Could you live in an RV full time?

Published July 6, 2015   Posted in How to Retire Middle Feature

I swear, Courtney and I change our minds way too damn much.  Actually, scratch that – I like to think of this as more of a “continuous refinement” process as we learn about truly what is possible in this world.  There really is so much more to this world than what meets the eye.

Pinterest: Could you live in an RV full time?Recently, we discovered another option to our retirement plans – full-time camping.  Okay, maybe not “camping” in the traditional sense, but living in an RV full time and spending several years traveling around the country, seeing new places, meeting new people, seriously getting in touch with nature – and photographing the hell out of it.

Truthfully, we already knew this was possible to do, but never truly considered the possibility of pursuing this ourselves until very recently

People do this all the time, and it can be done for absurdly cheap – like, less than $15k a year cheap.  Boon docking, or living off of your RV’s reserve energy and water, essentially makes your campsite 100% free (like on BLM land), or darn close to it depending on the spot.  Many camp grounds will let you work a couple days a week (as a camp host, working the registration desk or welcome center, etc) for a free spot in the campsite.

Hell, the Amazon fulfillment center hires temporary RV-based work staff every fall in their seasonal push due to a vast increase in sales and shipping demands, which offers a chance for some extra cash.  They call it Camper Force.  Kinda cool.

AirstreamIn the process of figuring out if living in an RV for a few years (or even longer) post-retirement would be doable for us, I came to a very encouraging conclusion. Not only could we do it (and probably like it!), but we could retire TODAY if we decided to live cheap enough.

That’s a wonderful feeling to have.  It puts our increasing drive towards full-on minimalism in perspective and reinvigorates once again our determination to see this whole early retirement thing through to its natural end.

My parents did it, so why can’t I?

My dad was an early retiree.  He quit a very high paying (and high stress) job and retired at 49.  My folks sold their house and bought a 5th wheel RV and a Ford diesel truck and traveled the country, full time.  Eventually they upgraded to a motorhome and continued traveling – campground to campground.

They did that for 13 years. 

13-freaking years!  For more than a decade, they lived in a relatively small space. Sure, the motorhome was super nice and 46′ long – they were hardly roughing it. But, they did it.  It was a lifestyle that worked for them, and they have seen virtually every angle of our country.

I asked them if they ever regret that lifestyle.  “Not for a second”.

If we do this, Courtney and I sure as hell won’t have a 46′ Monaco Dynasty motorhome like my folks had.  More like a 25′ foot Airstream and a diesel truck.

How can we possibly know whether or not this is something that we’d like to do full time?  It’s a big move, and if we can’t stand living in a space that small, we’re out some cash, not to mention the heartache of having to undo that new lifestyle.

Truthfully, we don’t know for sure…yet.  That is where Airbnb comes in.  To my surprise, there is a wide variety of Airstream Airbnb rentals, and we’ll probably try one for a couple nights.  This won’t give us the complete experience, of course, because we aren’t actually towing that sucker anywhere.  But, it will give us a feel for what it’s like living in such a tiny space.

Are we gonna bump butts as we move around inside?  If Courtney wants to read, will I be able to watch television or surf YouTube and not completely annoy the hell out of her?  What about the sleeping situation?  We are used to a king sized bed.  How do we manage all this difference in space?

These are all questions that we hope to answer – not just during this one Airbnb stay, but potentially over the course of several stays.

We love to explore, and this would provide us with the living arrangements to make it our full time “careers” pretty easily, and if we want, quite cheap.

Will it work for us?  I’m looking forward to finding the answer to that question out.

Could you live in an RV full time?

We track our net worth using Personal Capital


20 responses to “Could you live in an RV full time?”

  1. We think about this question ALL. THE. TIME. Same as you, we think we could retire easily today if we sold our house and well full-time RV. For us, it would likely be even smaller — think fixed up Sprinter van. We love Airstreams, but ever since we discovered that they are super heavy, require a big truck, and as a result guzzle lots of gas, we’ve been less enamored. They are freakin cool, though. 🙂

    Love your idea of doing an airbnb rental of an Airstream cottage. Before you make the leap, it’s probably also worth doing a regular RV rental for a while — would give you the experience of moving campsites, dealing with the dreaded black water tank, living with a tiny fridge and kitchen (most of the converted Airstream cabins we’ve seen have had upgraded kitchens, not like a real RV kitchen), etc.

    Right now, we’re thinking of a more hybrid approach for ourselves: fix up a Sprinter or Promaster van for long-term travel, and rent out our house while we’re away. We just love having a home to come back to, and given how close we are to ER at this point anyway, it seems worthwhile to have that home base. But like with you guys, that could change!

    • Steve says:

      Totally! In fact, your Sprinter van idea very, very closely resembled ours just a month or so ago. Our home base would be in Sedona and we’d travel in something like a Sprinter. But the more we thought about it, the more and more we wanted to travel, and it just seemed like maintaining a home and worry about the rental would become a chore. But you’re right, a home base can certainly be nice.

      The gas will definitely be the biggest factor in how often we actually move the thing. We are thinking that we’ll probably minimize the travel the first couple of years, maybe only moving 2 or 3 times during the year, to minimize those fuel costs. But, we’ll see how it works.

      • We have need to talk. Your home base in Sedona – heck we live there now! 🙂

        We have similar dreams as you regarding traveling with our RV. We bought a used F-150 and 24 ft. Jayco trailer a year ago to test the waters. Speaking of waters, we were big time sailors so we were used to living for lengths of time in small spaces. RV traveling is much more safe and comfortable.

        There are a lot of great websites out there of people that have already made this lifestyle choice. I have links to a few of them that I have met and been following for years.

  2. My girlfriend and I were talking about how cool it would be to tour Canada and the great US of A in an RV. I worked at an RV campground all throughout high school and some of college. I love the manual labor and meeting people from all over. I don’t know why so many people who didn’t know how to back up their travel trailer would trust 17 year old me to do it (but I was phenomenal). I worked alongside worker-campers who would get a free camp-site and would work during the week. They would also earn a wage as well.

    I think I could do it. Maybe not for eternity but for a few years I think it would be awesome. Maybe the first three or four years of FI. That would insure expenses were low, before deciding to continue on our settle down. I think it’s an awesome idea! Let us know how the AirBnB trials work out.

    • Steve says:

      My wife and I definitely plan on doing some work camping too…both as a means to get a free camp site for a while and reduce our costs, but also just for something interesting to do and to meet some folks out there who might be doing the same thing as us.

      I will definitely report back on our Airbnb adventure. The trouble is finding one that’s actually available! 🙂

  3. Amber Tree says:

    Hey TSR,

    Really nice to see that also other people explore new ideas and test them out all the time. I really like reading these thoughts. It is inspiration for my own process. We are clearly in a different phase of the journey, but still, it make me dream.

    In the short run, living in a rV is not for us (2 kids, going to school) But I am now into the camping idea and hope to try it next summer with them

    • Steve says:

      Camping is nice, isn’t it? The ability to escape the hustle and bustle of the city in relative comfort definitely appeals to me. 🙂

  4. I don’t think we could do it full time. It would be fun every once in a while, but in all honesty the AirBNB situation sounds way better. I would hate towing that thing around, as I can hardly even drive a sedan let alone a huge truck with 26′ of trailer or more hanging behind me.

    Looking forward to read about your experience 🙂


    • Steve says:

      Thanks Dominic! Yeah, full time RVing certainly isn’t for everyone. But hey, it almost forces you to be a bit more minimalist, which I suppose couldn’t hurt. Driving the truck and trailer will definitely be a fun learning experience for me. 😉

  5. So I’m on the fence on this one, living in an RV could be fantastic and a very rewarding experience. I’m just not sure if I could be in one full time knowing the maintenance and costs associated with them being that they depreciate like a car does instead of appreciate like houses normally do. However, at $15k a year it definitely could be a viable option. Interesting perspective!

  6. Doan Duong says:

    Sound exciting. I thought about early semi retirement, so when I am in between job or have some free time I can do some cheap traveling seeing the US of A (camping and RVing). There so much to see here, it can take years. Just need to figure an alternate source of income or location independent gig. Also getting a RV of any type is a pretty expensive proposition.

  7. Mrs SSC says:

    That would be so cool! I mean, it’s not for us, since we’ve got kids and big dogs, but I think it would be so cool to spend a summer in an RV when the kids are older…but before they are teenagers! It could be am awesome way to live. Maybe you all should try renting like a tiny studio sized cabin for 4 to 6 weeks….just to see if you can handle the closeness! Kind of like a dry run!

  8. […]  Like many of our readers know, my wife and I are considering the possibility of living full time in an RV, and we stumbled across their blog while doing some research.  They live in a 25′ Airstream […]

  9. Even Steven says:

    Hey Steve,

    Haven’t seen you around for a while and I was getting bumped over to your new site when I typed in thinksaveretire, happy to see you are still alive and well.

    I always thought the wife and I would travel around for a year or so and get the “travel” bug out of our system I guess I didn’t figure out what mode of transportation would get us there. I certainly have been reading more and more about RV, Airstream, tiny house, etc It does have a living off the land type of feel which sounds pretty interesting, I’m sure to read about your airbnb adventures on the blog.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Even Steven. It’s a very different lifestyle, but we are excited to start pursuing it once the time gets closer. It’s only about a year away before we start actively looking, though, so it’ll be here before we know it. I’ll certainly keep ya updated on how it’s all working out for us. 🙂

  10. Liz says:

    Have you checked out I think you’d enjoy it..

  11. Marshall Lentini says:

    This society has failed. All the blandishments that made striving within it worthwhile have disappeared or are disappearing. Most people will stay in, unable to tear loose from the diminishing returns. Those who can handle life out in the rough, quiet places, without all the illusory amusements of society, will find peace amid the decline. This is one very good way to do it.

Leave a Reply