Hello! I had the pleasure of hanging out with Steve and Courtney several times while we were all in Tucson with our RVs. Steve and Courtney retired from full-time work at the ages of 35 and 33 and travel the country for a living in their 30′ Airstream travel trailer, named Charlie. They blog about financial independence and early retirement at ThinkSaveRetire.com and publish travel videos on a growing YouTube channel, A Streamin’ Life.
Listening to the birds and the rush of the creek behind us, we sit beside a morning campfire.
We are watching the sun rise over the mountains in the distance as we sip on our morning coffee. The conversation turns to what hike we are going to attempt this morning and the local brewery we want to try out this afternoon as a reward.
Did I mention this is a typical Tuesday?
My husband and I live and travel full-time in a 30’ ft Airstream travel trailer and try to make mornings like this one more of our norm than the exception.
But three years ago, our life was anything but adventurous.
I had barely stepped inside an RV, had never camped in my life, and if you had asked me where to go for a morning campfire, I would have looked at you blankly!
When we got married in 2014, we had no plans to travel the country full-time – but we did have a lot of decisions to make. After all, marriage was the beginning of a new life for both of us.
A new life that we’d live together.
One of those choices was what to do with two houses (we each had one before marrying) and two salaries. Between both of our tech salaries, we had quite a bit of cash to play with.
Instead of expanding our lifestyle with a vacation home or expensive restaurant visits, nice cars and a big house, we decided to save an entire salary, plus some, in our quest for FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early).
We both wanted out of the rat race, and fast.
We realized pretty quickly that we could live on a lot less than we thought, and at the rate we were saving, we could quit our full-time jobs and have the freedom to do and live where we wanted in just a few years.
But the question was where? What do we do, and where do we go, after quitting?
Neither of us were tied to a particular location, and without the full-time job holding us down, we had the entire world open to us. We could, in theory, live anywhere.
And, that was it. The answer was everywhere!
There is so much to explore in our own country…things that most people never get to see. My in-laws quickly pointed out (after being full-time RVers themselves for 12+ years) that traveling in an RV was the best solution. Not only could we explore and go to new places whenever we wanted, but we could also bring our home with us as we did it!
After this revelation, we started working towards our life of freedom and full-time RVing, but boy did we have a lot to learn!
The first step was figuring out what RV would work for us.
We knew that we wanted something small and easy to tow. Something compact but still enough space for both of us to feel comfortable. We needed a place where – as soon as we set foot inside, we felt like we were home even though our environment would constantly change.
We decided on our Airstream knowing we wanted a travel trailer (so we only have to worry about one engine – our truck), we didn’t want or need slides (space didn’t bother us and slides can break a lot), and something easy to tow was best since we were complete beginners.
As we looked for our new home, we downsized everything in our current 1,600 square foot house. Garage sales were common as we unloaded all the crap we accumulated over the years. And, I bet that we could have furnished an entire Goodwill store by the time we were finally done!
In April of 2016, we officially moved into our Airstream and sold both of our sticks and bricks homes.
But, and this is big, we didn’t start traveling, exploring, or having those morning campfires yet.
Step #1 was done. We downsized our lifestyle…big time. Step #2 was next – quitting our jobs.
In fact, for the next year after buying the RV, we lived in our Airstream stationary in Tucson Arizona while we finished up work, did renovations on our new traveling home, and learned how to live in a 200 sqft trailer.
While we do not recommend living in an RV in Tucson during the summer months (116 degrees outside – yikes!) this plan did allow us to split up our learning process.
We spent the year learning how to live in a tiny space, be happy, cook delicious meals, keep organized in such a small space, and setting the Airstream up right for us. Then it was time to actually start adventuring and the real learning began!
We towed our Airstream out of Tucson to begin our travels on April Fools Days of 2017.
We had no idea of the excitement, terror, heartbreak, and awe awaiting us. We started, as many do, staying mostly in campgrounds with your typical amenities like running water, power, and sewer but we quickly realized that campgrounds were not ideal for us. We wanted to be out in nature and smelling campfires, not our neighbor’s burnt dinner, hearing the wind through the trees, not the news being played outside from 3 rigs over in our row.
And we weren’t the only ones, either! Our dogs wanted to be out wandering in the desert or meandering down paths in the forest. So, it was time to start finding all those epic places to camp and getting out there.
We had some trial and error along the way. There was the day we wanted to camp in the wilderness around Crater Lake in Oregon right after Memorial Day. I had done my research and picked out a spot I thought would work after reading lots of online reviews. Unfortunately when we got there…the road no longer existed! What?
Apparently, the reviews I was reading were from 3-5 years ago. It was a great road for free camping….when it existed.
Oh well, I was prepared and had a backup plan so we drove the 1.5 hours to the north side of the lake. That’s when I learned my second lesson of the day – check the weather/elevation of where you are going.
When we got there, the road was still covered in snow! I never even thought to check, given it was early June, but that area still had a lot of snow. So we had to sit on the side of the road while I frantically looked online to find something nearby.
Luckily, we found a campground but in my haste, I didn’t check the max length restrictions.
Driving through the campground finding a spot was super stressful, those curves were tight! Turns out 30’ was the max length for any spot and, all hitched up, our rig was so long that it made for some hairy maneuvering. Let’s just say we were happy to settle in for the night.
What a long day!
We’ve spent nights next to idling semis in Walmart parking lots, and under the bright lights of casino parking lots. We’ve spent weeks in gorgeous places without being able to see them due to heavy smoke. We’ve had to completely change plans and leave a state due to extreme heat and not planning ahead to find a campground with electricity to run our A/C.
But for all of the bad or hard experiences, we have had so many amazing ones. Waking up to complete silence and epic sunrises over the mountains. Hiking from our Airstream to absolutely amazing waterfalls. Having happy hours in our camping rockers while listening to the waves crash in front of us.
We love our life and even those tough days have given us opportunities for needed lessons learned. They got me pouring over RVing forums to make sure I had all of the best tools (preferably free) to plan our travels.
I learned about weather planning (for temperature, storms, snow, and wind), elevation and driving route planning (this is a huge one especially if you have a larger RV), what to do and have on hand for emergencies, how to find the most epic off-grid camping locations and make sure it would work specifically for us, the importance of backup plans and so much more.
How we manage to plan our adventures is the question that we get asked…all the time. For most travelers, the planning part of all this is stressful.
After explaining everything that went into planning our life of travel to my husband (and anyone who asked!), we realized that we should share all this hard-earned knowledge and our proven planning process with other beginning RVers. Why make someone else go through years of those tough learning experiences when we could save them the time and the stress and set them up right?
We launched our course – How to Plan Your Epic RV Adventure, last year to rousing success. Over 150 people have successfully taken the course and are busy planning their epic RV adventures. Our students include other full-timers like ourselves looking to find more epic camp spots and avoid troubles on the road, new RVers trying to plan the perfect weekend camping trips for their family, and dreaming soon-to-be RVers who have not yet bought or rented an RV but want to start traveling and exploring!
We walk you through the whole trip planning process from deciding on your major destinations, finding cool things to do and see along the way and planning a safe driving route, to finding awesome places to camp and putting it all together into a detailed plan.
We use mostly free apps, websites, and services throughout the course and provide in-depth tutorials on how to use them quickly and easily. One large section of the course is completely devoted to Google Maps and everything you can do for free.
Google My Maps is a powerhouse free tool which makes planning any trip so much easier and our tutorial ensures our students are power users by the time they are done!
We also ensure you have good backup plans in place in case something doesn’t go quite according to plan. The worksheets, spreadsheets, and outlines included in the course keep you organized and ensure you have all the facts you need at every step in the process.
But, the real value in this course is being part of the community.
If you do have any questions during the course or need help with your trip planning afterward, we have a dedicated private Facebook group where we are always there to answer questions and give opinions. It has already proven itself to be a great source for our students to help each other plan and even arrange meetups or share travel plans!
If you dream of taking that epic RV adventure but don’t know where to start we encourage you to take a look at our course. If you have never considered RVing, we encourage you to think about it.
We like to say that RVing is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” activity.
You can RV to get away into nature and hike to epic views as we do, or you can RV to small towns for festivals, try every brewery in your state, learn history by staying near or on historical battlefields, catch delicious fish, or ride some crazy mountain biking trails.
It takes some planning but RVing gives you the freedom to see and go where you want and bring the comforts of home with you!
Our life of travel is continuing onward. This year we are venturing towards the Eastern half of the US which provides its own set of planning challenges and epically awesome places to see and explore.
Remember what Hellen Keller said, “Life is either an adventure or nothing” so get out there and start adventuring!
Please head on over to How to Plan Your Epic RV Adventure to check it out further.
Also, don’t forget to sign up for free Epic RV Tips, a weekly email all about RV trip planning.