(This marks the debut of a new column on full-time RVing by Rene Agredano. The column will run in RV Life periodically and online at rvlife.com.)
Have you ever dreamed of permanently hitting the road in your RV to start a new life?
Six years ago my husband and I caught a bad case of road trip fever, and the only cure was to sell our house, our business, and nearly everything we owned. We got rid of most of our possessions to pay for what we thought would be one year of total freedom while seeing the country with our dog. Little did we know that one year would turn into five, with no plans to stop anytime soon.
Discovering The Lifestyle We Love
In fall, 2007, hitting the road seemed like the right thing to do. Jim and I were both nearly 40 years old, and our long workaholic days as small business owners were blowing by. As our forties approached, a series of heartbreaking events with friends and family shook us out of our complacent youthful slumber. After my near-fatal motorcycle wreck, a friend’s tragic brain cancer battle, and finally our beloved dog Jerry’s terminal bone cancer diagnosis, it suddenly occurred to us that the ongoing tragedies happening to loved ones was the universe’s way of telling us the time was right to follow our hearts and find a new path in life—before it was too late.
When doctors told us that Jerry would have a better quality of life if we amputated his painful, cancerous leg, we discovered that dogs don’t care if they’re missing a limb, they just want to make the most of every single day. As we watched our sweet German shepherd cope with his cancer like a champ, we wanted to give him one final gift to thank him for all of the years he had kept us sane while we were growing our business. He had been given a prognosis of six months to live, and since our three-legged dog loved camping and traveling so much, a road trip seemed like the perfect last hurrah before he succumbed.
But traipsing off into the world suddenly without a plan wasn’t our style. Our years of running a successful business taught us that the best outcomes happen when a solid plan is in place. So before we looked at a single RV, we thoroughly researched how we could take time off to travel (while silently praying that Jerry would live long enough to hit the road with us). From preparing to sell our home and business, to grilling veteran RVers on the ins-and-outs of the lifestyle, to budgeting for a year off from work, we left no stone unturned when mapping our course. Little did we know that the real education wasn’t going to start until our wheels started rolling.
Finally in June 2007, we used the proceeds from downsizing to purchase our first RV, and then hit the road as two greenhorns. When we permanently left our hometown of Eureka, California, we felt a level of freedom we hadn’t enjoyed since we were school kids on summer break! For the first time in our working lives, there were no more clients to deal with, no deadlines to meet, and the only forecast that mattered was the weather report.
During our first loop around the U.S., each new day was another adventure with Jerry. Before we knew it, eight months had passed but we were definitely not ready to give up on the full-timing lifestyle. After serendipitously meeting a camp host couple in Colorado who educated us about working in parks in exchange for a free campsite, we discovered this concept called “workamping” and quickly began to research the variety of ways we could continue our journey indefinitely, without going broke.
Keeping Our Wheels Turning
In the end, our Jerry defied the odds and lived two wonderful years on the road. Although his death was devastating, we knew that the best way to honor his memory was to keep living as he did, in the moment and doing what we love. So today, we’re still living our road trip dream. Thanks to the advice of more experienced full-timers, workampers and veteran road trippers like Joe and Kay Peterson, founders of the Escapees RVers support community, we’re keeping our wheels turning indefinitely. A hearty dose of entrepreneurial drive over the last few years has also helped us earn money and feed our retirement accounts so that someday we can really kick back in our travels.
To most full-time RVers, we might seem like an anomaly but believe it or not we’ve met numerous working-age full-timers like ourselves who are traveling throughout the country years before they hit retirement age. There are more of us out there than most people think, but Jim and I are constantly educating curious folks that they don’t have to be rich or retired to enjoy the full-timing lifestyle. We tell them, “You can live like this! It’s not as hard as you think!” But I’m not quite sure they believe us, especially since we don’t have kids. If you’re also skeptical, rest assured that over the last five years we’ve learned that full-timers come in every age bracket, income level, career type and family structure; you don’t have to be retired to live the lifestyle.
Learn How to Stay on the Road
Today Jim and I are enjoying full-timing decades before most of our retired counterparts ever realized they could. I hope that this column will give aspiring full-timers of all ages the tools needed to give this life of freedom a try. As a regular contributor to RV Life magazine, I’m elated to have the opportunity to share what I’ve learned so that you can make your full-time RVing dream a reality too.
Full-time RVing isn’t for everyone, and some people really don’t like the constant change or loss of a geographic community touchstone. But if you’ve ever had a bad case of wanderlust and dreamed about what it would be like to travel without deadlines or work in different settings, you owe it to yourself to investigate the lifestyle and find out if it’s something you want to pursue, before it’s too late.
This column, On the Road for Good, isn’t just about how to keep on RVing forever; it’s about how to make the most of every day of your journey.
In future columns, we will examine topics like:
• How to assess your readiness to hit the road.
• Ditching debt to lead a stress-free traveling life.
• Making money on the road.
• Finding support groups to fit your needs.
But this column isn’t just about me or what I think is best for full-time RVing; I want it to be a two-way conversation with YOU. Tell me what full-timing topics you want to learn more about. Whether those subjects include getting along with your partner in a small living space, saving money on everyday expenses, or how to earn an independent income, e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and if I don’t know the answer I’ll find out for you!
While I can’t guarantee that all of the things we’ll discuss here will help you get on the road and stay on it, I will promise you that the things you’ll learn are composed of real-world experience and proven advice that has worked for many people. With some careful research and planning, it just might work for you too!
Rene Agredano is a location independent entrepreneur who has been traveling full time with her husband Jim Nelson since 2007. Their extraordinary road trip with their dog Jerry was the subject of a PBS documentary called “Why We Love Cats and Dogs” (http://tinyurl.com/pbsjerry). Today they document their RVing lifestyle and adventures with their second three-legged dog, Wyatt, at liveworkdream.com while teaching others how to support the full-timing lifestyle at agreda.com