Spending a significant chunk of savings... to chase a dream.
July 28, 2016 12:32 PM   Subscribe

How crazy am I? I have a significant chunk of savings... almost enough in cash to do something i've been talking about doing for years. I'm not eating into my RRSPs, and I'm leaving 6 months of salary untouched... but I'm seriously debating spending all of the rest (and maybe a bit more via a small loan) to chase a dream. I feel it's a completely irresponsible thing to do and yet I really, really want to do it.

For years I've been talking about moving into an RV and driving / working all across north america. Instead, a couple years ago I did the grown up expected thing (im in my late 30s now) and bought a townhouse in a suburb of Metro Vancouver's completely batshit insane housing market. I'm not regretting the purchase, there are some aspects I really like - but i'm not exactly content with it either.

If i were a different, less risk adverse person I'd sell my house, buy an RV, load up the cats and set off. But I'm not that carefree risk-taking person. (All of this assumes I can take my job on road. It's not a guarantee, but it's probably doable). Instead, I'm thinking i should keep my house (and my mortgage) for now, buy an RV, and set off for 3 months. However, this will drain all my available disposable cash except my retirement money and 6 month contingency fund, and I might need a small loan to do things the way I want.

I can't rent out my house while I'm gone (strata rules - a strata in BC is the same as an HOA everywhere else), so I'm stuck with that mortgage payment and strata fees while i'm gone. I almost have enough cash to finance the whole thing regardless... but not quite enough. Getting a loan should be pretty easy given my current financial situation.

After three months I can re-evaluate -- keep travelling and sell the house, sell the RV, or figure out a way to keep both.

I only have myself and my three cats to think about, no SO to have an opinion. That doesn't stop others in my life from expressing their worry and fear and downright disapproval however!

Lately I've been very aware that life is really short, there's no guarantee I'll have my health, and I don't want to wait until I'm retired to do this -- there's no guarantee I'll make it that far. Maybe it's an earlyish mid-life crisis?

Advice, mefites? How can I balance my internal battle to "do the adult responsible thing" vs the bucket list?
posted by cgg to Work & Money (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Some things to think about (even though I think you should totally do this):

How much longer would you need to save up to avoid the "small loan"?

What will be the impact to your future earnings be of this non-sabbatical? Even if you keep your job, will you be hurting your chances for promotion? If you lose your job, will you be able to get another one? Will you still be contributing to your retirement savings while on the road?

Honestly -- I think the only thing that should really hold you back is the debt thing -- can you push out your leave date for a year so that you aren't going into debt for this?

The future earnings stuff is good to consider, but shouldn't necessarily be holding you back if you don't have any dependents.

Hit the road, Jack!
posted by sparklemotion at 12:41 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Could you start by taking a month off at work to travel in a rented RV? You could use vacation time or even unpaid leave. This way you could have a taste of your dream and would have reason to pursue it completely should you find it to be what you had hoped. However, if you find it's not what you had imagined or a want for more security and stability kicks in, you can always return to your current life with the satisfaction of knowing you had tried.
posted by smorgasbord at 12:42 PM on July 28, 2016 [12 favorites]

We get so few chances in life to take risks, to explore, to wander. You sound like you're passionate about this idea and you've thought things through. Sure, there's a risk, but risk is an inherent part of life. Why not give it a try? Three months will fly by very quickly, and that sounds like a reasonable amount of time to decide if the lifestyle is for you.

This is a time where your own internal desires should carry more weight than the criticisms of those around you. Let's face it, a lot of people will probably try to poke holes in this idea because they are jealous. Go do it. Be you.
posted by Ostara at 12:46 PM on July 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

I would do it, except not take on any debt to do so. So when you have the cash on-hand, go for it. Or get the cash by selling your house or downsizing or something else.
posted by xingcat at 12:47 PM on July 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

How are you going to deal with three cats in an RV? That's a lot of cats and not much RV, and what will you do if one of them bolts while you're stopped temporarily for gas or something?
posted by Frowner at 12:50 PM on July 28, 2016 [8 favorites]

If you don't do it, you'll always regret it.

If you do it, you'll always regret it (because you'll be broke).

My advice; flip a coin. You're-damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't anyway, so neither decision can be wrong.
posted by LauraJ at 12:53 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Three cats in an RV?!
posted by zadcat at 1:03 PM on July 28, 2016 [8 favorites]

How exciting! I don't know if I'd personally do this anymore, but I know I wouldn't take out a loan to do it. I think the trial run is a good idea though.

Just how tight are the strata restrictions on renting? If it's technically possible but just a huge pain in the ass, seems to me it'd be worth the trouble to figure it out how to make it work so that you don't have to worry about the mortgage. (If you have to rent it for a minimum of a year, for instance, maybe you can travel for 3-6 months and find a cheaper apartment and save up for your RV for the rest of the year, etc etc).
posted by yeahlikethat at 1:07 PM on July 28, 2016

To me, doing this while still having your own home, your retirement fund, and six months contingency fund sounds pretty damn responsible! You're properly prepared to do this (though of course you'd be MORE prepared if you didn't have to take out a loan), so go ahead and do it! There probably won't be a better time!
posted by ejs at 1:07 PM on July 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm not seeing much of a downside here. Even if you crash and burn, you've still got a 6-month emergency fund, a full retirement account, and a house to fall back on. You even admit that the loan you'd have to take out is small. You're in great financial shape. Especially no downside if you can take your job on the road with you.

Even if you can't rent out your house, could you maybe put it on Airbnb while you're gone?
posted by kevinbelt at 1:09 PM on July 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think you'll regret not doing this way more than you'd regret doing it.

I agree with everyone above about trying to do it without the loan.

Also the cats thing is a bit concerning. Maybe leave them with friends or family while you're away.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:18 PM on July 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: As for the cats... that's why I'm doing the travelling in an RV and not just flying around and hotelling it. They're coming with me - thats non-negotiable. I've researched this a ridiculous amount, and although it sounds insane, it'll be fine. Part of the reason I need a small loan is to afford an RV big enough for them as well as me :D
posted by cgg at 1:23 PM on July 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

From what you've written here, it sounds like you'd have an income for the time you would be away; if I'm reading it right the loan would be similar to any car loan (albeit an RV is more expensive than a car), not a loan that was trying to replace your entire living expenses. If that's correct, I definitely say go for it! Although there are some people out there who would say only pay cash for cars, I think most people believe that car loans with reasonable monthly payments you can afford are perfectly appropriate and financially responsible, right? So as long as that's what you're talking about here and your budget can accommodate the monthly payments, do it! It sounds like you'd only be financing part of the purchase of the RV anyway and paying some cash.

If this involved quitting your job and trying to do this with zero money coming it, I think it would be a lot riskier, but it seems like your plan is basically the MOST responsible way to do this ever. :) And I also think from the way you describe it that you will always regret it if you do not do it. So. Do it!
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:31 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would only do it if you can work the finances so you can keep the house. Vancouver is a crazy market right now. If you sell it and then want to stop RVing, you may not be able to afford to re-buy a house.
posted by ficbot at 1:53 PM on July 28, 2016

First some background:
  • For the past decade, I've been a money writer. My daily work is preaching about responsible financial behavior. As part of that, I'm a huge advocate of setting goals and pursuing them. Which you're doing. I want your spending to be aligned with your values, and it sounds like you're making that happen.
  • I just returned home after fifteen months on the road in an RV (one built in B.C., as it happens). I didn't have any cats with me, but for the last month we traveled with a young puppy. I started the trip on my 46th birthday, and I'm glad I didn't wait.
With that out of the way, let me say: Do it!

Our trip was a wonderful experience, and taught us a lot about the U.S. (only briefly stepped into Canada, I'm afraid). Doing this doesn't have to cost a lot. You're big up-front cost is the RV, of course, but if you buy used you'll be able to mitigate the effects of depreciation. (Wanna buy our 29-foot Class C motorhome?) And yes, you can do this with cats. I've never heard of anyone traveling with three cats, but plenty of people travel with one or two. I'd recommend not going too large on your RV. You need less space (and stuff) than you think.

Don't worry about being risk averse (not "adverse", but the way -- that word doesn't mean what you think it means). Or being introverted. Traveling in an RV is a great way to develop both risk tolerance and extroversion. You learn to meet new people and do new things. And it's a blast.

Some things to note:
  • You can stay in lots of cheap places while on the road, especially in the West. We used the Guide to Free and Low-Cost Campgrounds, which was a terrific resource. You might also look into a group called Harvest Hosts.
  • The best balance between price and convenience seemed to be state parks. For roughly $25 per night, you'd get everything but a sewer hookup in a wonderful setting. (And all of them had dump stations, so we'd just drain when we moved to a new spot.)
  • Lots and lots of folks work while they travel. They act as campground hosts, they guard gates to oil fields, they become tour guides, and so on. It's non-difficult to supplement your income from the road.
  • We found -- and your experience may vary -- that the ideal rhythm seemed to be 2-3 months traveling (meaning moving every five days or so), then 2-3 months stationary (parked in one place). The travel is fun, but does eventually wear on you. Staying put gives you a sense of comfort, but eventually the wanderlust sets in.
It sounds as if you're financially responsible. It sounds as if this is a dream of yours. I say "do it"! If you want more info (whether about money or about RV living), drop me a line. You can use MeFi mail, but I don't notice that often. Your best bet might be to track me down via one of my sites...

Good luck!
posted by jdroth at 1:55 PM on July 28, 2016 [20 favorites]

I spend 9 months a year saving and 3 months a year chasing/living a dream in Europe.

Go git yer dream!
posted by humboldt32 at 2:02 PM on July 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've researched this a ridiculous amount, and although it sounds insane, it'll be fine.

I drove x-country in a Geo Metro with a friend and two cats. If you've researched you know the pitfalls and I'm here to also say: yes it will be fine. Check the work end of the situation first and foremost because that will be the big variable that will matter. But yes, travel is fun, gasoline is cheaper than it's been in a long time and please stop by if you come through Vermont.
posted by jessamyn at 2:03 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd do it for the following reasons:

1 - Life is short.
I lost my Dad in 2008 and it's the reason I moved to Canada - I chased a dream at that time because I realized life is precarious. Last year my husband lost 2 (yes 2) of his sisters. One in February, one in September. One was 54, the other was 51. LIFE. IS. SHORT.

2 - You own your home.
I also have bought a town house in Metro Vancouver (well, Coquitlam) I also cannot rent my place out due to strata laws but I wouldn't hesitate to go and continue paying my mortgage.

3 - 3 Months is really not that long of a time
It will fly by, you'll be back before you know it (Or maybe you won't and you'll want to keep going and that's grand - cross that bridge when you come to it)

4 - You've got enough disposable income to do it without going into debt
Which means you are WAY better off than a lot of other people in this City, damn, than a lot of people in this world.

No-one really ever regrets these choices. We get one life - go out and live it!!!!

(and if you're anything like me, those cats will be absolutely fine. They'd likely much rather be with their mumma in a cool RV than anywhere else!)
posted by JenThePro at 2:14 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

The only thing i'd suggest you do before packing your bags (yes, do it! What an experience. It's your money, your life, and you aren't going to be broke as a result) is check the kitties' tolerance for travel. Of the three cats in my life, one loves drives, one tolerates them but is worried, and the third becomes car sick within a kilometre of leaving home which results in the urgent-est stinkiest poo ever. Also, how sure are you that they will come back to the RV in time for you to leave each time? Test the cats - if they are good travellers, then you owe it yourself to follow your dreams and collect experiences.
posted by b33j at 3:03 PM on July 28, 2016


I wonder if you could wrangle a collapsible cat run for them... But I'm definitely a crazy cat lady.

I'd also get little GPS trackers for their collars. Every time one of our cats has been "lost" they've been within 100m of home. It'd be terrible to get stuck somewhere looking for a cat, esp if it turns out they're super close but hiding.

Have fun!!
posted by jrobin276 at 3:17 PM on July 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Have you ever traveled in an RV before for an extended amount of time? I ask because it may not be like what you think it might be like.
I worked with a guy who wanted to open a hot dog cart at the beach when he retired. Talked about it for years, finally did it. It lasted about 2 summers and he sold the cart - he sold his hot dogs, had fun, but realized it really wasn't for him.
Having said that, I'd take a shorter trip first and see how that goes. Three weeks as opposed to three months. You're putting a lot on the line, so at least try a test run first - especially with three cats. THEY may not like it.
posted by NoraCharles at 4:10 PM on July 28, 2016

Some of my friends are doing this right now. You might enjoy their blog.

(Obviously, I think you should try it out! Even if you wind up hating it, it sounds like you have more than enough of a cushion as a fall back plan.)
posted by Metasyntactic at 4:55 PM on July 28, 2016

I lived out of a VW van traveling for six months. It was great fun, and I met a lot of interesting people! I'll always be glad I did that.

I love your plan. A few thoughts about the money side of things:
- I'd try to avoid eating three months of mortgage + strata payments. Are you certain they can completely bar you from renting it out? (Sometimes leases say you can't sublease even in jurisdictions where the law says renters can. Could the strata rules be trying the same bluff?)
- What do the strata rules prevent, specifically? Accepting rent? Could you do a no-cash-involved house trade with people who own an RV but want a few months in the city?
- Which costs more: buying an RV and then re-selling it (at a minor loss, I assume) vs. renting an RV?
- What are seasonal trends in house prices where you live? I think of summer as a seasonal high (people trying to move before the kids start school) and fall as a seasonal low, so waiting three months might cut into your sales price.
- Do you have any concerns that home prices will fall for other reasons during those three months? A bubble deflating? New regulations? Big layoffs in a key industry? A massive condo project finishing construction and hundreds of new units suddenly for sale? A change in mortgage rates?
- I tend to think you won't want to live in an RV forever, and unfortunately, an RV doesn't hold its value like houses generally do. If you assume prices will continue to rise, and if you think they will rise by more than the stock market will, then if you do sell your house, it might be worth putting some portion of that money into a house that you CAN rent out. There are pros here (diversified investments, possible passive income especially if rents rise) and cons (do you pay a mgt company or come back to vet new tenants and handle maintenance?).

A few random questions that you've probably thought through:
- How will you get mail?
- Will you need to pay someone to check on your place (if you don't sublease it)?
- Did you factor the variable price of gas into your budget?
- Have you thought about the weather? (E.g., if you dream of camping in Death Valley, it might be better to wait until autumn.)

Now for a few random throwaway comments:
- The bigger the RV, the harder to drive into and camp in less developed places. I really liked being able to park the van almost anywhere.
- It was totally worth bringing a bike!

Good luck!
posted by salvia at 5:16 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can't rent out my house while I'm gone

Can you let a friend live there rent free? Maybe a friend who wants to lend you their RV?

Look on RV boards for someone who wants to visit the beautiful Vancouver B.C. area during the hot summer months. Make a new friend.

If i were a different, less risk adverse person I'd sell my house, buy an RV, load up the cats and set off.

If you can work remotely I'm not seeing the big risk here? People do this all the time. It seems much more risky to drain your savings by paying a mortgage on a house you aren't using and can't rent. You haven't really provided any information in your question as to why it would be a risk to sell your home and buy an RV -- maybe it's implied in your comments about the Vancouver housing market? You might get better answers here if you can explain more about why it would be so risky for you to sell your house.

As for cats, they can be perfectly happy in an RV. A friend of mine had two in their school bus conversion. One did eventually jump ship due to the lack of screens in the windows though, so do make sure your screens are well attached or put up some sort of mesh or metal grid over the windows.
posted by yohko at 5:39 PM on July 28, 2016

One did eventually jump ship due to the lack of screens

That reminds me of this valuable background reading material.
posted by salvia at 7:50 PM on July 28, 2016

However, this will drain all my available disposable cash except my retirement money and 6 month contingency fund

What is it that you think money is for? It is for this. Go.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:20 PM on July 28, 2016 [7 favorites]

I've lived full time in my Rv for 5 years now. I still don't see wanting to move back to a house (ever).

Buying the right rv can be tricky. A new rv losses its value quickly, so you would want to figure out what the resale value would be and balance that out with buying used and the risk that entails.

Size matters. A lot of giant rvs don't fit into state parks, so it might cost you more by having to go to a private campground. I think 3 cats would do just fine in a 24 footer or even smaller.

I've seen people traveling happily with 5 dogs. Pets are doable, but you really have to be on top of it in terms of safety and their level of travel enjoyment. I would do some practice runs first.

Have fun!
posted by Vaike at 5:57 AM on July 29, 2016

In my 30s, I traveled the U.S., Canada and Mexico for over a year in a VW van and a big Coleman tent. No cats, but great stories I've been dining out on ever since. If you can do it, don't miss it!
posted by Skipjack at 6:03 AM on July 29, 2016

You might also draw inspiration from this guy's blog: Desk to Dirtbag - Adventures away from the 9-5
posted by graytona at 9:30 PM on July 29, 2016

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