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Travel Nurse, Student/SAHM and 2 Kids in Their Renovated 5th Wheel

Mike is a travel nurse and Katie is a stay-at-home-mom doing online college (she already has a Bachelors’) from their amazing fifth wheel renovation! They went with an older camper to save money, and then spent 6 months gutting it and making it a true home for their family of four. All in all, they spent about $5,000 on the renovation portion.

They have two kids, ages 3 and 2, who share an epic bunkroom over the fifth wheel portion of the RV. While the family first set out thinking they’d move every 3 months, they later decided to spent a year in Florida closer to family in order to have more support. Still, they can take their home anywhere jobs or life take them!

The RV life has allowed them to get close to paying down debt, and they hope to start saving for a homestead. Being on the road allows them to get a feel for just where they might want to settle down. We got to interview Katie about their tiny adventure, so be sure to read that after the photo tour!

Follow the family on Instagram here.

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Homestead-Hunting in their Fifth Wheel Conversion

Gorgeous grey with sage green accents throughout.

A comfortable couch and bar to eat at.

Love the Santa hat on the water filter, haha!

This RV has all the major appliances minus a dishwasher.

How gorgeous is this wall?

Steps up to the kids’ gooseneck bedroom.

Plenty of room for toys and clothing.

The bookshelf area is perfect!

How awesome is this bunkbed set up?

Parents’ room looking magical with twinkle lights.

There’s even plenty of closet storage!

Their bathroom has a good-sized shower and skylight.

The sign LOL!!!

What are your name(s)?

Mike, Katie, Miles and Nora

How many people (and animals) are living in your RV?

Two adults, two kids (3 and 2) and one dog (an Aussie doodle named Layla)

How long have you lived tiny?

16 months (August of 2019)

What do you do for work? Or do you travel full-time?

My husband is a travel nurse, we pick up contracts wherever we want to go for as long as the contracts are. I stay home with the kids and am going back to school online to earn my degree in Environmental Science.

What are you hoping to get out of living tiny?

We live tiny because we enjoy living minimally and want to travel to find out where we eventually want to settle down and start a homestead.

What inspired you to choose an RV (rather than say a tiny house or a bus)?

We knew we wanted to travel but we also knew we were going to be staying at RV parks so we needed an RVIA certified camper in order to stay in RV parks and resorts. We also knew we wanted to pull our home behind a truck and fifth wheels have the most stability for pulling down the road.

Do you travel full-time?

We started off with the intention of moving about every three months, but after our first three months 2,400 miles away from any family and being new to the adjustment to tiny living with a two year old and a one year old, we decided to go spend a year near my parents in Florida. We are just now coming up on that year and are choosing to wait here through winter before we begin to travel more again. Between COVID and the cold weather, we figured it best to hang tight a few more months.

How did you acquire your RV? Did you do a lot of renovations?

We searched a few websites, mainly RVtrader.com to figure out what style RV we wanted and what the best layout would be for our family. We knew we wanted to buy older so we could spend less money on the rig and more money on the renovations we wanted to do to make it feel like home. We purchased our fifth wheel from Camping World and put about $5,000 worth of renovations into it. We basically stripped it down to nothing and created a tiny home.

What are bills/utilities like compared to before?

This is kind of tricky to answer as we now have a truck payment that’s equivalent to half a mortgage payment. Depending on the RV park we are staying at, some places we find ourselves saving a lot of our income whereas other places we are spending more on the site monthly because of the location.

How did you find a place to “park” your home? Or do you travel?

When we are looking at places for next contract options, we search campgrounds within a half hour of the hospital my husband will work at. We are picky about reading other reviews and quality of sites. Since we also have a larger dog, we need a dog friendly park with a dog run.

Before going tiny, what was life like?

We lived in Michigan and I was done dealing with the cold. Mike worked at a hospital and I was home with the kids. We knew there was more to life and we wanted to travel. I wanted to raise the kids to have an appreciation for the world and the best way to do that would be to live in an RV and travel as they grow.

Is there anything from your old life that you miss?

Because our kids are so young, they can’t really go outside by themselves to play. We say it at least once a week that we miss having a fenced in backyard. I also miss having a yard for gardening.

What benefits are you experiencing after going tiny?

Without all the materialistic items that is so typical to accrue when living in a house, there is a freedom that comes from having less stuff. We are starting to see the financial freedom living tiny is offering us, we will be out of debt soon and be able to start saving to buy a house in the future.

What about some challenges?

Tiny living means not a lot of indoor space. On days when kids are rowdy or it’s raining, that little space feels overwhelmingly small.

What makes your tiny home special?

My husband and I put in a lot of work over six months to renovate it and make it ours. Our dining room table folds up to reveal a keyboard, which we play regularly. I also hand painted a wall of hemlock trees fading into mist. There is a lot of creativity and thought that went into every aspect of our home.

What is your favorite part of your tiny home?

This is a really hard question to answer! There is so much I love about our tiny home! I love a lot of interior aspects simply because of how functional we made them, but I also love the simplicity of hitching our house up to our truck and taking it with us wherever we go.

What helpful advice would you give to others interested in going tiny?

Take it slow, give yourself grace to learn what it looks and feels like for you. If you come across a problem, there is a solution on YouTube because someone else had the problem also.

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Our big thanks to Katie for sharing! 🙏

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.
{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Diana
    December 25, 2020, 4:42 pm

    This is a lovely place. Good job. Would someone tell me how you get rv walls to look like this? Do you replace them or paint them? And if you paint them is there a special paint to use?

    • James D.
      December 25, 2020, 7:36 pm

      There are plenty of online tutorials on how to paint the walls of an RV, which are usually a Composite Plywood with vinyl tape, etc, but you can also tack on wall panels (beadboard is a popular example), use trim, use faux material stickons, and even good old wallpaper. Along with combinations, like that art deco pattern green wall in the kids bunk bed room is a combination of trim and paint to create that pattern, and you can create many different designs that way… You can even create your own wall panels and stick them on for a less permanent change that you can swap out or use stick on wallpaper, stick on tiles, etc.

      Cheapest option is a renovation, which is mainly cosmetic as it focuses on surface details that only has to look the way you want it to and is a great way to change the appearance of things you otherwise could not change significantly, like an apartment or rental property you don’t actually own, for example… Or anything you don’t trust making significant changes to without causing problems like leaks, weakening the structure, etc.

      While a remodel is when you do significant changes and effect the structure up to completely changing it and is where you run into much higher costs, and if you’re doing it to a traditional structure on a foundation then you can run into things like needing permits, etc. for additional complexity and costs. Though, that usually isn’t an issue with anything on wheels but costs can still add up and the required skill level keeps most people from doing an actual remodel… Especially, as anything approaching turning it into an actual Tiny House would require significant changes to the trailer chassis, which requires advance welding skills as a tiny house would be a lot heavier and have different load pattern than what the RV trailer chassis was originally engineered to handle…

      Anyway, you can check their Instagram page, where they have a couple of photos of the renovation, with one of their little helpers helping to paint a wall with a paint roller…

  • John
    December 27, 2020, 2:21 pm

    totally deceiving exterior, doesn’t look like you’d find anything special on the inside. That is luxury living on the inside.

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