Many people are blogging about FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early). Most of them write from the prospective of a goal they want to reach someday. I write from the other side, having already attained financial independence and retired from my medical practice. Although there are those who would say I haven’t retired yet since I’m still writing this blog and teaching personal finance to doctors. I would say that what I have done is repurposed early and now I can do what I want, when I want. Others would say that age 54 was not early, but it feels early to me. When I am on a vacation and look at all the grey hair that surrounds me, it seems I am early.
One of my dreams for my FIRE life was to travel across the country in my RV with my wife. We did just that when we took off on a six week trek across the country in our RV last September. We started our quest by heading to a conference in San Diego, then we took three weeks traveling Route 66 to a conference in Chicago, then down to a conference in Dallas and back home again. This figure eight trip covered 6,753 miles, not including the Uber rides I took to the big city conferences.
During our journey, my Facebook followers took the trip with us. Each day I posted a short 2-5 minute video and several times during the day I posted pictures of things we did and saw along the way. Feedback from those who enjoyed living our trip vicariously through Facebook was so positive that I decided to take them along with me again. We are currently in the middle of a two week trip to Branson, MO and Nashville, TN, two of the meccas of live entertainment. Those following my Facebook page are currently seeing coverage of this trip.
I thought it would be nice to give you a breakdown of our six week RV journey. During our big road trip we spent $6,570 which comes out to about a dollar a mile for six weeks. Travelling every day and eating out frequently in the iconic diners along Route 66 turns out to be an expensive way to RV. For example, we spent $1,832 for campground fees. Staying in a campground for only one day is paying top dollar for the spot. At one campground we looked at the difference. Rent for a day was $42.54 ($1,246 a month), but renting the space for the month was only $425. The daily rate is 3 times the rate it would cost per day if we were to stay at one site all month. The weekly rate was in between. So planning to stay in one place for at least a week at a time would have decreased the campground cost significantly.
Then there was the fuel, which was our biggest expense. My motorhome gets around seven miles to the gallon and our fuel bill totaled $2,310. Driving every day and covering a large territory is the most expensive way to travel in an RV. A more efficient way is to travel short distances and stay at one site for a week and then move another short distance. This creates a slower, more relaxed, move across the country while allowing a chance to fully experiencing each stop. With our deadline at the end of the route, we were pushed forward on a time schedule that left many places undiscovered.
Our food cost for the trip came to $842. We were paying top dollar by eating out a lot. This trip had the most restaurant stops of any trip we have taken. We were not dining in upscale establishments and we don’t typically order alcohol so our eating out costs are lower than a typical physician traveler. Carolyn usually prepares double size meals leading up to a long trip and puts half in the freezer for the trip. We took a freezer full of food to reheat along the way and brought about half of it back home with us. We just couldn’t pass up all those really cool looking historic diners on Route 66. You can save substantially on food by eating in the RV and not in the restaurants along the way. You tend to eat healthier and take in fewer Calories when eating in the RV.
During the trip we followed the guided instructions from Moon Route 66 Road Trip and when we were not on Route 66 we used the AAA travel guides. We like to use guidebooks to find interesting things to see. Google is also available to use to discover what sites you can see in each town but you might miss stuff in between towns if you only rely on internet searches. Also you must have a data connection and use up some of your data allotment with that method. It was nice to drive down the road and read about the upcoming sites in our books. A combination of the two, guide books and internet searching, seems to work the best for us.
To find campgrounds we used Woodall’s official Campground Guide that we picked up at AAA. Since we did not know where we would be on a given day, we did not make advance reservations except for the conference locations. This worked out well since we were not in the summer high season. As the day progressed and we could see about where we would be by dinner time, we would look in the guide and find an RV park for the night. We then called ahead to make reservations for that evening. Only occasionally did we run into availability problems. If we did not call ahead, and just showed up hoping they had a spot for us, sometimes they were full. When we passed through northern New Mexico during the balloon festival in Albuquerque, there was no place available to camp for a hundred mile radius. We should have believed the warning in the guide book about the popularity of this festival. We have learned in the past (we have been RVing since 1994) that you often need a reservation for weekends in the summer high season, or at destination locations such as national parks. The week days tend to be open for late arrivals without reservations.
We also took along things that we like to do and small projects that could be done while we traveled. I had blogs to write, books to read, books on tape for the road, clients to help and music to practice. Carolyn also brought books to read, accounting work, a worship song project for our worship team at church as well as music to practice. We were so busy sightseeing and working on our projects that we only had time to watch three of the movies we brought.
When we pulled into the driveway after our six week journey, I was not ready to be home. I was loving the life on the road, but we had things to catch up on at home so we needed to get back. One was replacing the crown on one of my molars that I lost eating caramel covered popcorn in the middle of the trip. That is something you just can’t accomplish very easily on the road.
Overall we have enjoyed our RV life over the many years of my medical career. It has always made for a great getaway. Sometimes we went to the lake, others to the beach, and during one three year stretch we frequented bike races. Many summers our family took off for an extended three week trip, taking a different loop each year. Three weeks is a great vacation length in an RV for someone who is still working, provided you can get three weeks off in a row. Now that I am free to roam, longer trips are possible.
If you are looking to live a life on the road, I highly recommend it. The pace is whatever you set it to be and is much more relaxing than being at home. The plethora of things to do around the house are not staring you in the face. With only 300 square feet of space, you become a minimalist. Only taking what you need for the trip is freeing in and of itself.
If you would like to experience Route 66 vicariously, you can look at my Facebook page starting in late September. You can also follow the current trip in real time right now. Like my Facebook page and you will be able to go along with us on every trip in the future. In between trips I’ll provide daily helpful tips to make your life and your finances better as I work towards helping health care professionals thrive. This week I have been covering helpful tips for using time shares to get the best use and value from that popular vacation option.
If you are planning on reaching FIRE, then plan for a nicer life when you get there?