Well, we are now past our two month mark in the RV. Doesn’t seem like it. Seems like we’ve only been in for a short while.
No fights, no regrets.
Our modern world enables us to live this way. We can thank the Internet and accommodating employers that allow us to work from anywhere and not be tied to an office desk. My corporate headquarters is in Connecticut and I’ve been a remote worker for over 3 years. This has worked out well, once the transition of “oh, gee, I don’t have anyone watching me, I can watch YouTube all day and no one will know” mentality and just get your daily rhythm going. Julie has had great support from her boss and company to get the same ability to work remotely that I have. We were lucky to have an income transition that wasn’t a major jolt to our livelihoods.
Working on the road has a name. It is called Digital Nomadism.
What is that, you ask?
Digital Nomadism is a term that I didn’t coin, but I’ve adopted it to describe how we are living now. Folks that we used for our research before jumping into the deep end of full time living were the ones we saw saying that. Our “mentors” if you will, folks like Technomadia (the answer is in the name), Gone with the Wynns, RVGeeks, RVLove, Less Junk < More Journey, and Drivin’ and Vibin’ (plus many more), all provided countless details on living a nomadic life. They are entertainers and YouTubers, bloggers and vloggers, content producers and educators. We absorbed countless hours of information to prepare ourselves for this.
They all arrived at this lifestyle in different ways and at different stages. Some have been on the road for more than a decade. Others are only a few years in. They’ve carved out businesses and revenue streams that enable them to continue. And these folks are not retirees in their second or third stage of life, they are all working age, as are we. Some even have families. They too determined there was a better way to enjoy all that they can on the continent without sacrificing themselves on the altar of work stress.
We all still work, we all still have to pay the bills. Though, the bills are much smaller if you do it right. But we have embraced a nomadic approach that allows us all to explore. Each and every person’s journey to it is different. You can see how mine started at What a journey to being on our journey if you haven’t read that already.
How do we do it?
Welcome to the Nomadic Construction and Technology Corner, I am your host, Brian.
It all started with researching the type of RV we wanted and how it needed to be designed to support two full-time workers (plus three cats). The layout had to be such that it would not compromise the inherent limited space you get while giving flexibility of some MacGyvering of furniture. We knew we needed two workstations. Two workers, two workstations. We knew we didn’t want to sit on a sofa or at a dinette to work, though the dinette would have sufficed if it were large enough.
We got very lucky in finding our rig, as it had a large slide out that didn’t have a sofa and a dinette, it had a dining table and a free floating Swedish-style recliner. Open floor plan on that slide…sweet. So, after spending quite some time figuring out how I could build a desk with a catbox enclosure under it, we lucked out with a match made in heaven: an enclosure that was exactly the height of some IKEA desks. BOOM! Workstation issues solved and we had a place to put the cat box enclosure, acting as our pedestal for the desk.
Ok, so, workstations, neat. What about accessing the outside world?
Working remotely requires Internet access for both of us each day. We can both connect to our networks remotely, allowing us to work securely. But, we still have to get the Interwebs into the RV. Technology to the rescue!
We have three possible Internet connection options: AT&T cellular, Verizon cellular or campground WiFi. This is all made possible by our router, PepLink. These routers are usually used on buses, ferries, or other transit systems. It is useful because it can use the cellular SIM cards to automatically switch between the best service level. In a pinch, the router can also bridge our secure network to the campground’s WiFi, basically piggy-backing on their WiFe to get connected. It’s rather elegant and I’m glad we got the WiFi bridge license with the manufacturer.
Our AT&T SIM comes from a Mobley automotive hotspot. This is convenient, because I can put the SIM into the router and still meet my Terms of Conditions. We got in on a sweet deal, $20 a month unlimited data. I mean, truly unlimited. They discontinued this plan a month after we signed up. Great deal!
Our Verizon SIM is a leased line, so, we pay a monthly fee to the owner to lease the line. This is technically an unlimited data plan, but, we keep it down to moderate levels when using it because Verizon has gotten draconian about data usage. Their network, as big as it is, isn’t capable of handling today’s mobile data needs. That’s easy to do, since we are only using about 80-100GB a month. We used to use 250-300GB on our fiber provider.
Couple the cellular connection via the router with a cellular booster, and you now can boost bad signal strength to something usable. It is called a WeBoost, and they make a car, an RV, and a tractor trailer truck unit. It takes a weak signal and boosts it, then rebroadcasts that signal locally. For instance, where we stayed on Whidbey Island had crappy to non-existent signal and get a bar or two “upgrade.” This helps to make sure we have strong signal on our connections for work.
How can you be sure AT&T and Verizon are available?
One of the biggest concerns as we plan our travels is what our connection will be like when we get to a new RV park. Good Internet is our primary consideration for any stay that spans a work week.
Well, Googlesphere to the rescue!
There are a few good resources for determining signal availability. A couple are RV park and campground review sites: AllStays and Campendium. Both are basically crowdsourced reviews that also include details about the strength of cellular signals. They are good resources, but not every entry has details about the the strength of the connection.
The best we’ve found on the market is OpenSignal. It provides a good deal of crowdsourced data to give you heat maps of coverage in specific places for each carrier. This is very useful. If we see very few data points that seem weak, we skip that RV park. If we see good coverage for one or both of our carriers, then we can apply our other criteria for staying in a park (which will likely take us back to AllStays and Compendium).
And power? What about the power?
Power follows Internet. We can get buy with 30 or 50 amp service. Most parks are at a minimum 30 amp power. We get 120AC, which is great for our work systems, but 30 amp will only let us run one of our AC units,. This won’t be much of an issue in fall/winter/spring. But, summer, especially in certain parts of our planned route, will be requiring air conditioning. So, we opt as much as we can to have 50 amp. Then, we have plenty of 120 volt AC power to run our workstations and two AC units/heat pumps, the fridge, etc.
We also need to be sure we have a solid source of power service. To facilitate that , we have an AutoFormer. It is basically a smart transformer that can boost low voltage by 10% and also acts as a surge protector against power spikes. One goal is to protect our RV electrical from any hiccups in power. It can cause a crazed search for “why did my GFCI plug just trip” (low voltage). So, we use the AutoFormer to assure that both legs of our AC hook up (a leg is one half of the coach) are up to snuff to power our daily needs.
So, that’s it?
Well, that’s it for now. I know that someday, I’ll look to transition what I do for a living to be outside of what I have done for 15 years, but not for some time. Ultimately, to be truly unfettered, I need a source of self-generating, low maintenance income. Now though, I need to stick with the great place I work for now and do a damned good job all across the country. It’s good work with a company that supports remote workers.
One final note, if you have an interest in this kind of living arrangement, look at the links I posted above. They all have a great deal of information that can help you get started on your own journey. Yours will be different, but, we are all nomads together. And, we all enjoy helping others ease into a new world/old world approach to life. We are modern gypsies. We are Digital Nomads.
Remember, it is the journey, not the destination. Control your journey and you control your happiness.