“The days are long but the years are short”
A common phrase in reference to parenting, but it couldn’t be more true. I was recently talking to some people I met in the laundromat (I meet a lot of cool people in the laundromat!) who were asking about RVing with a baby. I was explaining that when we left Pittsburgh initially, Calla was crawling. She didn’t even start to walk until we had been on the road for a couple months. Now, she’s running, talking, and climbing mountains (or attempting to). It got me reflecting on the fact that Calla has spent a large portion of her life living in an RV, living a “non-traditional” lifestyle with her 2 crazy parents. Ha, ha, ha.
Calla has gone through so much growth and transformation since we left for RV life 8 months, and I thought it would be fun to reflect on that. She’s definitely gone from a baby to a toddler right before our eyes.
And the biggest gift in all of it? That Tim and I have been right here to witness all of it. Time is the only resource that all of us are given the same amount of – and it is up to us how we use it. The greatest gift of RV life is TIME spent together. One thing I am sure of is that neither of us will regret this precious time watching our daughter grow up.
Before The Road
Tim and I were both working in an office before we left. I had to wait for my contract to be finished before we could leave in the RV, since my job did not have an option to go remote. The contract got started late, so we ended up leaving later than we wanted to, but it all worked out because the renovations on Trudy took longer than we expected, too (who didn’t see that one coming?). We lived with Tim’s mom for about 3 months between our house being sold and leaving.
During that time of living at Tim’s mom’s house, Calla turned one! We had a backyard cookout and Calla dug right into her smash cake.
In my mind, that party seems like just yesterday. Yet so much has changed – and that wasn’t even a year ago!
The Decision + Questioning
As we have mentioned before, we first had the idea for full-time RV life in approximately January 2017. It took us 7 months to sell our house, move out, buy Trudy, renovate Trudy, and wait for my work contract to end so we could leave.
Calla was one of the catalysts for pursuing RV life. We wanted more time together, to watch her grow up. If it wasn’t for her, I think we’d still be living in our house in Pittsburgh and leading very ordinary (yet happy) lives. We weren’t unhappy with the way things were. We truly look back on that time in our lives with fondness. Especially because where we lived allowed us to become close with 2 people who would later become our best friends. We now can see that we lived there allowed us to receive one of life’s best gifts: faithful friends.
Although we were content (just kidding, am I ever content?), we just realized that “nothing changes unless something changes” (one of my favorite phrases) and unless we found a way to get more time together doing what was important to us, it wasn’t just going to magically happen.
So, step by step, we went confidently in the direction of our dreams (I think that’s a very popular quote right now – but it’s what we did). However, the entire time, we were concerned how this change would impact Calla. Every parent wants what’s best for their child. Many times I have questioned if this lifestyle is what’s best for her. What if she doesn’t get enough time with other kids? Maybe she’s not learning as much as she would be at a daycare? Are we hurting her by taking her away from her loving grandparents, aunts, and uncles? I had an awesome group of mom friends who I had known since Calla was a few weeks old. How could I leave them? Would Calla forever lose her playmates?
Life in Pittsburgh would go on without us, and our life was to go on into the unknown – an unconventional life. There was no blueprint. No one I could call up and be like “Hey, so, what’s it like living in an RV with a 1 year old and traveling the country?” To do something so far out of the norm is scary enough when it’s 2 adults, but the pressure is on when you add an innocent child to the mix.
Living in an RV
Calla’s had 3 different houses (our 3 bedroom house in Pittsburgh, Trudy, and now the fifth wheel) in less than 2 years of life. She also has daily routines that keep a sense of normalcy. Whether we are camping in a National Forest or are at an RV park, she has her morning routine, bedtime routine, nap schedule, and gets lots and lots of fresh air. Despite traveling, we make sure she has a schedule and knows what to expect. From her perspective, the only thing that changes is what’s outside her window.
When we were on the East Coast, Calla and I spent a lot of time at museums, nature centers, and doing activities all day while Tim worked. I tried to keep us out of the RV as much as possible so Tim could get work done. Turns out this was exhausting. If I had a house, would I be going to museums every day? No. I liked doing that stuff with Calla (let’s face it – when she was an infant, it was mostly for my own entertainment) but to feel the need to be gone for a good portion of the day, every day, is exhausting. Especially when you are new places and have no idea how to get anywhere without relying on your cell phone.
Now that Tim is on a break, we’ve been able to enjoy so much more time together as a family. Most of the time we spend outdoors (thank you, Arizona, where it never rains) and we let Calla get as dirty as she wants. The time with Tim has definitely been higher quality than it was when he was working, and I know he is enjoying it too. Before we know it, our little lady will want nothing to do with us. Until then, I’ll try to treasure every time those little arms cling to my legs and she declares, “Up, up!”
I think that raising a baby in an RV isn’t that much different than in a house. At first, living in an RV sounds so extreme. But when I think about what I do every day – our routines, teaching Calla new things, spending time together – how is that any different from what we’d be doing at home? If anything, we’d have less time together with that arrangement. We have a front row seat to Calla growing up – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Are we doing what’s best for Calla? I don’t know. Does any parent really know? I once read an essay that talked about life decisions, and it said that the life you choose and the life you didn’t choose are like 2 ships passing in the night. You see the other go by, but you have no idea what that life would have been like. Would Calla be “better off” if we had stayed in our house? Maybe. What does “better off” mean, anyway? Who decides what’s “normal”?
And who decided that the white picket fence and the 9-5 had to be the American dream? It’s become clear that while it may be the American dream, it isn’t our dream. At least not right now. Dreams change. Life changes. And that’s OK. We feel that life is full of options and choices, which is both freeing and frightening. It’s all up to us. No one else to blame. No one lifestyle is better than another. And there’s no one way to raise a child that’s better than another, as long as intentions are good.
So, from babyhood to toddlerhood, we have given Calla our best. And this is what is working for us now. The craziest thing about this life is that I truly don’t know what’s next for us. I’ve become a lot more comfortable with uncertainty. Humans seek certainty, they want the sure bet – but is anything in life guaranteed? I can’t tell you how long we will stay on the road, how long we will be confident that this is what’s best for Calla – but I am confident that we will figure it out when the time is right.