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Can YOU Become a Digital Nomad?

I talk openly about hitting the road full-time on this blog because it’s our goal to share our experiences, our decision making processes, our failings and our successes.

But when I find myself explaining to folks on social media or new acquaintances what Josh and I are doing, the conversation usually goes one of three ways.

“So you guys are selling your house? Are you moving out of Houston?”

“Yeah, we are.”

“Cool, where are you moving?”

“Well… we’ve decided to buy an RV and travel for a little while.”

Response 1: “Awesome! My aunt/friend/grandparents did that and loved it! It’s great you’re doing this while you’re young.”

Response 2: “I have so many questions! What are you going to do about working? What about seeing your friends and family? What about homesickness?”

Response 3: “Wow, I’m jealous. I’d love to do that!”

Today’s blog post is for you, third group.

Debunking 5 Myths about RVing

Their jealousy isn’t spiteful. These folks are genuinely excited for us.

When they say they’re jealous, what they’re actually saying is this: “I wanna do that, but there are just too many reasons I can’t.”

I believe many of them can. Here’s why.

Myth 1: Full-time RVing is something you can only do if you don’t have to work.

It may be easier than you think to work and travel full time. Many industries allow for 100% remote work, as long as you can stay connected and available (more on that later).

Josh and I own our own location-independent businesses. He’s a software and web developer, and I’m a content and grant writer and digital marketer. As long as we have a reliable internet connection, we can work from anywhere. We can maintain and even grow our businesses while traveling.

Post-2020 addition: work-from-home jobs are more prevalent than ever!

There are also plenty of full-timers who get seasonal jobs or work as staff members of RV parks. It doesn’t always pay well, but considering RV parks give employees discounted or free rent, it’s a great arrangement for a lot of people.

Myth 2: Full-timers don’t also have houses.

Many full-timers sell their houses to be able to afford their rigs and to allow them greater financial freedom. But many others don’t sell their homes, keeping them as a place to store their belongings and have a retreat for when they don’t want to be on the road. It just depends on each person’s financial situation and preference.

Myth 3: It takes a lot of money to start RVing.

Buying an RV is usually more expensive than buying a car (and in our case, we bought a truck in addition to our 5th wheel!). But out-of-pocket expenses don’t have to be high if you take a few measures:

  • Buy a used RV; it’ll hopefully have the first-owner warranty kinks already worked out, and you’ll get a substantial discount off its original retail price.
  • Start small with a lightweight trailer, and you’ll save a lot on your camper — and on gas!
  • Financing is nearly always available through banks and RV dealerships (although it’s not advised to let the loan officer you’re going full-time), so you can pay it off over time.
  • You might even be able to camp in an existing vehicle you own, although it will depend on what kind of vehicle this is and if you’re able to share REALLY tight quarters.

There will be some start-up costs, but we’re not necessarily talking tens of thousands of dollars.

Myth 4: You can’t have a reliable internet signal on the road.

If you don’t need internet all the time, you can use free wifi at RV parks and locations like McDonald’s and Starbucks around the country.

If that’s not good enough, get your own mobile hotspot plan through carriers like Verizon and AT&T that allow you to get online from anywhere you can get a mobile signal.

Satellite internet is growing less and less popular, but it’s still a method of getting signal from places that cellular plans don’t cover.

2022 update: Starlink is a new, fast satellite offering for RVers that I don’t know much about, but I do know exists.

For more info on this topic, we highly recommend Technomadia’s frequently updated website and their Mobile Internet Handbook.

Myth 5: It’s hard to stay close with family and friends when RVing full-time.

I know it’s tough for some folks to move away from their families. Sometimes, generations have always lived in the same city and can’t imagine being apart for an extended period of time.

Because of modern technology, it’s easier than ever to maintain close ties with loved ones from anywhere. Besides, if you miss seeing them in person, you can always invite them to travel with you for a little while.

Steps towards Digital Nomadism YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO Take

If you have a full-time desk job, a family, an apartment or home, and tons of local social obligations, you might feel like you could never become a nomad. But if the open road calls to you, consider how you could make it possible. It could be a matter of weighing the sacrifices you’d have to make to see if they truly do make full-time travel an impossibility.

I do also note that finances can hold anyone back from this lifestyle. However, if you’re able to buy a vehicle or trailer, and you’re willing to boondock on free federal land, you could actually find your day-to-day expenses go way down RVing.

If you’re being held back by your job…

A lot of jobs require workers to be in the office for regular hours. But a growing number are more flexible. 

If you love what you do, see if there might be a way to do it from home. If this isn’t an option, consider something you’d enjoy doing that doesn’t require you to go in to an office. Focus on finding clients or employers who don’t care where you’re located and instead focus on the results you yield for them.

I started my co-owned business in July 2010, earning a little extra income while continuing to work full-time in a salaried position. In October 2013, I decided to go full-time with my business. Things were slow at first, but by the new year, I was expanding my skill set, learning a lot, making new professional connections and building my business.

My point is it can be done for many people, but it can take a lot of time and intentionality. Your job may not go digital overnight or all on its own, but if you tell your boss you’re interested in telecommuting, explore ways to pursue your career from home, or grow your own digital-based business, you can get closer to the nomad dream.

If you’re being held back by NOT WANTING TO LEAVE YOUR FAMILY’s CIrCLES…

You love your family, and you love being close to them. But do you actually have to live in the same place as them? (The answer might be yes, especially if they are providing childcare or housing!)

I’m biased on this point. I grew up in North Carolina, but all my extended family was in Arkansas. I went to college in Texas, 18 hours away from my parents and childhood friends. Yet I have managed to maintain close relationships with family and friends all my life because we have put forth the effort to do so.

It may take some time for your family to come around, but gently explain that travel is important to you, and that you’ll stay in touch. Set up a schedule for calling them on a regular basis (or better yet, video call so they can see your smile). Write a blog or email them photos. This will keep the connection strong.

Let’s talk about the other side of family: parenting. If you have a child who is under the age of 18, you probably don’t want to uproot them from their school and friends. Home schooling and online schools are options, and there are amazing opportunities for experiential education on the road. But if it’s not what you want to do, consider digital nomadism during the summer months when they’re out of school.

If you’re being held back by financial constraints…

This blog post used to have some advice about budgeting, reducing the stuff you spend money on, and examining the emotional hold money can have on you. But as I reread it in 2022, it doesn’t feel realistic anymore to just tell people to spend less. Inflation is out of control, wages have only risen for some, and a lot of people are really suffering financially.

What I can suggest is to draw up a budget of what it could spend to live on the road. For instance, if you only stayed on federal land for free (some areas within National Forests and Bureau of Land Management areas offer this), that would help. Of course, you’d still have RV insurance, groceries, propane, dumping costs, auto repairs, etc.

Once you get a look at that realistic budget, that will help you make some informed choices.

If you’re being held back by illness or disability…

If you are experiencing a disease or disability, is travel still an option for you? What if you were traveling full-time, which means that adventures naturally come at a slower pace because you have no deadlines, giving you time to rest?

I suggest you join forums for digital nomads, and see what others with similar lived experiences have done. Just as there are ways to improve your mobility at home, you can make modifications to your RV.

If you’re being held back by social obligations…

I know how this is. There was a time when I thought, “I can never move from this city because I’ve put too many roots down. Too many people and organizations depend on me, and I’m too invested in them. I love them!”

I was spread way too thin, and I was grouchy a lot of the time. Then wedding planning got added to the mix, and instead of staggering under this new weight, I learned to say “no” strategically to opportunities.

It was really hard; I felt like I was letting people down. But a really wise friend told me that I’m better able to serve the community when I’m doing it in a way that is mutually beneficial. Sure, maybe I’m performing a service by volunteering three evenings a week, while also working full-time, but if I’m exhausted and distracted, I’m not helping out as much as I might like to think. There are other much-needed ways to give back, such as donating, that aren’t time-consuming or location-dependent.

If you feel too rooted to your home due to social obligations, take a good look at these activities and decide which ones you can scale back on. Make sure to bow out gracefully and responsibly. People will understand, and you’ll start to feel more like yourself again. I promise.

If you’re being held back by fear…

If you want to give the lifestyle a test run and you have the funds, try renting an RV for a short working vacation. Or go car camping.

Eric Highland of RV Wanderlust said something in our interview that really stuck with me. “Think about this fable for a moment: There are three frogs on a log. Two make a decision to jump off. How many frogs are on the log? The answer is three. Just because you make a decision doesn’t mean you take an action. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who talk about doing things and those who do them. We hope to always fall into the latter category.”

If you want to pursue this lifestyle, it might be more possible than you imagine.

Do you have any other tips for people who are interested in traveling full time? Let me know in the comments below.

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