It was the end of 2019, and Karen and Sylvester Akpan knew they needed to make some changes. The couple owed over $110,000 collectively in student loan debt and felt like they weren't able to start building wealth for their son, Aiden, now 8.
They were also making a $4,200-per-month mortgage payment for a five-bedroom home in California. It had always been their dream to own their own home, but those monthly payments were starting to feel more like handcuffs than a path to financial freedom.
A trip in an RV earlier in the year gave them the idea to sell their home and try life on the road. They purchased their own RV off of Facebook Marketplace for $14,000 in early 2020 using their savings (they have since been gifted a new RV by Camping World). That dropped their housing costs from $4,200 per month to $0 (they pay around $600 in gas).
"We were house poor. That's the honest truth," Karen tells CNBC Make It. "I figured, why are we living this life, trying to keep up with all this?"
What was meant initially to be a months-long trip has now extended over a year. The Akpans say they have no intention to move back to a "normal" home any time soon.
"There's no way we're going back to a house or careers or anything like that," Karen says. "We love the freedom that working for ourselves, being entrepreneurs, has given us."
Life in an RV gives the Akpans the ability not only to save thousands of dollars a month — they paid off all of their student loan debt last year — but to show Aiden the world. They've traveled all over the U.S. and have used their savings to travel internationally as well (they leave the RV in locked parks when they leave the country). Karen's niece and nephew, Avery, 6, and Ethan, 8, often accompany them.
It helps that Karen and Sylvester don't clock in to traditional 9 to 5 jobs. Karen was already making money off of her blog, The Mom Trotter. Since they switched to full-time RV life, the family also earns income from creating Instagram and TikTok campaigns for the likes of Camping World, Circle K Stores, Hilton Hotels and Disney, among others.
It's not a lifestyle that would appeal to everyone, but the Akpans revel in the ability to travel wherever they want, whenever they want. The savings they've built doesn't hurt either.
"Living in an RV, for us, has honestly been the most amazing thing for our family," Karen says. "There's no way we're going back to a house. Like, this is the most freeing thing ever."