A Millennial's Perspective on the #RVLife Trend

Why younger RVers are really hitting the road.

Lindsay & Dan McKenzie Lindsay & Dan McKenzie  |  10.16.2017

Articles like this one from CNBC about how millennials are changing the RV industry have been buzzing around lately. Hashtags, such as #vanlife, #rvlife and #homeiswhereyouparkit are all the rage on social media. No matter what platform you use, you’ve likely seen a flood of photos of RVers in some of America’s most popular camping spots. Epic shots of RVs under the Milky Way, or parked in places that look as if there’s no one else in sight for miles and miles. Even the New Yorker featured this story, calling van life a “social media movement.” Only time will tell if this trend will continue, or if full-time RVing is just the latest “fad”.

As a young couple in our early 30s traveling full-time in our fifth-wheel, we’re a part of the statistics. Despite the rise of younger RVers, it can be challenging fitting into the RV community. We’ve heard everything from “you’re too young” and “you’re not retired yet, how are you full-timers?” to “how long are you on this trip.” While RV life started out as an escape or an exciting adventure for us, it has quickly become so much more. RVing has truly become a way of life that is much more than just a cool Instagram feed or alternative lifestyle. It has completely transformed the direction of our life. Much like an RV symbolizes freedom, it has allowed us the freedom to explore new passions that we may have never pursued otherwise.

Here’s our millennial perspective on why we’ve chosen a life on the road.

Suburbia wasn’t for us.

We purchased our first home in a suburb of Denver, CO. During this time, the market was on the rise and we couldn’t afford to buy anything remotely close to the city. But, it was the perfect starter home and we pictured ourselves raising a family and building beautiful memories. However, we quickly found ourselves questioning why this was the so-called “American dream.”

Many of our weekends were spent doing dreaded yard work and various household chores. We were far from any of our favorite restaurants, many of our friends, and local events and activities. We felt constrained by our mortgage and were struggling to afford the travel lifestyle we once had as renters. In fact, we started spending money accumulating material things to fill the house that we discovered was more space than we even needed. Yet, we were working hard at our jobs day in and day out to pay for this life that wasn’t bringing us the happiness we expected.

Financially smart.

Like many millennials, we were buried in student loan debt. So, piling on a mortgage felt debilitating. When we sold our house in the suburbs and discovered we could pay off the remaining balance of our student loans with the profit, we were ecstatic. Come to find out though, renting isn’t much less expensive than a mortgage and it’s not exactly the greatest investment either. So, purchasing an RV as our home in cash and being nearly debt free made perfect sense to us. It was the best financial decision we could’ve made and in fact, allowed Lindsay to leave a career she was unhappy in and pursue new business ventures.

In addition to eliminating debt, we’ve been able to lower our cost of living entirely. RV life can be as expensive or inexpensive as you want it to be. With free places to park all around the country, the ability to stay in places for weeks at a time to avoid the cost of gas, and the opportunity to do more free activities in nature, it’s much easier to save money. To top it all off, we’re doing even more of what we love … traveling! It’s a win-win.

Living to the fullest.

Without sounding too cliché and using yet another millennial term like ‘YOLO’ (short for “You Only Live Once”), we’ll just say that RVing full-time has helped us determine what we want out of life. It’s allowed us to get out of the bubble that societal pressures have placed us in. RVing has eliminated the meaningless clutter in our lives and freed up more of our time for more meaningful activities. It has brought us so much joy along with a greater appreciation and healthy perspective towards our country. We’ve gained so much from this lifestyle that we are now committed to giving back. We’ve began to volunteer in the places we’re visiting now, making the lifestyle that much more rewarding.

As you can see, the decision to sell nearly all of our belongings, learn everything about RVs the hard way, leave behind our close-knit families, and take the leap of faith into full-time RV living, was much more than just a “fad” to us. Sure, we participate 100% in the social media and digital craze, after all we are millennials. But, we’re confident that our “entitled,” “lazy” generation is actually on to something. Behind all those YouTube videos and Facebook posts, are people who are going back to basics. The new American dream is full of experiences over wealth, location independence over stability, and living tiny to achieve big dreams and an RV allows just that. For those reasons, we’re definitely in for the long haul.

Read more from Lindsay & Dan McKenzie on their blog, Follow Your Detour.

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  1. Dean May Posted on 12.01.2017

    Great article! I guess I am a “young” baby boomer at 55 despite not really identifying with the Baby Boom Generation. As a college professor that teaches many younger folks and a dad of two young adult daughters, I think Millennials have it right in terms of valuing experience over material accumulation. I admire you! Great job!!!

    Take care.

  2. Lindsay McKenzie Posted on 11.07.2017

    Thanks for all the kind feedback everyone! We enjoyed writing this post SO much and I’m glad that came through! Appreciate all the comments.

  3. Mike Posted on 11.05.2017

    It’s great that you paid down debt, bought your RV for cash, and got Lindsay to a better place. Hitting the road was the right decision for you at this time.

    You swapped a usually appreciating asset — your house — for a usually depreciating asset — your RV. For most American homeowners, their house is their largest source of financial appreciation and a cornerstone of their retirement. That’s not always the case, but it usually is.

    So home ownership might make sense for you at some future point. Either as a residence or an investment property, although the latter is easier if you live nearby. Keep an open mind.

    Enjoy your travels and I hope our paths cross!

  4. Steve Posted on 11.04.2017

    HaHa, yes S uburbia is boring and quickly taught us to center our lives around mobility and experiences in nature rather than routine around a single address. Yes it took some time to adjust to full time RVing but one thing we also discovered is how freeing it is to leave most of the material stuff behind too. Everything we own, we take with us. That’s a new sense of FREEDOM and independence! YOLO!

  5. britt Posted on 11.04.2017

    You captured the phenomenon very well. I also think there is something deeper going on in response to the times where stability is out of whack in America and the future is unclear so – why not live for today?

  6. Liz from The Virtual Campground Posted on 10.23.2017

    Wow! Really well written article. It brings up a great point.

    I saw my mom work hard her whole life. I’m talking literal back breaking work. I also saw it get pulled out from under her during the recession. Now she’s 51, can’t stand straight, and denied disability because of her age…???

    Why would I start my life in a system like this? Like Lindsay and Dan, I’m going back to the basics. I’m valuing my freedom and experiences over anything money can buy or any respect from a 9-5 can give me.

  7. Melanie Posted on 10.18.2017

    Love this article, you guys. I really liked how you compared the average person’s idea of a millennial to what it is some of us really want out of life.

    Thank you for this, and, as always, your pictures are spectacular!