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Why I Gave Away Nearly All Of My Belongings To Live In An RV

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Live in an RVToday, Michelle from Making Sense of Cents tells us why she and her husband decided to live in an RV full time. That lifestyle sounds very liberating and I’m very jealous. I’d love to travel in an RV for a while, but we probably can’t do it until our kid goes off to college. Someday…

Living in an RV

A lot of people have called us crazy for living in an RV, and I’m sure even more people think it. When we tell people that we live in an RV, we usually get the “you’re absolutely crazy” look or the “poor you, I can’t believe you are forced to live in a vehicle” look.

Many people think that living in an RV would be a bad thing and wonder why we would choose to live like this.

Well, we did choose it, and I don’t regret it one bit.

See, in February of 2015 we moved to Colorado to explore a new place, and in the meantime, we put our house in Missouri up for sale. We started by just renting in Colorado, because the plan was to buy a house after we explored and decided which town we liked best.

We wanted to to make traveling back home easy, and we also wanted to travel around the country part-time, so in July of 2015, after our house in Missouri finally sold, we bought an RV.

I never thought that we would become full-time RVers. I didn’t know a single thing about RVing, and at that time, I didn’t know a single person who RVed. Plus, I had never even stepped foot in an RV – unless you count the one that we bought.

But, we immediately fell in love with RVing.

Almost as soon as we bought the RV did we decide that we would become full-time RVers. We absolutely fell in love with the lifestyle and just couldn’t imagine going back to our rental house or any other house for that matter.

However, that meant that we would have to get rid of a lot of stuff. While we did donate a lot when we sold our house in Missouri, our house rental in Colorado was still a two-story house that we filled up with our belongings.

We also learned that preparing to RV full-time isn’t easy. There’s a lot to learn, you have to get rid of a LOT of stuff in order to fit into a tiny space, you have to get along with your spouse in close-quarters, and more.

So, why would we do this? Why would we give away nearly all of our stuff just to live in an RV? Well, we quickly learned the benefits of such big transition.

I’ve learned a lot from downsizing

Often, there’s a negative connotation when it comes to downsizing, as many people think that it would be difficult to live with so much less.

But, I disagree!

When we downsized, we got rid of nearly all of our things. We had neighbors come over and take whatever they wanted for free, we gave away all of our furniture to family members, and then donated everything else.

All we have now is the stuff in our RV, plus some items from our childhood that are stored with my in-laws.

Getting rid of everything was definitely a huge task, one that I never want to do again. It took a lot of hard work and caused a lot of stress.

However, it was well worth it.

Since downsizing, I put much more thought into anything I think about buying.

I’ve come to realize that I don’t need a lot of the things I once thought I did, and I’m a lot happier because of it!

Now, all we have is what is with us. We have a small amount of everything, and we like it best this way.

We are much more mindful of what we buy, we waste hardly anything, and this is allowing us to save money as well.

Living in an RV is a lot of fun

We moved to Colorado for a reason – we love the outdoors and wanted to be surrounded by it. We enjoy going on hikes, cycling, rock climbing, Jeeping, and more. And, we were already spending a lot of time traveling around the country in our Jeep and camping out of it too.

So, RVing wasn’t really too far from what we were already doing. Except that RVing is definitely a lot more comfortable!

By RVing, we’re always able to do the things that we love.

We’ve had unbeatable views out of our RV window, we’ve parked in some of the most beautiful national parks, state parks, and more.

RV

We’ve traveled to many amazing places in our RV, such as:

  • The Pacific Northwest (my husband cycled 1,000 miles from Port Angeles, Washington to San Francisco, California, while I drove myself and our two dogs in the RV). We went to Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, Kalaloch and Ruby Beach, Hoh National Rainforest, La Push Beach, and many other beautiful places. This was the trip of a lifetime!
  • Utah – Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Moab, and many other places.
  • Colorado – Rocky Mountain National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado National Monument, Dinosaur National Monument, and many other places.
  • Arizona – Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Sedona, Phoenix, and more.
  • California – This was a part of the Pacific Northwest trip, but we continued on and hopped along beaches all the way to Los Angeles.
  • Wyoming – Yellowstone National Park and Grand Tetons National Park.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

You can live wherever you want

One of the best things about living in an RV is that you can live in whatever area of the country or continent that you want. That is a huge positive for us because we love so many parts of the United States, and it would be hard to pick one specific place to live permanently.

If we want to live near a beach – we can easily do that. If we want to be in a forest – we can do that as well.

We can live anywhere we want!

RV

Being a digital nomad is amazing

I’m a full-time blogger at Making Sense of Cents, which means that I can work from wherever.

So, because I love to travel, it’s a no-brainer to travel full-time in our RV.

If I want to take a break from work and go on a hike, I can do that. If I want to go  mountain biking in the morning before I start answering emails, I can do that.

The list goes on and on!

Being in an RV makes traveling while working (and living) much more enjoyable because I can bring my home everywhere I go. I don’t have to worry about forgetting something, bringing a suitcase, or anything – I always have what I need with me.

Having more stuff doesn’t make you a happier person

I’ve come to realize over the years that owning more stuff doesn’t make you happier. This is far different from the Michelle of just a few years ago. I would hoard everything – clothes, keepsakes, random deals I found, and more.

However, I now know that having more stuff doesn’t make you a happier person.

You should only own something if you truly want it. Who cares about what everyone else has!?

We are living our own life now, and it’s one that I know will continue to create many amazing stories and memories that we will carry with us for a long time.

RVing is something that we really love, and if we hadn’t gotten rid of our stuff and downsized, then it would have never been possible.

Are you interested in RVing? Why or why not?

Bio: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner is the founder and writer at Making Sense of Cents. On her blog, she helps readers learn how to make extra money, save money, and reach their dream life. Michelle and her husband sold their house in 2015 and currently travel full-time in an RV with their two dogs.

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{ 63 comments… add one }
  • Ernie Zelinski January 5, 2017, 2:43 am

    No, I am not interested in RVing. Still too much work for me, particularly the driving from place to place. Insofar as possessions, I have always had few possessions compared to the majority in society. I could move out of my half-duplex within half a day if I had to. My clothes, books, and my laptops would be the most important items. Can’t forget about my two cases of vintage wine.

    But Kudos to you. You are enjoying your new lifestyle and that is the main thing. The digital nomad lifestyle is one that I lead to a certain degree and which I would never trade for a corporate job. These quotations apply:

    “There is only one success — to be able to spend your life in your own way.”
    — Christopher Morley

    “We live in the age of the overworked, and the under-educated; the age in which people are so industrious that they become absolutely stupid.”
    — Oscar Wilde

    “One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.”
    — Paulo Coelho

    “A lot of us are working harder than we want, at things we don’t like to do. Why? It figures! In order to afford the sort of existence we don’t care to live.”
    — Bradford Angier

    “I know of nothing more despicable and pathetic than a man who devotes all the hours of the waking day to the making of money for money’s sake.”
    — John D. Rockefeller

    “An unfulfilled vocation drains the color from a man’s entire existence.”
    — Honoré de Balzac

    “To be yourself in a world that is doing its best, day and night to make you like everybody else — is to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
    — e. e. cummings

    “The really efficient laborer will be found not to crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure.”
    — Henry David Thoreau

    “So oftentimes it happens that we live our lives in chains and we never even know we have the key.”
    — from the song “Already Gone” by the Eagles

    “Any fool can run toward the light. It takes a Master with courage to turn and face the darkness and shine his own light there.”
    — Leslie Fiegler

    “The most common and harmful addiction in the world is comfort. Comfort stops us from being courageous . . . we focus on what we could lose and not on what we can gain. The truth is growth begins at the end of your comfort zone. Stepping outside of your comfort zone will open doors of opportunity that you have no idea even exist.”
    — Desiree Adaway

    • Michelle Schroeder-Gardner January 5, 2017, 9:30 am

      Yes, of course 🙂 Everyone can do their own thing. I like RVing so it’s what I do.

    • Eric B January 16, 2017, 12:01 pm

      That is an amazing collection of inspiring quotes. Just wanted to say: thanks!

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher January 5, 2017, 3:20 am

    Every time I see articles about full-time RVing it makes me want to get one more and more. 🙂 I still don’t know if Mr. Picky Pincher and I would be able to do it, but I like the idea.

    I’ve seen a few income reports from RVers and their housing costs are negligible (while gas costs are obviously higher). But in the end it does work out to big savings.

    • retirebyforty January 5, 2017, 9:26 am

      I’d love to RV around North America for about a year. Mrs. RB40 probably would be open to that. However, she wouldn’t want to give up everything and go on the road permanently. She likes having a home base. I have a more nomadic mindset. 🙂

    • Michelle Schroeder-Gardner January 5, 2017, 9:31 am

      It doesn’t work out to savings – we don’t do it to save money but it is possible to save money, just like with a normal house and how costs vary.

      RVing is a lot of fun though, so for us it’s worth the cost! 🙂

  • Physician on FIRE January 5, 2017, 3:48 am

    I’m on board! Not on yours, Michelle; I’ll get my own. Looking at keeping our modest cabin as a home base and hitting the road in the summer or fall next year. I can’t think of a good reason not to do this while we have the opportunity.

    And Joe — you can totally do this once your wife is retired. We’ll have two boys and a dog in our motorhome. It will take more work (we’ll b homeschooling, or “roadschooling”) but I think it will be an amazing experience for our boys to get out and see our great nation.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    • [email protected] January 5, 2017, 3:55 am

      I’ve been following Michelle and their RV adventures for awhile now and we are going to hit the road too this fall. I think we are going to travel in our van & camp at first – and shift to an RV or something a little bigger after we take in a few adventures! Our timeline is similar to PoF’s – but our kids will both be off to college! #emptynestadventures 😉

    • retirebyforty January 5, 2017, 9:27 am

      I thought homeschooling would work, but now I’m not sure. It’s really hard for me to get the kid to do anything educational at home. He has a much easier time at school. I guess we need to set up some kind of structure when we hit the road. We still want to go on an RTW trip in about 5 years.

    • Michelle Schroeder-Gardner January 5, 2017, 9:32 am

      Awesome! I hope we can meet up one day on the road!

  • Freedom 40 Guy January 5, 2017, 4:08 am

    I love the idea of RVing or #vanlife around the country / world. If you haven’t seen the Hasta Alaska series on YouTube – you might check it out. Some really fun stuff about a guy who takes a VW bus from Chile to Alaska. Someday I’d love to do something similar!

    • Michelle Schroeder-Gardner January 5, 2017, 9:33 am

      Yes, we definitely want to do something like that one day! We have many plans, for now we’re just enjoying the USA and Canada 🙂

  • Alberto January 5, 2017, 6:10 am

    Cool!

  • Roseanne January 5, 2017, 7:11 am

    I have been watching the RV shows and have really caught the bug. I’ll start following Michelle for some insights! Maybe renting an RV for a couple of months might make sense, just for a trial basis. I enjoy your website, Joe!

  • Financial Panther January 5, 2017, 7:13 am

    Always love hearing Michelle’s story. So awesome to not live normally like everyone else. And I bet you can keep your expenses so much lower by doing this. I’ve had this idea of wanting to do 1 Postmates delivery in every single city (sort of like some folks who give an Uber or Lyft ride in every city). It’d be pretty easy to throw a bike in an RV, then do one delivery in all of the Postmates markets, haha. Maybe I need to think about how to do that one day!

  • Mr. All Things Money January 5, 2017, 7:28 am

    That’s a pretty cool live style. I so agree with you in how other people may have the perception that you guys are poor. At times I have been called a minimalist even though I am no where near that level of frugality. I still have a nice house and a few things that I enjoy, but I don’t go out and buy stuff just to make me feel happy nor do I like to flash around my money. I would rather spend my money on experiences and doing some good for others.

    It seems most people expect us to spend like them and if we don’t then they either think we are poor or a minimalist. It’s funny how being financially responsible and not being in love with material things can make us a minimalist in the eyes of our neighbors and friends.

    • Mr. All Things Money January 5, 2017, 7:30 am

      * “life style” * sorry for the typo.

    • Michelle Schroeder-Gardner January 5, 2017, 9:37 am

      Yeah, it’s always interesting when we get that “sad” look because people feel bad for us. Our RV costs 3 times the amount of the house we used to own – we are just fine and we are not starving! 🙂

  • Debarati Roy January 5, 2017, 7:48 am

    This is a really unique post I came across today and it sure has taught me that happiness really comes at a minimal cost. Well, RVing does seem like an excellent idea, but of course not for all. But for the braveheart adventure loving souls, it does seem like an exciting deal. It is all about enjoying the moment and serenity.

  • Jim @ Route To Retire January 5, 2017, 8:26 am

    Love that you guys are doing what makes you happy, Michelle, and get the freedom that comes with it!! I can imagine how exhilarating it would be while, at the same time, figuring out the adjustments needed to accommodate the lifestyle.

    It’s definitely not for me though. I do want to downsize in the future to help simplify things, but I think that would be too much for me. I have a tendency to need to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible in a vehicle just because I focus on the destination and not the journey.

    My parents have an RV and try to get my family to join them to go elsewhere across the country and it drives her nuts when I tell her “why would I do that when I can get there in just a couple hours by plane?” 🙂

    — Jim

    • Michelle Schroeder-Gardner January 5, 2017, 9:39 am

      Haha, thanks! We love it! Traveling full-time is a blast, and being able to bring all of our stuff with us makes it much more enjoyable and comfortable.

  • JP January 5, 2017, 8:29 am

    So envious!! Where do you park? What are generally the nightly costs?
    Thank you

    • Michelle Schroeder-Gardner January 5, 2017, 9:39 am

      We park at RV campgrounds, national parks, state parks, BLM land, and so on. Nightly costs can vary greatly – from free to $200+ a night.

  • Beth A Yos January 5, 2017, 8:59 am

    After seeing this website mentioned on mmm I wonder why it’s being highlighted here. It has a distinctive style.

  • Mr. Grumby January 5, 2017, 9:15 am

    Excellent! The emphasis you placed on downsizing is important. The attachment we have with our things is strong and it takes real discipline and motivation to get rid of them.
    Mrs. G and I have RV and Mini-van living as an option when we jump off of the merry-go-round early 2018, but the plan right now is to live as bicycle nomads for awhile at first.
    Nice post!

    • Michelle Schroeder-Gardner January 5, 2017, 9:41 am

      We definitely want to do the bicycle nomad thing one day. We are planning on seeing if our dogs will do small tours with us first, but we don’t know how they’ll feel about that haha.

  • Mike H. January 5, 2017, 9:16 am

    Couldn’t do it. I’m downsizing to the best of my abilities, but I have a weakness for musical instruments and power tools, both of which take up a lot of space. Definitely not as unplugged from the consumer lifestyle as you are – I’m jealous.

  • DiningOnDividends January 5, 2017, 9:20 am

    Sounds like you are loving it! I am not particularly frugal, and enjoy many things that I know are at odds with the majority of my fellow dividend growth bloggers (specialty coffees, golf club membership, big screen TVs, etc). That said, I love reading about people who are passionate about the choices they have made, regardless of much they may differ from my own. Good luck to you!

    • Michelle January 5, 2017, 12:59 pm

      Yes, we love it! We don’t do this lifestyle to be frugal, though. We just like to travel full-time.

  • David Michael January 5, 2017, 9:34 am

    Thanks Michelle for another interesting article on lifestyle.

    My wife and I completed 12 years traveling around the world two years ago, five years teaching overseas, and seven living in our Class C Lazy Daze (27 ft) RV full time exploring Canada and the USA. We loved it!!! It’s not for everyone, but each day was such an adventure. We sold everything except a few items which we kept in storage. Loved the instant connections with fellow RVers as well as the solitude of camping on public lands in the American West. And, found we could easily live with very few items. Loved carrying kayaks on top and bicycles on the back.

    After seven years my wife wanted to settle down once more in Oregon to be with community and friends. She often said to me that I had found my tribe with the RVing community. I’m headed to the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in Quartzite in another week headed by Bob Wells (great website) to attend seminars on van camping. Downsized from 200 sq ft to 60 sq ft to a 2016 Promaster High Top van. Great for shorter trips. But…sorely miss the full timing life.

    Wishing you great travels and adventures!

  • Max Your Freedom January 5, 2017, 12:00 pm

    We have also dreamed about being nomads. The fact you’ve pulled it off as a digital nomad is that much more impressive. We’ve decided the best solution for our family since we have a toddler is to establish a home base for ourselves, relatively close to family, and then use the summer months to satisfy our travel cravings beyond a typical 1-2 week vacation. Our first year experimenting with this concept will be this year. It’s not traveling full time, but we hope it will be close enough for now.

  • eric van haaften January 5, 2017, 2:04 pm

    A few great friends take us around in RV’s. Wow, this is a new level. I was considering living in an RV while we are building a house. The year of living in the RV compared to paying our mortgage would offset the cost. Then, we could use it for fututure travels and scuba diving too.

  • Ed Carver January 5, 2017, 3:37 pm

    My Mom and Dad spent 5 years doing the RV thing when they retired and they had a lot of fun. Later, they bought a house and slowly transitioned away from the RV lifestyle, but always had great stories about those RV days. My Mom used to say “You can be many different people at many different times in your life.” Too many people think it’s an all or nothing deal. Why not ride it as long as it works for you? You can always buy more stuff and a house in the future if that what interests you again. I applaud you for what you are doing and wish you the best of luck.

  • Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes January 5, 2017, 4:39 pm

    Great story Michelle. While I doubt I could do it full-time, it might be fun to do for a few months.

    I’m not going to homeschool my kids, so we’ll probably need a permanent base of operations!

  • freebird January 5, 2017, 5:29 pm

    Neat itinerary, seems like RVs were made specifically for the long road trips in the American West. Just one tip — if you stop by Vegas don’t bet it all on 22 😉

  • Mr. Need2Save January 5, 2017, 6:34 pm

    Mrs. Need2Save and I are definitely considering a year-long cross-country RV trip after we retire. I don’t see us doing it for years on end, but a year long adventure should be exciting.

    We are actually going to an RV show in a couple of weeks to get a better idea on the size and type that would work for us. I’m currently thinking something like a 24′ travel trailer would work. Also, we don’t plan on buying new, so perhaps what we see now will be what we end up purchasing in 7 or 8 years.

  • Charlie January 6, 2017, 3:58 am

    I’d love to live in an RV full time. I think it would be a lot cheaper and I think the boondocking aspect of it is interesting and an additional way to save money on your housing. However, my wife doesn’t like driving and waking up in a new place constantly. I’ve talked to her and she might consider it when the kids are out of the house. We will see! 🙂 Here is to hoping.

    • Michelle Schroeder-Gardner January 6, 2017, 2:58 pm

      We love it! I won’t lie though, there have been a couple of times where I’ve woken up and couldn’t remember where I was. It’s a weird feeling haha.

      • Charlie January 7, 2017, 6:47 am

        Is it hard working on your blog and your other passive income ventures all from the confines of a small RV? Basically does it get old and/or hard to do your job? Just trying to get a feel of what it is like.

  • Felipe January 6, 2017, 6:57 am

    Sweet! I laughed two years ago when a very materialistic coworker retired with her hubby to do the full-time RV thing. They were more into the exclusive “class-A only” place, which wouldn’t be my speed. Not to mention extremely expensive! Their RV cost more than my house (they got depreciation, while I made money). They ended up six months in it, and bought a house in Florida and sold the RV. For them the fantasy was better than the reality. I was never sure what their expectations of the experience was.
    I’d be more of a VW camper full-time type. What I’d do love is enjoy the coast and run away easily for hurricanes, no house to board up and no worry or windstorm insurance. Great post! Thanks mucho.

    • Michelle Schroeder-Gardner January 6, 2017, 8:30 am

      A VW camper experience would be great. My husband’s dad has 2 and we definitely thought about that! Our RV is big, but we just made our Rubicon into an overland vehicle so we can take that anywhere. Best of both worlds for us!

  • Full Time Finance January 6, 2017, 8:26 am

    We plan on RVing in retirement for some portion of each year. I expect to need a base of operations for kids/holidays for part of the year. Then we’ll probably buy cheap travel trailers in which ever country we find ourselves in for the rest of the time. Great Post.

  • Amanda January 7, 2017, 4:46 pm

    Hi Michelle, I follow your blog and Joe’s blog regularly so finding you here is a bonus! This post is so so so timely for me. My husband and I have recently starting putting together plans for a similar trip in 11 years – once both children are out of college. Before we can do it we need to reach our retirement goal and our house pay off goal. Having this trip to look forward to has gotten my husband much more on board with our retirement funds plan. He is always supportive and appreciated that I do most of it (because I really like to) but I feel like now he is truly invested. In a few weeks we are going to the Boston RV and Camping show to let the dreaming and planning begin.

    A few questions:
    Did you ever consider a tiny house pulled by truck instead of an RV? If so, why didn’t you do it?
    Does your husband have an online job also? If not, does he get bored or lack direction? We are now both thinking we need an online part time job of some sort for structure.
    Finally, do you feel a lot of pressure to always be thinking about where to park? I am guessing you spend large stretches in one place but when you are traveling it must take quite a bit of planning when you have long stretches on the road.

    Any insights you can give are appreciated. Love your post and thanks for being an inspiration.

    • Michelle Schroeder-Gardner January 7, 2017, 7:21 pm

      We like having our Jeep Wrangler, and you can’t tow much with that, so having a Class A motorhome was pretty much a given for us. We also like having everything in one – we can drive and if we get hungry, we can pull over to the side and start making food. From what I’ve heard, fifth wheels and trailers usually aren’t as operable unless they have all the slides out.

      My husband helps me with the blog, but he mainly does all the RV stuff (drives, maintains it, etc.), cleans, and cooks for us. He keeps himself pretty busy with his adventure goals (cycling long distances, mountain biking, taking mountaineering classes, etc.).

      Nope, no pressure at all when it comes to thinking about where to park. There are RV parks, campgrounds, and BLM land all over the place so it’s pretty easy to find places to stay 🙂

      • Abby January 17, 2017, 3:15 pm

        Interesting post & great questions – thanks!

  • Fiscally Free January 8, 2017, 8:11 pm

    Sounds fun!
    We just bought a truck and are planning to get a camper for the back of it. We want to take some extended trips, but we like the idea of having a house to come back to.

  • Great Indian Retiree January 9, 2017, 12:49 am

    Interesting persepctive here though I’m sure this is not for everyone. I would not be able to live like for any length of time. I am all for travelling and seeing new places but I still need the comfort of a permanent place to call home – a permanent personal space if you will.
    I have never been on the road for more the 2 months in all and I loved the experience – and part of that experience was staying in people’s homes, experiencing the local hospitality or living amongst the local culture and RVing perhaps doesn’t give you the same effect. Just my thoughts on this. There is no fixed way though – so if RVing works for you then no reason why you shouldn’t go for it.

    • Michelle Schroeder-Gardner July 23, 2017, 10:20 pm

      I definitely think RVing helps to live amongst the local culture – that’s actually one of the positives of RVing 🙂

  • Centsai January 10, 2017, 7:03 pm

    Living in an RV seems to be treating you well, good for you! RV’ing has so many perks that nothing can compete against like the places you were able to see because of it! We are glad you are happy! Happiness is not how big your home is or how many homes you have!

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