What does the RV life mean to you? For some it’s a lifestyle and others it’s a hobby. Is it a getaway? A camping trip? Your next project? Or a home? For Ashley Petrone, having her family begin their journey of full-time RVing was just meant to be the next “thing” for them. Thousands of people have made it their mission to follow and support the Arrows and Bow blog and social media channels, following alongside Ashley as she tells the story of her family of five living full-time in their RV, while sharing her creative inspirations and projects as well. There are social influencers all over the world sharing a pretty picture and gaining followers; but what makes Arrows and Bow different? The tell-all that Ashley gives. She shares the smiles, the tears, the frustration and the joy. She hides nothing from us, from organization in a tiny home, to parenting and marriage along the way. (Photos below by @arrowsandbow)
Q: What led you to start full-time RVing?
A: I was looking for the next thing; always looking for the next thing. We lived not that far from here in a five bedroom, 2800-square-foot home. Not necessarily planning on doing anything, but looking for our next big project. I found this land, decided to buy it and in the meantime, we were thinking, what do we do? Do we live in an apartment? Apartments were so expensive; one bedroom was way more than our mortgage was for the five bedrooms. I had a hard time with that. We have this great big backyard and now I have my kids on the second floor of an apartment complex that I can’t send outside. It almost sounds worse than just living on our land in an RV. So, RV came up as an option. Tiny houses came up as an option. But even a tiny house is $60.000- $70,000 and we’re trying to build a house here. We started RV shopping, and we saw this one with the three bunkbeds in the back and we were so naïve thinking, “oh my gosh, somebody made this FOR US”.
We bought it and I knew for sure I wanted to renovate it. I had just started six months prior my blog and my Instagram, and I knew I worked really hard. I had hit 7,000 followers, I wanted to do something. And, with my creativity, I need to work on something. Dino was right on board. I had done a ton of research and I hadn’t really seen anyone do it the way I had envisioned it yet. It was like, half way there. People painted the cabinets and painted the inside, but nobody did real tile, nobody refaced the cabinets yet; nobody took it to the level that I wanted it to be at. I remember reading this one blog about this old man and this woman, they were living in an RV like 6 months out of the year. And they said, no matter what you do, just make it feel like a home and then you won’t feel misplaced. So that was my goal the whole time: I want to make it feel like our house.
Q: How was downsizing from a five bedroom home to an RV?
A: In packing up our house, we sold pretty much everything. I get a high off downsizing, I love that so much. So, I got rid of everything. Because I figured also, when we go to build this dream home, it’s going to be set up differently. And I want the right table, and I didn’t want to make our pieces try to fit. We got rid of everything. We had half of a storage unit and then I took little pieces out of the house that I wanted to incorporate in here. I had my one Serena & Lily dining chair on the end here; I had five of them in our old house. Just so we had little pieces that reminded us of our house.
Q: What was your mission with renovating the RV?
A: I wanted it to feel like home. I knew I wanted to do white, everything was so dark and dingy. It’s a small space too; 180 square feet. And I knew that I wanted to reface the cabinets, too. And because I was doing design work already, I worked with a cabinet guy that just came in and measured everything. We even reconfigured some of the door faces so they looked more modern. I felt that made such a huge impact in here. It was such a simple thing and it wasn’t really expensive, but it was one of the biggest things. That even in a house can make an older house look new. Everything we did was on a budget. I shopped at IKEA and Target and Amazon, pretty much for everything. It took a little while to figure a few things out.
Q: How was the transition as a family, moving a family of five to an RV?
A: It was nice at the beginning. I homeschooled in here as well for the first couple of months and then we realized that we were not going to do that anymore. This last year was their first year in traditional school, because I homeschooled them their entire lives. It was a little difficult in the summertime because it was so hot. And then just figuring out how to live here, how to coexist altogether in the same space without real walls or doors separating you.
Q: How do you deal with conflict and facing issues in a small space?
A: I remember, I stomped off one time. I went behind this door because I was mad and I just started laughing. I was like what am I doing? There’s no place for me to hide here. But it’s so good because it makes you kind of deal with everything. You’re stuck figuring it out. There’s nowhere to stomp off to, you could slam a cabinet door. And it’s the same way with the kids. Just figuring out how to deal with everybody. You find out how each of your kids work and then how you deal with each one. And I just had to realize I had to give myself a lot of grace. To be ok with the floor being dirty and losing my cool, and then at the end of the day being like, I am not a bad mom for living in an RV, tomorrow is a new day and you start fresh.. I would say that out of everything these last 17 months has given us, that has been the biggest gift; it really stretched us and grew us a lot because it can be difficult living in a small space together full-time.
Q: What else has helped you get acquainted with your new lifestyle?
A: I think, with every decision that Dino and I make, we will pray about it. We like to walk through doors if they’re open. If we feel good about it and we feel aligned with it, then we’ll walk through the door. And if it shuts, then we know that it’s not the right thing for us. We prayed about it and it was the right thing for us to do. Even when we had hard days and maybe would question what we were doing and wondering if it was crazy, we knew we were being obedient to where God wanted us to be and so that’s what got us through. And, I think just reassuring each other on those hard days helped; we were really rocks for one another. We balance each other out well in that way. Just knowing this is where we’re supposed to be. I have had so many times in my life where I’ve seen these short stints of time where I feel like I can’t see the result and I just don’t see how it could be possible. And faith has shown me to wait a little bit, adjust and it’s all becomes way better. I have had these opportunities to be able to see that.
Q: Where are you headed next on your journey?
A: I kind of have a thing where when people start doing the same thing that I’m doing, I want to move on to the next thing. Not in a prideful way, it’s just something that’s fun for me. I kind of want to do something different. But really, Dino found this new job up north. When we went up a couple of weeks ago, we went with full intentions of bringing the RV. That was our goal. We both said, we want to bring the RV, we’re going to live in the RV. He’ll work at this job, we’ll go to an RV park and that will be really fun and different for the kids and for our family; a new experience. So, we went up there, started looking at RV parks, again praying every step of the way. And as we were going through them, we both just looked at each other in the car and we were like, nope we’re done. Out of nowhere. We’re not going to bring the RV, we’re going to sell it. We’re going to do something else.
SO WHAT’S NEXT?
> Ashley has taught us that, “You can choose to adapt; you can do it”. The Petrone’s are off to northern California to find their next big thing! They’re moving out of their RV lifestyle, and their next phase includes a fabulous fixer upper to flip and renovate. Maybe even another Airstream could be in their future for fun. And as for the RV? It has gone to its new home with Danny, Katie and Gracie Quesada (Instagram: @katiequesada and @dannyquesada). I think I speak for all in saying that we look forward to following both journeys.
While visiting with the Petrone’s, we had the pleasure of getting to explore Josephine the Airstream! For those of you that didn’t follow along with this journey, Ashley and Dino flipped a 24-foot long, 1964 International Land Yacht Airstream, they named her Josephine and she was designed “with functionality and sweet simplicity in mind”. Be sure to follow Josephine’s journey on Instagram: @josephinetheairstream. (Photos below by: Alexandra Bontrager)