This year, my boyfriend and I took the dog, the cat, and walked away from our home and our jobs. We moved into a tiny Rialta RV, relinquished our possessions, and gave up many of our luxuries. In exchange, we opted for a life of endless travel, complete freedom, and all the time in the world to do whatever we wanted.
Neither of us had ever lived in an RV before, and we’ve both worked hard all our lives. We had “normal,” 9-to-5 office jobs, and lived for the weekends just like everyone else we knew. We believed that to enjoy some aspects of life, money was required. We didn’t have the financial luxury to do what we wanted 100% of the time … but oh, if we ever won that lottery … THEN we could really live!
What we’ve found after some time on the road is that everything we wanted was there all along, and it didn’t come with a price tag. Here are the principles we embraced to retire into a wealth we never thought possible.
#1: To Be Twice as Rich, Halve Your Expenses
The 9-to-5 rat race is a bum deal. It requires you to work to afford things that you never have the time to enjoy anyway. You kill yourself to own a big home that you never spend any time in. Your PTO piles up with vacation time which you never use because work is too demanding. You’re too busy climbing the ladder, earning money to afford those vacations which you never take.
See the pattern here? You live for the weekends, except that by the weekend you’re so exhausted that you have limited energy. So you mostly just rest. It’s a terrible cycle.
It doesn’t work this way for everyone, but for us it did. We decided to opt-out by drastically cutting our expenses. Giving up the home was a big one. The mortgage was a money suck. So was maintenance, things to fill our home with, and cleaning.
I gave up my cell phone and replaced it with a free Skype number. By installing solar panels on the RV (in progress), our electricity expenses will be reduced to a big fat zero. No money spent at RV parks either, since we need no hook-ups. If we don’t feel like driving, we can self-support at a remote trailhead with no amenities for weeks at a time.
We use free wifi, which we can find on pretty much any corner these days. And when we want to, we disconnect by parking on a mountain trail somewhere, embracing isolation. Our water use is minuscule, as we use creeks and waterfalls to rinse off or hand-wash our clothes with biodegradable soap. We have no cable or television, but we like going to the movies!
We have one small pot and one small pan, which we use to make food in the RV. Living is simple and extremely cheap. With our family of two adults, one dog, and one cat, we can live very comfortably on $1,000/month or less.
I have a laptop for all my writing, and then drop into town for a wifi connection to email things or make a post. I also have a Kindle with over 300 books on it, which I pull out before bed for some good quality reading. I get free Kindle books online on thousands of topics. Since everything interests me, I don’t think I’ll ever finish all the books I want to read. Without a 9-to-5 job, I can do more writing (potentially more income), more reading (higher quality research for writing), and more living (many more experiences with so much more to write about).
Want to be twice as rich? Halve your expenses. You’ll be surprised at how little you actually need to feel happy and fulfilled.
#2: You Don’t Have to Own Something to Enjoy It
This principle blew my mind. There are so many things we can get for free, or for minimal payment that others work tirelessly to own. Some of them I have already mentioned, like cable, internet access, and e-books. But there are others:
- Instead of owning a pool, we can park at the ocean for days of free water play.
- Instead of a gym membership, we can spend weeks playing on endless miles of trails.
We also enjoy activities like kayaking, fishing, or scuba diving (to name a few) via rentals, for a fraction of the cost of owning the gear required for such activities. Not to mention that the things we value most — fresh air, travel, and the freedom to enjoy life — don’t cost us a cent anyway.
#3: Lack of Money Buys Freedom
If you’re filthy rich, you can enjoy limitless freedom. But when you’re dirt poor, you can enjoy pretty much the same freedom. If you happen to be somewhere in the middle, that’s when you’re tied down. In the middle, you need to work to pay your debts and expenses. You’re not rich enough to stop working, and not “poor” enough to give up those expenses and luxuries. You’re stuck indefinitely.
When you’re too poor to afford the “luxuries” so common in that middle space (say, furniture and lawn care), you have complete freedom to spend your time doing whatever you want. Just as if you were rich. You don’t have to work as much or at all. You have no one to report to. You can come and go as you wish. No home to maintain. No rooms to clean. You can pick which opportunities and activities you want to be involved in, and actually be picky about it. Your range of choices in life is substantially wider.
These days, many people consider a good travel trip a resort vacation, which of course implies money. But I’m convinced the reason we crave resort-type spots is that we’re exhausted from working so much that we need a quiet place to rest and unwind. However, when you’re working less, you’ll be amazed and how much energy you have. Suddenly a resort vacation sounds boring. You want to run. Hike. Move. Swim. Travel. All of which we can do indefinitely, and free of charge. And if you still want to rest, try lying on a beach like a sand bum for … as long as you want. And that’s the life we’re living now.
#4: There’s Free Stuff Everywhere
Sadly, we live in a society where so much is wasted: food, products, energy … the list goes on. Fortunately for RV bums like us, this also means we have an endless supply of free goodies at our fingertips. We can get our hands on anything from food to travel products to personal hygiene products.
In this hyper-consumerist society, we could easily survive on samples alone. And if that’s not possible, we are happy to offer manual labor or personal service in exchange for the goods we need. No currency exchanged.
Between the two of us, my boyfriend and I have a wealth of bartering services at our disposal. He has an engineering background and is awesome at all those “boy” things like manual labor and figuring things out without needing directions. I’m more creative and great at anything related to writing, PR, editing, publishing, promotion, online, etc. This, combined with my journalism background, gives me access to limitless products in exchange for reviews or help with promotion.
For example, we don’t always pay for running gear or races (unless we want to, and we still do when we want to support certain products or events). I get free pet gear for our dog and cat — things like food, leashes, running harness or packs, etc. The most common things I get for free are clothing, running shoes, and sunglasses. These are the three things I regularly have to turn down because I either don’t have enough space for them in the RV, I’m not interested in the product, or I don’t want to put in the time to write a review.
The product benefits extend to my boyfriend as well, and this aspect alone has saved us thousands of dollars. I often joke that my boyfriend and I are the best-dressed hobos out there, testing all the latest “stuff”. I should also mention that not having a job means I have more time to put lots of miles on all this gear, promote what I like, and produce many more reviews and videos, making the freebies much easier to get. Yet another aspect of freebies we enjoy is sponsorships. Over the years we have been sponsored by SportKilt, INKnBURN, and GORE-TEX.
If you’re not a writer, these same freebie possibilities are still open to you. One common misconception is that you have to be elite in order to get sponsorships or freebies. Untrue. All you need is to be noticed, to have some clout. To have a personality or an appearance or a following that makes you stand out from the crowd. Anything at all. You could wear a costume. You could cover yourself in tattoos. You could have a popular blog.
In the world we live in now with endless blogs and opportunities to self-publish, it’s easier than ever to “be a writer”. But keep in mind — you still have to be good in order for people to follow you. You have to offer something. Check out this great post by Jason Robillard to get you started on the road paved with freebies.
#5: Movement, Not Money, Buys Happiness
We’ve all heard variations of the saying that “money buys (or doesn’t buy) happiness.” I don’t know too much about that, but I can tell you without a doubt that movement definitely equals true happiness. I have this epiphany every time I’m running on a deserted trail in the middle of the week when everyone else is at work. I am happy when I’m moving. And I don’t think it’s just me.
I can tell you without a doubt that movement definitely equals true happiness.
My boyfriend and I can indulge this thirst for movement on a daily basis and sometimes several times a day. The joy we feel in being able to physically move our bodies all day long is unparalleled.
I’ve watched our dog make a transformation as well. In her old life, she stayed at home and waited for us to get home from work. She got long runs on the weekend, and sometimes a shorter run or ball play during the week. We tried to take her out as much as possible, but her outdoor time didn’t compare to what it is now.
As soon as we put our dog in the RV environment, she transformed. She is more well behaved and, for the first time since I’ve known her, genuinely tired at the end of the day. She is no longer jealous of the cat (ha!), and she used to be more skittish of other dogs. Now she wants to meet them as her doggie self-esteem has improved too.
As soon as we wake up in the morning, Ginger and I step right out on the trail to run or hike. Then it’s breakfast. Then more playtime until it’s time to go to bed. Yesterday she was prancing through a creek with us, jumping and barking playfully while we all splashed around. Ginger lives a better life now than some humans do. And I believe that this is how all humans are meant to live.
The truth is, we belong outside. Our bodies, our skin, our organs, were built to be outdoors. We belong to the trails and the mud and the streams. Yet these are precisely the things that we have built walls to keep out. We sanitize ourselves against the very things that scrub our souls clean, and then wonder why our bodies are breaking down along with our spirits.
Our minds were not created to be satisfied with the repetitive motions of menial jobs. We are not stimulated that way. We are not happy. But here on the trails is where we find ourselves.
And the best part is that all of this is free. I could run a new trail every day from now until my dying day and never cover all the great space that this beautiful country has to offer. So much of it we will never see. And yet during the week, we are all alone on this great land. We run and laugh and play and wonder where everyone else is.
And then we remember … they’re all at work.