Worst Case Scenario

Well-meaning friends and family members have often asked us “What if…” questions while we were preparing for our trip.

  • What if the RV breaks down?
  • What if the RV breaks down and you can’t afford to fix it?
  • What if you run out of money?
  • What if Ashley gets pregnant? (this one seemed to come up a lot)
  • What if you get sick?
  • What if Ashley gets pregnant and has morning sickness while you’re driving?
  • What if you don’t like RVing?
  • What if you get tired of traveling?

While some of these struck us as humorous (morning sickness?) they were all valid questions and ones that we had taken into consideration when planning (well, maybe not the morning sickness one).

The 4 Hour Work Week includes an exercise called fear-setting. You define your absolute worse-case scenario and then work backward from there to figure out how you’d return to a comfortable position – to your current state. We followed this process while answering questions like those posed above.

Starting Point

Here’s what our life looked like, what we were leaving behind: We both had full-time jobs (nurse and computer guy) that provided a comfortable income. We were renting an apartment, had two cars and a couple of motorcycles. We had no debt. However, that’s more than we needed – we have happily and comfortably lived in a smaller place with less stuff and only a single vehicle (or just bicycles, if we were close enough to work).

So for us to return to our “status quo” means that we need a decent paying job or two, an apartment, and a couple of bicycles or maybe a car.

Tragedy has befallen

Our worse-case scenario means that some sort of accident has taken place and everything is destroyed. (Maybe we forgot to set the parking break and the RV has rolled off a cliff into a canyon. Perhaps the three bears move in and we just leave it to them. Or it was stolen/pillaged/burned while we’re off backpacking somewhere.) We’re all that’s left.

In that case we call the credit card company to send us replacements so that we can buy plane tickets home and live with one of our parents/siblings/friends until we can get a place of our own. Or we ask family/friends to buy us tickets. (Or we just use our savings and insurance to outfit another RV and continue along our journey.)

We get jobs – there are always places looking for nurses and IT professionals (or, heck, I can flip burgers, make pizza, or mow yards).

In less than a year we will have our own place, a new vehicle, and more stuff than we need.

Actually, the absolute worse case means that we’re in a wreck of some sort and all of the above happens, but also with injuries of some sort. In that case, the same things applies, but with the required waiting period for the physical healing to take place.

Broken RVs

One of the frequent concerns was about the RV breaking down. It is built on a vehicle, after all. In that case we will either pay to get it fixed and continue on our way or, if it is too expensive for us to fix immediately, we will simply stop and work.

It is our house, after all. We will find somewhere to park for a longer time, pay to be towed there (and that’s part of what the insurance is for) and then find jobs and live there until we have saved up enough to get the necessary repairs done. Then we’ll mosey along our way.

Broke and Penniless 

“How can you afford this?” always seems to be the question on everyone’s mind. What if you are traveling along, having a good old time, and run out of money?

Fortunately, there are a number of things that we can do to ensure this never happens. First of all, we can slow down. Slower is cheaper. Driving less saves gas, our biggest expense. Staying in one place longer gives us the option of long-term price breaks. So as our checking account dwindles we can plan ahead and stretch it out further.

We never planned on continuing along indefinitely without some sort of income. This could mean some sort of online business that we build. Or we could, and this is part of the plan either way, find jobs along the way. There is a whole field of jobs that are targeted toward RV full-timers. Campground hosts, harvest laborors, tourist guides, seasonal retail employees, and more. Some provide a free parking place and utilities while others offer some pretty decent pay.

Working along the way will not only provide us with some additional income but will also let us explore some positions that we’d have never taken at home when we were working full time. I want to learn to be a bicycle mechanic and think it would be fun to work at a vineyard during harvest (once). Ashley wants to learn to be a coffee barista. It’s hard to justify working at these jobs that paid less than our prior incomes, or to take away our free time to learn these hobbies. Now, though, they can serve the double purpose of offering both money and skill building.

Adding a third

“What if Ashley gets pregnant?” We’re not entirely sure why this was such a popular question. 7 years into our marriage and we’ve stayed a couple thus far. None-the-less, we know it’s a possibility. And, we know that parenting changes your lives.

If Ashley gets pregnant, we will…. continue on. More slowly, with longer pauses, and perhaps a bit less hiking. We would probably establish a home-base somewhere for a bit, circling around doctors so that Ashley and baby could receive the care and checkups they require. And we’d have to get our car out of storage and exchange it for the motorcycle.

However, this is our home. As an RV, it sleeps 6. I think we can find space for a peanut somewhere. We would remodel and add a space for the baby. And I’ve seen bassinets – they don’t have to take up that much room. Until a kiddo gets a few years into this living thing they don’t take up that much room. It’s their gadgets that require space. Those will have to be limited.

As a kid I loved being outdoors, exploring new places, learning new things. How lucky a kid we would have who got to do that as a way of life.
And, regarding the morning sickness? I guess if Ashley was feeling bad while I was going down the road, I’d stop, offer to make her some tea and, once she felt better, keep on going. We can travel later or earlier in the day.

A similar answer applies for sickness. When one of us gets sick we’ll do the same thing we did at our various apartments – take care of each other. We’ll probably stay stationary for a bit, or drive shorter distances. There would likely be less hiking. But, ultimately, it would just be a story along the journey.

Wrong choices!

Oh no! What if we don’t like living in an RV, or don’t like traveling as much as we anticipate. (Neither of which are true thus far. Quite the opposite, in fact. We love it more as we go along.)
Financially speaking, if we live in our RV (whether parked or moving) for 2 years, we will have broken even. Basically, we paid 25 months worth of rent at our last apartment to buy our RV (and rent was about to go up). So if we don’t like it but can stick it out for two years and then just decide to walk away from it, we’ve broken even. If we sold it then, it could be considered pure profit. Of course, that doesn’t take into account utilities, which are lower in the RV, so we can accelerate the financial savings. And at the end of 2 years, we’d have a great story to tell.

But, since we love our home and can’t imagine selling it, let’s say that we ended up not liking traveling as much as we expected. We were fairly certain, considering that we’d already visited about 1/3 of the states and lived out of the country at least once, that we would love traveling. But maybe we would grow tired of it.

In that case, the answer is simple. If we grow tired of traveling, we will stop! Vehicles, including RVs, come with parking brakes. We could buy a plot of land, rent a long-term camp site, or move in next to family/friends on a piece of property. Just because it can move doesn’t mean that it has to. And one of the purposes of our journey is to find where we want to live next.

Easing worries

Tim’s point with the Fear-Setting exercise is to show that our worst-case scenarios often aren’t as bad as we expect. Fear itself is fear inducing. By thinking through possible outcomes we empower ourselves to work through them.
We’re aware that things could go wrong on this trip, that wrenches could be tossed into our plans. More importantly, we know that we have options and that we can work through whatever might come up.

Though it might look like this adventure was hastily undertaken, there were actually years of research and dreaming that lead up to it. We know it’s possible and, based on our dreams, desires, and experiences, that it would be an excellent fit for us. So far that’s proven to be the case, we’re loving it more every day. Knowing what our worst case scenarios are and having a plan prepared for how to deal with them eases our worries and lets us focus on the here and now, enjoying our current adventures.