After nearly four years of full-time RVing, I am reminded of that classic line of literature – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” I think we err more on the side of foolishness than wisdom, but I guess I have learned a lot in four years! While there have certainly been some moments – you know, the ones that make you want to quit and go home; but then you remember, this is home – there have been far more that reminded us of how lucky we are.
So for anyone considering if full-timing is for you or for those of you who full-time and want a knowing giggle, consider my list of The Good, The Bad, and The Joyous. (“Ah-e-ah-e-ah, wah wah wah!” a sound bite for those of you familiar with this film reference.)
Wheels – Of course, you know that the freedom is the best part of living in a home with wheels. Your neighbor is too loud or has a dog that won’t stop barking? You can either pack it all up and move on down the road or at least to a different space in the campground. And when that isn’t possible, you just remember that you will only be neighbors for a few days before one of you moves. Or maybe you want to go see the Grand Canyon and discover that Hell’s Angels are planning a rally that weekend. Ok, with a little rearranging, you can shift gears and head to a small town in Montana. And if the temperatures of 107 are not to your taste, you can head as north as possible!
Destinations – Oh, the places you go! (I can’t let go of literary references) I have seen more of the US than ever and I was a fairly well-traveled American. The best part is that you can see more and stay longer to test being a part of the community. Typically vacations just hit the highlights during peak season or weekends. The glory of full-time RVing is we can plan our journey so we avoid peak season and heavily trafficked cities. We can stay longer to visit the off-beat spots or see the local festival. We can see Michigan in May when the temperatures are still cool but spring is starting to bloom. We can go to National Parks during the week for long hikes and have the tall Giants to ourselves in Sequoia National Park. We have made it from Maine’s Arcadia to Washington’s Olympic National Parks with more than 20 states in between. And often, we have enjoyed solitude and the beauty with only a handful of other guests. We have also gotten off the beaten track and seen so many adorable small towns. There is much to see besides the top ten US destinations and we have the pictures to prove it.
Less Junk – It might not seem so at first, but it was such a blessing to let go of all the stuff in our house. We had acquired a lot in 25 years of being in the same house and it felt so free and light to dispose of it all. What was important was kept, and you realize how little that really is. And while our natural tendency is to acquire (old habits die hard), it becomes easier to enjoy looking without buying when you remember you have to find a place to store it during travel. Full-time RVing means not buying ornaments in every city and only buying something your really, reallly like or have great need for especially if it is breakable.
Time – They say that the years go fast, but the days go slow. When we were more plugged into the “real world” and had so many things to keep up with, this felt less true. Days flew past and so did the years. And those days were so rushed and filled with time-wasters like traffic and yardwork. Now, we are able to fill in our days with more of what we want and less of what is expected. Even on workdays when we put in the full 8 hours or home maintenance days, we enjoy breaks or working outside. Our day ends with a commute from the local coffee shop or traveling three feet across the room. So the years still go fast, but now our days feel more balanced and we don’t just fall into a stupor in front of the television after an exhausting day.
Black Tank – Dealing with Shit, literally! It isn’t an every day issue; but it is often enough, you have to get up close and personal with your excrement. Typically, this requires a hose attached to a tank with the other end screwed onto a hole in the ground leading to the sewer. Just flushing a toilet in a house does not get you this personally involved with the health habits of your family. And God Forbid, there is ever an issue with this process or area of the rig. We have a whole book of now humorous stories from Rvers dealing with this aspect of RVing.
Decision fatigue – While this does exist in the “real world”, it feels more prevalent as a RVer. When you decide to live a more unconventional life, your daily routines are rarely routine so more decisions need to be made. First, you have all the normal decisions related to work, whether you run your own business or work remotely. Then, you have all the decisions required to make life work. Decisions like where to park your house. In a sticks and bricks, you know where it will be this week and next year. You also know the wifi worked, how to find your favorite shows and where the grocery store is when you suddenly need toilet paper. Now those decisions require research and additional work including figuring out how much to buy at the grocery store so you can store it.
Campgrounds – Most are not bad, but some leave much to be desired. It would be nice if I could always just park my rig where I can get the best view every day without high prices or loud neighbors, but that isn’t always an option. Really, the main issue with campgrounds is finding one that works for your needs. Once you decide where to go, you have to find a campground with little to go on, then hope that the review saying there were three bars of AT&T was correct. And don’t get me started on the campgrounds that haven’t been introduced to the internet yet and require phone calls or mail-in checks to reserve!
Fuel – Need I really say more right now??
Solitude – Depending on your mood or personality, this is often a Good. However, at some point whether you are traveling alone or with a family, the remoteness from community, however you define it, will make it a Bad. This is definitely a concern for those of us who are extroverts and get our energy from being around others. There are only so many times you can tap into your partner for that burst. Not to mention the times you need to discuss the latest episode of The Bachelorette and he is conspicuously missing.
Togetherness – On the other hand, there are times when there is too much togetherness… with the same person or people. Really, this is often a good that we get to spend so much of our day with one another but on occasion, you just need some space which is hard to find in a 35 foot house on wheels. Luckily there are coffee shops or places to go off on your own, but for those times when you need more time and more space, you begin to understand claustrophobia.
Storage – We are really lucky in our 35 foot motorhome to have some good storage underneath and throughout the interior. However, it is certainly more limited than a home and harder to reach. I sometimes miss not having to take out most of the glasses in my cabinet to reach the dish in the back or simply going to the garage for the the extra toilet paper. We won’t discuss the closet as it is a serious flaw in this motorhome design and men’s clothes are typically longer than this space allows. The upside is that I have much less clothes than before too so I can make it work with ingenuity and a few containers.
The views – Not every day gets to be a view of the Sedona hills or the beaches of California, but when it works out, it is glorious. There is something so relaxing to be out in the middle of the mountains of Colorado with no other person within 100 yards and the night sky filled with stars.
Freedom – While I tried to live life fully before, this lifestyle has opened me up to so many opportunities. It is so freeing that I get to define my day, what I see and where I go. With this lifestyle, I get out to explore more and try new things. I would never have hiked the Narrows or tried paddleboarding before. I have learned that I love small towns after a lifetime of living in the suburbs of a major city. After driving our rig for four years and running my own business, I have more confidence. All this plus the freedom to get to decide where I wake up the next day has made the past four years a true blessing.
Should You Full-time?
I could go on and on with good and bad, but just know that full-time RVing is a mixed bag, just like everything else. And your mindset has a lot more to do with your success than how large the rig is or where you decide to travel. Going in to it with a little forewarning and a lot of humor will make your road easier and more fun. Enjoy!
Share what you have learned or tried during your RV journeys, whether full-time or not?