Today, I'd like to introduce you to Heath and Alyssa Padgett. They are currently living in an RV full-time, making a living, and documenting it all.
They blog over at HeathandAlyssa.com, and I'm a huge fan! Not only have I been on their podcast (How Michelle Makes Six Figures from a Blog While Full-Time RVing), we’re also friends.
In 2014, they quit their jobs, purchased a motorhome, and went on a year-long road trip across America. They worked jobs in all 50 states for a documentary they filmed called Hourly America.
After a year of living in an RV full-time, they realized RV life was for them. They worked to pay off a bunch of debt, built up their video production business, and they still love RV life.
This amazing couple has been featured on CNN, CBS, People Magazine, Business Insider, Forbes, and more!
Related articles on living in an RV full-time:
- 11 Reasons to Choose RV Life
- How I Run A Business While Traveling 365 Days a Year
- How This Family Travels Full-Time With 4 Kids and 2 Dogs
- How To Make Money While RVing
- How Much Does It Cost To RV?
I asked you, my readers, what questions I should ask Heath and Alyssa, so below are your questions (and some of mine) about living in an RV full-time. Make sure you're following me on Facebook so you have the opportunity to submit your own questions for the next interview.
Here is how Heath and Alyssa live full-time in an RV while building a great business.
Tell me your story. I'm a huge fan but my readers may not know – Who are the two of you and what do you do?
Alyssa: Right after Heath proposed, we started making plans for how we could start our marriage in a cool way. We knew two things:
- We both wanted to quit our jobs.
- We wanted to escape the heat of Texas.
We talked about all the different places we thought we wanted to live: California, Oregon, Colorado, Tennessee, North Carolina. Our initial plan was to travel to all these places and rent an Airbnb for a month to get a feel for the area.
But then I realized we’d be driving clear across the country from Oregon to North Carolina. It seemed criminal to me that we could drive clear across the country and simply pass through so many states on the way.
I knew visiting all fifty states was on both of our bucket lists, so I called Heath and suggested that we travel to all fifty states for our honeymoon instead. He agreed instantly and we started plotting.
We decided to move into an RV because it was simply the most economical option for traveling the country and there was no way in hell I would spend my first year of marriage camping in tents.
Heath: Alyssa and I didn’t have a hefty savings account to bankroll months of travel to all 50 states. We knew we’d have to make money somehow to keep us traveling. With the help of a mentor, I came up with the idea to work a job in all 50 states as a way to earn money, try out all kinds of random jobs, and have a fun purpose to our travels.
Alyssa pretty much hated the idea of me working throughout our entire honeymoon (don’t blame her). But shortly after the inception of the idea, I was able to find an online job to sponsor the project and then she was much more inclined to go along with it.
They agreed to pay us $1000/month for seven months of travel in exchange for a blog post about each job. Plus, they sent us camera equipment so we could film each job. Filming a documentary was on my bucket list and for some reason, my amazing wife decided to come with me to each job I worked and film it all for our doc, Hourly America.
Did both of you want to make the switch to RVing or were one of you the driving force?
Heath: We both thought buying an RV to travel sounded cool. Both of our grandparents RVed but we really had zero knowledge about the lifestyle or what it entailed. As Alyssa mentioned, RVing just sounded like the most economical and fun way to travel the country.
We bought our first rig for $11,500, did a $500 renovation on it, and then sold it 18 months and 20K miles later for $10,000. Not bad after taking it to the lower 48 states.
Can you tell my readers about the documentary that you created?
Heath: After I came up with the idea of working a job in all fifty states, I remember telling Alyssa’s dad about it. He quipped about how I would realistically make money doing this, since I only planned to work each job for one day. He joked with me saying, “What are you going to do, find someone to sponsor you to travel the country?”
I sent a cold email to Snagajob, an online job board for hourly jobs, to ask for help finding jobs across the country. They called me back ten minutes later and asked me to fly to Virginia to meet them in person to talk more.
They ended up offering to help find the jobs, sponsor us, and send us the equipment to film my experience.
We really had no idea what we were getting into. We didn’t know what to expect or what the documentary would be about. With no film experience and even less interview experience, we struggled to get started. It’s really embarrassing and awkward to watch my interactions on my first day of work.
We really struggled at first to figure out what exactly we wanted to our film to be about, but the more people we met, we kept hearing the same story of people who quit the 9-to-5 and office jobs in favor of hourly jobs that gave them more freedom and meaning.
It wasn’t at all what I expected, but it was a storyline that really resonated with me.
You can watch our whole documentary on our Facebook page here (45 minutes in length). We feature some of the hourly workers who most inspired us and taught us what a “real job” means to them.
What are some big obstacles you had to overcome getting started?
A: The hardest thing for me was getting people to take me seriously.
Every time Heath would start a new job, we had to re-explain the film and what we were doing and every single time someone would comment, “So you just follow him around?” It very much felt like people saying that I had no other life skills or better use for my time than to follow my husband around like a puppy.
Heath and I were partners in Hourly America and worked hard balancing all the tasks involved with filming a documentary while traveling full-time. So it was really hard for me when people focused all of their attention on Heath and didn’t see me as part of the team. I was frequently referred to as, “Heath’s wife, what’s your name again?”
After we finished filming and premiered the film, we merged our independent blogs and started branding everything at Heath & Alyssa, because we want to be very clear that we are partners and run our business together.
H: Telling Alyssa’s parents. That was a scary one as a future husband. I wanted her parents to know that I could take care of her. I also mentally had to get over my fears of failure (i.e running out of money, not being able to find jobs in each state, breaking down in the RV and getting eaten by wild coyotes, etc).
I think mostly there was just a lot of unknown factors in the back of our mind.
That whole first year on the road forced us to find comfort in uncomfortable situations. Showing up for jobs where you know nobody and have to explain this crazy project or driving a 29 ft RV through New York City. Lots of uncomfortable and scary moments, but also a lot of great adventures.
Can you tell me about your RV?
A: We currently have a 2016 Winnebago Brave 31C. It’s actually the 50 year anniversary RV, modeled after the original Brave back when Winnebago started.
We actually just visited Winnebago HQ in Iowa and learned that they brought in the original factory workers from the 60s to walk through the prototype models of the Brave to make sure it felt like the old rig. I love that.
We chose the Brave for a few key reasons, namely that it offered a king size bed, and that is super rare for an RV!
It’s 33-feet long and has all the key amenities like a shower, oven, and a super cool TV that comes up out of the cabinet.
H: It’s been a great size rig for two working people inside it. Alyssa and I chose this RV so we could spread out a little and still have our own work spaces. It has the dinette table, plus a coffee table, plus a built-in fold-out desk, so we have three potential workstations. That was big since we work full-time in the rig.
What's an average day like for you?
A: Heath brings me coffee in bed.
H: Wake up around six. Make coffee. Read. Journal. Make Alyssa’s coffee. Write down my to-do list for the day and then knock things out. It’s really the same as most people. However, we have some days that involve long drive days or where we might be exploring national parks.
But 90% of our days are the standard work days in or around our RV. We’ll definitely go for walks around the campground or wherever we’re staying.
A: I don’t think 90% of our days are “standard work days.” We try to spend a lot of time outside. Depending on the campground we go on a daily walk or bike ride or kayak. We almost always have our hammock up outside.
I edit a lot of video content, so I spend a good part of the day in front of my iMac. But we just started a Youtube channel as an extra way to get us out of the RV and going on adventures. Heath could work all day long every day and is admittedly terrible at taking time off. So the vlog is our way of playing more, but Heath can categorize it as “work” since it’s part of our website.
Do you plan on having children? If so, will you continue RV life?
A: Ha! That’s everyone’s favorite question. We said we will start our family after five years of marriage and we’re about to celebrate our third wedding anniversary. Now we say we’ll start talking about starting a family in a couple years.
We do have quite a few friends with newborns and young kids in RVs and we’ve learned a lot from them. We are both open to having kids in the RV.
We know for sure that when we do have kids that even if we live in a house, we want to always have an RV so we can roadschool our kids. It seems like such an amazing way to make sure your kids have a well-rounded education.
How do you make a living even though you RV full-time?
A: There was a point in September 2014 that our bank account hit $68. We were hurting financially and finishing our fifty state tour seemed highly unlikely. (Our friends told us later that they fully expected that we would never make it!)
That’s when Heath found a consulting gig with a Random House author, Jia Jiang, who needed help planning a book tour. Who better to plan a cross country book tour than a guy traveling to all fifty states?
That gig transformed into us filming a course for Jia and learning how to launch online courses. After getting that first client, we’ve filmed and launched 10 courses for various clients in the past two years.
This kick started our video production company, which I manage on the road. When we aren’t filming education videos for clients, I’m editing weddings and learning how to grow our Youtube channel.
We find all of our video clients through referrals and have never marketed our company to try growing it and taking on more clients.
Instead, we’ve focused on growing our online brand. We started blogging when we began Hourly America in 2014. In 2016 Heath started the RV Entrepreneur podcast, a weekly show where he interviews fellow nomadic entrepreneurs running companies from the road. This year I’ve started our vlog, which I’m still learning how to work into our existing brand. It’s been an uphill battle.
Michelle’s course has been huge for us learning more ways that we can make money from our website. In March of 2016, we made $20 from affiliate income. And man, we were STOKED about that. This March, we made $1,700.
Learning how to make supplemental income from our blog and podcast has allowed us to take on fewer clients, grow our website even more, and take more time off to explore the areas we visit.
H: Alyssa already covered most of our business. In addition to all the video production, sponsored content and affiliate income — I started a software company six months ago called CampgroundBooking.com. We’re working with campgrounds to help them get set up with online reservations and while it’s not profitable yet, it’s still eating up quite a bit of time.
How do you save money RVing and in everyday life?
A: I’ve always been a saver. So buying a lot of stuff has never been my thing, plus living in an RV when we buy something new, we get rid of something old. There’s simply no space for it!
I think the biggest thing we do to save money that most travelers don’t is cooking all our meals. We very rarely eat out, and when we do it’s usually because we are meeting up with fellow travelers. I’m gluten intolerant, so eating out can be really difficult for me. For us, it’s safer, healthier, and cheaper to eat in.
H: Alyssa keeps me on a tightrope. But in the past six months we’ve also saved an astronomical amount by bartering services. We’ve written blog posts and produced videos for campgrounds in exchange for free rent. This has helped cut down on our lodging expenses. I think we’ve paid about $400 in lodging over the past six and a half months.
What is your favorite thing about being a nomad and not having a “normal” home?
A: That’s tough. Probably never seeing the same thing twice. It’s incredible how diverse the landscapes are across the country. Even when we’ve intentionally visited places for a second time, like Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks this summer, we explored different parts of the park and saw so much more than on our first visits.
Before we started traveling, hiking and national parks were not on my radar. I’m not what anyone would describe as an outdoorsy person. But the more we travel, the more we’ve discovered the beauty of the country. It’s addictive. Our current goal is to visit all 59 national parks together. So far, we’ve visited 12.
H: The freedom. It’s a fairly cliche and overused response for nomads, but it holds true. This lifestyle offers the most amount of freedom, which I value a lot. Where we spend our time, who we hang out with, how long we stay in places, and what projects we work on are just a small piece of the flexibility this lifestyle offers. After spending a small amount of time working in an office after college I can’t imagine going back to that environment.
Do you think you'll ever live in a more traditional home in the future?
A: Absolutely. I cannot wait to have a dishwasher and endless hot water in my life. But that’s a few years off. We want to RV across Europe, Australia, and New Zealand first.
H: Yep. But we’ll definitely have RV hookups for friends to come and visit (hint hint Michelle and Wes!).
What has been most challenging and rewarding?
A: Probably spending 100% of our time within ten feet of each other. We joke that we are married in dog years because after traveling to all fifty states in our first year of marriage and literally being together 24/7 since the wedding night, we’ve experienced so much life together.
Until just recently, we co-managed all of our clients and spent most of our work days collaborating, so all of our work overlapped as well. I mean, I spent our first year together filming everything Heath did, so that definitely brought us closer while simultaneously sparked a lot of fun arguments.
H: Definitely working together, as Alyssa mentioned. Some days it’s insanely stressful and sometimes it’s also hard to detach from work and just have quality time with each other. It sounds weird, but even though we spend 24/7 with each other we have to be intentional on having quality time where we aren’t talking about work.
What has been your favorite place to visit in your RV so far?
A: The road to Alaska. I didn’t realize RVing across Canada into Alaska was a thing, but it definitely is. Hands down, driving across British Columbia and the Yukon, seeing grizzlies and natural hot springs and crazy mountain peaks was the most humbling and beautiful experience in our travels.
H: I love the Tetons in Wyoming. The most majestic and awe inspiring mountains with great hiking plus places to take our kayak. Plus, Jackson is a cool town.
What three pieces of advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on a similar ‘life' journey?”
- Be okay with the unknown and embrace it as an opportunity to grow. I think anytime you’re jumping into scary and new circumstances there will be a lot of unknown. At first it will feel uncomfortable and easy to retreat — but don’t. The unknown offers some of the most meaningful life experiences and adventures. It opens up our hyper connected and scheduled world for a bit of spontaneity.
- Don’t look for road maps (no pun intended) and trust your gut. While we’ve made a lot of friends who RV and live nomadic lifestyles, we don’t know another couple who has taken the exact same path as us. We don’t know another couple who did a 50 state honeymoon in an RV while working a job in each state, who then started a video production business, podcast, etc, etc. Sometimes it’s easy to look at others and look for roadmaps and trends to follow, but just because someone hasn’t done it before isn’t a bad thing. We steal pieces of wisdom and tactics from others, but for the most part we try to march to our own beat. We try to trust our gut on what we should do next or who we should work with.
- Always focus on extending your financial runway. Regardless of the business, constantly focusing on our financial runway has been pivotal for us. Financial runway is the amount of money we have in the bank that will allow us to continue running our business, traveling and living. Our goal is to constantly be bringing in more money and finding ways to decrease our expenses. While evaluating a new opportunity or project I’ll see if it will have a positive direct impact on our financial runway. This way we can constantly be doing things that move the mark and allow us to keep living this lifestyle. If the funds dry up, so does the fun.
Are you interested in living in an RV full-time or traveling more? What other questions do you have?
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