RV Life FAQ: Hannah and Tim Edition

We spend a lot of time asking other RV’ers questions to be answered here on our blog, so we thought it would be fun to answer some questions ourselves! A lot of these are questions we get asked when we meet people on the road – some of them are probably ones you’ve seen answered buried within larger posts, because the topic comes up so often! Here we go…

 

Where are your favorite places you’ve been so far?

Hannah: Arizona has been my favorite state. But as far as individual destinations go, Anza Borrego Desert State Park in Borrego Springs, CA because it sticks out in my mind as being such a unique environment. The harshest desert you could ever imagine but they have multiple oases that you can hike to – waterfalls, palm trees, blooming flowers, green grass – the contrast is amazing.

Fellow hikers walking towards the Oasis
View from the Oasis, towards where I hiked from
Ocotillo starting to bloom at Anza Borrego

My favorite beach so far (and we’ve been to a lot) is Topsail Hill Preserve State Park in Santa Rosa Beach, FL. Powdery sand, clear blue water, and the beach is only accessible by foot. So peaceful.

Tim: We’ve seen some amazing places in Arizona (Sedona, Phoenix, the Grand Canyon, etc.) that individually were spectacular.  But Oliver Lee State Park in New Mexico sticks out to me in the grand scheme of our journey.  In my mind, this was our first taste of the true southwest – steep rocky mountains all around, expansive skies, cacti everywhere, beautiful starry nights, and great hiking.  We experienced the “sound of silence” while hiking here – the near absolute absence of sound, with no birds, no wind, and no road noise (and no other people within sight) – and it kind of hurts your brain.  I’ve been seeking it out ever since.

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park

As far as beaches go, Hatteras National Seashore in Frisco has to be at the top for me.  In my opinion it’s the perfect east coast beach – pristine, secluded, stunningly gorgeous, and abrasive.  You can drive on the beach (with a permit) until there’s no one visible on either side.  You have to work for it, though – there are no hookups at the National Seashore’s campgrounds and the showers onsite only have cold water!  This is also a nostalgic place for me since my father and I camped here several times when I was young.

A no filter picture of sunset at Cape Hatteras National Seashore

 

Do You Plan to Homeschool?

Hannah: This lifestyle is nothing but a big question mark. We truly don’t know when we will stop RVing, but if I had to guess, I think we will stop before Calla is ready for school. Luckily we left for RV life when she had barely turned 1, so there is a lot of time before she needs to go to school. I’d like her to go to a regular school and have classmates, and I also don’t have any desire to homeschool.

Tim: I don’t really have any interest in homeschooling but anything can change.  The only constant in this lifestyle is change, so I won’t say never!

This counts as education, right?!

What things have you found useful for RV life?

Hannah: My Kindle. I do so much more reading now than ever before, and I love that it takes up so little space. If they were all paper books, I’d need a whole cabinet for them. I also have a library subscription that lets me check out e-books for my Kindle. It’s given me a whole new appreciation for the library!

I’d also add that I’ve found a different style of purse which seems much more suited to this lifestyle than my old (regular) purses. This purse lives on my back, giving me my 2 hands, and more importantly, my hips free – to hold Calla!

My trusty purse in Antelope Canyon – Page AZ

Tim: I’ll echo Hannah’s love for the Kindle and the Overdrive library system.  I’ve also read A LOT more than I used to and love using my Kindle.

I’ll also say that the proper outdoor gear is worth its weight in gold out west.  Properly fitting boots, a comfortable pack, a water reservoir, and sun protection (sunblock, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses) are essential in order to spend time in the blazing desert climate.

Comfortable, rugged, and waterproof. What more can you ask for?

What do you do for income?

Hannah: This topic is uncomfortable, because what we are doing is so unconventional, but I’ll be honest with you: right now we are mostly living off savings. I do contract SEO/website work and have some income from that, but mostly, it’s money we saved when we were both working full time in IT.

Tim: For the first six months on the road I worked ~32 hours per week as a senior software developer consultant.  I worked for the same company as I did before we hit the road.  I was fortunate that they were ok with me working 100% remotely as a contractor, and it was great to have that stability while everything else changed.  For various reasons we decided that me quitting for some time was the right move and I have not regretted it.

We’ve always lived frugally and saved as much as we can.  We paid off our student loans within a few years of graduating from college and went into this lifestyle with no debt.  Not being tied down by debt has been crucial for us and has let us make more financially risky decisions (like going without income for some time).

 

Is RVing more or less expensive than you thought?

Hannah: More. It’s definitely not a way to save money (as I had seen touted online), unless you stay stationary and come from an extremely high cost of living area.

Pittsburgh was a cheap place to live and it would have definitely been cheaper for us to stay in our house.  It’s expensive to move to different places (terrible gas mileage) and campgrounds are expensive. Out West we’ve been able to escape this a bit by boondocking for free on public land, but on the east coast there are no boondocking options. Campsites we’ve stayed in vary from about $20 a night to $80.

This lifestyle isn’t about saving money, at least not for us – it’s about having your eyes opened to a new way of living and all of the diverse beauty in this country of ours!

Tim: I’d also say it’s more expensive.  Almost every reservation you make gets tax and an additional transaction fee tacked on.  Fuel prices vary by state and travelling often can really drain the tank.  Visiting places and taking tours also often costs money.  Unforeseen costs can add up quickly!

Our food costs are also higher than when we lived in a house.  We still prepare nearly all of our meals ourselves but we do opt to pay for slightly more convenient options in some areas (e.g. pre-washed greens, more deli meat instead of baking our own, frozen riced vegetables instead of doing it ourselves).  I also have a hunch that the smaller RV refrigerator leads to more frequent grocery trips which leads to us buying things we don’t actually need.

Even boondocking has hidden costs.  Sure, it’s free, but we run our generator(s) nearly every day for at least a little while.  And the fridge and water heater are running on propane whereas they’d be using the campground’s electricity if we had hookups.  We occasionally dump our holding tanks at a gas station while travelling which also adds some cost.

 

Do you always have internet?

Hannah: When Tim was working and needed to communicate with his team, we always made sure we had internet (cell) coverage. This has become less of a factor for us. Even without doing research beforehand, we’ve had cell signal about 95% of the time. As I write this, we have very spotty coverage. So we’ve yet to be without it, but it’s not nearly high-speed internet like you’d have at home, unless you are in an area with great coverage.

Tim: Hannah already handled the cell coverage aspect, but I’ll throw in that us having “unlimited” Verizon phones combined with our main AT&T Mobley hot spot really helps.  We use the AT&T hot spot when we can but we can also use either of our phone’s hot spot networks as a source for our RV’s wifi network thanks to our Pepwave SOHO router.  It makes switching sources fairly easy.  I covered our setup in greater detail in this post.

 

What are the best and worst parts of RVing?

Hannah:

Best – Having the comforts of home in some really cool places, experiencing nature to a new degree (mainly with boondocking), having the confidence now that we can figure anything out, less “have to” moments and more “want to” moments, watching Calla grow up every day.

Worst – The stress of moving the rig (packing up, driving, unpacking), the stress of backing into narrow spots or maneuvering in tight spaces, limited options when the weather is bad, being away from friends and family, struggling with career decisions on the road.

I’m writing this post from here. Our boondocking spot in Page, AZ

Tim:

Best – Getting a personal experience with our natural world.  Knowing that we are pretty much self-contained and self-sufficient when properly stocked up.

Worst – Of course moving the RV isn’t fun, but it’s not so bad.  Being stuck inside can be frustrating when it rains (which is rare out west thankfully).  Being away from family and friends is the worst part for me.

I’ll also add that the RV industry kind of sucks.  Many manufacturers build low-quality RVs and many RV dealerships are not trustworthy.  You have to do your own research, know what’s best for your scenario, advocate for yourself, and stick to your guns or else you’re gonna have a bad time – especially if you’re living in the RV.

 

What have been some of your least favorite places?

Hannah: Central Florida (nothing there, backwards people), southern New Mexico, southwest Texas (nothing but oil derricks).

Tim: I agree with Hannah’s list of the ugliest places that we’ve seen.  I also wasn’t a huge fan of New Orleans to be honest, but the weather was nasty when we went and I don’t think I saw enough of the city.

With a picnic table fit for a dollhouse (one of many wrongs), this spot in Central FL was one of the worst we’ve been to

How has your perspective changed since you started?

Hannah: When we left, I was so worried that something would happen to Trudy. I had read so many horror stories online about how RVs break constantly, aren’t built well, and generally fail. We had no major problems with Trudy (which is pretty amazing considering she was 11 years old – I hope she behaves for her new owners too!).

Now I’m not nearly as worried about something going wrong with the rig because I know that anything can be fixed and it’s more likely that we will run it into a tree than it will just randomly fall apart like I had feared at first.

Tim: Living in an RV has forced us know where our resources come from.  This is particularly true when boondocking.  In a house, a 10-minute shower uses 20-25 gallons of water.  That blows my mind now since we can get by for 3-4+ days on our 60 gallon fresh water tank – and yes, we bathe every day.

Every time I open a faucet or take a shower I’m thinking about how much water we have in the tanks and Aqua-tainers in the truck.  When I light the stove or hear the furnace kick on, I wonder how much propane is in our tanks.  If we want a hot shower, we have to turn on the water heater on ahead of time (and turn it off after to conserve propane).  Using electronic devices requires charging – either from the solar setup or the generators.  And, of course, how full the black tank is can be a concern, but fortunately that’s the slowest tank to fill.

Our current resource status is always in the back of my mind – but it’s also rewarding to know we can drive into the forest or the desert and have pretty much any comfort we want while being engulfed in nature.

Hannah on Devil’s Bridge (a natural arch) – Sedona AZ

 

4 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing all of this. It’s interesting to learn about things I questioned and also things I would have never thought about. I know we’re fortunate to have water and electricity at all times and really try not to take those luxuries for granted but, I have to admit I’ve never considered how much water we use when we bathe. Or how much energy is used during the day. I’m thinking some habits would change if we were on the road!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Ashley! As I’ve told you before, it’s so nice to hear that other people are reading 🙂 It definitely makes you re-evaluate how you use your resources. And makes a long hot shower that much more precious!

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