Saturday, August 20, 2022

The New Full-Time RVers - Young People!

We've met a number of younger people in our travels who have hit the road and decided to full-time RV - while still working!

I wrote before about full-time RVing and how it is a difficult financial proposition.  Simply stated, even an "inexpensive" RV site, rented by the month, can cost nearly as much as an apartment in some areas.  Factor in the depreciation on the rig, the cost of fuel and repairs, and it is more expensive to live in an RV than in many other situations.   Sure, you can save money by parking in a Walmart Parking lot - but that is just glam-homelessness.  What's the point?

But in recent years, thanks to the pandemic, more and more people were working from "home" - wherever that would be, and since they didn't have to be at an office they found cheaper and more pleasant places to live, far away from crowded cities.  Of course, this was nothing new - I was "working from home" since about the year 2000, so I'm not too impressed by this "new trend."  Each generation has to claim it invented everything.   Young people call them "tiny homes" - Grandma calls it a "Park Model."  Same shit, different generation.

With this remote working model, some have taken it to the next step and are taking it on the road - which is a lot easier to do these days with satellite Internet and ubiquitous 4G and 5G cell service, even in rural areas.  When we went cross-country with our 5th wheel back in the 1990's, I was still working - and constantly searching for a FedEx drop box or a Kinko's where I could make photocopies, send faxes or even access my e-mails.  It is a lot easier today, thanks to technology.

Most of these folks we've met work in some sort of computer-related field.  One fellow was a "project manager" (whatever that is - I am so out-of-the-loop and quite happy to be so).  Others do some sort of software coding or something like that.  So long as you can interact online and don't have to "be" somewhere, it cam work.

Of course, to us, it seems kind of strange.  As I noted, we took a cross-country trip back in the 1990's that lasted more than a month.  And quite frankly, since I had to work along the way, it was not as relaxing and fun as it should have been.  I don't remember too much of that trip, in fact, possibly because I was preoccupied with work.  The folks we have met have to discipline themselves to work a certain number of hours every day.   Today, we went on a hike, brought our hammocks, tied them to trees, had a glass of Emma Reichart dry rosé and then fell asleep in the hammock, listening to the waters of lake Kabetogama lap against the shore.  Our working friend was in a Zoom meeting.

I am happy to say I don't know how to Zoom and I doubt my ancient laptop could handle it (although a sticker on it helpfully says it is "Skype compatible" - does anyone even Skype anymore?  It is the MySpace of online meetings!).   I doubt my hotspot could handle the bandwidth, either.  Our full-time working friend is using Elon Musk's Skylink, I think.  Seems to work for him.

Is this a trend that will continue unabated, forever and ever, amen?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  Perhaps only in part.  There is a concerted effort to get people to "come back to the office" and whether it works or not remains to be seen.  If you have a particular talent, as I did, you can work from home and get away with it.  But eventually, you lose touch with other people and it does become isolating.  Keeping up on the latest changes in the law and technology becomes hard, for example.  You'd have to Zoom your ass off to keep current with your peers.

I think also, it would get old over time.  People want to settle down, raise a family, and so on and so forth.  We've seen people with kids "full-timing" in gi-normous three-axle fifth-wheel trailers.  They tend to stay in one place for months, though, usually for work.  Mom home-schools the kids.  I am not sure it is a healthy environment for children to be raised in, but who's to say?   Our friend here in the campground has a wife and child who have gone back home (overseas) to visit family.  I wonder how that will work out when she returns - will she be content to hang around a trailer in a foreign country, or want something more permanent?  I have no answers, only questions.

I think also, once you have visited every National Park and State Park and tourist town and world's largest ball of twine, you might get sick of it.  We like the RVing - for a month or so at a time.  Full-time?  I think it might drive me batty.  I could see a time when we give it up, particularly if we want to travel overseas or get another boat and live on that for a few months at a time (or full-time?).  Hard to say, but I don't see myself RVing at age 80, even though we see folks doing it all the time (not always successfully).

What is interesting to me is that on this trip, we have met at least a half-dozen people, usually computer geeks, who are living full-time in an RV in their late 20's or early 30's.  One fellow confided that he was just sick of paying rent in Manhattan, so the RV lifestyle seemed cheaper to him.  He wasn't able to save a penny, paying rent, and now he has a little left over every month.  RVing is expensive, but not as expensive as living in New York City or San Francisco.

It is an interesting development.  I don't recall meeting so many young people full-timing in the past.  In fact, as recent as last year, maybe none.  It is changing the dynamic of RVing, which was traditionally something older people did when they retired, or working people did with their families, on weekends and holidays, or perhaps two-weeks a year during "vacation."

Today, we are seeing young people hitting the road and saying, "screw rent, screw mortgages!" and RVing full-time.  I just hope they are not trading rent payments for RV payments, as it is all-too-easy to get upside-down on an RV loan.

The peak earning years, at least for me, were from age 30 to age 50 or so.  Beyond that, they toss you away and look for younger people - you know, old enough to know how to do the work, young enough and naive enough to believe in unwritten promises of untold wealth if they just worked 20-30 hours of unpaid overtime every week.  Employers want the 2-5 years experience, no more, no less.

So I wonder how this will work out for our young full-timers down the road, particularly if a nasty recession hits.   Upside-down on an RV loan (and maybe with student loans still to be paid off) and now unemployed.  Hiring managers will have more leverage to force employees "back to the office" which leaves our freewheeling RV friends in a bind - do they sell the RV and move back to an apartment, or find an urban RV park close enough to work to commute in?  Either way, it will be expensive.

I hope it works out for them.  I suspect that this full-timing will be a chapter in their lives, but not the book.  Eventually, they will get tired of it and settle somewhere - unless they can keep doing it until retirement.

P.S. - I should make special mention of the "Van Life" idiots who are populating the Internet these days.  They argue that you can "retire" at age 25 and live in a van for free and never have to work again.  This is called homelessness.  And it hasn't worked out well for some people  It is one thing to work while RVing, it is another to try to "retire" at age 30 or age 40, with little savings and little more than a used van to live in.  It is like these FIRE idiots, one of whom tried to say you could retire and live on $7000 a year.  Not.  Even. Possible.