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Why the Hermit Crab Life is Perfect for Millennials

Being a Millennial isn't so bad. Sure, the economy sucks, most of us can’t find jobs with decent pay (if at all), and the Boomers love to blame us for everything. But we’re also a pretty great generation, mainly due to those struggles. Necessity has made us resourceful, open-minded, and focused on friendship and happiness. Ours is the generation of Facebook, Netflix, Zipcar, and rap songs extolling thrift stores. We’ll probably be the generation that saves the environment, if only because we’re too broke to keep trashing it. Homesteading is in, McMansions are out.

Green living as affordable living is nothing new. Poor individuals have been eschewing cars and reusing glass jars for decades. We owe a lot of great innovations to those people, many of whom have been People of Color. Now, as the middle class disappears, more and more of us are being forced to find creative solutions to expensive needs-- particularly housing.

As you’ve likely already figured out, rent can be prohibitively expensive. Even if you can afford a place (usually with roommates), you’re effectively flushing that money down the drain every month. Home ownership is ideal, because you can get a return on your investment, but many of us can’t afford it. And even Millennials who qualify for a mortgage often can’t afford anything else, such as travel (something most of us are obsessed with).

When you look at the Millennial lifestyle and mindset, “hermit crabbing” makes so much sense. After years of living on campus or with roommates, most of us can fit all of our belongings into a room or two. Plus, most of our books, movies, and music are digital now. So why not pack your belongings into an eco-friendly home that can travel with you anywhere, from the beach to that new job?

No, the answer is not “tiny houses,” at least not the kind you’re probably familiar with. Those are fabulous, but I don’t have $40,000+ or excessive handiness to build my own. If you’re in the same boat, the trick is to Google “used RV” instead.

Travel trailers and motorhomes are generally much smaller than park model trailers, and RVs hang out wherever you park them-- most commonly in beautiful campgrounds or RV parks, but sometimes parking lots or the middle of nowhere. They’re also generally pre-furnished, making them a great choice for those of us who have spent our adult lives sleeping in a residence hall or our childhood bed.

Of course, the most exciting aspect is the cost. You can get a decent trailer for as low as $1,500 on Craigslist. If you live remotely close to Louisiana, you can find a nice 2006 FEMA trailer with a full bathroom and kitchen for $2,000-5,000. You’ll probably want to give it a coat of paint, but it’s certainly much less work than building a tiny house from scratch. You’ll get more bang for your buck with a pull-behind trailer than a motorhome, but you have to have a truck/SUV (or a friend with one) to pull your new home somewhere. There are so many types of RVs out there, each with advantages and disadvantages. Do your research and decide which one is best for you!

Once you have your hermit crab “shell,” you’ll need to put it somewhere. A full hookup will run you $300-$500 a month at most RV parks, which usually includes water, sewer, electric, cable, and maybe (if you’re lucky) decent Wi-Fi. Some parks let you work part-time and get free utilities in exchange, but it could work out to less than minimum wage, so do the math before signing up. If you use the campground shower and bathroom facilities, you can often find a place for $150/month for parking and electric. Alternatively, you can toss on some solar panels for a few hundred dollars and then boondock (dry park) for free, driving into town periodically to empty your black water tank and refill on water and food. Most full-timers seem to mix boondocking with campground visits, and there are usually discounts for long-term stays and members of certain clubs.

One big drawback to living in an RV is Wi-Fi, which can be spotty in parks and obviously non-existent while boondocking. Mobile data can be expensive, although obviously not as expensive as normal rent and utilities in an apartment! Also, with a stealthy enough rig, you can park behind a Starbucks or public library for a few hours to get a connection, even if the establishment is closed. I buy enough Starbucks to not feel guilty about doing this, but your mileage may vary.

RV living is not for everyone, but it’s an affordable, environmentally friendly way for Millennials to own homes and travel extensively (or move at a moment’s notice for a new job). For those of us with disabilities and unconventional careers, it can be a miracle option. Best of all, it’s even good for the earth. RV construction is greener than house construction, and lower utility bills also mean lower carbon footprint.

Have you ever considered full-time RV living? Does the idea appeal to you, or would you rather die than live in a trailer? Let me know!

P.S. If you’re curious about RV living or the tiny house movement in general, I hope you’ll come geek out with me on Pinterest!

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