Inside A Traveler’s Walls: The Kortman RVing Family

It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to the amazing Kortman RVing family, currently in Mexico. I first met Paul when I was on their podcast Nomad Together almost a year ago. His energy and enthusiasm for this lifestyle is contagious and a breath of fresh air. I encourage you to take a listen to all of their podcasts in itunes when you have a day to binge.
 I miss predictable, working internet.

From one RV’er to another I love the frankness he shares about the realities of this traveling lifestyle via wheels. We can relate to so much of what he says, except the breakdowns. We have been lucky with Lemonade thus far, fingers crossed. In addition, I respect their style of living which allows them to pursue their entrepreneurial endeavors and spend loads of time with their children. These four littles are getting the best of both worlds.

So without a doubt home is defined by the people you want to be near.

Grab a cup of coffee, a comfy seat and get ready to be inspired.

RVing Family

RVing Family

RVing Family

RVing Family

Introduce us to the people you live with!
Dad – Paul Kortman driver, worker, wanna be DJ. If there’s a tech or internet problem it falls on Dad’s lap. Even though the kids are young yet, Dad exists for money, fun times, crazy driving, all things tech and fixing anything that goes wrong.

Mom- Becky Kortman – Adventurous Introvert, If it can be written down, planned out or made into a list Mom’s on it! The lover of all she takes care of hurt emotions, boredom, and actual bleeding problems. Her desires range from snorkeling the best reefs, to becoming PADI certified to reading a good book on her well used Kindle.

Alia – Firstborn, independent, strong willed, mixed with a significant amount of emotional challenges. As most pre teens (she’s only 11!) Alia is showing signs of flipping between lovely, sweet baby girl, to sassy trying to determine my role in the world young adult. However, she is an overcomer. While none of us can put a correct label on her challenges we all know she is passionate and on a good day can overcome all of her challenges to be an amazing young woman. Lets just forget about the not-so-good days, shall we? 😉

Josiah – 9 – Junior Paul paired with an extreme case of Mom’s introvertedness. This kid is smart, and getting into a debate with him can be exhausting. However for as smart and intelligent as he is he has some unrealistic fears and would be happy sitting in our RV for the rest of his life as long as there is good internet (minecraft and minecraft youtube videos) and once in awhile one of his close friends would come and play minecraft too.

Thys – 7 This kid. There’s something about this kid, from his wild hair (mohawk) to his drown-in-me blue eyes, to his contagious smile, everywhere we go people want to take selfies with this one. Most often the first word he learns in a foreign language is eyes, because people exclaim over his eyes. He’s so full of life I’m impressed that he has survived in an RV for as long as he has. He’s almost spend half of his life living in an RV.

Zander – 5 Even thought Zander was biologically born via another woman/man he is all Kortman, from his large head to his goofiness to his desire for music and dancing to his constant need for touch. How to make this one happy? chocolate (anything) while being an octopus on Mom or Dad’s lap. Zander brings the humor to our family and is always our baby, though at 5 he’s starting to show some mischievousness we haven’t had to deal with before… What will his next five years bring?

Where are you in the world and what are you living in?
We live in a 37′ (11 meters) Class A (huge windshields) motorhome. Currently parked in the mountains of central Mexico. In the last two years we’ve covered 75% of Mexico with this RV so she’s had some bumps and bruises along the way 😀

Why did you choose to live in your current arrangement?
Originally we decided to buy an RV because we were going to need to have a vehicle to get around while in Mexico and we were facing a 50+ hour drive to get to Mexico, so we opted for a motorhome to be able to allow the kids to use the bathroom and get snacks on long drives. What we found out is that it’s an awesome house (about 300sq or 28 meters squared) but a terrible vehicle as it’s too large to maneuver and maintenance & repairs are expensive.

RVing Family

RVing Family

RVing Family

What do you do to personalize your unique (less traditional) living situation?
Paint, recover, remodel, and make it fit to how we operate. RVs are built for a retired couple, not for a full time family of 6, so we remodeled the bedroom to have more compact space for 5 beds (1 queen and 4 narrow twin beds) as well as clothing drawers and not pretty waste of space wardrobes that come with RVs. We tore out the dining set that collapsed into a bed and instead replaced it with more narrow table and benches so we could better utilize the space. We also added solar panels, upgraded the batteries, and covered the chairs and couch to make it less floral-print-vacation home into neutral-we-live-with-kids-full-time home.

Tell us your favorite and least favorite room in your space and why?
We we don’t have well defined rooms, technically if we closed the two doors we have three rooms, the bedroom/playroom, the bathroom and the “rest of the house” which has a kitchen, dining room, couch, and three captains chairs. I spend the majority of my life in the “rest of the house” with the daytime spent in a captain’s chair working on one of our various income streams, and the evening chilling on the couch. From here we can experience the kids and whatever they are involved in inside an out (thanks to the large windows) as well as be a part of the whole family conversation. Prior to this RV we knew we liked the open floor plan layout as you can be in “another room” and still part of the conversation. This is what makes RV living awesome. Paul can be working in the “office” — ie one of the capatin’s chairs and Becky can be doing dishes or cleaning up after the kids and we can carry on a conversation like we’re in the same room (because technically we are!) My second favorite place is outside at a standup desk a friend of ours gave to us, if I can time the clouds just right I can be outside working without getting wet or a headache from the squinting needed when working in full sun.
What is the biggest misconception you had about your current living situation before you started living in it?
Most other people told us we’d get cabin fever or go stir crazy in a small space. That hasn’t happened except that Paul needs to get out of the house once in a while, being surrounded by introverts he sometimes needs a recharging break! Our persona misconceptions are that we would be able to get away from each other if we needed to, or that we wouldn’t need our space. Need is a very relative term. I need my own space, but that’s mostly I don’t want to feel like we’re bumping elbows, beyond that we’re good. However as the kids get older and stay up later we’re realizing the Mommy Daddy time is getting booted due to the small nature of the house.

What is the one household item you carry with you every time you move or the one item you cannot live without?
When we go to airbnbs we have a checklist of things that we pack with us, like sharp knives and good scissors. But outside of that I think my next would be my backpack. I have a lot of things in there that make sense like a nail clipper, laptop, charging cords, typically water, and dental floss. But the things like socks for the kids (who almost ALWAYS are in sandals) so when we find ourselves at an indoor playground, or an indoor trampoline park they have socks to participate in. And finally we have a first aid kit, basic supplies and bandaids to assist when we find ourselves hiking or tripping on the cobblestone roads. A bandaid can stop almost all crying 😀

What do you miss most about permanent, stationary, traditional living?
I miss predictable, working internet. I also miss space to be away from the kids and still inside the house… it doesn’t happen too often, but through deep reflection I realize that’s the /only/ thing from a traditional house/permanent living. It’s not like I sit here pining for more space. It’s quite the opposite, it’s more of a if I were to find something I miss from that lifestyle, well the one benefit we had was the space. But depending on where you live that space can become a hinderance with a ton of room to heat, or a ton of space to cool. Fortunately we’re in the land of eternal spring … if our Aircons worked we might run them for an hour or two to get the heat out of the house and the cool of the evening inside, however we live without air conditioning and without heaters too. We have found that hot tea and sweaters in the morning with short sleeves and shorts in the afternoon is exactly how we like it here!

RVing Family

RVing Family

RVing Family

RVing Family

RVing Family

RVing Family

What is the one item your children carry with them to make their unique (less traditional) home more comfortable?
Always it is their lovie and their blanket. Josiah’s is the one that makes us laugh, as he has been madly in love with a stuffed pink-rabbit since he was 2 or 3. Going to bed without that Hoppy is like trying to sleep through passing a kidney stone. So we do what we can to help the kids emotionally, the biggest is that they have their blankets and their lovies. They come with us from hotel stays to sleeping on a bus, to anywhere we predict there’s a chance we might have to spend the night away from home. They also have a blanket which was given to them at birth. While these blankets are no where near large enough to cover their bodies they bring an immense sense of home when their head is laid on it, typically covering a pillow, or rolling it into a pillow itself these blankets can cause a crabby kid to fall asleep just by putting their head on it. Best decision we ever made was those blankies.

Do you have a pet joining you in this journey? If so, has this been complicated? Any advice?
We have a 5 year old Rat Terrier who has been living with us for 3 years. And while she complicates things like border crossing and flight planning we have been blessed to have her as one of our family members. She’s only been to North American countries and a day in Guatemala (for a visa run) but we’ve flown, driven and had her on a boat crossing state and national borders. Recently we discovered a way to have her certified as an emotional support dog for Alia which is why she was added to the family, we just didn’t realize we could formalize it and see benefits from it. She’s now able to sit on our lap in air flights, and is allowed into more motels because of her status. This has made things much more cost effective for us as well!

What is your best resource to find items you need for your place?
When we first outfitted Grace (our RV) we did so with products from Goodwill and some donations from our parents’ houses. But we did end up buying a lot of specialty items on Amazon, as we found out that many items we needed were not common enough to find at Goodwill.

If you could only have one of the following in your home which one would it be and why?
Space, natural light, dishwasher or above average internet.
With 4 kids, an ever increasing number of internet connected devices, and our revenue dependent upon internet I’d have to answer that we’d rather have above average internet. Before we moved into the RV we measured and we go through 200GB of data in a given month. I’m sure it seems high, but we have gone on a data diet and cut our usages to a mild effect 🙁 We use internet from recipes, to learning, to working, to entertainment. It’s all there.

If you were to compare your unique (less traditional) home decorating style to a kitchen appliance or gadget what would it be and why?
Our decorating style is like a Ronco Rotisserie oven, in that we Set it and Forget it. We spend a lot of time working on getting it right before we move in and then don’t have the time to make it better. So we simply Set it and Forget it 😉

How do you keep traditions alive for your family in your unique living situation?
In general we don’t do traditions, however we have a few, like birthday traditions, and Christmas traditions. Instead we like to adopt the local culture we’re living in and try out their traditions as best as possible. For birthdays Becky bakes and decorates a cake, the birthday person gets to choose the meals for the day, and we might invite people over depending on how introverted the birthday person is 😀 For Christmas, we do food and party games for a week, typically Dad takes the week off and we watch movies, do activities and eat snacky foods for a week. We’re debating the gift thing, as for some of us gifts are a love language but minimalism is a desire, so we don’t have the answers all figured out here 🙂 We have a bed time routine every day no matter where we’re at, it’s pretty simple, brush teeth, use the toilet, get a drink of water, into bed with your lovies and blankets and then we typically sing a few songs, read a chapter or two from a book, pray if anyone wants to and then each parent gives kisses and says goodnight to each kid. This works really well in the RV where we all sleep in the same room, and when we’re in other situations we try to come as close as possible to this ideal.

How do you decorate for the holidays in your unique (less traditional) home or do you skip it all together?
We’ve always loved Christmas lights and Christmas trees (Becky’s family grew Christmas trees so it’s in her blood). So we’ve had some Christmases without a tree and with fewer lights, but for the most part we try to get lights up and a tree. We have a few things we can make to decorate the house and/or to hang on the tree as needed.

What is your favorite part about this lifestyle choice?
There are so many great aspects of this lifestyle, but my top two would be the cheaper cost of living and the fact that my kids desire to be bilingual and are doing it without classes. So on the cost of living, while there are plenty of places in the world to spend less and a minimalist lifestyle can accomplish this almost anywhere we found that if we put ourselves where life is just as rich but the food, the activities, and the transportation as well as housing doesn’t cost as much we don’t feel pressured to work as hard. As an entrepreneur that seems backwards as you’d think the hustle is always encouraged, except as a father I don’t want to miss out on the moments of my kids’ developing years, so I choose to work within the same room they live, I choose to live in a place where it costs less so I don’t have to work 60 hours a week and also a nice side effect of that is our kids don’t have the I wants as badly as they did when living in a more consumerist environment. So the cheaper cost of living has a trickle down effect allowing our family dynamics to be completely different.

Many traveling families subscribe to the “house is not a home” theory. What is home to you?
Home is a difficult concept, and it’s entertaining to us that our kids refer to a hotel we’re staying at for a day as “home.” Their basic definition is where we sleep at night. They have slept in many different locations in their short lives but one of the longest is the RV and they now are showing signs of longing for their own bed when we have 3 or more days away from the RV. For Paul and Becky their personal definitions of home are wherever the other person is sleeping… so if we have to be apart that “longing for home” feeling is welcome as a longing for the other person. Home is more about comfortability with people and things. So as long as we have our lovies and blankeys and each other we feel at home pretty quick, typically within the first 24 hours of being in a place. The funny part of traveling in an RV is that it’s easier to remember a place based on the bed or the accommodations you had, yet when you have the same bed/accommodations because you’re driving it around with you it makes it difficult to remember, did that iguana incident happen in Merida, Puerto Escondido or in San Cristobal? Who knows we just remember it was right outside the RV, right outside our home.

What makes you love the place you live?
With every place the longer you are there the memories you make or have made make you fall in love with it so much more. For the RV every single part of the RV has memories, when this kid took out their first tooth, or when the dog got scared and barked at us, or over here where we broke a window and the rain came inside. But originally this RV was fantastic on size, fantastic on equipment, just what we needed with nothing extra. And to this day we love it as a house. As for the city and town where we live, it’s a place that the locals love to have festivals, there are fireworks, celebrations and festivals all year long. That combined with the culture of the locals and the friendliness we fell in love our first week here.

Can home be a person, or an idea?
Yes, home is our immediate family. And sometimes the ache to return to where Becky and Paul grew up is simply to visit friends and extended family. Home is the comfortability of the known and those closest to you are “the known” when it comes to people. So without a doubt home is defined by the people you want to be near.

Words of wisdom to anyone considering venturing out into the world of unique, less traditional homes?
Do it. No regrets, you have to try it to realize what jives for you and what doesn’t. Our only regret is that we did not jump sooner. For those considering an RV lifestyle I have two tips, 1 look into an overlanding vehicle, it would have been a much better investment for our crew, and 2 only do this if you are handy and can do maintenance. we wanted to get away from the maintenance of homeownership, but instead we traded maintenance on a stick and brick for maintenance on an engine, and RV…. much more difficult than maintenance on a stick and brick house!

Anything else you would like offer?
Do it, do it, do it. Like I said, our only regrets are not doing it sooner!

RVing Family

RVing Family

RVing Family

What is next for you? Will you continue to live in your current home or try something different?
We’re transitioning the RV into a permanent house on land here in Mexico where we hope to homebase for 6 months out of the year and have horses. A dream of many of our family members is to have horses, and international travel with horses is cost prohibitive, so we’re entering a new phase where we will have a home/house to return to and still be able to explore while leaving the horses at home with a caretaker. This will also stop the need to maintain the engine on the RV and set it up in a more permanent way.

If you have children what are your plans for education?
We unschool, and they are free to choose to continue their education in a formal way if they want to, but as an entrepreneur we encourage our kids to do just in time learning as needed to accomplish the next dream or task in front of them.

How do you make a living?
We own a digital marketing agency. We have staff across the world who help keep clients happy and who also enjoy a lifestyle of freedom.

Wow! Another amazing RVing family living their dream. I am fantasizing about the space they have, we are half their size. However, I cannot even imagine a rig that big on these tiny European streets. I would never get behind that wheel.

Interested in living like the Kortman family? WorldTowning’s services can help make this RVing family story ‘your reality’ and we can do it all stress free. We will be there with you every step of the way.

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Go adventure,

Inside A Traveler’s Walls is where we feature families living in less traditional and unique homes (tents, boats, camper vans, yurts, flats, etc). If you think you might be one of those families and are interested in being profiled, please contact us for details.

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