A year ago, working from home was an experiment, and living in an RV was for retired people.
“How things have changed,” marveled Scott Watson, who spends most of his time on the road in his 21-foot-long Winnebago Class B motorhome in which he lives, works and explores. Watson used to own a home in Forest Park, but since the interview he did with the Review about year ago, he’s put 30,000 new miles on his rig, as he calls it, and visited 25 new states.
News sources report that 40-45 percent of workers are working virtually from home. Watson said the step from working at home to working in an RV is relatively small. As long as he has access to the internet and is productive, his employers don’t care where he is working from. He added that RVing is not just for people who want to work from a home on four wheels. Some, he said, “don’t want to fly, are afraid of staying in hotels and definitely will not go on cruises, so they look at the RV option and conclude, we can do that.”
Apparently many Americans are thinking along the same lines. “RV sales have gone through the roof,” he said. “I was at the Winnebago Motor Homes dealer in Rockford recently and they only had one van similar to mine left on the lot. They said that if you came to them with cash in your hand, they would tell you they could have one by January.”
Watson had been imagining and researching the RV lifestyle for a decade. Last year when his employer, Lextech, gave him the go ahead to work completely online, he bought his rig for $120,000 and set off on his adventure. He had no idea then that a year later he would have almost 8,000 viewers/subscribers to his YouTube channel, “Go Small. Live Large!” where he posts stories about his experiences and gives advice to people who are interested in doing something like this.
“Almost every day,” he said, “I get an email from people who tell me that I’ve inspired them to do what I’m doing to one degree or another. Part of my goal with my YouTube channel is to inspire and educate. Not only do my videos motivate people to try the RV lifestyle, but some just live vicariously through the stories I tell. And not only do they learn from me, but I learn from them.”
Watson is also being paid by two companies in the mobile home business to use his stories in their marketing and to teach their sales staff how to promote their product to customers. One is Embassy RV in Elkhart, Indiana, which manufactures vehicles similar to his. The other is Volta which makes lithium ion energy systems, one of which he has in his own rig. So successful have these revenues become that he has reduced his hours at Lextech to half time.
Part of his effectiveness in coaching sales people in the two companies is his infectious enthusiasm for RV living. “It’s changed my life,” he declared. The way he inspires and motivates is by telling stories.
One story he tells, with many variations, is what happens when he enters a small town. “So, imagine rolling into a town of 15,000,” he begins. “I’m always the outsider. When I enter a restaurant or bar, people turn and look at me as I walk through the door. ‘He’s not from here’ is what they’re thinking and they are judging me. So what I do is say, ‘Howdy, cute little town you have, glad to be here, what’s the special?’ I immediately start engaging them. They respond by asking about my van and within half an hour we’re friends and I’m giving them a tour of my rig.
“It’s like a switch gets flipped. I’m the outsider. It’s on me, so I go in there with the expectation that I’m going to make new friends and seven out of 10 times that’s what happens. I tell them about what I’m doing and usually they respond by saying that’s really cool or I’ve always wanted to do something like that. Generally, I’m finding good people out there.”
His visit to LeClaire, Iowa is an example. “What I do,” he began, “is get off the freeways and take the back roads because on the back roads I slow down and am able to experience things I would have missed if all I was concerned about was making good time getting from one point to another on the interstate.”
One of the things he notices are the brown signs, the ones that point to historical sites or places of interest. He noticed about a Buffalo Bill Museum. “I’m living and working in my rig,” he explained, “so I decided to follow where the brown led me. It was to a small town on the Mississippi River named LeClaire, complete with a restored paddle-wheeler tied to the dock. I learned about Buffalo Bill’s impact on Native Americans and the Wild West, and found out that on the cliff above the river was a distillery and experienced a craft spirits museum.
“After enjoying the town, I came back to my rig and went to bed. When I woke up the next morning I watched the sun come up over the Mississippi River, and I said to myself, this is magic.” An hour later he started his work day with a conference call, and the people on the call had no idea where he was.
“Near LeClaire,” he continued, “I ran across another brown sign pointing to Dixon, Illinois where Ronald Reagan grew up.” Asked if he considered himself a conservative, he said with a laugh, “No, but I’m always curious about how people’s values develop from when they are children to when they are adults. When you walk through people’s child homes or stand at the lake where Reagan saved 77 souls from drowning as a lifeguard, you get a sense of how those experiences impact their lives.”
“A big part of RVing,” Watson concluded, “is slowing down, savoring the surprises and following the brown signs.”