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Taking the leap into full-time RV life (and getting our Airstream!)

Taking the leap into full-time RV life (and getting our Airstream!)
Picking up our Airstream in Kentucky!

Hello and welcome to our very first blog post! We're Adrienne & Joey Van Niman, and along with our dog Hollie, we're spending the foreseeable future traveling North America while living and working out of our Airstream travel trailer.

We started this blog mainly to document the journey for fun, to remember our adventures with writings, photos, and videos, and to share with any family, friends, & others who want to follow along with us.

This first post is WAY too long (sorry) but I wanted to kick things off by writing down why we're doing this, how we made the leap into full-time RV living, and details of the first few months since we moved into our Airstream before officially setting off on the road (which is happening today!!)

The Idea

It was early 2022, and Joey and I had been living in Raleigh, North Carolina for almost four years. A year before, we'd moved from our apartment into an adorable rental house in the Five Points neighborhood near downtown.

Living there was great – we could walk to a couple bars/restaurants, an eclectic coffee shop, and an old movie theatre called the Rialto. The neighborhood was quiet and full of a mix of beautiful historic and modern houses to admire as we walked our dog, Hollie. We had a fenced yard and a nice deck where we planted flowers, grilled out, and sat by the fire pit with friends.

But then our landlord told us that he planned to turn the house into an Airbnb. He gave us a choice: end our lease that spring, or stay another year (with increased rent, of course).

We decided to stay. But we had to come up with a plan for next year.

Our little house in Raleigh ❤️

The obvious options didn't sound great to us. We wanted to buy a house at some point, but weren't quite ready, especially with the crazy market and Raleigh being so expensive – and we weren't 100% sure we wanted to buy in Raleigh anyway. But just renting another house/apartment wasn't super appealing either.

We were getting married that December, and wanted to do something different, something exciting, something to shake up our lives a little bit.

I don't remember how exactly the RV idea came up. We must have gotten it from somewhere, because I remember joking about it, tossing it out in passing as an out-there idea. I've always been a little interested in trying out the "nomad" life, so maybe that's where it came from.

Then we were at lunch with my parents one day, talking about our plan for next year, and I joked again, "We might just live in an RV." And my mom said, "You know, that's not a crazy idea. People do that."

I think that kind of solidified it as a real, valid option in our minds. We started watching videos and reading blogs about other people living and traveling full-time in an RV. We started talking through it...

The timing might never be this good again. We needed somewhere to live. Buying an RV was somewhere in between renting a place and buying a house, cost and commitment wise. After being pretty focused on our jobs for the past four years (not to mention going through the whole Covid thing), we wanted to shake things up a little, have a better work-life balance, and travel more. We both worked remotely, didn't have kids, and were about to get married. We could start the next phase of our lives with a big adventure.

And besides all of that – life is short. Nothing is guaranteed.

So we decided to go for it.

Sneak peek at our camping setup in Wilmington!

Taking the Leap

Fast forward a year, and we now have our Airstream – and now, literally as I'm writing this, we're officially hitting the road for our full-time travel adventure! (In true Adrienne form, I procrastinated on launching this blog til the last minute).

It's been a whirlwind year. Along with planning our wedding and getting married on New Year's Eve (plus working full time, some big family events, and everything else going on), we dove headfirst into RV life planning.

We'll probably dive into more specific aspects of RV logistics and details in future posts, in case anyone is interested. But I'll share the story of how we got our Airstream and tow vehicle, the transition from house to RV, and what we've been doing since moving into it this March!

Why an Airstream?

Once we decided to do this, we obviously started doing a lot of research into different types of RVs. Neither of us had ever been RV'ing before, for the record. I don't think I'd ever even been inside one... we'd always been tent campers.

So after learning about the differences between Class A, B, and C RVs, travel trailers and fifth wheels, we landed on wanting a travel trailer (or possibly a fifth wheel). The main reason was that we wanted to still have a truck to drive around and explore places with, once we got to our destination. Class A's can tow vehicles behind them, but they were typically way out of our budget and I'm not a huge fan, as cool and fancy as some of them are.

Then we went to some RV dealerships to check out the options. There are SO. MANY. RVs. And each brand has a bunch of models. And each model has a bunch of different floor plans and lengths. It got overwhelming – we started a long list on our Notes app with the pros and cons of Imagines, Rockwoods, Jaycos, etc.

From almost the beginning, Joey had been talking about Airstreams. I dismissed it at first. Joey likes to go big or go home, and although I definitely loved them and thought they were the coolest, I was also sure that they were out of our budget.

But like he does, Joey also did a ton of research, and eventually sold me on looking for one – and I'm really glad he did. Airstreams are more expensive up front, but they also hold their value way better than basically every other RV out there. They're super in demand, and if we bought a used one, we could probably sell it in a few years or so and get almost all our money back. Since we didn't know how long we would want to do this, that was appealing.

Airstreams are also built solid, better than most RVs (made in the USA, baby!) and though they still have their share of maintenance needed, the issues are typically less frequent than more cheaply built RVs. (Fingers crossed this is the case for us). If we did end up keeping it for a long time, it would hold up – people can easily take their decades-old Airstreams on long trips.

And yeah, they're just super cool.

Adopting our Airstream (and Tex)

In the summer, we started keeping an eye out on different websites and Facebook groups where people sold used Airstreams. A few things we looked for: 23-30 feet (preferably somewhere in the middle), built before Covid but not too long ago so that it has some of the modern features (2015-2019 was the sweet spot), and obviously in good shape and reasonably priced.

We made an offer on a 2015 Eddie Bauer edition with a cool hatchback in Asheville, even got it inspected, but it fell through when someone beat our offer.

All for the best, though – a month or two later, we found a listing for a super nice-looking 2017 International Signature 27FB. It was a little far away, up in Paducah, Kentucky, but we were willing to make the drive. We called the owner.

The Airstream belonged to his brother, who passed away a few years ago. He hadn't gotten the chance to use it much, so it was in great shape, but had just been sitting in the yard for all that time until the owner got around to selling it.

After negotiating a bit, he agreed to sell it to us. Then it was go time.

We were nervous about not seeing it in person until we drove all the way up to Kentucky, plus the owner didn't know anything about RVs, so he couldn't answer some of our questions. But he got it inspected for us and fixed a couple things, and everything seemed to be fine. We could always back out when we got there – but hoped we wouldn't need to.

Now, we needed something to tow it with. The plan was to sell both of our cars and get a truck powerful enough to tow the Airstream. Enter into the picture: Tex, the 2016 Chevy Silverado 2500 "Texas Edition" we found on Carvana.

Tex is huge. It took me a while to get used to driving him. (I'm still not 100% used to it in tight spaces or when parking). But he's very comfy and roomy, and definitely powerful enough to pull our home around the country.

It was finally time to go pick up our Airstream.

Journey to Kentucky & back

We planned to keep the Airstream at Joey's sister's place in Wilmington until we were ready to hit the road – his family has a separate garage and yard behind the house where we could park it, plus full hookups, so it was a perfect setup!

Our pickup date was Sunday, October 17 (my birthday!) so early on Saturday, we set off in Tex with Hollie in the backseat and did the 12-hour drive in one day: through North Carolina and the Smokies, into Tennessee, past the Nashville skyline at night, and up to Paducah, almost at the Illinois border. We crashed at a hotel and got up bright and early to pick up the Airstream.

It was a beautiful, cool, sunny morning as we drove through the countryside to the owner's manufacturing business yard, where he kept it parked.

There she is!
Hollie helping with the hitching process

The Airstream was beautiful. There were so many windows letting the morning sunlight in – it was so bright inside. It was clean and seemed to be in great shape. There were a couple minor dings and things to fix here and there – hinges loose on cabinets, etc – but nothing crazy that we could see. We worked with the owner's assistant to turn on the breakers and all the lights, open the windows, pull out the awning, etc. And when the owner arrived, we signed the paperwork. It was ours.

Then started the long process of preparing to tow it back home. Joey has towing experience with boats, but neither of us had pulled something like this before. (I had zero towing experience, so he was going to do all the driving this time).

Joey got a WeighSafe hitch, which is one of the best weight distributing hitches for towing. It was a whole process setting it up for the first time, so I left to get some things we needed and food for the drive. Finally, around 2pm, we hit the road!

Speaking for Joey, it was surprisingly smooth towing the Airstream. It was nerve-wracking for most of that first day's drive, as expected, but the hitch was solid. We didn't really feel it swaying or moving at all back there. You just had to pay attention on tight turns, and we couldn't go super fast because the tires were older (we planned to replace them), but other than that, it was pretty easy.

I was relieved – I half expected some major towing disaster on the way home.

But we were going only as far as Knoxville and then spending the night at a campground. The next day would be the real test, going through the mountains.

Quick side note: near our campground was a Buc-ee's, a gas station/rest stop we'd heard a lot of hype about. So we decided to stop there to check it out and grab dinner before going to the campsite.

BEST DECISION EVER! Buc-ee's deserves all the hype. First of all, the parking lot is massive and very RV-friendly. Second, the inside of Buc-ees is awesome. There's a whole gift shop, tons of snacks, amazingly nice restrooms, and food that's way better than any other gas station food. There's a whole BBQ station in the middle where you can buy chopped brisket sandwiches and more, which we did for dinner. There's also a fudge counter and beef jerky counter. It's crazy.

In the Buc-ee's parking lot

Anyway, we pulled into the campground after dark and left early, so didn't get to see much of it, but it was nice and quiet. We plugged into the electric hook-up and ate our BBQ sandwiches at the table, enjoying our first dinner in the RV.

But then we discovered a problem: our furnace wasn't working.

It was cold outside, and supposed to get into the 20s overnight. We could get the heat pump to turn on, which runs on electricity but it only works when it's above 40 degrees. But the thermostat wasn't displaying an option for "furnace" and we couldn't figure out how to make it work, even though we had propane. We called the original owner's inspection guy, and he tried to walk us through some different options, but no luck.

So we bundled up and wore warm clothes to bed, and woke up freezing. It was 27 degrees outside. We left super early, partially because we had a long drive ahead of us, but mostly to get in the heat of the truck as quickly as possible. So it was a memorable first night in the Airstream. First thing added to the fix-it list – welcome to RV ownership life!

The rest of the drive ended up taking about 14 hours with stops. It was a long day – but we successfully made it through the steep mountain passes (with gorgeous fall colors), through a lot of traffic near Charlotte, and eventually across the bridge to Wilmington. After dark, we pulled into the backyard that would be the Airstream's home for the next six months or so. We'd made it!

The beautiful azaleas in the backyard in Wilmington

Transition to full-time RV living

After we got back, we stayed in Wilmington for another week for Joey's sister's wedding, living in the Airstream. We went back to visit a couple more times before our Raleigh lease was up on March 1 – learning about the trailer, planning how to organize it, and making lists of things we needed.

But mostly, we spent the next four months A) doing final prep and celebrations leading up to the wedding, then B) getting married, going on our honeymoon, downsizing all our belongings, and moving out of our house. We sold almost all of our furniture and took countless boxes of stuff to Goodwill. All the things we cared about but couldn't take with us (all our books, record player & records, etc) we gave to our families to store until we got back – but it felt good to get rid of so much stuff.

We spent time with our friends in Raleigh, who I already miss a lot, and went to all our favorite restaurants one more time. It was starting to feel very real and bittersweet, saying goodbye to the city I'd lived in for almost five years (and almost 10 for Joey!)

The last weekend in February 2023, we moved out of our Raleigh house, drove to Wilmington, and moved into the Airstream. Full time RV life had begun!

The first few months

The plan was to live in Wilmington until mid-May for a transition period, which has honestly been perfect. We had the chance to get our stuff set up and organized, buy all the supplies we needed, and really learn the ins & outs of the Airstream – without adding the pressure of being on the road right away.

Among the things we got done: fixed the furnace and a leak in one of our water pipes, got new tires, bought a cover for the truck bed, washed the Airstream, and set up a robust internet system for working on the road.

Joey's family was right there if we needed anything, which has been a HUGE help – can't thank them enough for letting us live in a trailer in their backyard lol! It's been so fun getting to see them almost every day, sharing meals, hanging out, and watching hockey playoffs together – and using their laundry machine. :) We definitely had a pretty sweet and comfortable setup there, which I'm sure we'll miss at times.

Surprisingly, it hasn't been a super difficult adjustment going from a house to the Airstream. The truck and all our storage spaces inside are full, and we had to get creative with organizing some areas, but we have plenty of space for everything we need. Working at the same time in a smaller space is fine, we just have to coordinate whenever we're on calls at the same time. It made us realize that we really don't need a ton of space to live. I'm sure we'll be ready to go back to a house when the time comes, but for now, it feels perfect.

There were also a few things in North Carolina we had planned before we could officially start our travels: Joey's cousin's wedding in Virginia, a few days in Beaufort with my family, and of course, MerleFest!

MerleFest is a folk & bluegrass music festival in Wilkesboro, NC, that we visit every year. Joey and I actually got engaged when tent camping there – so it was fitting that it was our first official camping trip with the Airstream too.

It was the perfect year to be upgraded from tent to RV. It rained almost the entire time, and everything was wet and muddy. We were in a no-hookup spot, but it didn't matter much since the campground had bathrooms we could use, and we were at the festival most of the weekend anyway.

Our campsite at MerleFest

Another side note – that RV behind us in the photo actually backed into us when they were parking! We were sitting by the back window and watched them do it. Luckily there was no major damage, just a few dings on the bumper, but we couldn't believe it. They were RV newbies like us (it was a rental) but much worse at parking. Oh well.

Despite the rain and mud and mishaps, MerleFest was super fun. We got to finally show my parents the Airstream since they watched Hollie for us, and parked it in their driveway to stay for a couple nights.

I could write a lot more about everything we did and the fun times we've had with family the past few months, but this blog is already way too long and detailed. But I'm grateful for all of their help and support in this transition time as we prepared to hit the road full time. It's comforting to know that when we're ready to come back, or if anything happens on the road, we always have a great home base. ❤️

The view out our bedroom window in Wilmington

What's next?

Currently, we're on the road to West Virginia! We're staying for about a week at a campground in Fayetteville, just down the road from New River Gorge National Park. We have to work, but planning to squeeze in some good hiking and sunset views in the evenings. After that, we're headed to northwest Ohio to stay with my grandparents for a bit, and then up into Michigan and the Great Lakes!

After that, who knows? We don't have a super defined route planned beyond the next month. The general idea was to go up north for the summer, and then head west. There's a lot of places we want to see, and we definitely won't see them all this year, but that's okay. This year, we're planning on being gone from now until mid-November, and then come back to North Carolina for the holidays before hopefully setting out again.

Not sure how long we'll end up doing this – as long as we want to! The nice thing is that we can move pretty much as often as we want. We want to see the Pacific Northwest, drive down Highway 1 in California, explore the southwest desert (but not in summer), go to the big national parks, maybe venture up into Canada... the list goes on. Mostly, we're just excited to check out a bunch of new places and sights, and have some new and interesting experiences. And if we get tired of traveling, we can always find a longer-term campsite and stay for a month or two, or come back home for a while.

Although there's no guarantees, once we're ready to stop doing this, we'll probably settle back down in North Carolina – it's home.

We're committed to updating this blog throughout the journey, so if you're interested, feel free to follow along! We'll share writings, photos, and maybe some videos about where we're going, what we're doing, and some RV or travel tips we pick up along the way. If you want, you can click "subscribe" at the top and put your email in to get updates whenever a new blog is posted.

I'm impressed if you made it this far. Thanks for reading my ramblings and reflections about the past year. :) From me, Joey, & Hollie, see ya next time!