Our full-time beginning started a year after our youngest daughter left for college. We went on our first 9 day vacation without our kids.
While on vacation we were able to spend a lot of time talking about our future as empty nesters. We realized that we spent so much time working for our dream home, that we had no time to spend in our dream home that we had purchased. It was time to do something different. We were young parents and not even in our 50’s yet when our youngest left for college. We tossed around the idea of taking a year off work and hiking the Appalachian Trail. After many late night conversations (there might have been some wine involved too ha ha) we decided we were not ok living a life of working 40-50 hours a week and spending all weekend doing normal chores to get ready for the upcoming week. Just to do it all over again. Day in and day out. Week after week. Year after year. Tomorrow is never promised but we’re sure we have about 40 more years left on Earth and living this way was not what we thought as living.
We Sold Everything to RV Full-Time
We were very giving people and never had a chance to give our time to anyone because we were always working, or working on the next house related project. At the end of our 9 day vacation we had decided to sell our 2 homes, everything in them and try this full-time RV life. We had previously vacationed and spent many weekends in our RV. Our kids grew up spending weekends camping in our RV’s and exploring outside, so we were sure if we could find the right one, we could full-time in it. We gave ourselves a 2 year plan. We had 2 homes to empty out and list on the market and so much stuff to sell. Plus, we still had full time jobs. We worked hard every moment of time off we had. Selling, donating and giving away our things was time consuming and sometimes stressful. OH, THE STUFF! At one point our basement (which became our staging area for sorting) probably resembled a hoarding situation.
Fast forward and we completed everything, sold our two homes and drove off in our new “normal” just 9 months later. Determination, hard work (and a couple panic attacks) got us there. There were times we thought we’d never make it to the end. Sometimes there are signs you come across that you are on the right path of thinking. Or possibly you just look for them harder when you’re at a crossroads in life. We came across the following quote, which led us to the name we chose for us “Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.” We are Opting Out of Normal.
Our Rigs Set-Up
We have owned several weekend/vacation travel trailers and 5th wheels. When we decided to go full time we wanted a 4-season rig better equipped to handle full time living/traveling.
Staying In Touch with Our Kids
We did a lot of research on cell phone boosters. Being parents, even though our children are grown, there is a parental need to stay in contact with them. We are very fortunate that we are very connected, usually on a daily basis with our daughters. Making sure we had the best options to stay connected was a must for us.
Giving Back in Port Aransas, TX
Our favorite full timing experience so far has been our ability to give back. We decided to research and find an organization we could volunteer our time to. Helping the natural disaster areas in the US in their recovery process. We can’t give money and never knew where the money really went. But we are young and energetic and we can now give time. We spent 3 weeks in Port Aransas, TX helping the community recovery efforts from hurricane Harvey that devastated the area in August. It’s been one of the most rewarding things we’ve ever done. To give your time, your energy and even a shoulder and a hug to someone who’s lost everything has been so rewarding and so soul filling. That is what this journey is for us.
Installing Solar Power and Batteries for Off Grid Traveling
Our 5th wheel was new when we bought it. We really liked the design the way it was, so there was no real renovations done to the design. The renovations we did were more for living off grid more comfortably. We installed 1400 watts of solar power on the roof, sending power to an Outback FM80 MPPT charge controller. We have 690Ah of lead acid batteries to supply power. We also installed a GoPower 2000 watt inverter/charger. It is a smart inverter that will also assist in providing AC power if the load to our generator is higher then it can carry. It will also charge the batteries more efficiently when on shore power or running the generator.
Boondocking is What We Do Most
Justin installed solar panels and we have a large battery bank. We boondock 90% of the time. At first we were unsure about boondocking. Where to find the places, how to find the places and the safety of boondocking. We can honestly say without a doubt that we enjoy boondocking more than staying in a paid campground. It allows us to get into places we wouldn’t otherwise see if we were in a paid campground. It also allows us to stay in our budget more easily. Justin did a ton of work on our trailer both before we left and during the first year.
Since we travel slow, live simply and boondock most of the time, our budget is very simple. We don’t eat out a lot, and most of what we enjoy is free. Kayaking, hiking and sightseeing. We left on this journey debt free so that has helped us more than anything. Having to pay vehicle payments or prior living payments wouldn’t allow us to live and travel as free as we do. Budgets are a personal thing for people. My requirements and wants are going to be different than yours. The way I choose to live, will be different than someone else. A full-timer RV budget can range from $500 a month to $5,000 a month or even more. Our advice is to make sure you have a very clear understanding of your own budget before you take off on your full time adventure. The last thing you want is to not be able to make it because you didn’t understand what your daily expenses are. Know how much fuel your vehicle takes, what your monthly expenses are, what your money coming in is and be realistic on emergency repairs, medical costs, etc.
Our Life Before Full-Timing
Justin retired from the military (at 38), in 2010. He landed a civilian job before his retirement date in the heavy construction equipment industry and worked until we left on our full-time adventure. Stacy has been an insurance agent for 30 years and has been licensed in 4 different states. This line of work made it easy to move every few years in the military. We are very blessed to have a small pension from our military retirement and our medical coverage is taken care of. Being as young as we are, it wouldn’t be possible to do what we’re doing without our military sacrifices. The last 2 summer’s we decided to take workamping jobs. That helps us stop and re-coop our funds, put a little money in savings, meet some great people and gives us a ton of time to explore one area on our time off. We live very simply and don’t mind sharing that we live on a small budget of $1800 a month. We travel very slow, we set up our RV to live off grid and we don’t pay for many camping areas. We live comfortably and enjoy the smaller, off the beaten path things, as well as the big popular attractions. Leaving debt free, owing nothing to anyone, has been our biggest accomplishment. It’s allowed us to live more deliberately and with more purpose.
We Enjoy Work Camping and Meeting New People
Work camping is something we tried for the first time last summer. And we are signed up to do it again this summer. We found the ad’s on Workamper News, which allows us to meet so many wonderful people and really spend some great time exploring an area for an extended part of time. We don’t know if we will do work camping every summer, but we have really enjoyed our experiences so far. All work camping jobs are different. Some are volunteer, some are paid, some have a lot of amenities and some don’t have any. Our advice is to know exactly what your benefits are and what the job, hours and expectations are before agreeing to take the job.
Our Plans and What’s Next in Our Adventure
We have learned one thing in life after buying our dream home and planning to live in it for the rest of our life. Never say never. Had you told us 7 years ago when we bought our dream home, we would be where we are today, we would have told you there was no way. After 20 years of moving and chaos, we wanted to settle down and never have to move again. At this point, we don’t ever plan to stop traveling. The US is a big amazing area and there is so much to see. Even as young as we are, if we travel for the rest of our lives, we’ll never see everything we want to see. Grandkids… that will be our downfall. When our kids have grandkids, we think we’ll probably feel the full to at least slow down and settle. We want to be involved grandparents. So we will see. Today our daughters aren’t ready to have kids yet, so we know we have a few more years. Time will tell!