We’ve owned our own business for years and were already remote. However, that isn’t the answer for everyone. In an effort to get you brainstorming and feeling empowered, I’ve asked some of my new full-time travel friends to guest post and tell you how THEY are doing it!
Welcome to 2 Moms and a Trailer!
Our family is part of the new demographic of people known as full-timers or 'digital nomads'. We have chosen to break free from the "norm," the grinding 9 to 5 and the stresses of everyday suburban life, while instead embracing nature, exploration, and quality time with each other. The four of us; two moms, two kids [now 8 and 2], and our dog travel the country 365 days a year and live full-time in our 36 foot travel trailer. Looking back, it was nearly three years ago that our life was set on course with each of us working 40 plus hours a week at demanding, stressful jobs; we had the house [and tons of 'junk' to fill it up], the cars, and kids. We were over stressed, tired all the time, our relationship was suffering, and school/daycare was raising our child. The time we had left to actually "live" our lives outside of work and responsibilities was packed into Saturdays and a week-long vacation once a year. We felt trapped, we were young and we already owned a home, had good jobs, and were “succeeding” at life according to societies standards. But that's when everything changed, the company we both worked for went bankrupt overnight, our home mortgage refinance went terribly wrong, and all the 'stability' we had created came crashing down. With a young child to care for and another one on the way, we had to make some decisions fast. Either crash and burn, or rise up. We chose adventure! Within about three months we went from living in a 1700 square foot house to about a 350 square foot home on wheels. Our second child was two weeks old the day we moved in, and we have now been traveling for just over two years with no end in sight. How do we do it? Read on to find out!
Q: Why did you choose to live life on the road?
A: We didn't initially choose to live life on the road, it sort of chose us. My retired parents actually chose the lifestyle of full-time travel about six years ago; so the idea of living in a travel trailer (aka camper) wasn't a foreign idea to us. During those six years my parents would come to visit us each year for the holidays and our son's birthday, which also happens to be in December. So we would see them about two to three months out of the year. I'm an only child, and my wife has little family in the states as she was born in Mexico; there was no family to hold us back. Those around us, including my parents only supported, encouraged and helped us on this new journey in life. The ties we had in place from our previous home had been uprooted and our minds immediately went to fulfilling our long standing dream of moving to Washington state. But how do you move from one state to another, with no job and no home to go to? So we thought let's buy a travel trailer and then we can take our home with us; it was the perfect plan to build a life in a new state. After purchasing the trailer and truck we were ready to explore! My parents convinced us to take a little time off and just travel for the Summer, so we did. That Summer we went to 18 states and had the time of our lives! There was no going back after that, we were hooked.
Q: How did you buy your truck and trailer? Why did you ultimately choose the ones you now own?
A: Through the sale of our home we were able to pay cash for our truck and trailer at the time of purchase; while still having a little bit left over to start a "just in case" emergency fund. Owning a travel trailer as your primary home still requires maintenance just like a house would; it’s different, but very much the same in a lot of ways. Since then we have continued to build our savings as much as possible for those random expenses, upkeep, personalization and to enable us to take time off in between jobs to just travel, relax, live and be with our kids. We were shopping for a new home/travel trailer with our newborn in tow, we had actually put money down on a completely different unit before the baby was born. Then at the last minute my mom suggested we keep looking, because she didn't feel that the model we had chosen would be a sustainable option for a young, growing family as it did not have a separation of the sleeping spaces from the living spaces. So we continued our search and that's when we found our new home. We ended up purchasing a 3150BH (Bunk House) Imagine Travel Trailer by Grand Design; it's 36 feet long and has two slide outs (which are basically sliding rooms that make the internal living space larger/wider), and two separate bedrooms. The second I opened the door to this "tiny house" I was smitten, the floors were light, the cabinets were a dark cappuccino, it had a big screen TV, actual doors to close off the bedrooms, white counter-tops, stainless steel appliances and a shower bigger than the one I had in my house [aka sticks and bricks]. Grand Design as a manufacturer stands a head above the rest in my personal opinion. Their trailers are unique and of good quality, they stand behind their products with an amazing warranty and they have great customer service. The unit is a beautiful mixture of modern eclectic finishes, its spacious enough for us to live comfortably and it was easy to make the space our own with such a great canvas to start with. My wife and I are night owls and our kids go to sleep fairly early; so if we had continued with our first choice of Trailer we would have been banished to our bedroom after the kids went to sleep. But with our model, its just like a house in the fact that I can put my children to bed and then close their door. Freeing us as the adults to use the living, dining, kitchen, bathroom and master bedroom spaces without waking them. It was definitely the right choice to keep looking and stay true to our wants and needs.
Q: Does your trailer have a kitchen and functional bathroom? How do you get water, flush the toilet, use the stove, or have electricity? Do you have heating and air conditioning?
A: Yes our trailer has a tiny kitchen and bathroom. We don't have a ton of space, but it is functional, has everything we need and boasts a surprising amount of storage. Our refrigerator is RV size, so its not huge; that has been an adjustment learning to go grocery shopping weekly instead of biweekly or monthly. The indoor fridge can run on electricity or propane so we can keep it on while we are traveling if we choose to. We also have an 'outdoor kitchen' which provides more storage space and a second tiny, electric only, refrigerator that we mostly use to store extra produce, eggs and milk (keeping small containers inside for daily use). The RV bathroom again is small, but it has a rather large shower and a toilet that flushes into what's called a black tank. The black tank is a holding tank for bodily waste, and can be dumped at RV parks and other sewage dumping facilities. The sinks (bathroom & kitchen) drain into the gray water tank, which again gets dumped into the same underground sewage receptacles. For electricity we plug in with what look like a giant outlet and chord at RV Parks and Campground facilities. Our ducted thermostat heater runs on propane as does the stove/oven. We have only used our heater twice in two years; we predominately use our built in electric fireplace and a space heater to warm our tiny home [even in the snow]. As for air conditioning, yes we have a wonderful A/C unit as our house is basically a metal box, so it does get hot in the Summer time; but with the air running we stay nice and comfortable. Our tiny house on wheels has all the amenities and comforts of a traditional 'sticks and bricks' home.
Q: Where are you originally from and where are you now? How old are you?
A: We're originally from Southern California in the Mojave Desert area. I was born and raised in CA, but traveled a lot as a kid. My wife, as I mentioned previously, was born in Mexico and immigrated to the states as a young girl. Both of our children were also born in the great state of California. In these past two years we have been lucky enough to travel literally from one side of the country to the other. Starting our journey on the West Coast and then zig-zagging our way across the United States. We had the opportunity to work the Summer of 2018 in Cape Cod, Massachusetts; that was an amazing experience. Never in my days did I think I would ever make it to Massachusetts! Currently we are wintering in Indiana and enjoying small town life. We head out in a few weeks, and are looking forward to about two months of nothing but fun and travel until our next job begins in April. As for our ages, I am now 31 and my wife just turned 33.
Q: How did you fit all of your stuff into your trailer? Did you have to let go of things?
A: While living in a big house I, unbeknownst to me, became somewhat of a pack rat! We had accumulated so much stuff in our 8 years owning a home and 15 years together as a couple. So when we decided to go "tiny," we knew we were going to have to downsize a lot. We probably had about 10 yard sales, sold all of our furniture, donated truck loads of stuff, and we still have a medium size storage unit sitting in CA that we are paying for monthly. Two years ago when we hit the road, the items we left in storage were things we couldn't bear to part with. But now, after living this life; there are maybe five things we absolutely have to get out of that storage unit and the rest is just sitting there decaying and will be sold or donated as soon as we are able to make it back to the West Coast. It's amazing how much your priorities change when you remove all the 'fluff' from your life and the ingrained 'keeping up with the Jones's' mind set vanishes. Everything we kept, new things we bring in, gifts we buy all have to pass the 'does it make us happy, do we use it daily/weekly, does it have a practical purpose, and do we have room for it' test. It was really hard at first to let go of things, especially since I was pregnant, and then we had a new baby. Figuring out what was essential baby gear, toys and clothes has probably been our biggest challenges. Our kids have a lot of toys and we all have too many clothes; but we manage just fine to make it work. Living tiny makes you so much more appreciative of everything in your home, as it all has purpose. We try to stay as organized as possible, we use lots of baskets for clothes and shoes; everything has to be able to be secured to travel down the road, and each item in our home has a place. When you use something you have to put it back; as there is little room for clutter.
Q: What do you do to make money? Do you have a job?
A: Previously my wife and I both worked in Emergency Medical Services, and now we carry the title of "Work Camper". Work Camping is a temporary job lasting 2 to 6 months [usually], and that offers free or low cost site 'rent' or 'fees,' plus pay and full hook ups (water, trash, sewer, electricity); sometimes you can also benefit from other perks like when offered free watercraft rentals, RV park amenities, end of season bonuses, and camp store discounts to name a few. Now not all work camping jobs offer pay, many are volunteer type positions that still offer a free place to stay with hook ups. Many of the people that live this nomad life are retirees and they do not need an income to survive. However, being a young couple with small children we do need money coming in, therefore we only seek out paid positions that can accommodate opposite shifts or some other compromise to allow us to be able to care for our kids during the day/night on the days we work. The jobs that are considered 'work camping' may include: campgrounds, security, National Parks, Amazon CamperForce Program, JCPenney Warehouses, water parks, amusement parks, Christmas tree lots, pumpkin patches, firework stands, and many more. In 2018 we paid out of pocket for one week's worth of site fees, the rest of the year we lived for FREE thanks to work camping. We make less money now than we did before the full-time travel life, but it feels like we have so much more; as we are now completely debt free. Cell phones/ Internet is our highest monthly bill, and as you can imagine frivolous shopping and buying' just because' has been cut to a minimum as our space is limited. We now prioritize making memories over collecting "things," majority of what we own belongs to our kids. If it was just my wife and I we could live in half of what we have now; but our littles need space to call their own.
Q: How do you find work camping jobs? How did you learn about it?
A: Work Camping was first brought up to me by my parents as they had heard the term several times over the years that they were traveling before us. I immediately jumped online and began doing research as this seemed like a practical way for us to sustain life on the road and continue to travel. Through days and weeks of reading and educating myself I began applying to jobs via the internet. Networking, websites, emails, meeting people on the road that have connections and phone calls are the ways we get hired at various jobs across the country. Thus the term, digital nomad. It applies mostly to individuals who travel and work online, but one meaning of that term is we secure work via the internet. When needed, drug tests, and background tests are all done remotely from wherever we are, and then we base our travel destinations on where we secure work for that upcoming season. There are many websites and resources for work camping type jobs, but I would say the number one spot is workamper.com with their Gold Membership. I also created a "Family Resume" that we send out to potential employers to put our dynamic out there as two women, two kids and a dog. The resume includes all of the professional information you would traditionally see, as well as photos of us, our family, adventures and trailer. With our growing experience, Family Resume and workamper.com Gold Membership we actually received multiple job offers for the 2019 Spring/Summer season; so that was very exciting and validating that we are excelling in our new career of choice on the road. For more information on where we will be spending Spring/Summer 2019 please "follow" us online (info below)!
Q: Do your kids go to school?
A: Our oldest was in Kindergarten attending a public school when we made the decision to hit the road. Now he is 8 years old in Second Grade and being home schooled through our previous home state of California with an amazing Charter School. I am my son's teacher; I keep him up with the same requirements and curriculum offered in traditional schools. But with the charter school option I also have a support system, tons of information at my fingertips, resources and a board certified teacher to check in with; I report my son's attendance to the school, we send in monthly work samples, and conduct video chats often. Our son is excelling academically and socially in this ever-changing, exciting environment; and we have the best field trips ever! Our little one just turned 2, but with having a big brother 6 years older than him he is wanting to grow up fast. He already speaks 2-4 word sentences, knows his A, B, C's, colors, shapes, body parts etc. We strive to make learning a daily part of our normal day to day routine. We look forward to the future we can now give our kids and the experiences they will take with them for a lifetime. Getting to see things in person from the history books, getting to explore Children's Museums across the country, and getting to grow up in our National Parks; I can't think of a better way for them to spend their childhood.
Q: Were all these changes/choices worth it? Will you ever settle down again?
A: Our family as a unit has never been happier. Our relationship with each other and our children is incredible. It has been truly rewarding to see the bond grow between two sibling so many years apart. We feared with our old life that between daycare and school, our boys would never even have the chance to get to know each other. Living tiny and on the road has allowed them to become each other's best friends. Yes we all bicker sometimes, as people often do, but even with being together all the time and in such a small space, we get along really well and don't feel cramped by the tiny square footage. We are not the same people we were 2 years ago, we are healthier, happier versions of ourselves. I feel like we have extended our life expectancy and banished stress induced insomnia from our lives. The future is bright, and we cannot imagine at this point ever settling down in one place again. Not everyday of our lives is filled with adventure, there are lots of normal days too; like a crazy toddler, a common cold, washing the dishes, doing laundry, cleaning up the toys [again and again], cooking... we're still just the same as everyone else, we just found a way to live a simpler life. Most importantly we have learned that the roots we have are in each other and our home....not the city, state or town we're in. Home is where we park it, and the views out our windows are forever changing.
Thank you for reading! If you have more questions, would like to learn more about work camping/full-time travel, or would just like to see what our day to life is like and meet our family! Please "Like" & "Follow" us on Facebook and Instagram @ 2 Moms and a Trailer !!!! We post pictures and videos everyday all about our adventures, travel days, road side attractions, family life, parenthood, home-school, work camping, tiny living and more!
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