Living in a Small RV: Introduction

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.

Which RV?

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.






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