Who are you and what is your backstory?
In 2014, my husband Heath and I married in Austin and immediately moved into an RV. We were 23 and dreaming of creative ways to start our life together.
Photo credit: Joe Hendricks
Like most college graduates, we took desk jobs after college that we were less than enthusiastic about. We wanted to travel, write, and run our own business. We had no idea how to make any of those things happen, but we knew it started with quitting our jobs and leaving Austin.
We dreamed of places where we could move to start our marriage with a new challenge when I pitched Heath on a 50 state road trip. I’d just read a book where a girl took a 50 state road trip and it sounded just crazy enough to work.
"We opened the curtains on our windshield and sipped our coffee while we watched the sunrise over the Grand Tetons."
Heath instantly agreed and started thinking of ways we could take action on our other two dreams: writing and running our own business. We started blogs and came up with an idea we called “Hourly America” where Heath would work a different job in each state we visited.
We found a sponsor, an online job board called Snagajob, and they sent us film equipment so we could up the ante and produce a documentary about our journey. What started out as an impossible, wild idea turned into a creative endeavor featured on CNN, CBS, Fox, People, Forbes, and more.
Take us to the moment you decided to begin your Vanlife?
It was Heath who found RVs on Craiglist that were just barely in our price range. He first pitched me on traveling in our car while camping in a tent or sleeping in the backseat as the best way to make our dream financially possible. But I’m pretty sure neither of us would’ve survived that first year of marriage if we’d gone that route.
Instead, we bought a 1994 motorhome for $11K that looked like it was falling apart at the seams, but since it had a bed and a shower, it was a pretty easy sell compared to sleeping in our car.
Back then, RVing was something only our grandparents did. #vanlife wasn’t a movement yet and there was no one our age traveling in an RV. We looked so out of place at RV parks!
"When it comes to RVing, there’s a lot of polar opposites. You get to camp in gorgeous places—but you have to dump your black tank regularly...."
But after about a year of traveling, we started to find more non-retirees who were traveling full-time and started our Facebook group, The RV Entrepreneur, for anyone who wanted to travel full-time while running a business. We were picking up random freelance gigs and working on creating a production company and wanted to meet other people who were crazy enough to actually run a business from an RV.
Tell us about the advantages to the Van lifestyle?
One morning while camping at what might be the most popular boondocking spot in the nation, Heath woke me up with a latte, as he does every morning. We opened the curtains on our windshield and sipped our coffee while we watched the sunrise over the Grand Tetons.
For me, that morning is the perfect example of why we love RVing. We spend every day in these extraordinarily beautiful places that we otherwise couldn’t or couldn’t afford to live. And we do it all from the comforts of home where the fridge is always stocked and the coffee is always hot.
Tell us about the biggest challenges and downsides to the Van lifestyle?
At our very first campground to visit in an RV, we sat in the hot tub sipping wine.
At our very second campground, we hooked up our water hose, turned on the faucet, and brown sludge spewed from the pipes.
When it comes to RVing, there’s a lot of polar opposites. You get to camp in gorgeous places—but you have to dump your black tank regularly. You can spend your days hiking—but you have zero cell signal when you’re on a deadline and need to send just one email.
When we found out I was pregnant in 2018, we knew needed to slow down for a few months. I ended up really sick during pregnancy and we didn’t know if we wanted to keep RVing after our daughter was born.
By the time she was four weeks old, we were going CRAZY. We took her on a road trip from Texas to Colorado—she rocked it, by the way—and decided that there was no way we couldn’t get back to RVing with our daughter.
Other than the lack of a dishwasher, the biggest con to RVing will be that our family won’t see us as much. But after sitting in an apartment for the better part of a year, we are mostly just thrilled to be back on the road!
How do you find a sense of community when you’re always moving? How do you maintain and build relationships on the road?
Our first year on the road, we were lonely.
Heath started The RV Entrepreneur Podcast and Facebook group as a way for us to connect and learn from other people running businesses from their RVs. This was the first time we were meeting other people who were not just traveling, but trying to build and run a business on spotty wifi in between hikes at national parks.
We were making friends, but it was all online and we still felt lonely.
Then someone in the group suggested we host a conference for RVers like us. This year we’re hosting our 4th annual RV Entrepreneur Summit, a business conference for RVers. The 350ish people who attend have become some of our best friends and the Summit is really just an excuse for us to all camp together for a week and then caravan around the country.
How do you support yourself financially?
We’ve run multiple businesses on the road in our six years of traveling. Right now we run two businesses:
- Our blog, HeathandAlyssa.com where we share how to run a business while working on the road. We also host the RV Entrepreneur Podcast and annual RV Entrepreneur Summit. I also published A Beginner’s Guide to Living in an RV, which is the #1 book on RVing on Amazon.
- Campground Booking, a property management system for RV parks. (AKA it allows you to book campsites online, a HUGE need in the RV space!)
What is your one piece of advice for people who want to do what you do?
DON’T TRAVEL TOO FAST.
So many people start RVing, get really excited, visit 15 national parks in three months, and totally burn out or spend too much money or get exhausted and quit.
Go slow. Spend a week or two in each place. Get to know the small towns. Hike all the hikes in the state park. Take your time (and this is doubly true if you’re working on the road!)
What have been the most influential and helpful books, podcasts, blogs, websites or other resources?
For us, making money on the road is the only way we can afford to travel full-time. We aren’t independently wealthy or trust funds kids (despite what people on Instagram seem to think). So we read and listen to a lot of Smart Passive Income Podcast and Pat Flynn, Ramit Sethi, How I Built This by NPR, and Chris Guillebeau.
What does the future look like?
We love RVing. For the past few years, campgrounds have been our home. We’ve stayed in some really amazing campgrounds over the years (and some really crappy ones).
Our next big dream is to own and run a campground of our own. In 2020, we are property shopping while we travel in our Winnebago Forza. Our goal is to buy a property by the end of the year.
Is there anything that you need that you can’t find or anything you are seeking help with?
If anyone has any experience running an outdoor hospitality business, we are all ears!
Rapid fire questions
What are the top 3 Van essentials that you couldn’t live without?
- Water filters
- Inflatable kayak
Top 3 favorite places you’ve visited?
Where are you now?
How long do you usually stay in one place?
In America, a week to a month. Abroad, no more than two nights.
When did you first start Vanlifing?
Are you full-time or part-time Vanlifing?
How many weeks have you spent in the Van in the last 12 months?
We just moved into a new Winnebago after the birth of our daughter, so less than a month!
What kind of vehicle/rv/trailer/setup do you have?
Winnebago Forza 38D (That’s a Class A diesel pusher) towing a Honda CR-V
Where can we go to keep up with you and your adventures?
Facebook: The RV Entrepreneur Facebook group