There’s no easy way to say this.
My family and I have decided to sell our house and live in an RV for a year.
It’s out there now! I have said it. Take all the time you need for any of the following reactions, and try saying them to yourself in the mirror or writing them on a piece of paper and burning them or maybe just keeping them to yourself entirely:
Are you crazy??
I don’t love the word “crazy,” but taking into consideration its colloquial meaning, yes. We are.
How will you make money?
We are working on ways to generate income, which I’m hoping will involve writing and podcasting. I will be blogging (maybe here, maybe a new blog?), and while there are a million blogs out there about living in RVs, I have not found any with a mental health and social justice lens, and those are the perspectives I will be writing from. Also comedy, because I am very funny. But if we are not able to generate money from that, we will have the sale of our house to get us through.
We are unhappy in our current life. We are often in crisis as a family, my partner hates his job, my son isn’t getting his needs met at school, we can’t afford to live in Seattle, and we are longing for adventure. On a personal level, I have been stuck in a rut of depression and anxiety for years now, and need to be forced into something new.
We have one life.
I have been feeling for a long time now like we need a drastic change. This life is killing us, and none of us are quite ready to die if we can avoid it.
I want to be free from stuff. I know it’s an incredibly privileged problem to have (more on privilege later), but we live in a cluttered, messy, dirty house full of shit we don’t need. It weighs on me emotionally, and that weight is fucking heavy. I want to simplify and live with only what we need, which will hopefully mean living with significantly less stuff when we come home and find a new place to live.
All of this said, it’s going to be incredibly difficult and painful to leave Seattle and our communities here.
So, you are often in crisis and you decided to deal with it by moving into a much, much smaller home where none of you will have personal space at all?
Yeah. It’s counter-intuitive, I know. And this part is going to be really tough. We are not naïve about any of this, and personal space is a big concern. I don’t know what else to say about that other than being together all the time will force us to face some of our issues with communication and respect for each other, and that we will have to get creative about finding opportunities for alone time. I’m hopeful that we can make progress in our quest to communicate more lovingly (we are already making progress with this), but I am also aware that it may turn out to be a huge fucking disaster.
I DID just say it may turn out to be a huge fucking disaster!
Of course it might! We are a family who has been seriously struggling for years now. We are under no delusion that living in an RV for a year will fix anything. But as some of our dearest and most supportive friends said to us recently, even if it IS a total disaster, it will be an adventurous experience the kids will remember for their entire lives. That makes it worth it for me. And if we get out there and we’re miserable, we can turn around! We are letting go of everything, which means that for this short period of time we will not have obligations to be anywhere at any time.
Let’s talk about privilege. And specifically white privilege.
This choice we’re making is a very privileged choice to be able to make, and most people cannot just pick up and leave. This is not something everyone can do, and that also weighs on me. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not a smart financial choice AT ALL and we may end up literally paying for it later, but the reason we have this choice to begin with is because of white privilege. I don’t speak for others who have chosen an RV lifestyle, I only speak to our own situation.
1.) We own a house in Seattle. We were lucky to find our house at a reasonable price three years ago, but do you know how fucking hard it is to buy a house in Seattle? It’s prohibitively expensive for anyone making less than six figures or without significant savings.
2.) We do not make six figures. In fact, we currently live on one income and student loans. So how did we buy a house? Well, I didn’t have student loans yet, but the real answer is white privilege. The ONLY reason we own our house is because of the generational wealth that has been passed down in my family. It is unearned and has allowed me to do almost everything in my life that costs money.
Generational wealth is one of the biggest factors–in fact, it may be the biggest factor–in the economic oppression and inequality people face in this country. Most Black families, for example, have not been able to amass wealth to pass down from generation to generation. The reasons for this are many (and NO IT’S NOT BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T WORK HARD ENOUGH YOU JAGWEED), and for more on this topic, I HIGHLY recommend you read “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Here’s a link to it to make it easy for you!
(Please don’t come in here talking about hashtagnotallwhitepeople because I know that not all white people have generational wealth. Generational poverty affects a lot of white people, but my economic privilege is a type of white privilege that is common in this country and explains the huge gap we see between white people and people of color in terms of wealth and opportunity.)
So, I walk into this experience with an awareness of the privilege I hold and what that privilege has afforded me. I am also aware that many people live in RVs because they do not have access to any other home, and I do not and will not romanticize that. The fact is that yes, the fact that I can just decide to live in an RV because I have a house I can sell is privileged as fuck.
While this experience is for my family and our relationships, the other part of it is that I want to participate in activism however we can along the way.* This will mean writing essays about our experiences with a social justice lens, and will mean volunteering, joining marches/protests, and talking with people whose stories need to be told but often aren’t heard (this is a podcast idea that I hope to get off the ground). My children will be reminded often of the privilege they embody. We will read about it, talk about it, and live in that awareness. They will become activists. This will be an integral part of their very temporary homeschooling experience.
(Please note that we are huge proponents of public school precisely because it is the option everyone has access to. We believe people should actively work to improve public schools, and our children will be returning to the public school system when we return. Also, yes, we are doing homeschool for one year but I VACCINATE MY KIDS I SWEAR.)
One thing that bothers me about this plan is that we will have to purchase and drive a large, gas-guzzling vehicle, which goes against a lot of my own values. BUT, we will be creating much less waste than we currently do and using MUCH less energy. We also won’t be flying anywhere, and as stated in the article linked below, “Take one round-trip flight between New York and California, and you’ve generated about 20 percent of the greenhouse gases that your car emits over an entire year.”
New York Times: Airline Travel is Bad for the Planet
So while the gas guzzler sucks, we’ll still be reducing our carbon footprint overall.
We are so sad to leave Seattle. We know and love so many people here and will miss them dearly. This will be really tough on us and the kids. I feel torn about leaving. Is this the right thing to do? Is taking the kids away from their beloved friends and making them start over somewhere else the right thing to do? I don’t have the answer, and this question worries me. We will be looking for ways to keep in touch with the kids’ friends (and ours of course), on the trip and after we return. We will be back next spring, and plan to land in Olympia upon our return, which is only an hour from Seattle! I’ll be commuting for school anyway! We won’t be far away.
The biggest sacrifice for me personally is that I will be deferring my Master’s program for a year, which will mean not only putting off my degree for another year, but leaving my cohort. I love that group of people and do not want to start with another cohort a year into the program. I already don’t like my new cohort. (i haven’t met them.) They suck compared to my current one. (this is a joke. but it is also not a joke.) But I also can’t be my best in school or life when we’re living in crisis all the time, so that’s a sacrifice I have to make. And of course, because the people in my cohort rule, they have all been loving and supportive and have reminded me that I will always be part of that group. I’m not crying you’re crying.
I have been overwhelmed and relieved by how much support and positivity we’ve received from our friends and some of our family. The support you all have extended means everything to us. It also helps a lot to hear people say that we will still be friends, we’ll keep in touch, etc. But I have also heard plenty about how this is a bad idea on every level. I know that, and those aren’t the voices any of us need right now. The fact is that we’re doing this, so you can either get on board and support us or keep your opinion to yourself.
*Let me know of activism organizations in your area that we might be able to connect with!