We Bought a Camper!

(Continued from here.)

So, there we were, dreaming of bigger and better things — travel, adventure, a freer and happier existence — but with no idea how to get there. Then, in March, my boss gave me the heads up that there was a chance that I might be getting laid off. That really got our wheels turning. As much as I liked aspects of what I was doing, I was chafing under the constant suit-and-tie, 9-to-5, endless fluorescent lighting life: I wanted to BE OUTSIDE.

I began looking into other jobs, other careers, other opportunities, and Rebecca and I started thinking hard and listing out the aspects of the kind of life we really wanted to live. We absolutely wanted to travel more. A LOT more. I didn’t want to be stuck in a job just for a paycheck — I wanted to find something I really enjoyed doing, even if it meant a smaller paycheck. To that end, we continued a conversation that had been ongoing for years: How could we simplify and downsize our life, and focus our money on the things we really cared about? We talked about moving to a less expensive area, we talked about buying some really cheap property somewhere and building a tiny house, we even had this idea of moving to several new cities, each for a year, to find a place we wanted to settle. But then, Rebecca came up with the real moneymaker …

What if we bought and lived in a camper and made travel a lifestyle?

genie jawdrop

Now you have to understand Rebecca a little bit to appreciate how crazy it was to hear this coming out of her mouth. Yes, she loves to travel, but she also loves to be safe, calm, and settled. She doesn’t like constant changes. She is a nester. She was very happy in the beautiful little downtown where we lived. And she doesn’t do “drastic.” I pretty much laid sole claim to any and all crazy ideas in our family up to this moment.

So I began the process of picking my jaw off the floor (an ongoing process), and we began to examine her idea. She showed me a few of her favorite blogs of full-timers — “crazy people” living in campers full time — and I got to reading. In a weird case of role reversal, she was very gung-ho, and I was the one with a million questions and concerns. I knew NOTHING about campers except that I thought they were cool, and that my grandparents had a nice one they let us stay in when we visited my family down South, which we were always very comfortable in.

We began answering the questions, and laying the concerns to rest together. What was the cost? Can you live in a campground? Can our Jeep tow a camper? What will my parents think? What will YOUR parents think? What if everything goes wrong? Is this even legal?

But one by one, the questions were answered. During this process, I had been laid off, and was taking some time off to really figure out what I wanted to do next. This had led to me getting an awesome job as a raft guide in Harpers Ferry, WV, which I absolutely fell in love with immediately.

Raft guide training was the most fun I'd had in YEARS.
Raft guide training was the most fun I’d had in YEARS.

Rebecca was working remotely, and her flexibility was a big boost to this crazy idea. Probably the most encouraging and exciting thing was jumping online and seeing how many other seemingly normal people were having the time of their lives living in these beautiful updated little campers and RVs, traveling around and really living life. We wanted that!

Then we made the fatal mistake — we went on Craigslist and started shopping around. We fell in love with Airstreams immediately, and actually got very close to buying an absolutely gorgeous, 31′ 1976 Airstream Sovereign of the Road that we still daydream about from time to time.

You can see why.
You can see why. So shiny.

Unfortunately the Airstream was a bit more expensive than we were ready for, and needed more work than I was confident I could do myself in any kind of timely manner, so we passed. Ultimately we decided this wasn’t the best time to get into an Airstream, so we began looking at other campers, and continued talking about the specs we wanted/needed/thought would work best for us: length, bed configuration and placement, bathroom placement, etc. We decided to just go look at a bunch of campers, and I began reaching out to people on Craigslist.

The very first one that we went to look at was one Rebecca found – a 1991 Holiday Rambler. She really liked the interior, even though at 26 feet, it was a bit shorter than we had been thinking we wanted (the Airstream was 31 feet). Here are the exterior pictures from Craigslist:Rambler CL pics

When we got there, we both loved it immediately — which is TERRIBLE shopping practice. But it was just so nice! We loved that it had a ton of windows, as well as three skylights, and was very bright and airy. It had a nice big living area, with a bunch of cabinetry we both immediately knew we could rip out and increase the living space even more. The kitchen was really nice, with a lot of storage, and plenty of potential for more. The bathroom was one of the nicest ones we’d seen, with plenty of headroom in the shower, a good sized mirror, and again, tons of storage. And the bedroom? That was the piece de resistance. Big windows on three sides, storage uppers all the way around, and under bed storage? Too good to be true.

On top of that, we really liked the gentleman who was selling it. For every camper we liked on Craigslist, I sent the owner a long list of questions to narrow down our choices, and Joe was just the nicest guy ever. He welcomed us to the camping community “whether you purchase this camper or another,” answered my many questions graciously and helpfully, and was very flexible in terms of showing it. We even showed up shame-faced an HOUR late due to traffic when we first went to see it, and he was as equanimous as could be. When we called him to let him know we were stuck, his reply was a simple “its fine — I’ve got my book!”

So, we told him really liked it, we felt we should probably look around at a few more to make sure we really knew what we wanted, which he accepted with characteristic graciousness. However, for all intents and purposes, our search was over. We did go look at other campers — mostly longer ones, including a pristine, 15-year-old, 34-foot Wilderness with enough room for us, a future brood of 10, plus 15 of our closest friends to stay in comfortably. But no matter what we looked at — it wasn’t the Rambler. “It’s not as bright as the Rambler!” “The shower is shorter than the Rambler’s!” “There’s only ONE window in the bedroom! I can’t sleep in there!”

You guessed it — we went for the Rambler. Armed with our ever-increasing camper knowledge, we went back to take another look, along with some measurements to start planning out a renovation and upgrade. This time, I crawled underneath and all around, and asked Joe to demonstrate that all the systems worked. He and his wife (who we liked as much as we liked Joe) gave us the full demonstration, and everything seemed great, with one small brake issue he promised to fix. We left, promising to give him an answer in the next day.

We tried to play it cool and be objective, but we both knew — this was going to be our new home! The next day, I negotiated with Joe a bit, and we agreed on a price. Two weeks later, I roped my buddy Eric into helping me tow the Rambler back to a local RV shop for inspection and repairs.

rambler pickup

We were officially camper owners!

I grew up in New Jersey, went to college in Virginia, and married a girl from New Hampshire, so I can drive the East Coast in my sleep. I love exploring, jumping out of airplanes, whitewater rafting, fast cars, comic books, and generally refusing to act my age. More practically, I love budgeting and financial planning, renovating and updating older homes (and now campers), and learning to make our family as self-sustaining as possible.

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