How I Respond When People Tell Me to Live in the “Real World”
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How I Respond When People Tell Me to Live in the “Real World”

posted in: RVing, Travel | 8

Recently a stranger commented on a blog I wrote about why we love RVing and said this:

Personally, I think you’re just using it as an excuse to avoid living in the real world and taking some responsibility for yourselves.”

This isn’t the first time someone has said something like this to us, or asked, “When are you coming back to the real world?“.

When people see two twenty-six-year-olds driving around the country in an RV, there is instant judgment placed on us. Obviously, we are rich, entitled, or hit some kind of lottery that enabled us to go escape “the real world” and travel full-time.

Of course, the truth is we aren’t rich. We work a typical 40-ish hour work week and unless Alyssa is hiding something from me, we have won no lottery. All of these factors make it a lot more fun to answer the question of when we’re going to live in the “real world”.

Short answer: Never.

I’ll get to the longer answer in a minute, but first I want to acknowledge why I think people ask this question in the first place.

Here are a few reasons I’ve come up with so far:

Reason #1 They have a limited view of what is possible.

Asking someone when they are going to return to the real world implies that if we are traveling the country in an RV, we simply cannot be living in the real world. I guess in their mind it is not possible for responsibility to coexist with travel (at least at a young age).

In this scenario, I simply walk people through how we earn a living on the road, how we’ve paid off $27,000 in student debt, contribute to a Roth IRA, and actually do quite normal things—we just happen to live in an RV.

This is usually met with a slight nod and glazed over eyes that say “Sure, that’s cute. But when are you actually going to come back to the real world?

live in the real world

I think if you’ve believed in something all your life (i.e you should go to college, get a job, buy a house, have a couple kids, and then you’re successful, etc), it can be hard to process somebody going against these things. In the mind of many people we’ve met, living in the real world involves following the same, normal path as everyone else.

And in that way, we are far from normal.

Reason #2 They aren’t satisfied with their own life.

I’m convinced that some people ask this question because they aren’t happy with their own life decisions. They’ve sacrificed in their career, they’ve quit dreaming big, or they let go of all ambition.

I know this because I can see it in their eyes when they talk about the real world. In their minds, the real world sucks. The real world has a dismal future where Donald Trump has 10 more kids who all succeed him in office and take over the world.

The real world isn’t a place where you can travel full-time at 26. That’s too good to be true.

Ultimately, I feel sorry for these people. I feel bad for them because they live in a world of limited possibility. They live in a world where they’ve given up and accepted the status quo.

The status quo says you aren’t supposed to love your job, your house can’t have wheels, and to be normal you need 2.5 kids and a house you can’t afford.

Reason #3 They don’t understand that times have changed.

A little more than four years ago, Alyssa and I didn’t know living and traveling in an RV was a realistic lifestyle for us. I’d seen people who traveled the world, but those were expert photographers for National Geographic or successful entrepreneurs.

I was neither.

I didn’t know there was a middle ground, that it was possible for us to learn skill sets like video production from scratch and then monetize them for client work, all while RVing. We didn’t know we’d be part of a growing community of people who were already choosing to live, work and travel the country in an RV. We didn’t know that we could consult for companies like Winnebago, create a documentary film, or start a software business.

What first seemed impossible because it would be crazy expensive or out of reach, has become our new norm.

The truth is that you don’t have to break the bank to travel, RVs don’t have to be crazy expensive, and whether you start your own business or find a remote job, there have never been more opportunities to make a living on the road.

So, back to the original question: How do I respond when people ask me about the real world?

I tell them we have no immediate plans to quit traveling and settle down.

We’ve built a remote community of friends who we see and talk to on a daily and weekly basis. Our work is very much intertwined with our travels and vice versa. Plus, we’re making a great living while able to explore this amazing country. We’re doing most of the things that people do while stationary, but just happen to be traveling in an RV.

I don’t believe in doing things conventionally, just because that is the way they’ve always been done. I think it would also be a shame to have the opportunities we’ve been given in technology and industry and not take full advantage of them. Besides, who is to say what is the “real world” anyway?

It’s a lot more fun to create your own path than try to fit into everyone else’s definition of successful.

Follow Heath:

Husband to Alyssa. Host of The RV Entrepreneur Podcast. I love RVing, that's why I talk about it so much.

  • Jim Hazelwood

    Heath. Nice post. I’m probably an older reader and listener to your blog and podcast. I just want to say, ‘damn, go for it.’ I no longer know what living in the real world means, cause the world has gone mad. They probably said the same thing to Columbus, Lewis & Clark and Rosa Parks. Some people have imaginations, and some don’t. Some people embrace adventure, others conform. Keep it up. You are an inspiration.

    • I love it Jim. Thanks so much for this awesome comment man!

  • Teresa Rosche Ott

    I think you nailed it with these three reasons.

    Is it just older people who don’t get it? Those generations that either don’t believe times have changed, or think we should/will get back to their definition of normal?

    Even though I grew up in the 70s/80s with (what I now know is) the manufactured notion of the American Dream, I saw cracks in its façade a long time ago. It took a while to see that RV life is a good way to reject whatever parts of that “dream” we wanted to.

    Oh,well. We get there when we get there. Thanks for doing your part to make people question their version of real life!

  • MH Techy

    I have been fulltiming in my Motorhome for almost 9 years now and honestly can’t imagine living in a house again. The thought actually repels me. I am now 46 and have another 21 years before I hit retirement age. I fully intend to make the most of it on the road…

    Very well written article. I used to get asked this question quite a bit, however it now seems that the lifestyle is well known in the UK and not questioned quite so much these days.

    • Interesting MH. Considering we plan to do a bit of RV travel in Europe next year, will be interested to see how it’s different over there.

  • Thanks so much, Heath. This is awesome and so relatable.