(Just so you know, there may be some affiliate links in this post, but we only recommend items that we believe in and think will benefit you on your travels.)
1. Tell us about yourself and sum up your travels for us.
We are Heath & Alyssa Padgett and since our wedding day in May of 2014, we’ve been traveling North America full-time in an RV.
When we were engaged, we came up with the crazy idea of visiting all fifty states during our honeymoon. Heath was working in software sales and I had just quit my job at a nonprofit to move back to Texas to be with Heath. We knew we didn’t like the jobs we were doing and that we wanted to do something on our own, we just didn’t know what.
Heath came up with the idea to working a job in every state, finding a sponsor company to support his mission, and I filmed the whole adventure as part of a documentary, Hourly America.
Even after visiting all 50 states, we knew there was so much more in America to explore. We’ve been RVing for nearly four years now and really love the lifestyle. It’s given us so much freedom.
2. How have you funded your travels?
Heath and I currently run three businesses on the road: Campground Booking (Heath’s software company), Padgett Creative (our production company), and our personal brand of Heath & Alyssa. But when we started traveling back in 2014, we only had one source of income, the small sponsorship that funded filming our documentary, and a little savings. We ate up a good chunk of savings during that first year on the road.
During our second year on the road after we finished filming, we focused more on building a lasting business and paying off our student debt. We started consulting with a friend who was publishing a book with Random House. We helped plan his book tour, launch his first course, and market his book. We had zero experience doing any of those things, but we were eager to learn (lots of reading blogs and watching Youtube videos there) and it was our first taste of freelance work.
From there we built the film and consulting side of our business where we’ve helped various entrepreneurs build, film, and market their online courses. It wasn’t at all what we expected to do on the road, but it was easy to find clients and we were good at it. Looking back, we were severely undercharging, but it was an amazing learning experience. (We charged one client $1,400 for three months of consulting, a week-long film shoot, and two dozen edited videos. That’s insanely cheap!) But with each client, we streamlined processes, got smarter, and raised our prices as we learned what we were worth.
As that business started to actually provide steady income for us, we were able to focus more time on our blog. From before we ever started traveling, Heath and I both wanted to write books, and blogging is the best way to get there. In 2016, we started seeing traction with blog when we started sharing our journey of building a business while traveling. Heath then launched The RV Entrepreneur Podcast where he interviews nomadic entrepreneurs.
We started to get attention in the RV industry and have partnered with companies like Winnebago, Camping World, Outdoorsy, Going RV (the TV show), and Go RVing (the blog).
As our Heath and Alyssa brand started growing steadily, we focused on ways to monetize our website. Afterall, we were spending hours and hours each week creating content and sharing it for free and since we were still paying student debt, we needed the extra income. We started promoting affiliates (mostly through review posts and sponsorships on the podcast) and Heath launched his first book, and our first product, on our website. We started consistently making a couple hundred dollars a month by the end of the year.
In 2017, I really doubled down on making our website more “professional” with a content calendar, regularly scheduled email newsletters, consistent branding, starting our Youtube channel, etc. This helped us get more traffic, grow our reach, and most of all increased our passive income from the website. We make around $2,500/month consistently from our site now, but it took us a solid three years of work to get here.
We hosted The RV Entrepreneur Summit in February, our first ever in-person event and we sold out of tickets almost instantly. For us this really validating that our niche of talking about building a business while traveling is hitting a real need. We are currently sold out for our next Summit and we’ve doubled in size since last year.
With notable income finally coming in from our blog, we paid off our student debt in September (yay yay yay!) and it’s made the biggest difference, not so much in our wealth but in the stress we felt traveling with debt. Paying off debt while traveling is 100% possible—I mean obviously it is, because that’s exactly what we did—but we always had a little nagging feeling that we were being irresponsible because we were spending so much time traveling and exploring when we had this small mountain of debt to pay off. Now that it’s gone, it’ll be interesting to see if our travel style changes. We are going to New Zealand for the spring and renting an RV for the season!
Oh yes and our third business (yes, we do too many things) is Campground Booking, which is Heath’s software startup. He’s been working with two other full-time RVers on a campground management software that will allow people like you and me to finally be able to book campgrounds online. Most campgrounds you must call to book a site and you can’t see availability or sometimes even rates online. It’s super annoying. Heath is on a mission to fix it and is actually launching with 50 campgrounds next week!
That business hasn’t actually made any money yet, but hopefully should start making money in 2018 with this launch! Moving forward for me in 2018, I’ll continue focusing on our website and personal brand.
3. Tell us about your budget.
We don’t really keep a budget, but we do keep detailed financial records so we know exactly how much we’re spending in different areas. We typically spend anywhere from $2,000-$2,500/month on all our living expenses, including our RV payment, gas, lodging, food, internet, phones, etc.
Before we paid off our student debt (which we did in September), we were pretty strict about controllable expenses like eating out, lodging, and gas. We travel at slower paces when we need to save money or reach out to major campgrounds and ask for free or discounted rates in exchange for videos or posts about their park. That alone saved us thousands this summer.
I keep a running excel sheet (that dates back to May 2014 when we started traveling full-time) that records all our expenses and I look at it every two weeks or so. That way I always have a clear picture of our financial state so I’m never wondering how we’re doing or if there are areas where we need to improve.
4. What have you learned about money since hitting the road?
Travel, specifically full-time travel, is so much cheaper than we ever realized! With RVing, you can save money on gas by traveling shorter distances. You can “boondock” or “moochdock” which are different ways of parking your RV for free. We are actually moochdocking at Heath’s parents’ house all this month for the holidays, which saves us hundreds of dollars in camping fees (plus we get more time with family!).
We’ve also really learned what things are worth spending a good amount of money on. We pay over $300 a month for two iPhones with unlimited Verizon data and an unlimited AT&T plan. It’s pretty pricey, but worth it to always have internet access, which is a HUGE pain point for RVers!
5. What's your top tip for someone trying to figure out how to make long-term travel financially possible?
I think if you have a remote job, or have any work that you can do while traveling, full-time or long-term travel is possible. For us the magic number was always $2,000. If you can make $2K a month at a remote job, you can afford to travel full-time.
Sure, this means that you’ll be working while traveling, but working with a view of the mountains out your window five days a week is better than staying home and only getting to travel one week a year.
6. If someone wanted to follow in your footsteps, are there any online resources you’d recommend?
I would highly recommend my husband’s podcast, The RV Entrepreneur. Each week he posts two episodes: one interview with a full-time traveler who runs their own business while traveling and one “Test Drive” where he dives into more tactical advice for entrepreneurs. He talks to some amazing people who run crazy businesses on the road and it’s a great place to be inspired to travel more.
We also just launched our RV Entrepreneur School where we are releasing free courses based on the questions we get most often from soon-to-be travelers. So far we have three free courses on how to travel cheap, how to downsize before moving into an RV, and how to start a blog.
Follow bloggers like Pat Flynn, Michelle Schroeder, or Ramit Sethi. Those people are probably my favorite for business growth and financial advice, and for helping you get into the mindset that you can make money doing basically anything, even while you’re traveling.
7. What's some of your favorite travel gear that enables you to do what you do?
Blue Yeti Mic
This is the mic Heath has been using for two years to record his podcast.
We’ve used this video production with film clients, but we also use this for vlogging, which we want to do more of in 2018. We only posted a few videos in 2017, but really love it!
Honestly, my husband never takes his out. He’s practically always on the phone or pacing around so they are great for that.
This is the planner I use to stay sane and keep our business on track. I like pen and paper and by far this is the best planner I’ve found for taking notes and staying focused.
8. Where can people follow your travels?
You can follow us as we RV across the world at: