Trading Our Dream Home for Our Dream Life

With a Fifth-Wheel

Tina and Craig Klinefelter standing outside their RV with binoculars, looking for wildlife.

Craig and I spent our lives pursuing the American Dream. Even after our kids grew up and left home, we stayed in our sprawling 4000 square foot home, filling every space in our house with stuff. It came in, but it never went out. We had all kinds of toys, all the stuff you dream of having one day––but it never made us happy for very long. 

To match our big life, we both had big careers. We worked long hours, sacrificing our time in exchange for our income, and using toys to fill the hole, when what we really needed was quality time with friends and family. And with each other. Many of our loved ones were 500 miles away, including our parents, lifelong friends and some of our kids and grandkids. We never quite had enough time to spend with the people who mattered to us most.

My dad was only 49 when he passed away. In one of our last conversations, he told me one of his biggest regrets was not having traveled more. Until that point, I’d only taken an occasional trip to Florida to visit my grandparents, but I knew that had to change. 

So Craig and I have always made a point to have adventures together. We loved the way traveling made us feel! So relaxed, energized, engaged and excited about all our new experiences. It was like a high that made us feel completely connected to each other and our lives. But within a few weeks of returning home, that feeling would fade and disappear. The daily grind crept back in, and we’d fall into old patterns of thinking. 

Tina and Craig riding bikes through nature and taking in the views.

We started daydreaming about how we could feel that joy all the time. Looking to retirement, we began to plan for the next chapter of our lives, when we could one day travel full-time and feel good every day. We would buy an RV and go anywhere we wanted, when we wanted. We started a list of all the places we would visit: national parks across the US and Canada, beaches from coast to coast, sleepy little towns and bustling cities, mountain ranges with big names, and everything in between. 

Then, in November 2016, I got laid off. 

It came as a complete shock. While I was processing all the emotions that accompany losing your job, we started to joke, “We should just sell everything, buy an RV to live in and hit the road!” 

It turns out, neither of us were joking. It quickly became something more. We had fun envisioning that future for ourselves. Every day, it seemed like we’d hear about someone we knew getting older and sicker, and we realized that our good health was a blessing that gave us the ability to make our dreams a reality. Why wait for retirement when we could have what we wanted most right then? 

A plan came together. We would take a few months to go through our belongings and sell, donate, or hand things down to family. Then, we would put our house up for sale and start looking for an RV to live in. We would go slowly and give ourselves ample time to contemplate the hard questions.

The universe had other ideas. 

A neighbor had told us about someone who was looking for a house in our neighborhood. We invited them over to take a look, and they fell in love with our house on sight. An offer came the next day. We hadn’t even put it on the market! But it was the sign we were looking for. And we knew we’d have to speed up our timeline and fully embrace the unknown. We had 4000 square feet worth of stuff that needed to be gone in one month, and we hadn’t even chosen a fifth wheel RV to make our home yet. 

Honestly, we thought the pace might kill us. We bickered, packing things up gave us backaches, and sometimes the excitement kept us up all night. But somehow, we managed to purge all our belongings in four weeks, and we found the perfect fifth wheel to make our home. The Jayco Pinnacle 36FBTS had a 400 sq. ft. floor plan that would allow us room to work remotely, along with an additional half bathroom that would make it easy to host family and friends on the road. 

We eased into the transition of living in an RV full-time in March 2017, staying close to our familiar Charlotte, NC area. We expected parting with our belongings and our home to bring up a bunch of feelings, and it did.

But one of those feelings was a growing sense of freedom and excitement we’d never experienced before. We didn’t realize how much all our stuff and our big house was truly weighing us down. But now, we were redefining our American Dream. We were blazing our own path and rewriting the rules. 

Since moving into our RV, we’ve taken our time traveling across the continent, visiting 27 states and 20 national parks, and loving every minute of it. We expected our new lifestyle would allow us to check more locations off our bucket list––but what really surprised us was the connections we’ve made along the way. We’ve met countless kind strangers who have become new friends, and been welcomed into the RVing community with open arms. People we’ve just met have offered us places to stay with full hook-ups, asking for nothing in return. We stayed for free at a ranch in Montana, our launch point for visiting Yellowstone. It’s one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen, and among our favorite memories so far.

Even more importantly, we’ve been able to spend more quality time with family. We’ve camped in our kids’ driveways for extended periods of time, allowing us to experience daily life with our grandkids in a way we never dreamed we could. We’ve started new traditions, like sleepover night in the camper, which involves ice cream sundaes, chocolate chip pancakes and movie night with our grandkids snuggled in the RV with us. 

Without our RV, we would not have been able to support our family over the last few years during trying times. When our daughter-in-law had pregnancy complications, we were there to lend a hand. When there was a death in the family, we could be where we needed to be to keep everyone together through the grief. That family connection has meant more to us than all the travel in the world, and we’re so grateful our home on wheels has made it possible. 

Living small has actually allowed us to live large. Even though we both still work, we feel like we’re always on vacation. We set our own hours to work and play, and make travel plans based on our priorities. Does this lifestyle have its own challenges? Of course, everything does. But we have zero regrets. Because living in an RV has finally given us the freedom to control our own destiny.

The RV featured in this story is a 2017 Jayco Pinnacle 36FBTS.

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