Curt & Kate
Part-Time van life on a
full-time rental income

We recently started a new blog series where we interview various full-time travelers, sharing how they earn money and travel. Our goal is to help inspire and educate others on the various ways to work remotely while living a nomadic lifestyle. If you’re new to our blog, we have been full time RVing for over two years. We support ourselves by investing in real estate; specifically in mortgage notes.

Today’s interview is with Curt and Kate from The Go Go Gallaghers. They story is a little bit different from our normal guest in our make money and travel series because they aren’t full-time RV’ers. Instead, they choose to explore the country from their van part time. They both work remotely and earn income in a super unique way – real estate vacation rentals. Let’s dive into their story and get to know more about Curt, Kate, and their sweet pups a little more and see how they are able to earn money and travel.

Tell us your story! What made you want to take the leap to full time rving? 

We started talking about building a Skoolie back in 2016. We were following multiple accounts on Instagram and YouTube learning everything we could about the process. It sounded fascinating and like so much fun! We were living in Seattle at the time and experiencing one of their worst winters on record, which caused us to do a lot of daydreaming and talking about traveling and being somewhere we could enjoy the weather and the outdoors more. We shopped for a bus for over a year but kept striking out. We decided to change gears and started looking at RVs instead; we bought our 40″ class A rig in March of 2018.
We were absolutely sure we needed a 40′ RV because of our two senior dogs. So that’s all we shopped for. After we found our first rig, we spent the summer of 2018 taking weekend trips in the RV. Then took a longer two-month road trip from August to October 2018 to get a feel for life on the road. We came back to Colorado for the next two months and then left in December for a 4-month snowboarding road trip. We’ve now been home two months in Colorado and in July, we will leave for three months. We are full time about 3/4 of the time.

what was your journey into rving like? 

We were both totally in agreement on wanting to RV but really only envisioned doing so if we took time off from our careers. So, for a few years before we bought our RV we really got our finances in order to have the ability to quit our jobs if we wanted to while we traveled. However, last summer both of our companies talked us into keeping our jobs for now and working while traveling. Since we were both already working from home, and had been for quite a while, it wasn’t a big gap for our companies to consider letting us work remotely in that way.
The downside was that both of our jobs required us to be on the phone almost all day. I had to camp out in our bedroom since it had a door, while he sat at the dinette, but it was not convenient at all. I was managing marketing proposals for an environmental consulting firm and my husband was managing an IT team in the real estate banking technology sector. I was working on west coast time and my husband was on east coast time, which meant from 6am-2pm, we couldn’t go anywhere because I could not drive the RV, only my husband. I worked until 5 or 6 pm which also made it difficult to drive because being inside the RV while it was moving was pretty loud. So we only drove at night, never got to see anything because we arrived in new places in the dark, didn’t make any tourist or sightseeing stops…it was not at all what I envisioned for full-time RV life. 

Thankfully, after that experience, we were both on the same page about not wanting to work on the RV, at least at this stage, and we prepared financially to do so. It was a difficult experience to actually quit because we both had great jobs and liked our employers, and we each walked away from 6-figure incomes, but we are lucky in that our companies have maintained relationships with us and are hoping we come back. But for now…life is short and we didn’t want to wait for retirement to travel.

Tell us about your RV (or your first rv if you have a different one now)

Just a few weeks ago, we bought a 2017 Winnebago Travato K. It’s a 21′ RAM ProMaster built van with kitchen, wet bath, a flex bed setup and solar on the roof. We had decided on our winter road trip that the 40″ RV was way too big for us (especially towing a Jeep) so we started researching something smaller for us to travel in. I assumed a 24-25′ RV would be as small as we could go. But we went to a sales lot and sat in the 21, 24 and 25′ rigs. I was sold on the Travato right away, even though I knew the huge reduction in storage would be a painful adjustment. We had a full sized closet, numerous drawers for clothing and a ridiculous amount of kitchen storage, and we used every bit of it. 
I can say after a dozen nights in the van, I am enjoying the easy parking and driving way more than I am missing the storage of our old rig! We have boondocked the majority of our nights in the van so far, and the freedom in not having to plan every single night far in advance has felt amazing. We almost always needed to park at RV parks with our old rig because a 40′ RV can’t just pull up anywhere. Now we’re spending more time on beautiful, free BLM land. We really miss our king size bed when traveling, and our new van has two twin beds that combine in the center to make a near king. It was a huge selling point to us as the not-quite-queens on our old rig and the other RV models we looked at were not ideal for us plus our two bed-hogging dogs. We can’t wait to get back on the road full time in Sir Earl the Grey! We never named our RV…

How are you able earn money and travel?

We are able to financial support our lifestyle without currently working full time for other employers due to our two rental properties. We have a house in Breckenridge, Colorado that we rent out year-round. We built it ourselves almost 10 years ago, so we don’t have a mortgage. Since it rented out all summer and winter right away, it became a cashflow property pretty quickly. Over the last few years, it has grossed almost six figures. We had talked off and on about quitting our jobs and traveling while living off that passive income even before the idea of RVing ever came up. But we hated leaving our aging dogs at home when we fly to other places, so the idea to travel with them in the U.S. came to the forefront. 

We also do short-term rentals on our primary residence while we are on the road. We live in a destination skiing area so tourism is big, especially in the winter. We have many other friends who also make income from short-term rentals in their primary or secondary homes all over the country. Renting out your home anywhere, but especially in the resort area of Summit County, Colorado, can be quite lucrative if you manage it effectively. In addition, we have some other income earning investments that pay us monthly, quarterly, annually or after a real estate sale. It all contributes to approximating our previous full-time salaries as much as possible.

While our Breck house makes significant income, almost as much as what one of us made in our full-time jobs, our condo just covers its expenses so far. It’s much smaller, older and not as close to the ski mountains and it’s a brand new rental, not established, so it is taking time to build up.

What is needed to get started in your line of business, owning vacation rentals?

My husband has had a real estate background since he graduated from college. He has worked in title, as a realtor, and then on the technology side with lenders and financing. He also grew up learning how to remodel and flip houses so when we started renovating rooms soon after getting married, and then larger projects at home and then actually building our own home together. So, it was not a huge stretch for him. However, we know people who make money on Airbnb that never had any real estate experience to speak of. The margins really depend on location and desirability of the rental.

What does a typical “day in the office” look like?

Managing short term rentals (on VRBO and Airbnb which we use, or many other sites) is definitely worth it, but can be extremely time consuming. We have our two properties on two sites each, and they do not link calendars. We get inquiries and bookings, and in between those we get questions all the time about things like availability, details on the house and specific location, and other accommodations info. These are usually over email but occasionally potential or current guests will need to get on the phone to solve an issue. 

This does require that we always have some cell signal, as things always pop up. It can be an issue when finding boondocking spots, as we can’t always be as remote as we’d like to. Our county just implemented new regulations that require a response to a short-term rental issue in a very short amount of time, so we need to have service so we can respond to even the most minor of emergencies.
So many things can go wrong…we’ve had toilets clog, hot water and heat go out, smoke alarms go off, lightbulbs burn out, cars get stuck on the snowy roads, renters lost their house keys, garage opener stopped opening, couldn’t figure out the wifi/Netflix/DVD player, snow blocked the satellite dish…on and on. So not only do we have a very flexible and available house cleaner, we need to have a roster of people we can call in an emergency for all of these random tasks (plumber, electrician, snow shoveler, etc.).
Also, renting out our properties is a big reason we aren’t on the road the full 12 months of the year. We have been coming home during “mud season” or the slow season here – spring and fall, April/May and Oct/Nov – to be able to do maintenance on our homes and prepare them for the busiest two seasons – winter and summer. Since we don’t use a property management company (which can take up to 30-40% of the profits), being home for a month or two at a time allows us to fix odds and ends around the houses, touch up paint, change lightbulbs, circulate linens, change out seasonal decor, shop for all of the items needed for our respective rentals (soap, detergent, dryer sheets, toilet paper, and on and on…

What has been your favorite part of traveling or rv life? 

We love having our dogs with us everywhere we go. It was a big driver behind RV travel and it has worked out so well for all of us. Even in the smaller van, our dogs each have their favorite spots to relax when we’re driving or parked and hanging out. They are comfy on our big bed at night, just like we are. Even though our dogs are 11 and 12 years old, and a lot less energetic than they used to be, they love exploring new places…and they love napping on the van too. Walking them always gives us a great opportunity to get exercise and see new spots on foot.

We went through Moab twice last year – in June and October – and it’s probably at the top of our list. In June, we stayed at an RV park so we could plug in and have AC for our dogs since it was so hot. We biked, went into town and enjoyed the pool and hot tub at the RV park (one of our favorite perks). 

In the fall, we boondocked and enjoyed more biking, hiking, star gazing, fire-pits and meeting other off-grid neighbors. We did two sunset hikes inside Arches National Park, from two different approaches to Delicate Arch. Both were incredible, awe inspiring experiences. We plan to go back and play more in the river on our paddle boards next time! There are so many parks and sites to explore all around the Moab area, and the desert scenery is mystical to say the least.

How do you save money while rving?

We are both pretty frugal by nature. We love to cook. We also love to explore new towns and eat out, and especially visit breweries, cider houses, distilleries, pizza places and smokehouses…but we are just as happy to make dinner and stay in. We love to boondock and not pay for FHU when we can. This was not practical during the winter as much, but in the summer and fall, we plan to camp in all sorts of remote (and free) spots. 
We are also Elks members which means we can park in lodges all over the country for typically $10, $15 or $20 per night (often with FHU). Not only is the parking cheap, but the lodges are all unique and almost always offer dinner and drinks for a bargain. We are huge proponents of the Elks and while we may be some of the younger members, we always have great conversation at every lodge we visit. It’s non religious, non political and very philanthropic, also providing volunteer opportunities for people traveling across the county. One of our favorite lodges was in downtown Napa, California, on their riverwalk, where we paid $20 for full RV park amenities and an amazing chef in the lodge kitchen.

what is one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t be afraid of real estate or investing! Working while traveling take many different forms and don’t rule out supplementing your income passively in addition to your current job (or even in place of it). There are many ways to educate yourself on investing and you can find classes and workshops all over the country or online passive income streams can take some of the pressure off the need to work full time and they are accessible to anyone. (Like Liz’s Note Investing Academy which teaches you how to earn passive income through real estate mortgage notes). I’d also recommend to start saving money aggressively in the highest income earning account you can find, like a money market (we use Capital One 360, formerly ING Orange) or a CD (shop around at credit unions first, which usually have higher rates). Divert money from every paycheck into it, no matter how small, and don’t ever stop! It adds up fast if you stay consistent.

how can our readers get in touch with you?

You can find us on Instagram under @gogogallaghers 🙂

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Liz & Dennis

Liz & Dennis

ESRV Team

We’re two travel-loving, real estate investing, foodies exploring North America as full-time RV’ers. This blog is where we share our lessons learned, tips and tricks, and favorite places to eat, see, and RV across North America! We hope it helps you find your wanderlust, plan and prepare for RV life, and get out on the road!

 

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