Saturday, May 19, 2012

In which I ramble about RVs and bore most of you

I found a buyer for my house! That means I can afford the things I mentioned wanting in my last post:

  • an RV to live in
  • paying off loans and going back to college
  • at least a portion of what top surgery will cost (this depends largely on the cost of the RV)
I've been researching full-time RVing on and off for a few years now, and I've gotten pretty clear on what I want. One thing I've found to be true about dreaming is the more specific and focused your dream is, the more likely it is to become real. So here's what I want: A lightweight, preferably fiberglass, 17-20ft travel trailer, with a bathroom, enough beds to leave at least one as a bed most of the time (usually the beds convert to dinettes), and a table or desk that exists independently of the bed setup. It needs to have a kitchen, but not a fancy one, and it needs to be light enough to tow with a mid-size SUV (which I plan to trade my grandma-style Buick for).

I started plotting to sell my house for an RV two years ago, but I'm glad I waited. I've had time to learn how much space and how much stuff I really need, and it's turned out to be a lot less than I thought. I came up from Florida with a single carload of stuff. I'd say I regularly use about half of that, plus some stuff I've shared with housemates, like kitchen equipment. Generally, most of my needs are met by a laptop, a small stack of books, a couple pairs of pants and about 15 t-shirts. Had I gone directly from having a whole house to myself to living in an RV, I would've bought an enormous class A and maxed out the weight capacity carrying stuff I'd never use. 

For anyone else interested enough in RVs to be curious about my specific preferences, here's a breakdown of why I want what I want:

Type: Travel Trailer

I was initially convinced I wanted a big class A or class C rig (if you don't speak RV, these are your typical Winnebago things you see people driving to Florida in). However, doing some more research convinced me that a towable trailer is the way to go. I can leave it behind at a campsite or someone's driveway and go exploring in a separate vehicle, I don't have to worry about my house going into the shop for repairs, and I can spend less for an older model without having to worry about the mileage on the odometer or failing an emissions test. Plus, my dad lived in travel trailers for a lot of my childhood, so they hold a certain nostalgic appeal for me. There were other possibilities in my size range, namely pop-up campers and class B camper vans (think of the VW "hippie bus"). I feel that pop-up campers are a bit flimsy and temporary-feeling for fulltiming, and frankly I've never heard of anyone fulltiming in one. Camper vans have a certain romantic appeal for those who love the idea of just hopping in their car for a roadtrip, but they're a bit cramped and the toilet, if there is one, tends to be right smack in the middle of the van. I like the idea of being able to have guests or even bring a friend along for short legs of my journey, and no matter how close I am to my friends I do not want them watching me on the toilet.

Size: 17-20ft

Again, I thought I wanted/needed something much larger, but after reading the blog Technomadia and seeing how a couple can live comfortably in a 17ft trailer, I realized that the amount of space I need for just myself is actually quite tiny. True, I need the same amenities as a family - a kitchen, a bathroom, a place to sleep and a place to work. But being a solo traveler, I'll have the luxury of not needing a lot of empty space between those amenities. And when I'm towing I'll have a lot more flexibility in where I can go than I would in a Winnebago. I saw someone driving around Dorchester, an inner-city area of Boston, in an enormous tour bus today. This did not strike me as a good idea.

Layout: bed, table or desk, kitchen, bathroom

Why I need these things should be self-evident, but there's a surprising amount of variation in how RVs and travel trailers are laid out. For example, being one person, I don't really need a four-person dinette eating up half my floorplan. A small desk or table will do, and if there's a dinette I can leave it as my bed all the time. The reason I want that is because I hate making my bed in the first place and I know full well I'll be too lazy to convert it back and forth every day. (Realistically knowing your own limits and shortcomings is a good factor in making a dream actually doable. This is also why I ruled out cosmetology as a career when I realized I'd probably have to do pedicures.)

Car: Mid-size SUV

I have never pictured myself as an SUV person, but I am even less a pickup truck person. I plan to do a decent amount of city exploring, and I just don't see myself doing it in a monstrous truck. I am not above driving around downtown Boston blasting Kenny Chesney, but I'll be damned if I'm going to do it in a Silverado. Plus, I don't ever want to be that person who makes his friends sit in the backseat of a quad-cab with their knees jammed into their pharynxes. I've been there and it is not comfy.

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