It takes guts to jump into being a full-time Airstreamer. The preparation, timeline, details and emotions of it all can be thrilling and terrifying at the same time. We asked full-time Airstreamer Ramona Creel about taking the leap and how to figure out if this on-the-road lifestyle is for you!
What did it feel like for you when you finally decided to take the leap?
It was amazing, a little bit scary, filled with possibility, and way quicker than I expected. When I decided that I wanted to go full-time, I gave myself a timeline of about three years to get it in gear. I even drew up a vision board! Then, just three months later, the perfect Airstream presented itself to me. My plans got a violent shove into high gear, but that's okay. I saw it as the universe's way of telling me this was the right decision, and that first day on the road just confirmed what I already knew; I was meant for this lifestyle.
What did you have to do to prepare for being on the road full time?
The to-do list is pretty extensive, but I'll sum it up.
Of course you first have to find a rig, but then you need to downsize your possessions to fit into that vehicle. Personally, my goal was to not have an external storage unit. If it didn't fit in my Excella, it wasn't going with me. That meant about a year and a half of selling or giving away everything I owned. The upside was that I made $16,000, which was enough to pay for my trailer!
Next, take a look at all the relevant tax and legal issues that might affect your life on the road. You need to choose a state to call your permanent home and look into relevant tax and legal issues that might impact your life on the road. Then transfer all of your accounts (driver's license, vehicle registrations, business registrations, insurance, etc.) to that state. Of course that also means establishing a legal address, either through owning property or through your mail forwarding service.
You also need to make sure your finances are portable, as well as secure phone and internet service on the road, which are much easier steps now than when I began. And of course, you need a source of income. I vote for self-employment, although folks do many kinds of work on the road.
There are any number of other small tasks to tackle, but those are the biggest.
What were your biggest fears and how did you address them?
Most of my big fears are technical, that I would not know how to handle a maintenance or mechanical problem when it arises. I combat this fear by educating myself. I spend a lot of time on RVing forums, asking questions and gathering information.
But also, I got a comprehensive roadside assistance service, CoachNet. This not only covers services like towing to the next town with an RV repair shop and hunting specialty tires for your rig, but it maintains a help line that allows you to talk to an expert versed in your specific make and model. This is a godsend when trying to troubleshoot some random what-the-heck-is-causing-that-to-not-work dysfunction.
From the audience: How can I tell if this lifestyle is for me?
I think it starts with determining whether or not you are content living in one place. If not, that's a strong indication that you might do well as an RVer. For me, it was pretty clear that traditional American homeownership was not working. I hated yard work, was disgusted by how much maintenance a house required and quickly tired of paying for a mortgage and property taxes when I was off roaming. I loved to travel (that was part of the problem). I spent at least half the year elsewhere, instead of in that building for which I was so dearly paying. It seemed a good idea to live on the road, but I had never RVed, not even with grandma and grandpa as a kid, until I got the urge to live a wheeled existence. I tried it, and it stuck. I don't know if there is a way to know if it's for you until you give it a go. Even if you've done the weekend warrior thing for years, full-timing is such a different experience than going on vacation. Do your research. Figure out your priorities. Plumb the depths of your soul. Then, jump with both feet!
What would you tell someone thinking about taking the leap?
Make sure the people you travel with are on board, FULLY on board. I've seen too many marriages melt down and too many family arguments because one individual was of the traveling ilk and his/her housemates weren't. This lifestyle isn't for everyone, and you can't change somebody who doesn't do well with change or who easily stresses out about uncertainty. You all need to be 110 percent invested for it to actually work.
Taking the leap can bring its challenges and thrills, but we believe that living a riveted life is always worth it. Wherever you are in life, and whatever you’re doing, always remember to keep an open mind, an adventurous heart and a dreamer’s spirit!