Frequently Asked Questions
Here are our most frequently asked questions. They are pretty typical of the questions asked all full-timers, but there is some information divulged here about our personal situation that you will not find anywhere else on the website.
Also, many of the questions overlap, so we have tried to weave them together the best we can. If your question is not answered here or on another page, feel free to contact us. We will add to this page as new questions of interest to all are asked.
To make navigation easier, here is the list of questions so that you can just go to the one you want rather than scrolling through them all.
Direct Links To Frequently Asked Questions Below
Q1. Aren’t you two just a couple of rich people going through a mid-life crisis?
Q2. How much does it cost to live on the road as a full-time RVer?
Q3. You have talked a lot about expenses, but what would really be helpful is to know exactly how you are going to meet those expenses on the road. Where is your income coming from?
Q4. So you think you can earn enough on the road or through investment income to cover your annual living expenses. But don't you have to earn more than that to make up for income taxes?
Q5. You’re supposed to be a smart guy, but it doesn’t sound like you have an exit strategy at all. What are you going to do if something happens to either of you, you just can’t travel any longer, or you just get tired of it?
Q6. Okay, so you are going to full-time forever. But your RV and truck are going to wear out at some point, so how are you going to replace them?
Q7. Was full-time RVing always a dream of yours and how long do you intend to do this?
Q8. You gave up a six figure income, prestige, status, the education and training, an expensive home, and a wonderful life overall. Do you ever have any second thoughts or regrets?
Q9. What do you miss the most from your previous lifestyle?
Q10. Did you really sell the house and everything?
Q11. Since your RV is now your only home, why did you go with a fifth wheel instead of a motorhome?
Q12. You have a fifth wheel, but you bought a Jeep. Do you tow the Jeep behind the fifth wheel and why did you get the Jeep?
Q13. Do you have a washer and dryer in the rig and why or why not?
Q14. How did you choose your state of residency and what are the best states?
Q15. How do you get your mail?
Q16. How do you handle your banking?
Q17. What type of camera do you use and do you use a photo processing software?
Q18. What type of GPS do you use?
Q19. How do you access the internet and why did you choose your current system?
Q20. What about TV?
Q21. We are not very social and do not meet people easily. How do you meet people on the road?
Here we go.
1. Aren’t you two just a couple of rich people going through a mid-life crisis?
Well, no one has actually phrased it that way, but often we feel like that is really what some folks want to ask.
Of course, “rich” depends on each individual’s perspective. We were on our way to being rich financially and broke emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Take a look at Question 2 and make your own judgment about our finances.
As for going through a mid-life crisis, maybe we are. Here’s a good definition.
A mid-life crisis is an emotional state of doubt and anxiety in which a person becomes uncomfortable with the realization that life is halfway over. It commonly involves reflection on what the individual has done with his or her life up to that point, often with feelings that not enough was accomplished. The individuals experiencing such may feel dissatisfaction with their lives, jobs, or their relationships, and may feel a strong desire to make changes in these areas.
Yep, that sounds about right. However, we're going on eight years now, so I think it's safe to assume it's a bit more than just a mid-life crisis. :)
Back To FAQs List At Top
2. How much does it cost to live on the road as a full-time RVer?
Well, that differs for everyone. Some people live on the road for $1,000 a month and some live on the road for $5,000 a month or more. Most will agree that those that were already retired with a fixed income will spend about the same on the road as a full-timer as they did as a retiree in a sticks and bricks home.
However, more and more people are going on the road with drastic reductions in income. For those, like us, it is very important to get an understanding of all the costs of full-time RVing.
On our Financial Considerations Page, we compare expenses many people have in a stationary house to comparable expenses living in an RV. It's just a guideline that tries to get you to think about all the expenses that may be involved in full-timing.
Beyond that, I can only tell you what our expenses have been over seven and a half years. Keep in mind that we have zero debt - no RV payments, no truck payments, no credit cards, no debt of any kind.
Since we used the equity from the sale of our house to purchase our RV and everything else we thought we needed before going on the road, you might want to start with "Our Up-Front Costs To Go On The Road" page.
Then I would suggest the "Understanding Our Full-Timing Costs" page for an explanation of how we record and report expenses.
In our seven and a half years on the road, we've averaged about $31,635 a year. That includes every single penny we have spent for Basic Living Expenses including insurance.
Now, of our 89 months on the road from Aug 2005 - December 2012, we have workamped/volunteered in 2 - 5 month stints for a total of 21 full months. In the months we work and receive a free campsite, our expenses run about $1,000 less per month due to campground fee savings, fuel savings, and other savings. Of course that reduction in expenses skews the annual average above.
If we annualize our workamping months, our total expenses average about $20,260 per year ($1,688 per month). If we look at the 68 months we've traveled, our expenses come out to about $34,460 per year (about $2,870 per month).
Check out our "2005 - 2012 Full-Time RVing Expense Averages" page for how those numbers break down.
Okay, what those Basic Living Expense numbers DO NOT include are large, one-time expenses for things that we needed, wanted, or that just came up in the first seven and a half years - what we call our One-Time Expenses. Those expenses have been largely discretionary to enhance our life on the road. Most have not been "necessities" by any means (except for the replacement of our truck engine in 2012).
However, we feel it is important to at least show you those expenses as well just in case there is anything there that you may want to include in your budgeting. So, we have another page called - "Our Major One-Time Expenses".
Okay. So here is the bottom line - at least our opinion.
We believe that $36,000 per year ($3,000 per month) is a really good number for the vast majority of couples to live a comfortable, but moderate, full-timing life. However, we recommend that everyone have at least six months of expenses saved up in an accessible account for emergencies, large ticket items or special events that come up, and/or sudden loss of income.
Of course, full-time RVing can be done for a lot less than $36,000 per year. That's the beauty of it - everyone is free to choose how they live the lifestyle. By traveling less, or by parking without hook-ups (boondocking) more, or by cutting out some of the expenses we have that you may consider unnecessary or luxuries, you can (and many people do) live on a lot less.
Also, the expenses we have and the guidelines above are based on couples. Obviously, the cost for singles can be considerably less, maybe not half, but a lot less.
Check out our Financial Information pages for more details on our expenses and for how to come up with a plan for yourself.
Back To FAQs List At Top
3. You have talked a lot about expenses, but what would really be helpful is to know exactly how you are going to meet those expenses on the road. Where is your income coming from?
Well, that’s a bit personal, but we haven’t been shy about anything else. Also, we feel that this information might just be what is needed to give others the confidence to change their lives, especially those that are pre-retirement, pre-fixed-income age. So hang on – it’s a bit complicated.
I'll start with where we started financially, go through how things have changed, and where we are now.
We started out our life on the road in August 2005. At that time, we had $310,000 in financial assets (IRAs, cash, mutual funds - not our truck, fifth wheel, and personal items). About $100,000 of that was in IRAs from previous employer 401(k) rollovers. The rest (approx. $210,000) was in cash and mutual funds.
Of course, we can't touch the IRAs without significant penalties until we reach age 59 1/2, so they really aren't part of the mix on covering our expenses. Yes, I know there are some special IRS code sections (Section 72(t)) where we can access the IRAs sooner without penalty, but we'll try to avoid using those.
Now one of the reasons we jumped into full-timing headfirst when we did was because we had some guaranteed residual income coming in over the remainder of 2005 and part of 2006 from the sale of my real estate title company. We would receive five $18,000 quarterly installments which would be our safety net for the first few years on the road.
As a sidenote, I did not make as much money on the sale of our company as people seem to imagine. I was a minority shareholder, the company was only five years old, and my partners and I had to pay off some business debt with some of the proceeds. In addition, though Linda and I had whittled down our personal debt, we did use some of our portion of the business sale proceeds to finish paying off everything except the house. We are by no means set for life.
Let's look at the actual numbers which dictate how we live this wonderful life on the road.
At the end of 2005, having received two of the $18,000 installments and having a good year in the stock market, our financial assets at the end of 2005 were valued at $356,000 (approx. $106,000 in IRAs and $250,000 in cash/mutual funds).
In 2006, we received the remaining three $18,000 installments. At the end of the year, our assets were valued at $447,000 (approx. $120,000 in IRAs and $327,000 in cash/mutual funds). At that point, we were looking pretty good and it appeared the income earned on the $327,000 would cover most, if not all, of our living expenses. Still, it was 2006 when we started some small businesses (website, selling Linda's jewelry, public speaking, etc.) to try to generate income streams knowing there would be years where the investments tanked.
In 2007, we ended the year with our financial assets valued at $437,000 (approx. $134,000 in IRAs and $303,000 in cash/mutual funds). Our liquid cash decreased due to the purchase of our Jeep, payment of taxes on the 2006 residual income from the sale of my company, and the purchase of a few other large items. Otherwise, our investment earnings and the small amount we netted from our businesses ($2,500) covered our basic expenses for the year. It still looked like we could cover our expenses with just investment earnings and slowly ramping up our businesses.
However, in 2008, the bottom dropped out of the market. We ended the year with a financial asset value of $272,000 (approx. $85,000 in IRAs and $187,000 in cash/mutual funds). Yikes! That was a $165,000 drop. In 2008, we earned $10,000 through our businesses and workamping, but that obviously fell far short of covering our expenses. And our initial safety net was gone. It was clear we were going to have to work more hours for pay to keep from reducing our asset base any further.
In 2009, our financial assets kept dropping through February, but made a partial recovery after that. As of the end of 2009, our financial assets had a value of $323,600 (approx. $108,700 in IRAs and $214,900 in cash/mutual funds). However, we also took 40-hour-per week paid jobs at a campground during the summer. With the workamping and businesses, we earned about $21,000 in 2009 which certainly covers the majority of our expenses in a twelve-month period when we're workamping a few months.
In 2010, we had some ups and downs, but by the end of the year things were looking up. As of the end of 2010, our financial assets had a value of $345,700 (approx. $120,700 in IRAs and $225,000 in cash/mutual funds). That's a long way from our May 2007 high of $470,000, but it is a whole lot better than our February 2008 low of $247,200. We were able to cover our expenses for 2010 plus add about $10,000 to our cash/mutual fund balances with the help of about $12,000 in net income from our businesses.
In 2011, our financial asset values went up a little before falling drastically in the late summer. They then made a partial recovery at the end of the year. As of the end of 2011, our financial assets had a value of $304,900 (approx. $113,600 in IRAs and $191,300 in cash/mutual funds). We had daily living expenses of about $34,600 which was mostly offset by approximately $19,700 in business net income. However, we also took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to South Africa for our 25th wedding anniversary. We were gone a month for a total cost of $11,700. The additional $14,200 in loss of asset value was in our IRAs and mutual fund investments.
In 2012, our financial asset values went up nicely in the first quarter before dropping over the summer and then making a little comeback the last couple months of the year. As of the end of 2012, our financial assets had a value of $317,000 (approx. $127,500 in IRAs and $189,500 in cash/mutual funds). We had daily living expenses of about $39,600 which included $5,700 in RV and Truck Maintenance. Our business net income, however, was $34,000 covering most of the basic living expenses. We would have been very happy with that except we had to replace our truck engine at a net cost of about $17,000. So, our total costs for the year were about $56,600 leaving us a $22,000 shortfall between business net income and cash outlay. Fortunately, our mutual fund values went up enough to cover all but about $1,800 of that $22,000. And with our IRAs gaining almost $14,000 in value, we had a decent net financial asset gain in 2012.
So, where will our income come from to cover our expenses of living on the road in future years?
Well, you can now see we certainly aren't "rich". And, we have no pension, social security, or military income - no fixed income of any kind. So we'll have to rely on a combination of things.
Some of it will come from investment earnings. Hopefully, most of it will come from growing our small businesses. Some of it may come from working paid jobs on the road, but we are going to try to concentrate on this website, our rallies, and educational seminars - following those passions we often talk about. :)
If we get really desperate, we'll stop somewhere, live in our fifth wheel, and work traditional jobs to cover our expenses and sock away some funds so we can continue to move and travel. Whatever it takes.
But that's why we monitor our expenses so closely - so we know exactly how much we will need. That gives us tremendous flexibility in figuring out how we are going to fund our lifestyle without having to get off the road completely. Being debt free adds to our flexibility and peace of mind.
If necessary, stopping and working, either as paid employees or workampers where we get a free campsite, cuts our monthly expenses by $1,000 due to less travel and the lack of campground fees. In that case, we only need to earn about $1,700 a month, and we can do that with $8 per hour jobs at less than 30 hours per week each. Of course additional hours and/or higher pay rates allow us to put away a little cash for more months of travel.
Again, the bottom line is we'll do whatever it takes to continue our life on the road as long as we want to do it. As Linda says, "We cand do anything temporarily." Knowing we don't have to make a ton of money or build a resume or establish a career makes working much more tolerable if that is what we have to do.
Now that answer just leads to more questions, so let’s move on.
Back To FAQs List At Top
4. So you think you can earn enough on the road or through investment income to cover your annual living expenses. But don't you have to earn more than your expenses to cover income taxes and shouldn't you budget for those taxes?
Assuming our expenses were a fixed amount and it was a completely static world, the answer would be "yes". However, we have the ability to adjust our expenses to meet our earnings and vice versa.
Income taxes are a consideration, but at the income levels we need to survive, they don't consume our income/expense thinking. We sort of consider them "incidentals" and we use our Emergency fund to deal with them when necessary and then build the fund back up.
A bigger concern is when we earn income via our businesses and have to pay self-employment taxes. As self-employed individuals we have to pay 15.3% of self-employment "net" income (actually it is 15.3% of 92.35% of the self-employment net income - gotta love the tax code). That has to be paid even if we don't reach income tax thresholds.
In other words, if our total adjusted gross income is $15,000, our deductions/exemptions would wipe that out and we would owe zero federal income tax. However, if that $15,000 is all from self-employment income, we'd have to pay over $2,000 in self-employment taxes.
Since there is no employer to withhold social security and medicare taxes and match the withholdings, self-employed individuals have to pay their own social security and medicare taxes including the matching portion an employer would normally pay.
Also, self-employment taxes have to be paid via quarterly installments. If you don't do that and have taxes due at the end of the year, you have to pay penalties in addition to the taxes.
That's another reason we have to keep a really close eye on our expenses and make sure we account for everything business-related. We need as many legitimate business expense deductions as possible.
So the goal is to earn as much money as possible, but be able to classify as much of our expenses as legitimate business deductions as possible. That way we keep the self-employment tax low and can come close to having no federal or state income tax at all.
The funds we earn as W-2 employees already have taxes withheld, so there is no need to budget for those.
If we have to sell mutual funds to cover expenses, then we do have to be cautious of capital gains. But that shouldn't be an issue for awhile as we transferred out of our mutual funds near the bottom of the market in late 2008 to secure losses to offset future gains for quite some time.
Sheesh. My head hurts. The bottom line is we have to cover our expenses one way or another, and taxes have to be considered on the income earned, in whatever fashion, to cover those expenses. With our fluid lifestyle, we choose not to worry about the taxes too much, especially income taxes, but you may very well want to account for all the possibilities in your budgeting. :)
Back To FAQs List At Top
5. You’re supposed to be a smart guy, but it doesn’t sound like you have an exit strategy at all. What are you going to do if something happens to either of you, you just can’t travel any longer, or you just get tired of it?
Ah, the beauty of what we are doing. Full-timing IS the exit strategy.
Indirectly, worrying about how and when we were going to exit the workforce was the cause of all of our stress and robot-like life. We just cannot spend the rest of our lives worrying about the future. No one can predict what will happen in 10, 15, 20 years. Just ask those that planned perfectly for retirement in 2008 and then had to keep working when they lost almost half their nest egg.
When we started, we set a threshold of $200,000. That was the amount we would not go below on our non-IRA cash/mutual funds. That was what would be our indicator that we would have to stop traveling and get "real" jobs to replenish our funds. Well, the 2008 stock market decline sent us spiraling below our threshold. We were down to $187,000 and then fell as far as $173,000 in 2009.
What we learned was that our first five years on the road gave us some additional confidence that we will stay out here quite awhile and our threshold could be lowered. We believe that we would be comfortable down to around $150,000, but $100,000 would certainly send us into "get a real job" mode. :)
Our IRAs and $150,000 cash/mutual fund threshold are our safety net for something unexpected, but we all know that won’t go very far – especially in 20 to 30 years. What will be will be. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.
If our full-timing is cut short by health issues, then we will take advantage of the Escapees RV Club’s wonderful CARE program. Check it out at www.escapeescare.org.
It is specifically designed for full-timers and delays or eliminates the need for a nursing home. It also is available to just recover from an illness or surgery until ready to get back on the road. If you become a full-timer, this is the one charity that is worthy of your donation dollars.
Back To FAQs List At Top
6. Okay, so you are going to full-time forever. But your RV and truck are going to wear out at some point, so how are you going to replace them?
Again, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. We will see how our IRAs and investments do. If our investment advisors do their job correctly, then we should have enough. If not, we will figure out something. We are pretty creative and resourceful folks, so it’s not a worry.
Let me put it this way. If we had to increase our budget to sock away $1,000 a month to build up enough to buy a replacement rig/truck in ten, fifteen, or twenty years, we wouldn't be full-timing right now. Even another $500 a month would strangle our dream and it probably wouldn't be enough. So, we'd prefer to enjoy full-timing now and let those that are worried about depreciation, rig replacement, and exit plans worry from the sidelines. :)
To full-time without a fixed income or without a sustainable income requires risk-taking, faith in yourself, and living in the now. It's not for everyone. :)
Now with that said, with us being relatively young, that is why we spent a little bit more up front than we originally intended to get better overall construction in the fifth wheel and why we have made some expensive upgrades to it so that it will last as long as possible.
As for our truck, at less than 1,000 miles a month it should have outlasted us. However, we lost the engine in 2012 at 62,000 miles, so this issue of replacement came home to roost. After some pain-staking decision making, we opted to replace the engine rather than the entire truck. Fortunately, we had enough in liquid funds (call it savings, emergency funds, whatever) to cover a new engine with cash, and the value of our investments increased enough afterwards to make up for what we took out.
So, is having the funds or at least a plan for replacement a good idea? Absolutely. But getting those funds or implementing a plan on the fly is doable. RVers are a resilient bunch, and things happen all the time. Most just deal with it in the best way they know how, and then it is just a "bump in the road" story in a couple years.
Back To FAQs List At Top
7. Was full-time RVing always a dream of yours and how long do you intend to do this?
Retiring early and traveling was always a dream of ours. RVing was so far off our radar we didn’t know a Class A from a truck camper. Retiring to an RV was never even a consideration until we had our “epiphany” that we needed to simplify our lives and get out of the rat race sooner rather than later. Finances then dictated full-time RVing as our best option for the travel/early retirement dream. Thus RV-Dreams. :)
From day one of our decision to full-time, we have considered this a permanent lifestyle change. We knew we had some financial cushion to try it out for a couple of years, but we have never had any doubt that we could full-time forever as long as health and money hold out. Might we change our mind after a few years? Sure. But the original intent has always been together, forever, traveling down life’s highways.
Back To FAQs List At Top
8. You gave up a six figure income, prestige, status, the education and training, an expensive home, and a wonderful life overall. Do you ever have any second thoughts or regrets?
Not now. All our second thoughts occurred in the first three months after we put the house up for sale and resigned our positions (we gave six months notice). But those second thoughts were more about what others would think than anything. We were going against everything society had conditioned us for, and we were still trying to justify to ourselves that we should follow our hearts.
Four things helped us get through the doubts. First, work became unbearable. Second, I found the quote I use on our Home page:
We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us! -- Joseph Campbell
That quote came to us at a very important time in our transition. Third, a friend told us to read The Unmistakable Touch of Grace by Cheryl Richardson. That book, again at just the right time in our lives, helped confirm that we were doing the right thing for us. Everyone, whether you want to full-time or not, might consider that book. Fourth, I discovered (according to various polls) that the number one regret of full-timers on the road was “We regret that we did not start full-timing sooner.”
So, we do not have any second thoughts or regrets. Are there things we miss? See the next question. :)
Back To FAQs List At Top
9. What do you miss the most from your previous lifestyle?
This is one of the toughest questions for us to answer. Of course we miss having the money to go to nice restaurants, take extravagant vacations, play PGA Tour quality golf courses (I played a lot of actual Tour event courses in that other life), shop without looking at price tags, fly first class, etc. Of course we miss the dishwasher, the icemaker, the big screen TV, the hot tub, the walk-in closets full of clothes, the spacious shower, and a full-size bathroom.
Sure we miss all those things. But we don’t miss them nearly enough to go back to the type of lifestyle it took to have all that. I’ve said it over and over and over. Full-timing is about trade-offs and compromises.
Let’s turn it around. If we went back to our previous life tomorrow, what would we miss about full-timing? Are you kidding me? We would miss all of it – freedom, nature, travel, being together, meeting wonderful people, sunrises, sunsets, waterfalls, birds, wildlife, 80 degree February days, bike rides through charming towns, canoeing a river surrounded by natural habitat, hiking a forest trail, finding a hidden treasure, fly-fishing in a mountain stream, golf on crappy courses with good people, no alarm clocks, two-hour coffee time, falling asleep beside a campfire, sharing s’mores with the neighbors, helping out at animals shelters, assisting hurricane victims, silence of the woods, anytime naps, freedom, freedom, freedom ....... Get the picture? :)
Back To FAQs List At Top
10. Did you really sell the house and everything?
Yep – the house and everything. We have a few boxes of tax papers, pictures, books, videos, and about a half closet of stuff stored at Linda’s sister’s house. We have a couple of pieces of artwork stored at our parents' houses. That’s it. Freedom from things.
Check out our page on the Emotional Aspects of the Transition to Full-timing and our page on Selling the House for more details about the transition.
Back To FAQs List At Top
11. Since your RV is now your only home, why did you go with a fifth wheel instead of a motorhome?
This is the most often asked question by far. That one we can answer. The one we can’t answer is “Which one is better for full-timing?” Yikes! No website will touch that question with a 10-foot pole. We all say it’s a personal decision .... because it is. :)
We chose a fifth wheel primarily because we liked the additional living space, the better kitchen floorplan options, and the homier feel (i.e. no steering wheel in the house). Originally, we thought we would buy a motorhome, but it took only a few hours at an RV dealership to figure out a fifth wheel was for us. No one was more shocked than we were. :)
Once we decided on a fifth wheel, I did more research to make sure that was not a bad decision. I found that Class A motorhomes and fifth wheels were about even as the rig of choice among full-timers. Then I researched the pros and cons of both.
The cons of a fifth wheel (including having to use a pick-up to run around and the stigma of “living in a trailer”), and the pros of motorhomes were just not persuasive enough for us to change our minds. We liked the fact that a pick-up/fifth wheel combination was much less expensive than a new diesel motorhome with the same interior features. We liked that we would only have one motorized vehicle to maintain. We liked that major engine trouble would not cause our home to be in the shop.
Update: In August 2007, we made a lifestyle change and bought a used Jeep Liberty. So now we do have two motors to maintain. :) Check out the next question for the details of that decision.
But the fifth wheel vs motorhome decision IS very personal. And as with everything RV related, everyone thinks what they have is the best way to go. Our best advice is to talk to those that have owned both, and find out which way they would go and why.
Back To FAQs List At Top
12. You have a fifth wheel, but you bought a Jeep. Do you tow the Jeep behind the fifth wheel and why did you get the Jeep?
No, we don't tow the Jeep behind the fifth wheel. Our fifth wheel doesn't have the structure for towing, we don't want to add what we would need to tow it, and we wouldn't double-tow anyway. Since we don't go very far between moves, it's no big deal for us to drive the Jeep separately. We use walkie-talkies to communicate during those two to five hour trips.
Now, for the very detailed explanation of why we bought the Jeep, go to this Journal entry Reasons For Our Jeep Revisited.
Having the extra vehicle is probably the number 1 or number 2 best decision we've made for our lifestyle. Of course, it wouldn't be a good solution for everyone. :)
Back To FAQs List At Top
13. Do you have a washer and dryer in the rig and why or why not?
We do not have a washer/dryer in our RV. We have the hook-ups for it, and we would recommend that everyone have the hook-ups, but take your time in deciding on the actual purchase.
Originally, we were going to buy a washer/dryer before we went on the road. We thought it was a necessity for full-timers, but after doing a little more research and getting advice from other full-timers, we were not so sure. So we decided to wait, and we are glad we did.
We have run across many people that say they would never full-time without their washer/dryer in the rig and one even claimed it “saved our marriage.” But many people that have them say they could take them or leave them.
Of course the big reason to have them is convenience. And yes they will save money once you recoup the initial investment.
However, they take up storage space, the loads are small requiring running lots of cycles. Some people don’t mind doing laundry every day for the convenience – another trade-off. Washer/dryer owners tell us that they still use coin laundries and campground laundries for sheets, jeans, and beach towels. They also tell us that they use coin machines when they are parked without sewer hook-ups, so they don’t fill their gray tanks too quickly. And they tell us when they use their washer/dryer, the clothes come out very wrinkled – full-timers don’t iron. :)
Other considerations are how much energy they use (gotta watch that if your electric is metered or you are on 30 amps) and the heat they create in the rig. Also, you have to choose between stackable units or combination units (a single unit that washes and dries) – another pros & cons analysis. Then you have to choose between “vented” and “unvented”. We understand that “vented” units perform better, but that may require having a hole cut in the rig for the vent – personally, I would never mess with the integrity of the rig structure, but that’s just me.
So, for now, Linda has decided that she much prefers to take the laundry and do a few loads all at the same time. She is done with all of it in about an hour and a half each week. Yes it does cost us about $300 a year, but she would still rather get it all done at once and use the space for storage. If she changes her mind later, we have the hook-ups.
Back To FAQs List At Top
14. How did you choose your state of residency and what are the best states?
Go to the Selecting A Home Base page for a detailed discussion of the things to think about like convenience, taxes, insurance, vehicle inspections, etc.
We chose Kentucky to start with mostly for convenience and great insurance rates. However, we may change in the future to a state with no state income tax and no property tax on our truck and trailer.
The most popular states are Florida, Texas, and South Dakota. None of them have state income tax and they all have well-established mail forwarding services where you are assigned a street address. It can be a tough choice between the three. If we decide to change later, it will probably come down to which state can offer the best health insurance at the best rates.
With that said, the “best” state depends on individual circumstances and a no-state-income-tax state may NOT be the best choice in your particular situation.
Back To FAQs List At Top
15. How do you get your mail?
We have a wonderful friend back in Louisville that has allowed us to use her house as our mailing address. We trust her enough to open everything that comes in. She then scans our mail and emails it to us. We take a look at it and then let her know whether we need the originals. We provide here with pre-paid Priority Mail envelopes to send anything we need. It’s awesome!!
About once a quarter, she will send us package to our campground or to General Delivery. Some campgrounds won’t accept regular mail for temporary visitors, but we have had no problems getting UPS or FedEx. Of course we always ask to be sure that it is okay and let them know to be on the lookout for it. Often, the packages can be delivered directly to our campsite.
We also use General Delivery. Local post offices will hold General Delivery mail for 30 days. So we often have mail sent to a location in advance of our arrival if we are positive we won't be changing plans. Note: We only have mail sent General Delivery in small towns with a single post office and zip code, so the potential for it getting lost is greatly reduced.
If we change our mailing address to Texas, South Dakota, or Florida in the future, we will switch to one of the well-established mail forwarding services in those states.
Back To FAQs List At Top
16. How do you handle your banking?
We maintain a checking account through Hilliard Lyons, a regional investment brokerage in Louisville. We were not even aware that we could do our banking through them, until the day we went and broke the news to our advisors that we were quitting our jobs and would no longer be socking away huge sums of money. They explained their account to us.
Here is what we get:
No fees for anything
Interest earned on the balance
VISA debit card
Mail in deposits
Access to ATMs across the world
Reimbursement of ATM fees up to $200 a year
Since we started, a lot of financial institutions now offer the same services we've had all along. Banking is not that big an issue at all anymore for full-timers. With technology, you can retain your local credit union and bank with them from all over the country.
Back To FAQs List At Top
17. What type of camera do you use and do you use a photo processing software?
My camera is a Nikon D40 digital that comes standard with an 18-55mm lens and a 55mm-200mm lens. I also have a 70-300mm lens for the great zooms and close-ups.
Actually we started with a Nikon D70 that came with an 18-70mm lens, but I like the D40 better and the D70 is now the back-up.
So I have three lenses. Of course the proper lens is never on the camera at the right time, so I spend a lot of time fumbling to change lenses and trying not to drop them in the water or over a cliff. :)
Ninety percent of the time, I keep the setting on "Auto" and let the camera do the work. I just point and shoot without messing with the other various settings. About ninety-five percent of the time I leave it on "Autofocus" and the other five percent I focus manually (usually for birds in trees or bushes).
I do not have the big flash and only use the internal flash.
I do have a basic tripod and a tabletop tripod, but rarely use either.
I love photography, but I'm somewhat of a lazy photographer. I just try to be in the right place at the right time, hope for good lighting (sun behind me), and try to give landscape photos some perspective. Other than that, I let the camera do its job.
With all the web stuff and enjoying life, I don't like to take the time to touch up and process photos. I do have a basic program that came with our Kodak PlaySport video camera, so I will do a quick contrast or brightness adjustment or crop the photo, but that's about it.
Back To FAQs List At Top
18. What type of GPS do you use?
Since we have quite a bit of technology, a lot of folks assume we have a sophisticated GPS system to help us in our travels. Lots of people absolutely swear by their in-vehicle GPS, but we have a love/hate relationship with whatever we use. They are pretty worthless in the rural areas we like to travel, but quite useful in towns and cities where we've never been.
Anyway, we don't rely on GPS when towing. We plan all our trips on Google Maps and do it all online before each trip. Then we use the Google Navigation on our phones as we travel as confirmation and to help us re-route if necessary.
We use a combination of Google Maps, good ole fashioned map reading, and directions on destination websites to guide us from one place to another.
We do have a handheld GPS – a Magellan eXplorist 200 - that we take when we are hiking, canoeing, and geocaching. In hiking and canoeing, we use it to track our route (so we can backtrack if we get lost) and to determine how far we walk or paddle. Of course geocaching is a GPS hobby in which you search for treasures hidden all over the world that are designated by GPS coordinates. Geocaching has taken us to some beautiful places we otherwise would not have seen.
Back To FAQs List At Top
19. How do you access the internet and why did you choose your current system?
Oh boy. This one gets a bit complicated. :)
When we started, we were familiar with the following methods of accessing internet on the road: public libraries, campgrounds with dial-up, DSL, or cable modem connections using their central computer, campgrounds with dial-up connections using your own laptop, campgrounds with Wi-Fi systems (some free and some for a fee), non-campground Wi-Fi hotspots, cellular modems, cellular broadband service, and satellite internet.
Our decision process went like this. We HAVE to have internet and email access as much as possible. Okay, assuming that we camp in the remotest parts of the United States and beyond, what system will give us internet access just about everywhere?
Let’s see. Public libraries may be hard to find in remote areas and many do not have internet access. Campgrounds in more remote areas are less likely to have any type of internet access, so it would be hit and miss. Wi-Fi is booming and the hotspots are increasing, but they will not likely reach remote areas for quite some time. Cellular modems were only as good as cell phone coverage (which had lots of gaps back then). Cellular broadband only existed around interstates and major cities at the time we started (it's MUCH improved since then).
The one solution that could give us internet access consistently all over the lower 48 states, through southern Canada, and parts of Mexico was satellite internet. All we needed was a clear view of the southern sky.
At the time, we were still working and the price of the necessary equipment and installation was not a factor. But we still had to be concerned with our monthly budget and the recurring costs. Public libraries - free, campground access via modem - usually free, Wi-Fi access - often free with occasional access fees, cellular modems - depends on the cellular data plan, and cellular broadband - monthly fee that rivaled satellite internet monthly fees without the coverage/dependability. We decided that our budget could withstand a monthly fee up to $100 per month (it's actually only about $70) for the convenience of internet from anywhere in the country inside our rig.
So we decided on satellite internet. Still being new at mobile internet technology, I researched the best systems available at the time. I decided to go with the Datastorm (by Motosat) automatic rooftop dish (about $5,000 installed) which I knew could also be used to receive satellite TV.
I could have gone with a tripod system for about a third of the price and the ability to use cables to find openings in trees to the southern sky. But I felt like the automatic rooftop dish was the best choice for us even if it meant we would have to be careful about our campground and campsite selections and look for places that had fewer trees than we had originally anticipated. I didn’t want to have to find storage space for a dish, tripod, and cables and didn’t want to have to handle that equipment or point the dish manually.
The equipment installed was a Datastorm .74 meter dish on the roof, a Datstorm D2 controller (since upgraded to a D3) that automatically points and stows the dish, a Direcway (now Hughes) 6000 (since upgraded to a 7000) internet modem, a Linksys wireless router that lets our two laptops communicate with the modem without cables via wireless receivers in the laptops, and the cables necessary to link the dish, controller, modem, and router all together in our bedroom closet.
We have been in only a few campgrounds where we could not get a signal through the trees. Heavy cloud cover and rain do cause us to lose signal on occasion, but we have great access and the downtime is minimal. The internet speed is much better than dial-up but not as good as DSL or a cable modem. Our monthly cost is now $70 per month, down from our original $100 per month when we started. And we have not had to give up any significant difference in campsites by needing a clear southern sky view.
It’s not cheap and we have had a few difficulties, but I would not do anything differently. We are very happy with our set-up and the reliability and dependability.
Update: In the summer of 2009 we worked at a campground where our site did NOT have a clear view of the southern sky. As an alternative to our satellite internet, we purchased an upgraded cell phone with a booster antenna port and the latest cellular technology. We plugged the cell phone into an amplifier and the amplifier into a booster antenna on the roof. Then we plugged the cell phone into a cellular wireless router. We basically used the cell phone as a modem and a service called "tethering". Unlike the cellular broadband air cards (modems) which require 2-year contracts, the tethering feature could be turned on and off with a call to the cellular company - no contracts. The cost was $50 a month, but then we got a pro-rated credit the next month for the days we had the feature turned off. It's was great back-up for our satellite internet and we no longer had to have just the right camping spot based solely on a view of the southern sky.
Now, doing it all over again, we would consider going with cellular broadband only and not investing in the satellite equipment. Cellular broadband coverage has improved that much. And you can get amplifiers and booster antennas to expand coverage in poor service areas.
However, there are still gaps in the level of coverage. So, we're happy to have both the satellite internet and the cellular internet as a back-up. But, if we were starting over, and the upfront costs were an issue, we would likely go with cellular broadband as our primary internet .... I think. :)
Update: The more we have been concentrating on our website and other ventures, the more we have needed faster internet access. So, in December 2010, we added a Verizon cellular 3G/4G Pantech USB modem (aircard). We did have to sign up for a 2-year contract, but the newer technology is faster and the modem does have external antenna ports to increase our service area. In addition, we added a Droid 2 smartphone with full internet access. By using a software application provided at pda.net, we are also able to use the Droid's unlimited internet access on one laptop by tethering it.
Update: At the end of 2012, we exchanged our 3G/4G Pantech modem for a 3G/4G Verizon Jetpack which serves as a combination modem and router. We now have a 6GB data plan through Verizon that covers our Jetpack and two smartphones, and we still have our satellite internet for those areas where we don't have cellular coverage. With expanding cellular coverage and 4G service we are seeing less need for boosting equipment, but we still park in a lot of places that have poor or non-existent cellular coverage.
So, as of the beginning of 2013, we have the following ways of accessing the internet:
1) Satellite internet with automatic rooftop dish for coverage in the remote locations everywhere in the continental U.S. and beyond.
2) Verizon Cellular 3G/4G Jetpack for service that is faster than satellite IF in good celluar coverage areas
3) Verizon LG Lucid smartphone and Verizon Pantech Maurader smartphone. We can tether either phone using pda.net.
4) Wi-Fi via the built-in adapters on our laptops.
5) Wi-Fi via our smartphones and Jetpack.
Back To FAQs List At Top
20. What about TV?
We have the standard batwing, crank up antenna. However, we haven't used it in probably five years. I admit I don't know all that much about all the TV technology.
But I can tell you that we have satellite TV through DirecTV.
We had a $60 arm (called an LNB or BOW – bird on a wire) installed on our Datastorm dish so that we could use the same dish for satellite TV. We chose DirecTV although my research showed it was about 50/50 among RVers between DirecTV and Dish Network.
Distant Network Service is how we get “local” channels via satellite. Since we are mobile, we cannot get true local channels (i.e. NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC) in each community we visit. Distant Network Service allows us to get New York and Los Angeles “local” feeds of the networks. So we get two NBC, CBS, FOX, and ABC stations. The fun of that is that we can catch a west coast version of a show if we miss the east coast version OR we can DVR a west coast show if we were out and forgot to DVR the east coast version. Of course the DVR allows us to enjoy the outdoors and watch TV on rainy days or late at night AND without commercials.
For Distant Network Service we had to sign an affidavit that we are mobile and that our dish is attached to our rig. We also had to send a copy of our RV registration. This is all to keep people in homes from bypassing their local TV channels in favor of New York and Los Angeles stations (local advertisers and TV stations don’t like that).
Originally, we had a DVR in the bedroom and one in the living room, and our BOW on the satellite dish was standard definition. We also had a manual tripod dish for those times we were parked where the satellite dish on our roof was blocked. We still had analog TVs and had no digital converter and no high definition capability.
However, in December 2012, TV prices came down enough that we replaced our analog TVs with LED flat screens and we got a free upgrade to a high definition DVR. We opted for "Whole Home" service so we can record and watch in different rooms. We also upgraded our BOW to a 3-LNB BOW so we could get high definition reception to go with the new DVR and TVs.
Originally, we thought we would not watch that much TV. But this is a lifestyle, and TV does come in handy as a relatively inexpensive entertainment alternative.
Back To FAQs List At Top
21. We are not very social and do not meet people easily. How do you meet people on the road?
We have no trouble meeting people at all. We have no trouble breaking the ice, and then others love to hear about our full-time lifestyle. But we have learned a few things that might be helpful.
First, you have to be open to meeting others. That means you have to appear friendly, always smile, make eye contact, and be willing to make the first move. Rejection by RVers is rare, especially if you follow the next tip.
Second, you have to be able to identify the informal signals that campers and RVers give off. Most are open to meeting you, but they let you know with body language. A smile, a wave, and a friendly “hello” are all signs that people are willing to meet you. Of course, best of all, many start the conversation with you first. :)
Now, those that want their privacy tend to stay in their RVs or, if they are sitting outside, they don’t look up as you pass by. If they do look up and smile or even wave, they still don’t want to be bothered if they immediately look back down or don’t maintain a friendly posture. And of course, most don’t want to be bothered in the middle of setting up, packing up, or during a meal. In fact, the worst time to be sociable is while folks are preparing to leave and going through their departure checklist – not only will they appear rude because of their focus, but it could even be dangerous if they miss something.
Third, go for it! Just walk around the campground and look for people that give you good vibes. Walk up to them and start talking. Don’t know what to say? Start with the universal “Where are you from?” Or ask how they like their rig. If they have a sign with their name and where they are from, start there. Take notice of their license plates. The main thing is to ask questions that tell you something about your new friends and listen, listen, listen. Too many people are so caught up in what they are going to say next, that they don’t hear what others are saying. People love to talk about themselves, so give them a chance. But be genuinely interested. The best conversationalists are those that ask a lot of questions and do the most listening and least talking – until the other person starts the asking. :)
It becomes easier each time. And if you are joyful in your own life, it becomes second nature.
Back To FAQs List At Top