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Full Time RV Living: A Teens Perspective

Ever wonder what it’s really like to spend all your high school years as a full-time RV-living teenager? This blog is written by Gabi (age 18), our oldest daughter and co-founder of this blog.

Gabi is a big driving force in our decision to become a full-time RV family back in 2015. At the time, her and I (Robyn) would spend our mornings surfing and dreaming. Dreaming of new breaks to surf, new mountains to climb, and new rock walls to scale.

I hope hearing the voice of a girl who has spent all of her high school years living in an RV so that she could pursue adventure and travel will inspire you. Take it away Gabi…

April Fools Day is a monumental day in our family. I am fortunate enough to say that today on April 1, 2020, my family and I have been officially living full-time in our RV for 5 years.

But what does that mean? Why should we celebrate?

I suppose it’s because we’ve been nomadic for 5 years.  For us, 2 of those years were full-time travel, 4 of those years were spent in a tiny RV, 1 year was spent in a larger RV, and for 3 months we lived in a house (does that mean it’s not official?!).

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Nomad RV Family
After 4 years, we upgraded from that cute little class C on the right to that luxury trailer on the left

I mean sure, the fact that a family as large as ours has successfully lived together in a confined space for as long as we have could be worth celebrating for some.  That’s not why we celebrate though. We are a close family, always have been, and collaboration is expected.

5-Years-A-Nomad-7
Wait, you mean you DON’T regularly run into at least 2 people in the hallway that’s also the kitchen, closet, living room, and dining room?

Today, we don’t celebrate time or credibility or the number of places we’ve been, miles we’ve hiked, oceans we’ve surfed, or peaks we’ve summited.  Today we celebrate freedom and the cost.

Because even in a time like this, where it seems many of our freedoms have been taken away, we have freedom through our nomadism. We have the opportunity to change at any given time.

But maybe that doesn’t come from the full-time RV living and maybe it’s not from the travel or adventure either. Maybe it’s more personal than that. Maybe it’s about the WAY we traveled and the attitudes we were raised to uphold.

Attitude is everything. Attitude is a vantage point. It’s a state of mind. It’s a perspective, a belief, a reaction, and a stance.  Our attitude affects the way we present ourselves in the world, the way we perceive the world, react to the world, exist, and move.

And so maybe, travel is not the answer. Travel and full-time RV living are not why we celebrate.  Today, we congratulate parts of ourselves—persistence, intuition, determination, love, and wisdom—the things that have helped us hold the course.

Being nomadic is a state of mind. A state of mind where we pro-act not react, where we adapt, where we grow, change, progress, pursue and evolve. Constantly…Because life is too short to settle.

Today I’m not celebrating the memories we made because at this point, it’s infinite. I cherish the various periods throughout my day when visions of past adventures slide into my mind and fill me with love, vigor, excitement, and a spiritual sense of “F*** yeah!”

This is an ode to the brave nomads, a cheer to the full-time RVers, a high-five across the globe to those who venture further into the unknown. And if that’s not you, let this be an inspiration that you can too, if you’re brave enough to give it your all.

ORIGINS

Call it what you want, fate, destiny, or sheer coincidence—but the fact that our origin story (yes, we’re superheroes now) took place on April Fools Day, was a pretty strong sign that our destiny was being seared universe.

In an extremely mundane fashion, our house lease was coming to an end. In the last 2 years of living in a house, we had grown to really love taking road trips in our RV. So when the time came for us to move out, we chose to move into our RV.

We in no way thought we were moving into our 30-foot class C RV officially and permanently though.  We moved into the RV with the plan to only live in it for 5 months while we traveled in the summer. But when 5 amazing months came to an end, my parents figured, “Why stop?” and each kid was on board.

Maybe it was always meant to be or on the completely rational, non-spiritual side, but it always felt right amongst our family unit to hold the course.

Year by year, it naturally fit right to keep full-time living in the RV.  With a gymnastics and personal training business located in Coronado, California, we always spent half the year based out of campgrounds in San Diego so my parents could work.  Because of that, I can’t say we’ve been full-time traveling for 5 years.

I won’t bore you with the details of each year because 5 years is a very long story.  If you’re interested though, click here and head over to Our Story page to hear about the bumps in the road that came along around 2018 and 2019.

Long story short:

*April 1st, 2015*: “Hey kids, we’re moving into the RV but only for 5 months…”
*5 years later*: April Fools!

Update: It’s now 2023 and we are still nomadic. I (Gabi) travel with my family to go hiking, climbing, surfing, and skiing but I do it in my own RV. We’re like a mini caravan and I’m grateful that I can keep living this lifestyle while also having my own freedom and space.

If you told me at 14 that I would spend the next 5 years (8 yrs now) traveling the world, growing up to become a professional blogger, there’s no way I would’ve believed you.

Here we are 8 years later. It’s been 8 wonderful years of:

Exploration
Adventure
Challenge
Defiance
Connection
Love
Laughter
And a whole lot of mishaps

I don’t believe all those things came from travel and I don’t believe they all came from RV living.  It’s the combination of it all.

Being a nomad is like living in a different universe not just because of the places you’ll go but because of the things you will learn and that’s what this blog is all about. It’s about the attitudes the world can instill in you.

So without further rambles, these are the…

5 Attitudes That 5 Years of Full Time RV Living Has Taught Me

1 | Adaptability

What makes a nomad a nomad is that they are always moving from place to place.  They never stop and get comfortable. The ones who are rooted, see the nomad’s way of life and imagine a lack of security or safety.

“According to the tradition of the steppes—which is known as the Tengri—in order to live fully, it is necessary to be in constant movement; only then can each day be different from the last. When they passed through cities, the nomads would think: The poor people who live here, for them everything is always the same. The people in the cities probably looked at the nomads and thought: Poor things, they have nowhere to live.”

Paulo Coelho

They may not have a home but because they are adaptable, they always feel safe and secure.

The truth is, nomads may be even happier because it wasn’t that they didn’t have a home, they were simply quick to adapt to make new places feel like home.  Maybe they carry an attitude of safety within that makes them feel safe wherever they go.

Most of the world has learned to live in bubbles, comfort zones.  Most people have evolved to not need to change and are therefore bad at change because like anything else, if you don’t practice, you get bad at it. But not the nomads. 

Nomad Family
Nomads felt at home wherever they went because home was inside of them…It also helps to have a home on wheels

For some nomads, change comes easy, for some, less so.  But nomads quickly learn that the faster they change, the faster they feel safe and happy again.

Adaptability is a skill my family values above anything.  The world is in a constant state of change whether you like it or not and 2020 is a fantastic example.

Change is the only constant. If we are unable to change and change fast, it’s hard to stay happy with your life.

But if you can adapt to that change and find gratitude in those new opportunities, you’ll be rewarded with steady, profound happiness. The nomads knew what they were doing.

Related: How Much It Costs to Live in an RV With Kids

2 | Self Sufficiency

2020 is so far facing some crazy times.  Apocalyptic? Well, no. A turning point in modern society? Maybe. Unfortunately, the media loves hyping things up and it has and still is causing us to turn to worst-case scenarios.

Crazy as it may sound, my family lives for this shit, my mom in particular. Part of it is personality based but overall as a whole family, we’ve spent the last 5 years training ourselves to be self-sufficient and feel moderately well-prepared when we play out our own personal worst-case scenarios.

Off Grid Living Family
Worst comes to worst, this is probably where we’ll be. Off in the forest, self sufficient in our rolling

I’d never thought I’d say this, but our self sufficiency all started on the top of Vail Pass, Colorado on our very first RV trip as nomads.

We were boondocking for the night at the rest area at the top of the pass.  It was freezing out and we tried to start the generator but due to the cold and 9,000 feet elevation, it broke and would continue to stay broken for the 5 remaining years we lived in that RV.

Aside from the car’s phone charger and the occasional full hookup campsite, we learned to not need electricity. That luxury was taken away from us and we learned to live without it.

Related: Why I’m Raising My Kids to Be Dirtbags 

Little things like this kept happening.  The toilet turned into a sheltered hole that we manually opened and closed with a stick to prevent fumes. The shower becomes a closet, the propane line for the heater and stove breaks, and the final straw, water lines bust in the Colorado winter.

RV Living family
When the heater broke, we adopted new methods to keep warm when sleeping in the cold. That method is called snuggling.

After all that though, we somehow continued to take that RV on a road trip to Alaska and back, and let me tell you, we were just fine.

Self-sufficiency is an essential value in our family and it’s simply been instilled in us from 5 years of roughing it. It’s not just from full-time RV living.

It’s from the backpacking, the climbing, the mountain biking. and the tent camping in New Zealand, Colorado, Norway and more.

Hiking Tongariro, 3 week New Zealand Itinerary

So I’m not saying we are fully prepared to run off into the wild and live in a full off-grid scenario (we sadly haven’t learned how to hunt), but to be honest, we’re darn close and the feelings of safety that those skills provide allow us to live with less fear and open up more space for presence, love, and happiness.

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3 | Self Awareness

In my family, self-awareness is the holy grail.  I mean, if you aren’t self-aware, are you even a real person? (That was a joke).

Self-awareness is the constant pursuit of trying to understand our own minds, behaviors, and habits.  It’s an attitude we bring to life saying, “Yes, I want to be better.” 

Self-awareness is not something we attain, if it was it would be called enlightenment and such.  Self-awareness is the constant pursuit of trying to understand our own minds, behaviors, and habits.  It’s an attitude we bring to life saying, “Yes, I want to be better.” 

Gabi and Robyn Meditating San Diego
Mediation is just one of the many ways we can tune into our minds and improve our self-awareness

When we learn to practice self-awareness, we learn to accept ourselves for what we really are. We learn about our weaknesses and our downfalls. We learn some modesty.  Then we learn our strengths. We learn confidence. We learn to use those strengths to do what we want with our lives.

Self-awareness is being aware of, accepting, and improving everything in our minds, It’s the attitude of all attitudes. 

It can’t be expressed in defining features it’s simply how well we decide to get to know ourselves. When you better understand your own mind, you can figure out how to make it run smoother.  You can learn how to prevent negative thought patterns.  You can learn how to not lose your temper, how to provide yourself with the love you crave from others, and how to communicate better.

The answers to our own happiness lie inside each of us and that’s why in our family, we value self-awareness.

Self-awareness is getting to know what tools you have in your pocket so that next time a challenge arises, you know exactly how to solve them without dead ending at a roadblock.

Related: 39 Ways to Manifest Your Badass Self

4 | Fail at Everything

In the 5 years of full-time RV living, I can’t say we’ve attained anything other than memories and gained a ton of life experiences so in the eyes of our “American Dream” society that means we’ve failed.

Boy, I guess you could say I’ve been failing at my business for 4 years. We’re not millionaires and our little corner of the internet is seen by around 25 thousand human beings each month.  It’s not great. Although, it is 400% more human than a year ago.

First of all, failure is relative. What does failure even mean in the grand scheme of life and how well you live your life?

Climbing and Failure, Nomad Family
What is failure? Some would say a family that loves each other as much as ours is success in itself

Second, if you’re not failing you’re not trying.  If you’re not failing, you’re not striving for anything better.  If you’re not failing, you’re not putting yourself out there to give life your all.

Related: Why Challenge is Important in Life

In the last 5 years of full-time RV living, we’ve failed in all sorts of things from micro-moments like all the times we’ve wiped out on our surfboards and taken big falls on lead (only climbers will know), to the endless online events we’ve hosted where no one has showed up and semi-FAIL moments where we’ve had to sleep in airports or on the side of the road time and time again. 

We’ve gone on trips with stupid itineraries and far too much driving, have launched products with a minuscule number of buyers, and my parents could tell you there are many times where our bank accounts hit zero.

But we’ve tried and you may not have heard this before, but every time we failed we learned something new. And suddenly as you learn from hundreds of failures, you get better.

None of our nomadic life has been EASY. It’s been worked for because the benefits outweigh the difficulties.  Learning how to fail often, my friend is the cost of freedom.

The freedom of nomadic living is amazing but it’s hard. Your living in realms where you don’t know what’s out there or what will happen next.  Nomadic living puts us eye to eye with far more opportunities for failure than if you choose to stay home yet doing so—failing that is—will quite possibly make you a happier human being for it.

Any desire for more requires failing but living with the attitude that you are going to fail every day and learn as much as you can along the way will make it much easier to enjoy the journey and attain those desires.

5 | Gratitude

Whether you choose to live in an RV full time, travel around the world, or visit your nearest national park, 5 years as a nomad taught me it’s not just about how incredible the moment is, it’s about how incredible you LET the moment be. 

It’s not just about how incredible the moment is, it’s about how incredible you LET the moment be.

It’s about allowing yourself to be filled with an appreciation for all things. Without gratitude, there is no point at all.  You could do a million wonderful things and never stop and realize how lucky you are. 

Nomad Adventure Family Hiking the Na Pali Coast
In this moment despite the pain of the trek, the cuts on our legs from the sharp brush, and the sweat that coated us, we paused and made sure to be grateful because what’s the point of incredible moments if you don’t stop and appreciate them?

I don’t believe in settling or accepting that you should just be grateful for the things you’ve already done or been given.  Sure if you’re content with your life that’s great. 

Living with gratitude is different though.

A grand life requires equal parts pursuit and gratitude. Give it your all but never forget to step back in the process and fill yourself with the positive reminders of the things that surround you—the trees, the people, the energy— are all really amazing.

Imagine you’re hiking a mountain that’s been on your bucket list for years.  You could easily arrive and fall into the pain of it all.  How bad your legs burn or how hungry you are. 

But when you step back into gratitude you can imagine the moment in realizing that this is everything you’ve wanted. Be grateful for what you have.  The opportunity you’ve been given. Apply that to everything you do.

Happiness comes in the pursuit itself and that requires conscious gratitude in the process. Never forget to breathe or remember how grateful you are to GET TO PURSUE.

free training on raising teens

Being a nomad takes work, drive, persistence, courage, and the willingness to fail. Being a nomad isn’t for the faint of heart or those who fear judgment. Being a nomad is hard but guess what, it’s worth it.

The cost of freedom is high but the life you’ll create is one you’ll never want to leave. It’s a life of gratitude, love, bravery, energy, and awareness.

If you’re ready to pursue freedom in your life, you don’t have to become a nomad. If you apply these attitudes to your life, you can reap the rewards of nomadism whether you live in one place or not.

In Be The Hero Academy, we (my mom, sister, and I) bring it all together in one place. It’s the place where we teach you how to apply these attitudes to your life, where we break down the basics of self-awareness, where we help you improve your relationships, conquer your fears, chase your dreams, and draw a little more joy out of life.

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5 years a nomad: Ode to our Nomad Family

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Brittany Sneller

Friday 3rd of April 2020

Wow, I loved reading this Gabi + fam! Together you have seriously "braced for adventure" and I could identify with so much of that nomadic life - and the attitudes that develop when you don't just live life but truly EXPERIENCE it first-hand - hardships, surf breaks, and all. ;) xx

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