Learning how to RV full-time can be a daunting experience. What type of RV should you get? How do you budget for full-time RVing? How do you find campgrounds? What in the world is boondocking and what do you need for it?
There’s a lot to think about when downsizing and choosing this brand new lifestyle.
Luckily, there are many others out there who have done this before you.
One is Brittany Wittig, one of my friends over at The Rolling Pack. Brittany and Tom have been RVing for over two years, and Brittany just came out with an ebook called Nomads in Campers: A Step by Step Guide to Living Your Nomadic Adventure.
I thought this book would benefit a lot of people who are thinking about venturing into the RV lifestyle, so I wanted to ask Brittany some questions about herself and her lifestyle.
1) Why did you decide to go RVing in the first place?
We began RVing for many reasons, but primarily because we were both so bored with our stationary lives. Tom was able to retire early (he was a paramedic/firefighter) so he was spending a lot of time alone while I worked all day at a job that was boring me to tears. We talked a lot about traveling, but, like so many people, we thought that we couldn’t afford to travel.
Eventually, I stumbled across some travel blogs where people talked about giving up their stationary homes in order to travel full time, and it turns out that traveling in that way is actually cheaper than our stationary lives!
Once that seed was planted I became obsessed with the idea of ditching our regular lives for something more fulfilling, and I managed to get Tom excited about it too! We researched lots of travel options, and buying a Toyota motorhome made the most sense for us because we had a dog who we wanted to travel with, and because we really wanted to explore North America.
2) How did you pick your Toyota Dolphin? Were you worried about buying an older rig?
We definitely wanted a Toyota motorhome because they are known for being reliable, and because they are older they are far more affordable than modern RVs. I wasn’t nervous about purchasing an older Toyota because I did a LOT of research on what to check for in an older RV before you buy it. Since Toyota motorhomes have super reliable engines the key was to get a low mileage Toyota RV, and to VERY carefully inspect it for issues like water damage. Water damage is a HUGE issue in older RVs.
We found a 1989 Toyota Dolphin with only 30,000 original miles, and with no leaks or water damage, and it never had any mechanical issues whatsoever- in fact, it basically ran like a new car!
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3) What advice do you have for others in terms of picking an RV?
Do your research!! Every brand/model has different quirks, so be sure you know what those quirks are, and how to check for them when you go to look at an RV. If you’re planning to purchase a used RV (which I recommend because RVs lose value SO quickly) have someone look at the engine who understands what to check for, and always check for water damage.
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Honestly, if you’re interested in an older RV I would recommend finding a Toyota motorhome. There’s a reason that there are SO many of these still on the road despite the fact that the last one was manufactured in 1994!
4) What is RVing really like? How can people know if it’s right for them?
RVing is a very versatile form of travel, and there are LOTS of ways to RV that cover a variety of lifestyle preferences from super budget to super luxury.
The way we RV is affordable and very fulfilling as we avoid RV parks and try to camp in beautiful wilderness areas as much as possible. We have a TON of free time, and we use it to do things we love like reading, hiking, and cycling. The downside to our style of RV travel is that we do tend to “rough it” quite a bit- using a solar shower to save on water, going without electricity most of the time, etc.
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For those who prefer not to rough it as much as we do, there are campgrounds and RV parks all over North America that offer electric/water hookups, and amenities like pools. The trade-off, of course, is that these campgrounds are expensive, but for some people, that expense feels worthwhile.
I think that RVing is an awesome travel option for anyone with a sense of adventure, and for anyone who wants to fully explore North America. Since public transportation is more sparse and unreliable in North America, RVing is really one of the best ways to explore this continent! We’ve actually met many of travelers who fly here from other continents and purchase an RV for travel with the intent of selling it before they return to their home country.
5) What is the hardest part about RVing and how did you solve it?
I think the hardest part of RVing for us was the long hours of driving that come hand in hand with this form of travel. The first month in our RV we were starting to feel burnt out from so much driving. That was when it occurred to us that we could slow down! There was no reason for us to rush from destination to destination because we had all the time in the world. Once this realization hit us we began staying a minimum of 3 days nearly everywhere we stopped, and we tried to stay at least a week in every location that we enjoyed. This meant that we weren’t constantly driving long hours, and we began to really enjoy our RV lifestyle.
When you first begin traveling full time it’s easy to find yourself in vacation mode (trying to fit in as much as possible as fast as possible). It’s important to remind yourself that you aren’t on vacation- instead, you’ve created a lifestyle that is so enjoyable that you no longer need vacations!
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6) What’s it like budgeting to live in an RV? Can you offer one or two tips?
Budgeting to live in an RV can be an intimidating task, especially when in you’re in the planning stages. The key to doing it well is organization! Make a list of the expenses you expect to incur while traveling and be sure to over-budget a bit.
Having trouble figuring out what your expenses may be? RV life travel blogs are an excellent resource for getting an idea of the expenses you will incur. If you want a more detailed guide to this topic my book, Nomads in Campers, has a chapter that covers financial preparation for hitting the road.
The next biggest tip is to stick to your budget! This may sound obvious, but it is SO easy to overspend when you RV. There are so many temptations- eating out, roadside stands, tours and activities, the list of things you could overspend on goes on and on. It’s important to have an idea of the types of activities that are most important to you when you travel so that you can prioritize those activities and avoid overspending on other things.
7) Why did you decide to write your book and what can people learn from it?
When we first started RVing we really had no idea what we were doing! Sure, we read blog posts about RVing, but we experienced a very steep learning curve before we eventually felt comfortable in our RV lifestyle. I wanted to share everything we’ve learned with other RVers, and especially new RVers so that they could skip the learning curve and go straight to enjoying their new lifestyle!
We also receive TONS of questions from the readers of our blog, The Rolling Pack, which showed me that there was a real need for practical information about RVing. In fact, I kept records of all the reader questions I received and tried to include all of that information in the book!
My ebook, Nomads in Campers, takes readers step by step through the process of beginning an RV lifestyle, along with tons of tips and tricks for living happily on the road!
I cover all the basics of RVing- choosing the right camper, finding affordable camping, along with less obvious topics like discussing your new lifestyle with friends and family, dealing with the emotional effects of the lifestyle change, and traveling with pets. The book also includes several printable worksheets to assist readers with planning, downsizing, and budgeting, as well as an extensive guide to the practical gear every RVer should carry with them.
8) What do you love most about RVing, and can you ever see yourself stopping?
The RV lifestyle provides so much freedom! We sleep when we want, eat when we want, relax when we want, move to a new location when we want. We have experienced so many incredible adventures on the road. We once camped on the shore of a gray whale birthing lagoon, and listened to whales spouting and breaching all night long! We lived on a pristine beach in Mexico for several months. We found ourselves camped all alone at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains with EPIC views for just $5/night. RVing has opened up a world of possibilities to us that we never dreamed possible.
I’m not sure we will ever stop RVing permanently, but we are about to take a 6-month break so we can travel around Southeast Asia. In that area of the world, public transportation just makes more sense than hauling our whole RV overseas. With that said, we’re already discussing the possibility of driving from Oregon to the tip of South America in the next few years!
If you want to purchase Brittany’s ebook for just $9.99, head to Nomads in Campers: A Step-by-Step Guide to Living Your Nomadic Adventure.
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Kristin Hanes is a journalist and writer who lives on a sailboat and in a Chevy Astro van in San Francisco. She worked in radio news for 15 years before a massive layoff in 2016. Kristin has written articles about alternative living published in Good Housekeeping, Business Insider, Marie Claire, SF Gate and The Bold Italic, among others.