Kali Hawlk

Financial Writer & Digital Marketer

Traveling and Living in an RV: Super Cool or Completely Crazy?

The closer I get to have full-time, location independent work, the more I daydream about the cool opportunities that I’ll have when I’m free to work on a schedule that makes sense for my energy and creativity levels.

In a recent piece I did for Careful Cents, I explained how ridiculous it is that most businesses require their employees to follow a set schedule that doesn’t make much sense (and how employees are trading their time for a paycheck, instead of valuable work for pay). I can’t wait to be done with that outdated work model. For someone who has always wanted to work for herself, in her own environment, and on her own schedule, having location-independent work where I’m in charge of my time is like the ultimate goal.

I can go for a run and workout first thing in the morning, and not feel rushed because there’s no office to be at by 7am! I can help my family members whenever they need me! I can head to a yoga class for a midday break! I can book a last-minute flight for a quick two-day visit to friends in various parts of the country!

Of course, because I’ve got a bad case of wanderlust, that last one is particularly appealing. The opportunity to travel more is my dream, and having my own digital business will make that dream easier to turn into a reality. And while I’d love to travel extensively overseas, I do have some furry, four-legged kids to take into consideration. I’m not giving up or rehoming my cats, so it will be a while before we can spend years abroad. Which has got me thinking..

At the risk of stating the obvious, the United States is huge. So why not bring my work on the road with me and take advantage of all the different things my home country has to offer before I jet off for overseas adventures? Lately, my daydreams of what location-independent work could look like have included selling off all our stuff, buying an RV, throwing the cats in and taking off across the country.

Is traveling and living in an RV a super cool idea – or am I completely nuts for thinking making our lives a perpetual camping trip might be fun?

 

I know doing something like this is not appealing to everyone. For people who don’t like camping for a weekend, traveling and living in an RV for an extended period of time probably sounds like a nightmare. But to me, who likes being outside, who likes living as a minimalist and is perfectly happy in smaller spaces, and who would love nothing more than to see new things.. well, it doesn’t sound that bad.

But I know there are major positives and serious drawbacks to just about any situation, so let’s consider the pros and cons of living in an RV full-time.

Pros of Traveling and Living in an RV

  • Getting to be nomadic. This is, obviously, the biggest positive. Life becomes one big traveling adventure!
  • More freedom. Freedom to go where you want, when you want, for how long you want. It would be awesome to just wake up one morning and be like, “I’m feeling like heading to Wyoming. Let’s do it!”
  • Cheaper living expenses. Ideally, I’d want to be able to purchase an RV outright so there would be no loan payments to make every month. And utilities costs would be way down, as it’s a much smaller space than a 2,000-plus square foot house.
  • Paring down to what you really need. Living in an RV would mean becoming a true minimalist with only the things you truly needed (or seriously loved and valued). For me, this is a positive, as it’s way too easy to accumulate stuff in a large home – and having all that stuff drives me crazy sometimes. Yes, I’m a fan of the recent “small house” trend, too, and that may be another option to consider.
  • Better access to the outdoors. No, it’s not like where I currently live doesn’t allow me to get outside. All I have to do is walk out my front door. But, if I want to bike, swim, hike, or simply be in a place where there are no other humans around and it’s just nature.. that’s a different story. Living in an RV would mean being very much immediately in nature.
  • Fresh experiences. Simply put, this would be an opportunity to try something new and learn about a different way of doing life.

Cons of Traveling and Living in an RV

  • Different responsibilities, different expenses. RVs don’t require as much maintenance as traditional homes, but they do still mean work. And while some expenses would be slashed, other ones would pop up to take their place. I’d have to provide my own WiFi wherever we went, and our insurance needs would be different (as you can’t insure an RV with regular auto insurance when it becomes your main residence). We’d have to pay to stay in any parks and campsites, and just about anywhere we hooked up to the utilities will charge us for using those utilities.
  • Lack of a true home base. Where would we have mail sent? Would we have a PO box that we’d need to swing by once a month or something? And when we weren’t traveling, where would we stay? We’d constantly need some place with water hookups, at a minimum (I can see investing in a generator for power – but then that means the added expense of gas when we run it, and have you tried to hang out near a generator? They are LOUD).
  • No little luxuries that are taken for granted – until you don’t have them. Yeah, I know they make these things called “laundromats,” but I would miss simply being able to throw a load of my clothes in my own washing machine and leave ‘em for a little bit without having to dig around for change and then sit and stare at the spinning clothes until they’re done. Other little luxuries that we currently enjoy that would be gone: someone that comes and picks up the trash, having an actual kitchen (yes, RVs have the amenities, but it’s more like cooking and cleaning up in an extended-stay hotel room), and, not to be gross, but.. having a flush toilet that takes waste straight on outta your house for you. An RV means having to dispose of sewage yourself by making your husband do something about it.
  • Being in a confined space over time. Yes, I am usually happy in smaller spaces – but that may be because I always have the option of moving around to a different room or even different level of the same house if I want to. Downsizing wouldn’t be bad, but this would be an extreme form of it. Currently, I have a home office that I can work out of and I can monopolize all the space there that I want. I can also leave the room when I want. Having my work with my on the road means stuff like computers, tablets, and printers have to go somewhere – and there’s no shutting the door on it when you’re tired.
  • Living with your pets in a confined space over time. Our cats are indoors-only as it is, and I have actually traveled with a cat in a camper before so I understand stuff like litterbox logistics. But I have no idea if our kitties would go crazy after a few weeks and miss the space they used to have to roam.

Would the Positives Outweigh the Negatives?

It’s a tough call. After looking at the pros and cons side by side, I can see where a lot of my motivation to do something like that comes from: I don’t like having stuff, and having an excuse to ditch most of it and be freed from the weight of material things we don’t truly need sounds awesome right now. Plus, after living in a house that has an overabundance of space, I know that I want to have something that’s a bit cozier in the future. Doesn’t get much cozier than a hundred square feet or so! Then, of course, there’s the travel aspect, and being able to just wake up and take off to a totally new, fascinating place anytime you were ready to move on.

I certainly think there’s a bit of romanticizing that goes on when you talk about living in an RV and traveling from place to place in your little home on wheels. The traveling would certainly be amazing – but would days on end on the road, and having to do a lot of setting up of your living quarters to make it feel like home every single time you got to a destination, be worth it indefinitely?

I’m not so sure it would be. I think it would get old eventually. Maybe the feeling of “over it” would set in later, rather than sooner, but I think it would settle in all the same.

But still.. I can’t shake the feeling that, for a little while at least, it would be an incredibly cool, fun, and liberating experience.

What do you think? Would it be super cool, or completely crazy, to try a life of traveling and living in an RV for an extended period of time?

29 Comments

  1. I’m not sure if you watch HGTV, but I saw a House Hunters episode where they were hunting for a “house” but they were actually looking at RVs! The girl on it was a full-time blogger : ) I think it would be fun but I’d still want a permanent home so I don’t think it would be the most frugal choice for me. But if you are location independent and don’t mind being a nomad, this might be the right choice for you. Plus, you could start a whole new blog around the experience!

    • Oh, cool! So I’m not TOTALLY nuts – someone else has had this idea too and carried it out :D And I did think of of that.. it would be a whole new outlet for writing and sharing the experience!

  2. I agree with you… I also don’t want a lot of stuff and want to get rid of said stuff soon! Living in a small space also appeals to me. Kitties in the camper….mmmm… not so much.

    One of our dreams was to get an RV and travel around North America in our retirement. I’m not even thinking right now if that will be feasible or not (short term goals for me right now). But I did learn one thing. Because we’re Canadian, we would need to have property or enough cash to sustain us in a rental once we need to return from a nomad lifestyle. With age comes health issues, and I’ve heard of some people who can no longer get insurance to be out of the country, so they need a base to come back to at some point.

    • Haha, I know camper kitties definitely sounds like a bad idea to some – but ours are so much like dogs with their personalities that I don’t think it would be quite as bad as it sounds. But who knows!

      That’s interesting about the insurance issue. Little things like that are easy to skip over when you’re dreaming up plans, but that’s the stuff you’ve really got to get figured out before you take off!

  3. I have actually thought about doing this. Sewage was the one con I had in mind, ha! I think it would be an interesting experiment for a year or so, just to see if you like it. It’s such a different experience that it seems worth it. If anything, you could always try and rent your place out while you travel around to different vacation rentals (that allow cats). Perhaps that would satisfy some travel hunger? I know I would love to spend a few weeks in a little lakeside cabin somewhere.

    • Keeping our home and just renting it out might be the safer, smarter option – if we could make enough in rent to cover the mortgage/utilities, it would make sense to keep it just in case our traveling plans didn’t work out so hot. Going to and from various rentals is also not a bad idea! I never thought of that before, but that’s definitely something to look into as well :) Thanks for the ideas, E.M.!

  4. I think it would be super cool…for someone else. lol! I’m not a camper AT ALL and am very much a rooted homebody. It’s funny how we are all different that way. I like to travel, but I also love to come home and get back to my regular routine. I think if one enjoys it though, it could be very interesting. Think about it! You can live in every state almost. Meet interesting people. And if you’re location independent, why not!

    • That’s exactly what the “pros” side of me is saying, Tonya! It would be an adventure, that’s for sure. I think it would be a ton of fun, at least for a little while – and who says it has to be a permanent arrangement? :)

  5. I can totally picture the cats getting cabin fever before you do haha! In all honesty, it’s a really neat idea but probably not something I would ever do. Maybe you could compromise and try it out for a few months while you rent out your house? That way you can always come back to a “base” when you need to and if it doesn’t fit the lifestyle you want anymore, you can always go back.

    • I think you’re totally right, Charlotte. Our kitties don’t have typical cat personalities at all, and part of that means they don’t just nap all day. They get wild and they love to play! Taking them with us for an extended period of time would be difficult, so I think if we wanted to do that, it would be more feasible when they were older and had settled into their twilight years.

      I do like the idea of being gone for shorter periods of time and renting out our permanent residence while we were gone. Kind of a best of both worlds scenario!

  6. To me, it sounds super cool. It’s probably not in the cards for us as we have two golden retrievers…but never say never.

    Have you ever read http://www.tosimplify.net? Glen’s is my favorite “on the road” blog. Tons of stuff. If you have a few months to kill, I definitely recommend starting at the beginning and working your way through.

    • When my family camped a lot, we had one Golden – I can see where two big pups would be a little harder! I haven’t heard of that blog but I am excited to check it out! Thanks for sharing :)

  7. I like how you think!

  8. While I’m fine with small spaces and minimalism, I wouldn’t want to do this. But that’s because I hate being in vehicles, as they are the most dangerous form of transportation. If it was completely up to me, I would walk and fly everywhere, and I mostly do.

    For those who aren’t scaredy cats like me, this is a great option. We roadtripped across the U.S. this summer, and I enjoyed everything but the driving part :)

    • I hear ya on that – driving is not my favorite thing in the world either and the thought of having an accident does scare me. I’m definitely more scared of the idiots on the road than my own ability to drive safely. I have no control over THEIR 2 ton plus vehicle and I don’t like that!

  9. Once when I was car camping I saw a woman walking her cat on a leash! And when it wasn’t leased, it was in a nifty mesh enclosed stroller. She had a pretty sweet RV set-up but I did feel bad for that little guy. Cats aside, I think that RV livin’ is an AWESOME opportunity to interact with interesting people and rack up some amazing life experience. I’ve always loved that road-tripping and RV lifestyles are a part of American culture… like updated covered wagons, no?

    I would be on the side of totally going for it if you want a new adventure!! It would be a challenge you’d never forget :)

    AND I would totally drive my future RV to meet you somewhere in the ol’ US of A.

    • Cats on leashes always crack me up! I was thinking we might be able to cobble together some sort of outdoor pen to set up that could be used to extend their space – but I think I’d feel the same, I’d feel bad for having to keep them cooped up all the time. They get totally crazy sometimes and just start running and jumping and chasing each other. They love to play and they still act like kittens, which I love! But it wouldn’t be fair to keep them in such a small space for so long.

      But like you said.. would totally be an awesome adventure for the humans ;) Maybe we’ll be able to work something out one day with someone who is interested in doing an extended pet-sit and we can travel for a month at a time or so and keep our permanent residence as our home. I think there are definitely lots of options!

  10. I’d love to do it!

  11. I would totally do it for awhile but not forever. For one, I’ve learned I quite like having a home base – permanent nomadism isn’t for me. I’ve also done a campervan road trip for a couple weeks and while it’s definitely very comfy, the lack of space does get to you after a while. Great for a trip though!

    • I think I’d discover the same thing – a permanent state of travel would wear on me eventually. I’d like a base to come back to as well!

  12. My ex’s parents were teachers, so every summer they would take the boys and the RV and travel. I got the opportunity to join them on a few trips while we were dating, and while the RV lifestyle isn’t my favorite, the travel part was fabulous.

    • There are definitely drawbacks to RV living – but I think so many of the negatives would be outweighed by the positives, like the travel part!

  13. A couple friend of mine had a Westie (VW not the dog) in their 20’s and I thought it was the coolest thing ever! They only lived in it for a couple of years since they settled down in the mountains, but it really taught them about minimalism, living together in small spaces, and of course had memorable experiences traveling all over the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. I think it’s a great idea, especially for the pro’s, though props on thinking about the con’s and thinking about them realistic, as well.

    • Thanks, Anna! That is too cool about your friends – I love that you know some people who actually went and did this! I think for us, it’d be a “for a couple of years” thing, too. I don’t think it would be permanent, but doing it for a little while would be such a fun adventure.

  14. I think I actually see myself living in an RV for a month or two and to travel around with it and it’s actually super cool! But I don’t think I can live in an RV for longer than that. First, I like to think I have home base, and I don’t really to live in such confined space.

    • Having a home base is certainly appealing. I think I would probably miss that the most if we jumped into something like this feet first and sold everything. As some other people have mentioned, though, you could always rent out your main home while you were away if you would be gone for an extended period, but wanted something to come back to. Doing it as you said, for a month or two at a time, would be another feasible option.

  15. My friend Will did this for a year! He bought a used conversion van and set up a small sleeping/living area and a work station with two computer monitors. He’s a software programmer, so he can pretty much do his work anywhere, and his company only required that he came in for a week a few times during the year. Other than those trips back to Chicago for work, he spent his time in the south west, the rocky mountains, and the west coast.

    • That’s awesome! That sounds like pretty much exactly what I would love to do :) Thanks for sharing about your friend. Hearing about how other people have done it and made it work make me think it might be an experience worth trying out for myself!

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