2017: Our Year of Upheaval

Before I wrote this tonight (12/31/2017), Tim and I reflected on the past year. Almost all of our observations came back to the huge changes in our lives in 2017, and I wanted to share some thoughts. Earlier this month, I was doing a workbook that focuses on the year ahead. As part of the exercises, you have to reflect back on 2017 and choose a word to describe it. I came up with “upheaval”, since it felt a bit rockier than “change”, and our 2017 sure was rocky. So, yes, 2017 – our year of upheaval that eventually led to a pretty awesome place (full-time RV life) but it was not without its sacrifices. Here are some major themes:

Selling a House + Renovating a RV Sucks

I don’t think there is any way around it – selling a house just sucks. Our house sale went pretty smoothly overall. It sold quickly, the deal ended up going through (although it had its share of stressful points). It could have been worse, and it also could have been easier. But just the process of getting your house ready to list – insane! We decided in probably February 2017 that we were going to for-sure list our house. We met with our realtor, who suggested that we get it on the market in time to hit the peak Spring market, which happens as soon as it gets warm in Pittsburgh. We ended up listing it on April 1, but those 6 weeks or so in between decision and listing were so busy. Every night after we got home from work and put Calla to bed, we’d spend hours in the basement going through stuff and figuring out what to donate. We also ended up dry-locking and painting almost our entire basement. We’d be down there late at night, sweat soaking our shirts in the middle of the winter from all the effort – it was no fun.

Then after the house is listed, you have the stress of open houses – we had to make ourselves and the baby scarce for many hours at a time while strangers walked all over Calla’s nursery. I tried not to think about it, but I didn’t like it. I remember for one open house, Calla and I had nothing to do, so I put her in the stroller and walked around Beaver for 2 hours just to kill time, and by the end, my legs were aching. It’s funny which seemingly mundane things live on as memories.

Gray and white nursery
Her nursery in our house. I loved this room so much, and she used it for less than a year.

We ended up getting multiple offers on our house, which was more than we could have asked for, but it was hard to decide what was the “best” offer. We got multiple personalized letters + pictures (we didn’t know this was a thing – it certainly wasn’t when we bought our house) trying to convince us to choose them. Talk about tugging at the heartstrings!

We chose an offer and settled on a June 1 closing date. We were actually moved out of the house about a week before closing, just because that worked best with work schedules. There was so much emotion leaving our house for the last time. I cried for hours on end as we did the final cleaning. I remember staring into the master bathroom toilet as I was scrubbing it out and bawling. It’s really hard to leave a home you loved so much, took such good care of, and put blood, sweat, and tears into. It’s especially difficult when, instead of looking forward to the next home, you have a big unknown on the horizon. There was no new house to move our stuff into. Instead we had to drastically pare down everything we owned. I still remember leaving bags of clothes that I really liked on the porch for donation pickup. If we were buying another house, I could have just brought them with me. It was one of those moments where I thought, “This sucks. Under almost any other circumstance I wouldn’t have to part with these. But this is what I’ve chosen.” Really, I’m just fine without those clothes (I can’t even remember what they were) and I’m sure they’ve gone on to a good new home. Difficult in the moment, though.

We weren’t sure how or IF the RV life would even work out for us. By then we had purchased Trudy but she sat for a month at a repair shop, so we had just dropped a bunch of money on something that required even MORE money for it to become our home, and we couldn’t even see it yet! This whole situation was hard – scary, overwhelming, and frustrating. The RV repair place (Three Rivers Marine & RV Center in Fallston, PA) was awful. Our final bill ended up being twice the original estimate and they provided absolutely no communication or evidence of anything they supposedly did. Without a house and without Trudy, we were officially homeless! Thankfully, Tim’s mom took us in for 3 months over the summer while we renovated Trudy and took care of Calla while I (Hannah) finished out a contract at work.

Selling the house was a doozy – it was months of near-constant work. We got through it but it was no picnic. Knowing how much effort it is to sell one, I’d think long and hard before buying another. We lived in our house for 7 years and definitely felt it was worth it and we have no regrets, but my perspective now that I’ve bought and sold a home is a lot different than it was as a first-time homebuyer.

 

Tim driving the U-Haul on moving day. May 2017
Tim driving the U-Haul on moving day. May 2017

 

The renovation work on Trudy took way longer than expected, as all renovation work does. Our families helped us with childcare during the renovation, but we were both working full time. Tim would spend some weekends at Trudy, sleeping inside while the floor was torn up and there was more work to be done than hours in the day. We missed out on a lot of family time this summer because weekends were pretty much completely devoted to the renovation. Trudy’s reno work was full of stress + sacrifice, not only for Tim and I, but for our families, too. We could have never done it without them. I speak for both Tim and I when I say we are in no hurry to renovate another RV.

Tim re-doing the entry stairs of the motorhome
Plywood floor of motorhome
After we pulled up the vinyl and carpet in Trudy, before the new floors

 

2 Sides of Every Coin

Our biggest challenges are also our biggest accomplishments. We both agreed that pursuing RV life was our biggest challenge AND our biggest accomplishment. Without going through the crappy parts, we wouldn’t have the life we do now. Our lives now are also not perfect. One of my big revelations for the year, a constant theme, is every single thing in life has pros and cons. It sounds like a simple enough concept, but I felt like I really lived it this year.

Being able to go to the beach while Calla naps? Pro!

Having to worry about climate control via space heater because our propane tank runs out so quickly and there’s nowhere to refill it? Con! I miss being able to set a thermostat.

Exploring new places on the weekends because we no longer have 5 flower beds, a hot tub, a koi pond, and a half acre to maintain? Pro!

Missing my mom’s birthday? Con. We miss ample time spent with both of our families. We also miss the free top-notch babysitting!

I could go on and on with my pro and con list, but I think you get the idea. Nothing in life is without this give and take – it’s just a matter of which pros and which cons are most important to you.

motorhome towing ford escape
The day we left for full-time RV life. My brother took this snapchat as we pulled out of the driveway. August 2017

 

Tim & I in front of the motorhome on one of the renovation days

Sleep Deprivation – No Words

I don’t have words to describe the level of sleep deprivation that came into our lives in 2017. We didn’t get a good night’s sleep for about 3 months (Sept – December) due to Calla waking up in the night. Things got better for a week or so but are now right back to where they were, with multiple wake ups every night. After a visit with the pediatrician, we think it’s nothing but the fact that some kids just aren’t good sleepers! I’m thankful that nothing is wrong, medically, but part of me was hoping for an explanation. I’m also not looking for any suggestions on how to fix this, believe me when I say we have tried everything, including hiring a sleep consultant.

We were more sleep deprived on the road than we were when Calla was a newborn. For anyone who has had a child, you know what sleep deprivation can do to you, and it’s not pretty. It’s hard to find any escape since the RV is so small. At least in a house, one of us could have slept in a spare bedroom. In the RV, there is really nowhere else to go to escape the crying in the middle of the night. I’ve struggled immensely with this, and I am optimistic that things will be better this coming year.

I’m not sure what else to say on this topic, since I feel like I’ve beat this dead horse with anyone who knows me in real life. I just wanted to say that it is a huge challenge for us and it’s impacted our last quarter of 2017.

Keep Going

Departing for full time RV life, we had no clue how things were going to shake out. Will we love it? Hate it? What if we just took a gamble on this whole thing and it turns out we don’t like it? How can we ensure we don’t stay in trailer parks? Will we get good enough internet access to work on the road? Will I go crazy without childcare help? Will we meet other people like us, who have kids and are on the road and are NOT retired?

Just a few of the hundred or so questions that floated around in my head before we left. The only answer on the road is this: you’ll figure it out. You have to trust in that truth. You can’t know it all ahead of time.

So as we reflect back on the extremely difficult path to get to full time RV life plus the past 4 months or so on the road, we only know one thing: we want to keep doing this. No, we don’t know for how long. No, we don’t know where we’re going next, other than West and we need to follow the weather for January and February. We are so excited to see the desert and the mountains. It’s kind of crazy, all of that work and effort leads us only that simple conclusion: keep going.

We appreciate everyone’s support, all of those who have let us know that you like the blog. It’s comments like that that keep us writing, so thank you. And we hope you’ll follow along as we continue with full-time RV life into 2018!

Family on the beach in St Augustine
St Augustine – October 2017

 

My goofball

6 Comments

  1. I’m so glad you shared all of this. There has to be a moment of relief (as small as it may be) when putting everything on paper. Or in this case, online. I honestly can’t imagine facing all of the unknowns of transitioning from living in a house to traveling the country in an RV. That takes a lot of courage! As for the sleep deprivation, beat the hell out of that dead horse! You’re always welcome to send your complaints my way. Lord knows I’d need to talk about the struggle to help me get through it. I do believe that things will improve this year. There’s nowhere to go but up! Happy New Year to you, Tim, and Calla. I can’t wait to hear all about your desert travels. I’ve traveled to many states but have not been blessed (yet!) to take in the beauty of the Southwest.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! It is cathartic in some way to share all of this, even though it’s out of my comfort zone to put so much out there.

  2. Well said my brave friend, and thank you for sharing. I can relate to the sleep deprivation- I remember when I had serious health problems right after having our first, jeremy and I were both so. Stressed. Worried. Tired. Exhausted. One time we got to sleep for 3 consecutive hours and it felt like an amazing gift, how sad, lol! And how frustrating to do research, try everything only to get “she just might not be a good sleeper”.
    And yes the selling/buying process sucks. You did such a wonderful job on your first home! How you had the energy and drive to do what you did to get the house ready and then renovated Trudy during Calla’s first year is a mystery to me!! Bless your hearts. You are such a fun, energetic, adventurous and goal oriented couple and amazingly patient parents. What an inspiration and hats off to you!! Praying for some much needed rest and restoration for this year?

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