March 12, 2014 is a day that changed my life forever. I lost my only brother, who was also a father figure to me and one of the greatest people I’ve ever known, at the young age of 33. It was hands down the hardest thing I have ever had to go through. But with the support of family, friends, and my deep faith in God, it made me a stronger person and taught me how precious life is.
I feel so blessed to have had an incredible brother for 28 years of my life. Many people never get to experience the joy that he brought to my life and the legacy he left that will forever live in my heart. So, today, on the 4 year anniversary of him going to heaven, I dedicate this post to him.
Let me first share a little bit about him. Steve was the most compassionate, funny, and outgoing person you could ever meet. He was also incredibly loyal and loved his family, especially his daughter, and Jesus more than anything. He didn’t have acquaintances – everyone he met instantly became his friend. Helping others and loving on strangers was a daily habit of his. I honestly feel as though I will spend the rest of my life trying to accomplish what he did in just 33 years.
He touched more lives than we will ever know and is missed more than I can put into words. He was always the life of the party, his smile was contagious, yet he was so humble and kind. We have a lifetime of memories and funny stories of him being absolutely crazy and not caring what anyone thought. That was my brother.
A photo of my brother sits on the dash of our RV so that he can go on all our adventures with us. He would have been our biggest supporter of this lifestyle and I know he’s cheering us on from heaven. He, too, would have loved RV life and I wish so badly he could have experienced it. I feel his presence everywhere and know he is near whenever I see a lady bug, which is always at the most perfect times and in the most creative ways.
Steve was a huge inspiration to us taking a risk to achieve our dream of full-time travel and a life on the road. Without him and the impact he had on my life, I may have never gone for it. And through RVing, we have learned so many valuable life lessons that we will carry with us throughout every phase of life. I love that my brother still has a part in teaching me what it means to live life to the fullest like he did.
Here are 7 life lessons we’ve learned from full-time RVing
(7 just so happens to be one of my brother’s favorite numbers because of John Elway…go Broncos! Sorry, I had to!)
1. Life really is short, don’t wait
Sometimes we get so caught up in making plans for life and over-preparing that life just passes us by. We all know that life is short, we aren’t guaranteed any amount of time on Earth, and we’ve heard inspiring quotes like “live like you’re dying”, but we don’t always believe it or live it.
We’re thankful every day that we didn’t wait to full-time RV. We could’ve waited until retirement, or made sure everything was perfect timing, but we didn’t. We haven’t looked back once. In fact, we wish we would’ve done it sooner!
Before RVing, we used to feel as though we were just “going through the motions” in life, but not really living.
Really ask yourself, “what are you waiting for?” if you’re wishing to make a change in your life. Are you putting too much value on money, your job, or material things and not enough value on experiences? Any day really could be your last so don’t put off your dreams, don’t waste time on things that don’t matter, and just go for it!
2. You can find humor in everything
Things constantly need repairing on RVs, we may break down on the side of the road someday, and RV life isn’t so glamorous when you haven’t showered in days or when you have black tank complications. But, we always end up laughing it off and the stories about the bad times tend to be the stories we tell most often.
Don’t take life too seriously. Laugh at yourself and your mistakes. Be lighthearted about things that aren’t true tragedies. Put your hard days into perspective and remember it really isn’t that bad and could usually be much worse. Stay grateful and positive and you’ll get through it.
3. Do more of what makes you happy
What do you love? When do you feel your greatest? Do more of that. Make time for it every single day. Why do we deprive ourselves of the things that make us feel good. For us, it’s travel. When we explore new places and see new sights, we feel alive. We feel closer to each other, closer to God, and an inner peace that just feels “right”. So, we decided to chase that, regardless of what hurdles we had to overcome and still have to face.
Some days we slack on exercising, or let the RV get a little dirty, or laundry pile up because we’re just too busy enjoying nature and being outdoors. What things can you do less of so that you have more time to do the things you love? Prioritize and value your time and happiness!
4. People are good
Being on the road, we constantly run into new and interesting people. We strike up conversations with strangers nearly every day and every time, we walk away saying “what a nice person!” And every single time we’ve run into an issue on the road – getting stuck in tight spots, having RV troubles, getting lost – there has been what we call a “road angel”, who kindly helps without asking for anything in return.
Good people are every where, just not always on the news! While being smart and safe is crucial, assume every one you meet is honest and kind and choose to see the best in them. Don’t avoid people, no matter how different they may be. You never know who you’ll meet and how they’ll impact your life. Be trusting. Be helpful. Be friendly. We all need to stick together!
5. Take risks
One of my favorite quotes is…
When we decided to full-time RV, we had SO many fears. I had to quit my job and worried about everyone I’d be disappointing. We had just recently moved from Colorado to North Carolina and 8 months later decided we wanted another change and worried what people would think of us. We were clueless about all things RVing and were terrified of being on the road on our own and having things go wrong. The list goes on. But we ignored those thoughts and kept pushing forward while keeping our focus on why we wanted to do it (to live, to travel, to pursue).
The “hows” and “what ifs” can be overwhelming and rarely do we think about the possibility of things actually working out perfectly and none of our fears coming to fruition. Allow yourself to dream big and set goals for yourself that hardly even seem realistic. As long as you work hard and never give up, you’ll get there!
We’ve found that once we took the first big risk in our life, we’ve been much more open to taking other risks and it’s been sort of like a domino effect. Once you realize that risks aren’t all that scary after all, you just keep doing big things. We recently signed up for a half marathon and had 3 months to train. We hated running and signed up only because we wanted the physical and mental challenge (who pays money for that?). Our training started with 10 minute runs and we’d think to ourselves, “how are we ever going to run 13.1 miles when we can barely run 1”. But we took it in strides, literally, and somehow, someway we did it!
You can do it, too. If you want it bad enough, go get it!
6. Always be learning and growing
Since day 1 RVing has put us completely out of our comfort zone. We had no clue what we were doing and just hit the road with our map, bucket list, and a whole lot of faith. Dan has learned to be much more handy and has fixed everything on the RV that has broken by just trying (and YouTubing). I’ve learned so many new skills in order to earn money and replace my income as a teacher. We both strive to be life long learners. Whether it’s learning to play the guitar (me), taking up jui jitsu (Dan), or investing time into fly fishing as a new hobby (both of us), we love trying new things! It’s helped us gain confidence in ourselves, too
Traveling takes us out of our small bubble and introduces us to so many new perspectives, ideas, and cultures. What can you do that will bring you the same experiences and opportunities to learn and grow? Is there a skill, or hobby you’ve always wanted to try? Do it! It’s never too late to learn. It’s easy to keep doing the things we’re already good, but that doesn’t allow you to grow. So put yourself out there!
7. Be flexible and go with the flow
RVing has taught us that we don’t always have to have a schedule or plan in life. Everyone always asks us, “where are you headed next?” and our answer has recently become, “we don’t know…where ever we feel like it!”. We’ve stopped worrying about our route so much and focus more on enjoying where we are and taking it a day at a time.
This mindset has helped us with our outlook on life, too. We don’t know what our future holds. Our hearts still hurt after receiving the news that we cannot have biological children together. We can’t decide how we will move forward with that news and feel differently every day about alternative options to starting a family. But we’re okay with that. We don’t need to know yet and we will know when the timing is right. In the meantime, we just want to enjoy the things we do have instead of wishing for things we don’t have.
I hope that at least one of these 7 lessons have inspired you in some way. Sharing them and writing this post has been such a great way for me to honor my brother and keep his legacy alive. I’ll always aspire to have the same outlook on life that he had and pass it on to others! Thank you for reading and letting me share who my brother was and how he continues to shape who I am.