Seaside Homes – Goodbye Sweet Routines – Hello Open Roads! Family Living in an RV

by Janice Henshaw | photos by Amanda Cribdon Photography – 

Tonight is the last night you will sleep in your cozy warm bed, safe from the elements, in the house you love in your oh-so-familiar neighbourhood. In the morning, you will wake up, pack last-minute things, lock the door and shepherd the kids into your recreational vehicle (RV). And then … the adventure will begin – living a new life, one without a lawn, a mortgage or fixed destinations – a life free of routine. You will be on the road discovering beautiful places and experiencing memorable adventures; anywhere and everywhere!

This is the dream that Amanda, Jeff and their nine-year-old son have made real, and they are happy to say that the RV lifestyle suits them just fine. In fact, they love it. During the winter, they stay at an RV park in Saanich or the Metchosin area where their son goes to school. Both parks have ocean access, so they can enjoy lovely views and beach walks without having to shoulder a huge mortgage or high property taxes. They have enjoyed lots of travelling, through Washington, Oregon, California and twice to Arizona. Last spring, they travelled across Canada and stayed all summer in Prince Edward Island; they plan on heading east again this summer as soon as school is out. Their son doesn’t just know the provinces on a map; he has experienced every one of them.

Jeff is a stay-at-home dad and does all the maintenance work on the RV, while Amanda works remotely for a non-profit educational organization. Both grew up living overseas and often moved around. After living for 12 years on Vancouver Island, the longest they have lived in one place, they felt “stuck” and knew that something had to change. They thought about an international move, or selling their home and living in an RV – a lifestyle that would allow them to travel, experience new adventures and spend as much time as possible outside. They chose the RV option.

After having a child, Amanda says she felt societal pressure to live the conventional way. “I felt like, OK, I am a working parent now, and my kid goes to school, we live in one spot, and if we can afford it, a vacation to Disneyland or Mexico, those are the things that we ‘should’ do.” When that vision morphed into an RV lifestyle, a few people raised red flags, but that didn’t stop Amanda and Jeff. “We’ve learned that once you do something authentic and aligned to your values, it feels like the right thing as a family.”

Amanda says they value the school community that their son is part of and are happy to join new communities as they travel. Jeff may be outside doing something on the RV or fixing something, and Amanda says people just come by and offer help or knowledge. “It’s much more of a communal living experience than being isolated in a house.”

Like most RVers, Amanda and Jeff have found economical ways to travel. If they roll in late after a full day of driving, they like to stay overnight at casinos or truck stops. “We’ve stayed in some great truck stops with showers, groceries, restaurants, pharmacies and doctors because they are geared up for truck drivers who live on the road. “The good ones are excellent, and we just drive through the bad ones and leave.” Casinos in the U.S. are a good stay, too; some offer to pick up RVers in a golf cart, drive them to the casino and give them a $25 to $30 voucher which thrifty travellers can use to buy dinner. For more extended stays, provincial and state parks are lovely, but in summer, space is limited due to the number of people on the road.

While staying at their current RV park in Saanich, the family’s expenses include $1,000 per month for the RV space and hook-up to electricity, internet, power, water, septic, trash and taxes. Jeff and Amanda have recently purchased a new larger RV, a 41-foot long Solitude fifth-wheel trailer. It has four slide-outs that provide additional floor space, and the inside is well designed and attractively finished. Major appliances in the rear living area include a gas fireplace and built-in TV, a full-sized fridge, oven and microwave. Other features include a pantry, glass-fronted cabinets, dining room area and living room. Their trailer is full of light because it has large view windows all around.

Storage space has been designed everywhere in this deluxe RV, which makes living in a smaller space much more manageable. Their son’s bedroom has a queen-size bed and an upper bunk, a desk, a chair and a barn door. The bathroom has a skylight, a roomy shower, sink and toilet. In the main bedroom at the front of the trailer, there is a king-size bed with side tables and floor-to-ceiling cupboards. A dehumidifier keeps the moisture down, and Jeff plans to add a washer/dryer combo. Heating options include electric baseboards, a heat pump, a propane furnace and a fireplace. There are three air conditioning units, one of which is the heat pump. Jeff has added combination locks for safety, as trailer locks are notoriously insecure, and they have three methods of communication – cell phones, satellite messaging and ham radio. They also have an emergency location beacon.

“We started gradually downsizing, keeping furniture and ‘stuff’ in a storage unit, but after a year, we realized we hadn’t needed any of it, so we sold it all,” said Amanda. They purge their belongings regularly to maintain space, and their son enjoys donating or giving things to friends. “Jeff is the one who has all the toys; he loves to tinker. My toys are books and puzzles,” said Amanda. She has a special carrying case for puzzles that keeps all the pieces in place. Oversized items, such as sports equipment, are stored in compartments below the main trailer floor and accessed outside. “Most people buy bigger and bigger houses and fill them with more and more stuff. But for us, the memories and the experiences are in us and not in the stuff we have.” Jeff adds: “Don’t be afraid of trying something different.”

Interested in RV travel with kids? Check out this great website – This couple travels with four kids and two dogs. Their website provides a ton of information on RV life. Mom Bryanna Royal writes that it is not a perfect life, but they are OK with the daily challenges and focus instead on “the amazing things” that full-time family travel brings to their family.

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