Chelsea Gonzales
by Chelsea Gonzales
Posted June 21, 2021

“RVs are our new profession,” owner Kaleb Awtrey tells us when asked what he does for a living. “Prior to renting out our first RV in 2019, Sarah worked for a major distribution company. We also own a landscape company that we still run on the side. The RV business has taken over for us, and we wouldn’t trade it for the world!”

When did the Awtreys join the RVing world? “I purchased the Happy Shack when I was 23,” Kaleb recalls. “The reason I purchased it was to go camping without sleeping in a tent any longer. I was tired of sleeping on the ground and carrying a heavy pack to go hiking. I had no clue what I was doing. All I knew was I wanted to get an RV that had ample space to bring my friends and family along. Well, that didn’t last long; no one wanted to go camping with me. Lo and behold, I used it only a few times, with the majority of the time sitting in my parents’ driveway for three years.”

Did Kaleb start renting during those three years? Nope! “I never even thought about renting it out,” he admits. “I sure wish I had, since it sat still more than it got used.” 

Eventually, however, the Awtreys did stumble upon the idea of renting. “Sarah and I decided we wanted to go tiny and live in an RV for a while,” Kaleb shares with us. “So we prepared to downsize, sell our house, and trade in my outdated 2016 Happy Shack for a 2019 Grand Design, The Wandering Soul.”

Unfortunately, there was a bit of a snag in this plan. “When we went to trade in the Happy Shack, the dealer said, ‘Okay, you pay me $6,000 and I’ll take your unit and give you the Grand Design!’ We looked puzzled—why would we do that? I asked, ‘What would the deal look like if I didn’t trade in the Happy Shack?’ The dealer replied, ‘Oh, in that case, you would simply sign and drive!’” Of course, that’s what Sarah and Kaleb decided to do.

“So, we scrambled to figure out what we could do with the Happy Shack,” Kaleb continues. “We asked our parents if they wanted it so we could all go camping together. Everyone declined our offer. So there we were, trying to downsize and minimize our bills to hit the road, and that backfired, leaving us with two RVs, two insurance bills, eight tires, three A/Cs, two roofs, and two slides. That didn’t work out for our plan or our budget, so we kept thinking of what to do.”

“Then one day I was chatting with a customer of mine: ‘You’ll never guess what’s happened. We have two RV’s now and don’t know what to do with either one of them just yet.’ Our customer simply said, ‘Rent it out!’

That was a game-changer. “We had no idea that it was a thing,” Kaleb tells us. “Sarah said, ‘If we’re going to rent this outdated unit out, we need to step up our game and decorate and paint it, fast!’ Well, that began our journey, we spent an entire weekend painting and decorating the Happy Shack in May of 2019. By June 1st we had our first booking, and the rest has been history. To this day, the Happy Shack is the unit that rents out more than anything else. Last year it was rented 48 times!”

These days the Awtreys have a total of 10 RVs and rent out 9 of them. The crazy thing? They all stay busy. “The Outdoorsy app tells us we’ve earned $30,684 in the last 12 months,” Kaleb says. 

While Kaleb and Sarah listed on another platform first, it wasn’t long before they found Outdoorsy. “We originally chose Outdoorsy to expand our reach and obtain more renters,” Kaleb explains. “Once we got acclimated to the platform, we were hooked. We didn’t want to use anything else. Having the app makes our life so much easier with reservations, booking requests, communicating with our renters, and editing our listings. There is no other platform as user-friendly as Outdoorsy!” 

Another thing the Awtreys love about Outdoorsy? The amazing sense of community. “We have met so many wonderful people through the community,” Kaleb says. “TJ Keplinger with Keplinger Campers has been our biggest supporter and idol from within the community. We have never met personally, but it seems like we have known each other our entire life. I love being able to chat with other owners like us from all over the country to see how things are going for them, bounce ideas off each other, and just establish great connections with like-minded people. I wouldn’t trade this community for the world.”

Are you looking to find success as Kaleb and Sarah have? Kaleb has some advice to offer: “The best advice I can give to anyone thinking of doing this full-time is be prepared for the unknown. Each and every RV is going to have its own issues, every rental can have different things come up, and every person is going to be different from the last. There is always something going on one way or the other in this industry. I believe that is why we love it so much—it’s unpredictable!”

Of course, the Awtreys also love the opportunity to share what they love most with others. “The Happy Shack has been from the Carolinas to Georgia, down to Florida, and all the way out west to Oregon,” Kaleb shares. “One family took a two-week trip to Oregon and back, and documented their entire journey to share with us along the way. Not only did we get a rental like this, but each week we listen to incredible stories from renters that are camping right down the road from our home location.

“Meeting the renters and listening to their stories is one of the most rewarding things we have ever done. It brings pure joy and smiles to our faces when we get to interact with our renters.”

All About Kaleb 

Favorite morning beverage: “Celsius [energy drink] is a must!” 

Favorite campsite meal: “Veggies and rice.”

Music you like to play on the radio: “Classic rock and reggae.” 

Best game to play on the road or at your campsite: “Cornhole.”

Favorite season: “Fall in Georgia is absolutely beautiful!” 

If you could travel anywhere in an RV, where would you go? “Out west to Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Oregon.”

Chelsea Gonzales

http://wonderwhereverwewander.wordpress.com/

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