When you meet people who are just as passionate about travel or the outdoors, have a sense of adventure, and have an insatiable curiosity like you do, it raises a connection. There are so many different people and personalities that have inspired themselves and maybe even inspired others to get out there… including a family who chose to live full-time in an RV.
I created this interview series called From _____ to One World on this blog site because I want to get to know other people who have changed their life in one way or another to pursue what they love most: adventure. But in a box, this will explain it all:
From The Neiharts to One World
Meet The Neiharts or as they call themselves on their social media and website, The Wild Harts. This family of 5 is not living the traditional, white picket fence dream that many families would typically dream of, but actually more of a gladsome life full of outdoor adventures and plenty of education picked up from their adventures. Learning of families who decided to do a different lifestyle from my neighbors who own homes is an interesting perspective to get into. For The Neiharts, they chose to raise their family through a lifestyle of full-time RVing or living in a 5th wheel.
What I learned from living full-time in an RV (recreational vehicle) for a family is that it can foster close bonds, travel, hands-on and firsthand learning of the world around them, convenience, and encourage freedom that helps families put their health first.
So, let’s learn from the awesome and adventurous Neiharts of how they got started on this 5th wheel lifestyle, why they wanted to do this, and what they’ve planned as they went with the flow as a family. Maybe, it’ll inspire you to make this change if you’ve been wondering whether this lifestyle can be right for you and your family.
1. Tell us about who you guys are. What are your occupations?
We are Liz and Ryan Neihart. We have 3 kids: Evelyn (7), Owen (5), Wyatt (3). Liz is a wellness consultant and an event program manager. Ryan owns a graphic design company.
2. You are now living your family life through a 5th wheel RV (recreational vehicle). What was the decision behind this? What kind of RV do you have and where did you get it?
We are a family of 5. Liz (Mom), Ryan (Dad), Evelyn (oldest), Owen (middle), Wyatt (youngest). We lived in a suburb of Portland, Oregon where Ryan and Liz got married in 2010. We started our family there and made some amazing memories and friends. We were very grateful for all we had.
Ryan did not enjoy his job and he would have to work hours that kept him away from seeing and doing the extracurricular activities with the kids. The kids were not that old yet, but there was already a lot of running around to get to soccer, dance class, art class, swim lessons, different schools, etc. By the end of the day, us adults were exhausted and we didn’t have the energy to even hang out with each other.
If we wanted to see family or friends, we would schedule it months in advance because we were so busy. When we were home, we had a lot to do to keep up our home, cars, and stuff.
In 2015, Liz was laid off from her job and we also found out that Wyatt would be joining our family in 7 months. The cost to send 3 young kids to daycare (all not in school yet) would cost more than if Liz were to get a job. We realized a lot of changes needed to happen since we would be losing an income. We radically changed our spending habits and we were able to pay off almost all of our debt. In 2017, we read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up By Marie Kondo and started getting rid of some of our stuff. We had a HUGE garage sale and donated a lot of “stuff”.
We realized how much was just clutter and taking up energy in our life. Throughout that year, we continued to find more items that we could “thank and send on its way”. During all of this, Ryan continued to be “burnt out” by his job but he was unsure what to do next. We were also watching the population of Portland grow quickly… too quickly for us. Ryan grew up in a rural town in Northern Idaho and Liz liked the city but not for how quickly it was growing. We were ready to find a new place to live that was not as populated but had no idea where that would be. We were both tired of the “rat race” and the restrictions we felt with that life that we didn’t even realize was there until we left it.
By 2019, we started researching other potential cities to see what might fit our family. We would spend evening after evening researching and getting frustrated because we just did not know what to do.
March 2019, Liz woke up and told Ryan that it was time to just sell the house. She would call realtors to get meetings set up and just get this going. Ryan asked, “Where are we moving to?” Liz responded, “Who knows, but I know we need to sell the house and it will all get figured out.”
We met with realtors and realized we had about a month worth of updating to do. Nothing too big, but we got to work. In the meantime, we had talked about different ideas of where we would live after this. In 2017, we met a family that had been full-time RVing in a Class A. We discussed this a bit, but Ryan said, “I don’t think I could live in a tiny home”.
Then one day in the middle of April, he came home from work and said: “OK, let’s do it, let’s go look at some RVs to see what it would be like.” The first one we went to look at was on Easter day and it was a 5th wheel. It was then that we realized we could live in one. The search then began and on April 28th, Liz looked on RV Trader and found the one!
In the first week of May, we listed the house for sale and the house was under contract after 3 days. Everything just fell into place very quickly. We had until June 17th to sell or donate all the items we no longer would live with and move out of our home of 8 years. We also needed to sell our suburban and pick-up truck to buy our new bigger pick-up truck that would haul the 40 feet 2016 Cedar Creek Silverback 37BH.
We got the RV trailer on June 14th and 3 days later, we moved 100% out of our house. On July 14th, we drove out of Portland, OR and into the new chapter of our life.
We went with a 5th wheel for many reasons. We only wanted one vehicle (one motor to do work on) and 5th wheels we looked at had more living area than a travel trailer. The bunkhouse floor plans worked the best for our family and with 3 kids, it was important to us for them to each have their own space and us parents to have our own space. This is just what worked for our family right now.
3. You used to live in a traditional home. Do you miss that kind of lifestyle sometimes?
We have been traveling and living in our tiny home for 7 months and not once have we thought about going back to a traditional home or lifestyle.
4. What were your favorite places to visit with your RV? What’s on your bucket list as a family?
So far, our favorite places have been Yellowstone National Park, which we were only there for a day and plan to go back, Zion National Park (also want to go back) and the Sedona, AZ area. We have never had a bucket list as the goal was to just get out and explore and see areas we have never seen before, but our plan is to visit all the national parks.
5. What about your favorite memories? Do you ever miss the people you have encountered through places you’ve traveled to and have left?
We don’t have a favorite memory as we feel that every day is the best day. We do our best to live in the present and be extremely grateful for this life. We are so grateful for the people we meet and the time we get to spend with them. This life makes you get to know someone so quickly and you spend so much time with them when you are near them. We keep in contact with those we have met and just know that we will see them again down the road. A lot of times, this life makes it so that you actually see them more than we would have ever seen our next-door neighbors when we lived in a traditional home.
6. How do you decide on what place to live at for a while with your RV?
We go with the flow. We might have an idea where we want to be and we do some research whether we are going to a campground or boondocking (also known as dry camping with no hookups).
7. What’s one major advice you would give to other families who want to transition into the fifth wheel life?
If you want to do it, DO IT. Don’t stress about the little stuff, as we all know everything always works out and usually the journey is how we learn and grow. We did a lot of research and saw a lot of different types of RVs, the 5th wheel is the one that worked for us but there are a lot out there that are different that could work for you.
Some things we did before we left was to become members of some of the groups on Facebook that focused on full-time RV life. We also watched YouTube from some of the people as well. You can join the groups for free and if you do the membership to these two groups listed below then you’ll have the opportunity to join the FB member groups.
One group is called Fulltime Families. They have an Annual Membership or a Lifetime Membership. With this membership, you are apart of a closed member group and also subgroups of that member group. There are a lot of subgroups but some of the ones are homeschooling, groups that are traveling in certain parts of the country, boondocking groups, etc. You also get discounts on different memberships such as Thousand Trails, Harvest Hosts, Passport America, Boondockers Welcome, OvernightRVParking, WorkCampers, Good Sam Memberships, Escapees RV club and MUCH MORE. They have a lot of rallies and get togethers throughout the year as well.
The second group is Road Life Project. They offer National (yes, national) Family Health Care, which our family uses, Roadside Assistance discount, RV Warranty discount, Mail Forwarding/Scanning Service discount, RV&Auto Insurance, discounts on tires, RV parts, and more. They also have rallies and get-togethers. They have a service that also links you to a nearby service tech.
YouTube has a lot of information as well. All we did was search “RV life” and a lot came up. We followed some that we felt gave the most information and were fun to watch. Some of them were Hippie And the Tech, You, Me and the RV, Keep Your Daydream, and many others. There is a lot of information on YouTube. We also started following people on Facebook and Instagram watching their journey to see how they do it.
The information you get from other people’s experience is extremely valuable. We were able to better prepare for boondocking and some of the unexpected items that happen along the way. However, a lot of it has come from us just getting out and doing it. Everyone has a different situation, so it was important for us to get the information so we could prepare as best we could, but we also realized that we would have to just go do it and learn as we go.
8. What exactly is “roadschooling”? What’s some advice you would give to those who are planning to do some roadschooling for their children?
Roadschooling is homeschooling while traveling full-time. When we go explore an area it is also an experience to learn from. Every trip to a national park, museum or zoo, hike, or any other experience we do is a way to learn something new. We embrace learning wherever we go. The National Park Junior Ranger program is also an amazing way for kids (and us adults) to learn so much. The kids complete a packet about the national park area and it includes them finding information on the habitats and plant life in the area and so much more! Then they get a Junior Ranger Badge and a certificate of completion.
One thing to remember is that this life is not a vacation, it is a lifestyle so all the items that need to get done such as school, laundry, grocery shopping, etc, still happen. We still have a schedule that we do during the day, it is just that our backyard changes more often and we can see new places and learn about those new places hands on.
9. What positive changes have been made with you and your family since choosing this life? Do you plan to go back to a traditional home and lifestyle?
We spend so much more time together. We are more present in each other’s lives. We have said that when we decide the time is right, we will most likely find land and build an off-the-grid type home. It would probably be more like a home base as we keep on traveling. We homeschool and that has also changed our view on schooling as well. We enjoy how this lifestyle helps us spend so much time together as a family. We have gotten so much closer because of it.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Wildharts5-2300314633616715/
If you or anyone you know would like to share their life-changing story where adventure inspired them, please contact me here.