About Rachel Rowell

Rachel is a writer, musician, wife and mom. She travels, writes and road-schools her children full-time with her family of four in their 300 sq. foot camper. When she was a girl she dreamed of normal life with the big house and white picket fence like every other American girl. Then she grew up and realized it was okay to be different than everyone else. Now she and her family have ditched the American dream to live one of their very own.

Author Archive | Rachel Rowell

Finding Joy In The Ordinary

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This morning I awoke, made my bed, read a bit, and stepped straight into my tiny kitchen to get the sauce started for our crockpot dinner tonight.

There was nothing about this impending day that is anything more than ordinary. In fact, despite the fact that we live in a camper and have an amazing life together, let’s not over-glamorize it. Most days our lives are about as ordinary as yours. Every single day there are chores to be done, bills to be paid, floors to be swept, jobs to be worked, and schoolwork to be completed.

Still, smack dab in the midst of ordinary, I had a moment this morning while standing next to my kitchen stove, stirring the sauce, in which I felt complete and total joy wash over me like a fresh wave on a shoreline.

I had not won the lottery, or had anything particularly amazing happen to me except that in that moment I realized how blessed I am to be living a life in which I know what it is to have deep meaning and purpose… and to feel so fully alive.

And I knew right then that no person or thing had given joy to me, nor could steal it away again.

You see, joy isn’t happiness.

It is more.

Joy is the complete fulfilling contentment that resides in the deepest part of us when we are moping floors, cleaning toilets, cooking dinners and living the most ordinary of days. Joy is the thing that remains when our world is falling apart, or we’ve lost a job, or a loved one is sick, or life didn’t turn out the way we had expected it would.

This world can give cheap, fleeting substitutes, but it can never give us the things that will last when everything else fades away.

You see, there is only one source for joy. 

Relationships, job titles, accomplishment, and things… all of them fall short of bringing joy so deep that circumstances can’t steal it away. Worldly things bring only fleeting moments of short lived happiness. But joy…oh joy. It is worth so much more.

I’m thinking maybe we’ve been chasing the wrong things. In our pursuit of happiness and our own poverty of the soul stricken versions of the American Dream, maybe we have traded in the one thing that can’t be bought, sold, or earned.

Joy. Deep soul joy.

When was the last time you experienced the true fullness and contentment of life found there?

Joy is the most infallible sign of the existence of God.
 

Comments { 4 }

10 Reasons A Simpler Life Can Equal A Fuller Life

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When I started this blog back in 2013 for the purpose of documenting our journey with full time RV life, I made the decision right then that I never wanted sharing our lives with others to get in the way of living our lives with each other. There have been seasons in which it was more practical to write regularly, and post articles that many of you have found helpful and informational. But over the course of this past year, the momentum of our lives changed quite a bit and it just hasn’t lent itself to writing much. And so needless to say, I haven’t posted on The Light Life Blog lately and I really can’t apologize because we’ve been, well…LIVING the light life!

Our 2014/2015 school year is coming to a close and I’ve been looking back over the last 10 months or so of our lives realizing just how fast it’s gone by and just how full our lives have been! We’ve been busy roadschooling, taking trips, enjoying the outdoors, hiking, running 1/2 marathons, participating in a homeschool co-op, spending LOTS of time with family as we are currently just 5 hours from our hometown of Wilmington, NC, and I started back to school full-time as well…which is where a great chunk of my time and brain space has disappeared to.   😉

Looking back is always a treat. It reminds me again why we made the decision to scale back our lives two years ago. And how much that decision to live this lighter, simpler life has not detracted from the fullness of our lives one tiny bit. In fact, quite the opposite.

So what have these past two years of full-time RV life taught us? Here’s just 10 things for starters.

  1. Things can be bought with money, time cannot.
  2. Life doesn’t have to be complex or expensive to be full and good.
  3. Quality trumps quantity. Every. single. time.
  4. Kids would rather have your time than your things.
  5. Education means a whole lot more than textbooks and the 3 Rs.
  6. Freeing up your time allows you to educate the WHOLE child. Mind, body, and spirit.
  7. We should spend less time building retirement accounts and more time building relationships. Because in the end, we don’t get to keep the stuff anyways.
  8. That whole American dream thing? Doesn’t necessarily have to rule our lives, or be our dream at all.
  9. And when you don’t love the direction your life is taking, it’s okay to reinvent yourself and re-write your story.
  10. Not everyone will understand your journey, and that’s OK. It’s YOUR journey, not theirs.

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That Little Thing That’s Robbing Our Joy

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Several mornings ago I opened my eyes to the sun peering through my tiny camper window at me. I saw it, felt it, I breathed it in and felt it’s warmth from the inside of my being to the outside. I felt light and fresh. My eyes still blurry with sleep, I reached for my phone and mindlessly scrolled through my Instagram feed. I stumbled right past another RV mom that I follow and saw something that stopped me dead in my tracks. It was a picture of their “new to them” house they were in the process of renovating, and her announcing that their year on the road was coming to an end. Her feed was filled up with pictures of large, spacious rooms and the unloading of all the belongings that had been packed away in storage and placing them in their proper spots. In that moment, I could relate to her joy and felt legitimately happy for her new journey.

And then in happened, I felt it happen. Almost like something heavy had taken perch on my chest. In the midst of sharing her joy, it was as if a dark cloud had suddenly blocked the sunshine from my view and something had stolen mine. For the first time since we left our normal life behind a year and a half ago, I felt the first twinges of deep discontent.

The truth about everything in life is, eventually the new wears off and it’s up to us what we choose to see and believe about the lives we live now.

Nevertheless, I needed to let myself feel the way I felt, without shame. I needed to be honest.

And in that moment of celebrating with her, I had been reminded just how much I miss certain things about our old life. And in that, I realized that it’s okay, maybe even healthy to get honest with ourselves, sometimes maybe even admit that we miss or even long for things to be a bit different.

Truth is, I miss having one place to always go back to that is ours. I miss the routine. I miss working and making my own income. I miss spacious rooms. I miss the bright morning sun beaming through the large windows of our school room where the kids and I spent our mornings together listening to classical music, burning sweet smelling candles and learning. Mostly, I miss having a house to decorate, make home and invite others into…the holidays serve to remind me just how much I miss that part.

Truth is, we all have things we miss or long for in life. And I’m still not convinced that’s always necessarily a bad thing. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live or what you do, unfortunately it is human nature to notice all that we don’t have.

But one thing I do know is that comparison is for sure the greatest thief of our joy. It is when we begin to compare where we are in life to another’s journey that our longings for our best life stop being a healthy force and threaten to pollute our hearts. And when that happens, we and everyone we are connected to, lose.

It took me a day or two, but eventually I realized the pit I had fallen into. Truthfully, I didn’t like the way it felt to be there. Once a spark of discontent enters our heart, it all too quickly becomes an ember with the potential to set our heart ablaze with envy and resentment. Causing us to live life with blinders on to all that is good and wonderful about our present life.

It’s impossible to live with contentment in the present moment when we are too busy comparing, living in the past or wishing for a better future.

And so I spent some time looking back over my own pictures of our last few months and all that we had done and experienced and I realized that yes, there have been sacrifices in exchange for the life we live right now. But two years ago I had all the things I was looking back missing and we never had the opportunity to do any of the things we get to do today. Our life appeared big then, yet the truth is, it was so small. I realized that we’ve spent the entire year and a half taking trips, having experiences and hanging out with people we love most.  It’s very much like we exchanged the security of a house for the freedom to live.

Do I miss living in a house? Do I miss all the familiar and living near those we love? Truth? Yes. In 20 years would I have traded a more sure, settled life for these few shorts years of experiences we would have never had otherwise and life on the road with my family? I doubt it.

Life will change and we’ll settle down somewhere again wherever the road lands us, our address will stay the same and I’ll have plenty of lovely rooms to decorate. But If I’m not careful, I’ll miss what matters. I will look back far too much and allow the past to appear much more glamorous than it actually was. (You know we humans do that a lot right?) And If I don’t keep a leash on the wonderings of my own heart I might allow comparison to do exactly that which I fear most. I will look back and realize that I missed all the beauty that is now.

All the wonderful that is mine today.

 

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And the perfect gift of today is a price much greater than I am willing to pay in exchange for a little brick and mortar security.

Let us refuse to allow even a little comparison to steal all that is ours for the taking this season! 

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Mental Habits of Happiness:

While a happy mind has positive patterns of thought, negative patterns are implicated in conditions like depression and anxiety. Toxic patterns of thought include:

  • Perfectionism, where we strive for perfection and almost always find ourselves lacking. Being praised in childhood for intrinsic traits (like intelligence) rather than changeable traits (like effort) can promote perfectionism.
  • Social comparison. Comparing ourself to those who are better off than us leads to lower self-perception, while comparing ourself to those who are worse off than us makes us look down on them.
  • Materialism. In fact, research has shown that buying experiences gives us much more of a happiness boost than buying things.
  • Maximizing” rather than “satisficing.” Maximizers try to make the optimal choice (a form of perfectionism), while satisficers pick the first available choice that fits their criteria. Maximizers tend to feel more regret over decisions, and be less optimistic, more depressed, and less satisfied with life and with any success they do achieve.

Source: http://positivepsychlopedia.com/2014/10/28/mental-habits-of-happiness-week-7-science-of-happiness-edx/

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The Reason Why Everyone Else’s Life Seems Glamorous But Your Own

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Yesterday morning I sat outside enjoying a good book in my worn, blue outdoor chair with a small hole beginning to break through the seat, setting my coffee cup down on a makeshift end table I put together of cinderblocks and a piece of wood. I mean, it works, but it certainly isn’t the marble top end table I willingly gave up for this. I chuckled a bit at myself, and how this same girl who genuinely adores a well decorated home, manicures, message appointments and fancy dinners could possibly find so much joy and peace smack dab in the midst of such an ordinary, simple life. Every now and then I catch myself in moment in which I am both surprised and amused at how uncomplicated yet basic our whole lives became the moment we made the decision to stop trying to live just like everyone around us in order to be happy or live validated lives.

Over the past year, our lives have been on a steady progression towards a more basic way of doing life. We pretty much don’t rely on any kind of medical intervention except in rare cases of emergency, we’ve traded the kid’s game systems for board games, their iPods for books and our big brick house for a tiny one that feels more like a home than ever before.

One would think it would have been easier to stay put in our comfortable house and our comfortable life than to let everything go to head out on this new way of life. In fact, one question we get asked all the time is, “How do you handle moving around from place to place and not actually having the stability of a normal home life.” And my answer is always, “I’m sure this kind of life isn’t for everyone as some people really do feel they need the predictability of a more normal routine with a normal schedule and the same place to drive home to at night. However, I actually very much enjoy the change, the excitement, the spontaneity that traveling from place to place affords. But truly, most of it is what we make of it.”

Last year, we made our home in five different towns in three different states. And we had such amazing times enjoying the newness and uniqueness of every new place. I wouldn’t have changed a thing about all the places we went and the different people we encountered along the way.

More recently there hasn’t been any exciting travel news as we’ve been parked in one cozy spot for the past four and a half months now. As I’ve stated before, although we do have some degree of choice, mostly my husband’s work dictates where and when we pack up and move on to the next place! And so because of the longevity of my husband’s job contract at our current location, we are beginning to settle into the notion that we may be here quite a bit longer than we had initially expected.

Let’s be honest, traveling around from state to state sounds a heck of a lot more glamorous than living in an RV park in a camper. And while a part of me misses the allure and excitement of life out on the open road, always moving about from place to place, oddly enough I am also completely at peace with slower, less exciting, maybe even much less glamorous times.

Because all of life is about seasons. And no season ever lasts forever, nor should it.

The thing about life is that as wonderful as thrills and excitement and the next new thing can seem, all that shimmers and sparkles is only a small fraction of the true human story. The truth is, as much as social media and blogs would have us believe that everybody is living their own fairytale of sorts, most of life is made up of the mundane. 

And no matter how wonderful or not so wonderful our lives may feel at any given time, no one really gets to escape the reality that most of life is pretty dang ordinary.  Just like you, we are here. Doing all of the things that make up a life in an endless cycle of monotonous duties. Laundry, dishes (sometimes 3 times day in my tiny camper sink) school, work, grocery shopping, cooking meals, trying not to screw our kids up…..and laundry. Ohhhh the glamour. Yeah, be envious of THAT.

And yet somehow smack dab in the midst of the ordinary, there is richness and deep joy to be found. I figure, since so much of life truly is mundane, maybe instead of mourning that fact, trying to change it or feeling resentful at another mom’s dreamy, magazine worthy social media feed, we should find the goodness in all of the ordinariness of our day to day lives.

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Truthfully, I had never imagined I could be content with being so simple. I never imagined that I could genuinely find fulfillment in explaining math problems to my nine and a half year old and watching her get it, writing out spelling words for my eight year old, returning library books several times a week and driving my daughter to ride her horse almost everyday.

Maybe we have been far too consumed with why we are or aren’t happy with our lives. Because the truth is, the circumstances of our lives have little to do with our happiness level. Maybe the joy is found in our perspective.

What I could see when I look at my life is that I live in a 300 sq. foot camper which is even worst than living in the single wide I swore I would never live in, that I am burdened down with the responsibility of my children ALL day, and that I am sacrificing my own personal fulfillment and dreams for the benefit of everyone but myself and that my life has no real purpose.

But what I choose to see when I look at my life is that what I live in affords me abundant opportunities and financial freedom that I wouldn’t have ever had otherwise, that I am monumentally blessed to have my children with me to love and be loved by them, that I have the ability and the mind to educate them myself and that anytime we give our lives away for the sake of another we have found the deepest kind of purpose there ever was to be found.

So when we are tempted to dwell on, or maybe even feel sorry for ourselves and the mundaneness of our everyday lives, maybe it isn’t our lives that are the problem at all – maybe the real issue is in our perspective.

Instead of chasing happiness, maybe we should be chasing perspective. I have found that the surest way to find deep joy in the mundane of the laundry and the dish soap and the cooking of the evening meals is to imagine what life would be like without those things. I am convinced that the only way to be happy is to be content. Content with the life we have right now, not tomorrow or next year or when things get better. And being content is a purposeful decision, not one dependent on how perfect the external circumstances of our lives are.

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Maybe when some see the leaves begin to turn brown and fall to the ground to get trampled on and crushed by passers by, all they see is the death of life that once was…..but I see potential for leaf piles all made for diving head first in, brisk morning walks, cool evenings together around a warm, glowing campfire, holiday cheer with family and the birth of a new season that holds everything good that makes life worth living. What some might see as a death, I see as the birth canal to an even better life.

So you see, one life is not really better than another. Most of the goodness of life is all in our perspective.

When you look over your life as a whole, what do you feel and see? Maybe you see all that is good….even in the ordinary. And if not…..maybe it’s just time to stop and take a better look. 

 

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RV Life One The Road Reflections: Year One

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Well hey ya’ll!!!!  Gee have I ever missed you! :) But I took a much needed sabbatical from writing and blogging to fully enjoy the summer and to get the kids started back with a new homeschool year in a completely engaged and un-destracted way.

We are still parked in Charlotte, NC and have enjoyed the mild summer and all that the Charlotte area has to offer both in the bustling city and also the more leisurely lake life where we are parked. Over the past few months we’ve made several trips to Wilmington, NC as well as Gatlinburg, TN to get our fill of the mountains AND the beach as we have come to adore them both.

So with that we have officially wrapped up a busy and fun-filled summer. Also, right along with it, year one of RV life on the road is also in the books!

In totally honesty 2013/2014 was by far the fastest and most amazingly beautiful year of our lives. Doing it together as a family, RV life has afforded us the opportunity for rich experiences and the freedom to be fully present and intentional about our lives.

For the first time in a long time, it felt like we really LIVED rather than merely surviving. As my husband and I laid in bed last night reminiscing about the year I looked over at him and said, “And we didn’t miss a thing.”

Here’s to year number two and lots more conscientious and intentional living where that came from!

Live intentionally. Live light. Live free.

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Light Life Stories: The Odoms

This is a very special family whom I’ve still yet to actually meet in person, but our hearts have knit together on each of our own “Light Life Journeys.” Meet Andrew and Crystal Odom and their adorable little girl, who are former “tiny house dwellers” and are in the process of making the switch over to full time RV life. Read about their story into debt and their current journey out and how they are reclaiming their freedom and their lives through living light. They remind us all to live intentionally, that it is possible live small and love it, and the importance of  reclaiming our lives back from the grip of American culture and it’s pre-occupation with status and defining our lives by material possessions. I know you will find their lives and their story so encouraging and inspiring, just as we have.
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The first home I owned cost just at $52,000. For that price I got a 2-bedroom, 1-bath, fixer-upper that was on .35 acre in the middle of a post-war neighborhood in Norfolk, VA. It was built in 1953 at a time when America was reestablishing itself. Men had returned home from the war and were now firmly rooted in their post-war career. Women were homemakers and mothers, not CEOs and business owners. Homebuyers were encouraged to look to the future and stretch themselves as far as they could to buy a house. It made more sense then.

Fast forward to 2009.

The nation had been in a recession for nearly three years and unemployment hovered at a thirty year high. The real estate market had recently tanked and homes were considered a risky investment if not a ridiculous one. Many homeowners were waking up to find themselves stuck in a vicious cycle of working to pay for the house they sleep at at night and live in only long enough to get up and do it all again the following day. The average home size in the United States was a bloated 2,670 sq.ft. and in 2010 we would see 2,871,891 foreclosures alone! The world had indeed changed from just a decade or two before.

Somewhere along the line the American Dream became defined by owning more stuff than your neighbor and having more than those around you. Many times that meant relying on credit cards with lofty interest rates. But was that the way to go? Was that the new truth? Did my new bride and I need a bigger house, a better car, or a large salary to find happiness? And just what was this elusive happiness we had been conditioned to believe in? Would it come about when we sacrificed our dreams for the pursuit of stuff?

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On February 21, 2009 I married Crystal in the mountains of North Georgia. It was a small wedding in what would be one of our first financial decisions together, as a couple. We invited less than a handful of people and got married in front of the fireplace at the cabin we were staying in. Our officiant was a lifelong friend of mine and an ordained minister. Our photographer doubled as my best man. My sister was the maid of honor and our reception was little more than finger food found locally and a bottle of champagne. Our total cost was just under $1000 (including my wife’s dress which we found on eBay). At that point though saving that $1k was a huge deal. Along with my hand in marriage and a promise of for better or for worse I also came with just over $40,000 in consumer debt. For the past 14-16 months I had been trying to keep a struggling business afloat, living off credit cards, and using retail therapy to help me cope.

I was a financial mess and being so would color our immediate future.

Almost immediately after getting married we began to figure out our next step. Both being raised in the South we felt like a good truck, a “starter” house, a kid or two, and perhaps a membership in the local congregation would be the ticket. We were stopped short though when we searching for the house. We had found a cute little bungalow in town that was listed at $86,000. It needed work but we were up for the challenge. When we sat down with the lending agent though we could sense things were about to change. With my salary of just $10/hour for 40-hour weeks and Crystal working only seasonally at the local college we weren’t prepared to hear that we had qualified for a home loan of $179,000. It was a dream come true! As a man I was beside myself with pride knowing I could buy the house my wife and I wanted and provide as I had been taught to do. After just 48 hours though my wife told me she had good news and bad news. I opted for the good news first. She told me we could buy the house. I couldn’t imagine any bad news then. Turns out we could buy the house but we would have to sell our car, eat just 3 meals a week, do without lights, and possibly shower at the local gym because water would not be an option for us. The American Dream had let us down and was even willing to suck us in even more. We did the only thing we knew to do. We started praying about a new situation; a new opportunity!

That opportunity came in the form of a 190 sq.ft. house built with rustic charm and set up on a tandem axle trailer. Pictured on the website of Tumbleweed Tiny Homes it look near perfect for us. After all, we had met as missionaries and had for years lived in backpacks, guest rooms, and questionable accommodations. This hand-built mini-mansion would allow us to skirt around a mortgage, have an interesting and stylish home, be mobile, and work towards better financial decisions (which by this point meant paying off the debt I brought to the table).

From late-2009 until even now my wife and I have worked hard at simplifying our lives. We have minimized the number of clothes we own, the types of food we eat, our dependency on cars, the number of square feet we need to exist indoors, the amount of books we surround ourselves with, the number of CDs and DVDs we buy (largely for one-time use), and the overall debt we have amassed.

In this exchange we have maximized our quality of life, our love for each other, our concern for the world around us, our ideas of entertainment, our health (mentally and physically), and our general dispositions. Things didn’t stop with just a dream though.

310490_10150870938305151_1906189448_nIn 2012 we broke ground (or should I say rolled in our trailer) on what would become our home. After researching a number of tiny house trailers, small homes, cottages, tee pees, yurts, and other non-traditional structures, we settled on a single-level, 240 sq.ft. tiny house trailer built on a 30′ long by 8′ wide, tandem axle trailer. We were also working on the size of our family having added our daughter to the mix in 2011. Our debt had been over half paid off, I was working a new and more lucrative job, we had spent much time in prayer and meditation discerning need -vs- want, and we had saved money to begin our build.

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3The entire process took nearly 14 months and is intricately documented over at Tiny r(E)volution but on January 3, 2013 we officially moved in to our tiny house. Our dreams were coming true and while the real estate market had been steadily bouncing back and the job market was getting better we were focused on a new American Dream. We were focused on OUR American Dream.

In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. Ours sounded more like “life will be better for us because we realize that our life is a gift from God meant to be lived investing in others and the world around us. Our opportunity should be one without monetary value and presented to us in accordance to our giftings and our passions.” We had been passionate about getting out of debt so we honed in on the problems, outlined a solution, and dove in. We had been passionate about a home that fit our needs so we created plan and built a house. We had been passionate about having a small family so even in our mid-30s we enjoyed the blessing(s) God gave us as a couple and then in the form of a beautiful baby girl. None of these took place because we are holier than thou or because we worked harder than anyone else or because we are in anyway more exceptional than anyone else. They took place because we believed in them, we believed in ourselves, and we wanted a life free of obligation and consumer stress.

10494740_574324878336_7099352784910747276_nAs I write this we are now living in our “new to us” 27′ Aruba travel trailer preparing to become full-time nomads (my employment allows me to be location independent) and experience the nation as God lays out for us. We have reduced our consumer debt to just a handful of payments (I can literally count them on one hand), a small loan for our travel trailer, and a truck payment for the beautiful and reliable truck we just financed to tote us around the US. Our living room has become wherever the sun rises and sets and we have found in each other a love deeper than we ever thought possible. Our daughter is about to turn 3 and has no idea that we aren’t exactly….well, “normal.” She is smart and well adjusted and is slowly learning the lessons it took her old man thirty years to catch on to.

Money can’t buy happiness. Credit can’t change your mood. But friends, love, and laughter – all blessings from above – can make your days worth living and your adventures more exciting!

 

AboutDrewFounder of Tiny r(E)volution and author of the popular book ‘Your Message Here :: GAINING CORPORATE SPONSORS for your tiny house project‘, Andrew Odom is a social media strategist and content crusader amongst other things. He is also an accomplished photojournalist with work seen in Details, Relevant, South, Kitchen Drawer, and Tiny House Magazine. His proudest accomplishment however is his adoption and current advocacy of the tiny house/small house/unconventional house community as a designer, builder, and dweller. Having recently sold their 240 sq.ft. tiny house Andrew and his wife (as well as his 3-year old daughter) live and travel in a 27′ Aruba travel trailer.

You can follow them on Instagram @tinyrevolution

We welcome you to leave any questions, comments or well wishes for the Odoms in the comment section below!

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Snapshot Of A Monthly Full-Time RVing Budget

snapshotWhether or not one is even interested in the idea of full-time RVing or not, it seems most are at least curious as to the truth about what it actually costs to live on the road full-time. Perhaps because the idea is just downright strange, or perhaps because deep down inside most Americans secretly long to live a life in which the very basics didn’t cost us next to everything we make.

Now, keeping in mind that every situation is different, here is a basic breakdown of a monthly, full-time RVing budget to help give you an idea of how much RV life really costs.

**Please remember that this only a snapshot of a monthly budget and can vary depending on situation, family size, how much you are actually traveling on the road with your RV and of course, what season it is. This breakdown consists of the high and low end situations as it can vary greatly depending on so many variables.

  • Propane (winter: $75-100) (summer: $5 average) We use propane for heat & cooking in the winter and for cooking only in the summer.
  • Laundry  – $100 * family of four in quarters for laundromat
  • Gas  – about $300 for every 10 hours of road travel (in a 2010 Ford F-250 diesel truck towing 38 ft. RV) * figure based on gas price of around $3.50 and of course gas prices may vary greatly (subtract this when you aren’t actually traveling)
  • RV park lot rent – $300-$900 (we try to find parks in the $400-500 range.) *depends on location and season. Currently we are paying $290 per month for lot rent + electric
  • Electric $50-$150  *depends on season (many RV parks include electric in with lot rent. You just have to inquire.)
  • Internet $40-$150 *unless your campground has free wi-fi – which isn’t always reliable.
  • RV insurance – $30-$40
  • Water $0  *most water is included in RV park rent
  • Food  *add in your own normal grocery expenses

I did not include budget items such as food, health/auto insurance, ect. because again, this is only a skeleton breakdown of a RV life budget and there are too many varying scenarios to list so you’ll have to add in any of your own extra expenses.

Please comment below with any questions or additions you have to this post.

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Top 10 Home/Roadschooling Tips

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So we just finished up the end of our second year of homeschooling, or should I say “road schooling”. The funny thing is, it doesn’t feel like we ever really “finish” school because a lifestyle of learning quickly became a way of life for our family when our littles were no longer done with school at 3:15 and dropped off back to me by the big yellow bus for a few short hours.

20140702-111631-40591002.jpgTheir testing scores are in and they are not only learning but excelling! And honestly, the me of two years ago when we first started would maybe be a little shocked that we’ve survived this long because in the beginning let’s just say, I had my doubts. But mostly I feel like one feels at the end of the craziest roller coast ride – you know the one you were terrified to even get on in the first place?  SURE you would die if you did, and then next thing you know you not only survived the upside down loops and stomach displacing drops – but oddly enough, you enjoyed them! You’ve long since forgotten the initial fear because all you can think about now is, “Oh. my gosh, we are doing it! We DID it! And we didn’t die!” Yeah, that’s sort of how the end of each homeschool year feels.

As challenging as taking your children’s education into your own hands can be, the thing is, no Nobel Peace Prize or Oscar for best supporting actress in the world could top the feeling of being the one to educate and grow tiny humans into healthy, thriving, successful, budding adults. 

So what would I say to myself just two short years ago when I first had this wild hair, ridiculous idea that I might could snatch my kids from the grip of American culture and choose to take them back and let their MOM & DAD be the major influences in their lives? Oh, I have much I wish the me back then had known. Maybe it would have eased my fears just a bit. So here’s my letter to her…the one who had lost her mind and never got it back again – and maybe even to you.

Dear New Homeschooler,

You really have NO idea what in the heck you’re doing. In fact, you’ve been getting looks like you have five heads and you’re even starting to wonder if your good common sense has fallen off and gotten lost somewhere amongst some crazy, insane day of motherhood. But no, you aren’t crazy and you aren’t weird.

The truth is, there is something deep within so many mothers that was birthed the day we gave birth to our own first tiny human – the desire to grow and nurture tiny lives. And the crazy thing is, that desire doesn’t just up and leave us the day our children turn five and are old enough to be sent away for eight hours (or more) of their day, five days a week, while someone else raises educates them – only to be returned to us long enough to make them a final meal and tuck them in so they can repeat the cycle all over again.

But for whatever reasons, out of necessity, lack of choice, information or confidence in ourselves that things could be different most moms learned well how to stomp out that feeling deep down in the pit of stomach that told us that there is something all wrong with sending our children away for 13 years to get ready to face the world as adults.  But for those of us are can and are willing to believe there is a better way than letting society raise our children, here’s a few things we desperately need to know.

1. It’s not exactly a legislative act of Congress to take your kids out of school and create a homeschool

For most of us, just the thought of beginning is the worst part. But once you’ve made the decision to homeschool the very first thing you need to do is this 3 step process.

  1. Create a name for your homeschool. Maybe it sounds cheesy but every school MUST have a name in order to register as an official school with your state.
  2. Register your school with your state. While it isn’t hard to get start a homeschool, every state has it’s own unique website and rules homeschoolers must abide by. Click here for NC. Or Google “How to register a homeschool in ___________” (insert your own state for those in other states)
  3. Print out proof of your new homeschool registration and take to current school in order to unenroll your students. By law, you cannot just unenroll your kids from their current school without official proof that they will be enrolled somewhere else.

Viola! It really is that easy……well at least the getting started part is.  😉

2. The thought of homeschooling is much more daunting than the task

Now don’t get me wrong. It is hard work, and dedication and even tears on some days. And you must have a “why” to get you through the hard days. But mostly it is one of the most exhilarating feelings to teach your own children, watch them learn and grow right in front of your eyes and to know that you will be able to look back one day when they are ready to leave home and think, “Wow, it went by all too fast. But, I didn’t miss a thing. I was there right beside them the whole time.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better why than that.

3. YOU ARE CAPABLE of educating your kids!

While I do know that homeschooling isn’t for every one, anyone with enough resolve about why they want to do it, can do it. And no, you don’t have two college degrees with one being a masters in education, the patience of Mother Theresa and a magazine worthy homeschool room to give your kids a thriving, first rate education. You do need a decent amount of common sense, a healthy dose of commitment and a heart overflowing with love for your students. The thing is, no one on earth loves your littles like you do, therefore no one on earth is more qualified to teach them than you. So stop listening to the naysayers, questioning and doubting yourself and know that you are more than capable!

20140702-111631-40591861.jpg4. You DO NOT need to throw loads of money into those “boxed curriculums” and then finish every single page of the thirty-five workbooks that each grade level tends to consist of.

While buying one of those expensive, pre-packaged, grade level boxed curriculums might be the way to go for some – it usually only seems like the way to go for most. That is because all the prep work is done for you so it makes you feel like you won’t miss a thing. But let me just say, unless you plan on spending hours upon hours with their nose in the books and are okay with dealing with tears and a daily battle to get the to “do school”  – you DO NOT want to buy into the homeschool companies hype that you need their “one size fits all” curriculum packages to cover all the bases for a solid education for your kids. It’s just not usually the case.

5. You will not know what you’re doing your first year

…or your second. Oh heck, maybe you’ll never be an expert. But I guarantee you, unless you’re doing nothing, your kids will learn lots. Probably even more than they would in traditional school. So if you want to make it past your first year of homeschooling, go ahead and throw out needing to feel like you’ve got it all together. Because you won’t – like, ever.

6. Don’t compare yourself to or try to copy other homeschooling moms or you’ll crash and burn

In the beginning I had a friend who homeschooled. She had a room set up just like a school room, she bought the expensive boxed curriculum and spent hours verbally teaching her kids like a normal classroom teacher. When we would get together and I would listen to her talk about all she does, let me just say – I was ready to RUN, not walk my children back to public school because it was very apparent that I was a big fat failure as a homeschool mom. After all, she had it all together, and I did not. She was doing WAY more work than me which in my mind translated into “My kids will be dumb forever. will never make it through college and earn a decent living one day which means they will have to live with us or be homeless.” Little did I know I was seriously on dangerous ground for a homeschooling mom. Comparing or trying to copy another families teaching/learning style will spell death to your own. It is hands down one of the fastest ways to get discouraged, over-whelmed and give up. Just don’t do it.

7. Build your own education/teaching philosophy. 

Knowledge truly is power. In my opinion, the main reason so many homeschooling moms crash and burn is because they never invested the necessary time (reading, researching options) to gain enough information about their children’s different learning styles and ways to teach them which would shape their own personal philosophy about education. You can’t piggy back on someone else in this area. It won’t work for the same reason successfully educating a classroom of 28 students will never really work. I had just two children and don’t use the same curriculum or teaching style for either because if I did, they would HATE learning and therefore, they wouldn’t learn. (I will include links in my next homeschool post to books/websites, ect. to help guide your decision to build your own education philosophy.)

8. Develop your own love of learning and self-teaching 

If you yourself don’t love to learn, then it isn’t likely you’ll be a great teacher for your own little students. After all, the best teachers aren’t necessarily the ones who stand in front of us and dump information down our throats, telling us what to learn, they are the ones who demonstrate how to learn. I know I don’t always tell my kids all that they need to know, but I am always making sure to strew their paths with every tool and opportunity to discover it for themselves.  My son doesn’t know that the book he found on the coach about the planets, or the new Presidents game I laid out on the table was meant for learning.

9. Spend the first year (or two) getting to know your children’s unique learning styles. 

Right off the bat this takes the pressure off of having to have everything figured out from the beginning. Maybe you are more in tune with your children than I was the day I yanked them out of public school and scooped them back up into my arms. But honestly, I didn’t even know much about what they had already learned in school….much less what their learning styles were. So we spent most of the first year getting “reacquainted” with each other again.

It is was in that first year that I learned that my 9 year old daughter is more of a traditional learner. Meaning, I can explain any new concepts she doesn’t understand from the directions, then she prefers to sit alone and do her workbook oriented lessons independently. She is a visual, independent learner. For my 7 year old son however, when I tried to teach him the same way, I would set a small stack of worksheets for the day in front of him only to watch him slide right out of his chair onto the floor like he was literally having a meltdown. I learned very quickly that he doesn’t learn that way. And unless I wanted to spend our school days with lots of tears, begging him to do his work, I better learn to teach how he learns real quick like. Little did I know, he is a kinesthetic/visual learner. So he needs me a bit more than she does.

This point also reinforces the idea that feeling the need to be concrete about curriculum choices in the first few years is a dreamy idea, but it isn’t likely it’ll work. At the end of, sometimes smack dab in the middle of a school year we re-evaluate what did and didn’t work for each child, throw out what didn’t, keep what did. Even with that and I’m constantly adding and trying new things. That’s just the process of how you create a curriculum that fits each child best! It’s a lot like putting pieces of a puzzle together, and that’s just part of the fun!

10. Don’t separate “school” and learning from every day life.

I could have read this statement in a book in the very beginning and it wouldn’t have meant as much to me as it does now. But the problem with “traditional school” is that the kids go to school for a set amount of hours per day and then all of sudden learning is over and it’s back to normal life. I believe this creates an image of school that is a huge detriment to a life long love of learning. But when you homeschool you discover that most of your time together is spent learning, whether you are doing actual workbook learning with a pencil or taking trips to the library, nature or science museums. Many many days we toss out the school books and just go to the library and read books on things the kids are interested in. Or we do science all day and end it with a fun experiment (usually something gooey) In this way it doesn’t feel like school but they are learning, and probably much more than any worksheet could ever teach.

This creates a love for learning that will last them well beyond SAT tests and graduation day. And after all, that’s what we are really going for in the first place.

Click here to check out a very helpful “Homeschool Q&A” I did a few months ago. Also, here are just a few of my favorite homeschooling resources to get you started! I will post lots more homeschool helps for you to come!

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Oxygenics Shower-Head: The Light Life “Must Haves”

 

must haves

Welcome to the first in what will be a continuous, regular series of The Light Life Blog must-haves!” 

For your very own Light Life benefit, in this series we will focus on honest reviews of all the finds that are truly making our own family’s life on the road even more wonderful than it already is!

So we’ve probably all heard the hype about the Oxygenics shower head for RVs. And to be honest, we waited a whole nine months to purchase one because it all sounded too good to be true! (plus a  few negative reviews we had been told.)

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But this past weekend my husband came out of a nearby camping store with one in hand, and I was only mildly amused. To be perfectly frank, I wasn’t hopeful that there could really be a solution the whole (water pressure/8 minute shower) issue that most RVers have learned to live with.

But despite my inhibitions, he installed it in our RV and I took for a test shower the next morning….

The verdict? Can I just say – GAME. CHANGING. for the (sometimes pathetic) world of RV showering!

Apparently it uses oxygen to increase water pressure which actually results in 20% LESS water usage as well – which is cool!

I could list all of the really great specs. about it, but I will just let you click on this link for all the little details. (I posted this particular link for you because it is the absolute cheapest price I could find it listed anywhere for.) Yay for better showers AND saving $$!

I’m a girl, so I don’t necessarily care HOW it works, I just care that it really does almost feel like a regular house shower!

Here are our most favorite things about it:

  • Easy, self-mounting which means you can adjust the height of the shower head to what works best for you.
  • MUCH higher water pressure
  • Uses LESS water
  • Which also means we ladies can wash our hair AND shave our legs BEFORE all the hot water runs out!
  • It also has a smart pause shut-off button you can push to save water while you lather up your legs….or whatever else you would need a “pause button” in the shower for.  :)

So The Light Life verdict for the Oxygenics Body Spa 26781?

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We hope this helps to inform you whether you had never even heard about it, or had been wondering if all the hype about it was true.

Have you tried the Oxygenics showerhead in your RV? Two thumbs up or down? Leave your review below! If not, would you try it and why/why not? We want to hear from you! 

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The Danger Of Pursuing A Normal Life

20131029-145247.jpg“The greatest and most aspiring achievements are not produced by those who conform to society’s idea of normal, but by those who courageously adopt the unconventional.” ~ J.J. Herbert

What is it that keeps you from taking the leap to change your life from what it is now to what it could be?

I think the answer is a little different for each person, but I’d be willing to bet that for most – it is simply the fear of being different.

Most people are more concerned with how their lives appear to others on the outside than with how they actually feel on the inside.

And so, we’ve become a culture enslaved to the norm. We are all the same! Or at least, we want to be. And we have become quite proficient at accessing the lives of those around us solely for the purpose of being like them or worst, attaining more.

Why? Because no body wants to be different or unconventional. Everyone just wants to feel normal. But maybe the desire to be normal is a poison slowly killing off the full and rich lives we were meant to lead?

It’s something I’ve been thinking on a lot lately.

If I were to be totally honest, when I was a little girl for whatever reasons, I didn’t feel normal. Thinking back, I can’t exactly put my finger on why. Maybe it was the bad perm and the bottle cap glasses, or that fact that I was a musician and we all know how different musicians can be. But I think mostly I blamed not feeling “normal” on living down a long dirt road with a bit less stuff than most American families we knew.

And so I’ve realized that I’ve spent much of my girlhood dreaming of and much of my adult life working to be normal. Whatever the heck normal is.

And then the funniest thing happened, I got married and we got a normal life. I mean, every single thing that makes up normal in this culture anyways. The mortgage, car payments, debt and those neat, carefully achieved mow lines in the front yard. We even lived in the suburbs once – you know, the neighborhoods where all the houses look exactly the same except for the house number and the cars parked in front. It felt a bit like living smack dab in Sthneedville where they are selling bottled air!

And one day I looked back at my childhood and realized what a gift not being “normal” actually was! I just couldn’t see it then for all the normal trees blocking the view in my forest.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against normal. After all, normal is well – normal! It is fine and there’s not inherently anything wrong with it.

It’s just that at some point I realized that all becoming normal did was made me just like everyone else. And although that’s exactly what I had longed for as a girl of thirteen, when you’re thirty – being just like everyone else somehow begins to lose it’s glittering appeal.

So after about ten years of normalcy, our lives are now far more unconventional than I could have ever dreamed up.

Why? Well, for starters we:

  • Don’t have our children in the public school system
  • Homeschool
  • We don’t let the medical field dictate what potions we should shoot into our systems
  • No longer have a mortgage
  • We are working towards ditching debt for good
  • Live small
  • Travel
  • Spend much of our money on experiences over things
  • We believe we should educate and raise our own children instead of letting society do it for us
  • Refuse to depend on culture to dictate to us what a rich and good life looks like.

Now, we haven’t always done life this way. I remember a time when we frantically shuffled our kids from place to place, with barely enough time to feed them while we killed ourselves to make money so we could hold on tightly to all our stuff. We never took a vacation or went places because quite frankly, the normal American life we were living consumed every single bit of our time and money.

It was an exhausting way to live and quite frankly, it wasn’t living.

20140613-103958-38398345.jpgQuite often someone asks me, “Don’t you miss all that space you had when you lived in a house?” And my answer is always, “Of course I miss the space inside a house! But look at all the space we actually enjoy living in now!”

And no one ever asks, “Don’t you miss being away from your husband all the time, shuffling your kids from place to place so you could work and never having the time (or money) to enjoy life?

I’m sure you could guess my answer to that one.

So yes, being normal has it’s obvious advantages. Which is what makes it appealing to so many. And maybe our lives will look more “normal” at some point in the future. But I’m honestly not in any hurry to be like everyone else again. Because our willingness to let go of clinging to average  – and t0 live unconventionally, has given us a whole new way of living that we could only have every dreamed of before.

You know?

Back when we were much more normal.

20140613-103956-38396906.jpgSo yeah, we don’t have a ton of space inside the place we eat and sleep. But look what we’ve gained!

  • We eat dinner together almost every night
  • Spend a lot of time outdoors enjoying nature
  • TV doesn’t rule our lives or waste precious brain space
  • We can afford to live comfortably on one income
  • Travel more and experience more
  • Meet people from all walks of life
  • Learn to work together to create a life
  • Do almost everything together as a family!

It isn’t a stretch to say that living unconventionally has given us a life we never had before!

What has happened to us that normal has become living our lives trapped in jobs we don’t love, enslaved in debt with no time to spend with those we love most, travel or actually live life?

That is so not normal.

And if it is, then I’m no longer interested in what seems to have become the normal American Dream.

The truth is, a normal, average life never truly made anybody happy.

———

So we can just exist or we can live.
Most of the time the danger of spending a life pursing normal ends up being hidden behind the forest of all the “normal” in our lives. And all the while we just might be missing out on the full, rich, abundant life we could have had all along.

The choice is ours.

Choose to be unconventional and live a “one of a kind” kind of life!

 

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