In February 2016, I tendered resignation with my employer of six years. For the next two months I served the obligatory notice, and on April 15, 2016 we said our final farewells to Singapore, a land that has been a second home to Christine and I for a combined 9 years, and set off for a new adventure.
We didn’t have a real plan when we left Singapore, but we knew we wanted a more balanced family life. My parents offered to build an in-law suite that we could stay in for a while if we would move back to the area. This allowed us a perfect opportunity to reset, and to have some head space to figure out what we wanted from life. As adults and as parents it’s easy to feel like we have no option but to soldier on, following a path we began with all the wisdom that teenage foresight permits. It’s incredibly freeing to be offered an opportunity to recalibrate. Thanks Mom and Dad!
We took the long way home from Singapore, partly because we wanted to enjoy some down time, but also because we wanted affordable business class tickets. When you’re my size, or your pregnant, sitting in an economy airline seat for 15 hours is some special kind of hell. But to fly the family on a business class ticket through Singapore Airline would have set us back some $11,000 ….. nope. Instead we found lay-flat business class seats on Finair from nearby Bangkok to New York City for a fraction of the price.
We cashed in our frequent traveler points for free stays at….
a beach resort in Phuket
a complimentary suite in Bangkok
a delightful attic in Helsinki
and a suite with a view in Baltimore. I love the Marriot rewards program!
We settled into life in North Carolina and decided we would buy a house either in Raleigh or Charlotte, where the job market and standard of living is reasonable.
One day in early summer, while camping with our family in the North Carolina mountains, Christine turned to me and said, “This is fun! We should do more of this. ” Very soon the conversation turned from “We should do more of this.” to “Why aren’t we doing only this?” My job (which I resigned as an employee, but then continued immediately as an independent contractor) was already situated to allow me to work anywhere as long as I have a good internet and phone connection, and it would be a few years before the kids needed to be in school. (At that point we had one kid and one on the way)
Suddenly, we were caught up in the idea of life on the highway, and for the first time in years, we both felt with near 100% certainty that this was the life adventure that we had been seeking. I can’t tell you how powerful that feeling is when you finally figure out what you’re supposed to be doing!
I called my previous employer and my clients and both agreed that we were completely nuts, but that they were comfortable with our plans. With the biggest obstacle (How are we going to earn a living on the road?) out of the way, there was really nothing stopping us from moving forward with the plan.
We quickly fell in love with the idea of traveling in a vintage bus conversion. These sheet metal behemoths herald from a long gone era of glamorous bus travel and when carefully maintained, they are capable of many hundreds of thousands of miles of continued service. And bonus, they’re just so cool!
In one long weekend, I viewed busses in Ohio, Michigan, Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee. 3,500 miles of driving later, I returned with an education and still no bus.
We found out about an annual vintage bus rally in Loudonville, Ohio and took a family trip up to see if we could make vintage work for us.
Vintage busses can be an inexpensive acquisition (the one above with an amazing custom interior would have sold for 45k), but they are also prone to bankrupting cash strapped dreamers who purchase them foolishly thinking they are a cheap option.
As we researched, we found heartbreaking story after story where eager bus enthusiasts bought themselves a vintage bus and in many cases after a few months or years struggling with the conversion, their websites fell silent and their stories abruptly ended.
Reluctantly after many months of research we resigned ourselves to the fact that we needed to sacrifice some of the cool factor to have something more practical for our growing family.
Enter the world of RVing, a world entirely constructed of sticks, staples and wishful thinking.
Motorhomes have a problem. They can be built to a high quality standard of fit and finish, so they don’t shake themselves apart on the first bumpy highway, but this quality comes at an easy $400k price premium. The rest of the market, the majority it turns out, have to make significant compromises in quality of build, fit and finish in order to keep the units within the price range of the average consumer. Crap.
After lengthy consideration and discussion and reviewing the units available on the market, our budget steadily increased until we were well into the home mortgage territory. For years we had been wasting $3-4k per month in house rentals, so it was pretty easy to justify getting into a higher end unit, because no matter what we chose, our payment structures would be much more affordable than what we were used to.
Watch out for this kind of rationalization! Part of the allure of being on the road is being free of debt. Being free of payments means also having more freedom to choose when, where and what type of work you want to do, which is a big part of the appeal of this lifestyle.
That’s all fine and good… but we totally fell in love with a 2017 Entegra Aspire 44r. She would be our family coach!
After searching the country (online) and haggling with every dealer who had one, we finally found a dealer in Florida who had the unit in stock and was willing to sell at $60k below MSRP!
There was just one small problem. It turns out I grossly overestimated my borrowing power. While we had no debt, and met income requirements, we have no mortgage history in our credit file because we’ve been renting in Singapore and California for the past 7 years. It turns out, that matters….. (sigh)
So in the end, we fell back on the good advice I mentioned above, and downsized our expectations significantly.
When we saw the unit that we ended up buying, a used 2014 Thor Outlaw 37md, my first reaction was, “My God she’s ugly.” With a roofline that reminds me of Sonic the Hedgehog, and an interior styling that is immediately 20 years out of date, she’s just not what we expected to be driving across the country in.
But it didn’t take long for us to realize that the unique features, like the garage that opens to a patio deck and the bedroom that is upstairs and out of the way, are the perfect setup for our young and now still largely debt free family.
Oh she still shakes herself to pieces. But when she does…..
we just put her back together again.
And now after spending a few months with her, we just wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m lying: I would snap up that Entegra in a heart beat at a reasonable interest rate.
It’s going to be a fun ride. Thanks for coming with us and see you on the highway!