Yesterday Wish Upon An RV Star wrote a rather thought-provoking post Days Of Wine And Roses? and it got me thinking, so much so that I just had to write about it. Now I fully admit I don’t typically write about the downsides of fulltime RVing. I’m a natural optimist (a state reached by life-long deliberate training) and prefer to handle the difficult passages in life with humor. My posts reflect that side of my nature and so they’re mostly positive…and mostly humorous. But I admit that some folks might read too much into it and think my life is one long-lived utopia. Given the ups and downs I’ve had over the years (including depression, eating disorders, personal challenges) and even the issues I’ve been through during our 3 RVing years I have to chuckle at that assessment, but sometimes…just sometimes…it helps to hear the darker bits (some say it makes us more human?). So, for those looking at this lifestyle for the first time here’s my short straight-forward take on the other side of fulltime RVing:
1/ Life Doesn’t Stop For Travel
I’ve travelled my whole life, so maybe travelling is much more ingrained in me than others. I expect (and know) that life happens no matter where you are. You will endure unexpected heartache, make clumpsy & painful mistakes, break things by your own hand, have medical issues , lose things, get deflated and sit for days waiting for stuff to get fixed…and none of it will come “at the right time”. This is life and it doesn’t stop just ‘coz you move into an RV. We’ve experienced ALL of these in our 3 years of RVing and expect to keep doing so. The important question is not what happens, but how you deal with those life challenges. That’s true in an RV, in an apartment or in a $50 million dollar home.
2/ RVs Are Not As Big As Apartments
I know this may sound bleedin’ obvious, but I always find it endlessly funny how some people move into an RV and then seem surprised by how small it is. Yes, it’s small. Yes, your kitchen is minute and your refrigerator is about half what you had at home. Yes, your shower-stall is not the double walk-in rainfall you had before. Yes (I’m sorry to say) your sh*t likely still stinks (and as a bonus you get to carry it around in an RV!)…but honestly that’s to be expected. Paul and I lived in a teeeeny apartment with no living room windows in Hong Kong for 4 years before we decided to go RVing. In that time we learnt to live comfortably in a small space with very little natural light, a barbie-sized kitchen (we only had 2 burners and no oven), a child-size washer, iffy electricity and a refrigerator the size of a gnat. So moving into an RV was EASY! I have never felt the RV to be small. In fact I consider it very luxurious & spacious, especially compared to our HK days (which I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way). Sometimes I miss some of my “stuff” and Paul certainly misses his 400+ investment books, but this is part of the sacrifice we make to be mobile. If we were spending our time in city-squeezed RV parks I might feel differently, but given we choose to camp in natural environments with lots of trails and green around us that just adds to the space.
3/ You’re Not In A Fixed Place
Part of moving into an RV is embracing the mobile lifestyle. That means you no longer live around the corner from your favorite joint and actually need to think about where to go, eat, shop and stay. It’s actually one of the things I love about RVing, but you risk fizzling out and collaping if you go at it too hard. We made the mistake, as many new RVers do, of racing around waaay too much in our first year. Not only that but we managed to hit the midwest in August (how dumb are we?) and were practically eaten alive by both mosquitoes, fleas and ticks (believe it or not we even contracted Lyme Disease)….oh, it wasn’t pretty it was not. But we managed to see the beauty despite the beast, learned from our idiocies and have slowed down, spent more time getting to know the “local” scene and followed much better weather ever since. We’re still going to hit periods of weather that suck, and will still end up doing some drives we don’t enjoy, but now we know how to chose our pace & our place so that the experience is enjoyable. Our “improved” approach made RVing 100 times better, and I can see us slowing down and being even more picky about our spots in the years to come.
4/ Budget & Money Still Matters
No mater how much you might wish it you are never going to get away from needing the green stuff. Money matters…from the day you’re born ’till the day you meet the never-after. We make our income 100% from investing and have done so for the past 3 years. This means we have a non-steady income stream, which is true for many “younger” RVers. We’ve also had unexpected expenses come up (a particularly large and personal one earlier this year) which put an extra painful wrench in the socket. What this means is that we have to watch our budget and adjust accordingly -> no differently from what I would do if we lived in a fixed home. This year we cut down massively on travel (= less gas), ligthhouse hosted for 2 months (= free camping) and are planning on boondocking much of winter. Would you call that sacrificing? Maybe…but I love the fact that RVing allows you that exact kind of flexibility. You can drive less, workamp, chose cheaper camping options…I’ve never had a lifestyle that was so adaptable (money-wise) and sure appreciate the freedom of it.
5/ You WILL Be Close To Your Partner
The sheer size of an RV means that if you didn’t know your other half before starting this endeavor, you bet-your-behind-you-will now. Paul and I were together (and by together I mean we commuted together, worked in the same job in the same company in the same group in next-door cubicles and lived together!) for 14 years before we went RVing, so spending 24-hours a day in each others space was completely natural. Zero adjustment here, baby. But some people DO have a process to go through when they move into a tin-can rig and if they’re not prepared for this it could literally shatter their fulltime dreams. My advice is be mentally ready for this adjustment, develop separate hobbies, go on few separate sight-seeing trips and take solo-walks with the dog when you need a break. It may take some time, but if you’re open-minded about it, it’ll work out in the end.
So is fulltime RVing for everyone? Hell no! If you’re not adaptable, flexible, relaxed about travel & weather, love being around your other half, comfortable in a small space and have a decent sense of humor this lifestyle might well fail you. That’s not to say you can’t be all those things in a stix & brix house, but space and plans are even more likey to be “jello” in an RV, so you gotta be prepared for the unexpected. And the positives? Freedom, adventure and memories to last a lifetime. For me, those three little things totally outdo the negatives. For you? Well, you’ll have to make that decision for yourself.
P.S. For those itching to read more my old “10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Fulltime RVing” and Paul’s quite excellent ”Revisiting A Recipe For A Happy Retirement” post from yesterday meshes in quite nicely to this topic.