Local family takes an adventurous leap & truly starts living
Photos by Lauren Grijalva
Ever wondered what it’s like to trade in a routine life—filled with hectic daily schedules—for a life on the road having grand adventures with the ones you love? This is something many families only dream about—but for The Wanderpreneurs, that dream is now a reality.
Aaron and Lauren Grijalva—who met in Lynchburg while he attended Liberty University—along with their two kids, Casen and Calista, hit the road in November 2018 after realizing they were being pulled away from each other due to their incredibly busy lives.
“The kids would come home from school, have to do homework, be rushed off to sports practices, we would all shovel down a quick dinner at some point, I would often leave for an evening photoshoot, Aaron would have meetings,” Lauren says. “We were seeing each other and doing things as a family less and less. We loved our sports, jobs, clubs…but it just became too much.”
Originally, their plan was to “hit the reset button” and travel full-time for one year, exploring the country. But now, at this point in time, they’ve decided not to put an end date on their adventure and instead take their journey day by day.
“We love adventure. Being outdoors is what brings us joy, and doing things together as a family is important to us,” Lauren says. “We don’t want to get to the end of our lives and regret working too much, not spending enough time with each other or with our kids, and not making the most of each day. We feel like this world has so much to offer, and we want to see as much of it as we can, meeting new people as we learn and growing along the way.”
It took research and planning, but thanks to Aaron and Lauren’s flexible jobs, as well as the right doors opening up, they were able to get on the road just three months after the idea sparked during a casual conversation the summer of 2018.
“We researched different types of RVs to find the best fit for our family. We had lengthy conversations with our good friends, the Brewers, who we met in Lynchburg, that had been full-time RVers for several years,” Lauren says. “They were instrumental in giving us great advice and answering all our questions, giving us the confidence to continue moving forward.”
The Grijalvas then put their house up for rent, which received a ton of interest, and talked to their kids’ schools about withdrawing them in order to homeschool and travel. They read articles and watched YouTube videos on everything RV-related and grew more motivated with each step.
“The biggest inspiration was finding other full-time RV families and seeing how many amazing places they were visiting and how happy they seemed as they bounced from adventure to adventure,” Lauren says.
The family sold and donated 90 percent of their belongings, including both cars so they could buy a large truck to pull their new, 400-square-foot home. Piece by piece, their plan continued to fall into place until it was time to hit the road.
They started their journey in Georgia, traveled through all southern border states, crossed over into Mexico, and visited the entire western side of the U.S. So far, they have been to more than 15 national parks.
“We realized early on in our journey that we loved the lifestyle so much, we couldn’t imagine stopping after a year,” Lauren says. “We wanted to slow down our travels, spend more time in each place we visited, and look at it as our new lifestyle, not as a trip.”
Plans are in the works to travel down the northeast coast this fall to see the foliage in Maine and Vermont. They also want to take their kids to New York City, plan to spend this winter in Florida and next summer in the Lake Michigan area. They say they would also love to spend an entire summer exploring Canada and an entire winter in Mexico at some point in the future.
“We like to dream big, and have had many discussions about future plans,” Lauren says. “We’d love to explore beyond North America one day and do some international travel. We have a running family bucket list of places we all want to see.”
The family of four has been fortunate to see some of the most beautiful landscapes our country has to offer including the majestic Grand Canyon, White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, Big Bend National Park in south Texas with its vast jaw-dropping night skies, and Alabama Hills, Calif., with its huge boulders. But, while the views have been magnificent, Aaron and Lauren say the sweetest moments of their journey have been the ones you can’t capture in a photo.
“Seeing our kids reconnect in a way we didn’t know was possible, meeting tons of amazing, unique people on the road and hearing their stories, sitting around hundreds of campfires, getting to know other travelers and learn from them, realizing how much stronger and closer our family unit is as a result of the time and experiences we’ve had together—those are the best discoveries,” Lauren says.
The biggest challenge they have faced so far is figuring out how to properly balance work and play. Aaron builds websites, while Lauren blogs and creates content for an RV website, so while their schedules are flexible, they still have to be disciplined.
“The whole first year of travel, we moved on average once a week,” Lauren says. “Our plan moving forward is to at least double that and average two weeks per destination. We usually work in the mornings, explore/hike/spend time outdoors in the afternoon, and when needed, do more work in the evenings, after the kids are in bed.”
While they say sometimes they do feel the need to slow down before they get burned out, they also say they can’t imagine doing anything else right now.
“It would be really hard [to go back to the routine life we used to have]but I know to never say never,” Lauren says. “We are always open for anything God has in store for us, whatever that may be. By having an open mind and heart, we make our plans tentatively, praying for guidance and blessing as we continue on. All we know is that right now we are having an absolute blast and living each day to the fullest.”
Aaron and Lauren cannot stress enough how much it has paid off to take the risk they did, and they want to encourage others to do the same.
“I can’t even put into words how amazing the experience has been for us,” Lauren says. “It’s challenged us to re-evaluate our entire mindset in many aspects of life. Seeing how so many other families are living unconventional lives is inspiring. We have made numerous lifelong friends on the road—friends we’ve spent weeks at a time with, caravanning to new destinations together, exploring and hiking together and spending hours and hours around campfires with, getting to know each other on a real, raw, personal level.”
Read more about The Grijalvas’ journey and RV life on their website, www.thewanderpreneurs.com, and follow them on Instagram (@the.wanderpreneurs) and Facebook (@thewanderpreneurs) to see what they’re up to each day.