Our Magical Year of RVing

What started off as a temporary, year-long RV trip ended up completely transforming this family of five. And turned them into full-time RVers.

Shannon Carew's Highland Ridge RV parked at a leafy campsite.

We are the Carews.

My husband Kenton and I have been married for 15 years, and we have three incredible children: Isabel, Adeline and Yabsira. In July 2019, our family made a big decision—we bought a Highland Ridge Open Range Roamer fifth wheel and set out on a year-long RV trip. And while we had every intention of moving back into our home in Colorado after a year, our plans changed and we made another really big decision. We decided to become a full-time RV family.

Before our year-long RV trip,

Our family was living a pretty conventional life. There was school, volleyball practice and birthday parties—an endless flurry of activities and shuttling the kids back and forth that other parents can surely relate to. But there was one thing that made our family a bit more unique than most. Five years ago, Kenton and I made the decision to grow our family through an international adoption. And as wonderful and beautiful as adoptions can be, it can be a challenging experience. While we were overjoyed to have gained a son, we also knew that Yabsira was losing his biological family. It took time for our hearts and his to weave together with trust and love. I’ll never forget when one of the counselors in our adoption class shared that, as a family, we needed to be prepared to exhaust everything in order to make sure Yabsira felt safe and connected. His struggles would be our family’s struggles. His pain would be our pain. And I was willing to do anything to make sure Yabsira felt like a part of our family, including pack up and move, if that’s what it took…

I had never owned an RV, and neither had my husband. We had a few friends that owned RVs, but, overall, our experience was minimal. It wasn’t until I started following some RV families on social media that I began to think seriously about the lifestyle—the simpler way of life, the incredible places to see and, most importantly, the closeness of being together and experiencing everything together. I knew I wanted that for us, and I wanted that for Yabsira.

Sitting around the breakfast table one morning, Kenton and I casually brought up the idea of RVing for a year: “How would you like to do school in a camper for a while?” To our great surprise, the kids’ reactions were unanimously excited! To them, it sounded like the best idea ever. Luckily, my father happens to be an RV sales rep, so after giving him a call and discussing some options, we decided to do it. We were going to homeschool the kids and RV for a full year.

A month later, we were driving our Open Range Roamer fifth wheel home from the dealer. And not long after that, with our house in Colorado rented, we were pulling out of the driveway and on our way to start a year of magical RVing. We knew exciting things were ahead, but our hearts were sad to say goodbye. Deep down, I knew this is what our family needed.

Life on the road was both fun and challenging. For me, as a mom, I was uncovering the parts of my heart that I couldn’t ignore anymore by living a busy life. About four months into our trip, I began to see some major breakthroughs with our family. Our “why” for doing this year-long journey was to grow closer and heal as a family of five. And it was working.

Isabel,

Our oldest daughter, has felt the transition to RV life the deepest. We were nervous to pull her out of middle school—which can be such profoundly formative years—and start homeschooling her at age 13, but she says it’s definitely been worth it. She learned about American history on an Amish farm in Ohio, got to see the ocean for the first time in Maine, and has met countless friends along the way, many of which she still stays in touch with. She’s also recently taken up the ukulele—something I don’t think she would’ve done at home in Colorado.

Adeline,

Our second daughter, fell in love with the RV lifestyle immediately. At 10 years old, she still loves to explore and play. In fact, she spent hours on the beach in Maine pretending to be shipwrecked and searching for buried treasure. The best part for her has been waking up to new places and opening our front door to new adventures every day.

Yabsira,

Our youngest boy (who we affectionately call Yebbie), has been impacted by our RV life the most. I honestly believe our year on the road brought him closer to us, and this is a huge reason why we want to keep going. I’ve seen new bonds form between the siblings that never would’ve been possible in our old lives. I’ve also seen 7 year old Yebbie grow within himself. Between bike rides through the everglades and hunting for shark teeth along the riverbanks of Florida, he’s finding a new sense of adventure and confidence.

So, here we are, one year later and we’ve decided to jump into RVing head-first. If I’ve learned anything from that year on the road it’s that love heals. And I know love will continue to heal as we continue this journey. We’ve gone through all the phases of RVing—from a few weekend trips with friends to a year on the road to full-time living—and we’ve learned some valuable lessons across all phases.

So, regardless if you’re thinking about getting an RV or are ready to go full-time, here are a few tips to guide you along the way.
  1. Personalize Your Bedroom. This was a huge priority to me since I knew we would be around our kids 24/7. It is nice to have your own personal space that you can retreat to at night, wake up in and hide away during rainy days.

  2. Cook As Much As You Can. In addition to the RV’s stove and oven, use an Instant Pot, air fryer or crock pot. It’s so much fun cooking in an RV with the kids, and makes it feel even more like home. 

  3. Look Into Memberships. If you plan to travel a lot, getting an RV or campground membership will help you save money. We specifically use Harvest Hosts, Thousand Trails, Passport America, and Boondockers Welcome.

  4. Make A Patio When You Park. Expand your space by creating a little patio for yourself right outside the RV. I like to use fairy lights, candles, some plants, an outdoor mat and a few camping chairs to make the space feel like home. Plus, the patio can double as a date spot for you and your partner once the kids are in bed.

  5. Take The Plunge. You can spend years and years debating whether RVing is the right step—there will also be something to deter you. So, take it from me when I say, stop wondering if you can do this and just take the next step!

Shannon and her family travel in a 2013 Highland Ridge Open Range Roamer.