Thursday, February 28, 2019

Tiny Trailer Owner Profile: Becky Schade, Full-time RVer

According to Becky, photo by Bob

"I said screw the status-quo and started working on my dreams of perpetual travel, exploration, and adventure." So said Becky Schade, tiny camper owner in 2012 at the age of 28, when she chose to follow the full-time RV life. Is she on a budget? You bet, but she's quite articulate about why she chose to leave her 9-to-5 and hit the road.
"I've thrived on about $16,000 a year. I am not a genius. I was a truly average student in high school and college, no honors courses or distinctions of merit here. What I am, though, is determined to make my life the best it can be, no holds barred. And if I can do it, so can you. And no, it need not involve deprivation or unnecessary risk."
Green Goddess Glamping's owner profiles so far have included a number of retired (as in after a career of 9-to-5's) travelers, so the focus of Becky Schade in this profile is paying attention to how to live on the road without the savings, retirement, and Social Security benefits many older travelers utilize. Having researched Becky's website, Interstellar Orchard, it's clear that "alternative lifestyle" doesn't mean "free and easy."

She does think about her lifestyle of what she calls "deliberate living" and its relationship to the daily juggle of dollars and cents, of daily food and gas: "comparing money to happiness . . . spend your money on things that’ll net you the most happiness per dollar spent." Along with the routines of camp and travel, Becky includes monthly and annual reviews for herself, assessing both her outer and inner experiences.
"For the monthly review I divide my life into three basic categories: work, personal, and travel. Everything I do falls into one of these categories, and there is often overlap between them. Your categories may well be different than mine.
"I look back over my to-do calendar for the month of everything I had written down, whether it was finished or not. Day by day it’s hard to see patterns, but when you take the time to look at the month as a whole like this, patterns emerge. I look at my best days and think on what I did those days that worked so well for each category, and write out answers. I do the same for the worst days. 
"Usually by the time I get to this point, it’s quite clear to see what’s working well and what isn’t, and make the necessary adjustments for the next month. Occasionally I do need to rest on my answers for a day or two, and come back to it."
Photo Becky Schade
Schade's current home is a 2018 5X8 Hiker Highway Deluxe, by Hiker Trailer. It was a custom order "from the factory in Denver, Colorado, in October of 2017, and finally picked it up on September 21, 2018. Total cost? $9,624.

"It's 12' 3" in total length, with the box measuring 5' by 8'. Up front is a toolbox containing an AGM battery, battery monitor, 600 watt pure sine inverter, and other electrical stuff. There's a 95 watt solar panel mounted on the front of the roof with a MaxxAir fan just behind. The spare tire is full size, and yes that's a small window in front, bracketed by vents where I can hook up a combo heating/AC unit in the future if I want."

Unlike retired folks who have a steady, managed income, or like people who are still busy with careers and who camp on weekends and vacations, Becky has to plan her camping life to include opportunities for earning money. Articles in her blog include information on seasonal work and jobs that match well with an on-the-road lifestyle. In her article "Comparing Work Options for RVers," Becky mentions how in 2012-2013, her first year as a full-time RVer, she "worked for Amazon in the fall, Lowe’s in the winter, and at a National Park from spring until the start of the next fall." In her article, she also discusses online employment opportunities. Her blog has a "Start Here" page that contains links to articles in the following categories: Full-time RVing, All About the Money, Deliberate Living, General RVing, Inspirational, and "Other" (about photography and blogging). Ms. Schade is a thoughtful, articulate traveler, and following her thoughts and journeys is both a travelogue and a reflective experience.

Rocky Mountain interlude, near Silverton, 2018, photo Becky Schade

Becky definitely doesn't spend all her time working, though. She plans and travels forth, boldly going where many RVers have gone before, but in her own style and timeline. Her webpage "Adventures" catalogues by the year her peripatetic existence, and she's traveled all over the U.S. and has also spent time in Canada. Her plans provide stability for her, yet she is also ready to be flexible: "All travel plans are written in jello and subject to change. What fun would it be if everything always went according to plan?" Becky's 2017 travels, for instance, included quite a few Walmart stops, boondocking sites, and campgrounds.

Photo Becky Schade

Her travels and plans for this winter are much like her past cold seasons--traveling in the US Southwest: the Snyder Hill BLM, then getting her fill of big cacti near Ajo, AZ; camping near the American Girl Mine near Winterhaven, CA; and from there walking across the border to Mexico for dental care. She has enjoyed the Imperial Sand Dunes, and along the Colorado River watched the sun set. She finished off 2018 north of Quartzite, AZ, with a New Year's party with friends. "This’ll be my fourth winter in a row down in the desert Southwest. And while I love the desert, I really don’t need to hang out here until May again, waiting for other parts of the country to warm up. Been there, done that, ready for something new." As of this writing, the winter includes giving lecture-seminars at Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR), and, after that, more time with Xscaper friends before her Big Plan kicks in.

And her Big Plan is a twelve-week trip to Costa Rica to do volunteer work. "I’m going to be using my college degree for the first time since hitting the road, and volunteering at a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center along the Pacific coast called WildSun. I’ll be there 12 weeks, averaging 40 hours a week, and in exchange I get housing for free."
"Those of you familiar with work-camping are probably thinking that sounds like bad hours for no pay and you’d be right – my previous two volunteer positions required only 16-20 hours a week in exchange for my RV site. But this isn’t the typical volunteer gig. For starters the location can’t be beat, WildSun is located right next to a national park and very close to the ocean. During my off-time I’ll be hiking, beach combing, learning to surf, and improving my poi dancing skills.
"But the biggest reason why I’m okay with working that many hours for no pay is that WildSun is a non-profit and my time is going to a good cause. WildSun’s big project currently is reintroducing the Scarlet Macaw to the Nicoya Peninsula, and I don’t mind working long hours to help them meet their goals. With my degree as a veterinary technician and previous experience with exotics, I’ll be helping nurse sick and injured animals to full health for release back into the wild which gives me the warm fuzzies. I’ll also be cleaning cages, building new enclosures, preparing food for the animals, and other more mundane tasks. But I don’t mind getting my hands dirty."
Odd-numbered years are those that Becky visits her family and friends in Wisconsin, "so after reuniting with my rolling home in May I’ll be slowly traveling that direction. There are also plans for a backpacking trip in Yellowstone National Park this summer!"

With selling her two RVing books (Solo Full-time RVing on a Budget and The Little Guide to Dreaming Big), online work, part-time work, and donations, Becky Schade is able to live a life filled with more choice than many. She started as "a newly minted young full-time RVer rearing to get out and see America," and now she shares her wisdom gained from experience.
"There are a lot of folks that dream of perpetual travel and a life full of adventure, but don’t pursue it because it seems like such a fairy tale. Others try, but hit a wall and become discouraged when they discover how complicated it is to make the switch."
Becky has managed to make that switch, and her website is an inspiration and wealth of knowledge. We wish her well in Costa Rica, sure that the land will be richer for her stay. Be sure to follow the link to Becky's travel blog, Interstellar Orchard. It contains a wealth of information and fun reading.

Photo Becky Schade

(To read all the Green Goddess Glamping owner profiles, check out the Owner Profiles page. Click the link or the Owner Profiles button beneath the header photo.)

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