Why we’re doing it: Depression, economic hardship, and fear are impacting Americans at an alarming rate contributing to grave uncertainty, growing intolerance, and crippling levels of anxiety. One in ten Americans are on antidepressants; among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is one in four. Although we spend over 30 billion dollars on these medications, the epidemic of depression has moved suicide into one of the top ten causes of death (www.cdc.gov).
That's a tough question to answer because much depends on the choices you make which will depend on how and where you want to live. I have numerous articles about full timing that you can access by clicking on my pen name at the top of the article and then clicking on "profile" in the popup menu at the lower left side of your screen. You'll find many of the answers you seek in some of the articles that are listed there, and I suggest you take the time to read them. If you have never lived or traveled in an RV before, changing from home ownership to RVing can be quite complicated. Also, you're not going to want to "move" every week because doing so will exhaust you. The bottom line is that this probably would work for you if you take the time to do some homework and figure out what you can really afford.
Marla- good stuff, if one owns their property…those working and staying in campgrounds probably wouldn’t be able to do the mods you did. Digging definitely a no-no, but campground water/sewage has closer hook ups to use a heated/electric hose. All in all good initiative and networking! Kudos on a LIFE…being lived…Given all you do/have done… I hope you are finding ways to SHARE this kind of life w/ other women and young girls…self-confidence, self-reliance, and independence is essential to building stronger women and breaking the cycle of abuse in women and children! Namaste-
Typically there is one main bay that holds your black/grey/fresh tanks, your sewer connections, water pump, water filter, etc. This is the MOST important bay to keep warm. I purchased a tiny 200 watt (1.8 x 4.3 x 6.1 inches) ceramic heater and leave it running in the bay during freezing temperatures. It pulls about 5 amps and keeps all my pipes warm (exterior temp 20 degrees, inside bay 50 degrees). Some people recommend hanging a work light in the bay: I tried this and the bulb melted the plastic bay, and my water still froze so I don’t recommend this option.
I don’t know if a particular dollar amount works here, but the more you have on hand, the better. I think a couple needs to have a solid plan that will generate a steady monthly income while traveling and living in the RV. It would be wise to have money saved and set aside in the event of an injury or illness that could prevent you from working for a period of time. If I had to put a dollar figure on it, I would probably say a minimum of six months of income/expenses is a good place to start.
Having never driven more than an SUV, I certainly didn’t feel equipped to pull a 30-foot trailer with a diesel pickup truck (our setup last year). But like riding a bike, practice makes perfect. A few hours maneuvering around a Walmart parking lot, getting a feel for turns and backing into empty spaces, and we felt comfortable enough to head out on the open road. It’s always necessary to do an appropriate amount of route scouting in advance to avoid low overpasses or the possible restricted roads, but within a few weeks’ time, pulling and parking the rig was second nature.
Hi-just wanted to update here for some real experience and family life. First, THANK YOU MERISSA for your invaluable advice on the choice of camper. We chose a 29′ fifth wheel-1990 model. We have a 14 and 17 year old with us. We have been here for over a month now in our camper and couldnt be happier. We camped for months on end before so the teens were used to it but I can safely say my 17 year old was not too thrilled at first. Over the past weeks however, we have actually gotten him to say that he has adjusted and is really happy here. We are in Fl so the days are perfect really while the nights are still fairly cool. We have used our heat occasionaly but prefer to bundle with blankets if we need to. Downsizing was a little difficult for a few items but actually all of us did fine. There is also plenty of storage room in this camper. The kids, whom lived in theirs rooms on x box or with cable, or both, are now together without problems most of the day and much, much less fighting (mostly about items they had anyhow….). My daughter has been home schooled so this is no change while my son has been enrolled in the local high school. He has recently, however switched half of his classes to at home online with the school (an option here) and only attends now part time. He drives himself now so it is simple. He actually did this because he began to enjoy more time here with us at the camper. Much else has changed and wanted to really put out there. I am in my mid forties- I have suffered severe migraines for the past 6 years now. My husband and I noticed when we were camping last year that they were more manageable. I was getting to be completely unable to function without days of crying and constant pain. The kids didnt have a great mom for that. Stress was another large factor, even maintenance of the house besides costs.Cleaning on top of that was just so stressful as I am leaning on OCD as a personality. I dont know which helped but I am almost certain it is being able to keep air flowing, even in the bedroom. My migraines are less frequent and when they hit I can manage them so much better. I have not slept this well in years in all honesty. I am better for the kids and we are able to do more as a family. At the house I would try to make a day to force seeing each other at least once a week. My very great kids would look forward to it and then I would be down with a migraine and not even nice to be around. We play games together a lot (our christmas was gifts for the camper such as boardgames, karaoke machine, new thick roll up comforters, more pjs and activities with books) and they read more. We do have internet but opted to not have cable. Ours comes off of a dish so that we can move next year without being tied to this spot. There are also other very nice rv parks around here within a few miles and we would like to be free to do that. Our plans have solidified more this past month; we would like to travel more when our son graduates. He would like to go to NY state next year so we are planning to head there for the nicer months. I do work now and we do get monthly rental payments from renting the house out. We would like to follow parks that need local help as part time work to add to savings but it’s not something that is a necessity for us; our expenses are much lower now for sure and we are able to save for the first time in a very long time. No taxes to pay anymore (our yearly taxes on our house actually could pay half of the monthly rent we pay here yearly including our utilities). The downside is you have to be more patient with everything; I have a 30 second rule with the kids, putting something back or washing one of our 5 plates, 5 bowls, 5 cups etc, takes 30 seconds, opening a cupboard or putting something back under your bed takes this time or less. It has worked for all of us so there is minimal cleaning now. I have help for the first time in ages as well! My son is actually saying he is happy to have a nerdy but great mom and pop (smile) and they are both now happy with the smaller things (a barbecue, extra weekly ice cream, a walk to the state park, even a new local baseball hat or even a dvd for the family we can watch together). I am very proud of my kids really. While this cant work for everyone it has been fantastic for us. I am better for my family and they are happy for that; couldnt be more proud of them. Our homeschool schedule is very strict right now and we spend a lot of time at the local library as well. I am in one area but can say for anyone travelling that anywhere you visit for some months, there is a library close enough with guest passes that can be used. Some have options even for a local monthly card for guests that will expire 30 days from the date purchased. It is very inexpensive. We have a state forest pass that will get us into any park here in Fl; there are many other memberships that can be used for full time on the road rvers. We do laundry at the local laundromat once a week-cost runs 5 to $7 depending. We have our showers here in the camper and they are not long-also not every day but every other day on a schedule. The space really is not a problem with the bunks (something I now tell anyone to get with or without kids if they want space or some privacy. This was the largest concern for my son but, with the curtain he feels he can go there for privacy). We are planning to take out the sofa and put a daybed there for my daughter then add curtains along the divider of the slideouts for night privacy. There is a shelf and other areas she puts her books and stuffed toys there behind where she sleeps so she is very happy.
You are going to need a set of solar panels. Forget a generator. I don’t know why almost every RV I ever come across is running a generator. I’m here to tell you that a gas-powered generator is almost completely unnecessary. A good set of solar panels placed properly on your roof (you want at least 60 watts, I’d like to have more one day) will give you enough power every day (even cloudy days) to charge your cellphones, power your lights all night, power the propane furnace for increments when the wood stove isn’t running, and watch movies.
We quickly learned that we didn’t like that he had to be at the table working all day while the kids and I were out exploring all of these amazing places! Plus, having to go back to Wisconsin was expensive and limiting how far we could travel. California is quite a drive from Wisconsin, especially if you want to go back and forth. The cost of him flying back alone would add up, not to mention I just did not want him leaving us for a week.
You guys rock. Love the expense detail. I’m a director/producer myself and my wife is an actress/spokesperson. Have talked about living full time in an RV, but mostly within the state due to business, clients, elderly parents, etc., – with the occasional road trip. Can’t tell you how much you guys have helped us plan. Your videos are excellent too, and I know what I’m talking about!
That said, it is not for everyone. We have met very few full-time RVers who boondock as much as we do. Most people who enjoy boondocking, or “free camping,” do it from 25% to 75% of the time, at most. For full-timers who work, it is hard to find a boondocking location near most jobs, and you have to pack up and go to the RV dump station every 10 days to 2 weeks, disrupting your life. Even if your work is location independent, and you work out of your RV, finding good boondocking locations that have adequate internet access to do that is not easy. During the summer of 2014 we spent 5 weeks camping in places that were 10 miles or more from the nearest internet access.
@Chris: Wood stoves have killed many an unlucky sleeper. Combusting wood in sleep quarters can kill in a multitude of ways. Of course, wood smoke is an established carcinogen. Wood stoves in a small mobile high vibration environment are double jeopardy. Fail to be vigilant in the daily maintenance and wake up dead. On the bright side all the bumps on the road might knock the creosote build-up off the stack walls, but then again it might not. Probably the biggest risk with a wood stove is human nature/carelessness/extenuating circumstances/etc. At some point the operator will be tempted to operate the vehicle with live coals in the stove…
Nothing could be further from the truth! We too were concerned how our dog Ella and cat Mr. P would handle life on the road. But we quickly learned, they might actually enjoy it more than us! Longer driving days certainly took a little getting used to, but in short time Mr. P loved his spot on the dashboard basking in the sun while Ella reveled in our 20-minute play sessions during travel day stops.
Since we live in a mobile home park and are connected to a city water supply, we have never used our fresh water tank, and we needed to protect our fresh water line from freezing. To do this we purchased a Pirit brand heated hose. Some people wrap their regular hose with heat cable and pipe insulation, but our water connection is so far from the city water pipe that we wouldn’t have saved much money doing it that way. We have been happy with our heated hose; it is very convenient and we left hooked up (but unplugged) over the summer as well.
Within the first few weeks of owning it I blew a tire and had to replace all 6 ($1000). The next month, the catalytic converter needed to be replaced ($750), the original kitchen faucet snapped off and had to be replaced (I did it myself for $65, but it took all day because of a broken gasket in the water line I had a hard time finding at the hardware store), the house battery had to be replaced – twice! ($290) and I’ve had to replace a fuse for my radio and odometer several times (and now it’s shorting out to the point of danger, so it has to be fixed…. soon!)
Lovely to “meet” you on the blog! You know regarding safety the *only* time I’ve ever felt even close to unsafe is in the center of big cities. We had one incident (in San Antonio) a few years back that sent us running, but other than that I’ve never felt unsafe. Whenever we’re in smaller cities or the boonies I’ve always felt perfectly fine. So, I guess I’d recommend getting out of the bigger spots and into some more rural areas…more space for the boys too?
I believe the owners told me everything they new about the RV and weren’t trying to pull the wool over my eyes in any way. They just didn’t know. They only drove it a few hundred miles a couple times a year and probably figured they didn’t need to do a bunch of maintenance on it. Had I known ahead of time all that it needed, I could have offered less or continued looking. – Lesson learned.
Many people dream of living in an RV and traveling full time, and for the most part, it’s retirees who are able to live the RV lifestyle. However, there are many young people who are intrigued by the freedom that RVing full time represents. They are hitting the open road as well. One of the first questions prospective full time RVers of all ages ask is – how much will it cost each month?
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Great article, I’m hoping to travel in an RV full-time eventually. In the mean time, I’m still working to support my family and plan for the future. I sell land throughout the western U.S. (those great winter states you mentioned) if anybody wants to own a few acres to park their RV part or full time. See my website, http://www.landparker.com for more details. Thanks!
Ah, Verizon. I have a love/hate relationship with Verizon. I pay them nearly $250 a month for two smartphones and a jetpack (a wi-fi hotspot) with 20 GBs of data. Verizon is great because they have reliable service across the country, so we can always trust in Verizon when it comes to needing internet for work on the road. I recommend Verizon because it’s what I use, and from the people I’ve talked to, most everyone relies heavily on their network.
Honestly if you’re looking at a loan to buy a new RV, I would recommend scrapping that idea and looking at paying cash for a used, quality RV. RV’s depreciate like crazy, and new RV’s are mucho $$. There are tons of quality used rigs out there where you can get A LOT more for your money and still leave cash to spare for repairs and travel. Plus with a used rig most of the depreciation will be already accounted for, and you’ll get more back of your original $$ when you sell too.
Someone briefed over the Webasto heating system a while back and they do work great but use a bit more fuel than makes me comfortable. I saw a guy who uses a system from an RV hot water tank and ran much diluted antifreeze through it. Piped it through hot water radiators in the unit and built a system of black pipe around the engine block giving it just enough heat to keep the engine warm. He heated the coach and engine with that and only used the pilot light on the propane water heater. There was also a reservoir in the coach where he could ad more water or antifreeze if required and it radiated a ton of heat. Now, before building this, I would want to discuss it with someone much smarter than I am because I thought it was not too bright to heat antifreeze in this manner before it boiled. Everything was circulated with a little pump that drew its power from a small wind generator not much larger than that for a bicycle lamp and charged a little independent battery which he drew the power with. When I seen this it was dam cold out -40 and very warm in the coach (thermostat by open vent) Cheap heat and I am not sure what I am going to do but the areas I am in, your heater will be great and I can access lots of wood but might check out this other method also. My holding tanks, fresh and grey can all be built into the coach of the cube van.
It may seem obvious that the less things that get dirty, the less has to be cleaned. However, how you apply that knowledge can make a lot of difference. We use paper plates (not foam) and paper cups almost exclusively. When possible we cook in the microwave in Glad or Ziplock containers so that leftovers store in the same container in which they cooked. We do use regular silverware but I’ve often thought that chop sticks would work just as well for most things (I haven’t cleared that one with Ella – GRIN.)
Why we recommend the Coachmen Chaparral fifth wheel: There are few fifth wheels which can offer the level of flexibility within 11 floorplans as the Coachmen Chaparral can. If tow weight is an issue for you due to fifth wheels being on the heavier side, the Chaparral 298RLS has got you covered. This RV weighs 9575 pounds (dry weight) which is actually quite impressive. Of course, if weight isn’t an issue and you’re having a lot of people living in the same RV, the Chaparral 371MBRB spans 41 feet and can house 11 people in it. Like we said, flexibility!
Love reading this! We do not live in an RV but we do live in an 800 sq ft 1969 Model mobile home at this time. It’s hard for a family of 6 space wise but we have made it work for the last almost 4 years. We will however be moving next week into a 2700 sq ft home that is definitely a fixer upper so the price we got it for is just amazing. Good things come to those who wait! Good Luck to you in your Journey!
When we first started on the road we rushed like crazed animals on stampede to see as much and as far an area as we could possibly see within the timeframe given. It took several months before we realized none of this was necessary. In fact taking more time to enjoy our surroundings not only saved us money, but we’ve met more people, seen more local gems, created a sense of community and felt more in-tune with the journey. Our 2-month trip through New Mexico earlier this year was a great example of how this attitude has really made sense for us. We are progressing more and more into “sitters” (RVers that spend several weeks in one spot) rather than “movers”. It may not be for everyone, but I sure recommend giving it a try.
So those are just 10 things I have learned so far – and I know there is so much more learning to come. We are happy about our decision and what we are doing and sometimes we have to stop and sit back and say – is this really our life?! It is funny if I hear about someone else doing something like this or see a blog about it I get the feeling like – Wow that is awesome! I wonder how they are doing it?! Then I say – oh yeah that is right – we are doing it!
Usually we have the mail sent to a post office, addressed to us via “General Delivery.” We get the zip code for the post office online from www.usps.com. If we are in transit, we try to guess what town we might be traveling through in a few days. The post office holds all General Delivery mail for 30 days, so there is plenty of time to locate the post office and retrieve our box.
Some years are worse than others, but it averages $1791/year, which includes optional equipment, maintenance (tires, oil changes, batteries, etc.). Also includes roadside service insurance payments, vehicle insurance, registration, specialized and optional RV expenses (club memberships), paint & body work, and the expense of two major breakdowns over the years. This was for a ‘94 36 foot, Class A, diesel, RV.
Some of the most beautiful times of year to visit the country are also the coldest. From snow-frosted mountains and icy lakes, the winter turns green trees and pastures to beautiful seas of white. The unfavorable weather conditions are a deterrent for fellow vacationers during these cold times. Why let the lower temperatures be the determining factor of when you take your camper out?
I sell RV’s, and love it. The people I sell to are excited and eager to get on the road, love my customers. Anyhow, some things I would mention tell your RV sales person about yourself and your plans, most of us in the RV industry have experience and can help with idea’s and help find you the right coach with items or without items you may not even know you will need or that will greatly enhance your time. Also most RV sales people have resources, and it’s not a used car salesman tactic (well not where I work) we want to help and for you to refer us and come back. I full timed for 4yrs, with 3 kids a dog and a cat as a single mom. Let me say we did have our struggles, but I LOVED it. Now I get to help others too. So my suggestion is let your RV sales person help and ask them questions, they generally have a wealth of information.