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This is a text recap from our experience at The RV Entrepreneur Summit we hosted last year. Alyssa and I also recorded a podcast version with our 12 biggest takeaways that you can listen to here.
Last week we hosted the first ever RV Entrepreneur Summit in Fredericksburg, Texas. 120 nomadic entrepreneurs came from all over the country to share stories of working on the road and to build community around this RV lifestyle.
We had no idea what to expect, how many people would show up, or if the event would tank.
Photo by Joe Hendricks
Side note: Event planning sometimes tends to stir up the most irrational part of your brain. Two nights before the summit started Alyssa had a dream that our opening speaker said he couldn’t go on stage because his presentation wasn’t working. Instead of a flash drive, he had put his entire talk on a VHS tape and we had no way to play it (because it’s not 1985). Anyway, that didn’t actually happen. He ended up sending his talk to me via Airdrop like a normal human being and knocking it out of the park (you can watch Joe’s talk below).
You can skip to 23:45 tso tune into Joe’s talk (or watch the rest of the talks here)
Where the Idea Came for The RV Entrepreneur Summit
July 26th of last summer I posted a status in our Facebook group, asking for suggestions on how to improve our growing community of nomadic entrepreneurs. It’s a scary question to ask because somebody could always offer up the suggestion of “Maybe you should leave the group and then it would be better” or some other troll-like comment that rarely ever happens.
But this is what people said:
Over and above, the most popular suggestion was to host an annual RV Entrepreneur Summit. I didn’t pre-load the poll with this suggestion, it came from someone in the group (I still don’t know who said it). I thought it sounded like an awesome idea, but also extremely terrifying.
I kept thinking, we don’t have a big enough blog + podcast + community to host a conference. Nobody will come. People like Chris Guillebeau host conferences, not Heath and Alyssa.
While flattered, I seriously disregarded the suggestion because I didn’t think it was feasible. Who would actually drive to come and meet us for a conference?
These were real thoughts going through my head at the time and I didn’t think about it again for several months.
But later in the fall while recording a podcast episode with RVFTA (a popular travel podcast & blog for families), I brought up the idea of hosting an RV Entrepreneur Summit. Jeremy, one of the hosts alongside his wife Stephanie, encouraged me to host the event. He brought up a valid point that I’d been sourcing potential speakers and attendees via The RV Entrepreneur podcast and it could be a valuable event to the community.
Then, a couple weeks later while on a morning walk with my friend Eric from RV Wanderlust, I was once again encouraged to “go for it” and host a small conference. I realized at this point I was just seeking a ridiculous amount of validation and I should probably take the leap of faith and announce we were hosting a conference.
But first I needed to get the most important piece of validation from this girl.
Photo by @KyleKesterson
I don’t remember the exact conversation with Alyssa, but I’m sure it went something like this:
Me: “Alyssa, what would you think of hosting an RV Entrepreneur Summit?”
Alyssa: “Do you mean… what would I think about me having to plan and coordinate an RV Entrepreneur Summit?”
Me: “Pretty much.”
Alyssa: “Hm, I’m down. Let’s do it.”
This is how the majority of our major life decisions have taken place. I remember a very similar conversation happening when we decided to quit our jobs, buy an RV, and travel to all 50 states.
Alyssa has my back as a partner and a ridiculous amount of experience in event planning. I knew that if we hosted a conference then the majority of the planning would fall on her shoulders (and it did).
The Planning Process of RVE Summit #1
A sneak peak into our lives during the week before RVE Summit
At some point in November we opened up the first batch of tickets for The RV Entrepreneur Summit. Within a few hours all 30 of them had been purchased and we’d received additional messages from others who wanted to attend.
If there was ever a time to freak out (both in a good and bad way), it was now. All of a sudden it became very real. We were hosting this thing and there was no backing out.
The video above gives you a small snapshot of what it was like the week before the leading up to the summit. Stressful. Exciting. Nervous.
What Actually Happened at the RV Entrepreneur Summit
None of our worst nightmares or worries came true. In fact, quite the opposite. People told us this was the best conference they’ve ever attended. Attendees came early, stayed late, and had a great time. Most of the people we talked with couldn’t wait for “the next RV Entrepreneur Summit” (even though we haven’t started planning this one yet).
I want to share some of my big takeaways from the weekend, but first, I wanted to share with you some attendees stories that more accurately recap the weekend than I ever could.
The Best RV Event We’ve Ever Attended
By Don Cohen: Editor at WinnebagoLife
In our four years and 75,000 miles of RV travel and attendance at numerous small and large RV rallies, we’ve had a lot of great experiences. But our recent weekend at the inaugural RV Entrepreneur Summit was the over the moon best.
Our Experience at the 2017 RVE Summit
By Michael Boyink of Ditching Suburbia
The closest I can come to describing this event is to mix together:
The creative business energy of a Startup Weekend, thought provoking power of a TedX Event, our favorite times camping with fellow RVers, and that summer camp experience as a kid where you stayed up late every night talking and laughing with new friends.
RVE Summit 2017
By Melanie Scroggins of Waypair
It’s not easy being young, newly married, and thinking of being on the road full time while making a living simultaneously (Heath & Alyssa Padgett *cough, cough*). However, when you have a supportive group of people telling you to go for it, the game completely changes.
RVE Summit 2017
By Lindsay McKenzie of Follow Your Detour
Even if you are not an RVer, this summit showcased how powerful it can be to meet up with passionate and like-minded individuals. Regardless of your interests, lifestyle or business pursuits, go out and seek similar events because they are extremely powerful and will help fuel your passion.
The RV Entrepreneur Summit
By Joe Hendricks of Joe Hendricks Photography
For a creative person, it’s a huge struggle to have so much creativity bursting out of you and nothing to do with it. The RV Entrepreneur Summit changed that for me.
RVE Summit Review
By Liz Wilcox
The absolute best thing about the RVE Summit was meeeting so many like-minded people and making a whole ton of new friends.
4 Benefits of Being Part of a Like-Minded Community (+Our RVE Summit Experience)
By Brooke Baum of Trailing Away
We have had all sorts of advice thrown our way since deciding to be full-time RVers and digital nomads. However, it is rarely from people who have actual experience doing it. Until the summit.
Return to Nomad
By Jeremy Scroggins of TheTrek.co
The backpacking lifestyle, with the comfort of home, wherever you want your home to be.
Owning Our Day at the RVE Summit
By Camille at More Than a Wheelin’
We will probably never be in a more uplifting, dynamic and supportive group of people than at this summit, unless maybe it’s a group of recent lottery winners.
What I Took Away from The RV Entrepreneur Summit
The first morning of speaker sessions during the RVE Summit I asked people to raise their hands if they’d driven or flown more than 500 miles to be here.
I don’t remember the exact amount of people who raised their hands, but it was a lot. At first it made me feel proud that we’d created an event that so many people were willing to travel to attend. But the more I talked with attendees, the more I realized it had nothing to do with Alyssa’s or my ability to pull together an event.
It had everything to do with wanting to be part of a community of people who understood why we chose this lifestyle.
Takeaway #1 We Feel the Need to be Accepted (or Like We Belong)
The past few years I’ve really struggled when trying to explain to strangers what Alyssa and I do for a living and how we travel. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever given the same answer twice. It’s painfully awkward to watch. Most of the time Alyssa has to jump in and tell people we live in an RV and do video production (or something along those lines).
I don’t know why it’s so difficult for me to answer this simple question, but it is. Maybe it’s because I know the majority of people don’t (or wouldn’t want to) understand why we chose this lifestyle. It could also be because I feel I need to justify my answer of living in an RV with “we aren’t trust fund kids, we work full-time to earn our living, and no we aren’t on Spring Break”.
Whatever the reason, it’s been rare to find people who genuinely are interested and care about why we chose this nomadic lifestyle (outside of this blog and our online community of friends).
Meeting 120 nomadic entrepreneurs this past weekend at the RVE Summit affirmed just how powerful it can be to have that sense of belonging and acceptance. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t have to struggle to explain what I do for a living (and neither did many attendees).
There was this sense of understanding among everyone there. We all chose this lifestyle intentionally. We’ve all made sacrifices to be here and we’re in this together.
It was something I already knew but was amplified 1,000 times at the RV Entrepreneur Summit.
We crave to belong and feel acceptance.
Takeaway #2 There Are More of Us Than I Realized
When I started The RV Entrepreneur Podcast last year I was afraid that I’d run out of people to interview. Could there really be that many people running a remote business while RVing?
The short answer? Yes.
While not everyone at the RVE Summit has their own business yet, many attendees do run their business from an RV. Gathering 120 of these people in one place made me realize just how many people are a part of this community.
Takeaway #3 The More Crazy Something Feels, The More Affirmation We Need Before Diving In
It felt crazy to host an RV Entrepreneur Summit. I had to seek affirmation from trusted friends and our community before finally announcing the conference. It feels the same way when you’re selling a house, quitting a job, or leaving behind everything to go hit the open road in an RV.
On the spectrum of very sane to crazy, living full-time in an RV and traveling is closer to crazy. This means that we need more affirmation from others to tell us that it’s okay to want to live this way. We don’t need to feel like outsiders. Again, we belong.
Takeaway #4 Everyone Has Different Financial Ambitions (and That’s Okay)
Many speakers from the weekend shared very transparent financial objectives in their own lives. Some speakers had a goal of simply making $60,000 a year to cover their costs. This lifestyle was more about making enough to pay the bills and maximizing freedom. I’ve heard this reiterated on multiple occasions from nomads I’ve met in this lifestyle.
“I want the freedom. I don’t want to work crazy amounts of hours while on the road.”
Even though I value freedom and flexibility in my work, I have different financial goals (and again, that’s okay). I’m building a software business that I’d love to sell for a few million dollars one day. In the process of exploring America in our home on wheels, my goal is to make six figures this year.
Maybe that’s wanting to have my cake and eat it too? But maybe not. We work a lot of hours on the road and we’ve never tried to hide that fact. But we also play hard too when the time comes for it and take daily naps around 2PM (or as we call it, nap o’ clock).
I think the cool thing about the RVE Summit was everyone being transparent about these goals and communicating them to the group in a non pushy way. It’s okay that I have different financial goals for this lifestyle and want to earn more income. In the same way, it’s okay to cover the base bills and spend much more time out exploring.
There’s no one way to be an RV entrepreneur.
Takeaway #5 Your Community Won’t Build Itself
We’ve been on the road nearly three years and never had such close access to so many amazing people. I wish we could have met this group of people the moment we started RVing. I really think it would have changed our lives over the past few years. We would have known that we had a support group to fall back on and we could have connected with more people throughout our journey.
This past weekend at The RV Entrepreneur Summit made me realize that your community won’t build itself. Most of the time we travel as just the two of us. We rarely go out of our way to meet other travelers and do a poor job of connecting with people, even when we’re in the same area. It’s not that we’re antisocial, we just haven’t made it a big priority (and that was a mistake).
I think anytime we take a chance to meet some random people we met on Instagram or drive across the country for an RV conference, we open up a chance to build that community. But it won’t happen on it’s own.
Note: We had a lot more takeaways from the speakers, conference and community that we talk about on episode 50 of the RVE podcast here.
So, When is The Next RV Entrepreneur Summit?
This weekend? Kidding. But I do already miss this crowd. Alyssa and I have sat down this past week to start brainstorming on when and where we’ll host our next RV Entrepreneur Summit, but nothing is definitive yet.
We’ve tossed around the idea of hosting another RVE Summit this fall up in Vermont or maybe somewhere in Florida during the winter or spring of 2018. If you’ve have any ideas on locations for where we should host our next summit, drop a comment below.
Also, feel free to sign up to our RVE Summit email list so you can be the first to know when we decide to host the next RV Entrepreneur Summit!