There are more RVers than ever hitting the road to embrace a life of more travel and freedom, with a noticeable increase in the number of working age RVers like us. We're now in our 4th year of full-time RVing and we have no plans to hang up the keys anytime soon! Since 2014, we have traveled to 49 out of the 50 U.S. states (Alaska’s on the horizon for summer 2018) and visited Canada, Mexico and Australia – all while working full-time.
This would not be possible if it were not for technology – and the ability to stay connected – so we can continue to work remotely from our motorhome. When we decided to sell our home in Colorado and embrace the RV lifestyle back in 2014, our first critical decision was not what RV to buy or where we would go, but whether or not the level and quality of internet connectivity would be sufficient, accessible and affordable enough for us to still seamlessly perform our jobs without any hiccups.
Before we even started looking at RVs, we started looking into our options for “staying connected on the road,” explained Marc. At first, we assumed we would need to get some kind of satellite setup, which would be expensive, but we quickly learned that the services offered by the major cellular networks available these days are really all we would need.
A quick Google search soon led us to the Mobile Internet Handbook for RVers (by full-time nomads Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard) which we devoured. It immediately set our minds at ease, as we soon realized that many thousands of other people were already doing this, without any interruption to their work. The major providers like Verizon and AT&T have great coverage around the country and T-Mobile is right behind them. For some RVers, connectivity is as simple as using their cell phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot, but we needed a more robust solution and more data.
When we began our RV life, Marc was working as Operations Project Manager for a nutritional supplements company based out of Texas, explained Julie. I decided to return to self-employment. Alongside my client coaching and marketing projects, I started writing blog posts and producing videos for our RVLove website and YouTube Channel.
Connectivity has always been our biggest concern and priority, says Marc. Without that, we simply couldn’t RV full-time. So we prioritize our decisions around where we can work productively and efficiently, without worry about whether or not it’s fast enough to work.
The company was in an intense growth phase for the three plus years I worked there, and the executive team expected me to be ON and available at all times, at least during regular business days and hours, which was Monday through Friday, 8-5 CST.
My manager was agreeable to me hitting the road, but the unspoken rule was, as long as the new lifestyle didn’t impact my ability to perform my job at the same level as if I were at home in our “stick and brick” in Colorado or at the corporate office.
We set about determining how much data we felt we would need and purchased a Wi-Fi hotspot on a Verizon plan, and I worked with that at home for a month on a trial basis to ensure it would do the job. It did. We started out with our phones with AT&T but eventually changed those over to Verizon as well. Different providers work better in different parts of the country, but across the board, we’ve found Verizon to be strongest. With the cellular providers constantly changing their offerings and expanding their networks, there is no one size fits all, and we’ve changed our provider three times in over three years in response to the changes and what’s been best for us at the time. For example, we recently changed our phones over to T-Mobile which has halved our monthly cellular bill and opens up the opportunity for us to use it in Canada in the fall, but who knows - things could be different this time next year! That’s why we signed up for the RVMobileInternet.com - Chris and Cherie are technology geeks who love researching and reporting on all this, so the rest of us who don’t have the time or interest in that level of detail, can simply read their reports and recommendations and make a decision about what’s best for us.
Balancing Work and Play
A lot of people ask us how we manage to stay disciplined and work when we are so often parked somewhere cool. They wonder how we don’t get tempted to go for a hike instead of work. By realizing that it was Marc’s remote job that afforded us the opportunity to live this lifestyle, we weren’t willing to jeopardize that privilege. But Marc places a high value on work life balance and one of the bigger issues initially was setting boundaries with the executive team which would often call or text him after hours.
When I’m working, I’m working and highly productive, says Marc. But, when I’m done at the end of a workday at 5pm CST, I’m done. That’s a big reason why we bought a bunkhouse model RV - we don’t have kids, but we converted the bunks into a dedicated ergonomic office with a curtain I can pull at the end of the day, so I don’t have to look at my computer and it's never in the living area of the RV. Likewise, we set up Julie’s office in the front passenger cockpit and dash area of the RV, so it’s out of the way as well.
This is critical to us both, in maintaining the balance between work and play in our RV, says Julie. We live in a much smaller space - about 350 square feet instead of 1,800 square feet - and so it’s easier for the lines to become blurred, but we work hard at keeping work separate – especially when Marc was working for a regular employer.
All too often, employers expect people to work longer than the hours they are supposed to – or are being paid for. It’s become a societal norm. We know many people who feel guilty when they aren’t working from any office - either working from home or in an RV - and worry that their boss or colleagues will think they are goofing off. So they tend to overcompensate by working longer and harder and being available outside of work hours. And while that may be necessary sometimes, all too often we see a tendency in the American culture to be constantly working, and more and more, people are simply burning out.
It can be hard setting boundaries with an employer, but once you do, they usually end up respecting you for it, reasoned Marc. When I didn’t respond to work calls or texts after hours, eventually my colleagues got the hint and stopped doing it. I would simply respond the next business day and say, “Oh hey, sorry I missed your call, I was out hiking in the national park and didn’t have cell service.” They really can’t say anything as they realize it’s not expected for me to be available after regular business hours.
Of course, few employers will encourage us to properly disconnect after hours. So it’s up to us to set our own boundaries so we don’t burn ourselves out. It’s essential for maintaining good health - physical, mental and emotional – and you produce better quality work.
Refer to this blog post: The Price We Pay to Work - Insights on Work-Life Balance, Health and Freedom - for more on this topic
When we first hit the road, my mom was concerned that not being visible in the Colorado office would negatively impact my career, yet it actually enhanced it, Marc laughs. Because I am an introvert, I work better and more productively alone and in a quiet environment, so working from our RV is ideal for me. I can see a different view - usually nature and trees - outside of my window which is constantly changing and I can go for hikes or a bike ride after work. Since hitting the road, my work quality and productivity actually increased, and I was promoted twice – first to Operations Manager then to Director of Operations. This all worked pretty well for a while, but as my responsibilities grew, there were increased demands on my time and energy while the intensity and stress of my work also increased. The scales had tipped in a direction that was becoming unhealthy for me - mentally, emotionally and physically. I was experiencing stress-related health concerns and was no longer enjoying my job.
We started RVing to enjoy the lifestyle and maintain a healthy work-life balance. And technology was the essential ingredient that made all of this possible. But as my hours started increasing and my happiness started decreasing it was time to reassess. I had no aspirations to climb the corporate ladder - I have a belief that so many are so busy trying to climb the corporate ladder they pass the rung on which they were happiest. Once I was no longer enjoying my job and it began adversely impacting my health, wellbeing and our enjoyment of the lifestyle, we knew something had to change. I was getting sicker and sicker, Julie was worried about me, it was affecting our relationship and the extra money and the big title just wasn’t worth it to me or us.
I shared my experience in an in-depth blog post “The Price We Pay to Work” as I believe as we are all trading our time, energy, freedom and health for money. That article had over 120 comments, and I was blown away by just how many people related to my story and the health challenges I had faced - not only in my current job but the challenges I'd experienced before, in law enforcement and other corporate jobs.
When we took a big step back and revisited our WHY for embarking on the RV lifestyle – what we were most passionate about, what we saw for our future and we made some big decisions.
I quit my job in February this year.
It was a big and scary step, but it just felt right. We had other projects going on behind the scenes that we felt more passionate about and were more aligned with our goals and values. I took a month off to recover my health and we started in a whole new direction.
Creating Online Resources to Help other RVers
When we first began researching RVs and the RV lifestyle, we spent hundreds of hours scouring the internet, blogs and YouTube to learn everything we could. It was a kind of piecemeal approach to learning and making decisions, but there didn’t seem to be any other, holistic way.
We would often say to each other “why doesn’t an online course exist to help people through all this?” but we just kept trudging through it all, hoping what we were learning and uncovering was the right way for us. A year into our travels, we were still surprised there was nothing else out there so we started writing some resources for an online course for newbie RVers, in our precious little spare time. Eventually, crunch time came when Marc finally quit his job.
With over three years of RVing research and full-time experience under our belts, we felt ready, so we jumped right in and created RV Success School, an online learning platform with several courses that help to educate, coach and guide people through their journey to RVing.
This leads to yet another opportunity that technology has enabled. We built the school using a technology platform that enables people anywhere and anytime, with videos, written classes and workbooks - on their computer, tablet or smart phone – they can learn, go through the process and be supported at their own pace and with no pressure.
It’s gratifying to know that we’ve been able to harness technology in a way that has not only allowed us to transition from life as employees to self-employment, but that we’ve also been able to use technology to compile an extensive body of knowledge, experience and resources into one structured, organized place that now makes the journey much easier for others.
Finding the Balance
While so much of our life is now about freedom, travel, nature and being able to spend time in some of the most beautiful places in the country, we never forget that its technology that makes it all possible for us. But like everything in life, it's about finding the balance.
We’ve created a life that we don’t feel the need to escape from. But even so, ironically, we’ve probably worked harder and put in more hours working for ourselves than we ever did working for others. But it’s rewarding on so many levels. All that said, it’s important we maintain a healthy respect for the work-play boundaries that we had before.
We have more flexibility and freedom in our schedule now, as we CAN go for hikes or a bike ride during the day. We can take our days off during the week instead of weekends to avoid the crowds. But it’s also a slippery slope. We have a lot to do, and we know we are building something that is helping so many people while building our own future, so it can be all too easy to spend way more than 40 hours a week at the computer.
The To-Do List will never be done and our hours aren’t set up like they are with an employer so it can be harder to set a boundary with yourself when you don’t have anyone else to answer to but each other. We’re still a work-in-progress when it comes to finding the balance in working together. And it takes time to find a rhythm and method that works for the two of us - as we have different inner clocks and work styles.
Before, we worked quite separately during the day, even though we were both in the RV, we had our own space and focus. Now we are working and living together 24/7, so it’s really important we avoid having all our conversations and focus about work or the content we are creating. It’s essential we also find - or create - time to disconnect, unplug and have some alone time to recharge, or get out and do something together so we can keep exploring what’s on our doorstep.
Building Community on the Road
Technology has also been an incredible way for us to connect with others on the road, meet and make new friends, whether it’s through our blog, YouTube channel, Facebook page or other social media, we’ve met up with hundreds of people along the way that we simply would never have otherwise had the opportunity to meet
We joined RVillage - a free social network for RVers – so we instantly know we are communicating with people who share a lot of similar interests - the RV lifestyle, travel and more. When we arrive at a campground, we can “check in” on RVillage and see who else is in the same RV park or in the nearby area. We can view profiles, and if we find someone we know or someone we’d like to get to know, we can reach out to them via RVillage and set up a happy hour or something so we can meet up.
Our RV life has been a lot more social than we ever imagined. What’s interesting is while we meet a lot of people through technology platforms like RVillage and social media, these regularly translate into real life relationships with people that we cross paths with as we all travel the country.
We also joined Escapees - a lifestyle club for RVers - with an active group for working age RVers called Xscapers, which has also been amazing for our social network and community on the road. It’s a terrific group of people that we get together with 3-4 times a year at major RVing events like the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, in Quartzsite, AZ in the winter, and at special one-off events like the Solar Eclipse, where over 100 of our RVing Xscaper friends converged to watch the Eclipse and socialize for 5 days at the Solarfest in Madras, Oregon in August.
We’re also able to stay connected with our RVing friends through dedicated Facebook groups for each event and meet up along the way whenever our paths cross as we travel.
It’s been so amazing to be able to meet and connect with so many RVers from all around the country online, but nothing beats meeting folks in person, camping together and sharing a great conversation over a meal, some wine or around a campfire. We find the conversations are always so interesting among the RVing community as it's so diverse with people with all different backgrounds, stories and experiences. Full-time RVers also tend to be friendly, helpful and generous. And while it took a little while for our RVing friendships to develop, we’ve met some truly wonderful people that we’re proud to call our friends. We don’t ever get lonely in our life on the road!
Because we live and travel full-time to work in an RV, I think it’s easy for a lot of people to assume we spend most of our days hiking, biking and exploring National Parks and that we’re completely out in nature all of the time. But that’s not the reality. We’re not retired, we’re still working, so of course, we still need to create a schedule to be able to fit in all the things we need and want to do. We still have to take care of all the regular things you need to do in a regular life - including work and paying bills - so we still rely heavily on technology to stay connected and make things happen. Technology and connectivity still drives a lot of our travel planning, but we definitely have more flexibility now than we once did.
And because we don’t spend all the usual extra time that many others do on work commutes, maintaining a home, and doing yard work, we have a lot more time available to be doing more of what we love - driving, seeing new places, spending time with friends, and reconnecting with nature, ourselves and each other.
We remain truly grateful that technology has enabled so much of the freedom we enjoy in our lives, but it’s important to remember it's not everything and that there's a whole other 'real world' out there to be enjoyed.
Step away from the computer, turn off the TV and the internet, and leave the phones behind for a few hours. Go outside, walk among the trees, sit by a lake, gaze at a mountain or watch a beautiful sunset. These are some of the things we get to enjoy as part of our daily life, and we're grateful every day that we're able to do all that from the comfort of our own RV.