Six weeks ago, my husband Brian and I pulled out of our suburban Atlanta neighborhood for the last time. It was a momentous occasion we'd spent some two years planning for.
Since then we've lived full time in our class A motorhome, glamping at one RV park or another. Life is good.
If I was a more enterprising person, I might sell you a brighter, glossier version of our RV life, so you’d be inspired/jealous and go visit our YouTube channel to see it all.
Or maybe I'd tell you how disastrous things have gone since day one. You’d click through to watch us like rednecks watch a train wreck.
But no – I have no stunning RV life videos. No RV disaster videos, either. What I have to share isn't all that dramatic, but it is a heckuva lot closer to reality.
Living full-time in an RV has been less a magical life fix than a series of trade-offs.
If you already do it, I don’t have to tell you that. Although if you’re like me, it does help to get a reminder every now and then that master bathrooms with jetted soaking tubs are overrated.
If you’re an aspiring full-timer, though, even as I cheer you on toward your goal, I want to interrupt your #RVlife daydream to tell you this:
Dude/dudette: You’re going to give up some things. But don’t dwell on them – you’ll get much more in return.
What we gave up to get here
1) Proximity to family and local friends
What we got: We're still near some of our family at the moment, but that will change.
Upside: Seeing family and friends we miss who live in other parts of the country.
Downside: Missing family and friends who live in the Atlanta area.
Net: Mixed bag, as you might expect. We've never really travelled or taken a vacation that didn't involve family, death, or both. Kind of excited to travel for non-death reasons.
At our favorite Mexican restaurant, where we gathered with family after they helped us clean out the house following our estate sale. Grandson Julian watches as daughter Christina gives baby Chelsea a taste of lime.
2) King-size bed
What we got: Queen-size bed.
Upside: Closer to hubby.
Downside: Closer to snoring, no room to build pillow wall.
Net: Eh… 😉
3) Mailbox & street address
What we got: Virtual mailbox.
Upside: No junk mail!
Downside: We have to pay for mail service. Drivers' Services doesn't understand any version of “No permanent address” that doesn't involve homelessness.
Net: Who are we kidding? Nobody misses junk mail! But I am going to miss having my drivers' license if I don't get that straight pretty soon.
4) Big kitchen
What we got: Incredibly well-organized tiny kitchen with almost every one of my regularly-used tools from my big kitchen.
Upside: I have everything I need. It’s close at hand; I can “mop” the floor with two Clorox wipes! I’ve finally figured out the microwave convection oven and it’s amazing.
Downside: Tight counter space often requires shuffling things around to accomplish meal prep & cleanup tasks. No room for a toaster. No dishwasher. :O
Net: I love my tiny kitchen. I wouldn’t add anything to it because then I’d have to give up something more important. #tradeoffs
5) Suburban HOA neighborhood
What we got: Campgrounds, RV parks & state parks; 100% reduction in pretentious personalities.
Upside: No more waking up near the same jerk-face neighbor day after day. No stressing out about getting reported to the HOA or what color the neighbor painted his house.
Downside: Finding places to live can be nerve wracking. People we’ve met in the RV parks are nice enough, but our tribe isn’t in the places we’re staying right now. We’re the only ones who pick up after our dog. 😡
Net: 0% sad as we drove away from the house. Currently -1000% sad that we are in a converted trailer park vs. the “respectable” house we sold.
6) Virtually unlimited water, self-maintaining septic system
What we got: Grey, black & freshwater tanks.
Upside: No water or sewer bill. We’re self-contained and could drive into the desert and camp. In winter. When I get better at water conservation.
Downside: Must empty our own sh*t into a hole in the ground. Water sometimes tastes yucky.
Net: Good water filtration is worth the $$$. Freedom is worth the hassle.
7) A house that was nearly purged of shiny gold
What we got: RV with gold everything. And wallpaper. With border :O
Downside: We invested money and manpower to get rid of the worst offenders. We’ve decided to live with the rest (door handles & hinges).
Net: Selling that big old house made the remaining shiny gold someone else’s problem, and enabled us to own our RV – gold and all – free and clear. #WIN
8) Half-acre lot with fenced backyard
What we got: Whatever we’re renting at the moment, so far unfenced & not private.
Upside: No lawn maintenance! No stressing out about getting reported to the HOA for dandelions growing in the yard!
Downside: Must go outside with dog when he TCOB, no matter the weather or time of day. Really close to neighbors. Thank goodness for blinds.
Net: This one’s a wash, currently, because so far we’ve stayed in places that are less park-like than parking lot.
9) Familiar community
What we got: Changing surroundings.
Upside: Being forced to explore makes life more interesting.
Downside: We already had a tendency to put off hanging out with friends; moving away from the immediate area exacerbates it :O
Net: Positive. Especially after discovering the Bohemian specialty meat shop nearby.
10) 24/7 Indoor comfort
What we got: More time outside, around nature.
Upside: Having to take the dog out means I go outside whether I like it or not; that's good for me.
Downside: Cannot completely avoid heat, rain, mosquitos, mud, cold, sun, plants that make me itch.
Net: Positive impact on mood and health. Despite mosquito bites & West Nile risk.
As I write, our life looks a lot like Liz and Ed’s a year ago – stationary, not traveling, hubby working out the last days of one career before hanging it up. Me working like a dog on my business, in between taking the dog out to do his business.
Well, it’s like Liz and Ed's life if you subtract the preschooler and add twenty-something years of age.
Since going full time in mid-May, we’ve “traveled” less than 25 miles from the house we sold.
Not quite the nomadic life we want, but this is only Phase One. Not an indefinite situation.
Brian will keep running his gun-fixing shop until the end of November. While he’s doing that, I’ll continue working to grow A Fearless Venture, my WordPress consulting business.
When Brian is no longer tethered to the shop, he’ll dust off his MBA/PMP and join me in my business. We’ll be free to work from anywhere we can get internet.
It’s an exciting prospect we’ve planned for since nearly the beginning of our RV dreaming. But guess what? It’s full of trade-offs. Especially to start with.
Because unless I can build my business to something that will at least sustain our relatively modest lifestyle, and do it before November, we’ll be sharing 24/7 gate-guarding duty at one dusty middle-of-nowhere oilfield or another.
I heart trade-offs
Obviously we’d rather go straight to traveling. Gate guarding – a round-the-clock gig with no breaks for day trips or even meals out together – is no one’s idea of a good time.
Sounds like a super-sized order of downside, right? Buuuuut I bet you know where this is going.
As monotonous as gate guarding is likely to be, even that is not without an upside.
For one thing, it’s pretty damn lucrative for a job that requires all of about seven functioning brain cells. That lines up nicely with my cerebral function after around 10 or 11 at night.
Did I mention we’d have to cover a gate 24/7?
The bigger upside, however, isn’t the immediate boost to our bottom line. That’ll last only as long as we’re willing to go nowhere and do nothing.
No, the biggest benefit is essentially getting paid to be in circumstances that look ideal for hunkering down and focusing on a long-range goal like growing a business.
What are you? Some kind of Pollyanna?
I can definitely get cranky in uncomfortable circumstances. But I've come to appreciate how intertwined the upsides and downsides of things are, and how much of life involves choices with trade-offs.
Like, all of it.
RV life is no different.
It’s not that I don’t miss opening the door to our fenced back yard to let the dog out instead of having to go out with him no matter the hour, the weather or what I happen to be wearing.
Good gravy do I miss that.
The reality is that the fenced back yard came with a whole lotta trade-offs we began to resent.
Sure – it's possible at some point the downside of full-time RV life will get to us. If it seems greater than all we gain, we might make another change.
See you on the road.
What about you?
What did you trade for full-time life? Or, if you're not there yet, what will you trade? Leave a comment below and let us know.
I also suggest reading this post on living in an RV full time from our Virtual Campground friends over at Let's Travel Family.