Episode 17: Celine McLaughlin on RV Life

you May 25, 2021
Celine McLaughlin knows RV Living

Celine McLaughlin is living the dream and tells us how she and her family made the transition from the 9-5 to life on the road, homeschooling their boys, and exploring the US and Canada.

Connect with Celine on Facebook or Instagram. Find out more about the show The RVers at thervers.tv and learn more about life on the road.

Celine's favorite gadget is...a tie!  She loves both her KitchenAid Mixer and her Instant Pot 

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This is a transcript of the This Mom Knows Podcast - Episode - 17

Jennifer Uren
Celine and her family are living the dream while our family's dream anyway, Selena and her husband Adam and their three boys live in a 30-foot travel trailer while traveling full time. She grew up a pastor's kid on the prairies in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and she's a twin! After Bible school, she and Adam moved their family to Southwest Florida to work at a church until 2018 when they made the decision to sell everything, homeschool, and live and travel in an RV. They run a marketing and website design business while exploring Canada and the United States. And they are cast members of a TV show called the RV years. So welcome, Celine.

Celine McLaughlin
Hi, it's so great to be with you.

Jennifer Uren
I am so glad that you could be with us today. And just tell us a little bit more about yourself and some of the things that you enjoy doing maybe a little bit about your boys. Just some stuff like that.

Celine McLaughlin
Sure, So I have three boys who are 12, nine and seven years old. And we got on the road in 2018 to start traveling full time. We've done a lot of road trips with our kids, but it was a new experience to sell everything and go full time with traveling. We wanted to see a lot of the US and Canada and, and having my husband working two jobs, kind of restricted that. So with us moving full time just to our personal business that we run, we can work remotely and travel wherever we want whenever we want to.

Jennifer Uren
That's wonderful. So you know about life in an RV, which is very different than just camping, right?

Celine McLaughlin
It's funny you say that because we actually do say to a lot of people, we don't really understand much about camping because RVing is so different. We we did feel that we kept a few times with our first year of traveling because we had an RV that didn't work very well, it was just to get by for the first year. So we had trouble with the shower, for instance, we didn't have a proper battery that we could run off of, and things that we were kind of clueless when it came to RV originally. So when we tried to boondock with that trailer, it definitely felt like we were camping.

Jennifer Uren
Okay.

Celine McLaughlin
We've moved into a better trailer now. And we have proper water. And we even have solar power. So we can go off grid and still feel like we have all the amenities and everything that we need.

Jennifer Uren
Oh, that's wonderful. So deciding to sell it all and downsize into an RV is kind of an extreme decision. What, what led you to decide to do that?

Celine McLaughlin
Well, I feel like we kind of set ourselves up for it in in a roundabout way, even though it was not really what our plan was because we did sell everything when we moved from Ontario to Florida, and so that was already a big adjustment, because we really didn't want to bring a lot with us all the way down there. So we started fresh there. And then we decided to leave Florida and get on the road because we realized more and more even over that move that all of our stuff that we had had little importance to us that really it was all the experiences that we were going to have and and all of the family time we'd spend together that was more important to us. And one of the major situations that happened was hurricane Irma. When it came, we all packed up whatever we could in our vehicle and evacuated from Florida. And that was really what hit us the most at that point was what we realized, everything we have in our vehicle is likely what's most important to us and if we lost everything else, like what really matters right now? So that was really the turning point where we started to consider it more.

Jennifer Uren
That's interesting and what I mean, what a great progression but what a what a gift that you could come to that realization without actually losing stuff, and mkaing a choice.

Celine McLaughlin
That's true. Fortunately, we had no damage to where we were staying. We were renting a place but all of our stuff ended up being safe. But more and more we just realized all of this stuff like we enjoy, we enjoy it but we would enjoy traveling a whole lot more and having just a little tiny home to bring with us forever. It's amazing because some people will say. "I don't really like traveling and I'm really a homebody" but we can really be both because our home is always with us. So no matter where we are we just go back into our home and we're home! So...

Jennifer Uren
So tiny house huge front yard.

Celine McLaughlin
Yeah, exactly. I love taking pictures out of the window when we're inside our trailer opening our front door and just snapping a picture because it's so cool to see our our front door and our view from our windows change everywhere.

Jennifer Uren
That's really neat. So when you made this decision and you called up and said, "Hey, Mom and Dad, we're gonna make this lifestyle change." How did your families react?

Celine McLaughlin
They they were really positive about us even moving to Florida, I think that, that was a big change because nobody else in our family had really moved far away. There's, I have one sister, who we all moved away from when I was younger, but the rest of us have all been around each other. So I think after that big jump, I think our family was pretty open to what was next for us, because they had already seen us move that big move down to Florida. And I don't know, they're pretty accepting of it. Like, they enjoy flying out to find us different places, and, and then we get to meet up with them. So that's kind of a perl.

Jennifer Uren
That's true and you're mobile, so I suppose it's a little easier in times when borders are open to to get back home and see them then when you were in Florida.

Celine McLaughlin
You're right, we have our own schedule. So we could go back more. We did try to go back to see our family about two times a year when we lived in Florida. And we're doing about that right now. But I think it gives our family more interesting places to come and find us instead of continuing to come back to Florida, they get to see the places that we're going to.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, that's really cool. So how old were your boys when you made this decision? And what did they say?

Celine McLaughlin
They were only four, six, and eight. And that was us when we were leaving Florida. They were very little when we moved to Florida. So they it was I think the hardest for my oldest because we had settled him in a school. But he had been homeschooling before that. So he did know the difference between being in a school and homeschooling so it was just a matter of, you know, letting him know, he was gonna have to say bye to his new friends we had made down there. But besides that, they, they really are great in the car and going on road trips. Even from Florida, we would drive straight 24 hours back to Ontario. And they were really great with with car rides and car trips. So I think that they were excited.

Jennifer Uren
And do they make friends quickly when you're in different campgrounds? Are they getting along really well, and being good friends? How has that played out?

Celine McLaughlin
Yeah, definitely, there are so many families doing what we're doing. And I never realized that until we started traveling. I just thought we were crazy and like the only people, maybe the only Canadians who are doing this. But coming down into the US it's very popular here. And so all the other families that we come across, they all learn to make friends immediately and get to know the kids that we're with because they know that we're going to be with them for a little while and then we have to say bye and move on and meet more people. And it's great with technology, the the kids who they find they really had a connection with they meet up online with and continue to connect with each other that way.

Jennifer Uren
That's fabulous. And recently I heard about an app, I don't even know what it's called, but where it's almost like Facebook for RVers where you can track each other and see if you're going to be in a campground near each other. And you know, so I suppose you got a little bit of saying, "hey, we'll be 20 minutes apart. Let's Let's meet for lunch at a picnic park or something?"

Celine McLaughlin
Yeah, there are, I believe a couple of apps, I have one that I haven't really tried out very much. There's another one that we got connected with, through the RV years TV show. And it's an app called it's a group called Our Village. And you can check in in that app whenever you get to a new spot and then the people in that group will see where you are. But for now I find the most effective way to meet up with people is actually just following different families through Instagram. Yeah, we ended up meeting up with people that way.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, that's fun. Um, so you downsized further, but did you truly actually get rid of everything? Or did you put stuff in storage because you weren't sure if this would be an always in forever thing that you would love to do?

Celine McLaughlin
Yeah, we sold all of our furniture and all of our bigger items that we weren't going to move back to to Ontario because when we left Florida, we had to relocate our things back to Ontario since we were just on a visa. So we put boxes of sentimental things into both my mom's basement and Adams parents house. So we basically have two closets worth of boxes. And that's all that we have. We sold everything else.

Jennifer Uren
Okay. So wow! But you've ended up loving it. So for now, is this something you'll do for the foreseeable future?

Celine McLaughlin
Yeah, there is no end to this right now at all. As long as it works for our family, we're going to continue doing it. There's no reason for us to stop. We just love it.

Jennifer Uren
That's exciting. That's really fun. So what was the hardest thing to walk away from you mentioned for your son leaving school and friends but what was the hardest thing for you?

Celine McLaughlin
Um, it it was hard for me because I had seen our future in Florida so it was such a big adjustment to move down there. So I had to start settling myself there and getting situated and, and find a new group of friends and and other moms with kids and in our church, we were really settled in there so I think I'm realizing that we had to start all over again and just kind of restart and have a new, foreseeable future that was a bit of an adjustment. But getting into it. Now, if I'm so happy we made the decision, I would not go back.

Jennifer Uren
That's great. So how do you find meaningful community? And you mentioned church, you mentioned friends that you grab coffee with? How does that translate to this sort of nomadic lifestyle where you're moving around,

Celine McLaughlin
I feel like there are so many people doing this, that we've all made ourselves, our own little community. We connect mostly online, but it's really interesting, we met up with the Canadian family last fall and spent a few months in British Columbia with them. And we ended up both meeting up down in Arizona just a month ago. And it was really special to us, because we haven't met a lot of families that we've reconnected with. And now that we've been on the road, this long, we've been able to reconnect with families. And same with traveling, we have friends all over the US and Canada. So it has been a lot of fun to, to map out our route to meet up with all these different people and we would never have been able to plan to visit all of these friends and all these different places within these two years, two and a half years we've been traveling.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, especially if you'd been stationary in a house and just trying to hit the road. And you we met online and then got to meet in person. So I know you're already adept at doing that.

Celine McLaughlin
That's true. And then we still feel like we have all of our close friends in Ontario, where we lived before we went to Florida. Because of all of our trips back to visit there, we're so close with all of them. And it's special to me because I get to go back to where I grew up in the middle of Canada and Saskatchewan. So it's special now, because I've never made so many trips back there since I moved away in 2004. And now I get to go back there and see all my childhood friends, each year that we plan to go through that part of Canada, it's really wonderful.

Jennifer Uren
That's the, and your boys get to build memories based on what you knew. I mean, there's a connection there too. So that's really cool.

Celine McLaughlin
Yeah, they've made friends with the kids I grew up with who have now had their own kids. And yeah, they've met their families. It's been special.

Jennifer Uren
So fun. So you, you hit the road, and everything was just exactly the way you dreamed it would be right?

Celine McLaughlin
We had no clue about RVing at all. So it was quite hilarious. We, we barely even knew how to, to light our oven and to make our hot water turn on and basic things like that. And we were already moved into it. So we had friends show us how right before we got on the road and for the first little while it did just feel like an extended vacation. But if there were a lot of things to learn and adjustments to make, so it's never easy to make such a big change at first, but you have to know that the change can be hard and and learn to be flexible and you'll get through it.

Jennifer Uren
So is is Adam mechanically inclined? And does he, does he think in terms of you know, repairs and he's able to do a lot of this because he's just that way or did he have to really learn how to do these things?

Celine McLaughlin
We are not mechanically inclined at all, we definitely have to be taught a lot. And we just got a newer trailer almost a year ago now. And we had to be taught how to use that one. And we have some good friends of ours with a connection with the TV show. And they've really taught us a lot more about our trailer that we thought we knew everything but when it comes to boondocking and conserving water and making sure we don't overuse our power and save our power that we get from our solar and our batteries, there's a lot to learn that we still didn't know about. We watch YouTube and we learn. We ask questions online and join Facebook groups to help us.

Jennifer Uren
Well, that's great, and I will be honest, that is the piece that scares and worries us the most about making the jump is that we're not mechanically inclined and we're like..uhh!

Celine McLaughlin
You can have problems with your house too. You can still have things go wrong with furnaces.

Jennifer Uren
But we know who to call here we don't know who to call for... We'll learn!

Celine McLaughlin
Yeah, like we actually got a flat tire yesterday and we had to have help from AAA to even know where to go to get our tire like there's things that you know where to go to because you know the local places but we're in somewhere brand new. So we didn't know what city would have tires for us or anything like that, but there's always people around to help. You just have to accept that and just be willing to ask for help.

Jennifer Uren
That's great. So what is the hardest thing that you've done since hitting the road?

Celine McLaughlin
Um, it's a big question. Maybe just learning to navigate new places. That's, it's, it's an adjustment, even going to grocery stores are new, like, everything is just new. Everywhere you go, you're constantly changing your location, your environment changes, just everything around you, you have to get comfortable with change constantly. And growing up I was I was not comfortable with change. So you have to learn to be able to adjust easily.

Jennifer Uren
So the interesting the flip side of that, that's interesting to me is that by having your RV you have a constant in the midst of all of this, so that that kind of anchors you, which made me wondering, made me wonder, like, with all this change, how do you balance work and homeschooling with this adventure, so that you still sort of have these routines and the things that need to get done, do get done?

Celine McLaughlin
That was hard for me, because I really do love schedules. I grew up in a private school that was very scheduled, and we learn to make our own schedules. And I had schedules at home. And so my life was very scheduled. And coming into this kind of lifestyle, you really have to break free from being really able to plan out everything because you really can't expect every day to look the same. So my kids have learned to balance our days with with school, sometimes in the evenings, or sometimes it's a weekend. They know it's Saturday, but we they know, we haven't done school all week. So they'll catch up on a weekend. But we're we're learning through traveling as well. So I don't stress as much about the schoolwork and the and the books because of how much they're learning when we're out places. But our our schedule, it really fluctuates.

Jennifer Uren
So do you decide you kind of look at the beginning of the week and say, here's what it's gonna look like? Or do you wake up and say, I wonder what today is going to hold?

Celine McLaughlin
A little bit of both. But it really depends on the area we're traveling to. And right now we're in Utah and we're visiting a lot of National Parks, we're going to hit all five of them. So our goal here in this next month is to get to all the National Parks. So we've put school as second to that. But they that we do find time to do it with they were doing school this morning. They're usually our kids are usually up and ready before we are so they're they're hanging around in their room and and I usually have their schoolbooks put out the night before. So when they get up in the morning, they can go right to the table and start working because as soon as we say we're leaving, then they know they just have to stop and we'll work on it in the evening time. But it's I it's more like every week, I would say because we're we move a little bit slower this year than we have in the past. So we stay in the same area about a week.

Jennifer Uren
Okay, so that gives you a little more time to get into a slight rhythm.

Celine McLaughlin
Yeah, it's a lot more comfortable. Our first year traveling, we didn't stay in one spot for more than four days. It was really intense. We wanted to get as many places we could. Yeah. Now we're slowing down a bit and enjoying each area a little bit more.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah. And that's a lot of work, getting everything hooked up and set up and all the you know, the take down and whatever. I don't know the lingo yet!

Celine McLaughlin
Yeah, we've got a good routine with that. And our kids all have their part of what they have to put on their bed so things don't fly around in the trailer when we're driving. And they know how to put down and up the stabilizers of our trailer. And we even have Joel moving our vehicle away from the trailer when we unhitch it now. So he's really proud of that job because he gets to start the car and move it forward. They're all getting new responsibilities.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, that's, that's one of I can hear him going, "Yeah, I drive the car."

Celine McLaughlin
Sometimes he's like, Okay, dad, which one is the brake pedal? A little bit nervous. They're like, you better not drive that car away from you.

Jennifer Uren
That's right. He's just doing that to make you nervous. So you and your family are part of the show The RVars. So tell me more about the show and how that came about.

Celine McLaughlin
It really just fell into into place with us traveling. We met up with some people that were in eastern Canada, and we made friends with them. And then traveling down the east coast we ended up in Florida at a rally where we met up with these people again, and they told us that they were part of a show. And the producer of the TV show was at this same rally. So he connected with us and we hung out for a few days with them. And right away we just had an instant connection with him. And he told us that for the TV show he was producing that he had a few couples that traveled full time but he didn't have any families that he had connected with yet. So we just happened to be the first family that we met and that he had met and we had such a good connection right away that they just asked us if they could interview us for the show. So we were fine with that. And it worked out that we were all in that place in Florida at the same time. So they interviewed us, and we told them, we would help with online footage and YouTube for the show. And that went on for a while. And eventually, they asked us to be hosts of the show. And now they've put out a few seasons, so we're working with them and filming more. And it's been really exciting. It's just something we didn't expect at all, really. So this is really a new thing. And we love to document what we're doing. So if we can send footage to them and and help them for the show, then it's just a bonus.

Jennifer Uren
That's great. So how so what what does that require of you? Does that determine where you go at all? Or what things you do when you're somewhere?

Celine McLaughlin
Yeah, it did in the fall last year, because they wanted to install solar and lithium batteries into our trailer. So we made our way out to British Columbia, where they were able to do that for us. But we had plans to stay there into the winter time since it was warmer there than the rest of Canada. So that wasn't really restricting for us at all. There's other times where they just asked us to bring submit footage to them. And so we've got a good camera that we use that has good quality video, so we are able to send that to them. They haven't communicated with us yet if there's going to do if they're going to do another filming where they need us in one spot yet.

Jennifer Uren
Okay. Okay, that's really cool. And where can people see the show? Where is it aired?

Celine McLaughlin
It's on, on Discovery Channel, and PBS. And there's a lot of other stations that we're starting to pick up. There's a lot of smaller ones. You can find us on Amazon Prime TV, I believe as well. Some of the some of the channels, you have to pay for the episodes, but there's many that are free. You just have to check your local listings for PBS because they are all determined in their own regional area when you're gonna play the show. But Season 3 has started.

Jennifer Uren
Okay. Oh, that's exciting. So you, were you in Season 1 at all?

Celine McLaughlin
No, we were in Season 2. And now we're in Season 3 with our solar install.

Jennifer Uren
Okay, that's really cool. So there's probably a mom listening who is thinking that, you know, this could be an appealing lifestyle for her and her family, what would you tell her? And specifically, where should she begin? If she wants to pursue this?

Celine McLaughlin
Well, if you if you still have a house and you have a lot of stuff, it would be good to start learning how to purge everything and and learn how to to let things go to start with and it would be good to connect with other people who are doing this right now through websites like Facebook groups and things like that, that they can ask questions and, and take each step one at a time. It's a process and it it does take a lot of change to make it work. But if you're willing to do it, and you know that your kids are up for it, it's really, really worth it.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah. Have you seen with COVID? Have you seen an increase and families doing it full time?

Celine McLaughlin
We have we see people on Facebook all the time in the Facebook group I'm part of posting and saying that they're starting out full time traveling and and people are saying that because their kids are at home already. They're basically homeschooling so it's not going to be much different than going on the road and and homeschooling on the road.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah. So what is that done for campground reservations? Is it hard to get them?

Celine McLaughlin
Um, it depends where you are. Like I said, we've been boondocking so much that we haven't been to very many campgrounds at all. So we haven't found them to be necessarily really full because we've been in areas where there are a lot of snowbirds that would normally be here, but because of COVID they're not traveling at all. So we found it actually pretty easy to get into places.

Jennifer Uren
Okay, that's good. And I just realized, I totally know what boondocking is, but there might be somebody listening who doesn't. So do you want to explain what that is?

Celine McLaughlin
Sure, there's a lot of places that you can park your RV or or a tent even for free. And it's public land. And there's a website online, you can just find a map and it maps out all of the land that you can park at. And when you boondock you don't have electrical hookups and you don't have water hookup. So you have to run off of your water tanks and you have to have batteries or a generator that can sustain power, so that you can stay remotely and and you're you're free to come and go as you want. We love it because we don't have to check in and check out of campgrounds at certain times. We can sleep in and not feel rushed to pack up and leave to move on we can stay as long as usually most places you can stay up to about two weeks and then you have to move so we love that. It's, it's so much more flexible. Plus campgrounds can sometimes determine how close or far you are away from where you want to explore. But with the with boondocking, we find we can find free land close to the National Parks or State Parks that we want to be at. And it's it's really nice to be in nature more and we find spots where there's nobody else around so we have no neighbors close to us. And it's it's crazy now because when we do choose to spend a night at a campground, it feels so odd to be parked so close to other people now because yeah, the kids love when we moved to a new spot, we actually relocated yesterday after one night in a different spot because we wanted to try to get a better internet or cell signal. And the kids just jump out of the car and say, "Wow, look at all the space we have here.' And they just start running around and they love the open space that we get.

Jennifer Uren
That's great. And I bet you get to see the stars at night like you just don't anywhere else.

Celine McLaughlin
It's incredible. When we were down in Arizona, before bed one night, I had the kids come outside with their pillows. And we have an outdoor carpet that we put down in front of the trailer, it kind of cuts back on dirt and stuff getting inside. And we lie down on that I was on a carpet and looked up at the stars and it was so dark out. And we just I could have laid there for hours, but it was getting really late.

Jennifer Uren
Wow, you're making me really want to get ready to do the next thing we sold our house. We have sold most of our furniture. And we're just we're renting while we get the kids off to college, the older two so we're getting close. But man, I can't wait. So what what stops are on the itinerary for 2021.

Celine McLaughlin
We have plans to continue going to the five National Parks here. We're at Bryce Canyon right now and we're heading to Capitol Reef, and Moab and Arches. And then we're going to make our way up to Yellowstone. It's difficult after that to make a lot of plans based on the border being open and closed. But we're allowed to be here in the US into the summertime. So we have to make a decision, how long of how long we want to stay here or if we want to cross back into Canada in the summer to see some of our friends in the areas where it's cold during the winter times. So yeah, it's really hard to plan right now. But the nice part about it is that we know that we'll have our home with us no matter where we're going. So yeah, yeah.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah. Oh, that's great. Well as we wrap up, and this has been a fun conversation. But one question I asked everyone, it's a little more lighthearted. But what is your favorite gadget, and I'm ho.., I know you do a lot in the kitchen, so I'm, and with the RV, I'm really intrigued to hear what you come up with.

Celine McLaughlin
So I would really be torn between my KitchenAid mixer and my instapot I find a lot of people who I've met say that they when they got on the road, they gave up having their mixer, because they didn't think they had space for it. But there was no way I was gonna let that go because I make all of our bread and dough and I bake in the trailer. So not having my mixer would have been really difficult for me. The instapot is really awesome. Because when we're out traveling or even going from place to place with our trailer, getting set up and everything it gets later in the day and close to dinnertime. So an instapot we can make our dinners really fast. And it's really, really wonderful to have an instapot when you're traveling, so I can't pick between those two.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, well, you use your mixer, so that's the that's a huge difference. For most people. It's a it's a decoration on the counter to be used at Christmas. So. But yeah, I have I have three instant pots. And sometimes I use them all. So...

Celine McLaughlin
I'm so jealous. For more than one I would because I have to juggle cooking rice and then cooking my meat and all that. But I make a lot of meals I can do at one time. But, yeah.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, well, that's fun. Well, how can people connect with you or connect with you personally or find social media accounts for the show?

Celine McLaughlin
So I post mostly for the show, but we have our own personal Instagram that's connected with the show. So our Instagram is called the RVers family. And that's also our name for Facebook and Twitter as well. And we're posting on all three of those accounts. So you can find us on there.

Jennifer Uren
Excellent. Wonderful. Well, I'm so glad that we were able to have this conversation and and I love that you're you're at the National Park outside showing us. If anyone's watching this on the YouTube channel that she's right in the middle of doing what she's living. So yeah, that's wonderful.

Celine McLaughlin
We just finished hiking for five miles and the kids were did so awesome. We actually we were crossing through an area down in the canyon. And we passed to people who stopped and looked at us and said, "Hey We just saw you at Zion on hiking Angels Landing." And my, my oldest son and I were doing that hike a few days ago. And now we're all up here. So is kind of interesting that no matter where we go, we we seem to run into other people. This has happened more than once. But yeah, people pass us at another Park and recognize us.

Jennifer Uren
Has anybody past you yet and recognized you because of the show? No, but we were staying in a campground and somebody saw our sticker on our RV window because we've got the RVers family on our car and our trailer. So they were looking us up online. And when we were checking out the next day, they came out to talk to us.

That's cool.

Celine McLaughlin
Yeah, that's kind of interesting that we're not quite there yet. But I'm sure...

Jennifer Uren
You'll get there. Yeah, just remember, I knew you before. Well, Celine, thank you so much for your time today. And we'll look forward to connecting with you further.

Celine McLaughlin
Yeah, hopefully, we'll see you on the road when you guys get going.

Jennifer Uren
It'll be fun.

Celine McLaughlin
It'll be awesome.

Jennifer Uren
All right. Thank you.

Celine McLaughlin
Thanks so much.

 

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