Saturday, November 26, 2016

Finding Community

Some might think that life on the road can be a bit isolating.  I think our perspective has changed on this each year we've been on the road.  The first year was very isolating, but maybe in a way our family needed to decompress from our previous schedule and busy lifestyle. 

The first year of travel was more about deciding if we would even like it, how we would deal with 24/7 togetherness and what to do with ourselves leaving our former life behind. We left Charlotte with no idea what life on the road would be actually be like, where we would find our community and how it would all work.  In our minds, we were dedicated to giving it a full year and then we would see.  It was clear after the first year that we weren't going back to a sticks and bricks house, but at the same time, we hadn't really tapped into community on the road.


The second year was much different. It was all about the "how" of travel.  How to fund our lifestyle and how to maintain balance of work and play. We found ourselves wrapped up with our real estate commitments and we had a difficult time finding balance, but during this time we had my family surrounding us and a great sense of community with our temporary home base.  We also visited family in northern Maine and took a trip back to our home state of North Carolina.  We had enough time in one location to get involved in a local church, put the kids in music lessons and it felt like we were halfway settled. But, travel was only secondary to other parts of our life with a baby on the way and our commitments.  We had our first rally and several other short meet-ups with friends, but we couldn't pursue all the social functions with all the commitments we had in one place.  We were ready to get back on the roll and see what life could be for us.

Now on our third year, our focus has changed once again.  We figured out the "why" we wanted to travel and we figured out the "how," but now it is time to make it all work. We sold our two investment homes in Pensacola and had our beautiful baby boy.  It almost felt like we had re-launched our travels.  This year would be all about finding our rhythm and really digging into discovering community on the road.  We also took steps to make this more permanent by buying our new dually and we have found our next home on wheels (more to come on that later, but we are hoping to upgrade very soon).

What would travel look like this year?  Well, we started looking more diligently at the different social opportunities for families who travel.  Last year we spent a small amount of time starting to delve into this community, but as we left Florida that was our number one focus alongside of growing our business.  We were dedicated to moving forward with travel even after the baby, but we would need to learn to maintain both community and work/life balance this time around.  We would attend the meet-ups and rallies that we knew were out there.  We would try to make community everywhere we went.

With this in mind, we did something we had avoided doing for two years.  We bought a Thousand Trails membership.  We tussled with this idea for the past year or so and went back and forth with the pros and cons.  We have always found ourselves avoiding RV parks if we can help it, so we were worried about limiting our travels from place to place feeling obligated to stay only at TT locations.  The other big issue for us was that we prefer state parks and places with hiking and outdoor appeal. So, we were hesitant to buy this membership wondering if it would always feel like we were squished together in an RV park.  After some thought, we tip-toed into the Thousand Trails world by purchasing a camping zone pass to try it out.  They conveniently had the zones on sale (buy one get one free), which they do quite often.  This allowed us two zones to try out. We found the timing perfect to use our new membership for the meet-up with some fellow traveling families in Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky.  The determining factor for our decision was community.  We had heard over and over that this is where most families who travel stay. We knew that this is where we would find a better sense of community.  The membership literally paid for itself over those two weeks alone, so we couldn't complain about that. 

I'm sure I'll have updates as to how Thousand Trails has been for us as we see more parks, but so far we have been in four parks and three out of the four parks had hiking trails in or within walking distance to the campground, nice amenities and fairly large sites.  Most of them were pretty scenic with a nice landscape and even lakes on site. We weren't expecting much with this membership, so I would say that we have been pleasantly surprised since our first time in a TT park back three years ago in South Carolina, which was a huge disappointment.  I'm glad we gave TT a second chance.

Anyway, we made it to the meet-up in Kentucky and hadn't met most of the families there, however we noticed that we knew some of them through their social media posts and blogs.  What we found was an incredible group of people with all different backgrounds, yet we shared this common thread that almost instantly bonded our families together.  We spent over two weeks with around 100 of us in all.  There were babies, kids, tweens and teens all hanging out together in what Tom and I could only describe as the kind of neighborhood we've always wanted for our family.  Parents out walking and chatting, teens who were clearly themselves, kids laughing and playing at the campground and fun activities around every turn.

The two weeks of togetherness consisted of field trips where the kids could learn together, movie nights, campfires, pumpkin carving, ladies' night out, family outings to caves and theme parks, coffee talk, Halloween dance, men's outing, opportunity to serve others in the local community and even an impromptu church service outdoors complete with really great worship music.  It was a special time and we were so glad to be a part of it.

While we didn't have long together, it was clear--this was the sense of community we were really looking for all along.  We extended our stay even after the planned events and with several other families toured some local distilleries.  What's a trip to Kentucky without hitting the bourbon trail? We toured Jim Beam and Maker's Mark and while these were the types of things we would always do while traveling, it felt quite nice to enjoy them as a group!  Most of these families we could relate to on so many levels. 

Even after leaving the Mammoth Cave area we found ourselves traveling alongside of some of the families to Lexington for a few days.  We went to check out Frankfort, the Rebecca Ruth Candy Company and a local winery together.  It was hard to say goodbye and find ourselves alone on the
road, but we know that with a home on wheels parting paths is more like a "see you down the road" than a real "good-bye".

After our friends left, we stayed a couple of extra days in Kentucky on our own.  We stayed at the Kentucky Horse Park where there happened to be the U.S. Dressage Championships.  If you aren't familiar with this, neither were we!  But we took an afternoon to watch these magnificent creatures prance around and display their best over a warm cafĂ© mocha.  (Yes, the temperatures were starting to drop.)

Before leaving Kentucky to head to warmer weather, we went to the Ark Encounter.  This was a humongous, to-scale version of Noah's Ark in the Bible.  It was incredible!  We owe a big thank you to our friends, Turtle Tells, for blessing us with that opportunity!  (Once again, another beautiful thing about our rolling community is how helpful and kind everyone is to each other.)  Without finding any real estate opportunities in Lexington, we decided it was time to head to Texas as winter was obviously finding its way to Kentucky. 

And that is where we found ourselves with an opportunity to meet up with another family we met in Kentucky.  As one of our full time friends explained it, "we speak about the entire United States landscape like others might talk about meeting up across town."  So, meeting up hours away seems like no big deal.  No matter which way we go, we know we'll run into friends again somewhere in the country.  They happened to be in Memphis for a few nights and we were coming right through the area on our way to Texas.  This family has such a cool story.  They are from New Zealand and they are spending the year traveling all the states and blogging about their journey (5-4theroad).  We toured the Bass Pro Shop in town together and hit up some local Memphis Bar-B-Que, but more importantly we had two great nights connecting with this wonderful family.  It was sad to say good-bye, but all I could think was over the past month we have found our long lost community on the road. 

For us, community doesn't stop there with other fulltime families.  There will definitely be meet-ups along the way and we hope to do a lot more caravanning, but we also hope to reach out to friends and family as we travel and make community everywhere we go.  Adventure is great and travel is amazing, but making lasting relationships and connections is really what life is all about.

Every family has their own journey and way of traveling.  It might take being a bit more intentional about our travels in order to make our life on the road all that it can be, but we have found that there is a great nomadic life out there if you search for it.  And there is definitely a growing community of families who share that same passion.  It seems this way of life has become quite popular with what seems like hundreds of new families hitting the road every month leaving their former life behind and looking for that sense of simplicity and adventure.  And, to the phrase that started it all for us, "why not?"


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Autumn Changes

The leaves are turning and so is the latest page in our nomadic travels or, what felt like, lack of travel.  We have been stationary for quite some time now since we added our baby nomad, Jonathan James Devoe, to our roll.  He arrived August 12, 2016 with wonder and curiosity already filling his little eyes.  He brings such an overwhelming joy to our family unit with a simple way of reminding us how each day is a wonderful gift. 
I think we can all agree he has changed our family for the better and I can hardly imagine life without him now that he has made his grand entrance.  So, we turn the page to a whole new chapter with our little growing family of five.

Our time here with family has been priceless and it has been great to have a place to come back “home” to over the past year of traveling.  After two investment homes here in Pensacola, as well as having a baby here, it has literally felt like our home away from the road.  There is no doubt that spending time with family has been one of our favorite perks of traveling.  And, my family here has welcomed us with open arms and spoiled us with parties, tons of love and great memories, which makes it that much harder to leave! 
So, needless to say, being in Pensacola has been a great place to visit, but, while our hearts have been touched by this warmth and familiarity, the wanderlust is still burning inside of all of us.  And, now comes the time to bid farewell to our family on the emerald coast and see where the open road will take us.  It is bitter-sweet as goodbyes can be.  But we leave with our hearts filled with love and grateful for our time to reconnect with everyone again after many years that got away.  
Here is a quick recap of what we've been up to since the beginning of the year.  After many trips away to new exciting, as well as old familiar, places for the first few months of the year, we had to lay low and spent the majority of summer waiting for our little bundle of joy to finally arrive.  Since we had to be in Pensacola anyway, what better way to pass the time than to find another home to renovate.  We found a gem of a home hidden under overgrown landscaping in an adorable Pensacola neighborhood. 


This became known as our “Pensacola Pool House” flip.  We took this opportunity to buy it and after a few expected (and unexpected) delays we finished it.  Fortunately, we were able to entertain multiple offers within the first weekend it was on the market and went under contract right away.  We love finding homes, seeing the potential, bringing the house back to life and then knowing it will be a perfect place for the right buyer to call home.  We love our new career and over this past year have started to discover our own little path to continued travel and freedom.  It is weird to look back to a couple years ago and think of how much our life has changed, but packing all of our things and hitting the road has really opened up doors we would have never foreseen.  We are so blessed.

With all the wonderful things that have happened this year, on a slightly sad note, we still have our adorable foster dog, Bonnie.  We were able to find our other foster dog, Clyde, a loving home with a wonderful family, but Bonnie has not been so lucky.  After having her for an entire year and diligently going to adoption events for quite a while, she is still hanging out with us.  However, the change in her over the past year has been astounding.  She went from a sad, lonely girl to a grateful bundle of energy who loves every moment of every day.  We have high hopes that one day she will find a wonderful home (other than ours), but until then we are dedicated to loving her and dragging her around the country with us.

With all that said, it has been too long since we’ve had campfires with friends, explored new sights and we’re ready to see God’s beautiful creation beyond the Gulf of Mexico.  Of course, since we hope to close on our house soon, we are already longing to find our next investment home.  Who knows where the next one will be or what’s around the corner.  We sure don’t!  There is never a dull moment with the Devoe family.  We know no other way than to live life as one big adventure to the next and this is how we roll. Every day, all day. 

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the other summer highlight.  We had this grand opportunity that we just couldn't pass up. We love airstreams.  We love renovating.  I mean, who doesn't want to jump on the opportunity to buy an old vintage airstream and completely overhaul it?  (Ok, so we might be alone in this category.)  Obviously a match made in heaven here.  And, yes, we know...we have a problem. We are renovation junkies. We obviously see potential in EVERYTHING we lay our eyes on.  Well, as you can probably guess, it isn’t fully renovated, but I assure you that you haven’t seen the last of it yet.  We have big plans for it, but since we can only carry one trailer around the country it will have to stay back for a while until we can bring it to its full potential.  But, we will…eventually.  I think somewhere deep down we still have this dream to keep it and travel with it, but let’s see—a family of five, two dogs and a cat in a 30 foot airstream (no slides)?  That might just stay a dream. 
However, while we didn’t change trailers, we did make some big changes to Tinkerton, our trailer, which has made a huge difference in comfort and also allowed some space and functionality for baby nomad. 

So with our new truck, new baby and renovated trailer, there is nothing keeping us in Florida any longer.  Our time has come to head to new places and do what we love best--dive into the great unknown.  We don't have it all planned out, but we look to follow the sunset and see where we end up.  On we roll.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Little Reminders


“Don’t every give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about” was the only phrase ringing in my ears as I was sitting in front of the most magnificent, gushing waterfall, Cedar Falls, in central Ohio watching my husband mesmerized with taking photos and our two kids splashing around with gigantic smiles on their faces totally carefree.  In that very moment, everything became so clear.  Maybe it was the turquoise water.  Maybe it was the cool breeze or the array of colors along the rock cliff.  Maybe it was just the perfection in the moment.  But, whatever it was, it was clear to me that this is why we travel.  This is what it is all about.  This was the discovery awaiting us that day.  A treasure that can only be discovered by seeking away from the busy, away from the normal, away from it all.

It took 20 miles of hiking over two days, but we had moments like this the entire time at Hocking Hills State Park.  Simply magical.  One waterfall and cave after another surrounded by the lush landscape with the birds chirping and trickling water meandering around the trails.  It was like finding paradise.  We all imagined what it must have been like for someone to happen upon it hundreds of years ago for the first time.  Our imaginations soared and our senses were overwhelmed.  We do tend to have the best conversations when we hike.  And, it hit me, as it does once in a while, that this is our life.  We GET to do this.  We can soak up these special moments with each other without any hindrance.  No leaving after the weekend.  No time constraints within our day.  No, this is our life and this is us living it.  This is our America and this is us really seeing it for the first time.  And when we leave one place, we can go right to the next adventure. 

It was a moment of serenity, pure genuine worship, thankfulness for my life and this astonishing planet we have to explore.  And the only phrase that kept ringing in my ear was that quote that started it all for me, “Don’t every give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about” by Winston Churchill.  As you might know by now, Tom and I are kind of big on quotes.  We plaster our Facebook page with them and share them with each other.  I think we all need inspiration…reminders.  I remember it was two years ago almost to the day that I heard this particular quote and it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was obsessed with it.  I pinned this quote to my cubicle at work.  I stared at it, but I swear sometimes it would stare back at me taunting me.  
Tom and I talked about this idea of RVing across America for years and we couldn’t put away the idea.  It was always in the back of our minds, but when would we ever do it?  When would be the right time?  How silly was this whole idea…a pipe dream?  In that moment with the sun beaming on my face and the cool mist of the waterfall bathing over me, I remembered our old life.  I remembered how we came to this point.  I remembered that very quote.  It was heeding that advice.  It was intentionally letting go of our old life and embracing a new direction with no looking back.  It was deciding to not be defeated and to not to give up on our dream.  It was at a pivotal moment in our life where we could clearly go one way or another and we chose to leave the life we had wrapped ourselves up with completely behind to see what we would find.  It was exciting, terrifying, exhilarating, but looking back, oh so worth it!

This is why you pursue your dreams no matter how crazy they seem.  To others they may seem like nonsense, but the reward is not for them.  The reward is yours.  The sacrifices made, the time spent planning and the final jump is worth every moment once you realize what is in store for you.  We couldn’t have begun to know what was waiting around the corner, but we have all come to appreciate it over the last two years.  And maybe only just now the four of us actually realize what a blessing this nomadic life really is to us—what it allows us to do and to experience.  We now embrace not knowing the destination and letting the journey lead us to the moments that we could never create ourselves.  The real reward is in the mystery and then discovery.

So now I guess I must disclose why this day was so special for me.  To be totally transparent, this epiphany came at a time when I was second guessing our lifestyle going into this new chapter of our story.  Can we manage to live in a travel trailer and travel the country with a newborn?  I love our unique life, but as I was waddling around the past few months (feeling very pregnant) with the doubt creeping into my mind of how we would continue this life with our new addition.  There was quite a conflict going on inside of me. 
My heart knew that settling down in any capacity wasn’t what I wanted or what any of us really wanted, but my brain tried to convince me it was the logical thing to do.  (Luckily, my husband has been very patient through all of this turmoil I was having.  He never had a doubt.)  So, let’s just say that I came to realize that we didn’t take this journey in the first place by using logic.  Once again it was clear to me that following our heart, and not fear, is the only way to make a good decision.  Looking back, thinking logically left us working two jobs and “keeping up with the Joneses” in our past.  So this very day I needed that reminder once again of how we were meant to live a different path than others. 

It took me back to when we started our travels.  It wasn’t too long into our journey we hit a tough week and my son, Tyler (thirteen at the time), said in a moment of frustration, “I can’t believe we’re living this way.”  There were lots of moments along the way where we all had to find our way.  And then I fast forward to our life now.  Just this past month we have been hiking up mountains, swimming in waterfalls, spending time with family far away, fulfilling bucket lists, exploring a new country and enjoying each moment as it comes. 
This has become our usual way of life (sometimes we forget).  During our last family talk, while discussing whether we should continue our travels, our same son told us, “I can’t imagine us moving back into a house and living a normal life.”  That says it all right there.  Needless to say in that moment we all knew we wanted to continue to travel.  Sometimes we need a moment to be reminded of what an impact the past two years has had on us.  It has changed all of us in a way that I can’t even fully comprehend.

We really do love this simple way of living.  We love spending time with all of our family and meeting up with friends along the way.  We love the adventure around every turn and new opportunities to do things we never would have dreamed of doing before.  And Tyler is right, I can’t imagine going back to a normal way of life. 
We have travelled to only 22 states and have barely even touched the surface of what we want to see and experience.  Tyler has started to document his travels though his Instagram page, TylersTravels01, and has dreams to do big things like hike the Appalachian Trail and take a trip overseas while exploring his passion for history, politics and geography.  Haley has been writing, learning everything she can about animals in North America and making friends all over the country.  Right now both Tyler and Haley are spending two weeks in New York City with their aunt and uncle living right across the street from Central Park.  What a wonderful experience!  I would be lying if I said Tom and I aren’t a little jealous!  We are grateful to Uncle Russ and Aunt Catherine for allowing them to stay and giving them such a great opportunity they will remember forever.  As parents, we are so proud of seeing them discover who they are and embrace their opportunities.

We will continue to chase our dream (with baby in tow) to wherever it takes us—to new heights, untold adventures, meeting wonderful people along the way and reconnecting with family and friends.  So, here’s to all the dreamers out there who are pursuing their own dreams (whatever they may be) who “didn’t give up on something they couldn’t go a day without thinking about.”

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Where We Are, Where We've Been, Where We're Going

Well, we didn’t fall off the face of the planet.  I know, I know…it has been over six months since the last blog, but I can say that we are still here and life is more exciting than ever.  Tom and I apologize to all of you who follow along for the lack of posts and blogs, however this past year came with twists and turns we could have never planned.  We kind of figured our life was less than exciting for those of you craving the travel posts as travel became secondary to everything else.  You know there are only so many pictures you can post of the same beach, the same sandy toes, the same sky…in other words, the same views for almost six months.  

So this year brought many lessons.  The first lesson is that there is a huge difference between living life on the road traveling from place to place in our trailer to simply…living in our trailer.  We were parked outside of the house in Pensacola that we were flipping for half of last year.  It wasn’t glamorous.  Every day we looked out of our front door and instead of seeing a beautiful new landscape, we saw the large house that needed our attention. 
Rather uninspiring really.  A project that should have been completed within a few months was going to take over half of the year.  It was a hindrance to the life on the road we had grown to love.  It was also a serious case of underestimation and maybe a little too much ambition.  The outrageously large project taught us many lessons and, quite frankly, some of them we could have lived without.  
What it did do was allow for us to experience sitting in one place, which did give us a new sense of appreciation for our travels.  It also allowed us to spend long overdue time with the relatives on my side of the family down in Pensacola.  These months were filled with trips to the beach, wonderful family get-togethers, local festivities almost every week, special time with my grandparents, kayaking with dolphins behind our bayou and many other fun moments in between working.  No detour is ever a loss, neither do I believe any detour is by chance. 

The second lesson we learned is that doing the right thing isn’t always easy.  As many of you know, we rescued two dogs from a state park.  We are still fostering them (five months later) and we had no idea what a challenge it would be to find them a home.  All the rescues on the coast and no kill shelters we contacted were full.  There simply aren’t enough people willing to foster and unfortunately adoption isn’t always the first option for most individuals looking for a pet. 
Bonnie and Clyde have pushed their way into our hearts and this first-hand experience has made us realize what a huge problem animal overpopulation really is, especially in the south.  We are still actively seeking a forever home for each of them and teaming up with local rescues that host adoptions events to make this happen.  We would love nothing more than help spreading the word on this endeavor!  

But, above all, what 2015 really brought was a year of relationships for us, a year of making new connections and rekindling old ones, a year of discovering what we were really wanting for 2016. 
Being isolated to one place gave us a taste of what it would be like to live in a sticks and bricks again.  This time with a great sense of family, community and beauty.  And that part did pull at our heart strings.  However, we knew one thing for sure—the travel itch wasn’t fully scratched.  There was so much we hadn’t even discovered or tapped into while traveling. 
There was a whole new idea that there was a community on the road we had never really attempted to connect with yet.  We also realized our biggest challenges on the road really had nothing to do with living on the road or in a trailer.  We had some hurdles of our own to overcome regardless of the lifestyle we were living.  Many of these things we would have never recognized if we hadn’t embarked on this escapade.  So, it seemed 15 states wouldn’t quite be enough for us to permanently end our travels. 

We had a taste of being back on the road as we hit our first Full Time Families Rally in September.  It was perfect timing.  The kids had just been on a summer trip to Maine with their grandparents and they met us in Tennessee to head to the rally that we had all been looking forward to all year.  The setting was Branson, Missouri. 
The rally merged over forty families from all different backgrounds who live this nomadic life.  It had games, field trips, an 80’s prom, campfires, people who were soaking up the moments with the ones they love.  In other words, it was exactly what we needed as a family.  It was a reassurance to us that we weren’t the only ones out there willing to risk so much to find a simpler way of life.  A way to tie in the sense of community to a life of freedom, family and the travel we crave.  This was something we wish we had done MUCH sooner.  Getting plugged in with a rolling community and regular meet-ups gives you that sense of connection that a life on the road can sometimes lack. 
This rally brought about many more meet-ups down in Pensacola as we headed back to finish the big project we had started.  It was pretty special seeing the memories made and life-long relationships starting to form in our small group of nomadic families.

Then, we came to the holidays.  We were almost finished with the house.  We were anticipating the open road ahead with many travel plans.  That’s when the bombshell came.  It was a life defining moment like none other.

We were going to be adding a member to our roll…yes, we were going to have a baby! 

It literally felt like our whole world was turned upside down.  Nothing felt certain anymore.  Questions flooded our minds.  Emotions flooded our hearts.  And, to be quite honest, we questioned everything.  Should we stop traveling for good?  Should we stop traveling for a while?  Could we be happy in a sticks and bricks?  Where do you fit a baby crib in a trailer?  Honey, how much was that large fifth wheel we really loved?  Are we the only crazy ones thinking about doing this with our current lifestyle?  Is this really going to change everything about our life?

So we started to ponder it all.  And, we looked at properties all over (which, as real estate investors, we love to do anyway), but then something happened.  We came to this sense of peace about it all.  It kind of came almost simultaneously to Tom and I that the next steps will work themselves out.  One day at a time is the way to take in all this excitement and things will work themselves out as they always do. 

And, so, maybe the last lesson we learned is that adventures come in many forms.  It is the anticipation of a new chapter, the joy in your child’s face as you tell them they are getting a baby brother or sister for Christmas this year and the thought of all the wonders you will share with this new life you are introducing into our grand world.  Adventure can be found in the endless possibilities and carving out a new way of doing things.  Life really is about taking the path for you, not the one paved for everyone else.  So no matter what, we would embrace the adventure ahead. 

As spring approaches, there will be many changes in store for our family.  I’m happy to say that our bayou bargain is officially under contract and our traveling hasn’t stopped just yet.  I sit here today writing this in Charlotte where our full time travel dream began.  It’s hard not get emotional.  (So I’ll just blame that on pregnancy hormones).  We are visiting our hometown for the first time since leaving it for the open road and reminiscing on what a blur the last couple of years has been for us.

So, not much is for certain, but one thing certainly is.  We have decided to take life one day at a time, travel as we can and remind ourselves to soak up every moment we are given with no guarantee of tomorrow.  But most of all, treat life as the adventure that it is as we welcome a new chapter that God has unfolded before us.