This is the second post in a series featuring fellow full-time RVers. Today I am featuring Arwen, Tom, and Ender of The Davis 7!
My friendship with Arwen started as a connection through our fabulous realtor, who connected us after realizing that we were both selling our houses in Pittsburgh for the same reason. Arwen and her family left from Pittsburgh in December 2017, but they made quick time and are already in Oregon! Our friendship is made even more special by the fact that her son, Ender, is the same age as Calla. Arwen is the person I talk to the most about this crazy RV life, and I’m so thankful we met. Next step: meet in person and spend plenty of time together! I hope you enjoy getting to know Arwen and her family as much as I have.
Tell Us About Yourself.
We are a family of seven – three humans and four felines. Papa, Tom, is our driver and repair man. Mama, Arwen, is our organizer and chef. Babe, Ender, is our comic relief and the life of the party. Cats – Spooner, Tybalt, Shakey, and Ruby – are our warmth on cold boondocking nights and bird watchers extraordinaire.
How long have you been RVing?
We started in December 2017 – only four months in!
What was your catalyst for starting the full-time RV lifestyle?
Alas – that’s the big question, isn’t it? A full explanation can be found on our blog, but the short of it is:
1. Having a baby changes perspective on what’s important
2. We wanted a change of pace and a change of lifestyle
3. You only live once – make the best of it.
Our lives got flipped when we welcomed Ender to our brood, and we found we weren’t happy in the grind. Also, Arwen had some not insignificant mental health struggles with postpartum anxiety and really felt the need to just stop, listen, and grow.
What is your rig?
2017 Thor Four Winds 31E – our 32 feet of love and labor. We call her “TheSpeakRV” – a play on the words “The Speaker for the Dead,” of Ender-verse (the sci-fi/fantasy book series) fame.
Did you do anything to renovate your RV? If so, what?
We bought a new rig, with the intention of selling her when our time traveling is finished, so we have purposefully not done a lot to the actual frame. However, we are professionals at utilizing Command Strips and tension rods. We probably should have bought stock in 3M.
What are your “must see” destination(s)?
When we left, Arwen was intent on seeing cliff dwellings (check!) and family and friends (check!) and Tom wanted to see Joshua Tree (check!) and civil war sites in the south (check!). Now, we want to explore the Cascades, Southern Utah and northern Arizona/New Mexico, and more of the PNW coast.
What advice would you give to someone considering the full time RV lifestyle?
Research, research, research! Befriend other full-timers, because the best advice and help you’ll get are from people who have been there and done that. We’ve made some amazing lifelong friends on the road, from all over the world.
What are the best and worst parts of life on the road?
Best – no schedule, freedom to just be, reading LOTS of books, spending so much time with each other, exploring, spending time outdoors, seeing awesome sites Worst – missing friends, having no place to build and tinker (fixing TheSpeakRV doesn’t count as tinkering!), constantly putting away stuff to maximize space, being around each other 24/7!
Tell us about your experience RVing with 4 cats.
We recommend that people wanting to travel with animals need to have a decent knowledge of their animal’s psychology: e.g. herding dogs might not be the best in small places and cats with claws will likely damage your new leather. For us, knowing our cats’ personalities and traits extremely well, we knew we’d have a few musts in an RV layout. First, we’d have to have a few places for the cats to get away from Ender. These include the bed when we’re not using it, the top bunk, the cab loft, and – though we didn’t plan it – under the couch. The cab loft is exclusively cat territory and is tricked out with cat toys, hiding places by the way of soft cat carriers, and their special blankets.
Second, we knew we’d have to have a separate place for them to eat because who wants a toddler breathing down your neck while you’re trying to scarf down your goodies. Third but certainly not last, we had to have an effective litter box solution. For the first few months, we had just one litter box for all four cats (it took daily cleanings and constant vigilance but it worked). We had no accidents for months but we recently added a second litter box to combat some stress we noticed in one of our kitties.
Ultimately, for us, traveling with cats hasn’t been much different than living with a clowder (Hannah’s note: I had no idea, but this is a real word! It means a group of cats.) our size – it takes intentionality in ensuring they are properly cared for and each have enough attention and recreation. It’s not always a perfect situation – it’s a tight space for the humans involved, but at least three of our particular cats are cuddly and social, and love being around us. The fourth has her getaway spaces. We are constantly working to make sure they have enough play time but we’ve not had a significant issue with them – and we love having our whole family together!
What should someone know if they are considering full time RV life with young children?
Tip 1: Dedicated toy space – we have a toy drawer that is in the main living area. We are fortunate that we have a youngster that loves cleaning up, so putting our toys away at the end of the day or before heading outside isn’t torture for us. I would recommend for families with the space to have an extra tote of toys stored someplace so that when your kid gets bored with a toy (which happens frequently for most folks!), you can just switch out age appropriate toys without much hassle and without breaking the bank. We also have a complement of indoor toys and outdoor toys to avoid bringing in dirt and debris. That being said, we don’t have a ton of toys because this life is about exploring, right?!
Tip 2: Energy outlet – knowing your child’s energy level needs is so essential in all parenting but even more so in an RV. Let’s be honest, some kids have to have constant movement, while others are OK sitting and reading for awhile. Our only kid plays by himself well for about 5-10 minutes at a time but then wants Mama or Papa to play, so we have to be intentional about who will be alongside him and who will be doing other activities.
Tip 3: Knowing their limits – Ender can sit in a pack for hours but he very much dislikes sitting in a car seat at all, but definitely for not more than 2 hours. This knowledge has allowed us the ability to hike for hours at a time with built in breaks for leg movement when we’re able but severely limits the distance we can move on travel days.
Tip 4: Maintaining a routine – We are pretty organic parents in that we follow Ender’s cues on his needs and don’t maintain a strict schedule; however, schedule and routine are not one in the same. When it comes to regularly daily activities (meals, naps, bedtime), we try to keep the same routines even if we aren’t able to keep the same schedule, so that Ender can feel a level of normalcy in all the transition that accompanies the RV lifestyle. This may mean that we’d love to start a hike at 7am, but we have to wait until after naptime or that we *always* leave on a travel day around when E gets tired to maximize nap and the car seat (because OH MY is that a battle).
Anything else you’d like to share?
This life is absolutely amazing, but people should not be fooled and think it’s easier than a society-prescribed-‘normal’ life. Constant change requires constant adaptation and that can be exhausting. We wouldn’t trade in this experience for the world, but this is not for the faint of heart or those that do not like change.
(Hannah’s note – I completely agree with this statement and feel like it is a “MUST” to understand this!)