The query that we field the most has to do with how we support our traveling lifestyle. RVs are not cheap – to purchase, to maintain, to drive (7 mpg thankyouverymuch) – we have a fam of 10 to buy groceries and clothing for, and then include all the other incidentals that come with raising a family,and well, it just adds up fast! Life in general is just expensive, but when you throw in a fuel bill that rivals a mortgage, it’s hard to fathom how we can make it work.
(no, we didn’t make millions on our house, we didn’t get an inheritance, and we do not receive government assistance in any form)
We NEVER intended to fulltime travel,and the thought of LIVING in an RV, by choice, had never crossed our mind. We had never even thought about families actually doing this on purpose, let alone consider it a possibility for our family. We had built a home in 2001, and sold it in 2009 with the intent of building our ‘forever’ home; the one the kids would all launch from and then bring their kids back to to visit at. We had learned when we had built in 2001 that landlords don’t like to rent to big families – especially short term. Even with a variety of references, including social workers from when we were foster parents, we could not find anyone that would rent to us (and was property we would live in…), so this time we piled our 11 kids into our 30′ bunkhouse travel trailer that we had for camping, and moved it to a friend’s mountain property while we closed on property. While it seemed that land had been plentiful while our home was on the market, we couldn’t find anything to buy, that we liked, after our house sold. With cold weather approaching, we decided that we would take the kids on a winter-long vacation down south, exploring and camping in our trailer, then return in the spring to buy land and build. So that’s what we did; at least the head south for the winter part! Most of us had never been to the ocean, so we took the scenic route south, via a month along the Oregon coast. During those first few weeks living fulltime in the rv, we had a family pow-wow, and all talked about how our transition from 2400 sq. ft. to 240 sq. ft. was going. It was the kids who asked if we HAD to go back and build a house. Why couldn’t we just keep traveling?
That was nearly 7 years ago…and we did just keep traveling.
We bought a bigger rv (11 kids at the time), and are now on our second large toy hauler. We do have to modify any RVs to fit our family, but since the guys are skilled at construction, it is fairly inexpensive for us to do it since we don’t have labor fees. You can find how we modified our current toy hauler to fit us, here.
Before we traveled, Vaughn and the boys had a fulltime construction business in our hometown in Montana; we found that it is very difficult to pay the bills when working for someone else, so we’ve had self-employed, family businesses, for over 15 years. After we began traveling, we would travel through the winters, but then have to come back to Montana to restart the construction business for the summer. Since we were debt free, working about 5 months a year was enough to support us the rest of the time. But, since we were free to travel only during the winters, soon we wanted more freedom to travel during the summers also, so over the years we have become more eclectic with our income stream and began a few more family businesses. Basically, we wanted to travel bad enough that we found ways to make it work; we’ve never been ones to shy away from hard work, and try to instill that same work ethic into our children. We still do limited construction in the summers (we always come back to MT for at least a couple of months since we now have grown kids and grands, as well as other family and good friends here), especially decorative concrete, which pays well. We also run 2 firework stands for the 10 days leading up to July 4th. Throughout the year, Dana does some freelance rv/travel writing, and our blog brings in a few hundred dollars a month (about one grocery trip. lol.). Dana also sells Lilla Rose hair jewelry, which has grown exponentially in the last year, and now a large part of our income derives from that. We are hoping that our Lilla Rose business will continue to grow. And it truly is a family business; everyone pitches in to some extent, whether it is the little ones stickering brochures or prepping bags, to the big boys building display props.
Joel (12) is a natural salesman, so for vendor shows like fairs, he goes along and works the booth along with Dana. Everyone pitches in with inventory, setting up displays, and keeping the ‘house’ running anytime that Dana is doing facebook parties, helping customers online, or assisting her team. It’s the perfect business for our traveling lifestyles since so much of it can be done online, but the product itself travels well (small, lightweight, durable) so it works great for vending, which we enjoy doing. We also love that we have complete control over the hours that we put in with this, and can make sure that we have plenty of free time for traveling, schoolwork, volunteering, and touristing.
We have a desire to always be debt-free. Not paying someone interest on depreciating goods can mean the difference between being able to follow your dreams or not. While fulltime RVing was never a dream for us, we are so thankful that God had it in His plan for us, and that He has provided the avenues to earn money through family businesses, to keep us mobile! And we are grateful for the blessings travel and volunteering have brought to our family!