If you ask Kathleen and Dennis Maloney where they live, they like to steal a line from Rachel Hatch: “everywhere and nowhere.” They sold their house, donated 2,400 square feet of stuff, packed the essentials, and now live full time in a 400 square foot RV.
To give you an idea of their downsizing, they went from having 23 full size cabinets in their kitchen to 5 small ones. But Dennis often tells Kathleen that she creates the best meals in this small space.
The couple celebrate their 50th birthdaye wedding anniversary this month. Kathleen was 6 weeks ahead of her 66e birthday when she retired from the fiduciary service of a bank. She says she planned to work until age 70 to maximize her Social Security payment — until Dennis tackled RVing full-time. She had never heard of it before. In fact, it took him almost 2 years to convince her to try it. Now she’s so glad he did.
We spoke with the Maloneys about the five lessons they learned selling everything and hitting the road in an RV.
1. Fix it, then fix it again
Every RV, whether it’s a big diesel pusher or a small traveler, will break down at some point. This is the reality with which the Maloneys accepted.
“We spend most of our days fixing or maintaining the 2005 Class A motorhome we live in,” says Kathleen.
Just like a house and a car, the Maloneys say that something always needs to be fixed, replaced or upgraded on their RV. Fortunately, Dennis was a construction contractor and car enthusiast who brought many of his tools with him.
“He’s my MacGyver and can usually figure out how to do whatever needs to be done. In 5 years, the coach has been in a repair shop only a handful of times.
2. Activities are dictated by where we park
The Maloneys say what they do depends entirely on where they are parked. When camping in a state park or national forest where cell reception is usually non-existent, they hike a trail or ride an e-bike. They often prepare a lunch and have a picnic.
“We like to visit local attractions, including municipal museums, lighthouses and cultural events. We eschew chain restaurants or fast food outlets in favor of ma-and-pa diners, bakeries and cafes. And we’ve really expanded our palates… Crawfish smother, anyone?!”
3. Money, money, money
Living in an RV can be expensive, especially with diesel prices over $5 a gallon.
“We struggled to stay on budget the first two years, but we’re doing much better now. And our financial planner keeps us on track.
They say you also need to budget for repairs and be prepared for unplanned downtime that will cost you money. Sometimes that means when your house needs major repairs or parts, you pack up and stay at the hotel.
4. Being away from family is hard
This lifestyle is not for everyone. Kathleen says it’s hard to uproot your roots and hit the road.
“The lifestyle we’ve chosen isn’t all rosy, though. It’s really hard to be away from the kids and grandkids, so we find excuses to visit often.
The Maloneys have five children and six grandchildren. They are spread all over the country, from Florida to Chicago to Louisiana.
“Being away from family and missing school plays or football games. But everyone adjusts and home visits become much more valuable and appreciated,” says Kathleen.
They are all close and talk to each other every week, even every day.
5. Life on the road is worth it
Despite all the money, repairs and missing family, the Maloneys say life on the road is worth it.
“The places we’ve been, the sights we’ve seen, the people we’ve met and the experiences we’ve had would never have happened if we were sitting in a house watching Wheel of Fortune or play games on the computer all day.
They have visited more than 2,800 places in 5 years. Their favorites include Gettysburg, JFK Library in Boston, Crater Lake in Oregon and Bryce Canyon in Utah.
“It’s a big, beautiful country, and there are so many quaint little towns, bustling towns, unusual landscapes and breathtaking views that we could never see it all. We plan to keep exploring, though. , as long as our health holds!
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