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The American Dream. What does that notion mean to you? If you’re like most people, home ownership is one of the most important aspects. In many ways, an even more accurate American Dream is living full-time in a recreational vehicle. After all, it combines home ownership with another very American concept — the road trip.
You’ve no doubt heard about retirees who sell their family home and set off on the open road, perhaps wintering at an RV park in the South or Southwest, and spending at least part of the year visiting their children, other relatives, or friends across the nation. But there’s a new generation of full-time RVers — Millennials and Gen Xers who take inspiration from the tiny house movement and are able to earn a living through remote work or telecommuting.
Are you considering joining the ranks of digital nomads? It’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Here are some of the most important steps to take as you embark on this exciting, radical lifestyle change.
Establish a Domicile
Ever wondered where FT RVers register to vote, get their mail, or purchase insurance without a permanent residence? Wonder no more. They establish what’s called a domicile. This allows them to acquire insurance, file taxes, renew their driver’s license, vote in elections, open bank accounts, and so on.
Not all U.S. states are equal when it comes to nomadic living. Some — including Florida, Texas, and South Dakota — are more flexible in allowing people to claim residency even if they don’t technically reside there.
While you’re at it, sign up for a mail-forwarding and/or mail-scanning service. This is less of a consideration now that bill-paying can be easily done online, but you will still need a way to get your Christmas cards and wedding invites!
Downsize and Organize
Part of the appeal of full-time RV living, as with tiny house living, is the minimalist lifestyle it requires. You simply won’t have the physical space to store a lot of unnecessary belongings, nor does it make sense to lug around a dozen pairs of shoes or your old vinyl collection everywhere you go.
Heirlooms and other items with sentimental value can be stashed in a mini-storage unit, or maybe even stored in a parent’s or sibling’s attic or basement. However, the best way to truly downsize is to start selling, donating, or giving away all of that extra stuff.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to be hyper-organized when dealing with the possessions you do keep. In an RV, the old maxim “a place for everything and everything in its place” takes on new importance. It’s also a smart idea to establish a “one in, one out” rule: anytime you purchase an item, get rid of its existing counterpart.
Be Prepared — Financially and Otherwise
Yes, part of the joy of living the digital nomad lifestyle is being able to follow your fancy, take detours, and embrace spontaneity. But a certain amount of planning for emergencies will prevent headaches and heartaches if things go awry.
It’s absolutely essential to have an emergency RV fund, since unexpected breakdowns and part failures will happen. Knowing how to make a few simple repairs on your own will help, but keep a financial cushion nonetheless. It should go without saying that insurance is imperative, but a motorhome warranty will provide additional peace of mind.
Before you hit the road, sit down and talk to your spouse or family about emergency preparedness. What will you do in the event of an injury or sudden illness? How about severe weather, loss of power or wifi signal, or getting stranded in an area with no cell service?
If you need to evacuate the recreational vehicle for any reason, will you be able to put your hands on essentials like important documents, medications, electronics and chargers, and cash or credit cards? Even in an RV, a bug-out bag may come in handy.
Living full-time in a motorhome or other recreational vehicle isn’t for everyone. There are some considerations — and complications! — that can make a digital nomad lifestyle something of a challenge.
If you are organized but also able to roll with the punches, happy to live with minimal material possessions, and productive even when working conditions aren’t ideal, you have a good shot at not just surviving, but thriving on the road!