Living In A Van Down By The River

Mark Tisdale

Geek with a camera! I love music, travel, and most of all I love photography and art. At heart, I'm still a geeky comic book reading, sci-fi-watching nerd.

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5 Responses

  1. Joe says:

    Hey Mark,

    Thanks for the link.

    Your instincts on buying a coach (or van) in good condition to start with are spot on. I’m pretty handy, and I did quite a bit of research about buying an older rig for super cheap and fixing it up, pulling out stuff and rebuilding it exactly to my liking, but found that the costs were going to just explode during the rebuild, leading to not only higher costs but a huge amount of labor on top of that. Everything in an RV costs a lot more than you would expect, so replacing or repairing anything usually costs more than the same repair in a permanent home. It’s also often harder to repair stuff in an RV, because it is so tightly packed in; running cable for my solar panels has been challenging, even, and that’s usually a very simple task in a permanent building. Getting access to some parts requires pulling off significant amounts of paneling and then replacing it because it is mostly very thin, not very sturdy wood paneling. Buying a rig in good condition to start with means that you’ll only have to spend a lot of time and a little bit of money on maintenance (because even a perfect RV will need little repairs every week or two, if you’re driving it regularly; in three months on the road, I’ve replaced a valve on the water heater, fixed a bedroom curtain hanger, sealed several leaks, and I currently have a leaky outside shower), rather than a huge amount on major repairs and replacements.

    It’d be very easy to buy an RV that costs more to get in working order than it would cost to buy one a few years newer that’s in good condition, and a lot more than it is worth. Some folks do it for love, like the Airstream fans, and that’s the same sort of thing as owning a classic car…part of the value is in the experience of rebuilding it. But, if you just want an awesome RV to cruise the country in, you should buy one that is ready to roll.

    I was also told several times during my shopping that your first RV won’t be what you settle on, and while I didn’t really believe it, it’s been true. Better to spend less (while still getting a good, working rig) than more, because within a few months you’ll know you want something different. I’m already shopping for my next rig. I’m going to go for a smaller (23′-25′) Class C or B+, as urban camping in a 33′ rig is challenging (not impossible, but it has limitations).

    BTW-I’m having a blast on the road. I’m in San Diego this week, catching up with a friend from South Carolina (I’m originally from Greenville) I haven’t seen in over a decade, and I’m moving on to The Slabs in a week or so. Hope to run into you and your RV, whatever you choose, some day.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Joe! Much appreciated! I actually only stumbled onto your site a couple of days ago. I’m a bit of a lurker sort truth be known but have slowly been gathering a pile of feeds to blogs of non-retired folks following the nomad way even if only for a time. While I would love to see my way clear to make a living that wasn’t dependent on location, I honestly wouldn’t see myself in a perpetual travel mode forever. I’m not sure anyone actually does expect that? Maybe a few gypsies are among us.

      I do enjoy some general handyman activities, but yes, this is not the time to spend months trying to get an RV ready to roll. And not interested in spending $$ on the process when I could just spend more time finding one that’s already as I want rather than a project. Glad to hear the corroboration of that story.

      Sounds like RVs are like cameras! I’ve done better than some I know with the photog bug, but it is one of those things where there’s always a newer better camera or lens or something out there. I bought a really nice point and shoot when I was first getting serious and then well less than a year later I was getting a DSLR. I would have been better off making that leap to begin with, but didn’t know it then.

      If I were to decide the gypsy life was my thing, I could foresee possibly upgrading from the B’s I’m looking at down the road for sure. For now, I’m just hoping to get something that would let me see the country a bit and could be a weekend thing after if I decide to return to a more mundane life. 😉

      Thanks again and I’ll try not to be just another lurker in the future, please feel free to chime in on my end as well. You have my respect rolling in an A – it would definitely take me time to warm to maneuvering one like yours on city streets or backing it in anywhere!

  2. Thank you so much for the mention, and congrats on exploring this path!

    We did a lot of thinking on the small motorhome vs tow vehicle/trailer options ourselves. As we wanted to stay small and able to fit in standard driveways – we just simply found that the smaller sized motorhomes just were too small for the two of us and our cat.

    And, we really like being able to set up a homebase somewhere and be able to go run errands, visit friends and site see without leaving our spot and having to secure everything down again. For us, making it sustainable long term was all about minimizing fuss. Sure, we could have gotten a tow behind vehicle for that – but then we we’d be compromising on space AND having the towing concerns.

    So.. for us, the 17′ Oliver (sort of a ‘luxury’ version of the Scamp pictured above) with an almost full size truck (Toyota Tundra) tow vehicle is working out great. The tow vehicle gives us plenty of room to carry stuff with us that adds to the journey – such as a small airplane :).

    But really.. it all comes down to what feels right TO YOU. And to concur with Joe above, your first RV will likely not be your last. I don’t think I’ve met many full time RVers who haven’t changed rigs after a bit and really figuring out what works for them after they’ve adjusted to life on the road.

    Best wishes.. and looking forward to following your journey!

    • Mark says:

      Hey there Cherie! I’ve actually followed Technomadia for awhile – even made the odd small comment in between generally lurking. Got to work on that as I said to Joe. But nonetheless absorbing.

      I won’t say no to a trailer, but I’m not there yet. Maybe I’ll surprise myself or maybe it will be phase 2 if and when I get a new RV. Right now, I like the idea of one vehicle, maybe with a small moped or something for getting around in proximity to where I’m parked. I’ve got to sort the RV out before I worry too much about that, but the wheels are a turning. I can definitely see the merits of being able to set down your trailer and not be tied to everything in it. For some reason I can’t quantify, I’m still hesitant to go that route.

      For now, RV#1 is potentially home for awhile and if not home then I think fairly certainly a joy for future expeditions if I return to the regular world. That’s part of my thinking of keeping it compact. Also, I really just don’t want enough room to try to bring the world with me.

      I can imagine full-timing in a class B with another person and a pet could be a bit much, though! I think I’d draw the line there, but it’s just me, so it’s all about me. 😉

      Thanks and I’ll try to be less of a stranger. I read your recent post of the possible watery technomadia coming – looking forward to what may come next!

      P.S. Joined nurvers, but will have to save an introduction for another day!

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