Written by: Anna Sibal
When we think of snowbirds, more often than not the people who come to mind are retired seniors traveling to where the warm weather takes them. Usually they come in their big-rig RVs, they have some money to spend, and they're not at all afraid to spend a bit more on their fun and enjoyment. Because, hey, they're retired and they deserve to live a little after maybe decades of corporate life.
Thus, it can be a bit surprising to see a young family like the Wood Clan following the snowbird way of life. What's more, they try to live it as simply and as frugally as they can, as far as $20,000 a year can take them. And, more importantly, they're living the kind of life that most of us could only dream of - unfettered by crippling financial concerns such as mortgages and monthly bills, and free to go where their whims and the warmer weather would take them. This is the lifestyle most of us who are still in the rat race could only look forward to when we're at our retirement age.
The Wood Clan is a family of four hailing from British Columbia in Canada: Derek Wood, his wife Teresa, their four-year-old daughter Cassia, and a husky they've named Rufus. They spend seven months of the year driving south across the US and sometimes down to Mexico in a 1990 Ford Econoline Van Conversion with a 2014 cargo trailer, a rig they call Hraefn, which is Raven in Old English. In the summer months they drive back to British Columbia to work as campground hosts.
Teresa Wood is aware that a lot of people think them too young for this kind of lifestyle. Oftentimes the guests who come to stay at the campgrounds she and her husband manage ask them why they chose this way of life rather than live like most adults in their early 40s do - as drones in some corporate hive, plodding through their 9-to-5s just so they could afford their fancy homes, cars, gadgets and credit cards. Teresa and Derek both know that such a way of living is not for them. They would rather exist outside the box, get the most out of their lives and have some really interesting experiences while they are still young.
It's not like the Woods didn't know what they were giving up, anyhow. Derek used to be a professional landscaper while Teresa was an intern architect. So, they've had a taste of the yuppie life. And even though they have chosen to be nomads, the couple still runs a small business from their RV where they offer their expertise as architectural, landscape and graphic designers. They also have their own blog called Rantin' n Raven: A Life Made Simple.
How do the Woods manage to live a simple life? Aside from the fact that they don't pay any rents or mortgages and are not encumbered with debt, Derek and Teresa have learned to travel smart and buy only what they need. It was a lesson they've picked up when they experienced an economic hardship a couple of years back; it was during that time that they've realized there's a lot of stuff they don't need and could comfortably live without.
And so the Wood Clan has made an art form out of frugal living. For instance, when it comes to food, they grow or make their own: soups, baked goods, pizzas and even yogurt from scratch that taste better and are a lot healthier homemade. They've eliminated expensive and overly processed foods from their grocery shopping list. When they're traveling, they spend their nights camping mostly in free or dispersed campgrounds. They also boondock whenever they can. All these don't mean that they don't enjoy a few luxuries from time to time, though. Derek and Teresa are craft beer enthusiasts. They also love dining out.
The frugal snowbird way of life the Wood Clan lives may seem too simple or too unorthodox for the rest of us. But for them, that way of life is a dream come true. They have achieved something that many of us probably couldn't - at least, not for a while yet. They travel where fancy takes them. They see the world from outside a box. Most of all, they're free.
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