The RV lifestyle has exploded in the past ten years, and not just with retirees. Many single adults and young families with children are choosing to trade their suburban lifestyles and full time jobs for life out on the road. For some people, it is ideal. For others, they decide to go back to the suburbs within a few weeks. You may be considering this lifestyle for yourself and wondering how to be a vagabond. If so, you might want to consider renting an RV to try out the lifestyle before you commit to buying an RV and living on the open road. The author of this blog has found living in an RV as a vagabond to be a very rewarding experience and has been doing it for the past several years.

If you have already researched the lifestyle on other blogs and you’re ready to commit, but you need specific advice for how to live like a vagabond in America this article is geared toward you. There are many different ways to enjoy the RV lifestyle in America, and in this article we’ll give you tips on how to cheaply and safely enjoy living like a vagabond enjoying the RV lifestyle in America.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Become a Vagabond?

Some people may wonder what age a person should be in order to start living a vagabond lifestyle but the truth is age has less to do with it. What matters is if you have the income to sustain yourself. In the past many people became vagabonds to travel in pursuit of seasonal work, but these days people often choose the life while working remotely on a laptop with internet access, such as a hotspot. As an example, the author of this blog right now is creating this entire website from a hotspot on his phone plan!

So it’s not so much about your age but rather if you can work while traveling, and that just requires a life style change.

Living as a Vagabond You Must Downsize To The Essentials

The first thing you’ll want to do is downsize. Owning an RV you’ll find that storage and living space is quite limited compared to a traditional home. Yet there isn’t really much you’ll be able to do with a large dining room table and cabinet hutch on an RV anyway. So get your personal belongings down to the minimum you actually need to survive. You may want to consider renting a separate storage space for mementos and important paperwork, unless you have some trusted family that doesn’t mind storing it for you. The author of this blog uses leased storage space for things that aren’t needed but that he wishes to keep.

Once you have your belongings pared down to clothing, linens, dishes and a few other essential items you can start preparing your RV for full time living. Don’t bring anything with you that you won’t use on at least a weekly basis. There’s no reason to take up valuable storage space with items that you would only use every 6 months or less. It just isn’t feasible to do so, considering the limited space on an RV. If you pack too much you’ll end up crawling over your own stuff every day and that will be annoying.

As many major cities within the US are not connected by rail as you may experience in Europe and public transportation is very poor, you must have a vehicle to truly explore the frontiers and quiet towns of America. So having an RV is a good idea and I really recommend it if you wish to live as a vagabond in the United States of America.

Get An RV Club Membership

If you plan to live at many resort RV sites then having an RV club membership as a vagabond in America can save you thousands of dollars per year in campsite fees. A couple of the most well rated memberships are Passport America and Thousand Trails. With Passport America, you pay $44 per year to get up to 50% off of your campsite fees at over 1,600 RV parks nationwide. You use the Passport America app to see the specific site restrictions, check reviews on the individual campgrounds, and reserve campsites ahead of time.

Thousand Trails is a monthly service that, even with the campsite restrictions, allows you to pay around $70 per month, and you can camp around 240 nights per year at their sites. Not a bad deal considering some of the nicer sites can run you about $70 per night if you opt for sites with electricity and other amenities. The savings with the RV clubs more than pay for themselves, and they are highly recommended by many long time RV drivers.

Personally I find it very cost effective to boondock when using a Class B or C motorhome RV, often parking in public places for free and using solar panels to provide electricity for powering fans and devices such as my laptop and phones. But currently I live out of an Airstream trailer and so boondocking is not as practical. I live at RV park camp sites now.

Don’t Eat Out Often as a Vagabond in America

One of the easiest ways to save money while you’re RV’ing is to avoid eating out at fancy restaurants. You should cook your meals, whether it is in your kitchen, or if you’re in a van or smaller RV, at your campsite on a camp stove. The quickest way to accrue a large daily bill for being out on the road is to stop and buy food at a restaurant for every meal. The point of RV’ing is to have the luxuries of home while you’re on the road. Buy groceries and avoid costly items that you won’t eat in time to avoid spoiling.

That said if you cannot do a kitchen for some reason then another option is eating from the value menus at fast food restaurants. A couple McDoubles from a joint like McDonalds costs just a few dollars a day and are cheaper than a numbered meal, but much cheaper. You don’t really need those fries and a soda anyway; simply cutting these two menu items off your diet can result in weight loss!

Plan Your Route Through America And Budget In Advance

If you want to live like a vagabond in America then you need to learn to plan and budget well in advance of your trip. By planning out your route you can avoid expensive camping sites, bad traffic and dangerous roadways; for example going over the Rocky Mountains in an RV is generally not a pleasant drive as many highways are straight downward drops and are traveled by semi-trucks, which can be a terrifying experience for less experienced RV drivers. It is usually safer to take smoother flatter roads from major highways, even if the trip is longer. Direct routes recommended by your GPS may not always be the most ideal route to drive with an RV motorhome.

You can save on fuel by having well mapped routes and plans for where to stay overnight. It’s important to remember that although living like a vagabond and RV’ing across the country may feel as though you’re on vacation every day, if you want to live affordably you can’t spend your cash like you’re on vacation. By budgeting well and sticking strictly to your budget and route plans, you can live frugally on the road and enjoy your vagabond adventuring days in America for as long as you should desire.

Trade Labor For Rent

One of the coolest aspects of living like a vagabond in America is the ability to trade labor for RV site rental, and sometimes even gain a small stipend. Sites such as allows you to post your resume and search the site for camp sites that are looking for labor. The best part is that they are willing to trade you rent on a site at their resorts for your labor. Of course you’ll want to thoroughly research each potential employer to be sure that the site fits your needs, but overall it is a great place to pick up some part time work and stay in one place for a little while.

This route of employment as a vagabond can be incredibly beneficial to you if you’re planning to RV long term. By trading labor for rent you can basically stay on site for a month or two, and your only expense would be your food. Other sites of this nature include Happy Vagabonds and RV Park Store. They can help you to find work that suits you in whatever area you plan to be traveling to. They usually offer grounds keeping, housekeeping, and office positions, and you can find campsites offering electrical and plumbing hook ups in trade for as few as 15 hours per week in labor. This can greatly reduce your total overall RV living costs.

Maintain Your RV While Living as a Vagabond in America

One of the biggest expenses that you will encounter while vagabond living in America is the maintenance and repair costs on your RV motorhome or travel trailer. If you plan to enjoy the full time RV lifestyle for any extended length of time you would fare best to learn how to perform the small routine maintenance and repairs on your RV by yourself. Otherwise you could be looking at some pretty hefty maintenance costs in order to keep your RV on the road and moving. By learning to perform these small repairs yourself, you can carry the spare parts necessary on your RV and use them as needed, which may keep you from getting stuck somewhere without a way to get back to a major residential area and find a mechanic shop for parts or repairs.

Don’t Be Afraid Of Primitive Camping Sites

When you’re out on the road as a vagabond in America, especially in state and national parks, you’ll be looking at a lot of primitive campsites versus some of the campsites you might find at a KOA or other nationwide camping chain. Some of the more primitive camp sites aren’t going to offer electrical hook ups, or have offloading sewage dump stations for your toilet tanks. However if the only amenity that you need for the night is a safe place to park and sleep for the night, your cheapest and safest option might be one of the primitive sites offered at a state or national park.

For example Carlsbad Caverns National Park has a Bat Flight Program, where you can watch the bats and other wildlife after sunsite, and then return to your RV at the nearby campsite and stay overnight. This offers you an opportunity for entertainment and lodging for a very small fee. The Bryce Canyon National Park offers a national park Ranger Led Astronomy Program, which is an educational program with the park rangers that runs until 10pm, then you can retire to the camping area and pay a small price to have educational entertainment and a camping spot for the night. Many of the parks offer programs, run either by state or national park rangers, and these allow you to enjoy entertainment with your overnight stay for a very small fee. However, these camping sites usually will not provide you with power hookups, so you’ll need to be prepared to run solely off of your RV solar backup battery or generators, and find somewhere else to empty your tanks.

Successfully Living as a Vagabond in America is All in the Research

If you’re willing to do enough searching and reading into the subject you can find plenty of ways to live an affordable, cheap lifestyle while you RV across America as a vagabond. One last thing to remember is that being on the road in an RV can sometimes be a very stressful situation. This isn’t a lifestyle that you would want to undertake with a stranger, or someone that you aren’t very close to and get along well with. Traveling with children and spouses can be an adventure, but it can also be a test of patience, because life on the road can be quite unpredictable. If you aren’t sure about the way that your children would handle being in an RV for long periods of time you may want to start with a small trial trip using a rented RV prior to setting out for a years-long adventure as a vagabond.

Because of the limited space in an RV they can become messy quite quickly, especially when cooking or sorting out belongings for the following day. If you don’t do well with being a little crowded and messy, this may not be a lifestyle that you would find enjoyable, especially with a spouse or children alongside you. However, if you can deal with a little bit of crowding and mess, you may find the vagabond lifestyle for you.

Hope this guide to how to live as a vagabond in America in an RV helps you!


Carey has been living full time as an RVer for several years, traveling extensively around the United States and some parts of Canada. As a digital nomad he lives like a vagabond while managing his companies remotely with a laptop and internet hotspot.