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Taking Telecommuting To the Next Level - the RV 365

An anonymous reader writes "I have been telecommuting as a software architect for a major corporation since 2007. It has allowed me to live a quality rural lifestyle. Never content, am now considering living on the road for several years. Due to the proliferation of 4G and wireless hotspots, I see no reason I could not do this from a 5th-wheel trailer. Have any slashdotters truly cut the cord in this manner? Any advice or warnings?"
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Taking Telecommuting To the Next Level - the RV

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  • Service quality (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 03, 2012 @08:10AM (#41212181)

    In Romania (and probably the EU), we have a law that forces all ISPs to publish service quality parameters (such as average complaint resolving time). Make sure you check them if there are any in the US, to help you decide which provider you pick.

  • Showers (Score:5, Informative)

    by O('_')O_Bush ( 1162487 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @08:14AM (#41212207)
    Only stay at places with shower facilities. RV'ing can be fun, but without some comforts like the ability to take long/hot showers, it will always feel like a small step above camping.

    Not something you will want to do for several years. And find places with electrical outlets. Air conditioning is something to die for during the summer, and you wont have it if you are running a generator only.
  • Re:Showers (Score:5, Informative)

    by O('_')O_Bush ( 1162487 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @08:17AM (#41212227)
    And avoid states where fireants are prolific. Nothing will ruin your day faster than fireants in your bed. They come in through cracks around the wheel wells, and are notoriously bad in areas where campers tend to be.
  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @08:20AM (#41212241)
    Many of the places you may want to travel to may have limited cell coverage. I have stayed in many campgrounds where 2G is the most I can hope for. Think about where you want to go before you dive into this plan.
  • Non-Internet issues (Score:5, Informative)

    by John Bresnahan ( 638668 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @08:21AM (#41212247)

    The technology-related issues are easy to solve these days. Unless you're in the middle of the desert, 3G/4G cell phones and personal WiFi hotspots should work. If you are determined to live way, way out in the boonies, then look in to satellite-based Internet. It's not very good, but sometimes it's your only option.

    The government and regulatory issues might be a bigger problem. Are you keeping your current home? If not, what will you use as an address? You will have problems with things like driver's licenses if you don't have a permanent address.

    There are several RV-related web sites with articles and forums on the subject of full-timing. Make sure to check them out.

  • by Yoje ( 140707 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @08:45AM (#41212363)

    There's some good and bad sides to this. I actually tried this out about 3 years ago, wanted to travel while I'm still young and can do more. Me and the wife bought a 35' fifth wheel, moved out of the apartment, and put excess stuff in storage. After about 6 months, we moved out of the RV and back into another apartment. (Kept the RV though, still like to travel!)

    The good:
    - Having a new backyard every day/week was great.
    - Met a lot of friendly people along the way. Many having dinner outside their RV would frequently ask if we wanted to sit and eat with them when we were walking around the park. In turn, we always tried to do the same when we had cooked something.
    - A lot of experienced RVers and full-timers are more than willing to help out with issues you might have, as long as you're open to it.
    - Seeing the country is great fun, especially the out of the way areas.
    - On some days it feels like a full-time vacation (even when working).

    The bad:
    - High speed Internet access was spotty/unreliable. Being in a rural area, you may be familiar with this already, but when traveling around in an RV to random campsites and rest areas, you find out rather quickly that anything above 3G is still iffy on the open road. Don't count on the coverage map saying 3G or 4G is available in the middle of nowhere, especially if you have time-sensitive work you need to submit.
    - Most campgrounds (i.e. RV-oriented campgrounds, not state parks and such) will offer wi-fi access, but it may be spotty, slow speed, or unreliable. And the campground office tends to either be empty when trying to find someone to tell there's a problem with the wi-fi, or if a person is there they usually aren't sure about the wi-fi setup or how to troubleshoot/reset it.
    - If you travel a lot (i.e. don't hook up in one place for more than a few days) you will spend a lot on gas. And if you do stay in one place for a period of time, don't forget to account for campground fees.
    - Most trailers aren't made for "permanent" living. You'll notice this most with the walls and lack of insulation, especially in peak summer and winter months. Quality counts here.

    You'll definitely want to budget things out though, as you can easily spend a lot more than you would in mortgage or rent. Joining Good Sam helps some, committing to a place for 2-4 weeks at a time can help out more with campground prices. Some campgrounds will even let you do odd jobs to help decrease the "rent", but you'll usually find that "regulars" that have been there for extended periods already are doing those jobs. If you do commit to full-time, let your insurance agent know - most major carriers can convert your homeowners/renters insurance into an equivalent "full-timer" RV policy so you'll have coverage on the stuff in the camper.

    In short, if you like to travel it's a good experience. If you don't like camping out, you won't have a good time (modern RVs are comfortable, but you still need to remember it's camping out, and you won't have all the amenities of a regular apartment/house). Also depending on how much you need an Internet connection, how fast you need it, and how often you need it, you may not want to commit to it full time. At least, just yet. As the infrastructure and reliability continues to improve, this will become less of an issue as time goes on (I'm sure it's improved some in the 2-3 years since we did it).

  • Re:Showers (Score:5, Informative)

    by gatkinso ( 15975 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @08:53AM (#41212397)

    This usually only happens if you are parked directly over their nest, so scout the area before parking. If you see a nest, pour a few gallons of boiling water down it. Then liberally sprinkle borax over the area.

    When you park, place a small inflatable pool on the ground where the wheels will go. When the wheels are in the middle of the pool, inflate and fill with water.

    These are completely natural methods to mitigate the ants, cheap, and very very effective.

  • by tech10171968 ( 955149 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @09:15AM (#41212505)

    I'm not an RV'er but, since the economy chased me out of my Unix sysadmin gig, I resorted to putting food on the table by becoming a freight jockey (it was also a nice change of pace). When you're on the road for 26 days out of the month (as well as single with no children) shelling out rent for an apartment is kind of a moot point, so I literally live in the truck. Wifi on the road is really no big deal anymore, especially since most major truck stops, hotels, and even quite a few interstate rest areas now have hotspots.

    That being said, there are a few things I do to make online life a little easier for a road warrior:

    (1) As I already mentioned, many of your typical diesel stops are going to have wifi but the network can get pretty crowded at times. Some of the best times to use wifi at these facilities is 9 am to 5 pm, when most of your competition is going to be on the road instead of hogging up the bandwidth.

    (2) The signal coverage in the places can also be a little spotty: one corner of the lot may have wonderful signal strength but another can absolutely suck. If you can, park so that you can have a clear line of sight to the building in which the antenna is located. Also, try not to put the fuel islands between you and the building if it can be helped; you can go from a really good connection to being knocked offline because somebody's Peterbilt pulled in to the fuel lane at the wrong time.

    (3) Many of the wifi hotspots in these stops are managed with OpenDNS and certain websites will be blocked (namely, anything having to do with torrents).

    (4) Wifi obviously won't be available everywhere you stop. If you often find yourself in the middle of nowhere (like me) then consider getting something like Verizon's MiFi or Fivespot devices. Verizon's plans seem to be better for heavy users but, if all you do is surf or check email, then there are probably cheaper plans around.

    (5) One of the best investments I've made was a wifi repeater with an externally-mounted antenna. A typical trailer is about 13'6" (4.5 meters) in height; when all the diesel jockeys park it for the night there's going to be a awful lot of metal for your signal to try to get through.

    (6) I often use my laptop for trip planning as well as keeping my DOT logs via an approved logbook application, so my machine is often running while I'm driving (but I do keep both hands on the wheel and my eyes on the road). Don't know about RV's but trucks bounce around a lot; as you can imagine, this repeated shock-testing can't be very good for the condition of your laptop. If you're going to be doing something similar then I highly suggest getting a laptop stand which bolts to the seat (the seats are usually equipped with "air-ride" shock absorbers and can greatly reduce the constant jarring experienced while driving).

  • Re:Showers (Score:4, Informative)

    by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @09:59AM (#41212727)

    They are an invasive species with no redeeming qualities. There is no reason to let any of them live.

  • Re:Showers (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mathinker ( 909784 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @10:21AM (#41212867) Journal

    I thought so too, but recently saw:

    @ URL: []

    Borax was added to the Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC) candidate list on 16 December 2010. The SVHC candidate list is part of the EU Regulations on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals 2006 (REACH), and the addition was based on the revised classification of Borax as toxic for reproduction category 1B under the CLP Regulations. Substances and mixtures imported into the EU which contain Borax are now required to be labelled with the warnings "May damage fertility" and "May damage the unborn child".

    Probably still less toxic than most pesticides, but not quite as innocuous as previously thought...

  • Some Tips.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @10:35AM (#41212947) Homepage

    #1 - strip your RV of ALL fancy vinyl graphics and paint it stark white. You need urban camouflage. Bonus to add AT&T or VERIZON logo graphics on it to further make it look like a Company work trailer.

    #2 - All Walmarts let you boondock in their parking lots for 2 nights without hassle. more if you go to the edge and look unobtrusive. The camouflage works here too.

    #3 - Buy and install Limo Tint on all the RV windows. also install black curtains on all windows so at night nobody outside can see that you are inside. A cop will investigate your Rig, but if it looks like a corporate work RV and nobody is in it, he will go away after checking that it is secure. Putting lettering by the door that says "Fiberoptic Splicing TRAILER" help convince a cop you belong there.

    #4 - learn where fill and dump stations are, but try to not use your toilet in the RV unless you have to. It is a lot easier to find where to fill up fresh water at, and you can dump the grey water on the ground. but finding a dump station to get rid of all your turds is not a fun part of doing this. Leave your duces at restaurants and stores.

    #5 - if you dont own the RV, get a "toy hauler" that has a garage. that way you can bring a scooter, Motorcycle or Smartcar and not burn 3mpg gas driving around.

    #6 - unless you get an insane deal. do NOT buy a motor-home. Motor-homes are crap compared to a pickup truck and 5th wheel. Why? if you have any breakdown on your truck, you can park and get the truck fixed. If the Motor-home breaks down, you are in a hotel for a week while the RV repair center rapes you and your wallet over and over again. Having your 5th wheel towed to a local KOA campground for a week is a lot cheaper and you still have your home.

  • Re:Showers (Score:4, Informative)

    by faedle ( 114018 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @10:47AM (#41213041) Homepage Journal

    I would argue doing this with your greywater makes you a douche.

  • Re:Service quality (Score:4, Informative)

    by Adriax ( 746043 ) on Monday September 03, 2012 @12:31PM (#41213957)

    No laws like that around here, they would be "undue burdens on the poor defenseless companies just trying to meek out an honest living with their regional monopolies, ever increasing prices, lack of investment in infrastructure, and billions in tax breaks and government handouts..."

    Wyoming is particularly bad, I think we have one 4G tower in the entire state, 3G coverage is pretty spotty even in populated areas, and chunks I-80 don't even have voice cell coverage (I-90 and I-25 are even worse).
    If you're lucky, you can find a mcdonalds that actually bothered to setup their corporate mandated hotspot (on a sub 1meg DSL line).

  • by gmhowell ( 26755 ) <> on Monday September 03, 2012 @09:06PM (#41218229) Homepage Journal

    Make sure you don't get the wrong tow vehicle. My brother got a used truck. One of the previous owners had a fifth wheel installed for a horse trailer I believe. Turns out the truck was a giveaway because both the axle and tranny were dying. Both were severely underspecced for towing something as light as a horse trailer. Read the magazines and online reviews. Don't go cheap.

    Second, get thee to a truck stop (or Amazon) and purchase a Rand McNally trucker's atlas. I was particularly fond of the large print one while I was driving. Don't rely on your consumer GPS. You'll want to go to the paper. If you must have GPS, get one specifically for trucks. If decent, it will route you away from roads that have corners that are too sharp and bridges that are too low. You'll also want to pick up a truckstop guide. A few years ago, that little book was about $4. Worth its weight in gold.

    When fueling, if you are at a truck stop, don't get in the truckers' way. They are trying to make time and make money. They aren't on holiday. In fact, get out of the trucker lanes and go to the other side of the station. There is usually a nice diesel (your tow vehicle IS diesel, right?) pump with plenty of room to get your rig in and out of. Moving a rig like that through the car pumps is no fun (and there's often not enough overhead clearance). And pick up some loyalty cards. Every so many gallons of diesel (usually 100) you get a free shower. Not the best in the world at most places, but better than the ones at campgrounds. And if you don't ask, everyone will likely look the other way if you and the Mrs. enter at the same time. (Wear shower shoes whether at the truck stop or at the campground)

Someone is unenthusiastic about your work.