Full-Time Traveling, RV Style
Do you ever dream about traveling full-time? Getting a job you can do from the road and then never getting off it? Then maybe it’s time to join the legions of people living in RVs and seeing the world. We’ve already written about the benefits of leisurely driving over stressful air travel, and full-time RV living takes this method of travel one step further.
No, RVs aren’t just for retirees anymore. Plenty of web writers, online consultants, entrepreneurs and general travel nuts are now embracing the simplicity and flexibility of the RV life. Living in an RV is a great way to visit far-flung relatives and friends, to see the jaw-dropping canyons, forests and mountains of the continental United States, and to embrace life off the rat race. Although many people assume that RV living is more expensive than at-home living, it is often the opposite. Used RVs are often available for under $10,000, and with free parking and camping, you can reduce your daily living expenses to near zero.
Adam Baker of Man Vs. Debt managed to pay off thousands of dollars of consumer debt while traveling the country in an RV with his wife and daughter. Other financial bloggers, like Tynan of Tynan.com or Jacob of Early Retirement Extreme, have embraced the low cost and high value of full-time RV living. What do you need to do in order to get started on the RV life? Here are a few steps to take before you hit the road:
1. Take a test run
Some people romanticize the RV life and ignore the realities. Yes, you’ll need to know how to change a tire, but you’ll also need to know how to empty your sewer tank. Even though RV traveling is like taking your home with you, the maintenance and work required is more than that of your average home or apartment complex. You need to fully understand how to manage a home as well as a motor vehicle, and be prepared for anything from a stopped sink to a faulty transmission.
You’ll also need to be prepared to handle the rules of the road, including finding RV-appropriate parking spots and keeping track of the myriad laws regulating recreational vehicles in residential and business zones. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to take RV life for a test drive. Travel blogger Austin Yoder details the importance of an RV test run and specifies what you need to check during the test period: can you sleep in the RV? Can you access internet when necessary? Can you manage shopping and preparing food?
If a single weekend of RV living wears you out, you’re probably not ready for the full-time road life.
2. Figure out your income
Unless you already have money set aside, you are likely to need to earn an income while on the road.
Some people naturally gravitate towards online businesses like content writing, Skype tutoring, or Etsy shops, while others prefer a more hands-on approach. If you’re in the latter, consider a service like Workamping, a temp agency of sorts for RV travelers. With Workamping, you register your skills and find local hands-on work, such as park maintenance or janitorial work, as you travel from town to town.
Some people use Workamping specifically for seasonal work, such as fireworks sales in summer and Christmas tree sales in winter.
No matter what type of work you choose to do, you need to plan in advance and make sure your estimated income exceeds your estimated expenses.
Don’t set up your Etsy shop or Workamping registration after you’re on the road; this is the sort of thing you need to do before you ever leave your driveway.
3. Get rid of your stuff
It’s no surprise that an average household’s belongings won’t fit in a standard RV. Some people choose to put their stuff in storage, but if you’re really committed to the RV life, it’s worth it to have an extremely large yard sale or make a tax-deductible Goodwill donation.
Living in an RV literally changes the way you view possessions and “junk,” and people who successfully transition to the full-time RV life become minimalists as a result. If you’re not quite sure whether you’ll enjoy RV living, consider six months of storage before you start giving away your record collection or stacks of books. Once you decide to go pro, however, it’s time to declutter, get rid of the stuff, and roll on down the road.
4. Choose the right rig for you
There are as many types of RVs as there are people. Some have minimal functionality, acting simply as a van with a bed in the back, while others have full-fledged showers, refrigerators, air conditioning and wi-fi routers. Some travelers are happy to use camping toilets and bucket baths, and others require a few more creature comforts.
The fancier RVs of course come with a slightly higher price tag, but it’s worthwhile to search the RV Registry to find new and used options in your area. Some people buy an RV only for a few seasons, and sell it while it’s still in fantastic condition.
Make sure to see any RV in person before you purchase and don’t ever buy a vehicle sight-unseen on Craigslist.
If you have a successful RV test drive, chances are you already know what amenities you need and what features you can live without. If not, ask to spend a day or two in the RV before you make your purchase. It’s essential to knowing whether you’ve chosen the right rig for you.
5. Join the community
Don’t set out on your first RV trip alone. Register with an RV community and use the forums and other community sites to talk to seasoned travelers about their experiences. RV.net and RVForum.net are great places to start, and they’re great ways to meet new friends both online and in person while making sure you don’t make RV newbie mistakes. When you’re at an RV campsite, introduce yourself to your neighbors. You can learn a lot about RV travel and surviving the road, and it’s also a great way to stay socially active after a long day cooped up in your vehicle. RV travel can be isolating, so joining the local community is essential to maintaining both connections and sanity. What else do RV travelers need to know about full-time RV living? Have you successfully taken a long-term RV trip, and what did you learn on the way? Let us know in the comments.