On-the-go motorhome owners find ways to adapt that suit their lifestyle needs.
By Janet Groene, F47166
Living on the go has its merits and minuses. Some full-timers cover many miles each year. Others stay put for long periods. Many are self-employed entrepreneurs with a business on board. Others are retired. Regardless, life on the road presents unique challenges.
“Living on the go may be proliferating more and more as it becomes less ‘fringe’ and more doable,” said clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, whose Web site is www.doctor-ramani.com. “I think the ‘drive’ to mobility may be somewhat temperamental/personality-driven. (Where) some people are homebodies, hate to leave their hometown, and have a comfort zone, (others are) nomads at heart and find staying in one place for too long leaves them restless. Neither is right or wrong. It simply is.”
For those of us who find that full-timing “simply is” to our liking, here are ways that work for some full-timers at least some of the time.
Kevin and Ruth Read have been full-timing since they sold their house near Ottawa, Ontario, in 2007. They bought their 28-foot, gas-powered motorhome when it had 25,000 miles on the odometer. The Damon Daybreak, which they whimsically named Sherman, now is approaching 75,000 miles on its 1995 Chevrolet chassis.
“We typically spend less than $1,000 a month,” said Kevin, who shares news about RV travel at www.travelwithkevinandruth.com. In order to boondock as much as possible, the Reads installed three 80-watt solar panels, four deep-cycle 6-volt batteries, and a 1,700-watt inverter. They removed the TV and microwave, preferring to have more cupboard space.
The Reads work five months a year, including summer, at places that supply accommodations. They spent the summer of 2014 working at a provincial park in Saskatchewan, Canada’s scenic “wheat province.” They take off for the winter, usually to warm, affordable Mexico. The Reads also take fly-in vacations where they couch surf or stay in inexpensive hostels and guest houses. They plan to be in South Korea this month.
Staying In Business
Danny Welsh, chief marketing officer at www.cubiczirconia.com and other entrepreneurial companies, said he’s “40 percent on my way” to becoming an RV full-timer. His plan makes good sense for anyone who dreams of going on the road while operating a business.
First, Danny already has established an online business that he can tend from anywhere. Cubic zirconia jewelry has wide appeal, and it doesn’t take up a lot of space. He sells his products in both the retail and wholesale markets. The company’s Web site has a growing following with good feedback. He knows his products, his suppliers, and the best ways to ship worldwide. Because he already has all the tools of an online business, it should be easy to segue into operating it in the motorhome he dreams of buying.
He also has put in place another source of income by building a house that he intends to rent out after he goes full-timing. And, he has a well-rounded life and interests that will go on the road with him. They include reading, writing, poker, and manning the barbecue.
Jason and Nikki Wynn, F441224, who blog at www.gonewiththewynns.com, have been full-timing since 2011. Their colorful videos already have gained a large and loyal following at their Web site and on the Travel Channel. Informative and meaty, their site is also a support group, because it’s filled with tips and frank, firsthand reports. Jason was a photographer and Nikki was a makeup artist in Dallas, Texas, when they decided to become full-time travelers while still in their prime earning years.
Admitting that full-timing costs “more than we expected,” the Wynns openly reveal their expenses. Their ledger is an invaluable guide to others, even though they caution that everyone is different and will have widely differing wants and must-haves. In the first three months of 2014, they spent $10,578, which included $2,272 for preparing one motorhome for sale and $820 for expenses involved in moving into another coach. Not included are their personal business expenses, such as Web site maintenance, camera equipment, and accountant services.
Tony and Mary Campbell, F288315, are avid volunteers for Habitat for Humanity through its RV Care-A-Vanners program. They discovered RV life when they rented a Type C motorhome to follow their son’s activities when he was a college athlete. They liked RV travel so much, they bought a Type A motorhome. In time they retired, sold their home, and hit the road, pausing often in their leisure travels to join teams that build Habitat homes for the needy. According to Habitat.org, about 6,000 Care-A-Vanners are currently on the road, including a very active FMCA chapter. You can meet the Campbells at https://share.habitat.org/mary-campbell-rvc-25th-celebration.
Greg and Marcia Miller, F432651, who blog at nomadmillers.webs.com, met in college and settled down in Wisconsin with the goal of retiring to the travel life by their mid-40s. They worked hard, saved, retired, and tried out RV life by traveling for 19 weeks in a 33-foot Type A motorhome. That told them clearly that full-timing was right for them. They bought a preowned 40-foot Tiffin and took off. They were in the Pacific Northwest this past summer; they are considering exploring the Midwest in 2015.
The Big Picture
What common lessons might be distilled from these sketches? Note first that most of these full-timers are actively on the go. They have been full-timing long enough to speak with authority. Many make a living along the way, or volunteer, or both. They were not necessarily born into camping families, nor were they seeking a rough-it lifestyle. They wanted mobility and simplicity, so they explored RV life by renting and/or by buying a “starter” RV or two. Almost all of their RV purchases have been used motorhomes.
They cover a lot of miles. So far, the price of fuel hasn’t slowed them down, even though the Reads, for example, report that they get 10 miles to the gallon. Fuel costs aside, some live quite frugally on one-pot meals cooked on a two-burner stove, while the Wynns’ three-month budget shows $1,663 for dining out, $1,203 for groceries, and another $635 at Costco for “mostly” groceries.
Full-timing happens in many different ways. Even so, it may not be for everyone. Nor, according to psychologist Ramani Durvasula, is it right or wrong. It simply is.