Why Live in an RV?
The decision to leave a 2,800 sq/ft. home, quit your job, leave your friends and family isn't an easy one. For me, it was the most pivotal decision I've ever had to make. I like to quantify my options when presented with big decisions, so I've listed some points to consider if you are thinking about downsizing to an RV.
- List Your Goals
- Support of Those Coming With You
- Your Financial State
- Attachment to Stuff
- Polarizing Outside Opinions
1. List your Goals
Most importantly, you must know why you want to leave convention and move into an RV. Think of it like an elevator pitch. There are many reasons people feel overwhelmed with their daily lives and seek some kind of escape, but you must be able to verbalize to yourself and your immediate family why you want to do this. Do you want to see the frontier before it's gone? Maybe save up some vacation time from work and book a trip to a dude ranch. But if you are a missionary or a tradesman that routinely travels and stays in random hotels away from your family, or you have a primarily digital job that doesn't have a traditional workspace, or someone hoping to save money by living simply. Whatever your current employment/living/emotional situation, you must be able to clearly state what you are hoping to get out this life choice and consider all options before taking the leap.
2. Support of Those Coming With You
I don't say support of friends and family, because it is common for those, even those deeply close to you, to really hate this decision. People will say terrible things to you in ignorance when you explain that you want to give up on convention and travel full-time. I've heard stories about family members that stopped talking to RVers, friends that won't visit your "trailer," and my own brother that told me that being that close to my 3 kids would cause me to "hate my family." Point being, if they aren't coming with you, take their scrutinizing scorns with a grain of salt.
If you have kids and plan on traveling, be prepared to be their teacher/coach/principal/guidance counselor/lunch lady/cruise director. We chose a long time ago to homeschool our kids, so it was a very seamless transition in that aspect. But if your children are in school, take their education seriously and heavily research homeschooling and the appropriate laws in your area.
3. Your Financial State
Moving into an RV full time can help people save money or it can be the biggest financial drain. When we moved into the RV, I was still working my corporate job as a defense contractor. We had no debt other than a mortgage on a rental property and I made close to $75,000 a year before taxes. The home we were renting was put on the market and I had no interest in buying it, so we had to leave. I could have just moved into another rental house and kept working, but I didn't like my job or the area we were living. I wasn't ready to quit my job and hit the road just yet, so I looked in RV parks in the area. I was fortunate enough to be able to stay on the military base where I worked.
So we had to buy our rig. a new-ish fifth wheel RV and a truck to pull it will tip the scale at around $90,000, or around $1,100 a month if you think of it like a mortgage payment. Most RV parks will charge a discounted rate for monthly spots, and I've found (in the South) that they can typically ange between $500 to $900 a month. This amount will usually include water, electricity, and cable TV. Wifi is sometimes available, but don't get your hopes up on RV park internet. Add in insurance, fuel, food, and any other recurring payments you have and there is your proposed monthly expenses. Be honest with yourself about finances. The definition of "homeless" in some states hinges on the fact that you choose to live in an RV. If you aren't completely honest about your financial ability to live like this, you may turn out to actually be homeless.
4. Attachment to Stuff
Most people living in the 21st century have too much stuff. We had a whole shelf filled with Target knick-knacks placed there just to fill the space. We spend our lives accumulating things that we will need so we can "adult" comfortably; couches, clothes, grandma's hutch, junk-drawers full of crap...we all have it. But if you are considering moving into an RV to downsize, you must be able to separate yourself from yourthings. Emotional attachment to objects isn't a weakness, sentimental value is an important aspect to human interaction. I'm not advocating you throw the kids' baby books in the trash, but maybe revisit the shelves and clean out those books you own just so people think you're smart.
You must be honest with the items you hold dear and why they do so. In most homes, vanity and sentimentality can blur together. Be strong. Can you replace that item if it were gone? Then get rid of it. Can you digitize that item? Then scan that bad boy. I know you really want to savor what Tabitha Wellsey wrote in your 8th grade year book, but come on, no one cares about those. For those things that are tangled up in your heart strings or items that wouldn't make financial sense to replace, you must store them. We were fortunate enough to have free space in my mother-in-law's antique shop, so we could come back and check up on the year books and the dressers whenever we were in town.
5. Polarizing Outside Opinions
Besides weary family and friends, there are more pressing institutions that don't like your decision to RV full-time. First, the bank. You will probably need a loan to buy your RV and/or truck and banks aren't fond of giving a bunch of money to someone without an address. They can't send the repo man after you if they can't find you (that is probably not accurate, do not use that as actual advice). So to get the loan you must provide them with a place that you will legally call home while you're on the road, a family member's house or a house you may return to later on. Secondly, insurance companies don't like that you'll be living in a vehicle meant for periodic recreation. RVs break, a lot, and the more you use them, the more they break and usually in weirder ways. Full-time RV living is an added risk factor on an insurance policy, so most companies won't insure that lifestyle. We found that Progressive will insure full timers, but you they can be selective on the state you are claiming as your residence. Thirdly, and probably most importantly, the government. The Man doesn't like it that are attempting to skirt out of paying property or state taxes. Many full timers "move" to a state that doesn't have income tax and "get an address." Ironically, in my hometown there is a mailbox place that many RVers use as their address. This company will receive your mail, sort through it as you instruct, and forward important items to you when you're on the road. Some states and municipalities have truancy laws about minor living in RVs and some RV parks won't let minors stay during school months. We've been told that some states' law enforcement officials will take our kids away if they "find out" that we are living full-time in an RV. I'm sure these all have elements of truth, but when you look and act like a family on vacation then people will think you;'re just that.
Be Honest With Yourself!
In conclusion, if you are serious about giving it all up and traveling the country in an RV, you totally can...but you must decide if it makes real sense to do so. Takes these points to heart and find out if they strengthen your resolve or if you just need to purge a bunch of crap from your life and take more vacations. If you have any questions, let me know!