Selling everything and traveling the US
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  1. #1
    Registered User FrugalMomof3's Avatar
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    Default Selling everything and traveling the US

    Has anyone successfully sold their homes and most of their belongings and bought a camper and just traveled the United States? My husband and I are tired of living the rat race, with that being said we mean working to pay bills with no time for us or even for spending it with family. We own 2 homes, 1 in NJ and 1 in PA, that we want to put on the market, use the proceeds to buy a cheap camper and pay off my car and travel the united states. We would have of course the money left over from the sale of our homes (NJ one market value is $200K - owe $135K - PA home market value $165K - owe $97K), plus any monies from the sale of our personal belongings since we can't have much if we'll be living in a camper or travel trailer.

    We looked around for some cheap campers and the lowest we've seen is $1,500 which is doable without any work, older model but will get the job done. We figured if we saved and just took odd jobs here and there or gigs (WHEN NEEDED) we would be ok. I've learned to be frugal out of habit so continuing to do so wouldn't be a problem.

    To be honest we've worked so hard, raised 7 kids and well with everyone all grown it's time to do something for us, except work to pay bills.

    Ideas, thoughts?

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    Super Moderator josantoro's Avatar
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    I would suggest selling ONE house and trying out that lifestyle for a while. You may find you go stir crazy in a camper with your spouse, and you wouldn't want to have burned all your bridges.

    What is the longest you have traveled together up to now?

    Also, as someone who has spent the last 3 years living in furnished apts. in AL and the north, I would suggest establishing a base somewhere, maybe with one of your kids? There are times and circumstances where a PO Box just will not cut it. Like auto insurance for one, or even health insurance - when I applied for mine they needed to know my physical address.
    Make America Kind Again.

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    Do you have any other savings or future income, like IRAs, pensions or SSI? If not, it sounds like your security net is a bit small.

    Can you do all the repairs yourself, and have you budgeted for the parts? Have a look at YouTube at interviews with people who have done this. They are able to live cheaply, but there are costs that you need to budget for.

    I agree with Josantoro: sell one house and try the lifestyle for 6 months to a year. If you like it and can afford it: sell the other one and go for it full time.
    Debt: -$60 000
    Savings: $43 200
    Net total: -$16 800

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    Super Moderator josantoro's Avatar
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    I should say, I have done both but not at the same time. We used to travel the lower 48 very cheaply for a month each year and really enjoyed seeing the country. When my DH got sick, we sold our house and almost all our possessions and lived in furnished apts. for almost 3 years.
    Make America Kind Again.

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    a cheap camper
    Are you talking about an 8-foot camper on the back of a pickup truck? Or a pull-behind travel trailer and a heavy pickup? Or a motorhome?

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    Super Moderator Spirit Deer's Avatar
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    Start reading through the info at rv.net forums. They have a subforum pertaining to workcamping. A lot of people are full-timers and there are some tricks you can learn there.

    I'd be very cautious of older used RVs, or any camper, really. Be sure you know what to check for when you look at any RV. One common problem is hidden water damage in the ceilings and floors. If tires are older than about five years, they will need to be replaced, including the spare. Tires rot over time and the depth of the remaining tread has nothing to do with how good they are. If you haven't priced RV tires lately, get ready to cry. There are lists online about what to look for in general when considering used rigs. Older RVs will generally have something that needs to be done to them. Sometimes it'll be repairs. For sure, there will be modifications (mods) you'll want to do just to make something function better or create more storage space or whatever. We bought our latest camper 5/12 and we're STILL working on mods. And BTW, there's no such thing as a cheap RV.

    You will need a good truck to use for a tow vehicle. No cars are built to tow much anymore. Minivans aren't much better and wouldn't tow more than a small pop up, if that, depending on factory equipment. So if you don't own a reliable truck, you would need to buy one. Be sure you understand things like CCC, GVWR, and other acronyms having to do with towing. Also understand that what a vehicle can tow (in theory) does not mean you can buy an empty trailer with a weight that matches your max towing capacity, and then add propane, groceries, all your gear, water in the tanks, passengers, your two big Labs, and whatever else you want to drag along, and think that weight doesn't matter. I'm being a bit sarcastic only because I've seen people time and time again on camping boards who can't understand that, or don't want to because hard facts put a wrinkle in their plans. It's kinda like newbies on these boards who do part of the math on their budgets, but then think the money for all those little extras is just magically going to appear without them having to plan for them. Safe towing means understanding all the numbers and abiding by them to help avoid breakdowns and accidents. You can't repeal the laws of physics, after all. Having a safety margin is good when it comes to weight, too, because you're going to encounter situations that will add more stress and strain to engine and drive train like driving in hot weather or in the mountains, in stiff headwinds, etc., and having a cushion helps with that. And the 'stuff' you add to a rig adds up quickly. We have a small rig and I'm pretty sure our gear adds about another 1,000 pounds at the least, including what's in the truck and trailer. It's a lot considering how little storage space we have.

    This is our current rig, probably not what you'd want to full-time in. It's great for us because it meets the three most important considerations we were looking for for our purposes: It sets up fast (under one minute), it tows low for high wind conditions (we travel a lot on the high plains), and it has limited impact on gas mileage because it's low enough to draft behind the truck (we lose about 1-3 mpg vs. not towing).

    Towing with the truck (9,000 pound tow limit) is overkill with that trailer (dry weight 1,980 pounds) but there are certain advantages to having more than enough horsepower and when it's time to replace our current truck, we plan to get another one. We thought about a small travel trailer before buying the Aliner but could not get past the barn door effect that full-height trailers create, sucking up gas like there's no tomorrow.

    You might want to look into any tax liabilities/capital gains you might incur if you sell both your houses and don't reinvest the profits. Also, keep in mind you may get too old or too sick to continue to travel, or one of you may not be available to travel anymore. Or you might just get sick and tired of being on the road all the time with no home base. Be sure you have a financial plan for those possibilities. You may need to put away any profits from the house sales to finance another house later on.

    You will need to have health coverage that will meet your needs across the US and wherever else you want to go. Ditto for car and camper insurance.

    If you don't establish a home base in a state that does not charge personal income tax, such as South Dakota or Wyoming, you will probably still have to pay income taxes in New Jersey even if you're never there. You'll also have to pay federal income tax, and SS taxes till you're of retirement age. I seem to vaguely recall reading a few years ago that the laws have been tightened up regarding using non-tax states to establish a home base when you don't have a physical address there, so you'd need to check on the details about that.

    I think things are much easier for full-timers these days with cell phones and internet service. People can stay in touch much easier with family and others who are far away, and of course you can do business, get any help you need (sometimes), etc.

    I could talk about camping and travel for days even though we've never been full-timers, but I'll stop now. Here's some pictures from our travels to whet your appetite to get out and see our big, beautiful, amazing country.

    Keyhole State Park, Moorcroft, WY, near Devil's Tower:


    Temperance River SP, Tofte, MN, north shore of Lake Superior:


    Lazing at the local park in the north woods of Minnesota:


    Mammoth campground, Yellowstone:


    Buffalo Bill SP, near Cody, WY of course:


    Curt Gowdy SP, between Laramie and Cheyenne, WY:


    Pokegama Dam Army Corps of Engineers campground, Grand Rapids, MN, on the shore of the Mississippi River:


    Massacre Rocks SP on the banks of the Snake River, Idaho:


    Needles Highway, Black Hills, SD:


    Mount Rushmore, of course.


    Girders from the WTC at the 9/11 memorial at the International Peace Garden near Dunseith, ND.


    Life's an adventure and I can sure understand why you want to go out and live it. Plan carefully, and if you can swing it, go for it!

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    Other posters have offered excellent food for thought. As one who lived in a camper for 15 years with DH, three kids and two dogs, I would like to add a few things too. We traveled and worked from MS, AL & FL up to ME (and one spring to MN), south in winter and moving north with spring, all summer in ME.

    If you have propane heat/cooking in your camper, you will get lots of condensation and will need to be vigilant about keeping mildew at bay. In cold weather, the walls will have moisture on them too because campers are just not insulated that well. Our last camper, a 40' 5th wheel, had an "arctic package", i.e. extra insulation, heat tapes on water and sewer pipes and tanks, etc. but we still had moisture issues.

    For years, I loved it and met many people and saw/did many things I otherwise would not have been able to see/do. But toward the end of the 15 years, I wanted to settle down to one spot and grow things. I don't regret the years on the road but I sure am glad we're not living that life now!

    It's not easy to get everything you want to take with you in the camper and meet the weight limits if you are living in one full time. At least it wasn't for me!

  9. #8
    Super Moderator Spirit Deer's Avatar
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    Well, shoot, I messed up a picture and didn't get the pic of Buffalo Bill campground. Sorry for the repeat of Yellowstone. But it's pretty enough it's worth looking at twice.

    Daylily, I hope you won't mind a couple questions. What did you do for income while you were full-timing? About how old were you when you quit traveling (if it's not too personal)? How old were your kids while you were gone? I love the idea of full-timing, but I know myself and my husband well enough to know we probably wouldn't love the reality, although we're looking forward to being able to take more extended vacations after retirement.

    Tracy, Travel Channel on TV, often airs RV shows. Some of the rigs they show wouldn't meet your needs but it would give you a glimpse of different types of units available and some of the pros and cons of each. Some talk about destinations or festivals or rallies or different topics that might be of interest, too. There are also blogs online by people who are full-timing. Offhand I can't think of any titles or names, but you can Google.

    One thing to keep in mind is whatever style of RV you choose, you will most likely be towing something. Either you'll have a truck and tow a trailer, or you'll have a motorhome and tow a toad (car). I don't know if that's a consideration for you or not.

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    SD, I don't mind at all. I was around 30 when we started because DD2 was in 2nd grade, so I guess I was around 45 when we quit. DH was a foreman, or crewleader as we called it, for a crew of tree planters in the south and brush cutters in the north. We worked for paper companies mostly but also did jobs for state reforestation projects, military projects, airport sound barriers, and private individuals. The brushcutting was technically called pre-commercial thinning and was mostly done in New England and MN.

    The kids went from DD1-13, DS-10 and DD2 almost 7. DD1 met and married a very awesome young man who was working for us and they traveled with us in their own camper for a few years. DS was 21, DD2 was 19 when we stopped working. DS had been studying electronics engineering but became very sick and spent 5 1/2 weeks in the hospital, nearly died. He was diagnosed with Ulcerative colitis. It took him a LONG time to get well enough to work. DD2 went to college after we came home.

    You either learn to get along very well or you split up! We're still an extremely close-knit family to this day. Our kids are our very best friends.

  11. #10
    Super Moderator Spirit Deer's Avatar
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    I can only imagine what an interesting life that must have been. I guess it's a tiny bit like our friends (three brothers) who lived all over the US in their TT but only in the summer and fall. They worked road construction for one of the biggest companies in the US at that time, so they were everywhere. They hated it though. I think you have to have the right mindset. They didn't want a career in road construction, but were just doing it because the pay was fantastic and they were using those jobs to pay for college, where two of them became engineers and the last a lawyer.

    I think I'd enjoy a somewhat nomadic life like that, where we had a good income. That would make things a lot easier. I'd have a hard time giving up my stuff but could probably do it for a year or three. We've talked about it but as a retirement strategy it seems daunting. For us there are a lot of downsides. But we live in a place where people literally say to us all summer long they'd give anything to live here, and we're in a beautiful spot on a lake besides. People who are familiar with our area ask us why we bother to go camping when we live where we live. They have a point, but we don't have mountains and geysers and bison and other things we're interested in seeing. At any rate, I think short-timing is better for us at least for now.

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    I'm sure you DO live in a beautiful area! We've worked and camped near Boundary Waters for MN DNR. I loved it there. We camped near Lake Vermillion and another much bigger lake that I don't remember the name of somewhere around Ely. We had our two canoes with us too. I'm a serious birder and this type of work was wonderful for that hobby!

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    I'm not an all or nothing type person so I would do long vacations. I would sell 1 house and use some of the money to travel that way. If you love it you could sell the second house later but I would want a base to gather w/ kids and grand kids. Also, I would make sure my retirement is fully funded. IDK anything about RV's or trailer hauling as we still tent camp. Not that I've done that either in a few years. I do know that there are RV clubs and they have events and it seemed fun but the people tend to be a bit older.

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    Super Moderator Spirit Deer's Avatar
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    Daylily, the ten largest lakes in MN are:
    Red Lake (both "Upper" and "Lower") - 288,800 acres
    Mille Lacs Lake - 132,516 acres
    Leech Lake - 111,527 acres
    Lake Winnibigoshish (Lake Winnie) - 58,544 acres
    Lake Vermilion - 40,557 acres
    Lake Kabetogama - 25,760 acres
    Mud Lake (Marshall County) - 23,700 acres
    Cass Lake - 15,596
    Lake Minnetonka - 14,004 acres
    Otter Tail Lake - 13,725 acres
    This list doesn't include Lake Superior or Lake of the Woods because they're not completely in MN. Do any of those ring a bell? Vermilion is the biggest lake in the Ely area.

    It really is a birder's heaven here. I saw an eagle the other day, in fact. The river is open already so they're back a little early. We see and hear eagles around here often and it never gets old.

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    Ok, Lake Vermilion was the big lake and the smaller one was Lake Jeanette. It just popped into mind when I read your post! Thanks! Lake Jeanette was a couple hours or so west maybe of Vermilion. It's been years ago so I'm not sure just where the first camp was. At Lake V., we saw a pack of wolves, in the middle of the night, walking around and around our camper! They were huge and one of them was nearly black.

    FrugalMomof3, sorry to get off topic!

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    Super Moderator Spirit Deer's Avatar
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    I dunno, I think talking about experiences people have had living on the road are part of the thoughts and advice, in a way. It's enlightening IMO. At least it is for me when I learn about other people's experiences.

    We've had wolves around when we've camped, too. Two of our girls crossed path with a couple of them once on their way back from the restroom one night. They thought it was a pretty cool experience.

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