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The Path to Abandoning a Townhome for a Winnebago

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When husband-and-wife Mick and Cathy Hanratty first bought their Old Town Alexandria townhome some 16 or so years ago, they were in love with the home's two-car garage (a rarity in the neighborhood), the fact that it was two stories instead of three or four, and how every room seemed to be flooded with sunlight. With how spacious and welcoming the abode was, Mick said, "You didn't feel like you were in a townhouse." Now, the couple has decided to give it all up. Not for a bigger house, though. Not even for a condo. But instead a Winnebago.

The couple sold the townhome for $1.3 million along with many of their possessions. "We went through and took the things that were important to keep like all our photographs and all his record albums," said Cathy, later adding, "We didn't have any antiques or anything. We gave stuff to people who wanted them, sold stuff on Ebay, had an estate sales come in and do the majority of it." The hardest possessions to give up were Mick's Mercedes convertible and one of Cathy's sewing machines, which she adds is only on loan to her sister. The couple still has a few possessions tucked away in a 7.5'x10' storage locker in Woodbridge, Virginia, though Cathy said, "I think when we come back in a year or two to get that stuff back, we're going to wonder why we kept that."

In truth, Cathy had been ready to sell the house for over a year now. The harsh winters and not having a backyard for their three Greyhounds weighed on her over the years. After the previous winter—with issues like having someone come to their home when they weren't there to bring in mail and check the pipes to see if they were frozen—Mick decided it was finally time to start downsizing and head out on the road. According to him, "Poor Cathy has been with me in my military career, has managed our family moving from place to place through that 30 years ... She deserves to have a home that doesn't have a winter."

Despite giving up their spacious townhome for a Winnebago, Cathy insists that "We're not roughin' it." According to her, the RV can span roughly 400-square-feet when parked and with the slides out. Inside, there is a king size bed, washer and dryer, electric fireplace, and three TVs. "People have probably downsized into apartments smaller than what we're in now," said Cathy.

Before beginning their trip away from Alexandria and into parts near Charleston, both she and Mick had experienced living together for months in an RV. Just last year, the two spent seven months in Arizona and San Diego, driving there and back. For those thinking of following Mick and Cathy's lead and trading in their luxury condo for an RV, here are some suggestions they have to offer: rent a Winnebago and try it out first before actually doing it, and expect a high mark up on the price, so be sure to do some research. For those wondering if they can handle living with their significant other in such a tight space, Cathy says, "It's not like you can prepare for living in a small space. If you're married to someone you don't like, you're going to go nuts." Additionally, the maintenance for an RV is much more complex than with say a Toyota.

"When you buy a Toyota, and your Toyota breaks down, you go to Toyota to get it fixed. When you buy a Winnebago, you have to figure out is it the Cummins engine? Is it the Allison transmission? Is it the Wineguard?" said Cathy, adding, "You have to know who to call. You don't call Winnebago."

But what makes it all worth it?

For Cathy, "If we want to see the world's largest ball of twine—which I found is in Kansas somewhere—we can go and see it."

"And we will by the way," said Mick.

Hear more about why they felt it was worth it with a clip from the interview below:

Take a look inside their Winnebago with the below photo gallery:


· Curbed Interviews archive [Curbed DC]