Finding housing for travel therapy or travel nursing jobs can be a challenge. Some travelers get very creative when it comes to finding short term housing for travel jobs. Travel therapist couple Hailey & TR got very creative on their recent travel therapy assignment in Alaska! Learn more in this guest post about living in a truck camper!
Living the RV Life
Hey there– we are the Tie Dye Travelers, Hailey (occupational therapist) and TR (physical therapist)! We have been lucky enough to do travel therapy together since August of 2021.
This lifestyle was an easy choice for us. Get paid to go live in and explore lots of amazing places? Yes, please!
We have been living in a Fifth-Wheel RV full time since January of 2017, before we ever started travel therapy. So when we decided to do travel therapy, the logistics/housing aspect was never a question for us.
Onward, to Alaska!
As soon as we started travel therapy, we knew taking an assignment in Alaska at some point was a must for us!
It was April of 2022 when we both landed jobs at the same clinic in Wasilla, Alaska (north of Anchorage) that would begin in late May. The hard part was over, right?! Wrong.
We didn’t want to take our Fifth-Wheel because of excessive wear and tear from the long road trip, and we were unsure what the road conditions would be like at the end of our contract in November. So, we began to explore other options for housing for this assignment.
Housing Options for Alaska
Initially we assumed we would find an apartment to rent for housing during our travel therapy assignment in Alaska. First, we checked out Furnished Finder, however options were limited and pricey (up to $3,000/mo) around Wasilla, so we kept looking.
Airbnb extended stays? Same story, way too spendy.
We are very low maintenance and minimalistic, so we thought maybe a bare bones 1BR apartment to throw a mattress on the floor, but even the less desirable ones were around $1,500/month.
There were more options available in Anchorage, but making the 45 minute commute every day did not appeal to us. It didn’t help that we were arriving in the middle of May where prices were on the rise in preparation for tourist season.
We thought, surely there were better options than throwing $10,000-15,000 out the window on rent alone by the end of the 6 month contract— not to mention having to pay for accommodations while exploring each weekend. We always prioritize experiences gained over a dollar saved, but it was time to start thinking outside the box.
Alternative Housing Options
We considered buying a house there, to have our own little slice of heaven in Alaska and to rent out when we weren’t there. But, because we are in the field of travel therapy (viewed as “inconsistent income” with less than 2 years of history) we could not get considered by a lender. Strike two.
Back to the drawing board.
Randomly, we stumbled upon a renovated school bus for sale, and then a light bulb went off that something unconventional may be the answer!
Shortly after, we were driving along the Oregon coast and saw a truck camper for sale. Sure, we had seen many before, but never knew much about what they were actually like or capable of. That specific one wasn’t exactly what we needed, but it broadened our horizons.
A quick search on RV trader led us to Mrs. Barbara and Bob, the sweetest couple who were selling their truck camper and truck as a combo deal. The four of us were definitely kindred spirits, and they had even bought the camper years ago for an Alaskan adventure of their own! The stars were aligning as far as we were concerned.
When we stepped inside, it was evident this would be the perfect cozy little home for our Alaskan adventure! The set-up of this specific camper (2015 Eagle Cap 850) was surprisingly spacious and livable, with a queen bed, propane stove/oven, decent sized fridge, dining table and a wet bath. Also, a fair bit of storage throughout (for all of our gear and clothes). Plus, it was already equipped with solar— we were set!
The Journey to Alaska
We picked up our new home on wheels that we named Ash (truck) and Orey (camper)- named after Ashland, Oregon where Mrs. Barbara and Bob lived- on Wednesday, April 27th. Our last day of work and departure date was the following Friday, May 6th. Things were coming down to the wire!
We thought we wanted to have our Subaru in Alaska as well so that we didn’t have to use the truck/camper as our daily driver. Our somewhat hastily devised plan was to sell the truck and camper up in Alaska at the end of our contract, and drive the Subaru back home.
Subsequently, we learned that a Subaru cannot be towed behind a vehicle with the wheels on the ground. Next mission: find a car hauler trailer. After researching different options and considering the 2,700 mile road trip we were about to embark upon, we decided to buy a new trailer, again with the intent/hope to sell it in Alaska once there.
Taking the truck, camper, and Subaru allowed us to take much more stuff with us than we would have otherwise been able to. This led to big financial savings for us by not having to pay to rent bikes, paddleboards, climbing gear, etc. for our adventures in the land of the midnight sun. The camper was fully furnished and stocked with our own things, so we didn’t have to spend money getting the essentials (pots, pans, coffee pot, etc. all the way to tables and chairs) for an unfurnished apartment. We also hung some of our own pictures and decorations to keep the cozy feel of “home,” and this made a big difference.
For our journey north to Alaska, we allowed a full ten days to soak it in. Our “mobile headquarters” allowed incredible extended stopovers and detours including Squamish, Stewart, Skagway, and Hanes. Just to cover accommodations in these places alone during our road trip would have been hundreds of dollars a night. Just as with our entire Alaskan adventure, we spent little to no money for “lodging” during our road trip, as we overnighted at beautifully scenic roadside pull-off vistas, convenient trailhead parking lots, or the occasional less scenic but appropriately priced Wal-Mart or Home Depot parking lots (free ninety free!). Having our own kitchen stocked with groceries was cost-effective as we didn’t have to stop for any snacks, meals, coffee, etc. along the trip, which can add up quick— especially when you’re at the mercy of supply and demand at the only open place within hundreds of miles in some cases in early Spring. Of course, diesel was an expense, but there was no way around that. It did help us feel secure knowing that the 50-gallon tank allowed us ample range before needing to refuel, even on the remote Cassiar Highway.
After what turned out to be an epic road trip adventure, we rolled into Wasilla. The first matter of business was to take Subie off the trailer— because we had already coordinated the sale of the car hauler for a $400 profit to a man in Anchorage for that same day! So far, this thing was working out!
We made our way down to Homer for a little adventure, where we camped on the spit and splurged $50 for a site for the first night. Turns out, that would be the only time we would pay for camping for the duration of our 6-month stay in Alaska.
During our drive up, we got connected with a friend of a friend who lived in Wasilla, who very graciously let us park in their driveway for the majority of our stay in Alaska at a substantially reduced “rental” rate. In an effort not to be too great of a burden on them, we sprinkled in a few weeknights along scenic roadside spots, our favorite lake/park where we enjoyed meal prepping outside, and an occasional night in the gym parking lot. Then each and every weekend was spent on the road to explore, camping in various free spots all around Alaska.
Perks of Living in a Truck Camper
It is safe to say that these months made up one of our favorite chapters in life so far. A huge perk of living in the truck camper was that we never had to pack a bag! After work on a Friday, we could hop in the truck and just head anywhere – knowing we had all of our gear to be ready for whatever adventures the weekend brought our way!
The full kitchen and fully stocked fridge with us at all times was a continual cost saver. We’d wake up to a picturesque nature scene, and instead of having to drop $40 on breakfast and coffee, everything we needed was right there.
One of our favorite things was waking up every morning, opening the windows, backdoor, or sticking our heads out the skylight above our bed to admire the ever-changing beauty all around us. Check out this quick video for a glimpse at what some of our views looked like!
Countless times we would finish a big day in the mountains, and instead of going to a restaurant or brewery to replenish and recount the day, we could be home at the trailhead. We could even host a friend or two (3 at max, haha). Of course, we indulged occasionally, but by and large we had our own provisions with us and saved a ton of money this way.
Another obvious, but noteworthy, benefit was always having sleeping quarters at our disposal. For the thrifty-minded, in Alaska, this can equate to never having to pay for any campgrounds, Airbnbs, hotels or lodges. With so many fun festivals and outdoor live music events in The Last Frontier, it was amazing to be able to enjoy the festivities and have the camper nearby. This saved us from having to fight for accommodations or pay the premium tourist prices for popular events, like Mt. Marathon in Seward. Incredibly, from our parking spot that weekend, we could see the racers pass by us on the street and witness them barreling down the scree fields above the tree-line from our backdoor! Again, for free ninety free, like every other night. Also, another perk for us was sleeping at the trailhead made it easier to beat the crowds up any mountain.
We went out on a limb and fronted the cost of purchasing a truck and truck camper combo. Clearly this was a large upfront expense, but we bet on the fact that we could recoup that expense due to the price mark-ups we had seen comparing vehicle/RV sales in Alaska with lower-48 prices.
We managed fairly low recurring expenses such as $20/wk for laundry, $10/wk for waste disposal, ~$100/wk on gas, and $140/mo for insurance for the vehicles and camper. And our monthly “rent” to park at our friends’ place was very low compared to traditional campgrounds.
However, these expenses were more than mitigated, because we ended up loving the truck camper so much as a daily driver, that we took advantage of having the Subie to earn a profit. Summer tourism in Alaska is crazy, and the cost of rental cars reflects that. We decided to put the Subie on Turo for the days we knew we wouldn’t be using it, and over the course of our stay we ended up making ~$3,000 in total by renting it out.
Selling the Truck Camper
As our contract was nearing a close, we knew time, unfortunately, was not on our side. Having a long Alaskan winter approaching is not the optimal time for folks to be in the market for a camper.
Our contract ended mid-November, so we decided that for our last month we would rent a room in a house ($800/mo) so that our camper would be cleaned out and ready to sell. It was also getting pretty chilly living in the truck camper as Alaska has a VERY short (but very beautiful) “fall,” and then it goes straight to winter without much of a warning.
Multiple dealers told us we’d have no problem at all selling the camper in the spring for a profit, so we debated putting it in storage or leaving it with a dealer on consignment. Ultimately, we were concerned about it sitting through an Alaskan winter with no telling how much snow on the roof, so decided to remain set on selling it before our departure.
We ended up selling the camper for a few hundred less than we paid for it (to be fair, we put our fair share of imperfections in the rig).
We decided to keep the truck for use with our fifth-wheel back home.
We also ended up selling the Subaru in Alaska for fair market price (which was more than they were going for in the lower-48), and we were able to snag a flight home for $11 with credit card perks instead of driving back in the wintery conditions. Shipping the truck back home cost ~$2,000, but it also allowed us to fill it full of most of our belongings, saving us a ton of money on having to ship these items or paying extra baggage fees through the airline.
Was it Worth It?
From a financial perspective, it certainly cost us less to purchase, drive, and live in the truck camper than it would have to rent a furnished place in Wasilla for 6 months and pay for lodging every weekend during our weekly excursions. We also came out pretty even in the end with selling the truck camper and selling the car trailer, plus selling our Subaru and deciding to keep the truck for future use.
Ultimately though, the experiences the truck camper helped enable us to have are truly priceless. Outside of work, our priorities were weekends full of exploring new places near and far, and making the very most out of our Alaskan adventure. And the truck camper definitely helped bring that vision to life!
This isn’t the perfect answer for everyone by any means, because we all have different priorities when we travel, but it most certainly worked out for us, and we wouldn’t have done it any other way!
As long as it’s the right set-up, a truck camper is surprisingly livable! We actually had a difficult time transitioning back into our fifth-wheel once we got back to the lower-48, it was so much more space than we were used to. We still miss the simplicity of the truck camper life and often discuss the option of downsizing.
Our biggest piece of advice to our fellow travelers is to not be afraid to think outside of the box— there’s no right/wrong way to enjoy this adventure we call life!
About Hailey & TR:
We are the Tie Dye Travelers! We are adventurers and nature lovers to the core, and we love all things involving movement in the outdoors. Moving our bodies in the simplistic beauty of nature is our happy place – whether that’s trail running, paddleboarding, fast packing, rock climbing, wakeboarding, or any variety of other outdoor activities. We live in an RV and are travel therapists (Hailey- Occupational Therapist, TR- Physical Therapist) traveling to various states in this beautiful country, providing therapy to patients in a wide variety of settings, while having endless adventures all along the way. We love nature, we love each other, and we love squeezing as much adventure out of this life as possible!
Follow us on Instagram @tiedyetravelers as well as our (occasionally updated) YouTube channel to keep up with all of our adventures. One of these days we’ll be better about posting updated blogs on our website www.tiedyetravelers.com but for now we’re just enjoying the ride! Feel free to reach out to us on Instagram or by email at email@example.com with any questions!