First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes living full-time in a travel trailer. At least, that’s how it went for Andrea Hixson and her husband, Tyler. The two married and the next day moved into a travel trailer to live full-time.
Not only that, they also documented their first year of marriage and full-time RV living in the travel documentary, “Newly Nomads,” available to stream for free on YouTube. Having watched the documentary, I had plenty of questions for Andrea and she was kind enough to answer each and every one of them below:
Did either of you have much (any) experience RVing or camping extensively before deciding to live full time in your RV?
We had never even set foot inside an RV before we decided to live in one! We are self-starters by nature, and we love to take our learning into our own hands. So, we researched as much as we could from books, blogs, and YouTube videos before we set out on the road. We also have a habit of diving into big life changes headfirst. Tyler likes to say that we’re scrappy, and we definitely operate on the belief that we can figure anything out if we set our minds to it.
You mention in “Newly Nomads” that you were waffling between getting a home mortgage or getting a travel trailer. You obviously went with the travel trailer. What was the final nudge that pushed you in that direction?
Like most people our age, we were ready to be done paying rent and start making an investment with our living situation. We were traveling a ton for work (about twice a month in the busy times), and we already weren’t able to spend as much time at home as we wanted to, while at the same time being exhausted by travels that only involved work and didn’t actually let us explore the new places we were going.
But, not knowing what else to do, we pursued a mortgage and buying a home, even putting in an offer on a house in Colorado. Luckily, our offer was rejected, and at that moment, we had the chance to evaluate what we wanted to do. I remember we were sitting in our apartment, talking about how difficult it was to find a house that fit our budget in Colorado, and Tyler goes, “Do you think getting a mortgage is the right idea?” I thought, well, what else would we do?
And then Tyler floated the idea of living in an RV, and I actually got so upset and fearful at the mere idea of it that I wouldn’t even let him talk about it for two days! I think I was afraid of pivoting to go all-in on a lifestyle that was so foreign, but even still, the truth is that the idea excited me from the beginning. So when I was ready, we talked it over, and we discovered that we could actually save money by combining our home and travel expenses and that this lifestyle could also give us the balance of home life and travel adventures that we were looking for. I think we realized that we were in the opportune moment to make a lifestyle change, and I’m so glad that we were able to slow down enough to make the right decision for us.
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How did you decide on a travel trailer as your “home on wheels?”
When deciding what we wanted to buy, we considered every RV option. One of the biggest considerations for us was Tyler’s motorcycle – we really didn’t want to give that up! The truck and trailer combination allowed us to put the motorcycle right in the bed of the truck, which works really well for us. Tyler and I looked at some toy haulers as well, but we didn’t want to cut down on kitchen space or end up with a super long rig, and the toy hauler fifth wheels seemed to be double the price of comparative travel trailers.
We also decided right away that we wanted our engine to be separate from our home. We had heard so many horror stories about RV repairs taking a really long time, so we wanted to be able to be home even if there were major engine repairs necessary on our truck. So, we found our East to West Silver Lake in our ideal length of 35 feet with a massive island kitchen for all of our home-cooked meals that we love so much. Now that we are working with East to West, I think we are going to have the opportunity to try out lots of different types of RVs, and we’re excited to see how those compare with our expectations!
Not only were you living full-time in an RV for the first time, you were also newlyweds and filming your experience? How was that? Did you feel any pressure or nerves from that situation?
Absolutely. And to top it off, this was my first documentary film project, so I had a lot to learn along the way! I actually ended up cutting all of my interview clips from the first month that we were on the road. It was really stressful to get my bearings in this new lifestyle with this massive project going on at the same time, and I came across as pretty nervous and intimidated in some of those early clips.
I also didn’t know where our lives were going when I recorded them, and the clips didn’t end up fitting the story anyway. Tyler and I had a lot to get used to in this new lifestyle, but he was always amazing support for me in times where I was stressed or confused. Even though we were newlyweds, we had already been together for six years at that point and had been through a lot together, so our relationship was solid even if our lifestyle was evolving.
Early in “Newly Nomads,” you both get rid of all your possessions that won’t fit in your travel trailer or weren’t practical for RV life. What was the hardest thing you had to let go of?
The hardest thing to let go of was all of our books! We both love to read (especially Tyler), and we had built up a pretty nice-sized library of our favorites. To fit into the RV, we ended up paring down nearly 200 books to just 20! Since then, our Kindle library has grown massively, and that’s where all of our new books go. We had also made these massive, beautiful wall-hangings of maps of all of our hikes and motorcycle rides in Colorado, and we were sad to see those go. We ended up giving those to our friends, which made them much easier to part with.
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Luckily, we were at the point in our life where we hadn’t yet invested in large pieces of furniture or anything like that, so it wasn’t too hard to say goodbye to most of our belongings. All in all, we really loved the experience of getting rid of our stuff, and we could feel ourselves getting lighter and freer with each thing we got rid of. We have really embraced the minimalist lifestyle and have found that we feel less burdened by the things we own now. From spending less money on buying things to spending less time worrying about the upkeep on things we didn’t need, we can see a lot more freedom after downsizing.
What was the biggest learning curve you experienced full-time RVing?
I think the biggest learning curve for us was just learning how to add traveling into our life. You don’t really think about how much time traveling is going to take, from researching where you want to go and what you want to do there, to finding hikes, grocery stores, and anything else you need, calling different RV parks for reservations, and of course actually packing up, driving, and unpacking – and to do that every few weeks!
It’s a whole new job that we added into our life. In the documentary, I talk about how we’ve become better travelers after six months on the road, and now after a year and a half, I think we are finally starting to have a handle on it. It’s still difficult to manage our travel schedule around fun and work, and sometimes we end up driving across the country or in directions that don’t make sense, moving the RV with an exhausting frequency, or waiting around in one area longer than we expected. But as we learn what to expect and our clients learn what to expect from us, it gets easier to balance work and play, and the more we travel, the better we get at knowing what to look for in the places we go, and the quicker we get at packing up and setting up the RV!
What’s your favorite place you’ve been to during your time on the road?
My favorite place from our first year was our boondocking spot in Moab, but White Sands National Park and Seattle are really close behind. Since the completion of “Newly Nomads,” I’ve really enjoyed the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, the Great Smoky Mountains, and the Grand Canyon. Tyler’s favorite place was and still is Tucson. That being said, I don’t think there is a place that either of us wouldn’t be happy to visit again!
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What new destination are you most eager to visit?
I don’t know why, but after boondocking in Montana, I am obsessed with that state, and I would love to see Glacier National Park. Tyler is pretty much happy to go wherever something exciting is going on, or of course back to Tucson!
During the documentary, you attempt (and succeed at) boondocking. What are some helpful tips you could give to any campers considering dry camping or boondocking?
I love this topic so much that we actually just wrote a blog post on it! Boondocking can seem really overwhelming, especially if you’re not looking to make it your lifestyle. When we first wanted to boondock, every blog and article we turned to only considered boondocking as a lifestyle. They were full of mathematical equations to calculate power usage, complicated installations, and expensive equipment we would need to invest in if we wanted to live fully off the grid.
But, we discovered that you really don’t need any of that stuff to boondock the way we do! We love to boondock the way you would go on a camping trip: take a weekend, get off-grid, and use minimal power and water. This way we don’t have to buy any expensive equipment, and we can just take a couple of days away from work to really disappear into the wilderness. If that description fits what someone is looking for in their boondocking experience, they can check out our recent blog post for more tips.
During your first year on the road full time, the Covid pandemic hit. You touch on it in the doc, but how did that feel, being on the road? Was there any point where you thought you might need to pack it in and go home?
It was definitely scary at first. We heard a lot of stories about people being turned away from RV parks and not having anywhere to stay. At that point, we hadn’t even attempted to boondock yet, so it felt like there was a possibility that we could get stranded. We didn’t have a home to go to anymore, but we are lucky to have supportive families, so we knew in a disaster scenario, we could put the RV in storage and move in with parents if we ever needed to. All things considered, we decided to hike it over to Arizona where things were less densely populated and our favorite RV park was still open, and we just hunkered down and kept to ourselves for a while.
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How’s Mose doing? Side note: what made you choose a guinea pig for a pet?
Mose is doing great these days! He’s slowing down a little with age, but he still loves spending an afternoon in the grass and getting a good cuddle. I grew up with a ton of different pets because both of my parents are veterinarians, and the guinea pigs were always my favorite. They are just about the cuddliest pets you can get and are pretty much always happy to be held. Plus they make some of the cutest noises when they are happy!
We got Mose five years ago when he was just a baby, long before we even thought about living in an RV. It was a tough decision whether the RV life was going to be a good option for Mose, but we ultimately decided to go ahead with it, and he seems to be happy with this lifestyle. We’ve done the math, and at this point, he has explored outside and eaten the grass in 14 different states!
Aside from the two of you and Mose, your portable pizza oven gets the most screen time. Where did you find it and what led you two to be regular from-scratch pizza makers?
Hah! Yes, we always joke that Ooni should sponsor us because we love that pizza oven! It’s the Ooni wood pellet oven. Tyler is a pizza connoisseur, and he got fed up trying to make a home oven pizza that rivals a wood-fired pizza. Since we knew RV ovens were so small, we decided to invest in the Ooni pizza oven that breaks down to fit in our pass-thru so we would have a way to make some really good pizzas on the road. Tyler’s pizza recipe is fantastic and worth the investment in the pizza oven – sourdough pizza crust and a homemade sauce in a wood-fired oven? I definitely don’t regret the purchase that makes that meal available to me!
When the documentary ends, viewers see you two move into a new travel trailer. How does it compare to your old trailer and what have you both been up to since then?
We love the new East to West Alta! There are a lot of similarities between our Alta and our Silver Lake, including the similar floor plans with the island and more counter space, which is big for our cooking needs. We’ve been really pleased with the construction and design of both of our RVs, and we are really enjoying some of the upgrades in the Alta: the extra insulation from the laminate construction and new fancy amenities like the residential-size refrigerator and the TV that hides in the countertop.
Since the documentary, we have been working with East to West RV to show off some of their different RVs and talk about the RV lifestyle through our blog, vlog, and podcast as the Wild Hixsons. It’s been fun to have a different outlet to share some more of the how-to behind our life. Our marketing company, Marketing TEA is also going strong and sending us all over the country for our film shoots.
Tyler is pursuing his passions of jiu-jitsu and archery, and he is still having incredible conversations with the people we meet on our travels on his podcast, Strangers Worth Meeting. I’m taking a little break between large-scale creative projects, and I’m enjoying sinking some more of my time and creativity into Wild Hixsons, Marketing TEA, and giving Mose lots of cuddles!