“I Live On My Own In a 26′ Camper.”
I wake up. Not because of an alarm. Not because I successfully completed the five to six 90-minute sleep cycles my 22 year-old body usually needs.
What stirred me from my (probably) mid-cycle sleep was the chilly air nipping away at my toes, despite being snuggled up in bed.
If this were to happen in a house or an apartment, I’d probably freak out:
“Why is the heater not working?!”
“Did I lose circulation somewhere and now my feet are freezing off from a lack of blood flow?!”
But I don’t live in a house. Or an apartment.
I live on my own in a 26-foot long fifth-wheel RV in the far outer suburbs of Austin, Texas. I have since I was 18.
Since there’s no one to handle these situations for me, I curse completely out loud, full breath(none of that under my breath nonsense), throw on a robe and house shoes, and assess everything. It’s 3:17 am and it’s 48° Fahrenheit inside. I grab another quick layer and a hat, and I step outside to swap out the propane tanks.
It’s cold out here. I’d guess it’s around 36°F, if it’s 48° inside. For many, that’s probably not a big deal, but for us in Texas, that is cold.
After a lot of banging around, twisting and untwisting, and shoving cables around in a tiny compartment, I got the empty propane bottle unhooked and placed by the road (for refilling in the morning) and got the second, full tank hooked back up. I only have one cut on my dried cracked hands to show for it.
I go back in, kick on the space heater, eat a snack, and compact myself into a ball of human until my alarm goes off at 5:30 to Guns & Roses’ November Rain.
Is waking up in the middle of the night, freezing cold, in a home with little insulation, only to get warm by throwing tanks around and cutting up my hands an “ideal living situation?”
No, not really, I suppose.
But, it’s my living situation, and I love it.
It has its burdens, inconveniences, full-on problems, and at the end of the day is just different. As a woman in her twenties, though, this is perhaps the most liberating and empowering thing I have ever done, and possibly will do.
The decision to live in an RV came about when I had to decide where to live when it came time to move to Austin for my freshman year of college. I was accepted into the University of Texas, and had the scholarships and savings to pay for the bulk of my tuition; my scholarships, however, couldn’t take on the cost of living in the city. Even the sketchiest of dorms, with their community bathrooms and itty bitty beds, would have cost me around $1000 per month, which I could not afford whatsoever. If I wanted to pursue my dream of getting out of my 2,000-person southeast Texas town, I had to figure it out.
Call it God or Fate or Spirit Guides or whatever, but the spring of my senior year, we found a solution.
It just so happened that at the exact same time I was trying to find a place to live, my dad’s friend’s fiancee was finishing up her time at Austin Community College.
She was living in an RV, paying monthly rent at an RV park.
My dad ran the idea by me, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled by the idea of living like a hippie in the Hill Country.
The rent was cheap ($410 per month, plus $300 on the camper, which my parents paid so that they could just own themselves a camper). It was about 30 minutes from campus, nestled out in the Hill Country, overlooking rocky sunsets and surrounded by distilleries and deer. I was for it.
Of course, it meant no roommates and those “unbreakable bonds” you form gossiping late at night. It meant it was extremely difficult to go downtown to Fourth or Sixth Street. Unless I wanted to crash at someone’s apartment or take a $40 Lyft to and from the bars. It meant not having a maintenance guy on call a few floors down to handle the leaky sink.
It meant I became the maintenance guy on call. I became my own emotional support system. I drank with my own company and enjoyed (well, still enjoy) every minute of it. It meant seeking connections and friendships that were meaningful and wanted, not forced.
Living here has made me tough. It’s made me grateful. And above all I’m free. Free of loud roommates. Obnoxious neighbors beating on the walls. Of repairmen who don’t do their jobs, of lease agreements…
I could literally pick up and move at the drop of a hat.
I’m also not as broke as I otherwise would be.
As much as I love the satisfaction of having this unique story all to myself (I’m an Aries, what can I say), I can’t help but feel a pull to share it.
It’s fun. It’s empowering. It is life-changing.
It is an opportunity to live the life you want.
Following this essay will be a series of essays about all the different facets of RV living, from personal safety, to DIY, to fixing things when they go wrong…
Here’s to chasing freedom, ladies.
This guest post was authored by Hannah Janssen and originally appeared on Medium
Hannah is an Aspiring writer | Fiber Artist | Corgi Mom | Type 8w9 | A Little Yeehaw, but not Yee-Yee, you know? | IG: @helizabeth_09