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On the road

Hartselle family enjoys full-time traveling 

Katy Joyner said the nine months she and her family of five spent in a camper while their Hartselle home was being built ignited a spark that recently came to fruition. 

The family downsized their 3,000-square foot custom home to travel full time in a 41-foot fifth-wheel camper. 

Katy and Matt Joyner met in high school and have been married for 16 years. One thing Katy said the couple has in common is their love for adventure and spontaneity – a common interest born out in their newest undertaking. 

Despite their love for spontaneity, the new lifestyle the Joyners are living did not come without planning. Katy said, while still unconventional for the mainstream public, full-time RV living is gaining traction, and doing so necessitates reserving spots at campgrounds four to six months in advance. 

Katy said she fell in love with Hartselle a few years ago, especially the downtown area and her home on 10 acres – “I was dragged to Alabama kicking and screaming, but then I fell in love with it, and I genuinely adore the small-town feel of Hartselle; it just stole our hearts” – but she felt a draw to give her children the experiences that only comes with the freedom of traveling full time. 

The Joyners left earlier this month, headed to the Great Smoky Mountains. They will be in that area until the first of the year, at which point they will continue on their journey. Katy said they plan to stay in every location from two weeks to a month. 

Their next stop is Charleston, S.C., and from there they head to Edisto Beach and then on to Savannah, Ga. 

“We love the freedom to take day trips, go on adventures and see new sights,” Katy said. “We felt like the constraints of a large house held us back because it’s a lot of maintenance and the responsibility of the property … Even when we had the farm, we still had to have someone take care of the chickens and take care of the dogs when we were traveling. We got a glimpse of what it was like to be truly unrestricted, and we fell in love with that freedom.” 

The Joyners have always homeschooled their three children – Jack, 10, Julianne, 8, and Jones, 5.  Because of that, Katy said, traveling full time won’t be as big of a transition as it would be for a lot of people.

 “We feel so much more liberty when we’re schooling, and we’re also in a position where we can see and experience and do things hands-on,” she said. 

Matt, who retired from the corporate world in June 2018, now oversees the schooling. 

“Our kids really debunk the antisocial myth that homeschooling carries because, regardless of having a house, we have always taken them everywhere, and they’ve never met a stranger,” Katy said. “They have been put into situations where they have to make friends regardless of culture or commonalities … When traveling, they have to find reasons to be friends and find likenesses in anyone they meet.” 

Katy said there are so many lessons that can be learned through traveling – like that life is not about stuff. “There is so much more to life than things,” Katy said. “I started to realize it was my views and my desire to hang on the house that was teaching them materialistic love, and that’s not what I wanted to teach them … I want to teach my kids that life is about experiences and loving other people.” 

Katy said she doesn’t know quite yet where the open road will lead her family – but she’s excited to find out. The full-time RV life is not for everyone, she added, but her family has fine-tuned their lifestyle to work for them, even on a much smaller scale. 

“There is obviously an adjustment phase to living in such small quarters. Our biggest things that we had to work through were the struggle of organizing clothes, doing laundry and our sleep schedules,” she said. 

The Joyner children like to spend a lot of time outdoors, which their mother said is a great part of spending their days adventure-seeking. “The kids are so immensely happy spending time outdoors – there’s not a lot of screen time,” she said. “I think as a family we’ve watched two movies in two weeks.” 

Katy said more than seeing the country from an RV, she hopes Jack, Julianne and Jones remember the lessons they learned as children, traveling full time and meeting so many people. “I hope they remember all the people they will have met and the chances they’ve had to impact other people’s lives,” she said. 

Keep up with the full-time travellers by following Katy on Instagram at @fullcupadventures.