“Is this your first rally?” someone asked us. We nodded. “I thought so. You have that lost, wide-eyed, deer in the headlights kind of look about you. Don’t worry. You’re going to be fine. This is going to be great!”
It’s taken me a few weeks to be able to write about our experiences at our first FtF (Full-time Families) Rally in Tallahassee in February. Those weeks have been full of their own experiences, but it has also taken that time to process and reflect on the Rally enough to write a little bit about it.
The Rally Itself
We arrived at the North Florida Fairgrounds in Tallahassee on February 1st and left on February 6th. Those 5 days had a full schedule of seminars, activities for kids and families, potluck dinners, and generally more than anyone could have time or energy to attend. It was all optional of course. As a group, we are all perhaps a bit more comfortable with breaking rules than most, so too many rules probably wouldn’t have made much difference anyway.
We made a crock pot full of mashed potatoes for one potluck, and Swedish chocolate balls for the international potluck. We made lots of different crafts together with the kids and pushed each other on skateboards playing a human version of Hungry, Hungry Hippos. Throughout the rally we earned tickets for helping to clean up or remembering to wear our name tags, and on the last night used those tickets for a raffle. We won two different memberships for online services related to full-time RV life!
There were over 80 families attending this rally. Some had one child, others had seven. Some had been on the road for years, others for only a few weeks. We were all so different in so many ways, but united in choosing a home on wheels and a different kind of education for our kids.
A Chance for Community
We meet a lot of new people as we travel. It can be awkward because we don’t have easy answers to the typical questions asked when making casual conversation. Simple questions like, “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” don’t have simple answers for us. It’s not that we don’t want to share our longer, more complicated answers, it’s that many people aren’t interested in hearing them. Even if they are, the answers are not usually a place to find common ground.
One of my fears in choosing this lifestyle was that we wouldn’t be able to find community. How could we, when we aren’t in the same place for more than a week or two at most? The places most people find community – through church, school, neighborhood, and jobs – just wouldn’t work for us. Were we choosing to be lonely and isolated?
The biggest gift of this rally was putting those fears to rest. Here was a group of people who understood that there aren’t always simple answers to those questions because theirs are also complicated. Here was a place where we could share our story and, each time we did, find things in common and be inspired by the stories of others. Here was the village that said these are all our kids and sometimes I’ll watch yours and sometimes you’ll watch mine and it’s a safe place to give them some independence because of this. The days we spent at the rally gave us our first taste of community on the road.
But a big event once or twice a year isn’t enough to eliminate those fears of loneliness and isolation. What did that was the time spent sitting around a campfire, talking to those who’d been on the road much longer, and hearing their stories of finding community. And the time spent making connections and forming relationships that have continued to develop when we have ended up at the same campgrounds and through social media. (Thousand Trails campgrounds in Florida are pretty much one big rally for most of the winter, as it turns out!) And the first time we made plans to meet up with another family and booked the same campground at the same time (on purpose), we knew that we had nothing to worry about. There are plenty of other people out there that understand our lifestyle and the choices we’re making. It’s all a matter of finding your tribe.
A Chance to Learn
While we feel like we’ve started to land after a pretty intense period of transition, we are still very new to this lifestyle and we have a lot to learn. There’s only so much you can accomplish by watching YouTube videos (although I think Staffan has watched most of them by now!) and the chance to ask questions and bounce ideas off of others was invaluable.
Finding ways to earn money on the road is a challenge we all have in common, and the solutions are as many as the families that are doing it. We were able to learn a lot about different opportunities that are out there, which also sparked new ideas in us that we hadn’t thought of before. We gained insight into not only what we can do, what we want to do, but also into what we aren’t interested in doing. We left with ideas to explore and contacts in a variety of different areas.
We were also able to tour a variety of different RVs (brave, brave volunteers!) to see what others have done and get new ideas for our own. We’re relatively happy with the floor plan of our trailer overall, but there are always ways to adapt and adjust things to better suit our needs and to make it our own. This is our home. So, from interior design elements like repainting or removing the standard curtains, carpets, fixtures, etc to more technical aspects like rewiring or adding a solar panel to adding storage or shelves – there are a lot of creative solutions out there. Some people have gutted the inside and started from scratch. While we’re not ready for such an undertaking, it was definitely inspiring to see all the possibilities!
There was so much to take in, it was a little bit like trying to drink from a fire hose. But we tried to be sponges and soak up as much as we could.
Of all the things we took with us from our first Full-time Families Rally in Tallahassee, we definitely value all the new relationships and contacts highest. What a fantastic group of people we have the privilege to join!
We also drove away with heads full of new ideas and hearts full of inspiration. It is possible to thrive in this lifestyle long-term. There are many others who have faced all the same uncertainties that we do and have come out on the other side. We aren’t the only ones who want to think outside the box in this phase of life.
The possibilities are endless. And we are not alone.
Posted in Learn and tagged FtF Rally 2017, Full-time families, fulltime families, rally, Tally Rally by Christine with 2 comments.