This week, I want to step back into reality (which may or may not vary from the story of our intrepid Captain and crew…) We’ve been nomads for four months now. While we’re still newbs, we’ve developed a few useful insights I’d like to share.
First, this isn’t a lifestyle for everyone. You need to be somewhat handy to make this work (or have a lot of money to burn.) Discovery was purchased used, and while it was in pristine condition, regular maintenance has been a continual thing.
When you’re RVing for a weekend or two, you can park it and forget about the problems or drop it off at a repair shop. When it’s your home, being without it for days or weeks just isn’t feasible. Mobile mechanics can be found, but they charge a premium. So if you don’t do your own work, make sure to have a healthy nest egg.
And no, we aren’t retired. Even experienced RVers we meet on the road ask us this. We still put in work hours to make this happen. I know many people choose this as a means to travel post-retirement, but honestly, would I want to be 70 hauling tow dollies around and climbing onto the roof or crawling under the bus?
We’re doing this now precisely because we don’t want to wait until it’s too late but that isn’t our only motivation. Working 9-5 (well, my wife anyway – between the government and self employment, I haven’t worked a 9-5 since 2001), being part of the suburban sprawl and consumer life, we finally just decided it was time for a major change.
I’m of the opinion that nobody should be required to commute an hour to work, or sit in a cubicle exchanging emails with colleagues in the next cubicle over, or attending phone conferences with the big wigs upstairs when that kind of thing can be done from literally anywhere. If a job can be done remotely, then it should. A good portion of the traffic snarls and road rage and fossil fuel emissions and all the other ills of conventional work are in part because companies are too scared to embrace the future.
Which brings me to another part of this experience which I find really interesting. I am not in any way an environmentalist. I mean, I’ve done my part with recycling and donations to conservation efforts, and I believe the world’s scientists when they say we have a problem, but I can’t say I’ve been a model eco-citizen.
I eat meat, drive gas guzzlers, and even helped run a pretty large-scale bitcoin mining operation (energy demands are insane). This plus owning a diesel-powered beast which gets, at best, nine miles to the gallon, should put me squarely in the “enemies of the planet” camp. But hear me out on this.
We went from living in a 2900 square foot two story in Texas to a 40 foot by 15 foot box. Because we’ve been able to move with the weather, we don’t demand much energy for climate control and when we do need the AC or heat, we’re in a space which is less than a quarter of the size.
I’ve also never been more aware of the amount of water and electricity we use. When boondocking away from utilities, you learn conservation real quick. At our old house, I couldn’t tell you the number of amps each appliance used, but I can here. When we’re at a site without electric, those numbers become pretty crucial.
There’s also a strong incentive for us to add solar in the near future. At a fraction of the cost of a house’s solar installation, we should be able to power everything we need. Given the existing 12 volt system (used to make sure most everything can run off the RV batteries), a big chunk of the work is already done with appliances suited for the task.
Much of these gains might be erased if we relocated every weekend. Instead, we generally weigh anchor for a month or so in any given location which saves on gas and gives us a chance to explore.
Yet, I’d be willing to bet that even if we did burn through 50 plus gallons of diesel a week, we’d still come out ahead on the eco-scales. No daily commutes. No vaulted ceilings to cool on 100 degree plus days. Our carbon footprint has shrunk dramatically.
With that, so have our monthly bills. I’ve heard several people say living this lifestyle is more of a luxury. They’ll say it costs them six grand a month to operate and live in an RV. Frankly, that’s nonsense.
We’re spending significantly less than we were in our suburban dream home. Utilities are often included with park fees and those fees can range from anywhere between free to 100 plus dollars a day (that 6 grand a month figure must come from staying only in high dollar resorts). Otherwise, we have the loan payment on Discovery (which is half our previous mortgage) and routine maintenance. I haven’t done the math on maintenance, but it’s likely cheaper or comparable to a house, especially once you figure in lawn care and the like.
Groceries, health insurance, etc. those are all the same. The one area where I know we’ve increased spending is our phone bill. In order to have backup service and guarantee coverage nearly anywhere, we’ve picked up a second cellphone carrier and maxed out our data plans. Otherwise, this sort of lifestyle is incredible affordable.
Next week, we’ll catch back up with our Captain and his adventures outside Federation space. By the end of this month, I hope to also have some good news on the writing front. Going mobile hasn’t exactly been my Walden Pond moment. We’re saving money, sure, but with a college tuition bill on the near horizon, I’ve needed to pick up a side job which has become a full time gig.
For fans of my fiction, don’t worry, this isn’t a George R.R. Martin or Patrick Rothfuss moment. I’m not too cool to finish what I started and Spencer’s story is a long way from being complete. Life has only momentarily interrupted. We’ll be back on course shortly.
As always, thanks for reading,