This is #canlife. The road beckoned, and we answered. After restoring a 1957 vintage camper trailer, we left behind the life we'd built for ourselves. What began as a sabbatical from promising careers, comfortable home, and meaningful community, transformed into a more sustainable RV lifestyle of travel, adventure, seasonal employment, and volunteering. Its impact on the planet may be smaller, but so much larger on us.
Our solar powered, tiny-home-on-wheels -- a 1957 “canned ham” Sportcraft camper trailer -- embodies the freedom of travel and the spirit of adventure. Painted with his big purple door and flashy red trim, Hamlet gets smiles everywhere we go.
The purchase of Hamlet on eBay, somewhat on a whim, came after a very challenging day in 2010. Shari's message was clear; "I'm leaving and you're invited." That impulsive bid led to 18-months of busy preparations. On evenings and weekends we worked to transform our purchase into a livable space as we downsized from 1,650 square feet into 72. By September 2012, we were ready to leave our university jobs, our home in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and hit the road. And we haven't looked back!
In 2011-12, we completely refurbished Hamlet, inside and out.
He's been our full-time solar powered home and has taken us
all over the continent!
Discover how we've lived in 72 square feet for nearly a decade.
We'll bet you have a few questions, here are some answers.
James Belasco & Ralph Stayer, Flight of the Buffalo
We are both RVers and tent campers. While we live full-time in our lil' Hamlet, you will rarely find us in an RV Park. We prefer remote camping and boondocking. We also spend a good deal of time backcountry and primitive camping. We love to backpack, bikepack, and sea kayak camp all over the nation. You'll find us anywhere from the desert, to the mountains, to islands -- and sometimes in cities (but that is relatively rare unless we are visiting friends or family). While we use a number of apps while traveling, our all-time favorite is The Dyrt PRO. It is the most comprehensive and easy to use camping app out there, complete with offline maps, public land finder, and trip planners. Join us for a FREE 90-Day Trial of The Dyrt PRO!
Just like most things in life, downsizing was a process that we revisited many times. After several rounds of garage sales, donations, selling things on Craigslist, etc., we are down to 5 medium-sized tubs of keepsakes in our parent's basement.
Food…good healthy whole, often organic and local, food. We have a 2 burner propane stove, a small Otzi grill, and we almost always have a campfire pit in which we can use our Banks Fry Bake pan or Dutch oven. We have winnowed down our kitchen supplies to a few things that have multiple uses (e.g., a metal colander that can steam veggies, drain pasta, and be used as a grill basket). With these items, we can make everything from homemade soup and pizzas to brownies and coffeecake, and just about everything in between. Watch our Gourmet Camp Cooking & Baking Video!
Probably not in the same capacity, though we love to do lifestyle presentations at colleges and universities, as well as RV shows throughout the country. We enjoyed our careers for many years, learned a ton; we have both great memories and not so great memories, and we thank that experience for leading us to many other wonderful life adventures. For now, we enjoy working for ourselves as well as seasonally in different parts of the country (such as the National Park Service and at outdoor outfitters we can use our outdoor and environmental education skills). We simply love trying to keep it on the road.
We don’t know. It certainly won’t be a traditional house, but will have space for a large veggie garden. It will probably be a sustainable, tiny house with wheels and be smaller than 200 sq feet. Most houses seem way too big and there is too much to clean and maintain. Currently, we have the biggest front and back yard of anyone we know, and we don’t have to mow it. We have found better ways to spend our time...like hiking, paddling, cycling and volunteering.
We didn’t just wake up one day and hit the road; we planned for this new RV lifestyle. We saved quite a bit of money before we left our jobs in 2012. We work for ourselves via writing, photography, video production, public speaking, and ambassador/influencer work, and occasionally find seasonal work in various beautiful places across the country. We each have IRA's and investments that we began when we were working full-time and contribute to regularly. We have retirement savings from our previous jobs, and we will have Social Security. And if we don't have those things when we decide to settle down, we will have bigger problems as a country than where to find a shower.
None that we have to raise, but we have hundreds of former university students that we call our kids and have visited them all over the nation. We also have nieces, nephews, and a god-child ranging from toddlers to 30-somethings. It’s been fantastic to have the time to visit and adventure with them!
We have family and friends spread all over the nation and world. We have actually had more time to spend with them now than in our previous work life, squeezing in short visits around 60-hour work weeks. Now, we get to spend quality time with friends and family for a few weeks at a time...and we come with our own guest room and kitchen, so no need to make accommodations for us.
Well, Shari was born and raised near Los Angeles, CA, Hutch lived in Boulder, CO and we have traveled all over the world, so we’ve met our fair share of unusual people. Nearly everyone has been unbelievably friendly; our unique camper draws people to us and we end up having some amazing conversations with strangers. We had one stolen bike incident involving a barefoot chase across a parking lot. The thief got away, but we got the bike back the very next day!
Honestly, 98% of what we get and need to deal with is online. The other 2%, Shari’s mom lovingly scans or mails to us. Online/mobile banking makes all of this possible, and we can deposit checks anywhere we have wifi or LTE. If you don't have a mother in law, you can also hire a service to do this for you. Taxes, can be a bit trickier, when you work in different states, but not so tricky that we would give up this lifestyle.
Our budget depends on what we are doing. If we spend time volunteering on farms or at national parks, we don’t spend much at all. Lodging and/or most of our food is taken care of and we don’t spend much on gas, so it’s just the normal daily/monthly stuff like insurance, retirement contributions, etc.. This is a great way to stretch your budget to make this RV lifestyle even more sustainable. When we are on the road, we seek out as much free camping as possible and prepare our own meals. About $1000 per month per person will cover it if we are really on the move and staying in multiple fee-based campgrounds. If you are staying put and have a free camping spot, you can easily live on half that amount.
We have a great plan with BCBSNC and are huge fans of the Affordable Healthcare Act. Since we've lived this mobile, more active lifestyle, we've needed very little healthcare as we are living healthier and with much less stress.