How To Live The Full Time RV Life

Truck and TTIf you float around the tiny house community you may already know three things about me:

Perhaps you don’t know though that I am an advocate of all tiny houses and small spaces. I love cabins. I think yurts are very cool. I am fascinated with live-aboard boats. I think RVs are the fleas knees. I gave my heart to tiny house trailers some time ago. And I even think sometimes about restoring a Pullman train car. I like to note the similarities and the differences and everything in between. So it is only natural that at this time in our life we are quite happy with a travel trailer adventure in which we can go from Point A to Point B based on work, leisure, events, and relationships. It is an exciting time but certainly isn’t one to enter into lightly or without some caution. Over the past 4-5 months I have put together (and adequately addressed) a list of things to think about when committing to the full time RV life. I would argue that these are also things to think about (or most of them anyway) when preparing to live any sort of life that is location-independent, a bit “out of the box”, or just plain weird to the masses. I think once you read my list you will agree.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Before we purchased our travel trailer my towing time on the road was fairly limited. I have pulled a 5th wheel camper one time for about an hour. I have hauled several utility trailers but nothing longer than 18 feet. I towed our tiny house a couple of times but only with a very experienced hauler in the passenger seat to be my co-pilot. I toted our riding lawn mower around more than a few times but only in a trailer that was about the size of an American bathroom. Living on the road and hauling your home around is a different thing altogether. It involves driving, organizing, scheduling, budgeting, setting up, breaking down, and more. In this case practice trips is the whole she-bang from hitching up to hauling home and everything in between. I would encourage all those thinking about the mobile life to try it out first. See if you are prepared to leave a number of things behind in exchange for some exciting new adventures!

Downsize

A tiny house of any kind only has so much space. The tiny house community and its included blogs feature posts upon posts about downsizing, minimizing, space saving, and the like. A boat is no different. A teepee is probably no different but a bit more extreme. An RV is no different. You must weight out need -vs- want. The rest must go. It can be sold, given away, donated, etc. You need to trim the fat from your belonging. If this sounds difficult, proves difficult, or just causes stress you may want to consider a different living option.

Health Insurance

This doesn’t apply as much to tiny housers who are going to be parked for an extended amount of time or houseboaters who intend to be moored for a long time but certainly does apply to those who will call the road their home. While medical insurance is an awful subject to talk about and certainly not  something discussed in polite company, there is a distinct possibility that you or a member of your family will get sick on the road. When we first tried out full-timing in early 2013 over the course of 4 months we had 2 doctor visits, 1 soft cast, 3 prescriptions, and even an MRI. Thank goodness we were prepared with comprehensive insurance through my company. Perhaps you don’t have that benefit or haven’t been able to get a decent plan because you are a full timer. Luckily there are companies that offer insurance for full-timers. We avoided a lot though by having a robust first aid kit, using doTERRA essential oils regularly, eating as healthy as we could, and just being a bit more careful in general.

Obtain and Maintain a Permanent Address

This is definitely one of the largest obstacles when choosing to live a tiny house lifestyle. With a tiny house trailer you can easily live in someones backyard, in a remote, rural spot, or even on an RV site. It doesn’t, however, change the fact that all states require proof of residency to operate a motor vehicle which is needed in most cases to maintain a nomadic lifestyle. (NOTE: line changed from original after further discussion and dialogue) If you don’t intend on operating a motor vehicle, opening a bank account, maintaining any sort of utility account, you may not need to have a permanent address other than one for mailing purposes. If you choose though and once you do establish a permanent address, you can get a post office box. It was no easy task for us when we first moved to our home land. The workaround is that a number of full-timers take advantage of mail forwarding services such Many full timers take advantage of Mail forwarding services, such as EscapeesMyRVMail.com or Camping World’s President Club. One advantage of full time tiny house living is that you can claim residency in states with no income tax.

Stay Connected

Campgrounds are notorious for advertising free WiFi but having dismal service beyond the walls of the camp office. A number of live-aboard sailers rely on 3G and 4G (and some LTE) cell data or connecting when in port. Tiny house trailers typically land some place where they can piggyback off a neighbors WiFi or even a local cafe. But if those options don’t suit you you can look into purchasing a MiFi system, special antennas, boosters, and more. A great post on the subject can be found here and you can purchase a book on the subject here. In today’s world staying connected will allow you access to email (personal and private connection), social media (great for reviews and recommendations), eBills (who needs a bank anymore?), and even photo galleries (travelogue anyone?)

FireFly Trailer

For fans of the stylish Cricket trailer and the cult television show, the new FireFly prototype camping trailer by designer Garret Finney brings together aerospace technology and the desire to be sustainable while off-roading. According to the NASA designer the FireFly is actually a habitation module designed to fit into the bed of a pickup truck or towed by a small car.

firefly-camper

The 600 lb. trailer is minimal and includes folding bench tops for sleeping and lounging surfaces with room for storage underneath. The FireFly is supported by four legs and can be moved easily to various locations. In fact, it was originally designed to be used for disaster relief or as a temporary basecamp. The lightweight camper has welded square tube sections, highly insulative composite panels made of aluminum and Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam.

The protoype was created in only three weeks after several months of sketching and design work.

firefly-camper-truckflirefly-camper-trailerfirefly-camper-interior firefly-camper-interior3 firefly-camper2

Photos by TaxaFireFly

 

By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]

 

Camping or Living: RVs as Tiny Houses

Recently my wife and I purchased a 27′ travel trailer and submerged ourselves into the nomadic lifestyle. And while it seemed as much like tiny house living as our actual tiny house trailer we soon realized it came with its own culture, own nuances, and own history; and a rich history at that!

In 2010 the recreational vehicle turned 100 years old. According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), about 8.9 million households now own RVs. The typical RVer was 48 years old and earned a median income of $62,000. Among those under the age of 35, ownership rates are steady at 4.9%. According the last publicized study – a 2005 study at the University of Michigan – about 450,000 of typical RVers are full-timers. But there remains some undercurrent controversy about whether or not an RV is a tiny house. 

Says Ryan Harris, tiny house builder, blogger, and outspoken tiny house enthusiast, “A home is anywhere you hang your hat and feel comfortable and secure, so in that sense, an RV could certainly feel like a tiny home. Unfortunately, most RV’s [off the lot] are built very poorly, with flimsy materials and are not usually customized to the owner or by the owner, so in reality, for most people an RV makes a poor substitute for a tiny house and will never feel like a true home.” Not a glowing endorsement for RV living but a valid point and one held by a number of tiny house enthusiasts. On the other hand Kristin Snow who together with her husband Jason both lives and works out of a renovated and personalized 1965 Airstream Overlander notes, “We absolutely consider our Airstream to be a tiny house – just one that moves around more than most! Our goal in renovating and moving into our trailer was to embrace minimalistic living and simplify life as much as possible. Being able to use it for economical travel was the deciding factor in going with an RV versus a tiny house for now. Seeing as much of the country as possible for a few years will help us in deciding where, if anywhere, we want to settle down someday – probably in a tiny house!”

Photo credited to Evan and Gabby.

Photo credited to Evan and Gabby.

Kristin and Jason Snow towing their 1965 Airstream Overlander down historic Route 66.

Kristin and Jason Snow towing their 1965 Airstream Overlander down historic Route 66.

Whatever side of the debate one rests on the fact remains that drivers began making camping alterations to cars almost as soon as they rolled off the line. The first automobile marketed as a recreation vehicle was Pierce-Arrow’s Touring Landau, which debuted at Madison Square Garden in 1910. The Landau had a back seat that folded into a bed, an on-board chamber pot/toilet, and a sink that folded down from the back of the seat of the chauffeur, who was connected to his passengers via telephone. Camping trailers made by Los Angeles Trailer Works and Auto-Kamp Trailers also rolled off the assembly line beginning in 1910. By the start of the Roaring 20’s, dozens of manufacturers were producing what were then called auto campers. Before then people camped in private rail cars that were pulled along train routes by commercial engines. RVs allowed a certain freedom not yet seen. They allowed people to go where they wanted whether a rail existed or not!

NOTE: The Tin Can Tourists (a named derived from their habit of heating tin cans of food on gasoline stoves by the roadside) formed the first camping club in the United States. The club grew to include over  150,000 members by the mid-1930s. They had an initiation ritual, an official song, “The More We Get Together;” and a secret handshake. They can easily be seen as the predecessors of the Good Sam club of today as well as other niche groups that cater to RV make/model enthusiasts.

TinCan
RV camping and RVs in general really became popular though thanks to a group of men who called themselves Vagabonds. “The men – Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and naturalist John Burroughs – caravaned in simple cars on annual camping excursions from around 1913 to the mid 1920s.” (Smithsonian.com) Their adventures solicited national attention. The trips were well covered by national media outlets and in turn sparked interest in other motorists to go car camping. With the funds to match their sense of adventure, the Vagabonds took such camping to new extremes bringing with them a custom Lincoln truck outfitted as a camp kitchen. While the men slept in tents they were showing that life lived on the road could be as fun and glamorous as life in the penthouses of New York and mansions of everywhere in between. They were the initial advocates of the RV lifestyle. The nation was being overtaken by the notion of taking your home with you and stopping wherever you wanted without sacrificing the comforts of your own home. The movement would become so popular in fact, that CBS News correspondent Charles Kuralt would later capture this road romance with his “On The Road” series that began in 1967 and lasted some 25 years, causing him to wear out several motorhomes and cover some million miles.

CBS newsman Charles Kuralt is shown reading a map in the driver's seat of his "On The Road" motorhome. (AP Photo/File)

CBS newsman Charles Kuralt is shown reading a map in the driver’s seat of his “On The Road” motorhome. (AP Photo/File)

As Wall Street crashed in 1929 the Depression had its way with the RV lifestyle as well. Finding their way off the road some people began using travel trailers, which could be purchased for as little as $500 to $1,000, as inexpensive homes. This is the first time the United States becomes familiar with the notion of full-time living in a rather unconventional home.

War time rationing in the 1940s stopped production of consumer RVs, although – like many other types of companies – some trailer companies converted to wartime manufacturing, making rigs that served as mobile hospitals, triages, transports and even morgues. This usage didn’t last long after the war as returning soldiers on limited incomes craved the outdoor life as well as inexpensive vacation methods. The Interstate Highway System, having begun construction in 1956 offered all Americans a relatively safe and fast way to travel further than trains ran and causing a renaissance in the RV market. 

By the late 1950s motorhomes began to find their way to the market (albeit a far less popular one) due to price and availability. They were seen as more of a luxury though and even for the upper-middle class exclusively. That completely changed in 1967 though when Winnebago began mass-producing motorhomes labeled “America’s first family of motor homes” – between 16 to 27 feet long – which could sell for as little as $5,000 ($34,400.00 by today’s standards.) By this point heating and air conditioning had been introduced into RVs as well as on-board refrigeration and sanitation stations. No longer was camping considered a roadside novelty for families living on a dime. They had become more like homes than ever! Homes on wheels!

Molded from two giant halves, the Dodge/Travcos had a distinctive ridge in the middle where they met.

Molded from two giant halves, the Dodge/Travcos had a distinctive ridge in the middle where they met.

Perhaps though the most notable part of RVs is that they have changed design as technology has changed. Motorhomes and travel trailers on the market today include such amenities as satellite television, washers and dryers, shower stalls, work desks, and even fireplaces. They are more like a sticks ‘n bricks home than ever. And while they are completely portable and in a very simplistic way they still offer RVers what they want the most; the feeling of home and the ability to explore the open road. 

The dress code is casual. The drinks are always cold. The bathroom is but a door away. And the amenities of a larger sticks ‘n bricks are included by simplified in a mobile and tiny way.

Authors Note: Historical parts and timelining gathere from the Smithsonian.com.

 

By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]