Skip to content

5 Things I’ve Learned by being Homeless for 15 Months

July 28, 2013

See! This guy just looks like he HAS to be a jerk!

I read a book one time by this guy that seems like a real jerk but I gave it a read anyway because a friend said he wanted me to.  And despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t bring myself to hate this guy.  He kept saying stuff that really resonated with me.  The book was called The 4-Hour Work Week, and the jerk was named Timothy Ferriss (I think everyone calls him Tim but he uses Timothy as his author name because it sounds fancier, which just supports my impression that he’s probably a jerk).  Anyway, this guy likes to brag and blow and sound like hot bananas so he’s not really my cup of tea, you know, but what he talked about in this book was the kind of stuff that I like to hear people talk about, so I ended up liking that book pretty good and recommending it to other people sometimes.

Well, in that book one of the things he talks about is how most people try to get rich and some of them actually do and when they get rich they get to do stuff that lots of other people don’t get to do.  But what if you could do that stuff that the rich get to do without having to bother yourself with all the trouble of getting rich?  What if you could skip the hassle of mo’ money mo’ problems and just go do the stuff?  Stuff like traveling, for example?

Fast forward to today.  I am kind of like the antithesis of rich.  My kids’ school and the nice folks at the DMV (this came up because we were trying to change our address and they discovered we live in a car which resulted in my wife being offered a bunch of applications for assistance) tell me I qualify for all kinds of assistance if I want to apply for it (I don’t).  Some folks might say I’m what they call “poor”.  But I don’t see it that way.  I just like to think that I’m choosing a different existence that affords me the privilege of doing the things I want to do without having to spend 51 weeks a year doing something I hate in order to spend 1 week doing them.

So I guess it was pretty obvious when we started talking about relocating to Colorado from Oregon that we immediately started thinking about taking some extra time along the way to see some folks and do some stuff.  And I guess it was a pretty short trip from that idea to the one about having an RV to do it in.  And seeing as how I can’t begin to afford an RV, perhaps it was a foregone conclusion that I would reason I could buy one if I was willing to just live in it for awhile.  And so today, on the 15 month anniversary of moving my family of 4 into a 99 square foot space, we have arrived just about to the place where we can say we got a free RV just by living in it.  We were spending over $1,000 a month on our dwelling with rent, utilities, upkeep, furnishings, etc. and we paid $16,000 for the RV.  BAM!  Free RV.  Now we pay nothing for rent, have no car or house payment, pay no utilities (OK, we pay $11 or so a month for propane), and live in a luxurious space with all

Harvey the RV at the California Redwoods

Harvey the RV at the California Redwoods

the amenities we need including hot water, air conditioning, shower, stove, fridge, sleeping space for 4, custom stereo, TV, internet, and a toilet that mostly doesn’t smell bad.  And once we had lived in the thing long enough to get the hang of it I guess it was unavoidable that we’d figure out a way to travel around like rich people on an extravagant vacation.  And that’s exactly what we did.  We just finished up the first leg of a 6 month national tour where the goal was to visit America’s finest coffee houses, catch up with as many friends and family as we could, and see as much of the nation’s great destinations as possible.  We call it the Rialta Coffee Tour, and it’s off to a great start.  We are using our skills in minimalism and simplicity to pay for it, having a total blast, and learning a ton along the way.  Here’s some of the things we’ve noticed as we go…

1.  HAPPINESS IS FOUND WHERE YOU DECIDE TO FIND IT.  This is a pretty obvious one, but we all know the stereotypical characters that have lots of money and are miserable, as well as the ones who have very little money but are happy.  There are studies that show on a statistical basis that having more money only leads to more happiness up to a certain point (around $70,000/year).  After that, money seems to literally create more problems and less happiness for those burdened with managing it.  But within those statistics there is hidden this truth:  Happiness is found where you decide to find it.  If you are always wanting “more” then you can never be happy no matter how much you have.  If you decide to find contentment in being grateful for what you have, you will have no problem seeing multitudes of reasons to be grateful for the love, relationships, health, and so on that you are experiencing.

Our saucy philosophers ridin' the 4 Wheeler with PawPaw on the ranch in Oklahoma.

Our saucy philosophers ridin’ the 4 Wheeler with PawPaw on the ranch in Oklahoma.

2.  WHO YOU LOVE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT YOU HAVE.  My kids are always revealing amazing truth.  After we finished the first leg of our travels I asked the girls what they liked best.  Without hesitation they started rattling off all the people they had gotten to see.  Mind you we had been to the Grand Canyon, the California Redwoods, and experienced playing in the ocean for the first time.  They didn’t even mention those things.  For these little philosophers it was all about the people.  Maybe they’re on to something…

3.  BEING IN THE TOP 10% IS NOT THAT HARD (GETTING TO THE TOP 5% MIGHT TAKE SOME EFFORT).  This is a life philosophy of mine that applies to just about everything.  I always tell employees that to be in the top 10% of all employees everywhere is very simple.  You just have to show up on time, do what you’re asked to do to the best of your ability, don’t steal stuff, and find some way every now and then to do something extra.  Truth is, most people can’t do those simple things over an extended period.  And we’ve seen this in coffee shops as well.  Being in the top 10% of all coffee shops everywhere in a world full of nasty-joe-showcases is pretty simple.  Get good beans.  Get decent equipment (and keep it clean).  Get some training.  Use good water.  Be nice to people. Utilize resources such as Barista Magazine or to stay connected to the coffee universe.  In many ways, it’s just not that hard.  But SO many shops just aren’t doing those simple things.

4.  MOST PROBLEMS WE WORRY ABOUT NEVER HAPPEN;  THE ONES THAT DO HAPPEN AREN’T THAT BIG A DEAL;  THE ONES THAT ARE A BIG DEAL USUALLY AREN’T PREVENTABLE ANYWAY.  I had this conversation with a lovely friend of mine while our kids were playing together.  She was saying how she liked the idea of minimalism but felt it was also important to prepare for contingencies.  She used an example of how her parents had done all they could to prepare for every contingency on a road trip and ended up hitting an elk, totaling their car, and going to the hospital.  She totally made MY point!  Truth is, most times we DON’T hit an elk.  And when we DO, nothing we did to prepare matters anyway!  Of course I’m not saying throw all caution to the wind.  We have roadside assistance, jumper cables, and a little money in the bank just in case.  But I promise you we don’t set around fretting about what might go wrong.  We plan the best we can and then go live life!

Here's our Rialta next a larger RV.  It gets 18 mpg and does more with less space than any RV we've seen!

Here’s our Rialta next a larger RV. It gets 18 mpg and does more with less space than any RV we’ve seen!

5.  IT’S IMPORTANT TO CONTRIBUTE TO SOCIETY, AND LEAVE THINGS BETTER THAN YOU FOUND THEM.  I used to be a little conflicted about whether I was contributing enough.  I don’t like the idea of being a drain on society, and we use our fair share of a city’s amenities (parks, public restrooms, streets, etc.) and then some.  And someone I admire said that it is better to give than to receive, so I think about these things.  So one thing we really work to do is always leave things better than we found them.  We pick up our trash, AND some extra.  We try to leave those public restrooms cleaner than before we entered.  That type of thing.  And this goes to an environmental level as well.  It’s important to be a part of the solution, not the problem, as much as possible.  That means being responsible with how MUCH of something you use, REDUCING where possible, REUSING what you can, and RECYCLING the rest.  Regardless of your position on environmentalism, it’s good practice to live life taking only what you need, leaving the rest for others.

That’s just a few of the lessons we’ve been thinking about.  And you know what excites me?  That there are tons more on the road ahead.  I’m gonna try to pay attention and see if I can learn ’em.  Maybe I’ll even write a little about it on here.  And maybe if you’ve got some things to add on there it’d be nice to see a comment about that.

Yeah.  I might like that real good.

  1. Wes Bartel permalink

    Great post!!! Some of your observations sound a bit like observations I recently read posted by a gentleman in the early part of the fifth century BC. I love it!!!!

  2. Sherry Borders permalink

    great read!

  3. Brandon Noffsinger permalink

    Thanks for the good, inspirational words, Don. You guys are pros at makin’ it happen!

  4. steven permalink

    I like it. I think we should give time and energy to what is important to us. So many allow challenges or social norms to stand in the way of achieving it. Like you said, ‘some people work 51 weeks a year doing something they hate, just so they can spend 1 week a year doing something they love. You guys are inspiring because you have the courage to pursuit what you love and find important.

  5. Those saucy philosophers sure are wise women. And I’d say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but I’m afraid you’d have none of it! So I won’t say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree:-) But I WILL say: superb article, my good man!

  6. Erika Kaltenbach (Nelson) permalink

    Agggghhh! I just found your blog after getting back on facebook. Are you guys moving back to Colorado? When will this happen and how can I get my family to see your family. And I LOVE this adventure you guys went on. Amazing.

  7. Hey Don, Carissa, Trinity, and Xandra!
    Thank you for writing, sharing these lessons, and letting us know you’re alive, somewhere, celebrating life with gratitude.
    Currently in Michigan

  8. I totally enjoy the reading of your adventure and want to touch on one subject and that is (LEAVING IT BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT).
    I have to thank you for that because so many just ties it to the ground and leave it.
    When I go to MC D every day with my friend I try not to mess up the paper and stuff so when we are finished I carefully roll every thing up and bring it home and ad it to my recycling ben.
    If every one did this then they would not need trash cans.
    On the food side when it is not all eaten I bring it home rather than toss it out and leave it across the road from my house at night in a wooded area for some little night animal to snack on.
    I wish every one would do that.
    I am praying for your safety during your adventure,God bless.

  9. Hey there! Fellow Rialta dweller here, bought mine last November, been full-time since April 🙂

    Awesome blog, I just stumbled upon it while searching google for a windshield replacement for my RV. Glad I came across it.

    Keep it up guys, I subscribed. Looking forward to your future adventures and lessons you learn along the way!

    All the best,


  10. carleen permalink

    Great words to live by. I distilled the list down to one page so I could hang it on the wall and, really, every word in the heading of each bullet point is required! (so I made the font smaller)

    I can’t say I’ve ever thought of printing up a list of someone else’s musings and put it on my wall. It’s just that your list says it all.

    • Carleen, I’m so honored by your comment. Thanks for letting me know that you’ve put my thoughts to use in such a productive way. I look forward to hearing from you again soon!

  11. we’re considering living on the road next year and have recently been looking at RVs.. a good friend of ours recommended your blog as a intro to what is’ like living on the road. another friend of mine also recommended that book, but it’s never been at the top of my list.. 🙂 but maybe i’ll reconsider.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. July 2014: A New Chapter | We're Doing This
  2. Why The Rialta is the Best RV on the Road | We're Doing This

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: