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Everywhere I look these days, it seems like someone else is moving out of a brick-and-mortar home and living in an RV. And my observations are true. According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, manufacturers are expecting to ship 446,000 RVs this year, that’s up 3.6% from last year. Sales are expected to reach an all-time high in 2017.
A lot of people buying RVs are young people looking to escape unaffordable housing, mortgages, and 9-5 jobs to pursue freedom, adventure and travel.
Brittany Wittig and her boyfriend Tom are doing just that.
How it all began
Brittany was feeling stressed out at her job in Eugene, Oregon as an assistant at a veterinary clinic when she first starting thinking about life on the road.
Her boyfriend, Tom, was recently retired and bored while she worked, and when she got home, she was tired and stressed.
“It felt like some of the magic of our relationship was slipping away because our daily schedule didn’t feel right,” Brittany said. “Having met at Burning Man, our relationship is very much founded in excitement, passion and adventure.”
So the two decided to shake up their lives in a major way.
They sold their stuff and moved out of their apartment with the intention of riding their bikes all the way to Mexico with their dog in tow.
“I will never forget the the feeling of driving away from our empty apartment for the last time, knowing that there was no stationary home waiting for us anywhere,” Brittany said “That was pretty nerve-wracking and exhilarating at the same time.”
They biked to the Bay Area, their dog hating the entire trip, and thought about living in an RV.
How they chose their RV
The couple knew they wanted something small to live in, something that could easily drive down Mexican dirt roads and narrow streets. They considered camper vans, and micro-trailers (like a Scamp or a Casita), but what they really wanted was a micro-RV.
Micro-RVs are about the size of a large camper van, like a Sprinter, but have an over-cabin bed which creates more living space in the back.
Brittany and Tom wanted a Toyota Dolphin, which they found in the Bay Area.
“We were super lucky it only had 30,000 miles; it had been kept in excellent condition,” Brittany said. “It sat most of its life but most of the upkeep was done on it. The interior was nice, the appliances worked, but it was a 1989 RV with pink shag carpeting throughout.”
The two fixed the van up, tore out that carpeting, and hit the road for Baja, Mexico.
How living in an RV has affected their relationship
As soon as Brittany and Tom started their life on the road, they felt their relationship begin to change and settle back in the place where it began.
“Traveling full-time felt like a return to our foundation; it allowed us to spend so much quality time together, doing something we’re both really passionate about,” Brittany said. “We’ve also gotten a system down for living in a small space, we have a dance to make the space work. It doesn’t even feel small anymore.”
She said their entire idea of home has shifted.
“Now that we don’t have a stationary home, home feels wherever we are together,” she said. “It doesn’t have so much to do with a certain place or a certain house. Home has become wherever we are together, which is a beautiful thing.”'Now that we don't have a stationary home, home feels wherever we are together'Click To Tweet
“The other thing is that as far as being a couple sharing this space we’re never more than 8 feet from each other. We travel together, hike together, sit outside together, we don’t get sick of each other. In fact, we’re a lot closer than we ever were before. Learning to navigate that small space is good for our relationship,” Brittany said.
What they love most about living in an RV
The freedom associated with living in an RV full-time is huge for Brittany and Tom. If the weather is too hot, they drive to the coast to cool down. If they are tired of the beach, they head for the trees. Home is wherever they make it.
“It’s much more rewarding than I imagined before we jumped into camper life,” Brittany said. “Basically, if you can rough it a bit, the pros of camper life FAR outweigh the cons for us. We wake up in beautiful locations nearly every day, we save so much money by having a non-stationary home, and above all we get the freedom to adventure and explore year round!”
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She said at first, it was both exhilarating and a little scary, especially the vagueness of the future and job security. But now, Brittany loves it all.
“Nowadays, we feel amazing about our lifestyle the vast majority of the time. So many days we wake up and almost immediately talk about how happy we are, how fulfilled we feel. Very often we look at each other and say ‘We live like kings’. Another one of our favorites is, ‘It’s never too late to have a happy childhood’,” she said.
Freedom of emotion is another thing Brittany loves about living in an RV full-time.
“Living such an alternative lifestyle has made us realize how important is to let go of what others think and do what feels right for yourself! If we’re feeling sad/down/unhappy we have the freedom to just relax for a few days, to take some ‘us’ time, to go for a last minute backpacking trip, whatever it is that will help us cope. That was something that just wasn’t possible in the regular 9 to 5 life,” she said.
How they make money while traveling full-time
Brittany said like many other nomads, they have several income streams to keep them living in an RV full-time.
When they first left for traveling, they sold everything they owned, and put the money directly into savings.
“Also, Tom is a retired firefighter so he gets a small pension that covers our basic expenses,” Brittany said. “I do occasional online freelance work to bring in extra cash, although my my major focus is our travel blog, The Rolling Pack, which I’m hoping to start monetizing soon.”
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The two of them pick up jobs when the opportunity arises, like teaching outdoor school in Oregon in spring.
Brittany and Tom expect to make it work to travel as long as they want.
How they find places to camp
Brittany and Tom have become experts on finding free or cheap places to camp their RV. One of those ways is called boondocking, where you camp off-grid, usually on Bureau of Land Management or National Forest Service land.
“We probably spend 75% of our time boondocking in primitive camping areas, and 25% of our time in established campgrounds where we restock supplies. To find boondocking spots we use the BLM and National Forest Service websites, and for established campgrounds we often just use google. Camping apps are also a great resource; our two favorites are ioverlander and Allstays. We also recently published a post on our blog that goes into a lot more detail about how we find beautiful, affordable campsites,” Emily said.
RV Life as a culture
Maybe as recent as a couple of years ago, people would look at you in surprise if you announced you were moving out of your home and start living in an RV.
But now, the experience is becoming more and more common. It’s something Brittany has noticed herself.
“I feel like we meet more and more people who have a positive reaction to what you’re doing,” she said. “When we first started it felt like more people looked at us a little funny, but now when we meet people they’re curious how to get into it.”
She also thinks economics has something to do with it, especially for the younger generation.
“The younger generation doesn’t feel they can count on a job for life and make enough to own a larger house,” she said. “A lot of them are looking at tiny houses and alternative to the typical expensive house. The financial freedom of not having a house payment, not having to pay rent, is worth a lot when the economy is unsure and jobs are unsteady.”'The financial freedom of not having a house payment is worth a lot when the economy is unsure'Click To Tweet
To follow along with Brittany and Tom’s adventure:
Talking to Brittany made me think about the benefits of living in an RV like theirs. There seem to be so many ways to live smaller and have a smaller environmental footprint.
I think it’s amazing to learn about people living outside the box.
Could you ever live in an RV, or do you already? What do you love about it?