One of the most common questions we get is “Why did you decide to live on the road?” It’s easy for people to imagine reasons someone may want to live on the road. Naturally, people assume the adventure of traveling was the primary reason, but it’s not. Traveling was a means to an end, not the goal. Let me explain.
Prior to living on the road, we were struggling both as a family and individually, especially me (Dolly). The struggles we had were primarily due to the different backgrounds and cultures that Devin and I were raised in. It was magnified because living in Utah made it much harder for me to maintain the values that are most precious to me.
Devin grew up in Utah and California, and I grew up in the village of Fasito’outa in Samoa. We met in Hawaii, got married, then moved to Utah for Devin’s job after we both graduated. Soon after we moved there, we built a home in Lehi, Utah and Kalepo was born a few months later. We were certainly on track to live the “American Dream”.
At first, the struggles seemed superficial. For instance, I was claustrophobic in our neighborhood because I grew up in a farm life where we had the freedom and space to do what we wanted without prying eyes. Having homes so close together made me uncomfortable. Devin was fine, he grew up in a suburban environment.
Over time, the struggles became more difficult, and more personal. We found differences in who we wanted to socialize with, and how we socialize with people. American small talk is focused on very individualistic things like career, school, achievements, and possessions. Polynesians socialize very differently, and it’s not unusual to know someone for months before it’s relevant to ask what someone does for a living, and people rarely ask how many bedrooms your house has or how big your lot is. I’m not saying Americans can’t talk about those things, but I was just exhausted trying to adapt to this type of conversation that wasn’t only unfamiliar, but actually made me uncomfortable.
Worse, I felt alone in my struggle to adapt. At that time, Devin didn’t do enough to recognize my struggle, or work with me to find a way to mutually navigate living in Utah. He was far too comfortable living in the environment he grew up in. I needed him to stand up for me, and my values, and my way of life. Instead, he was often part of the problem. It was incredibly difficult to help him to see and understand, because we were living in an environment that constantly reinforced his way of thinking and behaving.
I started researching people who travel full time. I followed blogs and Instagram feeds and was inspired by their way of living. I realized that not only was the lifestyle doable, it was very much in line with what I wanted. They didn’t need the big house, the nice car, or best friends to be happy. I wanted to try out this lifestyle, and see what it could do for our family. Unfortunately, although Devin thought it looked “fun”, it didn’t seem realistic to him.
In the meantime, things continued to get worse with our family. We grew more irritated with each other. I withdrew, socially, and stopped participating in things I used to enjoy and love doing. I began stress eating, and my health started to decline.
Things got bad enough that Devin finally realized that something needed to change, or we weren’t going to make it as a family. We tried moving to a different city in Utah, but it didn’t take long to realize that the problems weren’t tied to our home or neighborhood. As we considered where else we might consider moving to, we really had no idea where to go. We considered Hawaii, where we met, or Oregon, where my sister lives and we’d visited a few time, but none of those options felt right.
Then, out of the blue, that changed. Devin came to me and said, “I’ve been thinking about the RV living you’ve always talked about. Maybe THAT is what we need to do.”
After that, things happened pretty quickly. We did a ton of research, sold most of our stuff, sold our house, and were on the road.
That is the background, and the full story of how and why we started living on the road, and we’ve been doing it full time since 2017. In the beginning, it was hard. At a few points, it seemed like it almost made things worse. But we pushed through, worked together, and started to find our family’s identity. RV living has completely changed our family, and while we still have our struggles and issues, we shudder to think what might have happened if we had stayed where we were.
We’ve both grown in so many ways. But I’m most grateful for where my relationship with Devin is now. We understand each other better, we listen to each other, and most importantly we support and stand up for each other.
So, let me summarize why we decided to make this change.
1. Doing What’s Best for OUR Family
Our families are constantly being shaped by the environment we live in. I’m sure everyone reading this has had to battle their environment and community from influencing their family in negative ways. Living on the road simplifies that because you are much more socially isolated (we are, at least).
We wanted to pick the best values from both Dolly and Devin in order to create a family with strong values. When we no longer had to battle social pressures, we were free to design our lives how we wanted. We are finding things that work best for us.
Living on the road also meant we had to homeschool our son. Initially, we weren’t very excited about this. Neither of us are particularly good at is, and even now, Kalepo will probably tell you we constantly lose our patience with him during school. And yet, we’re starting to see him develop skills that aren’t always taught or encouraged in school. People often tell us that he’ll be socially underdeveloped, but he’s learned to interact with people of all ages and backgrounds. He’s not stuck to just kids his age. He’s far more comfortable speaking to new people than we are. Maybe we’ll find out one day we’ve ruined his life…but we seriously doubt it.
We both graduated from BYU–Hawaii, known for having America’s most diverse student body. We both learned to appreciate the blessing of diversity. When everyone comes from a different background, people are far more tolerant and understanding of differences. We felt that, in Hawaii, people weren’t pressured to conform to the same degree as a more homogenous area…such as Utah, where we were living. We missed that exposure and the chance to constantly question our own idea of how to live life.
I wanted to learn more about American culture as well, and in order for me to learn the way people think and the way they socialize in America, I needed to experience more of it. We get to meet people from all over, experience their realities, and learn their history as well. The more we met people, the more we as a family figure out our personality. We also get to meet a lot of different people and learn the different way they talk, joke, and interact. It’s the perfect way to figure out our own way of carrying out conversations with different people.
It’s so easy to get comfortable with your own way of living and thinking. At some point, we can become so complacent that we start to lose our ability to empathize with others. We also limit ourselves from learning new approaches or ideas that could benefit your life.
In a lot of ways, when we started living on the road it felt like a pet-store fish getting dropped into the ocean. What we considered to be the world suddenly felt much bigger, richer, and interesting. We are exposed to the different ways people socialize, what people do to entertain themselves, the history in each area that shapes the mentality and the norms, different landscapes, and more. The world has become our classroom, and our laboratory.
So, while travel certainly wasn’t the goal of living on the road, it is undeniably a benefit that we enjoy.
I grew up stuck at home. Literally stuck at home. I was rarely allowed to attend youth activities, dances, school activities, etc. I would constantly rearrange furniture in our home, just to have something new to look at. My brothers were able to roam and explore, but I was stuck at home, and constantly thought about being able to do more away from home.
When I went to college in Hawaii, I started exploring Hawaii with friends (and eventually with Devin) and I felt free. I discovered the healing power of nature, and how it can calm your soul and remind you of your place in the grand scheme of things. I finally felt the freedom I wanted for a very long time. And once you’ve been bitten by the travel bug, you can’t go back.
We love to travel. We LOVE different cultures. I love the diversity it brings, the different struggles, how people cope with life, food, dancing, way of living, social norms, medicine, politics…there is just so much to learn.
Living on the road means we get to enjoy new places more frequently. Most of our days are similar to when we lived in a house. We work, we cook, we do school work. We exercise (sometimes), watch movies, play games. But, we also get to explore new places on weekends, or evenings. We’ve been so grateful for the travel we’ve been able to do.
Living on the road will always be one of the best decisions we’ve made. It’s not because we followed what was trendy, or seemed cool, or fun, but because it was the RIGHT thing for our needs and challenges.
We believe that everyone should have the ability to pursue the lifestyle that best suits their needs or their family’s needs, without being judged or pressured to conform to what others think they should do. Finding what is best for you, and sticking with it in spite of what other are telling you, is freedom. If you’re already living that way, we congratulate you! If not, we hope that you can find your freedom too. We know it’s possible because, despite the odds, we did.