Reflections from the Road: Month 1

It’s been exactly one month since we started the tour. Wow! It seems like it’s been so much longer than that. We’ve seen so much and met so many people…and most importantly, LEARNED a lot about living on the road, about each other, and about the RV. Each month, I’ll do a “reflection” on everything that has happened and how things are going so far.

Life on the Road
Everyday is an adventure and life is constantly in flux. We are meeting amazing, inspiring people and seeing God’s stunning creation at every turn. It’s wonderful to be able to move your home wherever you want…and yet, there are still struggles. Just like in “normal life” :) There are joys and frustrations…excitement and exhaustion. When you are gone away from family and friends who have known you for a lifetime, you really start to miss the consistency and familiarity of those relationships. You wonder what is going on “back home” and you start to long for the things that felt comfortable. By comfortable, I mean…things that you could count on. A steady paycheck, scheduled playdates, familiar surroundings, favorite coffee shops. But during this transition to life on the road, we have learned to rely so much more on Jesus and in his provision than anything else. To say that WE have done any of this on our own would be foolish and untrue. We are on this incredible adventure only by HIS hand moving in our lives. He alone provides for our daily needs…and then He goes above our needs and provides little treats that surprise and delight us. When all stability is taken away (even if you still have the “comforts” of your home)…the only place to turn is to the One who holds all things together. In other words, our tour tagline could be changed to “sustainable living in an RV powered by Jesus”.

Living in Close Quarters/Family Time

Matt and I are very used to doing everything together…throughout our married life, we’ve worked for the same companies and also from home together for some of that time. We love each other’s company and when we are apart…it’s like something is missing! We are definitely best friends. These facts make it very simple to go on the road for a year in a tiny space. When you spend this much time together in close quarters…you REALLY get to know each others quirks and passions. There is really no where to go to “get away” :) It’s been so wonderful for our family to have all of this time together…especially the bonding time we get with Bella. It’s pretty special that she gets to see her mommy and daddy 24/7 for this length of time. She lets us know it too. Sometimes, if I’ve been in the back of the RV for awhile…when she sees me, she will exclaim, “Mommy…I missed you sooooo much!”. She does the same thing with Matt if he’s been outside working on the car/RV. Time is measured so differently in her eyes! We love watching her learn and grow before our eyes.

Bella and The Road
One of the most common questions we get asked on the road is “How is Bella doing with all the changes and transition?”. This always strikes me as funny. I think people tend to think of children as these little people who need strict schedules to function properly…but that’s just not the case with Bella. She goes with the flow. She has never had a strict schedule and she follows our lead. She has everything she needs to be happy and then some. She has way more toys than she even plays with. She has a new playmate every week. She eats when we eat (and she eats the food we eat). She naps when she is tired. She runs. She laughs. She plays. She jumps. She climbs. She watches movies. She reads books. She “does school”. She is learning more about life and people then she ever would in a preschool classroom or any other traditional setting. I am so glad she is able to experience all of these things…and she is learning to be flexible in the process. She has learned how to meet a variety of different people and is quite the conversationalist as well. As long as she has mommy and daddy, all is well in her world.

The RV

We have put over 9,000 miles on the RV running veggie oil (and pumped about 1000 gallons of grease!)…and the blue beast is still going strong. The little problems that we have here and there are common for an “older” RV and older engine. Although we hate spending money on repairs…we just look at it as “house maintenance” :)

It’s hard to miss us as we travel down the road…and we frequently have people honking, waving, and staring at us. It’s fun to meet new people this way…and educate them about sustainability.

We are obviously quite large…which makes it difficult to maneuver in urban areas with ease. We also don’t have the “get up and go” of a normal car…so merging, accelerating, etc. are harder. We try to avoid busy interstates and stick to the smaller country roads. We end up getting to see some amazing scenery that way too! When we are in a city, we will find a place to park and unhook the car so we can buzz around more efficiently!

When we are in between cities or when we don’t have a “host family” in an area…we park overnight in parking lots (WalMart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, churches). Some people have asked why we don’t just camp at a campground. There is really just one answer…and it’s MONEY! Campgrounds with full RV hookups are expensive (averaging $35+) a night. Parking lots are free. We like free. They aren’t as pretty (although we have found some with nice views!)…and sometimes they are loud. But we can always find one to park in…especially if we are coming in late at night. If we are the only people in the lot, it’s rare…we are almost always joined in our cement endeavors by fellow RV’ers. We’ve found that to be especially true in the Northeast, where most traditional campgrounds close on October 1.

Ahhhhh…the Internet. The coveted wi-fi connection. It’s like the holy grail. We have often contemplated buying an air card from Sprint so could have wireless whenever and wherever we wanted (well, it’s not always that easy, but in theory it works). We haven’t made the plunge, however, because we’ve gotten better at searching out connections. There have been times when I have resorted to driving around residential neighborhoods…refreshing every block or so…to see if I could find that precious wave. But we have had a much easier time in the last couple of weeks…Panera has been our best friend. Plunk down $1.35 for a cookie, bring your own teabag and mug…and you’re good to go all day :) They have a fast connection and it reaches far and wide. We have also been able to find several parking lots to park in overnight that had wireless nearby. Those are the jackpot spots. It’s a luxury to have a connection INSIDE the RV! The last three stops, we’ve had this…so we’re feeling very blessed. Of course, most of the host families have had internet for us to use as well. Libraries also work well…although I’ve been really surprised at how many DON’T have wireless. I guess I was spoiled in Des Moines and Bozeman…both had brand new libraries with state of the art amenities. Local coffee shops are good too…if you can find one with free wi-fi. Many times, they are in downtown areas that are hard to maneuver the RV through…so we opt to stay to the outskirts (hence, Panera and other chain stores).

We are very blessed to have phones that have internet access as well…thanks to a generous donation from my family, we have access to this technology and can use them to receive emails and we also use them for finding things in each city (mapping function). It’s a little hard to type a blog on a cell phone though! It does allow me to communicate with contacts at future tour stops via email without having to stop and find a connection. For this I am so grateful!

Eating and Cooking
Due to the pace of our tour…it’s definitely been harder than I thought to eat healthy on the road. I have made some concessions and given myself some slack lately. We’ve been buying more packaged items like organic mac and cheese or organic canned goods instead of making them from scratch. But now that the weather is colder, I have been making homemade soups…which has made me VERY happy. There is nothing I love better than that. It made me realize how much I miss real cooking in a big kitchen! Our kitchen is totally suitable…but it’s hard to make a big meal. Our oven works, but it’s not perfect. There is only one heating element…which makes it harder to cook evenly. Our staple meals are sandwiches, noodles with sauce, soup, eggs, wraps (burritos/tacos). I try to mix it up a bit so we don’t get bored. Because when we’re bored with eating in the RV…it’s easy to overspend at a restaurant! That is one of the hardest things on the trip…we don’t have the budget to be eating out a lot…but the temptation is there because we are always around amazing local restaurants! After a long day doing a demo…it’s hard to pump myself up for cooking a big meal. When we do eat out…we have become masters at the cheap meal. College towns are especially great for cheap eats. Pizza for $2 a slice is a great deal. We can all eat at Subway for about $6 total. You have to be creative on the road! I would love to hear your favorite “cheap” spots for eating on a budget while traveling.

Green Living on the Road
Many of you have asked if I’ve stopped doing some of the “green” things I used to do when we had a house without wheels. I have changed some things and modified others…but I am always still focused on doing the best I can for the environment with the resources I have. We are no longer using cloth toilet paper…for obvious reasons. Sometimes we don’t have a chance to do laundry for a LONG time. And I’m not going to spin cloth TP in the Wonder Clean. Just can’t do it :) I miss it though…paper TP is just not as effective as cloth.

We still recycle diligently. We have 2 bins in the shower that hold everything, and when we see recycling centers we drop them off. Or, we leave them with our host family and have them put it in their curbside recycling. Our trash can is super small on purpose…it forces us to take the garbage out once a day (otherwise it attracts fruit flies, stinks, etc). We did consider vermicomposting (worms that eat your food scraps), but found that our temperatures were too extreme to create a good environment for it (inside or out).

We have started to use more bottled water because we’ve had some concerns with the water quality in our fresh tank. We buy gallons of water and refill them at water stations in the grocery stores or at the tap. I used to get upset over so many RV’ers using bottled water…but until we get a system-wide filter ($$)…I don’t feel comfortable using the water sitting in that tank. Ish. Towards the bottom of the tank, it comes out black. Not really something I want to be drinking. We do still use our reusable stainless steel water bottles as well.

We still use our cloth grocery bags…and they come in handy for tons of other things as well…like hauling water. I think string bags are the greatest thing ever invented. It’s been interesting to see the reaction across the country to cloth grocery bags. It was funny…at the Ann Arbor coop, I think I might have been stoned to death if I didn’t bring my own bags. I don’t think I saw ONE person walk in without their bags while we were there. It was a wonderful sight!

Now that we are selling Shaklee, I’ve started using their Basic H organic concentrate for all of my natural cleaning needs in the RV. I’ve also loved the laundry soap and laundry booster for getting out stains. It seems like Bella gets 10 times dirtier now than before we were on the road!

One of the easiest green things we do on the road is just to not buy stuff. It’s a really great feeling to walk through a store and have a great excuse not to buy anything! It won’t fit in the RV! The items that I have purchased have been thrifted clothes for Bella and myself..and as soon as I bring them in, I give away an equal amount of clothes to make room in the closet. We have also bought RV related items…but those don’t count in my mind because they were necessities and not frivolous.

The Next Steps
We are working on planning our next leg of the tour right now. We will head south out of Maine early next week…to Boston, New York City, Philly, and beyond. It will be a whirlwind from now until Christmas as we race to beat the weather. We are looking forward to learning more about the history of our nation, teaching about green living, and meeting more new friends!


  1. WOW! The more I hear you talk about living on the road, the more enticing it sounds. I live in a small house and I agree with what you say about it being nice when you go into a store and the decision about whether to buy something is easy when there is just no room. A long time ago you mentioned Dave Ramsey; I just want to thank you because we started listening to him and it’s quite helpful.

    Comment by Dawn — October 16, 2007 @ 11:18 am

  2. I love this monthly update format. You are great at thinking through all questions!

    Are you going to be near New Haven, CT?

    Comment by Kristin — October 16, 2007 @ 12:33 pm

  3. Hey girl,
    I agree with Dawn, even tho you are sharing the struggle as well, your adventure sounds so sweet. I love what you said about Bella and all the learning she is doing and that all she needs is you guys. She is going to be wise beyond her years!♥

    Comment by Alicia — October 16, 2007 @ 12:49 pm

  4. Your adventures are so fun to read. I love your honesty, leaving nothing out! It’s so interesting to hear about living so “small.” What an amazing experience for you and your daughter!
    BTW, I LOVE my pink string bag. I get some crazy looks around here when I use it, but it doesn’t stop me! I love that it is so compact it fits in my purse. I always have it with me. It’s use is not limited to the grocery store either! I use it everywhere!

    Comment by Khrista — October 16, 2007 @ 12:55 pm

  5. it’s been so interesting following you guys on this journey, I am learning so much about green living, rv-ing, traveling, and just about myself in general!
    On a side note… the response to cloth grocery bags has been a difficult thing for me… I started using them about 3 months ago and I get nervous every time I go through the checkout line and frankly I feel as though I shouldn’t have to be nervous. But even at our farmers market grocery they look at me strange and it gets all awkward… but such is life for now I suppose. You guys are inspiring, wish you were comin’ to Utah!!

    Comment by kate — October 16, 2007 @ 2:00 pm

  6. i have been following your blog and your rv journey, and have been inspired to downsize and live more “green.” i bought cloth grocery bags about a year ago and use them everywhere…my grocery chain has even started selling cloth bags for purchase that fit right into the plastic bag holders, to make it easier for the cashiers. i love telling people where i got them and why i’m using them, too. thanks for sharing this adventure with us!

    Comment by erin — October 16, 2007 @ 2:45 pm

  7. Great post! I’ve been following along and enjoying your posts as you travel. Has it really only been a month?? Enjoy your travels and we’ll see you next summer!

    Comment by 2hcreative — October 16, 2007 @ 5:24 pm

  8. I LOVE following you via your blog on this amazing journey. I am so sorry we missed seeing you in Rochester (hate being sick).
    I know that at some point we will meet.
    You inspire me & help re-appreciate small space living.
    Your friend,
    Sam @ Loving Green

    Comment by Sam — October 16, 2007 @ 6:49 pm

  9. [...] daily for clues to fraudulent use.    The Live Lightly family has an amazing write-up about their first month on the road in their RV. I highly recommend subscribing to this feed if you are contemplating an extended RV adventure or [...]

    Pingback by Link Round-Up, October 16 — October 16, 2007 @ 9:18 pm

  10. Wow, a month has gone fast. I just remember meeting you all at the co-op in Coralville (:
    Sara thanks for sharing this adventure with all of us, it is so exciting and what is even more exciting is that you give glory to God. Keep on keepin’ on sister.

    Comment by kesa — October 16, 2007 @ 9:37 pm

  11. Thank you sooooooo much for taking the plunge, and going on your journey…..because….. I am a musician who is planning to do something similar – on my own!!! I’m totally scared, excited, curious, and anxious – and everything you share is helping me to live in my truth and travel along my own journey. What I have been realizing as I travel through the net with you on your journey is that by living our lives the way we feel called to – we inspire countless others – who aspire to live their most vibrant life. Most people dream yet never do. So for every person that lives their dreams – they serve others – in finding their way!

    ps – the part about being cold in the rv really scared me- what can be done about that – besides living in warm places in cold months?

    AND –
    how challenging is the veggie oil process? Do you think I can do it on my own. I am not a mechanic at all!

    Comment by Ko-Shin — October 16, 2007 @ 11:21 pm

  12. Wow! I love this blog and this update post especially. It answers a lot of questions I was going to ask. You are such an inspiration! I really want to follow in your foot-steps and go green and go rv-ing full-time. I think it might be harder to find free parking spaces in this country though (UK) as we have time limits on parking in supermarket carparks – if you stay too long they put a wheelclamp on you and tow you away! I would like to see them try towing away an RV though! He he!
    What about the future? What are you going to do after your tour is over? Are you going to go back to living in a house? And what about Bella are you still going to be touring when it’s time for her to start school or will you be teaching her yourself? Keep the posts coming – you are wonderful and I can’t wait to read what happens next. I wish I could come over and share your journey with you. Thanks for being such a ray of light. Nicky xx

    Comment by Nicky — October 17, 2007 @ 7:14 am

  13. Sara, have you tried getting an external water filter that can hook to the spigot end of a hose while you’re filling your tank? They’re about $22 on our storefront and they last about 4 months. We use them, and our water always tastes great, and is clean. We’ve never bought bottled water in the four months we’ve been on the road.

    Comment by Rene — October 17, 2007 @ 8:12 pm

  14. Simply…. Inspiring. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    Comment by charmedbeing — October 19, 2007 @ 3:20 am

  15. I am concerned about your fresh water tank. The black stuff could just be rubber from a hose connected to your tank or sediment (most fresh water contains sediment). Did you flush your tank and lines with bleach thoroughly when you got your RV? (If you use a disposable filter you will know it’s time to change the filter because your water pressure will be reduced.)

    Start with a practically full fresh water tank. Turn the water heater off. Dilute 1/4 cup of bleach for each 15 gallons of water that your tank will hold in a gallon of water. Add the diluted solution to the fresh water tank. (Never pour straight bleach into it.) One faucet at a time, let the chlorinated water run through them for one or two minutes. You should be able to smell the chlorine. (Make sure you are using the water pump and not an external water supply.) Top off the fresh water tank and let stand for at least three hours or overnight. Completely drain the system by flushing the faucets for several minutes each. Open the fresh water tank drain valve to speed up emptying the tank. Open the hot water tank drain plug and drain until it is empty. Close all valves and faucets and drain plugs. Fill water tank with fresh water. Flush each faucet for several minutes each repeating until the tank is again empty. (Make sure you are using the water pump and not an external water supply.) Fill the tank again. The water should now be safe to drink but if the chlorine odor is too strong you can repeat the fresh water flush.

    Comment by Debra Ward — October 19, 2007 @ 5:52 am

  16. Debra…thanks so much for detailing how to clean out the fresh water tank. We don’t use any bleach at all in our household…so I would need to something a little more earth-friendly :) But that’s a great idea. I’ll look into it. We didn’t do anything to it when we got it. I’ve thought about just testing the water too…but it will change at every location. We’re still trying to decide what to do.

    Comment by livelightly2 — October 19, 2007 @ 9:51 am

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