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Blog Financing Travel RV'ing 50 States USA

Wanderschool Book Review: Becoming Barenaked

March 27, 2015

A few days ago, when I stumbled upon the Bare Naked Family’s blog and immediately got sucked into reading all about this family who ditched their American Dream Lifestyle for the full-time RV lifestyle, I didn’t hesitate to buy Becoming BareNaked: Leaving a six figure career, selling all of our crap, pulling the kids out of school, and buying an RV ~ we hit the road in search … what it meant to be a family in America. Thank you, Amazon Prime for getting it to me right before my own homeschooling family embarks on our own whirlwind 50-state tour.  Becoming Barenaked ($26.96 on Amazon) is a compilation of handwritten writings and stories by Barenaked Mama, Jenn.  The pages are actually copies of real handwriting, not re-typed and perfectly edited–raw and real.

The Barenaked Family’s story pulls at my heartstrings and hits close to home.  Young and in love.  Career.  Baby juggling. Multiple houses.  The American Dream.  Trading it all for kid juggling. Unschooling.  RV Living. Organic, free range living. Pursuing dreams. Family Love. Coffee–well, a coffee shop to be more precise (my 9 year old holds dearly the dream of owning one).  Endless possibilities.

Jenn’s writings share her feelings and experiences about transitioning from the American Dream life and a six-figure salary, to another, daring life of freedom and simplicity.  She talks about others’ expectations and dealing with the cycle of those expectations, and how her family’s choices freaked people out–and how she realized that her family’s life prior to the RV lifestyle had become part of the societal “machine,” which required careful calculation in revealing their plan to others.  She shares what it was like to return home, only to realize the urgency of needing to leave again because the old life no longer fit.

She explains how her family became the Barenaked Family.  She explains that when she and her husband thought of homeschooling, that they didn’t view it “as a chore, a religious thing, or a conspiracy theory.  We saw it as an opportunity to giver our kids a future they can create.  Not to mention giving them the freedom to just be a kid.”  She offers comfort to those searching for something more or better, that there is something better….  A new American Dream.

For me, reading Jenn’s book is like indulging in comfort food (which of course, is a gluten-free chocolate cupcake).  It’s easy to relate to her words and the feeling of wanting a life filled with meaning, purpose, experiences, and love, rather than an empty, bottomless cup of life centered around acquiring stuff and more stuff.

If you’re thinking about making a big life change, jumping into RV travel or full-time living, or simply longing for something more and can’t quite figure it out yet, Becoming Barenaked, might be worth a read.

Happy Wandering!  Happy Homeschooling!








Blog Financing Travel RV'ing 50 States USA

Cut Your Travel Budget: How to Find Cheap or Free Family Housing While Traveling

March 21, 2015

So, you’ve reached the point of no return.  You’re ready to be a do-er and not just a dreamer.  You’re super jealous, if not totally exhausted, after reading blog post after post after post about families who are living your travel dream.

You want to travel.  With your kids.  Now.  You don’t want to wait until retire (and hope you can finally fund your travel dreams at that point or are then still healthy enough to travel).  You don’t have a trust fund, however, so you know you’ve got to be realistic.  You have real bills to pay.  Oh, and there’s that pesky detail of figuring out how to keep a paycheck rolling in.

You Know You Want to Travel the World…Or USA…Or North America…Or…. But How Do You Find Affordable Housing To Keep Your Budget Reasonable?

Anyone who makes a monthly mortgage or apartment rental payment knows that housing can chew up a big chunk of cash.  If you’re looking to travel as a family on the cheap, but housing expenses have you a bit stressed and you desperately need a way to cut the travel budget….  how_afford_roadschooling

Do you

(a.) Sell your sticks and bricks house (or end your lease early or wait until it expires) and travel the world as a family, and find cheap, creative ways to put a roof over your head;

(b.) Keep your house/apartment/cabin and travel the world as a family, and look for inexpensive accommodations–after all, traveling with kids carries a sorta, kinda, bigger price tag than solo travel;

(c.) Buy lots of lottery tickets and hope for the best;

(d.) Bag your dream (your relatives and friends think you’re nuts for hatching a travel idea anyway); or

(e.) Come up with a creative plan that allows you to find affordable housing and live your travel dream on a budget that works for your family, which may or may not involve one or more of the above options.

THE ANSWER IS E: Creativity And Determination Will Help You Cut Your Travel Housing Budget 

Are you planning short-term or long-term travel?  In either case, you’ll want to carve out a financial travel strategy and save hoard cash. The length of travel and your lifestyle will impact how much money you need when you travel.  Obviously, if you’re a regular person, meaning someone who doesn’t have a trust fund or who hasn’t won a record-breaking Powerball draw (yet), and you plan to travel for the long-term (full-time), you’ll probably need to come up with income to supplement your savings (i.e. a job).

But even if you’re not the greatest planner, and you don’t have a stockpile of cash, you can still travel sooner than later–if not, now.  Beyond figuring out how to make money on the go, finding telework gigs, starting your own portable business, building a passive income stream, or taking advantage of your employer’s remote work or extensive travel options, you can cut your budget (and need for cash) by finding cheap accommodations.

Spend Less on Travel:  Cut Your Travel Housing Budget

Explore these options as possible ways to save on your family travel housing budget.

1.  Homeaway.  Lodging possibilities to fit a range of lifestyles and budgets can be found on Homeaway and at similar vacation rental sites, such as VRBO. It’s possible to score deep housing discounts depending on location, time of year, length of stay, and timing of reservation. Our family has had many happy Homeaway experiences and we’ve lucked out with some great deals, including a $200/week stay at a beautiful mountain rental in Spain.

2.  Airbnb.  If you’re looking to settle into a “real” house or apartment with all the comforts of home, a housing option on Airbnb might be a great pick.  Our family snatched up a lovely, centrally located, month-long rental in Paris (with fantastic reviews) using Airbnb at an attractive price–we lucked out with timing/price, as the owners decided to head out of town during the French holiday to show off their brand new baby.

3.  Housing Swaps.  If you have a house available to swap, you might discover a family who would love to trade homes with you for the short-term or longer.  For a family looking to keep travel costs low or to avoid having a vacant house while traveling, this could be a win-win.  Check out HomeExchange as one possible place to find swaps (Hat tip to Team Skaggs for the idea!).  You can also find swap possibilities on Craigslist and on membership group lists, such as Yahoo or Facebook groups.  If you have a particular destination in mind, shooting an inquiry to your circle of friends (e.g., via Facebook) might help you find housing by way of a “friend of a friend.”

4.  Work Exchanges / Work Amping.  Will work for lodging?  If you have time on your hands while traveling and happen to have needed skills, work/volunteer exchanges could open doors to free or low cost housing.  Check out Workamper for ideas for RV owner work for lodging leads and Workaway or HelpX for budget traveler work/volunteer for lodging opportunities.

5.  Hotel Points or Club Discounts.  If you’ve amassed hotel points by way of frequent traveling, credit card, or other club membership or loyalty discounts, those points or discounts could open the door for cheap or free temporary lodging.

6.  Hostels.  Across the globe, many Hostels welcome families, offering simple family rooms (and often a simple breakfast) at reasonable prices. You can find info at Hostelling International.  Check into hostel membership or discount cards for added savings.

7.  Friends and Family.  Sometimes staying with friends or family in various locations is the perfect way to save big on housing expenses, especially if you happen to like each other!  If you’re lucky, you might not have to pay a dime for the lodging itself, though you can graciously return the favor by offering up a bedroom in your home at some point, volunteering to make dinners or help around the host’s/hostess’ house, stocking his/her pantry, or taking your host/hostess out for a memorable dinner or event as a thank you.

8.  Couchsurfing.  Couchsurfing via online sites, such as, might be an easy way to find a place to stay for one or two, but with a family, maybe not so much. However, there are families who do couchsurf and people who are willing to take in families for a night.

9.  RVs/Motorhomes/Travel Trailers.  I am continually amazed to hear the stories of families taking to the road in the USA, Europe, and around the world by way of recreational vehicles, such as motorhomes and travel trailers.  Check out Fulltime Families or a growing number of RV travel blogs, such as Gone with the Wynns, to see what I’m talking about.  It’s possible to buy camping club memberships, such as Thousand Trails, ReadyCampGo, Good Sam, and Harvest Hosts to save significantly on camping costs.  Of course, there are also free “boondocking” possibilities.

10.  Tent Camping.  Tent camping is still a popular, low-cost way for families to hit the road and save big on travel budgets.  Campground discount programs and state/federal park land can help save even more cash.

11.  Tiny Homes.  Some families opt to downsize, build or buy tiny houses on wheels in lieu of a monthly mortgage payment.  They travel with their house–like a turtle traveling with its shell/house, and enjoy low cost house living.  Check out the Tiny House Blog for ideas.

12.  Car camping / Glamping / Eurovans.  Families have also found a way to reduce lodging costs by converting their vans, cars, old buses into sweet looking homes on wheels.  Check out YouTube for lots of great car camping hacks, such as how to mount temporary hammocks inside a minivan.  I recently learned from an awesome homeschool/mom blogger that if you do your homework you might happen to score a fabulous deal on a camper van!  Check out Craigslist, RV Trader, and Pinterest for cool ideas and deals.


*Don’t be afraid to ask an owner/rental company/dealer if they have wiggle room in the price or to cut you a deal for a longer stay. Go ahead and negotiate where appropriate.

*Research, research, research your housing options, keeping safety in mind when it comes to corresponding with owners/rental agents to ensure that a rental is legit and location safety.

*Read all of the reviews on a prospective rental, and do an independent Internet search to see if other reviews or comments about the rental or owners/rental company come to light.

*Be flexible with your dates, itinerary, and travel routes if possible.  Flexibility might open the door for great deals.

*Look for promo codes, rental discount codes, discount clubs, etc. on all purchases or reservations.  You might not save $ everytime, but many times you will.

 With a bit of creativity, you can come up with a plan that cuts your travel housing budget and allows you to live your family travel dream.


Happy Wandering!  Happy Homeschooling!

Blog Financing Travel RV'ing 50 States USA

Small Houses, Tiny Apartments, RV Living: The Benefits of Raising Kids in Small Spaces

February 22, 2015

You can’t raise a family of six in a small city apartment.  Each child needs his/her own bedroom. Parents shouldn’t have kids if they can’t afford a big apartment or house.  You can’t raise a child in a condo. It’s impossible to live full-time in an RV with children. Suburbs exist for raising kids. Kids need their own backyard so they can run and play. You can’t possibly squeeze three pint-sized preschoolers into one hotel bed.  If you can afford a big house, that’s what you should have–or want–for your kids. Living in small spaces is cruel to children.

There’s probably only one place in the world I can imagine these words being spoken to parents, by family and strangers:  The United States of America.  That’s the only place I’ve heard these words spoken (or have read them), with the exception of a hotel in Spain.  The only place where I’ve been judged for not wanting more space.

I’m lucky, by most standards.  I have a choice of where to live.  I have ‘plenty’ of space to raise my children, by my standards (though some think my 2000+ square foot house is small). I’ve raised my babies or spent ample amount of time raising them in a large farmhouse, a condo, a three-level house, a tiny city apartment, a suburban ‘MacMansion,’ and various apartments and hotels dotting the map.

Other families aren’t so lucky.  They don’t have a choice.  Some US families must jam several children into a shared bedroom, and mom and dad (or just mom or dad) take the couch.  Some kids grow up sleeping in the living room that they also share with mom, dad and maybe grandma or other extended family members–and maybe the family cat.

Only in the US do people get twitchy thinking about whether small family living is cruel.  In our hyper-liability, safety, and self-focused culture, people get revved up over occupancy standards and noise, and hung up on their own notions of how much space other people need, unfortunately sometimes to the point where parents worry about neighbors or landlords calling social services or getting evicted.

Just take a guess at how many European or Asian apartments would not live up to US space standards?  Hmmm….I’m guessing a good chunk of apartments in Paris wouldn’t meet US occupancy codes for space vs. family numbers or US social standards.  Probably not the one my kids and I lived in for a month.  I’m guessing tiny apartments in Tokyo that large families have creatively designed to accommodate multiple children wouldn’t meet US codes or social standards either.  I’m guessing the custom designed 667 Sq. foot tiny houses in Sweden wouldn’t fly compared to US city standards.  And, nope, not those small huts where families of 12 live together in third world countries, either.

Small Space Living and Simple Living is a Growing Choice 

Families have lived in small spaces throughout history and around the globe.  Think caves. Huts. Laura Ingalls (House in the Big Woods). Tents. City apartments. Country cabins. Mobile homes.  RVs. Tiny houses on wheels.

But small space living and simple living is a growing choice among families.  For many, it’s a lifestyle.  For others, it’s purely economics.  Still for others, it’s a decision to reject the mainstream view of how families must live and a way to purposefully live their own authentic, self-defined lives.

The Benefits of Tiny, Small Space Living

1.  Smaller Space Means Less Stuff.  Less stuff means more room to appreciate the important stuff–the ‘stuff’ that really matters.  Family time.  Each other. Learning. Creativity.  Experiences.  When you live in a small space, you don’t have room for excessive materialism.  There’s just not space to keep buying and storing stuff.

2.  Simple Living Can Make You Healthier.  Studies suggest that materialism can be linked to poor health. People who live more simply often live healthier.  Don’t think it’s true?  Dare yourself to do a purge of your closet, drawers, or whole house.  Dare yourself to get rid of (or donate) 10 things.  25 things. 100 things. There is something psychologically (even physically–like breathing easier) freeing and restorative to getting rid of clutter.  Less stuff can help you chill out.  Actually, relax.  Small living also means you get outside more often, which means more exercise.

3.  Relationships Rock.  My kids are the very best of friends.  Sure, it could be because we homeschool or the way I/we parent, but I think sharing space has a lot to do with it.  Sure, going from lots of space to less could be challenging initially if you are downsizing, but small space living requires better communication skills and patience–lots of togetherness! The world needs more of that, right?  Could there possibly be a better way to really know your kids and/or significant other?  As a parent, a small space means you know your family WELL.

4.  Simple Living Can Help Your Budget.  Simple living can stretch out your budget and allow you to save.  Many families are turning to Full-time RV living as a way to not only homeschool their kids on the go, but to also ditch their sticks and bricks houses (and all the expenses that go with owning a house).  Others are rejecting the idea that they must move to a big house in the suburbs and keeping their pre-children apartment and raising their kids in the city–note what appears to be an uptick of families in previously ‘child-less’ areas or buildings of Manhattan.  Small living is a great way to finance travel and bigger life dreams.      

5.  Living Small Can be Eco-Conscious Living.  Want to save the planet or leave it better for the 7th Generation?  Yep, tiny living might be the way to go.  Talk about reducing your carbon footprint.  Smaller heating bills.  Less stuff.  Smaller packaging.  More conscious spending.  It’s all good.

6.  Small Living with Kids Means You Know Where to Find the Best Playgrounds and Hotspots.  Parents who live in small spaces might just be the leading experts in the neighborhood on the best playgrounds–because they get out often to let their kids roam and play.  They may also know the best coffee shops or restaurants with play areas, kids spaces or menus.  They may also know all the best meet-ups and kid spots in town, and how to find great babysitters (small spaces mean date nights become even more important).

7.  Small Living Means Uber Creativity.  If there’s one way to encourage or foster creativity in children, small space living is the key.  Whether figuring out how to organize space with IKEA storage containers or building a bunkhouse in a Class A RV, small living means kids grow up with a front row seat to creativity.


Creative Triple Bunk Solution found on


You can raise a family in a small space.  Successfully.  Happily.  Safely.  Peacefully.  Without losing your mind.  Just ignore the crazy talk.