DMT Beauty Transformation: A Week In An RV Across The U.S. On A $110,466 Salary
featured Khareem Sudlow

A Week In An RV Across The U.S. On A $110,466 Salary

April 22, 2020DMT Beauty

#DMTBeautySpot #beauty

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

Today: a remote executive assistant who makes $110,466 a year and spends some of her money this week on an electric kettle.

Editor’s Note: This is a follow-up diary for the Money Diary entitled “A Week In An RV On A $96,400 Salary.” You’ll want to read that first, here

We asked the diarist a few questions about how her life has changed over the last few months.

Why did you originally decide to move into an RV?

My family was never financially able to go on any vacations growing up, so my first real experience with travel was when I was a flight attendant. I got bit by the travel bug hard and essentially lived out of a suitcase for four years. When I left the airline industry, I constantly felt an urge to be somewhere, anywhere, different. One day I jumped in a car and just drove. I ended up driving through seven states in four days and felt freer than I had ever been. I researched tiny houses, thinking I could try towing one of those, but ended up falling for an RV instead. I met a wonderful man who was along for the ride. One of the greatest opportunities we have as humans is the chance to live outside our norms and explore.

What first motivated you to live a more sustainable lifestyle?

We were huge consumers before moving into the RV and now it is more convenient to live a sustainable lifestyle than not! We buy less and more intentionally because we don’t have the space not to. We eat locally and seasonally because we want to experience the world around us. We conserve water and electricity because it’s a scarce resource for us. We have learned that there is a definite line between what you want to survive and what you need to survive. We can live a comfortable life without all the comforts. If you make it the only option, it becomes an easy option.

How has your life been impacted by the current state of the world/COVID-19?

We are incredibly lucky that we have found places to stay that are open. They’re saying 40% of the U.S. campgrounds are closed. Those of us living on the road are lumped in with the casual traveler and it is making the situation more dangerous. Most of us want to stay where we are for now, but for a lot that is just not possible. Some towns have completely closed to outsiders, most boondocking spots have a 14-day limit, and with campgrounds closed, people are forced to travel far and wide to find a place to park. We changed our plans so that we are staying in one place for the summer/fall, which is a far cry from our moving every two weeks/month. In some ways we are lucky — we are already set for a world lived remotely. There is no learning curve or new tech to buy as we have already lived like this for so long.

Do you have any plans to change your current lifestyle?

Once the epidemic subsides, we will head back on the road. At first, we wanted to travel to find a place to settle down, but we love being on the road so much and experiencing new things, I don’t see us stopping anytime soon. We are looking at upgrading our solar and battery bank (right now, it can’t run our fridge so it’s going off of propane) and combining our grey/black water tanks for bigger capacity. Our RV is an old gal and is slightly Frankenstein’d together, and there are a lot of “quality of life” projects we are working on, but even off-the-lot RVs have issues, so as long as we already know what problems she has, we can plan accordingly.

Occupation: Remote Executive Assistant/Operations Manager
Industry: Nonprofit
Age: 32
Location: An RV across the U.S.
Salary: $110,466.84
Net Worth: No idea.
Debt: $11,500
Paycheck Amount (total for the month; biweekly paycheck for my full time and once a month payments from my clients): $6,895
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $0 – $600 (My husband and I live in an RV and travel around the U.S. We switch between boondocking and staying at RV parks. We try to keep our total monthly housing costs under $600.)
Loans: $250 (We traded in our old motorcycle and got a new one that would handle mountains easier.)
Netflix: $14
Disney+: $7 (we got it for The Incredible Dr. Pol and now are just watching it for cartoon nostalgia)
Nintendo Switch Online: $5
Spotify: $15
Phones: $150 ($40 of this is paid by work)
RV & Motorcycle Insurance: $220
Unlimited Wi-Fi Hotspots (Verizon/Sprint/AT&T): $140 ($80/month paid by work)
Amazon Prime: $119 annually
Health Insurance: $0 (paid for by work)
403(b): $250
Savings for Contractor Taxes: $1,000
Personal Savings: $1,500
PO Box: $199 annually

Day One

5:30 a.m. — I turn off my alarm (set for 6, so not the worst) and start my day the same way I have for the past week. I check what’s going on in Animal Crossing. How is it that I’m going outside more in a video game than in real life? I water my (digital) flowers, pick my (digital) fruit, fish for (digital) fish, and muse at how damn good I am at doing mundane things in a game that you would have to drag me to do in real life. How did they make it so interesting to be so normal??

6 a.m. — I get up and start the packing checklist. We are down to probably 45 minutes from starting to put everything away to hitting the road. It’s supposed to get pretty windy this morning and some days it feels like we have a giant sail attached to the side of our RV, so it’s safer if we head out ASAP. I take my early Monday client call check-in as my husband, S., finishes up battening down the hatches. I take kitty #1 out for a quick walk after my call, we pull up the jack stands, and start off. Only a seven-hour drive day today, so it’s easy street.

8 a.m. — My anxiety is at an 11 as S. takes us to our next destination. I hate that we have to go anywhere right now and would feel so much safer if we could stay in one place, but RV parks are shutting down left and right. Some states do not consider them essential services, even though some people live in them full time, so a lot of fellow nomads are being displaced. Some are going back “home,” but we don’t have a home to go back to. We cannot extend our stay at the place we are at (they have to go down to half capacity to be in compliance, so everyone not there all year is out at the end of the month), so it is on to our next destination. Even though our next destination is open as of this morning, if we drive all day and get there and they are shut down, I don’t know where we will go.

11 a.m. — We stop and fill up at a Pilot. This will be my first time being at a store in almost three weeks. I throw on some disposable gloves, fill up the tank, and head into the store. S. has done all the shopping for a few weeks now as it’s really a one-person job, and this is my first time seeing how different it has gotten. People are walking around each other cautiously like eighth-graders at their first dance, and when someone sneezes I actually see people wince. I grab some road snacks and salads for lunch, respectfully keep my distance, thank the cashier for being there today, throw the gloves in the garbage next to the pump, and we head back on the road. $128

1:30 p.m. — The cell reception has been strong enough that I’ve been able to work on projects and check emails during the ride, but S. calls my attention to our scenery. We’ve had nothing but sand and brush for a few months now, and coming into Nevada I’m shocked by how mountainous it is. I grew up in the backwoods of the midwest, so I’m always in awe of any sort of elevation. I never thought I’d have a reaction to landscapes, but I’m genuinely excited to see mountains again.

2:30 p.m. — We pass over the Hoover Dam (making note to stop here next time we come through the state as it also looks stunning) and drive through Las Vegas. I look down at kitty #2, who has been chilling on my lap almost the whole ride. S. and I marvel at the fact that our cat has been to Vegas. It’s just a weird sentence. Sometimes we forget that they are also adventuring with us. Most cats are content to just exist, and ours are no exceptions, but they get to exist in some pretty wild places.

4 p.m. — We crawl our way up what we hope is the final mountain of this drive, and come into a valley surrounded by mountains on all sides. The RV park is easy enough to find as it is right on the outskirts of town, and this is one of the few that actually looks like its photos online! The office is closed to the public, so our check-in information is right by the door. We find our site number and park. It takes us about an hour to get settled in, and we are exhausted.

6 p.m. — Normally our “holy shit we made it” dinner is tacos, which is easy enough for a kitchen klutz like me to make, but S. hasn’t seen taco shells or tortillas in the stores for a few weeks, so we decide to order in. We call a local Chinese restaurant. $66

8 p.m. — Super tired from being on the road all day yesterday and all day today, I crawl into bed after checking my email for any last-minute emergencies (of which there are none). I cross my fingers I don’t wake up ridiculously early. Changing time zones is hard for me to acclimate to.

Daily Total: $194

Day Two

5 a.m. — No such luck. I wake up to the sound of rain and check the forecast for the day. Rain on and off all week means we are not going to get any sort of fill in our solar bank, so we are going to need to plug into shore power. We recently upgraded our capacity and are looking at adding even more solar panels, but what we have right now works as long as we don’t have crappy weather. Like the Animal Crossing addict I am, I check my town before crawling out of bed. I feel like crap, so I change from my night pajamas to my day pajamas and have some oatmeal and fruit and hop on my laptop to knock out that inbox.

11 a.m. — S. and I do some speed tests. We have hotspots for AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint so that we are connected no matter where we are. Shocking the both of us, the dark horse that is Sprint is the winner. I have a few scheduled Zoom calls while S. makes us lunch.

2 p.m. — Kitty #1 is sitting by the door and looking at me like I owe her money, so I close my laptop and strap her into her harness. It’s stopped raining long enough for us to go on our walk. She leads the way as I finally take the time to look around at where we have landed. We are backed up to open land as far as you can see, and surrounded by mountains. It looks fake, like a Bob Ross painting. I wonder if the people who live around here full time still look at the area and think “damn, this is cool.”

2:45 p.m. — I make it back to the RV and S. tells me we need to order a new Arlo security camera. We had a horrible experience last week where Google led us astray down a one-way dirt road that we almost got stuck on, and after assessing the damage, S. found the bumps knocked off one of our security cameras. We are lucky that we are here for a month because with current shipping speeds, any less of a stay we couldn’t guarantee the package would arrive before we left. $160

4 p.m. — Meetings done and emails responded to, S. and I go for a walk before he starts up the grill for dinner. The park is full and it’s clear that most people here know each other already. They’re going about as if nothing has changed. We hear the sound of people on the tennis courts and people laughing around grills and the pool. We can only shake our heads and keep our distance.

6 p.m. — Our dinner routine is normally as follows: S. makes something delicious and I contribute by setting up the projector screen. It’s much safer for everyone involved if I’m not the one cooking. We watch an episode of Portrait Artist of the Year with dinner, weirded out that once again the UK has given us a TV show on a topic that should not be nearly as interesting as it is. We finished the Great British Bake Off last year and Great Pottery Throw Down this year, so I guess watching an hour of people painting folks sitting was the next obvious choice. If our campsite has a picnic table we try to eat outside, but our site here is pretty sparse.

9 p.m. — We transition into a Buffy marathon before another early night. I vow to stay up to a normal time tomorrow, but I give in for tonight.

Daily Total: $160

Day Three

6 a.m. — Kitty #1 and #2 don’t believe in time zone changes and want pets. Somehow S. is always able to sleep through them walking all over his body, but I wake right up. Rain is back at it, so I check the battery levels before plugging in. Animal Crossing and toast before I hop on to look at job sites. My client load hasn’t changed with the pandemic, but a lot of my friends have lost many, if not all, clients. It’s a lot less draining to look at job sites when you’re not the one applying and I know what my friends are looking for. I spend an hour or so hunting and sending application links to friends before going to work for my own clients.

8 a.m. — I get a notification that there are three new cases in the small town we are in. I start getting anxious and pull the trigger on buying masks. They won’t come for a few weeks, but it’s not like we are going anywhere. S. keeps his motorcycle helmet on when going in stores, so he’s about as covered as one can be. $30

11 a.m. — S. makes us lunch and remarks that our fridge is starting to look a little bare. We have plenty of MREs and freeze-dried food (I didn’t watch all those zombie movies for nothing!), but we are out of fresh fruit and veggies. He decides he will go shopping in a few days, as we want to settle in a bit more and get the lay of the land. We really relied on being able to hop to the grocery store whenever we wanted when we lived in a big city, and while weekly grocery runs have been our M.O. since hitting the road, it’s been weird that even those have been sparse. We haven’t seen toilet paper or cleaning supplies in at least three weeks. We haven’t found an RV community we fit into yet, so if we get stuck without something we have to figure out a solution ourselves. S. still has faith that it will all be okay, and he knows what stores are like, so I believe him when he says we are fine.

4 p.m. — Cat walk. We see another person walking a dog from far away and we do the uncomfortable stranger wave to each other. As someone who has been introverted and awkward my whole life, acknowledging strangers from far away with a tiny hint of fear is something I have a degree in.

6 p.m. — S. and I team up and bag up/replenish the composting toilet. We’ve had it since the beginning, and I’m still not used to it. There are some parts of going green that are easy to transition to, but this part hasn’t been my favorite experience. I check our water levels and batteries, and S. makes dinner and picks the movie. Since we can’t go anywhere, our nights have mainly been watching movies. Tonight is Merlin. I don’t remember it being so long, and the special effects don’t hold up, but I have great memories of watching it as a kid.

10 p.m. — S. and I crawl into bed with the kitties and watch another episode of Tiger King. We did not expect the show to be as much of a wild ride as it has been, but it’s like a train wreck you cannot look away from. We say goodnight to all the cool cats and kittens and call it for the evening.

Daily Total: $30

Day Four

7 a.m. — Finally, a more reasonable time. I make some oatmeal and cuddle up with kitty #1 and watch unlikely animal friendship videos on YouTube before calling into some early morning client calls. I spend more time than I should finding the perfect Zoom background (the Parks & Rec office). I do a quick sweep of the job boards, send anything relevant to friends, and clean out my inbox.

12 p.m. — The day’s meetings go by painstakingly slow and I’m caught up with everything by lunchtime. Kitty #1 gives me Pixar eyes and we go for our walk early. It’s sunny and warm, so she takes more breaks in the shade than normal. I do stretches and squats while she chills. Some people are taking online classes or learning new skills during the pandemic — I’m trying to build up stamina to learn a routine from the 1988 Crystal Light National Aerobic Championship with S. I’ve had to do a lot of “Two Truths and a Lie” team builders at various jobs, and I figure that is one that will throw people for a loop. Too specific to be fake, too weird to be true.

1 p.m. — S. starts his Twitch stream, so I bring my laptop to the bedroom and get to work. I read a few articles about more states restricting both travel and campgrounds and start thinking we need a Plan B for our Plan B. In May, we are supposed to work our way up through Oregon and eventually Washington, but some cities in the state have made it illegal to even park on your own land. We can’t get stuck in a state that we can’t get out of if need be.

4 p.m. — S. finishes his stream and we go for another walk into the wilderness. There are round cacti with purple-ish curved spikes that I’ve never seen before. It’s always an eye-opener to feel like you’re in an alien world in your own country. S. makes dinner and I hop on the computer for my weekly gaming session with two of my friends. We chat about the status of our lives in our different states and I break the news that we may not be able to all meet up in Washington. They are both understanding and decide that if things calm down we will all meet up wherever I am. While this lifestyle has required S. and I to be more flexible, it has also forced our plans with friends to be flexible as well.

11 p.m. — Our session ends without a winner and we log off with plans to play the same time next week. We watch another episode of Tiger King and then fall asleep.

Daily Total: $0

Day Five

6 a.m. — I wake up early because one of my clients needs to meet in the morning for their time zone. I check Slack and see that she has messaged me that she needs to push the meeting. Awesome. I make an omelette and check Animal Crossing.

9 a.m. — Pushed meeting finally happens and there is nothing actionable on my end. S. wakes up and hops on the motorcycle to go grocery shopping. He returns with only a fraction of the things on the grocery list. He decided against going to Walmart after seeing the line outside, so what we have is what we have. He did, however, find toilet paper. One pack is all we need and we are set for a while. $25

12 p.m. — I take a break from projects to do laundry. We’ve got a small hand washer, but I’m busy today and the park doesn’t allow clotheslines, so I throw a load in the park laundry room. It’s one of the more reasonably priced ones. $5

2 p.m. — Kitty #1 discovers that lizards live in bushes on today’s walk. We meet up with another resident on the trail and she takes a photo of the kitty.

6 p.m. — Dinner and more Buffy. S. and I talk about changing our plans. I research our options, and we settle on going back over to Colorado instead of continuing up the west coast. Colorado is my favorite state, we have friends there if an emergency happens, and if we get stuck there for the summer/fall, it will be easy to head down south for the winter without putting too many miles on the RV. Part of me is incredibly disappointed. I’d researched and planned our route this year for years, and I’ve always wanted to visit Oregon and Washington. I know that the states will still be there after all is said and done, but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing in the moment. I give myself a few minutes to have a silent pity party and then look into what parks are still open in CO.

9 p.m. — We settle on the couch with the cats and quite possibly the last bag of Cool Ranch Doritos in the state as we turn on the projector to watch Quest for Camelot and Happily Ever After. I was really into non-Disney animated movies as a kid so this is nostalgia city. S. fidgets with his hair, which has grown to Rufio proportions. I offer to try and cut it, but he brings up that I have had breakup bangs in the past, and trying to do haircuts during a stressful time is the last thing he wants. He’s not wrong on either count. We stay up way too late relaxing with the cats before turning in.

Daily Total: $30

Day Six

7 a.m. — Even though it’s the weekend, S. actually wakes up around the same time as me. He’s feeling panicky about the weak grocery run yesterday, so he heads out to be the first in the door. Kitty #1 and I enjoy another few hours of watching garbage TV in bed before I get up and then move to the couch to watch garbage TV. Somehow it feels like I’ve accomplished more with my day if I’m on the couch.

9 a.m. — S. returns with a motorcycle full of groceries. I make breakfast of bacon and broccoli omelettes and we re-listen to 2020’s Eurovision entries. Eurovision is the one event I looked forward to all year and when it was canceled I decided our friend group would still hold the competition online amongst ourselves last week. We spent four hours all together online watching the music videos and doing what we do best, giving brutal and completely unqualified judgments. We crowned Iceland the winner (a throwback style nerdy song about love was just what the group was looking for), though Norway was the favorite of my heart. $130

12 p.m. — I take kitty #1 for her walk while S. cleans the chains of our pedal bikes. We see someone walking their dog, and they feel the need to say that while they liked that I walked my cat, their cat died here last year. I have no idea how to respond to that, so I say sorry for their loss. We both stand there trying to decide if the conversation should continue, and after a few beats I wish them a good day and kitty #1 continues her hunt for lizards. Maybe I’m getting out of practice in how to talk to people that aren’t my husband or coworkers.

2 p.m. — I can’t get the Eurovision songs out of my head, so I hop on their website to see if they have released the compilation album yet. I see a t-shirt that I like that ISN’T a boring black t-shirt (it’s a boring GREY t-shirt), so I order it and get it shipped to our PO box. No guarantee it would get here from Europe before we leave, so it’s safer to just send it to our forwarding address. $37

4 p.m. — A few months ago, I started getting into cross-stitch. I like doing non-traditional phrases in a traditional background, so I work on finishing a flowery “Get your f*cking shit together” pattern. I’m getting faster at it and I’m not bored, so I call it a win. And my mom thought I’d never learn a home economics skill.

6 p.m. — It starts raining again (seriously, where is all this rain coming from??) and grilling is out of the question, so S. makes dinner inside and we continue our Buffy marathon. After dinner, we download two video games we had previously purchased and spend the rest of the night gaming to the sound of a downpour.

Daily Total: $167

Day Seven

8 a.m. — Sweet sleeping in, how I’ve missed you. I kiss S. and give the kitties some morning cuddles, then make breakfast. Biscuits in a toaster oven aren’t always consistent, but they turn out just fine, as do the eggs. S. and I talk about our work plans for the week (he’s going to record some podcasts and my busy days for calls this week are Tuesday and Thursday). Since we really only have one room that’s not the bathroom or bedroom, we have to coordinate who is going to get the stronger internet connection and who is going to work in the living room. My job always takes priority (it pays the bills), but I try to be as accommodating as possible and work elsewhere if he’s going to stream or record. It’s been harder without a coffee shop to go to, but it’s become a lot more socially acceptable to take calls from a bedroom recently so I’m taking full advantage of that.

10 a.m. — We do some cleaning and I mention we should really go through our stuff and get rid of things we are no longer using (spoiler alert: we don’t do that). You have to be very intentional in what you have when living in an RV, but it doesn’t make it easier to get rid of things. It’s just easier to justify NOT getting something. S. makes a compelling argument for replacing our stovetop kettle (we don’t have a hot water heater, so this is how we do the dishes) with an electric one, so we research ones on Amazon and settle for a more expensive but efficient one. $50

12 p.m. — Kitty #1 scratches at the door to go out for a walk, so I strap her in her harness and we go outside for about five minutes before she decides it’s too hot and she’s done. So much for that.

1 p.m. — I finish my sandwich and kitty #1 has amnesia and scratches at the door to go out for a walk. Even though it’s hotter outside, she has decided that she wants to sit in the shade outside under a bush. While that’s great for her, it’s not a two-person shade spot, so I sit on the rocks and I roast as she chills. After a half an hour that feels like fve hours, I scoop her up and we go back to the RV.

2 p.m. — It’s too hot out to go biking, so S. and I decide we will go for a ride in the evening. I call my parents and see how they are doing. No news is good news. After the call, S. sets up the projector and plays the Playstation while I play my new game on my laptop. I’ve waited eight years for this game to come out, and so far it’s worth the wait.

5 p.m. — It’s gotten significantly cooler out, so we put on our bike helmets and pedal down the road. It’s been a while since we’ve gotten on the bikes, and like an idiot, I am overly confident in how far I can go. As we crest a hill we see the reason for the drop in temp — ANOTHER storm rolling in. On the way back, my knees are screaming and I regret going this far, regret starting the bike ride, regret ever getting a bike in the first place WHAT WAS I THINKING YOU OVERZEALOUS BANANA. And suddenly I see our RV and I zone out until we are back inside. The pain quickly goes away, but I know tomorrow is not going to be a biking day.

7 p.m. — We make it back just in time for it to start raining. This is not the weather I thought I was signing up for with Nevada — someone needs to change the advertising. S. makes dinner and we watch Guns Akimbo. I find it super weird and not my type of movie at all, but S. doesn’t like stopping movies after we start them so I snuggle in and close my eyes and before I know it the movie is over.

9 p.m. — After my movie nap I can’t stay awake, which makes this bedtime. I set my alarm for 6:45 for a 7 a.m. client call, S. tucks me in and kitty #1 settles in on my chest. I apologize to future me for how sore I’m going to be tomorrow as I quickly fall back asleep.

Daily Total: $50

COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.

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