by Brenda Nieves
Imagine having no rent or mortgage to pay. Imagine traveling at will wherever the spirit moves you to — spending the day with your children, not having to follow a rigid schedule or dealing with long hours at work that leave you exhausted. Sound like a dream? For Clint and Angela Malson of Florida, it’s a reality that they get to live every day.
The Malsons are part of a growing number of families who have decided they’ve had enough of the rat race and have officially dropped out. Living in a 32-foot renovated RV, Clint, Angela and their three children Connor, 11, Jack, 8, and Emma, 4, spend their days traveling the country taking each day as it comes and remaining open to life’s possibilities. We sat down with Clint and Angela recently to talk about their motivation for this radical change in lifestyle, what it means to them and their children, and how they make it work.
Camped at John Prince Park Campground in Lake Worth, Fla., Clint, Angela and kids are happily engaged in the business of being a family. Connor and Jack play outside while little Emma is inside with her mother. After introductions are made, the official tour of their home begins. Clint and Angela explain how the vast majority of the RV’s interior is constructed of recycled and repurposed materials such as bamboo, cork and a composite material made from crushed sunflower seeds.
Due to limited space, the Malsons have installed furniture that is multifunctional and allows them to have overnight guests. The one bedroom in the RV sleeps all five of the Malson clan by making use of a modified bunk bed system. One small closet holds clothing and personal items and netting and bookshelves are used to store some of the toys and books for the kids.
As we move forward with the tour Angela shows us how she and Clint make use of the limited storage the RV affords. It is a model of efficiency and an example of how to live with less. But the really impressive part of the 1994 Fleetwood Flair RV is its fuel system. Originally designed with a diesel fuel system, it has undergone a $5,000 conversion that allows it to run on waste vegetable oil.
The tank holds 90 gallons of filtered vegetable oil and has a three-tier filtration system that can convert unfiltered (raw) vegetable oil into usable fuel. The Malsons get their fuel from truck stops, restaurants and biodiesel stations, most of the time for free. According to Clint, the vehicle averages about 900 miles per tank depending on road conditions.
The Malsons purchased the RV in 2010 from friends who had already been using it as a living green tool. Officially christened Eco-Womb by Clint and Angela, the RV had previously been part of the Live Lightly Tour run by Sara and Matt Janssen. The Janssens used the vehicle to travel the country and educate people about living sustainably.
By the time the vehicle came up for sale, Clint and Angela had already been following the activities of the Janssens and other families living on the road. Angela explains that she and Clint were living the typical suburban life in Boca Raton complete with a large home on a cul-du-sac, busy kids’ sports schedules and long work hours, but, over time they began to question if they were really living the life they wanted for themselves and their children. Already in the business of selling eco-friendly products, Angela and Clint clearly saw how much consumption and waste were wreaking havoc on the planet and its inhabitants.
As their dedication to reducing their family’s carbon footprint grew, so too did their desire to break free from the constraints of middle class suburban life. Their journey to living full time on the road began with short trips in the newly acquired Live Lightly Tour Bus to test the waters and see if such a thing was really possible for their growing family. As one can imagine, reactions from family and friends were (initially) less than enthusiastic. Owing to generational differences and cultural conditioning, Clint and Angela’s family voiced concerns over the couple’s “five-year plan” and questioned whether or not living in the RV full time was really in their best interest. With a mortgage and a location-based job, how would they make it work?
There were of course no hard and fast answers to these questions but the Malsons were committed to finding their own way. In November 2010, they launched the Eco-Womb Tour at the Living Green Festival in Boca Raton promoting their business and meeting with festival-goers and others interested in sustainable living. The more they came into contact with like-minded individuals the more committed they became to living on the road full time. With the kids already homeschooled, the last few breaks with their old lifestyle would complete their transition.
Clint, a web designer and photographer, now works remotely from the RV and runs his own company, Letterbox Studios. Angela, who holds a master’s degree in environmental law, takes charge of homeschooling the kids. She is a full-time writer, mother, life learner alongside her kids, environmental educator, and visionary for The Conscious Caravan, Eco Womb’s 2012 Tour. She and Clint run Eco-Womb together and recently restructured it as a L3C, a socially conscious business with an expanded educational and community outreach program.
When asked about a typical day-in-the-life, Angela explains that there really is no such thing for her family. Eco-Womb’s sole mission is to promote sustainable living and to that end, the family travels to various events teaching, promoting, connecting and selling their company’s products. Angela spoke of a recent engagement in New York promoting the necessity of labeling foods that have been genetically modified. They toured with the Sustainable Living Road Show during the Right2Know March from New York City to Washington, D.C., walking more than 313 miles to bring awareness to the Non-GMO Project. “It’s so important. Many other countries have Non-GMO labeling laws but not here.”
In between events the family enjoys camping with their village on the road, The Conscious Caravan, and spending time at a friend’s farm in the mountains, Colony Earth, when they need to feel grounded. The kids have made friends with other children whose families are on the road, and the Malsons are currently touring with four other families who also want to give back to communities and educate on conscious living.
Traveling to events and helping their parents with Eco-Womb has had a very positive effect on them. Angela explains that the kids had initially experienced some concerns about living on the road. Not seeing familiar friends as often and having to give up certain activities such as organized sports was hard on them but it wasn’t long before they adjusted to a steady stream of new places to explore, new friends to make and the freedom of the open road.
The lessons the children are learning are invaluable. “They’re like little sponges,” says Angela. “They are learning so much.” Angela and Clint’s educational plan for the children involves “life learning.” This is “just like it sounds,” Angela said, “learning from life in the fullest form. We encourage them to learn all the time, creating opportunities for life lessons everywhere we go.
“They’re being road schooled,” Angela says. “When they are ready to learn about something, that’s when we explore that topic.” As our visit came to an end with this unique family, we asked what message they wanted readers to walk away with. Clint: “You can make a change.” Angela: “Live from the heart and be open to new possibilities.”
To find out more about the Malsons and their life on the road, visit their website at www.ecowomb.com and to follow their 2012 Tour and their new traveling tribe visit www.theconsciouscaravan.org.