If you float around the tiny house community you may already know three things about me:
- Together with my wife and several family members I built and lived in my own tiny house
- After 15 happy months in our tiny house (just the 3 of us) we sold our tiny house
- We now live in a 27-foot travel trailer and have recently taken to the open road as full time nomads
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!
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.
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 Escapees, MyRVMail.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.
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?)