On the road with Alyssa and Heath Padgett
Many of you might know Alyssa and Heath Padgett; they really seem to have this full-time RV living thing worked out. Their YouTube channel and podcast are great sources of information for RVers, particularly when it comes to working on the road, and their enthusiasm and sense of adventure are contagious. We checked in with these lovebirds (who hit the road just four days after their wedding) to ask them a bit about their home together.
How would you describe your RV travel in three words?
Alyssa: Fun. Challenging. Business.
Heath: Adventurous. Hectic. Meaningful.
Where are you right now?
Alyssa: I’m in the passenger seat while Heath is driving us through the mountains of central Pennsylvania. Did you know there were mountains here? We’ve driven through PA twice and never seen this part of the country before. It’s gorgeous!
You got married four days before you hit the road. How do you think RV life has affected your marriage, compared with one that begins in a more… traditional setting?
I think we are unique in that Heath and I have only ever lived in an RV together. So we don’t know anything different.
Since we live, travel and work together full-time, we know each other really well. And yes, since we left Texas in our RV four days after our wedding, we had to learn everything pretty quickly. How to communicate, how to not trip over each other, how to pick up after ourselves because if you don’t the entire house looks a mess, how to drive your house down the road... there was a steep learning curve.
We actually did the math once on how much more time we spend together versus the average couple who have full-time jobs. So, time-wise, we’ve spent more than twice the amount of time together than the average married couple. We call it being married in “RV years.” But it’s fun! Every day is different and every day is an adventure.
For the first year of life on the road, you traveled to all 50 US states, in each of which Heath worked a different hourly job (for a documentary). What was it about this particular journey that made you want to live the RV life full-time?
When Heath and I were engaged, we talked at length about how we didn’t want to be one of those couples who got married, bought a house, and followed what sounds like America’s most boring dream. One day I was looking at Google Maps trying to figure out what we would do after the wedding, when I texted Heath and I asked how he felt about traveling to all 50 states for our honeymoon. It was on both of our bucket lists and he, being the crazy man that he is, instantly agreed.
We knew that we couldn’t just travel for a year—not just because of finances, but because travel for the sake of travel might get old. We wanted to have a purpose—a mission we were working toward.
With the help of a mentor, Heath came up with the idea to work a different job in each state as a way to try out different jobs across the country. At 23, neither of us knew what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives, and this was a great way to try it out.
At that point, moving into an RV was the best financial option to make this type of travel possible. We bought a rig on Craigslist and ended up driving to 49 out of 50 states in a year.
You started your working life in the RV without having much knowledge of the field you were getting into (video and content production). How long did it take for you to be comfortable with the job and start making consistent money?
Ha, I still don’t know if I’m comfortable with the job, even though 90 per cent of what I do on a daily basis is filming and editing for our production company. I feel like I’m faking it and one day someone is going to come along and be like girl, you have NO idea what you’re doing. And I’ll say, "I KNOW!" 😩
But since our documentary, "Hourly America", was sponsored by Snagajob, I suppose technically we started making money as videographers right away. (They even sent us the film equipment to get started.)
As we traveled, we offered up our film services to conferences and events so we could get more experience, and we met a few videographers who we bombarded with questions. I Googled a lot of things during that time.
We landed our first paid film clients after we finished filming in the lower 48, so about 8 months after getting a camera in the mail from Snagajob. We take on clients about once per quarter to keep us afloat on the road. We’re still paying off student debt and trying to put money toward savings. Since we do travel full-time, we don’t want to focus on growing that side of our business as much. We put a lot of our focus on growing our website and podcast, because that’s something we really love.
You work a lot with RV entrepreneurs; how much opportunity is there out there for people who want to work and live from an RV?
A crazy amount of opportunity. We had never done freelance work before hitting the road and didn’t even realize it was an option for us. After being on the road for 3+ years and meeting hundreds of fellow nomads, we realize just how attainable this life can be (if you’re willing to work for it).
What types of jobs are particularly suitable for the RV lifestyle?
If you spend most of your day behind a computer, your job can be done from an RV. That’s for sure. I know a lot of people worry about internet on the road and use that as an excuse not to travel, but there are so many options now for unlimited internet. (We highly recommend RV Mobile Internet to anyone who asks how to get internet on the road.)
There is also growing group of artists on the road. Etsy is huge for this. We see people who make jewelry, clothing, metal working, etc., all from their RV while traveling. It’s always cool to talk to those people, because everyone assumes that any job that requires inventory would be impossible to do on the road. Not true.
There really are so many options for jobs on the road; the best place to look to see what’s possible is to listen to Heath’s podcast, The RV Entrepreneur. He’s published more than 70 episodes in which he interviews full-time RVers and van lifers who run a business while on the road (as well as nomads who work full-time).
Really, asking for specific jobs is like asking what kind of jobs can be done remotely (and the answer is A LOT).
What’s your number one money-saving tip for life on the road?
Never pay full price for lodging. There is no reason to! We’ve paid less than $1,000 in lodging in the last 9+ months.
We use RV memberships like Passport America, Good Sam Club, and Harvest Hosts to find cheap (or free) lodging.
Passport America has saved us SO much money on lodging it’s ridiculous. They give you 50% camping fees at participating campgrounds and saved us $90 this week camping in Gettsyburg. For a $45 per year membership, that’s an amazing deal.
Harvest Hosts is great because you can camp for free for one night at cool places like wineries, breweries, and farms. Of course the idea is that you patronize the business to make it worth it, but paying $15 for a bottle of wine and camping for “free” is totally worth it to me.
And then there are sites like Campendium.com, which is great for finding free camping or boondocking.
With the amount of work that you do, do you find that you have still plenty of time to get outside and explore?
I think Heath and I have different answers to this. We definitely have plenty of time to go explore, IF we make it a priority. Heath is the kind of guy who can work 24/7 and be happy.
We recently started our YouTube channel as a way to help us get outside and get more active. Since it’s part of our brand and our business, Heath can count it as “working”, and we can get out and enjoy more fun things together. So far this has helped us go on more hikes, visit fun places like Busch Gardens, and take a really fun weeklong adventure in the Florida Keys. (It has, however, also given me way more work to do on the road! So we’ll see if we can keep it up!)
Tell us a bit about your Winnebago Brave—what do you love and/or hate about it?
We upgraded from our Class C motorhome to our Class A Winnebago Brave during the fall of 2015 for a couple reasons:
1) We wanted more work space
2) We wanted something more dependable for our travels.
When we first saw the Brave, Heath fell in love with the retro look (it’s modeled to look like the iconic Winnebago from the '70s). Despite the throwback body of the rig—which people always assume is at least 30 years old—the interior is modern and colorful, something that is hard to find in RVs!
We both now have our respective work spaces in the RV, which makes our life way less stressful (before, we were fighting over a tiny circular RV table). It’s also been very dependable over the past couple years, as we’ve already put 25,000 miles on it.
Downside to our Brave? Probably the same as every other RV, which has been maintenance. We haven’t had any major breakdowns or blowouts, but we’ve still had to visit the mechanic several times in the past year for various repairs.
What are your plans for the next few years?
We have a few big adventures around the corner.
The first is our next RVE Summit. Last year Heath and I hosted our first RV conference, The RV Entrepreneur Summit. For the past year Heath has hosted the RV Entrepreneur podcast, a top-ranked travel podcast in iTunes. We wanted to bring together listeners and people we’d met on the road, so we decided to host an event.
After selling out of our first batch of tickets in a few hours, we ended up with 120 attendees. The conference was centered around nomadic entrepreneurs building businesses from their RV. Some people were still dreaming, some had been on the road for years, and other people were currently transitioning to RV life. So many of the people we met are now some of our very close friends.
We’re hosting our next RVE Summit during February of 2018 outside of Austin, so that’s something I’m so excited about!
Other than our next conference, we are planning an extended RV trip through Europe next year! (Also, Heath is building his software company called CampgroundBooking, a modern reservation system for campgrounds, but that’s less exciting than traveling around Europe.)
After Europe in 2018, we have zero plans. Australia? New Zealand? We’ll see. One of these days, Heath’s going to come to me with the idea to RV to every country in the world, I just know it!