When I first bought an RV to live in last year a lot of people thought that it was a phase I would quickly snap out of. Part of me thought the same thing. Would a move from a 2000 square foot condo to a 100 square foot RV be bearable?
As it turned out, it was more than bearable. I loved it. When I left the country to travel, I sold everything including the RV I loved so much. Seven months later, back in Austin and faced with the proposition of finding somewhere to live, the decision was simple.
I wanted another RV, and it had to be even smaller.
This series is going to be about why I decided to live in an RV, what it's really like on a day to day basis, and some tips and ideas for other people who might want to try it themselves.
Most RV owners don't actually live in their RVs, and those who do usually stay in an RV park. I park on the side of the road, totally disconnected from any sort of outside support. This article is for people who are interested in this particular arrangement.
I have a 1996 Winnebago Rialta. I researched virtually every brand and model and decided that this was by far the best RV available.
It's very small. A regulation parking space is 19', and this baby is only 20'8". That means that unless a spot is very tight, I can probably park in it. The RV doubles as my car, and I can park it almost anywhere, including parallel parking it downtown. In 1997 the RV grew by nine inches.
Having a small RV also makes it a lot easier to park overnight wherever you want without making a scene.
It's very fuel efficient. On the highway it gets around 20mpg.
It has the perfect layout, including a full time bed with a real mattress and a table big enough for my laptop and dinner.
Winnebago, the manufacturer, is one of the best RV makers, so the whole thing is very high quality.
It is one of the smallest RVs that has a full usable shower, toilet, stove, generator, and fridge. In fact, if I were to sum up all of the reasons this is the best RV (for me anyway), it would be that it is the smallest RV that fits my basic needs for comfortable living.
Do not buy a bigger RV than you absolutely need.
Why live in an RV?
I can think of about a billion great reasons to live in an RV, but I'll just cover some of the biggest ones and then move on.
Maybe most important, it forces you to live a simple life and focus on what's really important. You can't waste your time looking for a great armoire because you have nowhere to put that armoire.
Who needs armoires anyway? They're a symbol of what's wrong in the world, if you ask me.
When I bought my first house it never occurred to me that I would need to furnish it. A good portion of my time and money was spent furnishing that house. Lamps, rugs, tables, chairs, couches, beds, art, plants.
More time was spent maintaining it. Mowing the lawn, cleaning the gutters, shampooing the carpet, cleaning out the fridge.
Think about that for a minute. I bought this house to live in, and then spent a good part of my life working on the house. A lot of this was fun, of course, but at the end of the day it was a self perpetuating cycle.
An RV can't hold your junk. It doesn't have the room. You don't remodel it. If you want to move then you put it in drive. You have no bills to pay. No rent.
Even though you have less stuff, you always have it all with you. Your files are with you, your clothes, your computer, your bed, and your bathroom. You never stop home on your way somewhere, because you're always home.
It takes about 5-10 minutes to exhaustively clean up your whole RV.
You're ready for any activity. You can take a quick shower if you need one. You can have a snack.
When you go on vacation, your bedroom comes with you.
it's also fun. It feels like an adventure. Remember the feeling of camping in the woods as a kid? It sort of feels like that when you sleep with a breeze coming through the screen window at night.
It's also way cheaper, of course, than living anywhere else. Once you buy the RV you know that you have a place to live no matter what. That means that you can take financial risks and not jeopardize your lifestyle
You can live wherever you want and can move for free whenever you want. I park on the street across from my favorite restaurant, right in one of the expensive areas of Austin. If I still went to clubs downtown, I'd park in the middle of downtown for the weekend and walk a block or two to go home at the end of the night.
But What About....?
Air Conditioning - Don't need it. It's 100 degrees during the day here in Austin. By about 11am it's too hot to stay in, so I go out and enjoy life. After dinner it's cool enough to go back in. If I park in the shade (and forgo solar power) and turn the fan on I can work through the day if I need to.
At night it's 75 or 80, which is perfect for sleeping in my underwear with just a sheet. I leave the window next to my bed open and turn on my fan and get a pleasant constant breeze.
Also, let's consider what percentage of the world's population doesn't have air conditioning. It's only necessary because we're so used to it.
Getting Claustrophobic - Maybe this would be an issue for some people, but these RVs feel very big on the inside. Think about how much of the space in your house is actually useful. Do you USE all the space between your bed and the wall? Does having that space REALLY contribute to your happiness?
Storing my Stuff - If you can't fit it, then get rid of it. I lived like a king traveling the world with 28L of stuff. Now I've taken it out of the backpack, bought a few more things like a third and fourth pair of underwear, and I want for nothing. Well over half of the storage is empty.
Even if you don't want to go super minimalist, you'll find that these RVs are designed for people with a lot of stuff and will generally accommodate you well.
Electricity - I'll cover this more in a future post, but electricity can be totally covered by a single solar panel and a battery or two. I've been in my RV writing, listening to music, and running the fan for five or six hours now in the dark and still have power to spare.
What Other People Will Think - Pretty much everyone I've met thinks that it's outrageously cool, including attractive girls. Everyone's so busy trying to impress girls with their BMWs that they don't realize that the most attractive thing you can do is follow your own desires.
But, more importantly, who cares? How much do you want to have someone in your life who is going to think less of you for living in an RV?
Crime - I don't know where you want to park your RV. Maybe it's in the middle of a riot zone or a crackhouse neighborhood, in which case crime may be a problem.
Generally people greatly overestimate danger and crime. I've parked in a bunch of different socioeconomically classed areas and have never had a problem.
Wrapping it All Up
Living in an RV isn't for everyone, but I think a lot more people would give it a try if they knew how genuinely awesome it is. I don't know that I've necessarily conveyed the bliss I feel for living in my RV, but maybe it will surface a bit more as I get into the particulars...
UPDATE: Because of the popularity of this topic, I wrote a comprehensive Kindle Book on RV living, available at Amazon for only $2.99.
Cylinda and I made a decision today, by this time next year we are kicking common sense out the door. We plan to sell everything and hit the road full time for how ever long. Six months ago Cylinda was diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer. Its one of the most deadly breast cancers you can get. Only 20% of breast cancers are of this type. because of this we are going to live like there is no tomorrow. I can not tell you how this journey into the storm we are now traveling has changed what is important to us. We lost our old life, we know it will never be the same. we now live in our new normal of Dr's, Chemo drugs, sticks, pricks good days, bad days, ups and downs. Your world stop when someone finds out they have cancer. The days start to swirl around that person like they are the center of a Huricane. Your life, gone. Schedules, gone. Plans, gone. With faith and hope you make it through each day. Cylinda will be finished with her herceptin treatments in Jan and shortly after that we plan to hit the road. RVing looks like a perfect new life for us...no plans...No Scheduals Just living to enjoy each day. We found your post today and were glad to read about your life in an RV. Look for our post next year and our RV. You will know it is us because on the back it will have a picture of "Cancer Survivor" that I made out of Cylinda's hair when I cut it all off. Hope someday we run in to each other on the road. Days+ 249.
I fear writing anything...How is Cylinda? I just want to send kisses and hugs to both of you. My 81yr old husband is fighting stage 4 colon cancer. We will beat it..we have to. We just bought a new Jeep 4wd Wrangler Sahara..I want to be able to go on the road and pull a little camper and take my darling Ed for an adventure. Ed has never lost his hair BUT I had mine all cut off to be a warrior along side this valuable soul who is my beating heart.Good LONG travels to you! God bless!
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Dan & Cylind, good luck to both of you. Dan you will have to stay strong to take care of Cylind, and you will need someone to support you. With that being said, my husband and I are basically on the same track. Now that I have officially survived stage 3b lung cancer for a year and two months, I'm ready to live like there is no tomorrow. I can't wait to hit the road. I want to make up for the days when I couldn't do anything. This is our plan. My sister is also a breast cancer survivor, I think 2 or 3 years. She and her husband are going to rv with us. This should be fun for all of us. Hope to see you out there. Prayers and love. Shele and Bob
Your plans sound great. I purchased a police riot vehicle in 78 and took my son over the western states for 3 mos. We camped out at state parks and cooked outdoors. But we had no schedule and went where we wanted. It was the greatest feeling and we experienced so many natural wonders. Hope you have a good adventure. I'm doing it again in March of 14 and I'm looking forward to it.
Where can you park long-term without paying or getting in trouble?
How do you use the Internet in your RV?
A modern RV is the best choice of housing today. Just enough, with no superfluous space. There are floorplans to suit any need or size of family.
Living in a tent, or a van for AWHILE, is ok, but long term, is a drag.
I don't agree with living on the street, that's only second best at most. In time we can create nomadic parks, that support us in the highest way.
Calling ALL nomads...
I really enjoyed your blog...have been experimenting with tent camping in an RV park instead of commuting my 110 miles (one way) commute to my 3 days a week teaching job..It has been awesome...I no longer feel stressed about the drive, being late to teach, what the traffic is going to be like on the freeway, etc. Instead I get up, go for a morning run while my coffee perks, swim laps in the RV resort pool, then shower and go to teach my classes at the college, which is located 5 minutes from the park.
I have been researching living in an RV or camper. I have been thinking of an extended van, partly to give me more room and partly cause no one is going to raise any eyebrows if you pull up for a job in a van. I have been looking at different vehicles, different ways to have water, heat and power for various things. I started a forum about my journey into this kind of lifestyle. As to my reasons for doing so...So I would never have to worry about having a roof over my head and partly to get away from my kids. If I have a camper van there will be no room for them to move in and pretty much take over my life like they have the past few years, they will have no choice but to stand on their own two feet. At the moment my daughter seems to be doing that, but my son still relies way too much on me, time to cut the tether. I also feel this is something I need to do for myself, to get back to being me and reconnect with nature again. I have felt like I have only been drifting in this life when I know there is so much more for me out there. Kids are all grown, no husband, there is nothing to stop me now, except myself. I am hoping that the money I save from doing this will allow me to buy land, build the kind of home (cottage) I want and have a garden again, perhaps even get back to eating wild meat and fresh fish, like I did when I was younger. I think your post here and the adventure you are sharing helps give great insight to what it's like to live this life and look forward to reading more.
Faeryl, so did you do it? I am also considering living in an RV. I mentioned it to my first husband before the kids came along and now my second husband is all for it. Some of the same reasons about the kids that you state.
Blessings in you decision, Gail
I have been considering living in an RV and actively looking for RV's for the last year. Until I had to have a spine fusion (now have gotten THAT out of the way). So, now I am happily recovering and looking at Rv's again. My kids are all grown, and I am now divorced, so nothing is holding me back except myself and my FEAR of being out on the road by myself (with 2 ferrets, and 2 cats...no PITBULL).
At first I thought BIG, as in Class A, but now have decided smaller is better, just from the research I have been doing. I am leaning to a Winnebago, either 29 or 24 feet. I go back and forth though. I really want one with a rear bedroom, so I don't have to deal with making a bed every day. I moved from Seattle to Florida last year, and drove here with my ferrets and cats alone.........It would have been SO much easier IF I had an RV instead of dragging 4 cages in and out of a motel every night.... What a pain that was.
I have to tell everyone, that the freedom I felt driving 3700 miles all by myself and really seeing the Country was a very liberating experience. I wanted to stop in so many places, but since I didn't have my "little motel on wheels", I had to drive on by some of these most interesting places. I drove from Seattle to Los Angeles, then straight across on Highway 10 to Florida. So I was able to see a significant amount of the US. Some of the Caverns in Texas are on my GO BACK LIST.
Hoping to be ready to go this summer.........Happy Travels.
Hi All. I just found this and thought I'd contribute my little bit. I work at army bases. I sell art prints at the post PX. I was staying in motels and just got sick of it. So, I searched and searched on craigslist and found a 1966 Avion travel trailer and got it for $550. It needs some work. I put $625 into lights, electrical, brakes, bearings repacked and a brake controller. I just bought an anti-sway, weight distributing hitch for $495. And I've done some remodelling to the interior. There are still some things I will do, but basically I have my new home and have been on the road for nearly one month and absolutely love it. There lots of campgrounds around the country where you can park pretty cheap. I'm staying at the Shundahai Campground near Ft. Leonard Wood, MO. for $7 per night, with electric hookup and they have a shower house with toilets. It's pretty secenic and backwoodsy but maybe 5 miles from the army post.
What I am saying is, there are many ways to get to your dream of living on the road. The freedom is great and you can see places "tourists" will never, ever get to. I pull my Avion with a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, V-8 and class 4 hitch package. I just park the trailer and lock it up and off I go, ready for any adventure, but back in my own bed every night. And, no worries about bed bugs in a motel.
Hope this gives you an idea of another way to reach your dream. I'm also saving more money than I have in my entire life. I'm 60. This is the life of Riley!
I bought new utility trailer for 4,500. then had 2 large windows , large fridge & furnace installed also 2- 30 pound propane bottles , 2 deep cycle 6 volt batteries installed. I built wood frame bed with 24 inch clearance under it for storage. Trailer inside measurements are 6 feet x 14 feet. No water tanks, or sewage tanks, Not insulated but still warm with furnace. I have F150 older 4x4 to pull it. I look for free places to park. I love being free without high cost of living. I will be 80 years young next month. email@example.com
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My Wife and I also have ferrets. We are planning a trip cross country in our 24' trailer. Did you run into any problems with the little ones on the road? I've read the are illegal in some cities. Any input would be helpful.
Shari: I have a little Eriba Puck camper (10'x6') which I'll pull with my VW. It's basically a bed (when benches are opened), a little sink and some cabinets. I intend to buy a portable, single induction burner to cook on (I took out the propane burners). It has a cold box, but I would like to replace it with a tiny fridge. I'm working on figuring out Solar for it and it needs some other work too. A/C is something else I have to figure out.
I have two cats (which is why I'm researching A/C for a camper), which are going to be my biggest problem since they're outside/indoor cats and are used to roaming in the neighborhood. I plan on getting a pop-up mesh tent that I can put them in when I'm there. They might put up with it for awhile, but I'm afraid that one or both will eventually get out. There are some companies that make tents that attach to the side of RVs and campers - doubles your space if you're parked for awhile.
I have to sell/rent my house first, but since I plan on moving back out West, this is a no brainer. Eventually, I'll have to get a permanent place to settle, but at least I can travel around at my leisure with the camper even after settling.
BTW, if you use a duvet on your bed, you really don't have to make the bed, just throw the duvet back on. :-} Or use a double sleeping bad and just roll it up during the day. Remember, no one will see your abode but you - make it easy on yourself. That's the whole idea.
There are lots of sites that talk about lightweight, small campers, mostly fiberglass, that are available in many sizes and amenities. I like to have a separate camper for the fact that if something needs repair, either my car or camper, I don't have to turn everything over to someone.
Don't rule out small class A motorhomes. Several are available around 29' size. Rexhall Vision series has several 26-29' units with interesting floor plans, but spotty customer support. Seems the best quality and value are in the Holiday Rambler and Newmar units that are 30-33 feet (small compared to 38-40' units.) I think the best engine would be the last 460 fords (1998?) that have port fuel injection and overdrive transmissions. These smaller units will get 7-8mpg on highway.
To Dan and Cylinda,
HER2+ is not the death sentence it once was! I was given the same diagnosis a couple of years ago. I finished radiation and chemo, followed by Herceptin, once a week infusion for a full year. I am now in remission with no signs of recurrence. Hercepton has saved the lives of thousands of women with this type of cancer. If you are not familiar, be sure and look into it. God Bless, Traci
Hi, I just came across your posts here. I too sold my home and everything... wow it felt so amazing to unload "stuff". I am looking to live in an RV but being a restless soul, am thinking a small motorhome as well. Had thought of a 5th wheel, but a hassle to tow, hook up etc... ( I am a single female)...divorced, and want to experience this way of life. I would love to start a community of like minded people, and to all hit the road together, kind of a convoy idea.... what an adventure that would be, not to mention safety in numbers, right? I am from Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Anyone out there interested in something like this?
Hello,read your post,and I like the idea of people who are together with the same kind of mindset, my wife and I have been living in one type of RV or another for many years, it is the best of all worlds, and by far the cheapest way to live, at this point in time we are living in a 38' Pace Arrow Motor home with no slides, it is a 1993 with new Motor trainsmision and drive line, I paid $9000.00 for it and it has been perfect for us,there are many deals out there if you are looking, the key is to inspect everything to be sure it is working, the sellers well tell you only what you want to hear, check, check and then recheck, because after you buy....you pay for what is not working, don't mean to be preaching just that there can be many pitfalls.
Now as to where do you go and what do you do, I think the deal at the L.T.V.A in Arizona or California are the best things going, your in comfortable weather all winter long and the price for the season is about $180.00 for the season ticket, as it starts to warm up you pack up and start to head up towards the high country for cooler temps, staying in National forest campgrounds or dispersed camping.
As to the convoy Idea......I think there is some real merit to that,again it depends on the people who agree to it as to how compatible they are,I have learned from doing motorcycle tours that some like to travel further or faster than others,some want to stop often others can be in a hurry, just to mention a few things to be aware of.
My thought has always been to be able to find some cheap land and have a small group of people share in the initial cost of purchasing it then the land is divided up evenly to each person,each person has a place that can be their home base, I was thinking property in the more northern or higher elevations would be good for the summer getaway, as living in the south west is quite cheap and abundant, but once you leave say the L.T.V.A. areas you have to start moving every 14 days if your doing the Nat.forest camping...whereas if there was a home base you when then go to it for the summer months stay all summer or go travel a bit and come back your choice till the time comes to head back south.
If anyone has any ideas about this please feel free to add or just Comment,any questions about RVing if I can help will be glad to do so.....Ray G
I love that idea. once i get my RV i will join in the fleet or convoy. if you are ever in the Toronto area let me know. I wish all the best and cant wait to start my RV life
I just checked that URL and for some reason, it didn't work. Just go to rvamerica.com, click on Town Talk and then on the Women's forum.
HI, I To am thinking along these lines. I have a ( 1971 ford 20' Class B RV ). Fully Redone .Looking for a group meeting spot. Traveling in convoy would be fun. I,m a male 60 years young. Retired and Divorced.
I live in Seattle, Washington State, and am thinking of to living in a RV. I am 52 still working. would like meet you to hear about how to living in a RV. firstname.lastname@example.org
Totally interested! I have lived in my 5th wheel for 4 months now and just love it. It is just me and my cat. I am kinda stuck at the moment financially. I always find my way out though. I love what another post on here said about a Nomadic Park as in Nomad. I started making hiking stick and selling them since I am on the edge of the wild where broken branches are near. Tara
Check out http://www.rvamerica.com/TownTalk/RVAmericaForums/tabid/79/GroupID/2/Default.aspx
It's a women's RV group forum. When I'm ready to go on the road (not soon enough, unfortunately), I will be posting to see if anyone will caravan with me to the Southwest when I move there.
Lot's of nice people on the forum and lots of info.
Good stuff...thanks...; we have a 96 RoadTrek 190 Versatile and we're minimalists, so, two of us are quite comfortable in it. We are looking forward to learning more from you. We're about to try and solar technology to ours.
Man I have been really thinking abouy it I want to do it.Leave the rat race I hope I get the courage and a few more bucks saved to get a reasonably sound rv engine'I AM EXCITED ABOUT THE IDEA.
Well written my friend! My home is a 33ft 5th wheel and a Ford truck. My dog and I love. Like Captain Jack Sparrow said about his beloved Black Pearl, "it's more that just a ship, it's freedom." The initial cost was $14,000 for both the truck and trailer. Besides the occasional repair, the house is paid for. If you feel like you need a bit more space, well you just open the door and go outside, walk with your dog, have a concersation with your fellow Roadies. It's amazing how much "stuff" you can live with out once you realize simplicity is happiness. Thankyou for your article. Happy Trails!
I've lived in my RV for 10 days now. I have only gone back to the condo to get clothes, and to sleep one night (basically I picked a loud parking spot that was 10 feet from the condo and it was 5am so I just went inside instead of driving to a quiet spot). A lot of things have panned out as expected, but there have also been some big surprises.
I could go on and on, but you probably get the idea. I totally love living in this RV. It's a great feeling to drive over to my mom's house and have her say "Oh, you didn't happen to bring those tickets, did you?" and to just be able to walk into my house and get them.
My parents are really into the RV thing, which is funny. They're always a bit skeptical about my schemes. My dad helped me take out the CRT TV and the Microwave which I replaced with a flat panel and a flash bake oven. My mom made me nice curtains. I'm trying hard to resist the urge to totally trick out the RV. The carpet smells a bit musty so I might put in granite tile or bamboo floors. I think that would be neat.
That was me circa 1990 right after I graduated from the University of Colorado. My focus was to get "On the Road to Find Out" and decide if not what I wanted to do with my life when I grow up, where I wanted to settle down at least. Purchased a 1976 VW Westfalia pop-up with the idea that the window in my life I was currently in was a fleeting one and if I was ever to go on this wild adventure this was my one opportunity to do so. I had no immediate need to work, a few thousand in savings, two empty credit cards to get in serious financial trouble with, and plenty of time yet until I entered "the real world"... saddled by the monthly mortgage payment, meager paychecks that would leave me with more month than money, and all that comes along with a wife, children and raising a family.
My original plan was to leave Boulder and take a figure eight journey around the country, traveling as far North as Quebec, the French Gaspé, Turtle Island and Vancouver, and as far South as Key West, Pony Island and Baja California. I planned on following every inch of the US coastlines that I could, seeking out as many new adventures and experiences as possible. The estimated time table the trip would require was approximately 2 months to complete from start to finish, with many different family members and friends to stop in and visit along the way.
As one of my favorite quotes from John Lennon goes - "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."