2020 Full-Timing Update
Jan 26, 2020
|It’s a 2020 update! What’s happened to those "crazy" people who sold it all for a life of freedom on the road? What can you expect once the “shine” has worn off that RV of yours, and you’ve seen just about everything worth seeing on the open road? Well, here’s where we are now, and we’ve been up to since leaving it all behind in 2011.
After travelling non-stop for about a year or two (or three), we settled into a somewhat “European” style of living. We work about 6-8 months of the year, and take the rest off to recharge and have fun. Since taking our first job back in 2013(?), we’ve made contacts, learned about new opportunities, and made a few changes to our routine.
Over the last 6-7 years, we’ve enjoyed a variety of seasonal work, including warehouse jobs at places like Amazon, and JCPenney’s. This is “busy”, somewhat physical, but simple work, which takes place during the holiday shopping season. Pay is good, and usually includes around $15 per hour plus a stipend which covers most, if not all of your site fees. These jobs are great for those of us who have less of a need to socialize, though there are opportunities to do so if you wish. Some can be physically demanding, which can also be viewed as “getting paid to get/stay in shape”
We’ve also worked for some national parks. This work is slower paced, and focuses on retail sales and customer service. If you’re a people person, this job’s for you. Busier parks like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Grand Tetons, can get busy during the summer… But overall, the work is pretty easy, and can be fun. We found that between the constant interaction with guests, and the employee “get-togethers” after hours at the campground, all the interaction can be a bit much. Overall, however, we had good experiences at each park. You can work for one of the concessioners at the parks, or try one of the non-profit groups, or “associations”.
Depending on the arrangement, (campground fees, and hourly wage) a couple can bring in between $10,000 and $16,000 over a season. I should also mention another benefit, getting to live low-rent, in a comfortable climate, at a beautiful park, with time to fully explore the area.
We were worried about money when we first hit the road, but have since painted the rig, added a trailer, and bought motorcycles, soooo… Not a problem.
In 2011, we made a realistic budget that includes gas, site fees, electric, insurance, groceries, entertainment, life insurance, propane, etc. We currently live on about $800-$1000 a month. We found lots of places to cut costs, for example: satellite television is $40 to $150 a month, versus DVDs by mail are $10 to $50 a month, (minus commercials). Cellular internet service is $50 to $200 depending on data usage, versus free internet at the local RV park, library, park visitor center, or fast food joint for free.
A POPULAR question about Full-time RVing, is "how much does it cost?". Something I'd like to mention, is the flipside of that question: "How much can you save?". I did some simple math the other day, using $100 a month for WiFi/cable, $45 a month for water/trash, and $175 a month for property taxes. When averaged out over the 9 years we've been doing this... We've saved about $34,560.00!!! (If you're not a homeowner, and are instead paying about $700 in rent, you could save even more: $48,600.00.) Even after buying a motorcycle/trailer, painting our rig, and putting a roof coating on... We're in the black $6560.00, over and above the money we've made doing seasonal work.
In the last 9 years, we’ve had no need to change our budget, nor our living habits. We still get by just fine without a smart phone or wifi hotspot. Our DVD’s by mail, together with over-the-air TV and Redbox, have served us adequately, as have our GPS, road maps, cameras, and laptop. (None of which, except Netflix, cost us anything monthly by the way, and ALWAYS work regardless of cell coverage.) We’re only just now buying a new laptop, 11 years is prehistoric for a computer, lol. It’s been pretty easy to save up money working seasonally, so we do occasionally spend beyond the budget… But we still have no debt, and keep an emergency fund at all times.
Some other adaptations we’ve made since 2011: We’ve sold the kayaks, since (like the mountain bikes) burden of carrying them around and storing them, outweighed the benefits of owning them. The paint job has held up well, and still looks new. I may have mentioned in the journal that we sold the generator. It hasn’t been missed, and the space makes a great easy-access storage box for commonly used items. We turned the trailer into a gym, with a set of adjustable Bowflex dumbells, a multi-position weight bench, and a cheap “Weider” version of the Total Home Gym. Because (as many of you know) we feel the best health insurance, is heath ASSURANCE… It’s cheaper, and makes you feel great too. We also pulled the remaining carpet out of our camper. Carpet is the devil’s work, people… Avoid/remove it if possible.
Having been on the road for 9 years, here are some random thoughts on the rig, and life on the road in general: The Northern Lite has performed well overall… The GMC too, has been stellar. I think we have the perfect set up currently, but I do sometimes fantasize about the relative ease of simply unhooking the truck from a small fifth wheel though, lol. If I could do it all over again, I’d choose the same setup, except: I’d have added the full front bumper replacement on the truck right off the bat, instead of the grill guard. (Which folded up on us in a minor accident, causing $5000 in damage, and weeks in the shop.) I wouldn’t have installed a kayak rack on the roof, or purchased a generator. (Hardly used them.) I wouldn’t have bought all-terrain tires. (Noisier on the road, difficult to balance, and wear unevenly when towing/hauling). We LOVE Airlift adjustable airbags, Fantastic Vents, double-pane windows, and having no slides! (Still believe the fewer holes in your RV, the better). And one more tid-bit: We’ve accidentally flooded the camper on occasion, with no damage or warping at all. Northern Lite makes a REAL nice unit.
Finally… Everyone is different, but we noticed a change after a couple of years on the road as tourists, sight-seers, and workampers. Our travels began to be guided over time, by climate, weather, job opportunities, and a handful of “favorite” spots. We view this “slowing down” as neither a good, nor bad thing… But a “settling in” of sorts into a new life. When choosing this life of freedom, it’s important to remember that it’s not just about freedom to explore... It’s also about the freedom to sit, relax a bit, and do nothing, without feeling guilty about not constantly working on some “bucket list”. Sometimes I’m climbing a mountain, or hiking in a national park. Other times, we’re enjoying Judge Judy or watching a DVD while eating one of Cindy’s amazing creations, I enjoy either activity equally. The greatest rewards of this lifestyle are: Time, Options, and Freedom… Enjoy them!