Living Tiny: Andrea and Brady’s Sunny San Diego RV

Living Tiny: Andrea and Brady's Sunny San Diego RV | And Then We Saved

This is Minimalism Week here on ATWS! Take advantage of 10% off the all-inclusive Fearless Minimalist Guide by ordering today. Use code: letsdothis20. Happy New Year! 

At ATWS we’re interested in challenging the norm of debt and spending. That’s why once a month we feature people who have gone to (what some would say) extreme means with their living situations to get out of debt, save money and live a simpler life. Today we have a tour with Andrea and Brady. They’re a young couple from Minnesota currently living in a RV in sunny San Diego! Take it away, Andrea!


Hi, my name is Andrea Gaalswyk. I’m an Account Producer that works remotely for an Advertising & Design agency based out of Minneapolis, MN. My husband, Brady, also works remotely as a dispatcher for his family-owned trucking company based out of Southern Minnesota. We are currently parked in San Diego, CA and have been living in the RV for about 4 months.

Living Tiny: Andrea and Brady's Sunny San Diego RV | And Then We Saved

Why did you decide to move into a RV?
We were entering into our second year of marriage and realized we didn’t have a house, kids, or pets yet – let’s embrace this freedom and travel the country.

Did you build or buy your home?
We bought our 31 ft travel trailer off of Craigslist for $6,800. We poured about $1,200 and 6 months into a cosmetic remodel that made it feel like home. Our remodel included 5 coats of white paint, replacing old flooring/tiling with peel and stick wood floors, ripping out the old bench table, new window treatment/curtains, and pasting birch wood wallpaper up in the bedroom.

Living Tiny: Andrea and Brady's Sunny San Diego RV | And Then We Saved

Please describe your home.
From the outside it just looks like a normal old trailer, but then you open up our sliding glass door and step into a bright white southwestern, rustic-style homey apartment. We have a full kitchen with a fridge/freezer, a living room with our couch and table/chairs from our past apartment, a bathroom with a full shower and separate room for a toilet. Our cozy little bedroom holds our bed and a closet full of our clothes. The dark wood floors and bright white walls throughout the trailer help you quickly forget that you’re on wheels.

If you feel comfortable, we’d love to hear about the financial part of buying or building your home? What was your budget?
Our budget was to spend $10k or less. We ended up spending $8k on the actual trailer and remodel.  There have been a few extra costs along the way… 4 new tires, a new anti-sway hitch for our truck, registering the trailer, new poop hose, and stabilizer jacks.

Living Tiny: Andrea and Brady's Sunny San Diego RV | And Then We Saved

Did it cost more than you anticipated to build/buy your home?
No, we were really happy with the price we bought our trailer at. We had never remodeled a home, or done a lot of ‘fixer-up work’ before, so some of those costs surprised us. Overall though, we were able to stay within our planned budget.

What has been the most surprising cost of living in a RV?
Rent! I had no idea that RV parks charged these high of rates for their monthly fees. When I think about how all utilities are included and the great amenities (beach, security, pool, grounds maintenance) it makes more sense, but when we first hear the number we were a little taken aback.

Have you saved money since living in the RV?
Yes. We had some initial costs (buying the trailer, the remodel, road trip gas), but now that we’ve been living in it for a few months, the savings have started. Obviously the longer we live in the trailer, the more we’ll save.

Living Tiny: Andrea and Brady's Sunny San Diego RV | And Then We Saved

How do your costs compare to your life before the RV?
Our apartment rent in Minneapolis, MN was $1300 rent/utilities + $70 parking + $45 electric + $70 Internet/TV = $1485 per month. For our trailer spot in San Diego we’re paying $850 rent + $30 parking = $880 per month. We don’t have to pay for utilities or internet and we don’t own a TV.

Please describe your daily life.
During our time parking in San Diego we are renting an office about 2 miles away from our RV Park.  My husband and I share a 170 sq ft. basement office – this helps us separate our personal life and work and also helps us maintain a routine each day. Our exercise is all outdoors- running on local paths, we both have our bikes with us and hikes on the weekends. For meals we love using our grill or tiny kitchen to cook meals that we eat outside on our picnic table each night. We treat cooking in our tiny house the exact same way we did before – our trailer’s oven and stove work great. A few things we’ve had to get used to; limited counter space and a smaller refrigerator/freezer.

What is your favorite part of your home?
That we can bring it with us anywhere. You know how you just feel so relaxed when you have ‘your things’ with you and are able to sleep in ‘your bed’? Well, now we get to feel that all the time and in any cool new location we want.

Living Tiny: Andrea and Brady's Sunny San Diego RV | And Then We Saved

What is the best part about living in your home? The worst part?
Best part: how cozy it is. We love how we decorated it to feel like ‘us’. The size is comforting; it’s simple, it’s easy. We love that.

Worst part: emptying the sewage once a week or keeping bugs out.  We’ve never had to maintain our bathroom sewage before – there is a lot to learn in that whole process.  Bugs (ants and flies mainly) love to sneak into our trailer; it feels like we’re constantly trying to get them out.

What advice do you have for other people who want to live a similar lifestyle?
Just start the process, start the remodel, start looking into buying a trailer or a tiny home, just start.  We can’t lie; moving into this trailer has been A LOT of work.  It was more work than we thought it would be.  The remodel took longer than we thought, downsizing our belongings was more emotional and more complicated than we thought, moving is just so much work, learning how everything works within our trailer – it was all really hard.  But now that we’re all moved in, we feel this giant weight lifted. Life literally feels lighter. We have so much more time on our hands and feel so much freedom in the fact that we are literally living in a ‘mobile existence’. Everyone should have a chance to slow down for a moment and experience this feeling. 

Thanks Andrea! To follow more of Andrea and Brady’s adventures, visit their blog, Northern Nomads or follow them on Instagram

Would you ever consider packing up your life to live in an RV? Let’s chat in the comments!

P.S. Looking to declutter and minimize? CLICK HERE to learn about the Fearless Minimalist Guide


16 thoughts on “Living Tiny: Andrea and Brady’s Sunny San Diego RV

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  1. Malea

    I would love to hear more about the realities of an RV bathroom. How limited is your supply of hot water or do you have some sort of on-demand hot water booster/system?

    Does the bathroom compartment smell??? We rented an RV once for cross country and just couldn’t use the bathroom even though it was totally clean. There was a chemical smell that made me sick to my stomach. We kept it shut and used rest stops and restaurant bathrooms instead. Please share more….

    HOW gross is the poop/sewage/plumbing to deal with weekly???? Details, please!

    Thanks in advance!

    How hard is it to drive and pull the thing? We had a smaller RV for our trip mentioned above and even with the smaller size I was at times scared driving it because wind in some areas made it feel like we were being pushed around.

    1. Lindsey

      Hi Malea!

      My husband and I are also living full-time in our RV and I’d be happy to answer your questions!

      We have a 6-gallon, quick-recover hot water heater. We definitely have to be aware when we shower but it isn’t too terrible at all. The shower head has a shut-off valve so my showers go something like this: turn water on and wet hair/body, turn water off and shampoo, water goes back on to rinse hair, back off to put in conditioner and soap up/shave. Water goes back on to rinse and I’m done! It’s not bad at all and we only have to wait about 10 minutes after the other person showers for the water to be hot again.

      Our bathroom has never smelled (chemical or otherwise) and my husband is very “regular.” Try not to base your opinions off rentals because they’re often cleaned with industrial cleaners.

      Dealing with the black water tank really is a non-issue for us. When the sensor reads full I head out and pull the lever. We keep the drainage line connected to the tanks and the septic drain. I see nothing, smell nothing, etc. When connecting the lines initially we use rubber gloves and are sure to sanitize the line with cleaner before we stow it. That’s about it!

      Towing anything can definitely take getting used to. My husband and I drove from Pennsylvania to our current location in Washington state in November. I did the bulk of the towing (we had our tow vehicle and RV plus our second vehicle). We have a 35 foot travel trailer and I know it’s there for sure! It’s all about having the right equipment and tow vehicle. We had upgraded to the 35 foot from a 21 foot right before we left for WA and made it to Iowa before we had to stop and upgrade our sway-bar. You can’t control the wind so if you take is slow and steady you shouldn’t have a problem.

      I’d be happy to answer any other questions you might have!

      1. Tracy

        Wanting to full time RV. Dad gave me a 22 ft Winnie! A little nervous to take the plunge but have too much freedom not to try it!
        Like that you say, ‘just start’. The more research I do the more excited I get, even for the unexpected
        challenges that I know will be present daily.
        Hope I can remodel as well as you guys did, your place looks amazing!

  2. Tracy

    Wanting to full time RV. Dad gave me a 22 ft Winnie! A little nervous to take the plunge but have too much freedom not to try it!
    Like that you say, ‘just start’. The more research I do the more excited I get, even for the unexpected
    challenges that I know will be present daily.
    Hope I can remodel as well as you guys did, your place looks amazing!

  3. Alyshia Madison

    Where in San Diego are you able to live full time and not limited to a 6-9 month max . I plan on getting an RV in the next couple weeks but cant seem to find a RV park I can park full time.

  4. Samantha

    Hi there,

    I’m trying to help my sister figure out where to live in San Diego that she can afford. She’s currently living in an apt with her daughter. Her daughter is going to be moving soon and she can’t afford the place she’s in or any other place. Do RV parks allow you to “live” there? Do you have to pay for your entire stay in one lump sum or can you pay monthly? Just curious about your experience.


  5. Clara Riley

    Andrea, I am planning to relocate to San Diego (where I resided for 8=1/2 years previously prior to semi-retirement) and I am “in the process of becoming an avid minimalist” currently living in a 540 square foot apartment (first time apartment dweller in the past thirty years). I am very interested in the small home, small apartment, and tiny house style living which affords more free time and commune with nature such as growing a garden, etc. I would like to communicate with other folks who are “into the minimalist and small home movement” as I plan and pursue the furtherance of semi-retirement and full retirement future. I am excited about the potentials for “living small” and “living with more freedom and mobility” via the minimalist lifestyle. It would be great to hear from you and/or other people involved in minimalist living lifestyles. Many thanks and warmest regards. Clara Riley ….. …. phone: 956-756-1564

  6. Michelle Ngo

    Hey guys,

    I love your instagram. I actually work for a MN based company and they are moving me to San Diego. I would love to live in an RV/Tiny house in the San Diego area as well but need some guidance. Any advice is welcomed.

  7. Marcelo Pereira

    I am an active duty military stationing in San Diego. I pay $1175/month for an apartment, but I am contemplating in getting a motor-home to save money. I am looking around to find someone that can give me some directions about getting a RV and finding a place to stay because all I can find is daily rental or $1200+ monthly rental. Where is this place you are for only $880/month? That would save me about $300/month.
    Very respectfully,
    Marcelo Pereira.

  8. Kim Stewart

    There is a nice park in wine country in Temecula, last time I checked it was 500 per month, its small has a pool open in summer and a small catch and release lake.
    Prices as you get away from the coast and SD will be cheaper. Fallbrook is a nice place too and they may have some long term spots as well.

  9. Vicky

    Hi I’m am going into the Navy and want to live in an R.V. that way I can save ! I’m going to be stationed in San Diego .
    Can you tell me what places or what to look up to find a parking space to live . I’ve looked it up but It all says maximum stay 6 months :(

  10. Jerardo

    Andrea and Brady,

    I am considering following your lead. I am new to SD and dont know where to start looking for an RV park where I could live in an RV full time. Do you have any recommendations? Thank You – J


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