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We’ve been tiny living for two years now. For our entire marriage, in fact.
While there are certainly challenges to living in a small space—like how often I trip over the cord to our space heater or how leaving a couple dishes in the sink makes the entire house feel dirty—choosing to live in an RV has made the greatest impact on our life. Living tiny has put us in better financial shape, it’s molded our marriage, and it’s made a lot of insanely cool things possible for us.
I want to share with you all of the crazy, impossible, illogical things that tiny living makes possible. Things that never ever would’ve been possible if we hadn’t purchased that 20-year-old motorhome off of Craigslist.
What Tiny Living Makes Possible
We visited all 50 states.
People ask us often why we chose an RV instead of a tiny house and the reason to me is completely obvious: tiny houses aren’t designed for travel. Sure, you can tow them behind a heavy-duty truck, but they aren’t made to move. RVs are outfitted for constant movement (and if you buy a super old motorhome like we did, it costs even less than a tiny home).
When we bought our RV, we knew we wanted something that could be our home regardless of where we were parked. That faithful RV, Franklin as we named him, visited 48 of the 50 states in 2014. We drove with family in a newer, less-likely-to-break-down RV to Alaska and, for the millionth time, no we didn’t drive to Hawaii. (And yes, people think that joke is funny every time).
I don’t know many other people who have visited every state in the country by age 24. Well, except for my husband. But we never could’ve made it happen without living in that rickety, old, but completely awesome RV.
We paid off 14K in student debt.
When we first bought our RV and started touring the country, we very strategically didn’t pay off our student debt. And by strategically, I mean if we had tried to make loan payments, we wouldn’t have been able to buy food and gas and other things we needed to survive because we had no money.
But after traveling the country—which we did for roughly $2,500 a month—we got serious about using tiny living as an asset for paying off our debt.
We lived in an RV park in northwest Austin for seven months last year, paying only $360 for rent. Texas (and the south in general) has lower prices for food and gas than the rest of the country, so we kept our expenses low and focused on throwing every cent we could into our ever-growing student debt. $4,000 of what we put toward debt last year went to interest alone. Yikes! I don’t want to know how much of that accrued in our year gallivanting across the country.
In total, we put $13,650 toward our student debt, cutting our balance in half from it’s initial $27K balance.
We visited a dozen more states in 2015.
In 2015, after driving through the lower 48, we wintered in Santa Cruz, California where we lived in the mountains just a short drive from the beach. It was 65 degrees every day and absolutely perfect. With the RV, we’re free to follow the weather, which means avoided Texas summers and enjoying beaches and mountains and beautiful countryside whenever we want.
A lot of people ask us how we can work full-time (although I think most people assume we spend our days around campfires roasting s’mores and posting Instagram photos about life on the road) since we are always moving around. Isn’t is hard to make money? Which brings me to my next point…
We can travel to work with clients.
Heath and I work full-time as writers and filmmakers, mostly working with clients to film online educational courses. (I know that sentence sounded totally boring, but I promise it’s really fun!) We actual had two courses launch this week! Check out my friend Paul’s course about how to get unstuck in life or my friend Jenny’s course about how to write a cover letter if you’re looking for a new job. (They’re both free and awesome!)
Living in an RV helps us stand out from the competition. When we tell potential clients that we live full-time in a Winnebago, it piques their interest. In some ways, living in an RV is the best thing for our career. No one forgets about meeting newlyweds who live in a motorhome. (This is what I tell myself when people can’t remember my name.)
We spent January and February in Alabama working with an amazing film editor who we met on the road last year and hired to help us finish our current documentary. If didn’t live in an RV, we would’ve had to search for a local editor who we didn’t know or trust, or pay for travel and living expenses for our friend to move to Austin. The RV allowed us to pick up and move over to him for a couple months, which ultimately saved us a lot of time and headache.
People take notice.
Like I said, not a lot of twentysomethings have visited all fifty states, and even fewer have done so with their newlywed spouse in an old RV. But I think—no, I know—we are the only ones who took this long road trip and worked a different job in each state along the way. That’s what our documentary is about, in case you were wondering. Heath working a different job in each state while I filmed the adventure.
When you live life different than everyone else, people take note. People admire when others forge their own path.
This past year, Heath spoke to multiple Fortune 500 companies explaining what work looks like across the country. He started getting gigs after CBS aired a primetime story about our documentary. After that, we were approached to film an episode of a tv show about RVing (top five coolest experiences of my life). Winnebago, the number one manufacturer of RVs, partnered with us, hooking us up with a sweet deal on a brand new 2016 Winnebago Brave motorhome. It’s gorgeous, and while it was difficult to part with our beloved Franklin, this was one amazing opportunity we couldn’t pass up.
Giving talks and filming a TV show was a really cool experience, but more than anything– I’m grateful for how much life we’ve been able to live because of the intentional choice to go tiny. The sacrifice of “stuff” and convention has given us a unique freedom to choose a life we love and work we enjoy (and now we get to live lakefront in Austin, so there’s that too!)