“I really think RV’ing could be for everyone.” I laughed on the inside because I don’t think I can survive without several hundred square feet, if not thousands. “There are so many different ways to RV. I think, if you do enough research and find what works for your family, anyone could do it,” she added.
This is Emily Sandel. She is an Army wife, and she lived in a recreational vehicle at Fort Carson, Colorado. Her husband, Mark, is a part of Psychological Operations and has been stationed at Fort Carson for nearly the last three years after spending ten whole years at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Although Emily was in middle school when Mark joined the Army right after high school, they’re facing retirement in just six to seven short years, before either of them turns 40. “Everything we’re doing now is preparing us for retirement,” she said, which seemed hilarious coming from a 23-year old who isn’t making a reference to the sugar daddy she found online. They are young, and they have a little one as well.
But back to the RV.
She had heard someone say that you only get 18 summers with your child. Since little Sam is nearly a year and a half, they are down to 17. To the Sandels, the RV lifestyle means more travel and adventure. Right now, they can live in their RV full time, but in the future, they can gallivant around the country without the expense of lodging for each of the members her family grows to comprise.
Emily said the RV family they were inspired by has seven children. Again, I laugh on the inside. What am I missing? It’s a box! This mom and dad and seven children live in what is essentially a tour bus, but many of us will sell our house to attain an extra bedroom for the eight-pound infant on the way.
As unnecessary as the restricted living sounds, I can see that there is virtue in this lifestyle.
“We live in 32 feet. Things have to be able to do jobs; you don’t just have stuff lying around.”
Should that not be true of our lives in general? (Well, it is if you ask Marie Kondo.)
Transition to RV
The Sandels initially lived in a house in Colorado and dreamed of purchasing an RV. They bought the RV for the aforementioned aspirations of traveling, but when the real estate market just got too darn good, they decided to sell their house and commence living in the RV full time. This after only one trip in the RV down to Texas.
The move was full time, but they knew they would be heading back to North Carolina in the next few months since Mark has orders back to Fort Bragg, which is the center of the universe for the Army, by the way.
While the move was temporary, Emily isn’t opposed to the idea of her permanent address being 123 RV Lane. “Full time is definitely on our minds,” she states, but in reference to retirement…seven years away.
I can understand why. Once you overcome space issues and personal conflicts, the benefits outweigh the cons.
Expenses of Living in an RV
Living in an RV is definitely cheaper than living in a house. What you sacrifice in footage, you make up for in coinage. Emily was able to trade a mortgage for an RV payment. RV prices start somewhere around $10,000, so we can assume the loan payment is much lower than mortgage for a house that undoubtedly costs at least ten times that.
RV costs are dependent on the type of RV you select, which is why Emily said there’s an RV for everyone. The most expensive are Class A’s, which can rival a nice hotel and are probably what I would need to live in. On down, you have Class C, Class B, Fifth Wheel, Trailer, and Camper.
Their monthly $600 lot fee comes with the full hookup: sewer, water, electric. About every 10 days they fill two 30-gallon propane tanks for gas energy, and they don’t have the kind of RV you can drive, so gas in the tank is not an expense.
Many military installations have camp sites, Fort Carson does not. Those that do typically cost around $20-25 per night.
The Living Space
The Sandels live in a travel trailer. They have done modifications to make it work for their family, like removing a bunk to set up a pack n’ play for the toddler. And everything is painted white, which is a big difference in modern RV’s and the ones I’m remembering from 80’s movies.
I asked her how she’s not going crazy. Her response was that they spend a lot of time outside. As a result, bad weather makes life a little challenging when you have a toddler and a dog. And she said doesn’t think that would be so much of a problem if her child was old enough to understand how weather works.
Speaking of weather, the week we spoke, Colorado was expecting 15 inches of snow…in May.
In lieu of purchasing a $200 heated tube at the end of the ski season, the Sandels opted to cover the water pipe with a pool noodle to prevent freezing. It worked.
The other challenge of living in an RV with a toddler is noise control. It’s hard to stay quiet so your small child can luxuriate in sleep for 12 or 13 hours.
But when they go back to North Carolina, they will be living in a house. Even though there are RV parks near Fort Bragg, they aren’t on the side of town that Emily’s family lives in (she’s from the Fort Bragg area), so they are opting to park it during this duty station unless they take a trip or assignment.
As an Army brat who grew up at Fort Bragg, Emily didn’t get a real taste of being a military spouse until she moved to Colorado. She thought she knew what it was like to be an Army wife, but she wasn’t prepared for the social scene at Fort Carson.
I detect hurt in her voice when she says, “There’s a lot of mean-girlness here.” It’s clear that she’s seen her share of nastiness, because she stresses how much she just wants women to be nice to each other.
I asked if she’s lonely. She said “yes, but no,” and ironically because of Facebook. Ironic because Facebook is where a lot of the “mean-girlness” has taken place. All private Facebook groups have their share of screenshotting and complaining, but apparently the Fort Carson crew can be known to personally attack women for differing opinions and post their profiles. “It’s a lot of strangers kind of, like, attacking you.” I didn’t ask if that happened to her, and I don’t know if I believe it has not.
She left those groups.
So she has community on Facebook, which is how I know her, but that is not for lack of trying IRL. I have had a difficult time making friends here. I’m just like ‘let’s be friends; here’s my life!’” “Why is no one being my friend?” I get that; I have felt the same way.
I have never had an easy time making friends, so my difficulty cliquing up in the military community was no surprise. But for Emily, I wonder if her disappointment with making friends at Fort Carson is magnified by having previously had a long-standing friend group back in North Carolina, where she lived from age eight to 20.
Regardless, it’s hard to make friends as a military spouse despite every other woman feeling lonely. Emily says she actually interacts with people, which can be a large part of the battle if the only network you have is your husband’s single friends, but she never finds the experience of “hitting it off” to be mutual. Same.
Fortunately for Emily, she was able to make good friends through her a previous job. She is happy with a few trustworthy friends to rely on. As a Limelife beauty guide, she enjoys a network of entrepreneurial women who encourage each other daily.
Advice for New Wives
Because the military lifestyle is so unique, so challenging, I asked Emily what advice she would give to a new wife starting out.
“You have to find some mental toughness, mental fortitude…I think continually moving forward is the way to do that.”
She stresses that there are going to be times that are “not awesome,” which is very true, but we have to press on. Complaining about your spouse or the Army isn’t pushing forward. She encourages women to reflect on what they can change and how to help their spouses instead.
Emily’s last piece of advice was to be kind to other women. Goodwill and positivity can go a long way in this lifestyle. “I really like being a part of and creating communities where people have a home when they might not be home.” That’s poignant. Sometimes WE are all we have. Make that a positive experience for someone.
Despite her social experiences at Fort Carson, I found Emily to be sincere and a friend we would be fortunate to have.
Our conversation included discussion about Fort Carson, her relationship, her wedding, education, aspirations, her podcast, and business! Look out for the whole conversation on Emily’s episode of Bride On Base: The Podcast! Will be available on all platforms.
Emily and her family are currently back at Fort Bragg.
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