The Family that Sold It All for a Life on the Road

The following is a guest post, courtesy of Michael Boyink.

Who Were We?

We were a pretty darn average suburban family of four. I was self-employed, working out of the basement of our non-remarkable ranch home, getting email from my wife upstairs when lunch was ready.  In addition to keeping the house running she handled 99% of homeschooling our two children.  Our life was the very recognizable family dance with the kid activity shuffle, the home repair two-step, the extended-family boogie, the client work cha cha cha, the occasional parents-only slow dance and the even rarer family vacation polka.


In between the music and busy-ness of all those dance steps, it occurred to us that our life was largely portable. Between an internet-based income and homeschooling, we weren’t tightly tied down to the place where we lived. I grew up taking extended family vacations in a RV, and those memories became the basis for what we affectionately called our “Pipe Dream”. Our Pipe Dream was a really long roadtrip as a family, seeing as much of the USA as we could. We’d discuss the Pipe Dream, share articles and links we found online, casually look at RV floorplans, but then the band would strike back up and we’d set the dream aside and get pulled back onto the dance floor.

Then my oldest turned 13.

We had a teenager in the house.  Our second would cross that threshold in another 19 months.  Suddenly the Pipe Dream had an expiration date, and if we didn’t open it soon, it was going to rot on the shelf. We decided to start pursuing the idea in earnest, and rather than just seeing if it was possible, we looked for a reason to not do it.

We didn’t find any.

Wheels on a Dream

We bought a truck and fifth-wheel trailer. We found someone to live in our house. We consulted our bank and insurance providers. We slowly let clients and family in on the plan to take a year traveling the country.

Our home while in Mesa, Arizona.
Our home while in Mesa, Arizona.

After roughly 9 months of planning, we departed our home town in September of 2010. Our next year covered 23K miles, 34 states, 82 campgrounds, 38 visits with friends and family, 24 libraries, 16 National Parks, 15 churches, 1 truck accident, and 0 flat tires.

Don’t Stop!

At around the 7 month mark, we realized a couple of things. One was that a year was not nearly enough to feel like we had seen what we wanted to see. The other was that we didn’t want to go back.  Not to who we were or how we had lived. We talked about it as a family and decided to finish out our year, then go back home and sell our house, get rid of anything that didn’t fit in the RV, and return to full-time travel indefinitely. By May of 2012, we had done just that and are now back in the RV full-time.

Why would a family do this?

We Live a More Integrated Life

While traveling, we feel like we’re actually living together as a family. Our suburban life in a house was like being in a centrifuge – it forced us apart and we lived largely in our separate corners. The kids would be in their rooms, I’d be down in the basement, and my wife would be up in the living room. We’d meet briefly for a meal, and then be off in our own space again.

Playing in a waterfall in Georgia
Playing in a waterfall in Georgia

Life on the road reverses the centrifuge, pushing us together where we end up in this bumpy mess of waiting for each other to move, excusing ourselves to get a plate, negotiating a single bathroom, sharing a slight 250 square feet of living space, each of us feeling it when someone rolls over in bed at night.

Does your world wiggle when a kid sneezes?

We Value Experiences Over Stuff

We were never really great at conspicuous consumption. While we certainly weren’t poor, we never made enough money to just buy really nice things. We became slaves to our second-hand possessions, spending vacations, spare cash, and the odd home equity-loan on trying to get everything to a “nice enough to have company over” point, sadly not realizing until too late that if we didn’t care what someone’s house looked like, it was likely no one cared about ours either.

Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park, California

Getting rid of the house and most of our stuff has gotten us off that treadmill. Yes, I still like a clean sharp truck and a picked-up trailer, but our world doesn’t revolve around it anymore. When we share our stories with people, the conversation rarely involves the options on our truck, or the number of slideouts on our trailer. Instead the interest and value is in who we’ve met, where we’ve gone, and what our plans are for the future.

We have so little baggage space, there just isn’t room for pretension.

We’re Less Selfish

We’re not on a schedule. We generally have no place we have to be. Because we have the time, we’re more likely to notice a need and stop to help. We’ve pushed out-of-gas trucks. We’ve given jump starts. We’ve handed out food. We’ve listened to tearful vets while folding laundry. We’ve had actual conversations with grocery store cashiers. We’ve delayed moving to the next place because we liked hanging out with the people in the site next to us.

We’re Thinking Bigger:

We are blessed. Richly, undeservedly blessed. We are now debt-free, location independent, schedule-independent, self-employed homeschoolers. We own our own days, and really don’t answer to anyone short of the law and clients. We could just sit back and enjoy this life.

But we think there’s more.

Impressed by the Redwoods in California
Impressed by the Redwoods in California

Not more in a sense of owning more or seeing more. Rather, more in the sense of using our position to bless others. There’s a certain amount we can do financially now that we couldn’t do before. We’ve started sponsoring a Compassion child. We’ve given valuable stuff away to people who had a dream for its use. We’ve sponsored Kickstarter projects. We’ve supported friends entering the adoption process.

We think there’s more yet.

We think there’s a “family dream” waiting for us somewhere.  We see this in the shape of a unifying goal/theme/activity/non-profit/ministry to both guide our travels and become the higher purpose for them.

Sunrise in Northern Michigan
Sunrise in Northern Michigan

And that’s the most significant way our life of travel has changed us. Our thinking and attention has shifted from being inward and focused on what we didn’t have or thought we should have, to being outward and focused on how much of ourselves we can give away.

We haven’t found that thing yet. We’ve talked with some organizations and haven’t found a good fit for a still-working family. But the search is on, and we live with a sense of anticipation for what lay ahead for us as a family.

Down the way, just around that corner.  See that road?

I wonder where that leads….

Want to tag along on this adventure? The Boyinks are continuing their journeys, and invite you to join them (even if it is vicariously) on their website: Boyinks4Adventure


  1. Thanks Renee!

    Considering where you guys have gone & are going our adventures seem pretty tame (but I’ve learned to not trade house-envy for adventure-envy..:)

    Good luck with your move to Meh-he-co! We’re just now starting to look at next year, wondering what we could afford to do if we spent a cheap summer in one place.

    Oh, the possibilities..;)

  2. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re on our way, downsizing as fast as we can with a date circled on the calendar. That concept, slaves to second-hand possessions is so true and sadly so, so pathetic. Glad we’re finally choosing a different path.

  3. Thanks Folks. Eric – there is definitely a season for it in our minds. While we’ve met families with kids of all ages for us it wouldn’t have worked well until they were around 10-11.

    Rose – we’ve bumped into you before I think? Unless there are other speech-pathologist / farmers out there…;) Glad to hear you are progressing towards a redesigned life and definitely let us know if we’re in the area. Will you be blogging your travels in your current site?

    1. We’ve talked about living in one area for an extended period of time. One thought we’ve tossed around was to go to Italy or France for a summer and I’d work remotely from there. At this time, it’s important that I’m accessible for our work at smashLAB. In a few years, though, the agency might be in a spot at which I could be a little less present (at least physically).

  4. I enjoyed your posting and forwarded it to my new husband. We’re planning on a buy-a-sailboat kind of touring lifestyle, but with a new baby, we’re a little more hesitant. Your posting will renew the wind in our sails. I’m writing because I’m happy to share my experiences (and maps) of my trip to new zealand. I toured both major islands on a motorcycle and stewart island on foot. I logged over 15,000 km in my time there and have seen every inch of the country. Let me know if I can help. Cheers.

  5. Inspiring story!

    If i would have been there some day, i would definitely track you and hopefully we can have great dinner with chilled beers together :)

  6. I needed this, all my life I’ve been wanting to live on the road, and now there is a load of advice and encouragement. This information has been good for me, to see that it is possible to follow my dreams. My husband is also looking at ways that we can make this happened. Thank you for sharing.

  7. My husband and I recently condensed our family of three’s life down to basically clothes and items that we truly cherish/important documents. We moved onto my parent’s property and stay in a 29′ travel trailer. Our 7 year old has a bedroom in the main home on the property. Living this way has made my husband and I realize how simple it would be for us to live the pipe dream NOW rather than after graduation. I kept thinking, how do we wait 11 years? And why does she have to miss out? My husband and I both work from home, and there are so many homeschool resources now, we are truly considering & planning to begin next summer! I appreciate your post!

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