I’m homeless. By choice.
Well… I’m houseless. My home is a Roadtrek ‘98 Dodge Ram van converted to a motorhome by some fine folks in Canada.
Some may find this lifestyle off-putting, but I’ve joined the ranks of an estimated quarter of a million Americans living full time on the road. It was a conscious decision I made in early 2014 after thinking about it for a while. It took a few months to put my plan into action and I officially left my sticks-and-bricks apartment in the trendy neighborhood of Plaza Midwood, Charlotte, NC on August 15th, 2014.
I had to sell or donate an entire apartment’s worth of stuff I’d accumulated over the years. I’m not sentimental and don’t get attached to physical things. So parting with all that stuff was easy for me emotionally. It was actually quite freeing once I realized how much my stuff really owned me and not the other way around. Some of the bigger items like my car and motorcycle were harder to unload than household items and I wound up selling my car the day before I left to go on the road!
What about work?
Some people ask me how I can afford to live like this… jumping from family member to National Park and back again. I’m a software consultant and manage my own iPhone app business. Consulting gives me the flexibility to travel and work whenever I find a nice place to stop.
My typical routine is to find a place I can set down roots for a few days like a free campsite in a National Park or my myriad of family members scattered across the United States (I’m currently visiting my sister and her family in Los Angeles). Then I work like crazy for a few days–putting in 10-12 hour days and taking breaks to hike for an hour or go swimming in a nearby body of water. Then when I’m ready to move on, I plan my destination, route, and take off.
I’m currently working about 30 hours a week on the road. I’m completely debt free and I work because I love what I do, not because I need the money.
Challenges of the road
This lifestyle isn’t for the faint of heart.
On the downside, you’re never in the same place.
On the upside, you’re never in the same place!
Silliness that homeowners have to think about like cutting the grass or watering the plants or waiting around for the cable guy to show up are concerns of the past. I’m happy to be free of the concerns of both homeownership and apartment life. But living on the road comes with a whole different set of challenges that require both planning ahead an ingenuity.
Lots of articles have been written about full-time RVing and internet access. I have a 20gb Verizon cellular data-only plan for $100/month. It’s a great deal and my primary source of internet.
But that means I really have to watch my bandwidth usage. No more frivolous youtube videos or Facebook photo browsing. This has actually done wonders for my productivity. But for the youtube videos I do need to watch, there’s a handy setting that allows you to default to the lowest quality.
I supplement this 20gb with free WiFi hotspots I find at places like McDonalds and Starbucks and it’s totally sufficient for my work week and multiple video conference calls with work. I just set my Google Hangout quality setting to “low” (~30kbps) or “audio only” (~8kbps).
My RV is equipped with a Cradlepoint MBR95 router that serves my cellular internet connection to all my wireless devices and is able to connect to WiFi hotspots and use that as an internet source when available. It’s a pretty nifty device to have and serves as my central internet hub, using whatever internet source that is available.
Where to sleep?
Sleeping isn’t a problem when I’m in a family members’ driveway. When I’m on the road, it’s a challenge. Yeah, I could sleep at a Walmart or Cracker Barrel or automotive parts store (all known friendly places for RVers to sleep overnight). But what’s the fun in that? It’ll be safe but also loud and bright.
I prefer finding some public land to sleep on. It’s almost always off the beaten path, but usually worth it in terms of view and solitude. I spent a night in the panhandle of Texas one night where I was able to see the Milky Way Galaxy clearer than I’d ever seen it before. The 40 minutes down a dirt road to find the land was worth it.
I’ve stayed at RV parks a few times but try to stay away from places I have to pay to sleep. Dumping my RV’s tanks costs about $20 and a night at an RV park is usually $30-$40. It’s really a minimal cost for the electricity on top of getting to dump my tanks. I only do this when my tanks are full and typically only stay one night.
Long hours of driving
Sometimes it isn’t practical, but I try and live by the “320 rule”: I stop driving when I get to 320 miles or 3:20pm. Whichever comes first.
Every once in a while, I find myself driving all day. It could be because I’m on a schedule to get to an event or just because I miscalculated the time it would take to get to my next destination.
There’s no avoiding driving long distances when you want to see as much of the country as I do at this point in time. It helps that I avoid highways like the plague. Unless I’m on a time crunch, I have all my GPS devices to “avoid highways”. That way, I get to see America in all it’s glory… the small towns and byways. Highways and interstates always bypass the real America and the scenic routes. I want to see all the small towns and experience the scenic routes that highlight the beauty of this great country. You’ll never get that by taking interstates from place to place.
Electricity & Water
Luckily, my RV has an onboard 2.8kw generator so I can make my own electricity. When I’m working and boondocking (or “dry camping” as some call it - camping with no water/sewer/electricity hookups), I typically run the generator for an hour at lunch and an hour in the evenings. This is simply because my battery bank doesn’t have the amperage needed charge my laptop from the power inverter. I’ve been able to hook up to electricity at most dropzones and at all family member houses… though a few days ago, someone called the cops because they thought I was stealing electricity when I was parked on the street in front of a relative’s house. Seriously? Like they wouldn’t have noticed the bright orange cord going through their living room window.
Water isn’t really a problem because of the onboard 35 gallon fresh water tank. I just fill it up whenever I’m at a place with easy access to water. I’ve never ran into a situation where my tank was empty but I keep a few gallons of fresh bottled water in the storage compartment in case of emergencies. In retrospect, I should have emptied the tank when I drove over the rockies in Colorado–I probably would have gotten much better gas mileage.
I don’t own a television. Frankly, I hate television. There’s almost nothing good on it and I’d rather spend my time doing something productive instead of staring blankly at a screen just to pass the time. I have life to live!
It doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to have a TV, antenna, and all the accessories that come with it in such a small space when the entire country is my playground.
But when I do need to relax and unwind, I have my iPad that streams videos from my Apple Time Machine hooked up to my router. I try not to stream too much from the web (see aforementioned bandwidth limitations) so I store media files on my Time Machine and stream them with a great app called Infuse. I’ve mounted my iPad with a few makeshift brackets right above the head of my bed so I can lay down comfortably and watch whatever I want.
Why did I do this?
Skydiving has profoundly changed my life since I did my first tandem skydive in November 2013. Then another one in December on my birthday where my parents came and watched. I’ve been a licensed skydiver since May 2014 and as of the date of publication I have over 130 jumps under my belt.
It probably sounds silly, but I believe we all can learn a lot about who we are and what we want in life by throwing ourselves out of an airplane and hurtling towards the earth at 120-170mph.
- Doing things that make you feel uncomfortable is the only way to grow in life
- Being satisfied with the status quo is not acceptable.
- I’m ultimately responsible for me. There’s nobody else that’s going to pull my chute for me or perform the correct maneuvers to make a safe landing.
- The reward is only as great as the risk taken.
- Adventures only happen if you make them happen.
- Sometimes you have to ignore the naysayers and do what makes you happy. Some people will never understand.
I decided to make an adventure happen and take a risk that made me uncomfortable.
So far this big risk has had a big payoff and it’s only been 2 months. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!