By Ronnie Wendt
Austin and Rachel full-time in a 1987 Alpenlite fifth wheel with their dog, Topher. The ability to RV full-time requires a source of income, and this lovely young couple has found just that in app development. In addition, the husband and wife team has partnered to create FreeRoam, an app designed to build the ultimate community and resource for boondockers. “She designs, I program,” says Austin of their unique partnership.
He adds, “We are not in this to get rich. We hope that this can one day support our costs, but past that we intend to direct any additional revenue toward the community.”
RV Daily Report recently chatted with the young RVers about their app and their decision to full time.
How did you get into this?
I’ve been building websites since 8th grade, a little over half of my life – I find it really rewarding to build things that other people find useful. I ended up starting a company in the video games space when I was in college – raised some money from investors and lived out the silicon valley startup lifestyle for a few years. During that time, I got tired of the greed and arrogance surrounding that culture, so we moved back to Austin to figure out what we wanted to do next.
My parents have been full-time RVers for 6 years, so that idea was sort of planted in our minds as something we could do to get closer to nature. We started looking at RVs early this year and ended up flying to Seattle in May to buy our truck and fifth wheel, drove them back to Texas and have been living out of it since.
How long have you been RVing and boondocking?
We’ve only been living out of our RV for four months now, so we’re still brand new to everything.
What it’s like to work from the road and how you navigate the challenges of that.
We’re at an RV park near Austin, Texas, until January while Rachel finishes up school, so it isn’t too difficult. Our Internet isn’t great, but it works. The hardest part is probably the fact that we’re renovating the RV while living in it, so things can be a bit messy… as I’m typing this my view is of countertops full of power tools, cabinets without doors (we’re painting them), and curtainless windows.
What are the challenges and benefits to working together on an app?
Building something together is something we’ve always wanted to do. In the past, I’ve mostly worked on apps in the video gaming space, which doesn’t interest Rachel at all, so this is the first time she can use her creative skills toward something we both care about. We haven’t run into many challenges yet, other than Rachel not having much time to put toward design as she finishes a pretty heavy workload of school all while doing most of the renovation.
Why is the FreeRoam app needed?
A lot of this info already exists, but is behind paywalls, or difficult to access. We thought we could do a better job of surfacing the information, for free, to make it a little less painful to find places to stay.
How does this app differ from what is already out there?
There are some useful sites already out there that do similar things. Campendium, FreeCampsites.net and AllStays to name a few… All are great sites and have really helpful content from reviewers.
Because of that, we’ve tried to bring new boondocking-focused features and hopefully laid them out in an easy to navigate manner. The map overlays, a lot of the filters we have, and “nearby” facilities (dump stations, groceries, etc…) I’m pretty sure are all unique to FreeRoam.
Longer-term we also want to build a strong community of boondockers, so people can be helpful in more ways than just posting reviews and locations.
What can it do?
There are some pretty extensive filters for finding the right campsite. You can filter to find ones that have good coverage with your cell carrier, campsites that are near grocery stores and dump stations, spots that are easy to access with any rig, even filtering by average weather per month.
On top of that, you can overlay cell coverage maps for each carrier, BLM and USFS land, and low clearance bridges and tunnels on the main map.
When you look at individual campsites, you can see info like how crowded a spot is depending on the time of year, how noisy it is, safety, the average weather, etc… as well as a map of the closest dump station, fresh water, groceries and propane.
Our focus so far has mostly been on the campsite finding aspect, but we’d like to eventually help foster a community of helpful and friendly people in the app. We think it would be awesome if people could eventually make new friends through the app, and keep up with folks they meet on the road with our chat.
It’s definitely still far from perfect – we’ve only been working on it for about three months. We would love for folks to check it out and offer suggestions for what we should implement. Also if they find anything confusing, please send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do people get their hands on the app?