Before we launched one question everyone had was "How will the children make friends?". It's a valid concern as a big part of childhood is learning to navigate those social challenges and finding friends to help you through all of it. We were never really concerned about our own social relationships as introverts but the kids were forefront in our minds on this topic , surprisingly the road has changed all of us....so how do we ensure that everyone's social needs are met?
First thing we recommend is finding a community to meet your needs and getting connected. There are many wonderful Facebook Groups that help connect families living various travel lifestyles.
Here are a few of our favorites
Worldschoolers - This community is wonderful for families traveling internationally. They have specialty subgroups for RV travel internationally (minimal discussion on US RV travel), Special Needs Travel, Solo Parents, Parents of Tweens/Teens, LGTBQ , Large Families and more. Each year they hold 2 Worldschool Family Summit gatherings, that offer educational opportunities and opportunities to connect with other families
Fulltime Families - Is dedicated to supporting families that live in and travel by RV. Majority of their members travel full-time and are from the US. More than just a Facebook group, this community has been the backbone of our social network. Fulltime Families is a membership group but you can join their free Facebook group to learn more about the membership and see if it is a good fit for your family. There are roughly 27K members on that page so its a great resource for asking questions but it is a group made up of people at all stages (dreaming, stationary and traveling) so the questions can be repetitive. We found the bulk of the knowledge and connections are made on their smaller members only Facebook page and the small subgroup "Branches" they have such as groups Traveling in FL, Special needs on the Road, Solo Parents, Traveling Veterans, IT Professionals, Foodies and many more. These small groups all the members to connect both online and in person through their rallies and meet ups. Their membership also comes with other benefits that we will delve into more detail in another post but you can read about some of them here.
Escapees/Xscapers - Escapees is one of the oldest rv memberships in existence and they do more than just offer discounts and mail service. They also fully support the rv community both from a legislative side as well as the social side. In the past their reputation was that they were mostly for the older crowd but in the past couple of years there has been a shift and the recently created Xscapers portion has embraced the digital nomads and digital nomad families. This group, while varying in age, has members that are working still and raising their families making it a great fit for us. They have a free Facebook group and do several convergences each year which allow members to connect.
After joining the group you feel most fits your family, we highly recommend attending one of their events. For us we have attended 3 of the Fulltime Family events this year and will be attending at least one more before the year is up. These events are filled with fun activities for all ages, small group sessions to get to know other families, field trips and mom/dad's night outs. They are time for the kids to play from morning until night, parents to mingle and connect and friendships to be formed. Most of our friends in our "traveling neighborhood" were met at one of the events.
Another fantastic way to connect with families is to ask on the the groups if there is anyone in your area. We have met up for field trips and camp fires with several families over the years by just posting that we were in an area. You never know, you just might find a kindred spirit.
Our final suggestion is that new families come to Florida for the winter and not just to any park....come to Thousand Trails Orlando. Why Thousand Trails Orlando? Because it is a mecca for full-time rv families. Each year the Fulltime Families has a location specific Facebook group for this park and there are normally 30-50 families in the park during the peak months (Dec-Feb). The dedicated group plans field trips, meet ups, pool parties and mom's night outs all winter long. You don't need to stay the whole winter but we highly recommend spending a few weeks there to get know other families.
Thousand Trails is a membership club but you can stay at retail rates, how ever for the cost we highly recommend joining it. For more information on the Thousand trails and other memberships we find helpful check out our blog post here.
So, now that you have made all these awesome connections, how to do you foster them? With social media it has been easy! For the adults, we find that Facebook groups, Facebook pages and Messenger are the most common ways to stay connected. We also find that we share info a lot using Google Drive for pictures and Sheets for itineraries, it makes traveling planning together easy. We also love Instagram for following other traveling families awesome adventures.
But what about the kids? We have several ways, the newest and most popular for the under 13 crowd is the Messenger Kids app since all contacts have to be approved by parents, it creates a safe environment for them to connect and keep in touch with out the worry. Over 13 years old, we find like to connect via Messenger, Instagram and Google Hang outs. Another popular option for all are the online games, like Minecraft. Both Worldschoolers and Fulltime Families have dedicated Minecraft Servers for their members, that allow the kids to play with friends around the country and the world. Most recently, several of our son's friends have started playing Fort Nite and will arrange times to connect online in the game and play together. Technology is really making it easy to stay connected.
Finally I will say that none of this will work if you aren't putting yourself out there and being open to meet people....I know, I know, every introvert reading this just died a bit inside, I totally get it. Its hard but I have found that social media has made it easier, and I can do a lot of connecting, at my own pace on the Facebook groups and then save up my energy for the in person meetings. It may feel uncomfortable at first but after awhile you will be come good at it and in no time will have your own "Traveling Neighborhood"