Full timing it on the cheap, Part 1

9 Oct

I read an article in an RV magazine the other day.

It was written by someone who considers themselves to be full timers. They moved their adult children into their home, moved all their stuff into storage, bought themselves a $200,000.00 Class A Motorhome, with slideouts and have spent all their time travelling from RV park to RV park.  Now, if you’ve got the money to do that, more power to you, but I’m here to tell you, you don’t need it.


It's only $199,000.00 on sale!!

We were supposed to retire at 55. At least that was the plan, and then in succession over 3 years, I lost my brother-in-law, my Mother and then my sister. During a rather shell shocked conversation it became clear to both of us that the loss of our loved ones was spurring us to want to retire and start enjoying all we could of life. So we started to look at the numbers and question what we were willing to do, to be able to retire  at 51 and survive until Richard’s pension started at 55. What we decided we wanted to do was sell everything, step off the treadmill, move into and travel in an RV. We also wanted to be able to take the road less travelled and get into places where most either can’t or won’t go.

Selling the house was the first thing, since it was paid for and made up the bulk of our worth. The market was hot but the town we lived in was not everyones cup of tea. Our daughters had told us that though they loved growing up in a small town, they had no intentions of ever having to return and move back in with Mom and Dad, so that decision was a fairly easy one. Our jobs were easy to leave as well, since both the local pulp and paper mill where Richard worked and the sport fishing industry that I worked in, were on a downhill slide.

Then we had to decide what to do with all our stuff. You know, the things every room, cupboard, garage and closet in your house are full of. The decision was made to sell everything, because if we planning on doing this permanently, then putting our stuff in storage was just going to be a waste of money.

Just so you know, all our daughters school memorabilia and trophies were boxed up and given to our daughters along with baby teeth, hospital bracelets, baby books, pictures and all the photo albums from both our families.

We had a lot of family heirlooms from Richard’s family. His Grandparents had spent many years in India from the early 1900’s until the second world war. So we sent out a message to the whole family and told them they had 6 months to come and claim anything they wanted. Some things were taken but no one wanted rather moth eaten skins or boars tusk trophy, so then we approached one of the local auction houses.

Looking a little worse for wear!


We live on Vancouver Island where the city of  Victoria stands, the capital of BC. It’s also been called more British than Britain and has a very large antiques community as well as two well known and respected auction houses. They auctioned off all of the leftover heirlooms, bits and pieces of original art  and collectables that we had accumulated over the years. We also ran our regular furniture through our local auction and had a very successful garage sale. All together it added up to a tidy sum, but it sure wasn’t the million dollars everyone tells you you’re going to need.


We took all we had to a financial advisor and adding in the relatively little amount of money in our RRSP’s, there was enough to provide us with a small monthly income. We were pretty sure that it would be enough to keep us in gas and food until Richard’s pension came in. Plus we kept a saving account with a couple of years worth of income as emergency money.

While we were doing all this we were also getting our new home ready.

We had looked at all the commercial vehicles and realized that we either couldn’t afford them, or they didn’t have what we wanted in them. So the next step was building our own. We started by buying a used, 26 ft,  4 cylinder diesel, Gruman van. It’s a small motor but it gets great milage compared to just about everything on the road right now. The average is 8 miles to the gallon, we get 12 to 14. Why pay more for fuel, when you don’t have to? We might not be able to fly down the highways, on the other hand you get to see a lot more when you’re moving slower.

The smile and the kayak came later.

We then had many conversations about a queen sized bed, whether we wanted a full shower and toilet, should we build in a second bed for visitors, where we would eat, how big the water tanks need to be, furnace or heater, hot water tank or instant water heater. There are lots of things you can build in to make you comfortable and lots of things you can do without. Everyone thinking of doing this needs to have this conversation.

Once Richard had a good idea of what we both thought we needed, he started building. He had always said he wasn’t a carpenter, but he built and installed everything, fitting each piece individually sometimes, because the van, due to it’s age, was no longer completely square.  Now, a Gruman van is just a big box and it doesn’t come with slide outs, but by the time he was finished, it had a queen sized bed, a full bathroom with shower, instant hot water, a small 12 volt fridge, propane heater and stove, settee, lots of storage, plenty of lights, a large counter top and sink, solar panels and all the other things we had decided we wanted. It took him a year, it also cost us less than $25,000.00 and that included the cost of the van itself.


Yeah, we know, it's a little bright

Now because of the way we built the van, we have no need to hook up to power.  We have enough solar panels (2) and battery storage (4 deep cycle golf cart batteries)to operate everything we own. We also have enough fresh and dirty water storage to last at least a week though with practice we’ve stretched that to 10 days. We travel all over Canada, the US and into Mexico and we hardly ever pay to camp, or dump our tanks.

The cost of travel is all in part 2……


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