“I was in the corporate world for 15 years. I felt like I was wasting my life in a cubicle farm. I decided that with the one life I did have I wanted to go out and see things and travel.”
Meet River, a thirty-something full-time RVer. This time last year she was a financial analyst in a Fortune 500 banking institution. If you asked her mom, River was living the American dream. Yet every day she spent in her office cubicle sucked away a little more of her soul, leaving a little more anxiety in its place.
Living the dream in Plano, Texas
Living in Plano put River smack in the middle of a town that’s morphed into a mecca for corporate America. River describes Plano in a way that sounds very similar to changes I’ve witnessed here near Atlanta: A place so eager for growth and a polished image that its people pursue them at any cost, whether we’re talking city leaders or those who wake up each day to live as cogs in its machine.
River witnessed a depressing scenery change as Plano’s greenery gave way to numerous shiny, big-company buildings. The town became crowded with people chasing the so-called American dream, working all week to pay the mortgage on a house they didn’t spend much time in, buying whatever accoutrements indicated success by popular standards.
I think that when half your brain tells you to be a responsible adult and do what society expects, but the other half knows there should be more to life, getting a little crazy is the best case scenario. But no, most of us are too “mature”(?) for that. Instead cognitive dissonance becomes self-doubt and depression.
That’s what happened with River. She didn’t yet have the mindset to cut the corporate cord and make her own way. Then she met a nervy girl named Carrie.
Teaming, dreaming & scheming
Twenty-something Carrie (now River’s partner in life, travel and attempted cat parenting) came to Plano from Tulsa in 2015 so they could be together. Carrie’s feelings about Plano echo River’s, but her words are more succinct: “Man, I hated that place!”
After moving, Carrie worked in the service industry. Ultimately she, too, landed in a corporate job. The nature of the area made it hard not to.
“I liked it for, like, a month,” she said. “And then I hated it.”
Carrie says she and River each had the idea to live nomadically before they met. Off and on through the years, Carrie imagined traveling around to festivals, perhaps selling crafts. She never really had a concrete plan. River had her own dreams of traveling. But until meeting Carrie she stuck to what everyone else (especially her mom) seemed to think was the safe, responsible path.
Somehow – neither remembers exactly how – they came up with the idea of trading their apartment and Plano for an RV and wherever-the-hell-they-pleased. They began researching what seemed like an off-the-wall idea, and were amazed when they discovered a whole subculture of nomadic full-time RVers.
“It was like ‘WOW’ – we had no idea,” Carrie said.
Let’s do this thing
In the summer of 2016, River and Carrie attended a music festival and discovered that among their fellow attendees were many full-time nomad RVers. At the time, they had worked out a multi-year plan for getting to full-time RV life. Seeing RVers at the festival, though, intensified their desire for a more free life.
Not long after the music festival the multi-year plan went out the window. As Carrie recalls, she and River were out of town visiting her mom when the topic arose (if they are anything like Brian and me here, it came up A LOT).
“Why are we waiting?” Carrie asked River. “Why don’t we just do it now?”
River agreed, and BOOM – they were on the same page and a fast track. As soon as they got back to Plano, they ramped up their efforts.
Carrie experimented with various online business ideas she hoped would work on the road, and began to get some traction. So she quit the job she hated.
That bold step left one less tie to a physical location. A chance to cut another would come when their apartment lease was up. Anticipating that, they began shopping for an RV.
The couple got quite the reality check when they discovered that a) the price tag on an RV that had what they thought they needed was more than they could afford; and b) walls around RV financing eliminated any possibility of affordable monthly payments.
It gets real
River and Carrie kept looking, and early this year found the RV that was perfect for them within only an hour’s drive. It’s a 36-foot-long 1999 Rexhall Rexair with two slides. They named it Calliope. Scroll through their @campcarvr Instagram feed and you’ll find photos representing dozens (at least) of woman-hours of RV fixes and upgrades.
As with the fortuitous end of their apartment lease, the universe again conspired to sever the couple’s last remaining connection to Plano.
While River hoped she’d be able to keep her job and work remotely, she knew it wasn’t where she belonged.
“I’m a musician. I paint. I take photographs,” she says. In case that’s not enough to dispel doubts about her mismatched career, she adds “I’m sitting here talking to you with purple hair. I’m not an accountant type.”
Almost as soon as they moved into their RV, River was laid off from her job. She received a small severance, but other than that they had no real financial cushion or guaranteed income.
But there was no longer anything holding them to Plano.
“We didn’t have anything saved up,” Carrie says. Along with the RV loan they didn’t get, having a cushion for expenses was part of the original plan. As was River continuing to work her soul-crushing job while Carrie continued to grow her online business.
To paraphrase Robert Burns: To the best laid plans of mice and (wo)men, the universe often goes “Yeah, right!”
It took Carrie and River only seven months to go from mere inspiration to 36 feet and 15,000+ pounds of Class A RV. Over the next three to four months their carefully planned escape morphed into an exit that, relatively speaking, was like walking through a door that opened for them.
Next week we’ll dive into more details about how their first few months have gone and the mindset that drove their decision to become full-time nomads. In the meantime, catch up with these lovely women on their website, CampCaRVr.com.
Who’s got a story?
Do you know a full-time nomad I should write about? Tell them to get in touch.