Is This The New American Dream?
The case for a lifestyle overhaul.
The American dream used to consist of a large house with a white picket fence, a fancy job and happy kids. For many people today, however, that dream consists of a tiny recreational vehicle, or RV, a nomadic profession and flexible kids.
For better or worse, we’ve ditched our ancestors’ dreams and have replaced them with our desire to explore the world untethered to anything but our families. Those who have joined the movement to sell their home and their possessions in order to hit the road or to fly around the world have been described as “digital nomads,” “world schoolers” and “full-time RVers.”
The RV Industry Association reports that 1 million Americans live full time in RVs, and half of new sales of the RVs have been going to Americans under age 45. Previously, retirees had been the primary buyers of the RVs.
An RV can cost between $10,000 and $300,000 depending on its age and features, according to Camper Report, while a camper trailer behind a truck runs about $20,000. A motor home starts at around $100,000.
Krystie Yeo is one of the people who jumped on this bandwagon. She and her husband had been teachers, but they didn’t like the idea of their newborn going to day care. “My husband and I wanted to be very active parents, and we’d heard of digital nomads, and it clicked for us,” Yeo said.
The couple sold their home in northern California, and bought a truck and a travel trailer. They’ve been on the road for 14 months and have visited 29 states and 19 national parks. They stay at each location for about a week to give themselves a sense of normalcy while still keeping it exciting.
To pay for their lifestyle, they grew a business that provides lessons and materials for kids with special needs called shop.adapted4specialed.com. On a typical day, they wake an hour or two before their daughter so they can work. Once she gets up, they have a family breakfast and then do something fun for the day. Often, this includes a hike. In the afternoon, they return home for lunch and her nap — which is when Yeo and her husband can work again.
After nap, they sometimes do another activity, go to the park, grab a meal or just play. “Right now, we’re staying at Zion National Park, so we took a nice hike this morning, and we’ll probably go to the park after she wakes up from her nap,” Yeo reported. In the evenings, they put their toddler to bed and do a couple more hours of work before they go to sleep.
Yeo said her daughter isn’t old enough for school yet, but when she is, they’ll either settle down or homeschool her on the road.
Families with older kids also have managed to pull off the nomadic lifestyle. In 2015, Lisa Dailey took her teenage boys out of school and traveled the world for seven months, visiting more than 80 locations in 13 countries.
“School was a huge concern going into the trip, but ended up being a very minor hurdle,” said Dailey, who is based in Washington State just north of Seattle. Dailey said they looked into various programs for their children to do as they traveled, but these would have required the teens to be online six hours a day in a U.S. time zone, which wouldn’t have been feasible.
“So we just pulled them out of school and indicated that we’d be homeschooling them,” Dailey said. She grabbed the books they’d be reading in school, bought an algebra workbook and had the kids do online lessons. For history, their studies were based on their travels.
“We visited museums and different places where they could learn more about the places we were in,” Dailey said. Her advice for others traveling with kids? “Don’t get too bogged down by what they’re missing — the education they’re getting by seeing the world is far better. The stuff they know and the stuff they learned on the trip? You can see it in everything they do.”