Lots of people out there are curious about the RV lifestyle. Is it realistic? Is it actually fun? Where’s the money come from? There are actually a lot more people than you may think living this way, and there’s a lot more infrastructure for it than we ever knew. These are some of the questions that are frequently asked as fulltime rv nomads.
We've lived "The American Dream" for a long time. We're both well educated and highly employable people. We've had the big house with the riding lawnmower, we've had the nice cars and big job titles. It's not that we don't like that lifestyle, we actually loved it, and wish everyone a chance to at least once in their lives live the way we did... but we don't think it's the only, or the best way to live.
We're in our early 40s now. It seems wise to us to explore the country now and experience the world while our bodies can handle it. Hopefully there will be plenty of time later when we want to spend our hours in a warm office building, but if there's not... at least we won't have spent our whole lives saving to retire comfortably and then die before we do.
If we get tired of this lifestyle or it becomes burdensome or no longer fun - we'll get jobs and a house or an apartment. No big deal.
This is the question everyone wants to know. How can we afford to live this lifestyle?
Well, we've both had professional careers for a long time. We paid off all of our debts and worked our way up to having equity in a large home. When we decided to go on the road, we sold the house and our vehicles and used the equity to buy our RAM 2500 truck outright, and to put a down payment on a fifth wheel and outfit it with all the solar we'd need to be self sufficient.
We work as nomads, picking up the gigs we want that won't get in the way of our other ambitions, and we live fairly modestly. We own a small media and production company, MacNeil Media Group, LLC. Luke makes ads, videos, and print materials for clients remotely. Jenn workamps and sells prints of her photography. We try and barter for lodging wherever possible, and so far that's worked out great for us.
Most of the gear we use to make these photos and videos we bought while we were making good money in good jobs.
We keep our expenses down, workamp, or stay on free public land whenever possible and we keep our ears open for opportunities and ways to contribute to the local economy of wherever we're exploring. Not having kids likely helps a lot.
We keep a modest savings to cover emergencies and try not to dip into it, and we have retirement accounts that we've paid into for 20 years or so to fall back on. This lifestyle can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be, like any lifestyle. And like any lifestyle the key to doing it comfortably is to not spend more than you make. We've learned over the last year or so that there are a surprising amount of opportunities across the country to live and work in and around national parks. They aren't hard to find if you look.
Diesel and food are expensive though, and if you're into the art we make and you're able - we'd appreciate it if you'd consider hanging some prints from our gallery on your wall 😉
Another question we get from many curious travelers is "How do you get online".
That one is a little tricky to answer, because there is no one good way and everyone's needs are drastically different. Doing digital work like uploading videos and downloading stock images requires a good bit of bandwidth.
First and foremost, we use our cell phones. In most places we've been across the United States, we've found that Visible from Verizon works well. It provides unlimited hotspot data, but they'll throttle it whenever they feel like it. Still, it's mostly good enough to check messages and even stream Netflix.
Our rig was pre-fitted with a Winegard router. This device allows us to connect to a normal wifi network and repeat it throughout the rig. We almost never use that, because most campground WIFI is atrocious. Instead, we have a second business cell phone plan with AT&T. We put the SIM card from that plan into the winegard device and use that to provide internet to all the devices inside the rig. If we're in an area where AT&T is better, we use that SIM. If Verizon is better, we use that one.
There are still lots of areas that we go to that have little to no cell phone service at all. Luckily, now we also have Starlink for RVs. It costs us $135 a month and provides reasonably fast download speeds in areas where there is no other option. We depend on internet a lot, so having more than one solution is essential.
The two of us have 3 cell phone plans, starlink, and FIOS for our server at the studio back in Massachusetts. Internet access is by far our largest and most important expense.
We made a video on this, and how to configure the winegard here.
Funny you should ask! We made a video on that here.
Here are 27 Items that we find useful for boondocking and full time rv living.
We are not sponsored by any of these brands, they're just actually things that we use.
We came up with about 50 more items that we find useful, let us know if you want to hear about them!
#1 - Collapsible Dishpan 00:51
#2 - Silicon Food Storage 01:22
#3 - Kettle and Aeropress 02:27
#4 - Plastic Bags 02:49
#5 - Instant Pot and Air Fryer Lid 03:50
#6 - Flypaper 04:19
#7 - Collapsible Bucket 04:46
#8 - Oxygenics Showerhead 05:28
#9 - Wet Wipes 05:50
#10 - Microfiber Towels 06:14
#11 - Buddy Heater 07:36
#12 - USB Chargeable Fan 07:58
#13 - 1000w Jackery Solar Generator with 2 100w Panels 09:00
#14 - SUAOKI Power Station 09:20
#15 - More Chargers 10:07
#16 - RVLock 10:43
#17 - Argus Security Cameras 11:24
#18 - Proven Industries Hitch Lock 11:57
#19 - Pistol 12:32
#20 - Honda E2200i Inverter Generator and Hutch Mountain Propane Conversion Kit 14:47
#21 - Xtend & Climb 785P+ Telescoping Ladder 15:33
#22 - Zero G Hoses 16:18
#23 - Aquatank II 60 Gallon Water Bladder 17:36
#24 - Ham Radios and Walkie Talkies 19:46
#25 - Portable Solar Panels 20:22
#26 - Flex Tape and Dicor 21:01
#27 - Onewheel XR 21:28
In the southwestern United States - there is a lot of free public land. It's paid for by our tax dollars. Some of this is managed by The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and some of it is state or national parks and forests. Generally, you're allowed to camp out in these areas for 14 days at a time. Many people live full time just moving from public land to public land every couple of weeks. There aren't many opportunities for this kind of living on the east cost, but in the southwest they are abundant.
Though there are many places to camp for free in state and national parks, they usually aren't large enough to fit a big rig like ours into. This limits us to spots that we can confirm someone has parked a rig as big or bigger than ours in before. We use a variety of websites and apps to search for these sites, and we made a video about them here. If you filter our map by campgrounds, you'll see some of the spots we've camped.
Sites like campendium.com, ioverlander.com, and thedyrt.com are very helpful at locating these sites and reading user reviews.
When we hit the road, we signed up for all of the RV membership clubs. The Mobile Internet Resource Center, Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Hosts, Passport America, Escapees... the whole lot of them. After about a year on the road, and since we've been stationary we came to the conclusion that we could let most of those go.
Boondockers Welcome is helpful if you're staying in areas where there is no public land. This club allows you to park in interesting places, such as wineries and golf courses. It quickly pays for itself if you use it more than a couple of times - though it can get expensive because it's customary to support the business who's land you're on while you're there - which could mean buying a lot of craft goods you don't need.
Passport America also quickly pays for itself if you're primarily staying at campgrounds, or if you're in an area where there's only campgrounds around. Passport America members get large (50%) discounts on lots of campgrounds across the country. It's relatively inexpensive and can actually save you a substantial amount of money.
Early on, we had Good Sam Roadside Assistance and when we needed them they left us stranded for 5 days on the roadside. Stay Away.
The only membership that we get consistent use and value out of is the National Parks America The Beautiful pass. It costs ~80/yr and allows entry into The National Parks. We use this all the time, and it supports the National Parks - so that one is a no brainer.
You probably don't need to join all the clubs, but they aren't all nonsense either. Depending on the way you travel and camp - looking into these membership clubs can save you a substantial amount of money.
Even though we travel around, we still have to have a home address, a driver's license, and a place to vote.
This is called a "domicile" - the place that we call home.
When we broke bad and went nomad, we decided to make South Dakota our legal home state for a few key reasons.
First, and most importantly - South Dakota does not require vehicles to get inspection stickers every year. It would have been a real problem if we were traveling around the country and had to return to Massachusetts every 12 months just to get an inspection sticker on our truck.
Secondly, there's no state income tax in South Dakota.
And finally - because it's very easy to set up a domicile in South Dakota. You only have to stay there one day, in a campground or a hotel - and bring that receipt as proof of residence to go get a driver's licence. It took us one day to officially move to South Dakota, register our vehicles, and set up a mailbox. It was very, very easy to do.
Now we're residents of The Great State of South Dakota. We have an address there and a mail forwarding service.
We've only actually been in South Dakota for maybe a week in our entire lives.
Buying prints can be confusing. With so many options in sizing and finishes it can be difficult to be sure how to decide just how you want your favorite images to be printed. We offer each of our prints in different finishes and this article should help you decide which is best for your particular style and mounting environment.
Matte-finished prints are shine and glare-free and are color realistic. Photos printed with a matte finish are ideal when placed behind glass in a standard picture frame as they are resistant to light reflectivity. This means no matter where they hang in your room, you'll be able to see the entire image edge to edge without any reflective highlights creating annoying glare. Black and white photos are well suited for print with a matte finish and result in an emphasis on texture. Prints with a matte finish are durable, resistant to scratches, smudges, and fingerprints and produce quality results that are sure to look great on landscapes and skin tones alike. If you expect to handle the print with your hands, matte photos are a good choice.
Everyone loves a glossy image. Images printed with a glossy finish begin with the same paper and ink as matte-finished images, however, these prints have an additional coating applied after the printing is done. Glossy prints result in colors that are deeply saturated and enhance the detail and sharpness of an image. Photos appear clear and rich with vibrant colors, deep blacks, and bright whites. These prints are ideally suited for landscape imagery. Gloss finishes are highly reflective which makes them less suitable for mounting in standard picture frames behind glass. Glossy images are also prone to smudges, scratches, and fingerprints.
If you're looking for an image with bright colors and stunning detail, a glossy finish might be best for you - but these are best mounted on foam or gatorboard which can be hung easily, without a frame, using simple hardware store hanging supplies.
Lustre-finished prints split the difference between matte and glossy finishes. These can be compared to a semi-gloss finish. Reflectivity is reduced in comparison to a glossy print but colors still appear rich and deep. Images printed with a Lustre finish are ideal for being placed in a standard frame, behind glass. Fingerprints and smudges are less of an issue with a luster finish prints and if you're looking to place your print in a standard frame on your wall they are a good choice for preventing glare, which makes them extremely popular. Luster finished prints are less durable than matte prints and less sharp and colorful than glossy prints however they are more likely to look good hanging on the wall behind glass at any viewing angle.
Metallic finished prints are printed on unique pearlescent photo paper which results in a 3D effect with a pronounced sheen. Metallic finished prints are resistant to tears and curling and are because of their reflectivity are not well suited to be framed behind glass. Keep in mind that metallic finished prints are printed on paper with a metallic effect - these are not the same as Metal Prints which are actually printed on rigid aluminum.
As you can see there are several reasons one may chose a specific type of finish for a particular image or viewing environment. No matter which finish you chose to display your favorite images you can be confident that all prints are professional printed and none are necessarily better than the others. Think about where you're going to display the artwork. Are there bright lights or windows around? Do you plan on putting the image behind glass? Is ease of hanging more important than vibrance of color? Only you can make those decisions.
We're always available to help, if you have further questions you can Contact us and we'll help you out!