Well, hello! It’s been a minute or two….more like a year or two….since I’ve updated this space. Whether you are new to our blog or you’ve been with us since the beginning, thank you for reading and following our adventures. I have so many things the Lord has laid on my heart to share in 2022.
As you can tell by our cover photo, we’ve had some life changes this year! So, I’m going to try to give you a very brief idea of what we’ve been up to and how God has worked in our lives recently!
We always said we would do this fulltime RV thing until we were ready to do something different. When we set out in the summer of 2015, we didn’t have a timetable. After 6.5 years on the road, we decided it was time to find ourselves a home base…for multiple reasons. Emily is a senior this year and will be going to college next year. In early 2021, she began voicing that she wanted a job and to learn to drive….both of which are difficult to do on the road. We opted for a seasonal site in our favorite little Mississippi River town for the 2021 season so that she could do both of those things.
Paul said all year that he was praying for a house in Bellevue, IA for his 50th birthday, which was November 4, 2021. We would laugh about it a little bit…dream about it, and pray about it. Then…out of nowhere, God answered our prayer! I say “our prayer” because I came across one of my old prayer journals from 2019 the other day when I was unpacking things. Would you believe that I started praying about a house in Bellevue even back then? Anyway, that’s a whole different blog for another day! We were supposed to leave Bellevue in mid-October, at the end of our season at Off Shore Resort. But, three days before we planned to head out, this beautiful house came on the market. We contacted the realtor immediately to go see it. We looked at it and it was love at first sight! We put in an offer the next morning and it was accepted within an hour! Holy cow! Were we really doing this? Up to this point, it had just been “talk”, hadn’t it?
Well, we ended up moving out of our seasonal site and up to Bellevue State Park for a couple of weeks while the inspections, etc. were happening. We just knew something was going to come up that would be a deal-breaker for us. I was actually praying that direction, “Lord, if we aren’t supposed to do this, please let something really obvious be wrong with the house. Please slam this door shut if we aren’t supposed to do this and we’ll just keep doing the RV thing because we really love that, too.” But, guess what?!! No doors slammed shut. In fact, they just kept swinging open.
After spending two weeks at the state park, and getting confirmation from our realtor and banker that we could close remotely, we went ahead with our plans to head south….all the way down to South Padre Island, TX to catch up with our Fulltime Families tribe! We were set to close on the house on November 19 and that’s exactly what happened. We closed on the house and then went for a walk on the beach! 🙂
We know a lot of RVers who travel fulltime for a while, and then buy a house and settle down. Very few of those people continue to document their journey back into a house. For us, it is a continuation of our journey! After traveling for 6.5 years, settling in a house is a journey on its own…especially since we are from Texas and decided to settle in the Midwest where they actually have winter! I wouldn’t say it’s a difficult adjustment…more like a voyage of discovery! 🙂 I want to keep documenting our journey for those who are curious or are enjoying following our adventures.
In this blog, I’m going to cover some of the FAQs we get asked regularly about our decision to buy a house and settle down for a while.
Why Bellevue, IA? We like to say we “stumbled upon Bellevue” back in the summer of 2018. We were planning on doing a couple of weeks at Bellevue State Park and then moving on. I had come across a photo online of the beautiful overlook at the park and knew we had to stop. We had 2 weeks booked at the campground. The first night, when we were walking up to the overlook and as I was taking in the gorgeous view, I stepped on a crack and fell, breaking my foot. That obviously was a game-changer. At that point, we decided to seek out a campground where we could do another month while my foot healed. That’s when we discovered Off Shore RV Park just north of town. So, all-in-all, we did about 6 weeks in Bellevue and absolutely fell in love with the place and the people. When we left, we couldn’t stop thinking about it. We had been A LOT of places, but none called us back like this place, so we decided to book a whole season here in 2019. We have come back every summer since. Bellevue is the coolest community and has the kindest people. We are happy to now call it our “home base”.
Will you put the kids in school? The short answer is “no”. Emily is wrapping up her senior year, and then she will be going to a community college up here next fall. Tyler is a little more complicated. The short explanation is that we still plan on traveling some during the school year and he is thriving with home school. So, right now, we are just going to keep doing what we’re doing. The longer answer is….we never rule anything out for the future. I can see major benefits to Tyler doing high school here. The school system in Bellevue is excellent. Iowa also offers several hybrid homeschool options. We might explore those as time goes on, but for this year, we’re just settling in and enjoying learning all the new survival skills! Haha!
What do your kids do for fun? Tyler usually spends an hour or two “coding” when he finishes his curriculum. This is his creative outlet. He is currently building an ecosystem simulation from scratch in code form. He dreams of building cars, designing games, or being an engineer “when he grows up”. He also hopes to own a ball python someday and learns all about them for fun. (He hasn’t convinced the adults in the house that this is a good idea though.)
On days that Emily is off work, she switches to crocheting, digital art, or guitar after her scheduled curriculum. Last year, she decided she wanted to research everything she could find about closed ecosystems and then built one. It was awesome and we all learned so much! This year, she has a “bee in her bonnet” about leopard geckos. She has been researching and plans to start getting her “set up” for one when she gets her first paycheck. That is one of my favorite things about homeschooling. It gives them the space to explore things that interest them.
They both enjoy playing video games online with their RV friends. They usually plan a “game night” once or twice a week with 5-10 friends. They have headsets with microphones and it’s really interesting to observe the conversations they have and the teamwork they use to accomplish a task. They both love to cook. Emily loves baking. Tyler loves to create his own, signature dishes, which have been delicious every time. 🙂 They also love serving at the Bellevue Community Food Cupboard on Tuesday evenings. In the summer, they help me at our little plot at the community butterfly garden. They enjoyed raising Monarch butterflies and learning all about them this last summer. We plan to do that again this summer. This year, we’ll also be planting our own garden in our backyard. We’re all pretty pumped about that! They have had so many neat opportunities for discovering fun, new things. I’m sure that what we do for fun will gradually change the longer we are here.
How will your kids make friends their own age if they don’t go to school? It’s kind of like this…have you ever seen a field covered in beautiful wildflowers? There’s not really any order to it. No one necessarily planned for them to be there. They aren’t in straight rows, rhyme, or reason to their placement. But, if you stand back and look across the field, there is no denying that it is beautiful! The life we have chosen to live is a little bit like that. Don’t get me wrong. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t beauty in a well-planned out, straight row flower garden, too. But, we are definitely more like the wildflowers. We do things very organically. We grow where we are planted for however long that might be. We don’t live life in straight rows. We don’t necessarily follow “norms” or “traditions”. We don’t do things because we feel like others expect it of us. We often make things up and adjust as we go. We are a little random in our approach. We look for beauty in every place and situation. We look to God for EVERYTHING and we love the people He has placed along our path. We’ve learned that we all function really well, approaching life like that…one day at a time. That’s just who we are. Every new place we go, we make new friends as you can see in many of the photos in this blog…whether we are there for a few days, a few weeks, or indefinitely. Those friendships might be very “surface” and in our life for just a day, or they might be immediate lifelong Kingdom friends, but we are always excited to make new friends. When we are traveling, we try to make sure we are near other traveling families. We have a HUGE network and community of people who travel fulltime. Even though we technically aren’t “fulltime” anymore, that community doesn’t just go away. These friends are lifers! 🙂 It’s really cool to watch when we pull into a campground with lots of other families. All of the kids are like instant cousins. I’m sure it is baffling to people who are outside of that traveling community. I’ve actually heard people say, “Who are all of these kids and how do they all know each other? Maybe it’s a family reunion or something.” Well, kind of! Our answer to that question might go something like this: “We met so-and-so at the Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico in 2019 and served alongside them at a Navajo youth camp. Then we all went to the Grand Canyon together and then met up for Mother’s Day 2020 in Tennessee. We met such-and-such in Florida in 2020 and catch them again most winters in Texas. We met this family at South Padre Island last year, hooked up again in the Midwest last summer, and then hung out again at South Padre last month. This kid, I just met 5 minutes ago, but he and I both love Minecraft and Jesus, so we’re going to hang out for the rest of the week.” Hahaha! When you travel like we have, the whole Country kind of becomes your “neighborhood”. It’s bizarre and AMAZING all in one! In the extremely connected, online world we find ourselves in these days, our kids are able to keep in touch with, video chat, play games with, and have the absolute best friends from wherever we are. We are also hopeful that many of our traveling friends will come to visit us in person and get that “Iowa sticker” on their map they’ve been avoiding! Come on, y’all! I even have a bathtub you can use! LOL! It might also be important to note that Paul and my relationship initially started online….way back on dial-up internet! This world is not unfamiliar to us. Our kids just have it A LOT easier than we did! 🙂
As far as making friends locally goes, we have also hooked up with a homeschool group in Dubuque, which is about 25 minutes drive from Bellevue, and look forward to connecting with other homeschool kids in our area.
Emily got a job at the local grocery store and is working with a bunch of local teens there. We’ve learned over the years that it can be difficult to get past the surface friendships with kids who do life differently than we do, so it will be interesting to see if that holds true now that we actually live here. She definitely has great stories to share if anyone wants to take the time to listen. 🙂 We also learned about a group of teens who meet at the Lutheran church down the street on Wednesday nights, so Tyler thinks he might check that out. The youth group at the church we attend occasionally in Dubuque is starting their youth group back up for the new year as well. I’m sure as the weather warms up, and everyone begins to spend more time outdoors, they will meet more local teens. 🙂 They aren’t worried about it too much though because they already have an awesome friend base. It will happen when it happens.
The cool thing about my kids is that though they do enjoy friendships with kids their age, they have friends of all ages. They can have meaningful conversations and friendships with anyone. 🙂 Traveling has given our kids a perspective on relationships and friendships that you would only get from experiencing life the way they have. It will be interesting to see how their relationships develop over time. I’m hopeful that they both with find other teens to connect with here in Bellevue and surrounding areas, but my biggest prayer is that they will always have quality friends who will be there through thick and thin, good times and bad, and who will pray for them, and even with them, regardless of where they are physically located.
What will you do for work here? We will continue to run our business, Sinar Media, and work from home. Currently, most of our clients are still in Texas, which means an occasional trip back for onsite jobs. We hope to do business with more local businesses and organizations here as time goes on. Paul is super excited that his new office has a window! He enjoys watching the little black squirrel that he’s lovingly named “Jackson” puttering around the spruce trees out his window. So much of what we do is creative, so having beautiful and inspiring surroundings is so crucial. He is also hoping to expand his business to include some stock photography and videography. This place is so photogenic!
How did you furnish your house? Do you even have any furniture? I mean, this is a great question! When we sold up everything in 2015, we got rid of almost all of our furniture, decor, and furnishings from our 4 bedroom 3 bath house….aside from what was going in the RV with us (not much!) We also kept a few pieces of furniture at my parents’ house in Texas. We kept our queen bed, our dining set, a bookshelf, a dresser, and my cedar chest. We were able to load the bed, dining set, and bookshelf on the RV before we came back to move into the house, so that’s what we started with. I really haven’t stressed about it. We literally had everything we needed in the RV. We could pull mattresses in, tables, dishes, cookware, etc. The kids started out on air mattresses and we went back to our queen bed after having a king in the RV (which is funny, but not a big deal at all). RV living has taught us to live VERY minimally and distinguish between needs and wants. The next thing I knew, our beautiful, wonderful friends here started bringing us things to help furnish the house! I honestly can’t believe how the Lord has blessed us with all of this. Not only did He open all the doors for this house, but through our incredible friends, He has furnished it as well! Such a HUGE answer to prayer. I honestly planned on just getting things off of Facebook Marketplace a little bit at a time over the next several months until we had everything we needed. We have AMAZING friends and God is so good!
Are you going to sell your RV? No way! We are looking forward to doing a few repairs and remodeling once it thaws out and we can put the slides back out. Repairs will be so much easier when we aren’t living in it fulltime! We can’t wait to take it out for trips! Traveling is part of who we are. We also can’t wait to connect up with our Fulltime Families friends and other family and friends around the Country again. Having an actual house in this great community gives us the security of a home base and all that goes along with that, but we LOVE Our Moving House, too! Every time I have to run out there to get something from the RV, I get a warm, fuzzy feeling as soon as I walk in the door. It is “home”, too. We plan to spend at least part of the winter next year back at South Padre Island, TX with our friends, though it will be weird to leave Emily behind so she can attend college.
How do you like winter in the Midwest? Winter was the only season in Bellevue that we hadn’t experienced until this year. So far, we are loving it! We have learned so many new things…I’m sure things that Midwest natives assume everyone just knows, but we Southerners are completely clueless about. LOL! RVing has taught us how to adapt to different surroundings. I feel like we have adjusted pretty quickly. We have loved watching the bald eagles and the Mississippi River freezing over. We’ve figured out the snow shoveling and salting routine. We’ve learned how to care for our vehicles in frigid temperatures. We’ve been amazed by the plow trucks and the efficiency of the clearing of roads. We’re beginning to get used to everything being white…though I did have to add paint to my white walls in the house…too much white was beginning to get to me! LOL! We are all gradually getting proper winter gear, which makes all the difference in the world. We have been surprised by how warm 30 something degrees feels after several days in single digits. Cold days have given us a chance to explore our creativity such as painting, sewing, and other indoor hobbies. Honestly, I love it! I love that life seems to go into a cycle of slowing down in winter here. I think that’s healthy. We do a lot of “going” most of the year. It’s kind of like taking a Sabbath. It’s truly been great. I am also excited to be here for the very beginning of spring this year…to watch things begin to come to life again after the winter!
What has it been like having so much more space? It’s been a little weird, but wonderful, too. It’s weird after being side-by-side for all those years, to be spread out in the house with the kids’ bedrooms upstairs, Paul’s office kind of hidden away, etc. The kids have been spending much of the day downstairs though. Tyler does his schoolwork on the couch. Emily does hers at the kitchen table. I think I’m the only one who lost “my place”. LOL! In the RV, I could always go to my bedroom and close the door to get some work done or do my quiet time. In the house, Paul’s office is off of our bedroom, so that doesn’t work very well. I think when it warms up, our enclosed front porch will be “my spot”. In the meantime, everyone knows if I’m on the couch surrounded by books, journals, Bibles, etc. to leave me alone! LOL! The kids have enjoyed having their own rooms and space, but sometimes just want to share a room. They’ve had a couple of “sleepovers” in Emily’s room since we’ve been in the house. Kinda cute! Also, though we have more space in the house, we only have one bathroom. We had 1.5 baths in the RV. So, that has been an adjustment for sure! We will be putting in a second bathroom upstairs probably in the spring.
What does a typical day look like in your new house? It really doesn’t look terribly different from what it did in the RV. We all start our day with coffee and Jesus. We have our morning family devotional at the kitchen table. That has been a new addition since it’s too cold to want to go for a morning walk. We started this in January after completing a family Advent devotional leading up to Christmas. It has become something we all look forward to and a great way to start our day! Then, Paul “goes to work” and the kids and I watch an educational video to get everyone’s brains in gear for the day. We are currently watching a YouTube series called Crash Course Study Skills. Each episode has tips for studying, notetaking, test-taking, etc. It has been awesome! When we finish this playlist, we’ll move on to another subject we find interesting. Then, the kids do their individual curriculum. We’ve discovered a block schedule works best for us, so they each tackle about 3 subjects each day. When they finish their schoolwork, they shift to creative projects. In the evening, I usually fix supper, we eat, and then we often pile up on the couch for a documentary or a YouTube episode of something we all enjoy. Of course, we remain flexible for when other things come up such as field trips, grocery runs, etc. We’re pretty boring most days. We all like to have some structure to our schedules.
How do you feel like Fulltime RVing benefitted your family? I’m going to end on this one. We get this question a lot. It’s talked about often in FTF circles. It’s asked often by people who are just curious about the lifestyle. Many people dream of selling all of their belongings and hitting the road with their families, but most would never actually do it for one reason or another. I can tell you that this lifestyle is not for everyone, but for us, it has allowed for a lot of healing, bonding, and an awesome time of growth and education…for all of us. In 2015, when we first set out on this journey, Paul and I were both on anxiety medications. We had been through a lot…a miscarriage, then losing our 13-day old baby girl, grief, depression, anxiety, work burn-out, and so much more. Paul was working ridiculously long hours in church ministry. We didn’t see a lot of him and when he was home, he didn’t have the brain space left for family stuff. RVing gave us our family back. It allowed time and space for us to focus on our relationships with God, to heal individually, to heal our marriage, to build bonds with our kids, and to learn so much about ourselves, each other, and this beautiful country that we live in. My kids are the very best of friends. We have all met some of our closest friends while traveling. Most families on the road have very similar stories to ours. Many have experienced some kind of traumatic event. Many have worked way too much and missed out on their families for too long. RVing fulltime forces you to focus on all of those things. For us, it shaped our family spiritually, emotionally, and even physically. I wouldn’t trade these past 6.5 years for anything. RVing was a lifesaver for us.
I hope this gives you a little bit of insight into our world. We are an open book, love sharing this crazy story the Lord has given us, and hope to encourage you on the path He has you on! This will be the first of many blogs I write this year. Stay tuned….it’s going to be a great year! Anything else you’re curious about or would like me to blog about this year? Life is such a journey…just enjoy the ride!