By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report
Alyssa and Shanan Zavocki had the opportunity to go full-time RVing for 14 months, ending last year. The 10- and 12-year-old girls visited 40 states together on their cross-country journey, and Shanan has been to five others as well.
The girls are part of a rather large family led by Steve and Linda Zavocki. They also have a 5-year-old sister, Genevieve, and 2-year-old brother, Jake. A new member is expected to arrive this fall.
The family transformed the back room of their Forest River 355QBQ fifth wheel into a giant children’s area complete with four bunks and a huge amount of closet and cupboard space. In fact, the extra-large room is one of the reasons the family selected that particular model, Steve explained.
“I think RVing is fun because we get to see a lot more of our family than we would if we were stationary. And, we get to make a lot more friends,” Alyssa explained. Shanan liked being able to spend more time visiting aunts, uncles and cousins who are scattered around the nation.
Full-time RVing often limits the girls to short-term friendships, but that’s okay Shanan explained, adding that it is sometimes hard to say goodbye to someone she just me a few days earlier. “Full-time kids know their time is limited, so they make an effort to make friends quicker,” she said.
At first, the family moved quickly from one location to the other, trying to visit a wide variety of new places. “Vacation mode,” Shanan called it, admitting that she didn’t like how quickly they moved at the start of their journey.
But, once they started spending more time in a particular area, she said it allowed her to enjoy a state or community a little more. It also helped her to better understand and appreciate the community’s history and culture.
“I like staying put a little longer because I prefer following a routine and a schedule,” said Shanan. “When we are traveling, we are normally in a single location only about three days.”
Both girls are “roadschooled,” a term used to describe homeschooling that takes place in an RV as a family travels from one destination to the next. They spend anywhere from three to nine hours a day at their studies.
“I totally love homeschooling. I’ve done it my entire life,” Alyssa explained, noting that the year of travel did leave her with some catching up to do. “But, we can go as fast as we want to complete our studies.”
And it’s not just book learning that the girls are studying. Shanan is learning software development and how to program in the Java language. She is also an avid reader, and that’s a problem in an RV because the amount of storage is limited.
“Books are really important to me and I missed being able to go to a library and check out a bunch of books at one time,” she said. “I had already read all the books we have in our RV — usually more than once.”
Developing long-term friendships is harder when the girls can’t have regular person-to-person contact with other kids they meet. But, they do tend to make a lot of acquaintances during their travels, and stay in touch with them.
In fact, Alyssa had a chance encounter with a girl her age while at a Civil War re-enactment in Virginia. The two of them hit it off instantly and they have been in regular e-mail communication ever since. Both Shanan and Alyssa actually made close friendships with two girls the same age in the Virginia family, all of whom will be traveling to Utah to catch up with the Zavockis in September.
Cramping their style
Preteen Shanan really wished she could have more personal space in the RV. “Other than our small bunks, there really isn’t a lot of space we can call our own,” she explained. “But, my space is larger than that of other kids I have met, so I can’t complain too much.”
One thing the girls really missed was the ability to take long, hot showers. Whenever possible, they utilized shower facilities at the campgrounds they visit — and used the RV’s shower stall as a hamper to store everyone’s dirty laundry.
When selecting the fifth wheel, Steve said it was important that space separated the children from the adults. And he took extra care to ensure the kids had an extra-large bedroom.
“I think their room is the size of a normal kids bedroom in a stick house,” he explained. “The only difference is that the furniture is built into the walls.”
Despite wishing she could stay in some areas a bit longer, Alyssa said she does like the ability to pack up and move on if the family doesn’t like a campground, or if they desire to check out another national park or historic location.
The girls, who are originally from the Dallas area, full-timed in the RV from June 2011 through August 2012, when they settled in Salt Lake City after Steve got a new job. Alyssa and Shanan both hope they can head out full-time in the RV again someday.
In the meantime, the family still packs up the fifth wheel and regularly hits the road for long weekends. This summer, they traveled to Montrose, Colo., to participate in a rally of the Fulltime Families group.
“We didn’t even meet any other full-time families for the first six months of our journey,” Steve explained. “We got involved with the Fulltime Families group at a rally in Pennsylvania last year. Even though we aren’t currently living full-time in an RV, we still like to maintain those connections that we developed.”
To follow the ongoing adventures of the Zavocki family, check out their blog at http://wherevertheroadleads.blogspot.com/
PHOTOS: Top, from left, Shanan, Steve and Alyssa Zavocki take a break from hiking at Ding Canyon near Goblin Valley State Park in South Central Utah.
Bottom: Genna Zavocki settles into her “bedroom,” one of four bunk spaces in the back of the family’s Forest River 355QBQ fifth wheel.