Vanessa and I are often asked the same question whenever we speak of RV travels -- how are you going to make money? Valid question. We both had very lucrative jobs before taking the plunge into full-time RV exploration, yet that doesn't mean that we don't have to make a living while on the road. As awesome as it would be to just live off savings and travel without regard, that doesn't seem to be in the cards for us just yet.
As a copy/freelance writer, I'm blessed to be able to work from just about anywhere. As long as there is WiFi, of course. I take jobs here and there covering topics that I feel strongly about, or that allow me to broaden my knowledge on a whole slew of varying topics. I've learned quite a bit while freelancing, plus it keeps my writing skills sharp.
Aside from writing, Vanessa and I are hoping to find other sources of income while on the road, particularly involving farm work, harvesting, manual labor and the like. We're looking to get our hands dirty, and invest a little bit of ourselves back into the earth. Maybe it's hard to imagine a former Miss Teen USA and a published author choosing a life of working with our hands from dawn to dusk, or harvesting apples under the autumn sun, but it's with good reason.
One of my favorite chapters from Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers is the last, right before the epilogue, called Rice Paddies and Math Tests. (If you haven't read this book, I urge you to do so. If you want my copy, email me your forwarding address and I'll send it along. It's worth the read.)
Gladwell speaks about meaningful work in this chapter and the importance it has on a person and on a community. The Chinese, as a culture, spend so much time building, maintaining, and harvesting from their rice paddies in order to provide for themselves, their community, and their families. There is meaning behind the work they do. There is pride and reward. This ultimately is a contributing factor to why the Chinese are so hardworking and motivated as a whole.
Vanessa and I both worked in offices, without significant personal reward. We were making money for our bosses, while stationary behind a desk for hours at a time. There wasn't much meaning in the work we were doing. We felt extremely unfulfilled.
To us, working on a farm, or harvesting grapes in a vineyard would facilitate meaning and purpose. Not only would we be helping the smaller farms who need more hands than people are willing to offer, but we also are rewarding the community with the fruits of our labor (pun definitely intended).
Maybe it sounds crazy to some, but one of the main reasons Vanessa and I are taking this leap of faith into full time RV living is so that we can cultivate a stronger sense of purpose and meaning while exploring the country on our own terms. We don't want a 9-5. We don't want to sit in traffic every day. We don't want to earn a paycheck just to buy more "stuff" nor do we want to sell people more "stuff".
It's a lifestyle change that we're hoping to find much more rewarding on a personal level because it speaks to the very core of our being.
Life on our own terms.
For the next few weeks, The Roamans will be in Homestead, Florida with Maude the RV, gearing up to hit the road. My family has property that we're staying on, which is a huge help. The thing about Homestead, Florida is that it is very far south. We're talking right-before-the-Keys-south. Kinda-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-south...which is a departure from Fort Lauderdale living. Vanessa and I were used to being in the mix of things while living in our little bungalow (blog post to come) by the beach where we had everything at our fingertips. You take for granted how close you are to a grocery store when it's just a quick trip away. In Homestead, the closest grocery is about 20 minutes away.
But.....there really are some huge perks of staying down here:
1. The scenery is amazing. Farmlands and fruit trees and horses galloping on the streets. Vanessa has been running and taking gorgeous pictures of our neighborhood.
2. It's quiet. We are on a few acres of land and our closest neighbors are a ways away. It's nice to be secluded and in our own world. This is going to be a great way to gear up for full time RV living.
3. FRUIT. There are fruit stands EVERYWHERE. It's glorious. Fresh fruit stands all along the main road. We bought some lychees (2lbs for $5!) from a man named Phillip, who was kind enough to take the time and bless us on our journey.
4. Fresh coconuts. This gets a separate number primarily because young coconuts have been falling from the trees around the property. For the first time, I chopped it up, drank the coconut juice, and turned the meat into a vegan coconut ceviche. The feeling of self-sufficiency is unparalleled.
5. Close friends and family. We're using these next few weeks down here to say goodbye to those closest to us. Yesterday for the Fourth of July, we had a small (very small) gathering where we played board games, ate veggie burgers, and played with sparklers in front of Maude the RV.
Happy Fourth of July, everyone.
The first question Vanessa and I are asked when we tell people about our full-time RV adventure is "why?" A lot of our friends and family are curious as to what lead us to such a drastic decision. Why did we pare down and give away the majority of our belongings? Why did we decide to live in such a small space when we had a beautiful bungalow by the beach? Why quit our jobs and lose the stability of a full-time income?
So we decided to write a quick word or two -- from each of us-- in regards to why we made this decision in hopes that friends and family will understand a bit better, and welcomed strangers will find some inspiration to pursue their own to happiness.
I've been working full time since I was about 16. All throughout college and graduate school I had a full time job because I did things a bit backwards in life -- rent, utilities, moving out on my own all at the age of 19. I've been going nonstop for a while. Having a full-time job has been necessary to paying my way in this life. But there have always been disadvantages. For example, having to work Christmas Eve, as well as the day after Christmas, allowed zero time for family. I would spend all day in an office, at a desk, eyes on a computer, with only 30 minutes for lunch. I would have to sit in 12+ hours of traffic each week, on top of already working 45 hours per week. By the time I got home, I was irritable, exhausted, and only had about an hour or two with Vanessa to eat, clean up, and relax before starting it all over again. I was not happy.
I came to the conclusion that without so much "stuff" to pay for, I wouldn't need to be working so hard. I wouldn't need to be away from Vanessa or away from my pup Penny. I would actually have time to do things that made me happy.
I've never been one to understand why we all work so hard for a dream that doesn't fulfill us or make us happy, or why Americans spend the majority of their lives at jobs they hate. My mom and dad are both extremely hard-working individuals and always have been. My dad came over on a raft from Cuba and became very successful on his own. My mother owns a pet magazine called Suncoast Pet, that she runs primarily by herself. Working hard is in my DNA. But I want to work hard at something I love. I want to work hard at making memories, and exploring the country, and meeting new people. It doesn't matter to me if my hard work doesn't translate into dollars and cents. Sure, there are bills I need to pay through freelance writing, but I'm not looking to make more money than I need to buy more stuff that we just end up throwing away in a few years.
Full-time RV living means all of my things fit in my home that can come with me wherever I go. I don't have a house full of "stuff". I don't have a tremendous amount of bills or debt. But most importantly, I get to travel the country with my girlfriend -- and my best friend.
I'm not passing judgment on those who enjoy or take part in more conventional living. I did it for the last 30 years of my life, and there was always something missing. Always a sense of exploration that wasn't being fulfilled.
That's why I decided to embark on this adventure.
Stayed tuned for the next blog: Why I Decided on Full-Time RV Living: Vanessa
It's been a few weeks since we've written, so our apologies in advance. We've been going through some huge life changes and making all the right moves in order to get our small RV Maude locked and loaded for the road.
Vanessa and I had some difficulty deciding on what we should be traveling in for the duration of the trip (still unknown might we add). There are so many different types of motor homes and recreational vehicles to choose from, you really need to take time to navigate your needs. So, we decided to write a post about the different types of RVs out there, so that if anybody finds themselves at a crossroads like we were, they can navigate more easily their needs and wants.
We started first looking at travel trailers. Here's why:
1. They are modern
One of our primary criteria in finding a road home was a more modern decor. We kept coming across these RVs that had a very outdated style -- older fabrics, wood everywhere, hideous fixtures. Brand new travel trailers have more modernity on the inside, which made it a plus in our book.
2. They are affordable
We found some brand new 2016 travel trailers for $16k-17k. That was EXACTLY what we needed. We didn't want to spend an arm and a leg on this trip because we were trying to downgrade our expenses. Finding something brand new, with a warranty, at such a low cost was ideal.
3. They are spacious
Travel trailers have more space on the inside because they aren't attached to a cab or motor. This means they're more lightweight, and usually longer. With two humans and two dogs we figured the more space the better.
So, with these three criteria, we started our journey by falling in love with the Airstream. *Sigh* The new Airstream Serenity was right up our alley.
The decor was very modern, it was clean and new, and seemed to have everything we needed to get on the road. We found one we loved and filled out the loan paperwork.......
Only to be rejected. Turns out, we naively were trying for a 70k loan for a TRAVEL TRAILER when we have never had a loan that big for either one of us. See, the thing is that financial companies are looking for you to have had a loan of considerable size already when you are trying to finance an RV so that they know you can handle it. Primarily because RVs are not considered necessary -- they are are luxury. They are an add-on to someone who already has a full-time home.
To this day though, it was a blessing in disguise that we didn't get the Airstream. We would've been 70k in debt without a truck to even tow it.
But besides the price, we also weren't so keen to the idea of having our home detached from our "getaway" vehicle. Unfortunately, this was something we had to consider since we are two girls traveling the country alone. If anything were to happen, and there was trouble on the road, in a travel trailer we would be trapped. So, since travel trailers were ruled out, then certainly fifth wheels were ruled out as well for the same reason. So this ultimately led us to Class B vehicles. Why we considered Class B RVs:
1. Cab is attached
2. Very small body
3. We could take it free-camping
Number 3 was huge for us, because we really want to explore the country and nature without having a huge hassle of finding a campground and parking. Free-camping is VERY much on our agenda.
Yet, we soon found out that the affordable Class B motorhomes in our price range were VERY outdated with high mileage. There also were few and far between to consider. So, that brought us to our next option which were Class A RVs. Why Class A's were appealing:
1. HUGE space inside
2. Cab was attached
3. It's really like a small apartment on wheels
4. Within our price range for used
5. The open-space feel of the interior
However, we did find one major drawback which ultimately dissuaded us from choosing a Class A. They were just too big for what we needed. Since we wanted to free camp, or just pull over and sleep on the road, Class A motorhomes would definitely not be the right choice.
So this really narrowed us down to the Class C RV variety.
Why we LOVED Class C motorhomes:
1. Easy to park
2. Affordable for a used one
3. Exactly the amount of space we needed
4. Cab was attached
5. More Ideal layout for two humans and two dogs
5. Better gas mileage
The Class C's seemed to fulfill everything we were looking for. The above bunk was perfect to get away from the dogs, the space was just right, and if ever we were in a dangerous situation, we could hop in the cab and take off.
As most of you know, we've hunkered down in Sarasota for the first part of our journey. We're still getting things situated with Maude and we are lucky enough to have family in Sarasota to have sort of a "dry run" if you will.
The best part though, is being able to explore Sarasota the way we intend to explore every other city we visit in the country. We're looking for a mix of touristy things along with off-the-grid experiences. We've asked locals for their advice on what to do and had some very insightful and fulfilling conversations with new friends. There isn't a method to our exploration of a city except that we try to find experiences that fit our budget, that inspire us, and that fulfill us spiritually, athletically, and adventurously. Have a look at the top 10 things you need to do in Sarasota, Florida.
1. The Crystal Cave
We loved The Crystal Cave so much that we went back twice. Even if you aren't familiar with crystal healing, it's worth a trip to check out The Crystal Cave on Fruitville Rd. Owner Susan Moen was SUPER friendly as well as being extremely knowledgeable. We bought a slew of crystals all of which Susan described in detail and even wrote the properties down on the card. Great shop with the most amazing crystal selection we've ever seen.
2. Brant's Books
Vanessa and I are avid readers and we love a good used bookstore. Brant's Books exceeded our expectations and then some. Not only is there over 150,000 used books....yeah, our jaws dropped, too....but owner Barbara Sciarretta was an absolute pleasure to talk to. She ended up sharing a lot of personal advice and wisdom that we will certainly implement during our travels. Great books at a great price.
3. Tea House
Right next to The Crystal Cave was a little blue house with white trim that had been turned into a tea shop. We decided to peruse a bit after we heard about Open Mic night on Tuesday's starting at 7pm. The tea selection first of all is phenomenal, such a wide variety of whites, blacks, and greens that you can mix at your leisure for an eclectically flavored pot. The decor is funky and boho, with mismatching furniture and vibrant colors. We ended up chatting with Dana, who not only recommended a great custom blend, but also wrote down some of the places along the East Coast that we needed to see during our travels.
4. Celery Fields
Right next to the Big Cat Habitat you'll find Celery Fields, a wetlands site of over 300 acres. More than 20,000 aquatic plants and trees have been planted, and two boardwalks have been installed. We went for the sunset (as recommended by Dana!) and it truly was a beautiful thing. Sunsets in Sarasota already are magical, but when seen across the dips and bumps of celery fields, and reflecting off the various pools of water, it seems enchanting.
5. Drum Circle Siesta Key
Every Sunday night on the beaches of Siesta Key there's a drum circle. Every. Sunday. Night. In Miami, it's once a month for the full moon, but in Sarasota, we were lucky enough to join one of the Sunday night rituals. People flock from all over the community: younger, older, families, friends -- everyone comes out to dance, listen to some drums, and watch the sunset. Vanessa and I sat and watched the fire dancers for quite some time, before getting caught in a rain storm and racing back to the car laughing the entire way. I would suggest going before the sunset rather than after if you have family or young kids. We pulled up around 9pm and witnessed a few grown men, very drunk, about to throw down in the parking lot.
6. Fudge Factory
One of our favorite spots on St. Armand's has to be Fudge Factory. They have a TON of ice cream flavors, each of which you're welcomed to try. Although Vanessa and I aren't huge on sweets, we still can indulge every once in a while. Try the Blueberry Pie ice cream with a sugar cone! That flavor quickly became my favorite of all time.
7. Myakka state park
There have been a lot of floods here in Sarasota, which haven't helped our exploration at all. We visited the Myakka State Park the day after a bad rain storm and were told the parks and trails were extremely flooded. Yet, this didn't stop us. We took our pups Penny and Spike with us and got some exercise along the main road. There were so many beautiful trees and birds, that it's definitely worth a trip. Vanessa was desperate to see an alligator, which apparently there are in ABUNDANCE, yet it wasn't until our car ran out of gas (I kid you not) that we spotted our first gator in the marsh by our car. How fun! : |
The park rangers helped us with a gallon of gas and we were on our way. The gator was massive and scared the sh$# out of me, but hey, at least we got a photo.
8. Station 400
You must go to Station 400 for breakfast. YOU MUST. The building itself was over 150 years old and used to be an old train station. There are still many features and decor that bring back the old train feel, especially the worn copper tables throughout. We split the Truffle Eggs Benedict and Coconut Custard Pancakes which were both equally amazing. The truffle didn't overpower and the hollandaise was smooth, never salty. The coconut pancakes were sweet, but not sugary sweet. You could eat them with or without syrup and they'd be equally enjoyable. Everything on the breakfast menu is under $10, so that fit perfectly for us.
9. sarasota national CEMETERY
Down the street from Myakka is the Sarasota National Cemetery, a sprawling memorial dedicated to the men and women who served our country. It's free to peruse and we recommend taking a gander and paying your respects to the souls who fought for our freedoms. It just so happens my grandparents Fred and Carol Botha both share a stone here, and I visit as often as I can to send them light and love and give thanks for all they've done for me.
10. Maharaja Indian
We went for the lunch buffet after a chance encounter after the $2 theater. Thank goodness for Maharaja. They really brought the flavor and food we were looking for all along. Their lunch buffet is of very good size and has some amazing dishes beyond just the regulars you would find.
The owner was such a pleasure to speak with and really cared what we thought of the food. I would definitely come back for another lunch (addendum: as of 8/29 we went back again), especially because it's such incredible food for $9.99. The only thing I wish they had was palak paneer because it's my absolute favorite, but that only means I'll have to go back for dinner to order it off the menu! P.S. The tamarind chutney was the best I have ever tasted.
Bonus: WOnderland Hookah lounge
On the way home one night, we decided to try out Wonderland Hookah which stays open until 12am most nights if not later. It wasn't packed on a Monday which was nice and the owner was extremely helpful. For $15.99 per person you get your own beautiful 3ft hookah with a flavor of your choice and a beverage. We said yes, albeit not really in our price range. Overall it was a nice experience. We sat on torn couches and lazily smoked our Blueberry Muffin and Strawberry Daiquiri hookahs. We were served freshly brewed Moroccan tea, and had the privacy of sheer white curtains to separate us from everyone else. The lighting was a bit odd, blacklights and strobe lights that danced around. We probably would've been happy splitting a hookah for $15.99, but I'm not sure they offer that as an option. Will go back when they do, because two giant hookahs were more than we needed.
There are other amazingly unique places in Sarasota that we had the pleasure of visiting, but these were what we wanted to include. Sarasota is a very family-friendly place with powdery white beaches and beautiful sunsets. We recommend stopping at Bird Key in particular to get a good sunset in. If you have any other places you'd like us to check out, let us know!
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Marisa & Vanessa have a whole "About Us" blurb that they are dying for you to check out.