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A Full-Time RVing Family

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Television gets a bad rap for negatively influencing viewers. But six years ago, when one Texas mom watched a segment on the Today show, it completely transformed the life of her young family—in a good way. Today, Jennie and Jerl Simpson #121990, their three teenage boys, (Charles [19], Alex [16], and Nicholas [15]) and two cats, Sadi (8) and Magnus (5), are living, learning and working together in a never-ending family adventure.

Time to Shake Up the Easy Life

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In 2013, Jennie and Jerl were a young married couple raising their three boys in Houston, Texas. Suburban life gave them everything they could ask for: the comfort of knowing their neighbors, excellent schools for the boys and a big beautiful home in a great part of town. “We had a typical suburbia life of work and school and chores. Anything we needed was right down the road. Life was great!” remembers Jennie. 

The couple felt grateful for their place in the American Dream. But deep down, they yearned for something that money couldn’t buy. Not just for them, but for their kids too. “We felt like we were stuck in a cycle of the daily grind and not living life,” says Jennie. On that fateful morning, when she channel-surfed her way to the Today show, what she saw changed everything. “They had a story about a family who sold everything, bought an RV and spent 13 months showing their kids all 50 states. I thought it sounded so different, so interesting!” 

Jennie’s heart filled with wanderlust as she watched the family share their trip highlights with viewers. She couldn’t wait to tell Jerl about them, and when she did, she says it didn’t take much convincing for him to agree to live in a home on wheels. “We both fell in love with the idea of doing that with our boys. We talked for several hours about it and couldn’t think of a single reason not to do it.”

Preparing for the Big Move

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Earning a living on the road is typically one of the biggest hurdles for non-retired fulltime RVers to overcome. But the Simpsons had that covered. As the family’s primary outside income earner, Jerl was already working remotely as a software programmer and systems administrator for a company that predicts global weather trends. With an eight-year track record on the company team, he knew management would be OK with him doing his job anywhere, as long as he had good Internet access.

The lifestyle would require more from Jennie, but she was game. The idea of spending more time with her sons (age 14, 12 and 11 at the time) in a homeschooling arrangement felt irresistible. She was ready for her role as Taxi Mom to shift to the job of teacher and coach, making her an even more significant part of her children’s education. 

Flipping the switch to full-time RVing felt right. For over a year, the Simpsons meticulously researched and planned their escape from suburbia, and even the boys accepted the lifestyle change with enthusiasm. “The thought of being able to visit national parks, see the different states and have adventures with our boys was the biggest push for us to break the suburbia cycle and follow our dream,” recalls Jennie. 

When it was time to share their plans with friends and family, Jerl and Jennie prepared for the usual push back from well-intentioned loved ones. “The news of our decision to become nomads and live in an RV was met with mixed reactions. There were some in complete shock and disbelief, while others were our cheerleaders right from the start. I’m not sure if anyone thought we’d do it. I mean, it’s not the normal kind of move a family of five makes. Eventually, though, everyone got on board and supported our decision.” 

With a new motorhome and all the RVing logistics in place, the Simpsons kicked off their journey in May 2015. It didn’t take long to prove to themselves and to others that the lifestyle was a good move. “I figured there would be some squabbles and some bumps in the road as we all got settled into our new home, but we all fell into a routine and adjusted fairly quickly and easily,” says Jennie. 

During the next four years, the traveling family would experience 49 U.S. states, four Canadian provinces and put a whopping 51,808 miles on their RV, a 38-foot Forest River Georgetown 364. Nomadic living wasn’t always perfect, but they quickly found ways to overcome the hurdles, like joining Escapees. They utilize the club’s mail and domicile services and have built strong friendships with other traveling families. 

“One of the biggest questions we get about the nomadic life is if it’s lonely. I always tell people we have more friends now than we ever did. We might all be spread out, but there’s a definite sense of community and fellowship amongst the Escapees/ Xscapers groups.” 

The Challenges and Rewards of Full-time RVing and Child Rearing

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Jerl immediately enjoyed the change of his office scenery but was also the first to feel the trade-offs of nomadic life. Since a reliable Internet connection is required for his job, getting online is a top priority each time they relocate. Doing so can be their biggest challenge. “I never know how my connection will be until we get to a new place,” he explains. “Some places will have an excellent signal but will be oversaturated with users. This causes slower speeds and makes work a little more difficult. That said, it’s pretty easy to overcome, and I’ve adapted how I work on projects.” 

Since his colleagues also work remotely, excellent communication flows naturally on projects. One of Jerl’s most prominent achievements from the road was creating a system that utilizes hundreds of cloud-based computers to run trillions of calculations on global weather data. He loves his work so much he’s willing to deal with Internet challenges. He’s always keeping an eye on Internet connectivity technology that will improve his connectivity needs from the most remote points on the continent.

Getting started in road schooling was relatively easy for the boys, but leaving their public school peers required an adjustment. “I miss having friends I can hang out with in person, but social media helps with that,” says Charles, the oldest. “But, traveling the country all the time and seeing all these amazing places is fun. Seeing all of the national parks makes living on the road worth it.” Since beginning their journey, all three boys have become enthusiastic advocates for the National Park System, earning a whopping 137 Junior Ranger badges over the last four years. 

Neither Alex nor Nicholas can find anything they don’t like about the lifestyle. “I think Alaska will always be on the top of my list because of all the scenery and mountains,” says Nicholas. His brother Alex also loved the North Country, and all three boys hold great respect for national parks. “Visiting the parks has made me realize I want to be a national park ranger,” Alex says. 

More Than Just A Road Trip

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As for Jennie, she knows the lifestyle was the best thing they ever did. “RVing, living the nomad life, has enriched the boys’ lives in so many ways. They didn’t just read about the giant coastal redwoods in a textbook while sitting in a classroom; they got to walk amongst the ancient giants. They talked to national park rangers about why controlled burning saves a forest and saw the tiny little saplings struggling to survive in the middle of an old-growth forest. We walked the battlefields that made our country what it is. We’ve talked to Native Americans about their people’s struggles and ancient ways of life. The boys aren’t just reading lessons in a book; they are experiencing them.” 

She and Jerl look back on their life four years ago and feel a great sense of satisfaction over how much they’ve grown. “I expected to enjoy moving around and seeing so much of our country. I expected to learn new things and meet new people. I didn’t expect the lifestyle to change us so much, not only as individuals but as a family. We’re a stronger family unit now. We’re stronger individuals. We’ve gotten through trials and tribulations that have demanded we grow to become better versions of ourselves. Traveling does put life into perspective and broaden a person’s horizons.” 

For now, there’s no end in sight to the Simpsons’ road trip. Jennie continues documenting it on the family blog, OurRVTrip. com. “We’re not sure how long we’ll be nomads. Once the travel bug grabs ahold of you, does it ever really let go?” 

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Rene Agredano

Rene and Jim are enjoying their 12th year as full-time RVers and location-independent entrepreneurs. Follow their travels at LiveWorkDream.com

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