Posted on Oct 7th 2009 by Lisa.
More great answers to “20 Questions for RV Families”. To have your family featured, please read the questions and e-mail your answers (along with a family photo) to info at wright on time books dot com.
Wright on Time Books: Tell me a bit about your family.
Chantee: We’re a family of 3. My husband and myself are in our 30’s and we have a 4 year old daughter. There’s also a 17 year old (step) daughter who lives with her mom, so doesn’t get to travel with us. About three years ago we got to a spot where we were done. We owned a house near the Skyline Drive, which we loved, and a hobby games store. I worked in a costume department and all should have been well. Which is to say, we had everything we wanted but time together – time for our family and we didn’t really feel fulfilled by the ‘status quo’. So we quit. We sold it all, bought an RV and left. It took almost two years from realizing that’s what we wanted and needed to do to the day we pulled it off, but we walked out.
Wright on Time Books: How long has your family (or did your family) live in an RV?
Chantee: We’ve been on the road for a little over a year now, and are re-evaluating our set-up. What was enough space for a two year old is nothing for a four year old. When we were initially setting up we thought of us spending a lot of time outdoors – but forgot about rainy or too hot days – and also wanted something small enough to boondock in easily but didn’t think about playspace. Those are oversights we’ll have to remedy now, with some ‘down time’ off the road, but it’s not really a big deal. One real advantage about being a ‘road family’ is that you can just take it as it comes. Not being trapped in one place – in a mortgage and bills – gives you a lot of freedom. The problem becomes narrowing your choices so you can make one instead of finding a way to make it work!
Wright on Time Books: What states/countries has your family traveled to?
Chantee: From Maryland down the entire south coast and in a month we’ll be headed out westward through Texas.
Wright on Time Books: Are you homeschoolers? Do you call yourselves roadschoolers? What type of homeschoolers are you (or do you prefer to not give your family a label)?
Chantee: Technically, my daughter’s not old enough for school. That being said she reads at a second grade level (Teach Your Child to Read In 100 Easy Lessons) and she does basic math in her head. We call it pre-school and have already looked into accredited options for her schooling. We’re not very religious and I’m a second gen homeschooler so I’m very picky. I don’t want the Bob Jones stuff I was raised on and I do want her to have less of the hassles I had (being ‘religiously exempt’ or unschooled) when I reached professional and college levels.
Wright on Time Books: How well does homeschooling work while living on the road? How do you get new resources (DVDs, books, audio books, etc.)? Are you able to use local libraries, or do you have to buy everything?
Chantee: I think homeschooling works great. We work around our schedule, keeping it going most of the year and taking breaks when we’re driving or just need it. I usually buy what I want, or get it online. Most things you can find there – except maybe really good reading supplies. I don’t think I’ve spent more than 100$ on her schooling this year. Libraries, which I love, are a bit of a loss once you’re on the road. You get it in one sitting because they often don’t allow ‘non-local’ users to check out material. I like things I can use again and again and for that I’m fond of Amazon’s buy it used feature.
Wright on Time Books: Do you have a “home base”? This is especially important for legal homeschooling, isn’t it? Did you sell all of your possessions, or keep things in storage?
Chantee: Well… a home base. I’ve been on the road before and my Mother is a queen among women, so she is mostly our home base. We’ve just picked up a Good Sam membership and mail service to try and take some of that responsibility off of her. I do all of our billing online and auto draft/deposit, which makes the lack of home base easier. As for schooling it’s a headache. If you want the local school system – which is absurd – you’ll have to be back for SOL’s and do all the paperwork. My answer to accreditation was K12. Also, if your kids are young like ours is they won’t even be in the system. Technically Jade doesn’t exist as far as the school processing goes. She’s never been and never will be part of the local census. My Mother is also kind enough to keep some of our stuff that we couldn’t part with (like my husband’s comic collection) at her place, otherwise we’d have a small storage unit. Everything that was truly worth something we sold – the house, the business, the vehicles. Everything else from the tv to the furniture we threw out. It’s not worth your time to sell it, believe me.
Wright on Time Books: What resources did you use both before you began your adventure and/or while you were on the road? Any particular books or websites that you couldn’t have lived without?
Chantee: We tried a couple of RV introductory books, we’d travelled before by car and converted van and had even lived in that van, when we were young for several years. I used RVT.com to help us find an inexpensive RV. We looked at a lot of floorplans and the style of life we thought we’d be living to help make that choice. I guess I was looking six months before I knew exactly what I wanted. We walked through a lot of used RV’s we saw on Craigslist or in the local paper. I refused to walk through new ones because I didn’t – and don’t – want something I can’t afford to own outright. Making payments that are unnecessary (outside of your insurance and phone bill for instance) will limit your life and your options. We didn’t want that. In the end, we still didn’t get it perfect, but life is a fluid thing, eh? We also got our RV about a year before we left our jobs, and lived in it while we stuck around, dry testing the idea.
Wright on Time Books: How hard is it to deal with the maintenance of the RV? What are the most difficult aspects? Who handles what?
Chantee: RV maintenance is… an issue… for us. My husband is not very technical so he can’t often do things around the house – auto maintenance and repair, and anything electrical outside of the lightbulbs being changed goes to a shop. We call around and price stuff. We are Camping World ‘members’ but that’s because we like their neat stuff for the house. Probably the two worst things that happened to us – because we’re in a class c (overhead bunk) we’ve had two mishaps. The first one was due to an altitude choke on the engine. Happens in Ford models, as we now know. Getting a tow truck into Allegheny National Forest in PA was difficult at best. The next time our alternator died. We were lucky enough to make it to a Wal-Mart parking lot but had to wait till Monday (two days) to get a tow to a garage. It always happens on Saturday afternoon. Just take it easy. We found joy in the Chick-Fil-A across the street and walking Wal-Mart for nothing better to do until we could get on the road again. Problems aren’t so bad as long as no-one feels it’s a ‘must’ to be going and everyone can just kick back and enjoy the day.
Wright on Time Books: How large is your RV? What is it like? We want to know where everything goes and where everyone sleeps. In an ideal world, would you have wanted a bigger RV, smaller RV, or something the same size but with a different configuration?
Chantee: We’ve a 27 ft. class C. Our daughter sleeps – and sometimes plays – in her own bedroom, which is the bunk/loft. Then we have our own bedroom in the back. I wouldn’t put a family in less space. Everyone needs their privacy now and then. Now I would do a travel trailer or a fifth wheel. I’d have a slide. Because two foot of walking/playing space makes a rainy day a chore. The vehicle would be nice too. It’s a pain to always pack up your house to go do something. It wasn’t too much of a problem at first but then we added a dog. There’s a lot you can’t do with a dog – like leave it in your car or RV, unless it’s back at the campground with the AC on.
Wright on Time Books: How often do you move to a new location? Do gas prices and campground costs affect this? Where do you usually stay the night? Do you have a regular route that you repeat, or do you continually seek out new places to visit?
Chantee: We move about every 4-6 months, and usually 800 or more miles at a go. Now, we take it slowly, only about 4 hours of driving – at most – a night and always about the kiddo’s bedtime. It’s easier on us and our vehicles that way, plus it gives us time to explore the town we stop in every night.
I’m a bit of a nomad. I don’t like repeats, and my family is pretty accommodating about that. With the exception of visiting family or friends I try to never go the same way, or do the same stops, twice. There are those rare occasions where we loved something so much, or the same road is just necessary, though. For driving days we usually stay at Wal-Mart parking lots, Flying J’s or other larger truck stops, or the occasional highway rest stop. We dreamed we’d boondock the national forests, but getting a 27 footer in and out of those fire service roads turned out to be a bigger chore than it’s worth. Plus the gas to go that far ‘out of the way’ on hopes of finding a good spot is excruciating. When we’re settled we’re usually volunteering in exchange for a site at a State or National Forest park. Some are great, some aren’t, it’s kind of hit-or-miss there. I refuse to work more than 30 hours a week (total for the family) in exchange for a site, though. After that it’s just not worth it, if you look at it as paying for something in cash with what you could have earned.
Wright on Time Books: Who does the driving? Do you ever have issues driving such a large vehicle? Do you avoid cities or curvy/narrow roads up mountains, or do you take them in stride?
Chantee: Usually my husband drives and I navigate because I’m better with the maps but I’m just as comfortable on the open road. We do avoid downtown areas – hitting a one way or tight turn on a car-lined street just stinks in an RV. We also like to take it easy on our engine, and the altitude choke is a problem still so we avoid certain altitudes and try to take it extra slow on curvy and hilly roads. That really depends on your rig, though, and how long you want your engine to last.
Wright on Time Books: How long have you been on the road/plan to be on the road? Has this worked out to your liking?
Chantee: We’re pretty happy so far, at one year travelling, plus. We’re coming off the road for a couple of years for some extra cash – a new rig’s in the works for us and my husband wants to start a business venture. My daughter thinks it stinks to have to meet and leave so many people behind but she’s getting to be great with pen-pals. As far as meeting our needs for more family time it’s been exceptional. We’ve been able to stop working on meeting the bills and start putting our family first.
Wright on Time Books: How do you handle privacy issues while living in close quarters?
Chantee: We generally have the ‘Say what you need’ policy. If someone needs space they say so, and then they retire to their room to get it. Or go outside. I haven’t found it to be a problem, except for the kiddo’s desire to be in the bathroom with me, which doesn’t work.
Wright on Time Books: How do you keep in touch with friends and family? Do you visit them? Do they visit you? Phone, e-mail, etc.? What about holidays and birthdays?
Chantee: We visit family and friends when we come by, sometimes going a couple of hundred miles out of our way to do so. We’ve been blessed with visits from some family too. If they know where we are in advance some of our friends and family will manage to take a vacation and camp out with us. I use Facebook to keep up with everyone, my husband uses MySpace, and then I usually send out mass emails every few months to keep in touch. We have a family plan so we call people a lot and we ended up with an air card too. WiFi was just too spotty, or too pricey as a lot of places want you to pay for the use. My daughter draws pictures and mails them along with the letters she writes her friends. She prefers to get ‘real’ correspondence but for the rest of us the phone and email seem to be working fine. My Mother and I are, obviously, very, very close so I was worried about that at first. Sometimes the distance makes me sad but a long chat on the phone will cure that, and she’s the best about taking a vacation to see us.
Wright on Time Books: Does anyone ever get homesick for your old life? How do you deal with that?
Chantee: Jade gets homesick the most. She misses her cousin, my brother’s daughter, who’s just 2 weeks apart from her, her sister, and her Grandmama. We do a lot of letters and phone calls and I even made her a travel map with pictures of all the amazing things she’s done. It doubles as a geography lesson and a memory book. She knows most kids don’t get what she does in terms of experiences, so it’s a mixed bag for her. A day at the playground will often cure those ‘missed friends’ blues. My husband is also very social, but he’s learning how to keep in touch long distance and that means a lot in terms of re-connecting with dear old friends he was barely in touch with before, plus he gets to add new people he meets to that list. I try to be sensitive to his needs and make sure that if he wants to go ‘out’ to be around others he can. As for myself I sometimes get homesick, and then I just start thinking of that large list of reasons I wanted out so bad. Keeping that list around is handy for those ‘blue’ days. Nathan and I do a lot of propping each other up when we question our choices. We try to stay real about the pros and the cons and evaluate it honestly, so when one is too far on one side of the fence we serve as good reminders for the other. I’m blessed, though, with a great relationship. My husband and I have always enjoyed each other’s company for inspiration and socialization.
Wright on Time Books: How do you pay for your living expenses? How do you make money while on the road? Do you work full-time/part-time? Do you work certain times of the year and travel other times? Have any of your children had paying jobs?
Chantee: We have a small amount of savings, which dwindles with every trip. My husband is an excellent Barista, so he works part to full time to pay the few bills we have and put food on the table. I work the rest of the time in the campground, helping in visitor centers and cleaning toilets and ‘organically trashed’ campsites. We prefer to work hard, save up, then travel as we want to, but it’s not for everyone.
Wright on Time Books: Do you have a towed vehicle? Bicycles? Mopeds? Etc.?
Chantee: We own a motorcycle, something we picked up after the Allegheny incident, for extra transport. It’s good for an emergency, and for Nathan’s drive to work. Now that we have a dog we’ve found that it’s absolutely necessary to have a second vehicle. We have to drive separately due to towing the Motorcycle already. We’re usually about 20+ miles to town so bicycles aren’t the easiest mode of transport but we do have them as well for fun.
Wright on Time Books: Do you have any pets that travel with your family? How do they like living on the road?
Chantee: We have a dog. He was a tester dog from my sister in law. He’s good for the family, although not too bright and doesn’t much care what’s done to him (including being my daughter’s playground play mate) as long as he’s fed and loved. He’s also a very small dog (14 lbs). I couldn’t deal with bigger in the space we have.
Wright on Time Books: Where is the best place you’ve been according to each member of your family?
Chantee: If we’d found perfect we might not be on the road anymore!
All together we agree on Assateague Island State Park on the Maryland coast. Hobe Sound, FL was a great place to stay the winter and learn to Kayak. Savannah, GA was a wonderful city to drive through, but we found we didn’t like staying there as much. And our daughter loved Myrtle Beach for it’s MagiQuest game.
Wright on Time Books: How can we find out more about you and your family? Website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter, etc.? Please tell us also what the next great adventure for your family is!
Chantee: Nathan and I are, separately, on Facebook and MySpace. We don’t blog or carry our own website although I do make them for friends on occassion, we’re kind of quiet in that respect. As for our next adventure we’re at the point where we’re enjoying turning our hobbies into our lives. My husband is finishing up a book he’s dreamed of writing for 14 years, and he’s decided that after that he’s going to turn his other passion – movies – into his job by starting a production company. I’m working on a novel and have several other things written. Writing has always been a passion for me, but before life always got in the way. One nice thing about stepping away from everyone and everything you knew is that you get to focus on what’s important. And that leaves a lot of time for self discovery.