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Let me start by saying that I, nor Jared, would have ever imagined that we would be living in a camper. Neither of us are even “camping” people. I’ve been camping once in my life, and Jared just a few times. Sleeping outdoors in a tent isn’t really my idea of a good time, so traditional camping wasn’t for me. However, as many of you know, “camping” with an RV vs. a tent is like night and day. But I digress. Not only did we have zero experience with camping/RVs/campers, we were also not in any way drawn to the tiny house movement (at the time). That is not at all what started this. It was just business. We thought: travel PT is the way to go for us. Travel the country, have great experiences, make more money. Done. But when we started looking at the logistics of packing and moving all the time, we got a bit skeptical. It was a patient of mine at an internship that first gave us the idea. He said he and his wife traveled the country in an RV, and they had met many travel nurses who also traveled by RV. At first I thought, hmm that’s interesting, but I could never do that. No way. Then we started thinking more and more about it, and realized there really wasn’t going to be another way. We both hate packing. I pack way, way… way too much. We both hate moving. Moving furniture? Forget about it. So, there we were, we were going to get an RV.
We decided during our 3rd year of PT school that buying a camper was definitely going to be our plan. So we started looking, searching Craigslist, going to dealerships, going to RV shows, searching RVTrader.com. We learned about all the different types of RVs. We had to choose whether we would get a motorhome (that you drive) or a travel trailer (that you pull with a truck). We chose the latter. There are definitely pros and cons to both. One con is that now we have a truck that is one of our main vehicles we drive to work (Jared drives the truck, I drive my Trailblazer SUV). The truck is definitely costly on fuel (it’s a diesel). However, our biggest concern with having a motorhome was if we had to have maintenance on the engine or transmission, first it would be costly, second how would we put our whole home in the shop if it needed fixing? Overall it just seemed more complicated, so we picked the truck + trailer option.
A lot went in to picking the right travel trailer that fit our needs. After searching hundreds, maybe thousands, of them, we started to compile a list of things we liked and didn’t like. For example, the layout, amount of storage (drawers, cabinets, hideaway spaces, closet), size of the kitchen, dining room table/chairs vs. booth (yes this was near the top of my list, ha), open vs. closed bathroom (yes some of them aren’t fully enclosed), etc. We also had to pick between the style of travel trailer: standard “pull behind” type with a regular hitch, or a 5th wheel travel trailer. We ultimately ended up choosing a 5th wheel, because they typically offer more space since the bedroom is “upstairs” and are easier to tow without risk of jack-knifing. After searching for a long time, it all really boiled down to trying to get most of what was on our wish list within the price range we had set for ourselves. Just like with any big purchase, we had to sacrifice some things in order to fit the budget. Why the budget? Because we wanted to own it and we wanted to pay in full, not lease or finance it. (Refer back to any number of Jared’s posts on finance). In the end, we ended up with a 2009 Coachman Chapparal 278DS, which was of course used (and also repainted a funky color scheme which wouldn’t have been our first choice haha), and we found it from RVTrader.com at a dealership in Concord, NC. After we finally found our camper, we then had to find our truck. Similarly, we scoured the internet searching for a truck that fit our needs and our budget. The primary objective and our key phrase during our searches was: “Will it HAUL?”. We had to do our research on how heavy duty of a truck we needed to pull this 10,000lb+ trailer. We ended up with a 2005 Ford F-250 Diesel.
Overall, we have been very pleased with both the camper and the truck. We have found that we actually have a lot more space than we anticipated. It’s just like a small apartment, and there is so much hidden storage. And believe me, I have a lot of stuff. The thing I love most about living in the camper is that everything has its place and it all comes along with us from assignment to assignment. I don’t have to worry about packing and unpacking everything. It’s all just there in its normal spot and it’s perfect. I did have to downsize and get rid some of my clothes, but that was honestly for the better. I had so many things that I really don’t even wear. In fact, I probably still have too much even in the camper. Five days out of the week I wear the same things, work clothes. I get 2 days a week where I can wear fun clothes, and half the time I’m just wearing workout clothes/pajamas then anyway. A big help for storing all my clothes has been space bags. I keep whatever season of clothes I’m not wearing in space bags stored under the bed and plan to switch them out as needed. We also only brought along a few dishes and the minimum stuff we needed for the kitchen. But really, we’re 2 people. 4 plates, 4 bowls, 4 cups, 2 wine glasses (both for me–ha). What else do we need? Living in a small space definitely makes you think about all your belongings and what you actually use or don’t use. I think we’re having some of the same revelations that the Tiny House folks do, and we’re loving it.
Now, I won’t lie and act like living in a camper is always butterflies and rainbows. There was a lot to learn about RV/travel trailer living (connecting/disconnecting truck & trailer, the water/sewage tanks, slide outs, electric vs. propane, leveling, etc). Some of these things are a hassle, but it has been a cool learning experience. In addition, it’s a very small space. The fortunate thing is that we are at work a lot of the time, so it’s not like we are together 24/7 in this small space. Cooking at night can definitely make us testy, though. One thing we did sacrifice on in choosing our camper is that the kitchen space isn’t very big. Besides space issues, the camper itself comes with some mechanical issues. Like water freezing. That happens a lot more easily than it does in a regular house. Winter in Virginia was tough at times with the water hose outside freezing several times and leaving us without running water until it could thaw out. Also it can get cold in there. We were fortunate to stay at a campground where they didn’t monitor/charge extra for the amount of electricity you use, so we ran 2 space heaters all winter long. Otherwise, you have to use central heat which runs off propane, which can get costly. Running 2 heaters all the time can have its cons as well, like the circuit blowing. Don’t dare think you can have 2 heaters plugged in and also cook dinner using the toaster oven or microwave. Not a chance. We learned that far too many times. We’ve had some other mechanical issues too such as water leaks, birds nesting, cabinets breaking, etc. But, living in an apartment or house you may have to deal with similar problems. Overall, the camper has been great, and we just can’t imagine our Travel PT journey any other way.
Check out the pictures to get a peek into our camper life!