how do the finances work? homeshooling? getting along?
how do you make this all work?
how do we finance it? how do we get along? how do we school? where do we park the rig while we work? after 3 years on the road, we have a marginally better idea than when we started.
the short answer? we don't. we take it one day at a time, trusting God to make it work. nothing more. where to go next, when to go, what work to take, how long to stay ... it's all decided at the last minute. when it feels right, when there's a nudge or a need or a burst of clarity that says Go There and See Them and Do This, and we try to get it done.
financing a trip like this
we hoped to find enough work on the road to cover the necessities (we started with less than $500, and no credit cards). one-off projects for folks we visit, continuations of the freelance work we both do ... art installation/painting and portraits for Michael and graphic/web design for Bethany. seasonal work. barter. selling stuff online that we've created. we figured it would take a lot of ways, and that we'd piece it all together to get by.
we spent the first few months after we left at our new address in TN (parked in Keren and Bobby's driveway in Knoxville), trying to figure out a way to make some residual income for gas and campsites and such. we wrote business plans for online art lessons, designed Family Drawing concepts, wrangled with pay-as-you-read newsletter ideas, and more. but every single one seemed to require way too much time, leaving us with not enough "go everywhere doing everything" (aka the dream). eventually we just gave up on what seemed like distractions, and decided to leave in 3 days to go to a family reunion, with enough gas money to get there, but nothing more. the next day a bit of cash dropped into our laps, and we took that as a sign from God. just Go, and it will work.
so we have just Gone, for 3+ years so far. doing what's in front of us, and never quite getting stuck without gas or food, though we've come mighty close many times. it always just works out.
homeschooling on the road (aka roadschooling)
we're registered as homeschoolers in TN, so follow the laws there which means registering, keeping attendance records, and taking a standardized test in the spring. as for what and how we teach, it's settling into a steady diet of math, reading, project-based research, programming, science, and writing. we use a lot of Kahn Academy and YouTube when we have internet, they do research on their own, write when forced to, and make lots of too-big-to-fit-in-the-camper things. actually that's Fynn, the million-ideas-a-minute boy.
they've built a go-kart together (and are nearly done with the attached flame-thrower that they designed), made thermite and gunpower (Douglas), built a remote control plane and learned to forge (Fynn), and developed elaborate games. they've also learned how to paint a house, build a playset, shingle roofs, landscape, cut lawns, and use drills and chop saws and hammers and pretty much any power tool except the chain saw. they also get a lot of "how the world works" lessons at the dinner table, or when we're driving. overviews of banking, insurance, investing, taxes, major industries, house-flipping, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, advertising, reproductive rights, legislative process, types of governments, energy sources ... just a few of the conversations i remember having. it helps give a framework for Douglas's voracious information diet, and for Fynn's steel-trap memory for what he hears and sees.
where do we park?
hitched up we're 53' nose to tail, and when we're unhitched the trailer + bike rack + hitch is about 33'. we park anywhere we'll fit. driveways, cul-de-sacs, streets where it's allowed, back yards, fields, campgrounds, fairgrounds, BLM land, Walmarts, truck stops, rest areas, national forests, state parks, abandoned exits, city parks, really any place we can get away with it. we really love to boondock (that's dry camping with no hookups) and can go for up to a week, if we're super careful with electric and water use. full-hookup campgrounds are a luxury which we enjoy occasionally, and when funds allow.
how much time do we spend working vs sight-seeing?
this has varied wildly, from very little sight seeing in the first year (2015) to not much work and a lot of sight-seeing/boondocking in 2017, mostly in the west. we've done very little of the see-a-city and go-to-museums type of stuff, much less than we expected to honestly. it seems like an indulgence and a lot of work, is pretty expensive, and parking is a pain. the focus is mostly on people and interactions, and then spending time in between visits regrouping as a family. we have toured a few major cities, seen some really cool museums, and done some fantastic national parks and monuments though. however most of our sight seeing is out the windows of the truck or on hikes, and it's been truly fabulous. there's a blog post over here with some trip stats if you're interested in that kind of thing. there's also a blog series about our trip West in 2016 where we did tons of sight seeing, the first post is here.
how did we make the transition from fixed-location to mobile living?
very slowly. very blindly. with to-do lists and changes of plan and to-get lists and prayer and lots of waiting and working. and packing. and throwing away and paring down and letting go of things and feelings and assumptions.
for the entertainment of the few who might care (or be wondering about doing something like this themselves), here's a reasonably complete list of all the physical-world things we had to do to get heartLOOSE underway
- research TN/IL laws re homeschooling and residency options and choose one as new legal residence
- open mobile-friendly bank account Capitol One 360
- transfer all monthly bills to new checking account
- get rid of old bank account
- find cheaper cell service for Bethany Straight Talk
- find viable trip tracking software/app Tripline
- design website for trip
- rental property projects to finish ...
- get huge tree limb over the studio removed
- spack/paint bedrooms
- spack/paint bathroom
- finish up stone platform by the river
- sort/pack up lego creations, nerf guns, and toys
- purge clothes
- purge/pack homeschool supplies
- purge office papers
- purge the boys' book collection
- purge kitchen supplies
- find a reliable diesel RWD truck that can tow at least 10,000 pounds Matilda: 1995 F250 Turbo Diesel 7.3 with an extend-a-cab and 8' bed
- get truck rust spot repaired, and a new fan belt Ruben in Lackawaxen did great work
- get a radiator shield Michael eventually made one with help from Tim K.
- get truck inspected
- register and plate the truck in PA Had to as we were there for 2 months after finding Matilda
- sell old car
- purge/pack/document all the art in Michael's studio
- realize how much art there is, and decide to hold a 2-week long online Art Stash Sale, to get rid of as much as possible and make enough money to buy a trailer
- start doing the insane amount of work to list and document and price and measure and estimate shipping for 100+ pieces of art on Michael's website
- get an offer for Michael to do an art install that would bring in a tidy sum, enough to probably get a camper
- decide to do the might-make-enough sale instead of the sure-thing job, trusting God to make it work out
- be amazed when the sale (with many lovely buyers!) produces a bit more money than the job Michael turned down
- get a sturdy travel trailer that has both a bedroom and a set of bunk beds. hopefully with a decent hot water tank and bigger-than-a-dorm-sized fridge. lightweight a plus. standard type hitch 1999 Jayco Eagle 30' bunk house, in mint condition, found at a consignment dealer in NY
- purge/pack lean to/garden shed
- purge/pack tools
- purge/pack office
- sell/donate old technology
- purge/pack our books
- move piano and unsold artwork
- move non-purgable-but-can't-bring-in-camper stuff to storage
- have a yard sale to get rid of stuff
- donate what doesn't sell
- make TN address our legal residence (so that family can handle mail, etc.)
- forward vital mail to new TN address
- register for homeschool in TN
- transfer vehicle titles/insurance/licenses/AAA to TN
- get temp tags to drive the camper from PA to TN
- register camper/pay tax in TN We only had to register it so we could take it to other states, TN doesn't require it
- transfer M's cell service to something cheaper/non contract
- make spreadsheet of names/addresses of known places/people we want to visit. let us know if you hope we'll show up (and how to find/contact you), and any projects you'll have waiting :)
- find a brick-and-mortar bank in TN to link 360 account to, that has no fees used a local Credit Union
- figure out cello rental/lessons for fynn while on the road. skype? michael's taken over for now
- figure out where to store michael's artwork friend's basement near the old place
- figure out where to store the piano, and anything else that needs climate control neighbor's house and crawl space
- find storage for the rest of our non-purgeable stuff, that's cheap/free. 10x10 rented and packed, near the old PA house ... not cheap but no other options
- change addresses for all cards and accounts and bills
- cancel land line
- transfer the house propane and electric back to the owner
- pack the camper we had about 2 weeks to do so, and were continually surprised at how little actually fit
- get rid of what we thought would fit, and didn't
- pack the truck
- say goodbye to all the neighbors oh the heartache
- despair at all the solve-later bins thrown in the back of the truck
- shut down the house ... drain water tanks and lines, clean, empty fridge, figure out how to lock the front door (that hasn't been locked more than 3x in two years and the wood has swollen around it)
- move the freaked out cats to the camper
- hitch up for only the 2nd time so far
- pray for the thousandth time
- say goodbye to the river and house and memories
- turn on the wipers because the fog is so thick
- inch our way out of the driveway and head up Masthope Plank Road, just before midnight on Christmas Eve, 2014