Jumping into full-time RV life brings on a ton of questions.
Most of them are pretty basic, like, where do you dump your poop? That one is easy to answer, we actually hired a guy to follow us around and he manually dumps our poop once a day. Kidding. That would be the crappiest job in the world (sorry, I had to.. I’m done with bathroom talk).
Other questions are more difficult to answer. Questions like, “Where could you see yourselves living one day?”
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No matter what questions people ask us about living in an RV, I typically always enjoy answering them (unless they ask me how we drove our RV to Hawaii, people always ask that question and then laugh out loud like they just busted a Chris Rock joke… I don’t get it).
I hope this post gives you a bit of insight into what it’s like living full-time in an RV. It’s difficult to explain everything in one little post, so if there’s anything you have more questions about– please, leave a comment at the end of this post and I’ll respond to all of them! Enjoy.
1. Do you ever get tired of living in such a small space?
Honestly, no. Sometimes I miss having a bathtub. I realize that as a man it sounds weird acknowledging that I miss bathtubs, but I don’t really care. Baths are awesome. I guess what I’m saying is, every now and then I DO miss some little luxuries like limitless hot water and amazing wifi.
But as far as space goes, I never feel crammed or tired of living in a small space. At least not in the first 18 months of doing it. Plus, it helps that we keep our space very clean. We do the dishes after almost every meal and make the bed every day.
Doing these little things helps us feel organized and helps to make the space feel bigger.
2. How do you get mail, Internet, TV, phone service?
For internet we carry around a Verizon jetpack (little wireless device) that allows us to get wifi wherever we travel. We have a 15 gig plan which is plenty for just browsing the internet (p.s we took this jetpack to all 50 states and we get service just about everywhere, with the exception of a few places in west Texas and the Teton mountains). If we want to do any streaming or uploading of videos, then we’ll typically go to a local coffee shop like Starbucks (Starbucks always has good internet). Most RV parks have wifi, but usually the speed is very slow and it might make you want to pull your hair out. If you would prefer to work out of your RV all the time, you can always invest in a cell signal booster like this one.
For mail, we currently have that forwarded to my in-laws. Most of our mail is via email anyway, so that’s not too much of an issue for us. Escapees is a company that actually has services that will help you set up your mail forwarding and all of that before you ever hit the road.
For TV? We mostly watch Netflix (when internet permits) and an occasional DVD of Friends in our TV.
Update on original post: We just recently started carrying both Verizon and AT&T while on the road. Last year we upgraded to an unlimited Verizon plan that was through a 3rd party, but it is actually being cut off tomorrow as Verizon is cracking down on these unlimited plans. If you want to learn more about how to find great internet while on the road, I recommend checking out Cherie and Chris over at Technomadia — as they publish a great deal of content on mobile internet.
3. Do you just stay at RV parks? How much does overnight RV parking typically cost?
We almost always stay at RV parks. However, it really depends on where we are and what we’re doing. While we’ve spent time out on the west coast we’ve stayed in a lot of state and national parks, mostly because it’s beautiful and there are tons of parks.
RV parks have all your basic amenities– bathrooms, showers, washateria (not all of them), internet (typically slow wifi), and the occasional pool. One of the first things we realized earl on was the difference between RV park vs Trailer Park. RV parks are places where RVers like us or retirees typically stay. A trailer park is… well, what you think of when you think of trailer park.
RV parks typically average around $30/night, but can easily go much higher (especially on the west coast). We are members of Passport America and Good Sam, which both offer discounts at participating campgrounds (here is a review I wrote of using Good Sam vs. Passport America).
4. How long do you typically stay in one place?
We have been living in our RV full-time for 18 months and we’ve mostly done 1-3 night stays or 2-4 month stays. It really just depends on what is happening in our lives. While we were filming our documentary Hourly America, we were hustling to get to as many places as possible and would stay very little time. Now that we’re done filming and can travel more leisurely, we’re staying in places for longer periods of time because it saves money. Last fall we stayed at a lakefront RV park outside of Austin for $360/month.
5. How long did it take you to downsize?
We made the transition not long after college, so we really hadn’t had time to accrue a lot of stuff. We had to get rid of a TV, few pieces of furniture, and a lot of our clothes, but other than that– not too much. This was probably much easier for us than it would be someone who has lived in a home for 20-30 years. I can understand the difficulty of what that might look like when I see my parent’s home where my brothers and I were raised. I can only imagine how hard it must be to give everything up.
That being said, I’ve talked with a lot of full-time RVers who do a “test-run” of RVing for one year before selling everything. This way, they can give it a shot before taking the full plunge. I think that’s a smart way to go.
6. What made you guys decide to buy an RV vs. a tiny house?
I honestly looked at buying a tiny house before we moved into the RV, but our style of travel was better suited for living in an RV. We like to move around a lot and while tiny houses CAN be mobile, they aren’t mobile like RV’s. The other reason I had originally looked into tiny houses was because of their sleek and modern design. But as it turns out we were able to renovate our older RV and our newer rig has quite the modern feel as well (see pictures here).
7. How many miles per gallon do you get in one of those things (in other words, how much does gas cost)?
In our new Winnebago we probably get around 10-12 miles per gallon. I’m estimating because we’ve only had it for a couple months and I’ve only filled it up a few times thus far. I’ll have a better estimate for you after a couple trips. That being said, in 2014 we did 48 states in our 1994 coachmen RV and we spent around $6,000 total on gas throughout 7 months. You can read more of those financials here on this post I wrote.
8. How do you stay in shape while on the road?
Mostly the Bowflex… kidding.
We go on walks, I do push ups, and on days when I’m feeling super motivated I’ll go for a run. Other than that, we don’t do too much. For a period of time we’ve also had a gym membership to Planet Fitness, which was $20/month and we had access to over 800 locations across the country. If you’re trying to stay in good shape while you’re traveling I would definitely suggest Planet Fitness. They typically have really nice facilities for showering and workouts, plus free massage chairs and tootsie rolls. Need I say more?
9. Will you travel when you have kids?
This is the million dollar question. To be totally honest, I have no idea. I know that I WILL travel some when I have kids. I don’t know if it will be full-time or part-time, probably a bit of both. I want my kids to have other kid friends, but I also want them to see the world.
I did an interview last year with Michael Boyink from DitchingSuburbia and he travels with his two kids and told me all about the amazing experiences he’s had from full-timing with his kiddos. Hearing from people like Mike encourage me to want to travel and live in an RV one day with my kids as well.
10. When are you going to get a real house or “settle down”?
We don’t have an end date on our RV travels. It could be next year or several years down the road.
11. Where do you dump your poop? (oops. I brought it up again)
Most RV’s have a grey tank, black tank, and a freshwater tank (although some people use a composting toilet). The freshwater tank can run around 60 gallons and that is your drinking water. Black tank is your waste (poop). The grey tank is sink or shower water. You have a little hose that comes out of your tanks that connects with a sewer. You pull a lever that says grey and one that says black and you dump your tank. It’s actually very simple.
(tip: Dump the black before grey and not at the same time. You want your grey water to wash away any toilet paper or other waste that might be stuck inside the line.)
12. What do you do for making money on the road?
We’ve done a lot of different things to make money on the road. The majority of our income has come from video work that we are paid for, like online educational videos we record for clients. I’ve also been paid to speak at companies and during most of 2014 we had a sponsor company that paid us roughly $1k/month (read about that sponsorship here).
13. How do you keep up with friendships while on the road?
We lost quite a bit of friends we had from our college town in Austin when we hit the road. That’s natural when you graduate from college or leave any geographical region. The good news is, we met a lot of people out on the road who had similar mindsets and missions in life… and we developed a community of people who also travel, write, and do video work (like us).
I think the most encouraging part about traveling is that once you hit the road you start to meet people with a similar mindset who can affirm your beliefs and values. I know that sounds obvious, of course you’ll meet people on the road who also like to travel. But it’s hard to envision what that feels like when you’re only surrounded by people who don’t get it.
Our family was pretty unsupportive at first, but then we made enough money to keep traveling and got some recognition for our work. When your parents get to watch you on national TV, they think that is cool. Now they are our biggest fans.
14. What do you guys do for Health insurance?
We found our health insurance through the RVers Insurance Exchange. We have a plan for Alyssa with Scott and White that will cover us no matter where we are in the country, since we travel outside our home state, Texas, for more than 6 months out of the year. Her plan runs around $265/month, which is pretty steep. Fortunately for us, I can still be on my parents plan until I’m 26, which I did at the request of my dad (he didn’t have to try too hard to convince me).
Update: We recently changed healthcare providers and went with a healthcare sharing ministry. You can learn more about it in the post Alyssa wrote below.
15. What about washing clothes?
I packed 10 shirts total for our trip when we first hit the road. We didn’t have much room in our motorhome, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t bring all that much along. We read a book before we left called “Packing Light” and that was some really good inspiration for us before we hit the road to not overburden ourselves with too much stuff.
We stayed at a lot of RV parks, state parks, and national parks– but almost every RV park we stayed at has a laundry room. You can buy a little portable washer/dryer set from Amazon, but it’s so tiny I haven’t heard great things from it. I would much rather just budget a little bit of money per month to wash clothes in a real machine.
At least, that’s how we’ve been doing it and it’s worked out so far
16. Does Alyssa drive the RV?
Heck yes she does! She’s a beast. Our older motorhome was a bit smaller and less bulky than our new Winnebago, but she has been able to handle this one just fine.
17. What do you guys do for groceries and cooking?
We go to grocery stores like normal people. Alyssa has a gluten allergy so we cook almost all of our meals in our RV. We’ve done that ever since we started full-timing. Here’s one of Alyssa’s favorite “Texas-style” meals to cook in the RV.
18. How did you know what type of RV to choose?
This was a much tougher question when we were first getting started.
First of all, I had to do a lot of research to better understand the difference between fifth wheels, motorhomes, truck campers, pull-behinds, etc. Ultimately, we made our choice on motorhome because we liked the idea of having our vehicle and home be all in one. We enjoy being able to walk to the back and use the restroom or make food, without having to leave our vehicle while we’re traveling.
Plus, this way we didn’t have to buy a new vehicle to tow it. I could easily offer more educated responses on why we chose and RV vs. trailer, but this was really the one that did it for us.
19. What’s your favorite place/trip that you’ve been or done?
Probably driving up the Pacific Coast Highway. We basically put away our laptops and pushed work aside for the week and just enjoyed the views. We camped out along the ocean, went to Hearst Castle, and really felt like we epitomized what it’s supposed to feel like when driving an RV across America.
There is so much energy while driving up the west coast. It’s real and invigorating. You wake up and look outside your window and you’re literally on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done.
20. Have you guys found anywhere you might want to live?
The answer to this one is tricky. We’ve found tons of places we could see ourselves living in the future, but right now we just aren’t at a point where we want to settle down quite yet. Top of our list is Nashville, TN, mostly because we’ve made a lot of great friendships in that town and we would have a lot of awesome community. But we’re still definitely keeping our eyes open for more great places to live.
21. Why did you choose to live in an RV?
We chose to live in an RV mostly by accident. We wanted to travel across America and we calculated that buying an RV would be the quickest route for us to go and visit all 50 states. We had no idea that we would live in an RV longterm, share the lifestyle with other people, or that I would spend so much time writing about living in an RV. The rest happened because we truly fell in love with the lifestyle.
Living in an RV has helped bring Alyssa and I closer together in our first couple years of marriage. We’ve seen more of America than either of us could have imagined we would (and still have a lot to see!). Because we are self employed, we’ve been able to pick up and go when new opportunities come our way. Not to mention, in the past year living super cheap allowed us to pay off over $14k of our student debt.
This post has become a mammoth. I didn’t intend for it to be this long, but there are a lot of questions people have asked us since we started full-time RVing. If I left any questions out that you’d like to know, leave me a comment below and we’ll talk it through! I respond to all of my comments.
P.S My friend Michelle from Making Sense of Cents also just wrote an awesome blog about 16 commonly asked RV questions. Michelle is an amazing finance blogger (and recently converted RVer) and you should definitely check out her blog. She was even kind enough to do a guest interview here on my blog that you can find here: Make Money Traveling: How to Make $25,000/month Blogging.