Emily Scott Robinson and her husband Rouslan Haracherev fell in love while they were both dirtbagging in Telluride, Colorado. Robinson grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Haracherev spent his childhood in Sofia, Bulgaria, before emigrating to the U.S. Though being raised worlds away from one another, the couple found a kinship in their desire to explore, their need to dive head first into their passions.
They have been married for five years and spent the last year-plus living in an RV, exploring the American West. Along with their vibrant love, Robinson’s pull to pursue her stunning folksy Americana music (a beautiful mix of Joni Mitchell, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, and Gillian Welch) and Haracherev’s professional mountain and climbing guide drive (a gritty mix of laughter, brains, and brawn) has fueled their four-wheeled life.
Adventure Mobile Year, Make, and Model?
A thirty-six-foot Class A Motorhome. It’s a 2003 Damon Challenger with 2 slideouts and we tow a 2008 Toyota Matrix.
What’s the story behind the vehicle’s name?
We call her “The Big Dipper” because when we bought her, she came with an Alaskan Flag, which features the big dipper constellation. We fly the flag when we’re parked.
One year and 3 months.
How did you get it?
We saved up $25,000 cash by working for almost two years, living simply in a city with low cost of living, cooking healthy meals at home, and selling stuff, like our second car, when we moved out of the house. Our original budget was $20,000 and we wanted a smaller 30-foot RV, but after visiting dealers and perusing RVs, we decided that we wanted to invest in something newer and larger. We knew it would be our home for a couple of years. We figured if we were patient, we could score a better deal on Craigslist. And we did.
How did you modify it?
We barely modified it. We put six new tires on the RV because the original ones were 12-years-old. Old tires, even if they have good tread, aren’t safe. Our RV interior was in stellar shape when we bought it so we haven’t done any renovations, except for removing the old box TVs. We thought about adding solar panels, but after a year of full-time RVing, I don’t think we really need it. We never spend more than 8-10 days boondocking in the backcountry and our energy consumption is minimal. We run on house batteries and only use the generator for 15 minutes every day.
How do you make a living on the road?
I’m a touring singer-songwriter and my husband is a rock climber and guide!
I plan out my shows three to six months in advance based on where we want to be seasonally. This winter, we were based near Austin and I toured all around Texas, which was a great place to grow my music career. I was featured on NPR during SXSW this March.
I also started a Patreon this year. I write new songs on the road and I have a mobile recording studio in the RV. My Patreon supporters contribute an amount they choose, starting at as little as $1 per song, whenever I release a new track. It’s a way for them to support my journey and hear my new songs before I put them on an album. I also donate 20-percent of my Patreon proceeds to charity.
In our first year of full-time RVing, my music career and my husband’s guiding jobs were enough to keep us in the black. We also live simply. We eat and cook mostly vegetarian food and we don’t buy new stuff because we don’t have room for it. The rule is one thing in, one thing out. We love the freedom to follow our dreams, all while making it work financially.
How many places have you visited?
Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona. That’s year one. This year, we’re spending the summer in Telluride, Colorado, and plan to hit Montana, Washington, Oregon, and California this fall.
Most memorable place?
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon in October, right before it closed for the season. We had it all to ourselves. Also, the Namaste Wall in northern Zion National Park. Namaste is a famous 12.a sport climb in a gorgeous red sandstone slot canyon.
Sports done along the way?
Mainly hiking and rock climbing. Lander, Wyoming, St. George, Utah, Flagstaff, Arizona, and Enchanted Tower in New Mexico were some of our favorite spots.
Pros of RV ownership?
We love living in a small, simple space. The American West is full of beautiful public lands where you can camp off the grid for free. We get to choose where we want to go and how long we want to be there. We’re not obsessed with acquiring more gear or stuff, because we have everything we need and we don’t have the space for much else. The RV is easy to keep clean and organized. It’s cozy. We’ve grown and deepened our love and our marriage. We live much more in the present moment. We spend more time in nature. We are measurably happier.
Cons of RV ownership?
Taxes, health insurance, and car registration. My parents are generous enough to be our “mail service” and serve as our permanent address. Rous and I don’t have traditional health insurance because the insurance industry isn’t set up for vagabonds like us. We string together high-deductible, short-term policies and have money saved up as a safety net. We get all our checkups and dental work done in Bulgaria when we visit my husband’s family.
Advice for others looking to do a similar adventure?
Take the time to plan and save up for your dream. A lot of people will be tempted to buy an RV or van immediately, before they’ve saved up for it. Financing is readily available, but at high interest rates. Consider this, the more debt you have, the less freedom you have to follow your creative pursuits and outdoor adventures. Set a budget and work towards your dream over time. That’s #adulting.
It’s popular these days for people to buy vintage Airstreams, VW buses, and gutted Sprinter vans, and renovate them. We’ve seen people get in over their heads on projects like these. You really need to know what you’re doing to install flooring, plumbing, electrical wiring, and sidewall. It’s a ton of work.
My husband and I considered buying a fixer-upper, but decided to spend our time and money pursuing my music career and his climbing rather than spending months renovating a motorhome. I’m happy we made this choice.
Pack light. Take what you think you need, then reduce your possessions by another 30-percent. Keep your space clean and organized.
Pace your traveling. We like to find anchor locations where we spend at least a month at a time. Then we get to meet people and experience community, and can use our tow car to make shorter trips.
And buy a National Parks pass. It’s so worth it.
Happy trails to you! See you out on the road.
Adventure Journal relies on reader support. Please subscribe to our amazing printed quarterly or pick up an issue here.