Monday we bought a 2016 Winnebago Brave 31c. It’s retro, sleek, and four foot longer with a couple slide outs.
Buying a new RV was probably the craziest thing I did this year, other than sleep on a glacier in Alaska.
The road to buying a new RV has been a whirlwind of emotions, to say the least, but it happened. If you’ve been following our RV VS. Student Debt, you are probably wondering how in the heck we afforded to buy a nice, shiny motorhome while we are paying off all of our debt.
Why We Bought A New RV
View of our old 1994 Class C motorhome next to our 2016 Winnebago Brave
We loved Franklin, but we’ve been shopping for a newer RV all of 2015. Well, mostly I have been shopping for a new RV. Alyssa just rolls her eyes every time I bring up the subject. I think my most visited website is RVTrader.com. I love looking at new RV’s. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine. I think they are so cool! Even before we were ready to buy a new RV, we’ve gone “RV shopping” at least 10 times. It’s my favorite kinda date.
But other than RV’s simply being “cool”, we had a couple reasons why we decided to upgrade and buy a new RV.
Alyssa and I both work out of the RV and shared a smaller-than-Starbucks style table for 8-10 hours a day. This has been tough for us, especially with her editing footage. We wanted more room to work.
Below was our previous workspace in our 1994 Class C RV.
We pretty much had to fight over this little table or one of us had to go work outside. Our new rig has three different workstations.
The passenger seat.
The kitchen table.
And the front circle table, where I occasionally record my podcast.
Even though our former RV only left us stranded once, we wanted to be in an RV that we could depend on for the long haul. A new RV means having access to the Winnebago warranty and service for the first year of owning our new RV.
Plus, a new RV will allow us to continue traveling and exploring the country, without the stress of a twenty year old RV.
How We Bought A 2016 Winnebago Brave 31C
Seeing as we’re still paying off student debt, we were able to make this purchase through a work agreement with Winnebago.
Update: We finished paying off all our student debt in 2017 while traveling through Maine in our Winnebago!
Our client work with Winnebago is that we’ll be writers for Winnebago’s GoLife website. We’ll share stories from our travels and RV lifestyle tips while exploring the country in our Winnebago Brave (such as 10 Things You Have to See When Visiting Alaska or our Brief Guide to Working on the Road).
In agreement for becoming contributors for Winnebago, they gave us a family and friend’s discount on our RV. Also, in exchange for our monthly blogging contributions, we’ll receive payments that cover all but $100 of our monthly RV payment. This will allow us to live and travel in a much newer RV, without breaking the bank.
Since we were buying it, we still had to put down a $10,000 down payment (which we did by selling Franklin).
How We Became Contributors for Winnebago
Last year Alyssa and I found a sponsorship with an online job board called Snagajob. That sponsorship helped me land a different hourly wage job in all 50 states and travel across the entire country. Beforehand, I had heard good and bad things about sponsorships and to be honest, I didn’t know much about them.
The sponsorship we had with Snagajob ended up being one of the best decisions we made during our travels. We still have a great relationship with them. After all, they helped finance our trip to all 50 states (including Hawaii and Alaska), sent us film equipment for our documentary, and helped me land a job in all 50 states (Note: Here I wrote a blog post about how we found that sponsorship and the cold email I wrote to get it).
So when Alyssa and I started having conversations with Winnebago earlier this year, we were definitely open to the idea of working with another large company.
However, we didn’t think it was a realistic possibility to get an RV sponsorship. As it turns out, almost every single person who buys an RV and travels across the country tries to get an RV company to sponsor them.
The conversation, from my understanding and part-experience, goes something like this.
“Dear giant RV company,
My wife and I are quitting our jobs to travel across America doing _______ project (or just seeing the country). We both have iPhone cameras and we plan on documenting the journey and starting a blog. Please send us a brand new RV at your earliest convenience so you can sponsor our travels and we’ll get you tons of publicity.
I’m not going to lie, I sent out a couple emails that resembled this before we hit the road for Hourly America. Not until a year later did I find out… that basically everyone else sends the same exact emails. But here’s the deal, RV sponsorships are far and few in between. An RV company really has to see a ton of value in order to fork over a $100k vehicle for you. What kind of ROI can you provide in exchange for a $100k machine? You better have a million twitter followers– oh, you don’t? Sorry.
But against the odds, Alyssa and I find ourselves in a sponsored relationship with Winnebago (and we have far from a million Twitter followers).
Other than being on cloud nine as we have dance parties in our new RV, I wanted to share how this all came about.
Below I wrote down all the things we’ve done in the past year to attract attention from bigger RV companies, provide value for people, and eventually work with a company like Winnebago.
*** I just wanted to clarify once again that Winnebago did not GIVE us a new RV. We bought one at discount and agreed to become contributors for their GoLife blog for the next year in exchange for monthly compensation which will help us cover our monthly RV payment.
- We took a different route (no pun intended). When talking with the editor of GoLife for Winnebago, he told me one of the biggest reasons they wanted to work with us was because we were doing something different with our lives. We chose to quit our jobs, travel the country, work a job in every state, and film a documentary. They are betting on us to continue doing adventurous and crazy things over the next few years and attach the Winnebago brand to us.
- We’ve built a community of RVers. Over the past year, Alyssa and I have published close to 100 articles related to the RV lifestyle This year I also released a free 7 day course called “how to see America on $2k/month” which recently hit over 10,000 subscribers and an RV Facebook group with over 8,000 members. Because we’ve spent a lot of time providing value and bringing the RV community together, it made sense for a company like Winnebago to share their message through us.
- We focused on building relationships. Shortly after we started RVing, we discovered Jason and Nikki over at GoneWiththeWynns. We loved their quirky Youtube Channel, blog, and social channels. We interacted with them enough until we eventually became online friends and I even wrote a guest post on their site. When Nikki heard that we were RV searching, she made an introduction to the team over at Winnebago. This introduction eventually led to our sponsorship with them down the road. We, of course, couldn’t have planned all this, but building relationships with influencers with Jason and Nikki was a huge help in getting us working with Winnebago.
- We took advantage of small opportunities. Last summer we made the drive up to Alaska. Instead of taking our old RV Franklin, we drove my grandparents Minnie Winnebago. Throughout the entire trip, I took tons of photos and video. When we got back, I reached out to Winnebago and asked if I could share a guest blog about our drive to Alaska. They said absolutely. I spent a significant amount of time writing that blog post and it’s been one of their more popular posts. This proved that I could write quality blog posts for them, which opened the door for more work together. I’ve learned that you almost never start out with “the big” opportunity. Typically, you have to execute at something much smaller first, prove yourself, and then work towards large projects.
- We weren’t afraid to ask. Six months after the introduction to Winnebago, building a relationship, and writing a guest post for their site — we started the conversation about sponsorship. We happened to be getting ready to upgrade to a newer RV, I told them I loved the Brave and asked if there was anything we could do to work together.
A Beginner’s Guide to Living in an RV
Interested in traveling the country in an RV? Alyssa just published A Beginner’s Guide to Living in an RV! This book documents everything we wish we knew before full-time RVing.
What we did to attract a relationship with an RV Company
Buying a new RV this year while paying off student debt seemed like a pipe dream. Every time I looked at RV’s online or in person, I just told myself it would be years and years before we could buy one. I also thought the same thing about traveling to all 50 states or filming a documentary, yet those are things we’ve done in the past year too.
If I could give any advice for someone looking to find a company to sponsor your travels, I’d tell them to show up and provide more value for people than anyone else in your industry.
Remember, the goal in and of itself is not to be sponsored, but to do things worth sponsoring. How are you different? What makes your story unique? What makes your content, videos or blogs the most valuable?
Companies are devoting more and more dollars to working with micro-influencers, whether on Instagram, a blog, Youtube channel, or podcast. Brands want to reach their audience and if your audience happens to overlap with theirs, it could be a great fit. But you don’t build that audience without providing value or entertainment of some kind.
One last note: I’d also like to point out that until you have a ridiculously large audience, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to fund your entire travel lifestyle through sponsorship. Even though we’re working with Winnebago to subsidize the cost of our travels, we still run our video production business full-time and we’re constantly working to scale our blog income (learn how we’ve been doing that here).
Have any more questions about sponsored travel? Drop a comment below and I’ll try to be as helpful as I can!