It’s an aspiration for many; working online, living frugally on the road while camping in beautiful, natural environments. But what’s really involved, in “living the dream”? Let’s delve into some key factors of the RV digital nomad lifestyle while focusing on boondocking (camping off-grid).
Choose the Right Profession
Some “work at home” jobs, that require phone time, like customer service, tech support, phone psychic, etc, may not be suitable for RV living. First of all, cellphones are notorious for poor audio quality, as well as for dropping calls.
Also, selling hard goods, such as on eBay, will require storage space in the RV. Likewise, you’ll need to have packing materials, and be close to a post office. If you do choose to sell hard goods, keep the items small and light, and stay close to a post office. You can also research flea markets, and sell goods along your routes.
The best ways to make money, as an RV digital nomad, involve “passive income”. Websites with affiliate and advertising links, publishing books, MP3s and apps; passive income sources that, once set up, go on “auto-pilot”. Also, online consulting and tech work, such as accounting or website design, can work well with the RV digital nomad lifestyle.
Get Enough Data for the Digital Nomad Lifestyle
If you’ve been living like a normal person, in a house, with cable internet, you don’t have a clue regarding how much data you’ve been using. The activities you enjoy most online, like streaming videos and downloading music, consume more digital data than you know.
Here are some examples:
SD quality video in 480px uses about 700MB per hour.
HD quality video uses about 0.9GB for 720px, 1.5GB for 1080px and 3GB for 2K video per hour.
UHD quality video uses huge amounts of data. Streaming 4K video uses more than 7GB per hour!
A GB of data equals 1,000 MBs, and 1 MB equals 1,000 KBs. As you can see, if you only have an inexpensive 5 GB data plan, it can burn up fast. Consequently, if you choose an inexpensive mobile data plan, you may run out of GBs long before the end of the billing cycle. If you plan to work online, remember, data for work comes before data for fun.
Consistent 4G Coverage is a Must
If you live in a city, you take good cell coverage for granted. Also, cities have an abundance of free WiFi, at places like McDonald’s and Starbucks. However, if your goal is to boondock, you’ll be on your own, when it comes to cell coverage. As a result, it’s important to choose a cell carrier, with good 4G coverage in rural areas. Many fulltime RVers, traveling in the west, choose either Verizon or AT&T. Before you sign a 2-year contract with a cell carrier, study their coverage maps carefully. An inexpensive mobile data plan that only works in a city, will ultimately cost you more, if you don’t have any coverage at all, “out in the boonies”.
Examples of Coverage Maps
Please consult the cell carrier websites, for any updated maps. Also, consider the areas you plan to travel, when choosing a cell carrier. FYI, many serious RV digital nomads have two carriers, typically Verizon and AT&T, to better maintain consistent coverage.
Travel With Your Cell Coverage
Compare where you want to travel, with your cell carrier’s coverage map. (Go to your carrier’s website, for more detailed maps. Don’t depend on the above examples.) No coverage doesn’t mean you can’t travel there, but you may have to limit your stay. So, if your goal is working online, while on the road, choose the roads that get 4G coverage.
Likewise, travel with old fashioned, paper maps; you can make notes on the map, of the areas that had good cell coverage. Also, take note of businesses with free WiFi. Keeping a paper journal, of your best areas, with GPS coordinates, is a good idea. It’s also wise to travel with a GPS unit, rather than depend solely on smartphone apps for navigation.
Invest in a Cell Booster
While not cheap, a cell booster can make the difference, in areas with weak coverage. Cell boosters can range in price from less than $200, to more than $500. Keep in mind, this is equipment that could be a tax deduction, if you’re running a small business from your RV.
Timing Your Work Hours
Mobile data can be slow, during peak hours, when lots of people are also on the network. Typically, if your work involves uploading videos, photos, music, etc, the best time for these activities is early in the morning, or later at night. Of course, if you’re running on solar power, you need to be mindful of draining your batteries, when the sun is not up. Consequently, you may have to adjust your online work hours to align both with low network use hours, and the rhythm of the sun.
With a few simple adjustments in how you work and use the internet, the RV digital nomad lifestyle is achievable. An economical life of on the road adventure can be yours, with careful planning and forethought.