If you ever decide to live in a camper, you should be prepared for the onslaught of questions you’ll get from curious friends, family, and colleagues. In my experience, most people have the same questions, asked with the same mix of admiration, disgust, and misplaced pity when they hear of our living situation. After five months, I’m used to it, so I thought I’d share my mental script for those of you who are thinking about living in an RV and have the same questions.
Where do you park it?
It’s surprising how many RVs you’ll see parked on the side of the road in the Bay Area. We’re not the only ones evading the high rent by turning to this alternative lifestyle.
During the week, we usually park it on the street by an RV mechanic’s shop where we’ve gone for repairs. The owner knows we’re there and seems cool with it; plus, there are usually other RVs he’s repairing parked around his lot, so we kind of blend in. The best part about this particular spot is that it’s only 5 minutes from where we both work.
Another place we park occasionally is along El Camino Real in Palo Alto, a stretch of road known for its RV-dwelling population. For several blocks, you’ll see camper after camper parked by Stanford University. Some of them are overnighters passing through town, but the majority of them have been there for months or years—and the residents are getting sick of it. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we see shiny new signs that say “No Overnight Parking.”
As we quickly learned, Wal-Marts in the Bay Area are not RV-friendly—but only because there’s a city ordinance that restricts overnight parking, so I won’t blame the Waltons themselves.
Just be cognizant of where you’re parking. Avoid going too residential since neighbors will complain, look for street signs, and don’t advertise what you’re doing. Pretty soon, you’ll find a routine that works for you.
How does it not stink all the time?
Uh, we clean it? We don’t pee in Coke bottles and leave them on the counter?
Sweeping, mopping, washing dishes, cleaning the toilet—these are all things you can’t escape just because you live in a camper. If anything, we have to be more scrupulous than house dwellers because it’s such a small area. One plate or shoe out of order reduces our already minuscule square footage.
You don’t look like you live in a camper. I’m confused.
That’s not really a question, but I’ll address it. Just because I live in a camper doesn’t mean I don’t keep myself “put together.” I still do all the basic hygiene stuff I did living in an apartment. I keep my beard tidy. I get a haircut every three weeks. I moisturize. I wear J. Crew and Banana Republic. If you were expecting two unwashed hobos with bindle sticks, I’m sorry we’ve shattered that stereotype. 🙂
What do you do with your poop and all of your water?
We have a 17-gallon gray tank and a 21-gallon black tank. Since we shower at the gym most of the week, we only need to dump once a week, usually as part of our Sunday chores. If we used the shower in the camper every day, we’d likely have to visit a dump station every two to three days.
We’re fortunate in that we have easy access to a dump station at a nearby RV park; they charge $25 to dump and refill the fresh water. If we don’t do it there, then we do it when we stay at an RV park in Half Moon Bay on the weekends. It’s a little pricey at $67 a night, but it’s also on the beach and has full hookups.
How do you get your mail?
Because we’re not traveling, we use a P.O. box for mail and billing purposes. I have Amazon and other packages delivered to my office. Honestly, most everything can be paperless these days, so when we do start traveling, we’ll probably just use my parents’ address for things that can’t be paperless—like basically anything from the DMV. Get with it, DMV! Send me some registration tags I can just tape to my license!
How do you get Internet?
We have two hotspots: an unlimited plan with T-Mobile and a 20-gig plan with Verizon, each $90 a month. Why do we have two you ask? Because Verizon has better coverage than T-Mobile, so when we’re in areas that are spotty for T-Mobile, we just switch to Verizon.
To be honest, we’d probably be fine without the Verizon right now since we mostly stay in populous areas with decent coverage all around. Both have been great, but as I’m writing this, I’m thinking we could ditch Verizon and save $90/month until we are hardcore road warriors.
How do you cook and eat?
Using a stove, a table, plates, and utensils. Really, I’m not sure how else to answer this question. We’re not living in a tent.
Pier has even made homemade bread and pizza in the oven.
What does your family think about this?
They’re cool with it—now at least. Like any mother in this situation, mine worried and called me in the midst of a couple of panics. But she trusts our judgment and has been supportive of our little life experiment—because she knows how much money we’re saving!
Do you have room for your clothes?
Yes—but only because we donated several bags before we made the move to full-timing. But really, they were clothes we never wore anymore, so it was nice to unload them to people who could get some use out of them.
For storage, we share the small closet to hang our nicer clothes, and we each have a couple of small cabinets on the side of the bed that we use for gym clothes, socks and underwear, and t-shirts.
The nice thing about having fewer clothes is that I spend less time thinking about what I’m going to wear.
Is it comfortable?
I’ve told several friends and colleagues that I often feel like I sleep better in the camper than I did in living in an apartment. I don’t really know why this is—maybe it’s the “cozy” factor a camper has, or maybe we sleep better knowing how much money we’re saving. Either way, to answer the question: yes, it’s comfortable in most aspects. Do I sometimes miss collapsing on a big leather couch or having a bigger kitchen where we can prep meals together? Yes, but we know this is the trade-off for now until we decide to go back to house living—and we’ve adapted pretty well!
Let me know what questions you’ve gotten from friends and family!