When my husband sent me a text suggesting that we become #VanLifers, I laughed and quickly responded, “We have way too much stuff for that.” Then I went back to work and didn’t think much of it. It took him exactly one month, after spamming me with Instagram photos and YouTube videos, to get me to fall in love with the idea of a tiny home on wheels. We have now traveled more than 55,000 miles and enjoyed the beauty of North America all from the comfort of home. The kids have been homeschooled the entire time, but the biggest lessons were learned by all of us.
Less really IS more
The wonderful thing about living in 80 square feet? You realize exactly what you CAN live without. We didn’t magically throw stuff out and we definitely are not minimalist. We have kept and stored a few items that we can’t let go of. There are just a lot more discussions around purpose and needs. Often buying something new means letting go of something. The beauty of it? Cleaning, laundry and picking up toys no longer rule our days. We all have found more room in our days for what really matters.
Traveling, no matter how far, is the best way to open your mind
We are a city-loving family. We thought we were exposed to a diverse world living in Chicago. Even so, every time we go places different from where we are from, our perspective opens a little and our assumptions are challenged. Especially as a biracial family, we are acutely aware of risks we are taking in certain areas. The pleasant surprise of traveling to even the most infamous places is that MOST people are kind. There is truth to what social media and news outlets tell us, but it isn’t everything or everyone. So, we travel with caution but work to keep our minds, and hearts, open.
The best learning is outside of the classroom
We have always been advocates for inquiry-led learning. Over and over again, life has shown us that the resources and opportunities to learn are right in front of us. Also, we have learned that academics are not the “end all be all” of education. The lessons that shape who we are and how we see the world are just as important. The kids have taken on the National Parks’ Junior Ranger Program, developed a love of documentaries focused on places we have been and experienced so much that the world has to offer. They chat with almost anyone about how solar power converts to the energy we use in our van, how to read a map and how a composting toilet works (yay, science!).
We are brave and strong
Life is not without risks. Full-time travel has taken us all outside of our comfort zone. Where we sleep, the people we interact with, the adventures we go on, they all push us to be a little bit stronger every time. There are plenty of hard days but we keep to our mantra: “It isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it.” If ever it feels like it is not worth it, we are brave enough and strong enough to choose differently.
It is never too late to make bold choices
This is a big one. I hope that our children never feel bound by societal norms that do not serve them. I hope that living beyond borders teaches them that their options are limitless. You want to live in a van and travel? Do you want to go after that dream? Do you want to completely pivot your life? Do it. Even when you are no longer young. Even when you have responsibilities. Even after you have kids. As long as you are living and breathing, you can choose to make bold choices and live differently.
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