Since we first began telling people about our plans to move from our 1,000 sq foot rental home to an RV, we've had people who just don't understand. Most people pretend to get it, they uncomfortably smile, then quickly change the subject. We've had people offer financial help to keep us in our rental home. Suggestions of part time jobs I could pick up, ideas for housing assistance from the state, fundraising opportunities, banks that could get us loans. We appreciate the ideas, we feel loved and cared for but that's not what we're looking for.
I totally and completely understand that our lifestyle choices are not for everyone. I do not at all expect people to read my blog and think "that would be perfect for us!". For us, it's perfect. (I should say, for us right now, it's perfect. Who knows how we'll feel in a year or two?) I will say that the longer we live this way, the more I'm convinced I don't want to live in a conventional house anytime soon.
Every once in a while, we still run across people who feel bad for us. They ask how long we have to live in the RV, or if we're looking for something different, or offer a pitying smile. Whenever I see someone pull into our neighbor's driveway and give a sideways glance towards the giant, blue and silver RV sitting in the orchard I want to wave them over, explain how happy we are, show them our home and how cozy it is inside. More than that, I want people to understand what we didn't have to give up to live this way.
I stay at home with our kids full time while running my photography business. I schedule sessions in the evenings when Austin's home, shoot weddings on the weekends and edit when the kids are asleep or busy playing. It's a lot of work and gets overwhelming during the busy season (now!). When we first started looking for a solution to our financial problems, I considered looking for a full time job. The thought of it made me feel sick. I love staying home with the kids and I love my photography gig. Going back to work full time would mean giving up both, at least in some capacity. Our current lifestyle not only allows me to stay home with our kids, but also makes my photography income seem more significant since we can stretch our dollars so much further!
Both Austin and I attended private university while getting our Ba's. While we loved our experience and appreciate the education we received, we do not love the student loans we were left with. For the past five years, we have been chipping away at them, slowly making progress. When Austin decided to go back to school last year, we both knew we did not want to be stuck with more loans. So far, we've been able to avoid taking on any more student loans and I don't foresee needing to before he's done his program.
When Austin lost his job in January 2015, we were scared and hopeful. As he began looking for a new job, we began to lose hope. We knew the wage he needed to make to be able to make ends meet and while it wasn't a huge amount, jobs available in that range needed a lot more experience than he had. Every once in a while, he would stumble upon a job that he was excited about, only to realized that it made just above minimum wage and would not support our family. It was a discouraging year of applying for jobs he had little to no chance of getting that would pay the bills, or passing up jobs he would love but that would leave us wanting financially. With our new lifestyle, he would be able to accept a job paying minimum wage and still support us. So much financial stress has be relieved from both of us!
We never feared being homeless. We have family, friends and a wonderful church family who never would have let that happen. Making this decision didn't keep us from being homeless (although, according to the state, we are!) but it did allow us to remain financially secure and live in a way that we choose. We intentionally made this change before we hit rock bottom, when we still had the savings to fund our tiny home and feel in control of the situation.
Shortly after we moved into the bus, BOTH of our vehicles broke down. Talk about stressful. We were able to get the van fixed quickly, $200 and a day later and all was good. The car, though, was totally dead. Because we've been able to slowly squirrel away a little money at a time, we found a "new" (2001 Nissan Sentra) car a week later and it all worked out. I couldn't help but think of the situation we would have been in had we still been living in our rental house. There was no extra to squirrel away, no time to take off work if Austin didn't have a vehicle, no savings account to pull from. It would have been very difficult and taken us months to recover from. I'm so grateful that we don't have that same feeling hanging over our heads here!
There are many ways we could have cut down on our housing expenses, live with family, rent a small apartment, find a house we could share with another family, move to an area with lower housing expenses, etc. We considered all of these options and really struggled with the idea of many of them. Renting a small apartment in town would be hard on us, and in the end we realized it would only save us $200-$300 a month. We love having our own space and would be hesitant to give that up. When we hit upon our current idea, we were excited to realize we didn't have to give up our independence, we could still have our own home, still live close to friends and family in this area that we love so much and we would be saving upwards of a thousand dollars a month.
We are so happy with the life we have chosen, we are happy, comfortable and secure. Of course, there are things we have given up, space, comfort, ease, etc. but in the long run, they all seem pretty meaningless when compared to what we didn't have to let go of.