To the outside world it may appear that Full-time RVing is all rainbows and butterflies, a constant adventure and permanent vacation. What may not be evident are its complications and challenges, yet these too can be opportunities for honing one’s skills and growth. Now that we are no longer newbies and have some time and experience to reflect on our journey, here is our list of the pros and cons of this lifestyle.
Campfires – For recreational campers, building a fire at the campsite is a part of the experience. For full-time RVers, campfire smoke is like dense pollution that quickly fills every square inch of the RV with little escape, minus a strong breeze in the other direction. Sometimes the smell is only removed after a few days and a couple loads of laundry.
Mildew and mold are common. In very small spaces, one begins to realize how much moisture we, as humans, put off. In certain climates it is not uncommon to wake up with all the windows inside and much of the walls covered with a moist dew. This turns into mildew or mold if preventative measures and diligence are not taken.
Smells seem amplified in such a small space. The “off gassing” of two humans and two cats in a tiny space is a regular assortment of interesting and usually undesirable odors.
Things break a lot – RVs are houses that are subjected to the abuse of highways and roadways at 60+ mph. Many of the systems in RVs are of questionable quality to begin with, and after a decade and 50,000 miles things fail with some regularity.
Noisy weekend campers are out to party and get away. This often conflicts with the full-timer wanting a normal quiet night at home. This can be avoided by staying away from public parks by large population centers, especially on weekends.
Tiny shower – RV bathrooms are tiny with minuscule showers. They are so small that simply turning around is an exercise in balance, control, and spatial awareness.
Inside traffic jams – If we are both moving around in the RV at the same time, we are with certainty going to be in each other’s way.
Gas costs when travelling. We bought an RV to travel, but at 9 miles per gallon at $4/gallon, it not hard to visualize dollars flying out of the tail pipe.
Creepy Bathrooms – Sometimes using the facilities at campgrounds is not unlike walking into a horror movie. Restrooms and showers at campgrounds are rarely well cared for and can be down right creepy.
In such a small space, clutter and mess are as easy as a few things being out of place.
With nature comes bugs, expect to have visitors and the occasional welt.
Maintaining a budget – With fluctuating costs it is very difficult to maintain a regular budget, though we do try.
Lack of regular community – We do miss being a part of a regular community. Having lived in the city in a particularly social neighborhood, we miss the connections.
Unfamiliarity with local service providers – Finding a good mechanic, hair cut, notary public, medical and dental care and just about everything else can be a challenge. Luckily with online reviews the troubles are lessened, somewhat.
Generational Gap – The traditional full-time RV’er is retired and for younger full-timers there can be a generational gap and sometimes a subtle hint of ageism.
While the cons to full-time RVing are tangible, the pros, on the other hand, are less so, yet much more profound.
The travel – Seeing and experiencing new places is exciting!
Meeting new people – part and parcel of the travel experience is meeting new people and learning from each one.
Personal growth – This might be the most important and significant and every man’s journey is his own.
Serendipity – realizing after the fact, all the things that led you to a place.
Volunteering/free camp – there is something joyful about volunteering, when there is no money exchanged, there is just appreciation. Living rent free is a dynamite perk.
Easy clean up – It takes only 10-15 minutes to entirely clean the inside of the RV.
Simplicity – the lifestyle demands simplicity which leads to less stress and a lack of want.
Communication – increased communication with spouse or travel partner and with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. This can easily be a con too, hopefully this is known before hitting the road. We have seen relationships strengthened and fall apart.
Nature – regularly being connected with nature develops an appreciation for the natural world and nourishes the spirit.
Lack of routine – we find that by breaking out of routine and the comfort of familiarity, it opens us up to growth and by regularly having new experiences, life tends to slow down.
Less stress – As result from a lack of want and reducing responsibilities, anxiety is at a minimum.
General over sense ofwell being – responsibly breaking from convention to really experience life and develop awareness results in a sense of peace.
Learning and education – The opportunity for experiential learning through travel is tremendous. We learned more in a year of travel than we did the previous decade in our “normal” life.
The Cedar Keys in Florida are a small group of islands located in the Gulf of Mexico about half way between Tampa and Apalachicola in what is known as, “The Nature Coast.” It is also called “Old Florida,” due to the lack of development and ubiquitous strip malls. Cedar Key is a small island town of less than 1000 residents that support themselves clam farming and with a modest tourist industry. This place is every bit of the old fishing village one can conjure up in imagination; weathered piers and fish shacks, with well worn boats built for a singular purpose. A small group of artists also call the island home, establishing a collective and adding a hard to miss funky charm. The pace is slow, the work is hard or long, and there is little more than nature to provide entertainment. It is frequently compared to what Key West was during the time of Hemingway.
Life is too short to hang onto unpleasant circumstances that can be changed. While change can be scary and takes work, the willingness to do so often beats the willfulness it takes to remain stuck in state of familiar, yet comfortable dis-ease. In 2013, we stepped off into the unknown that we hardly planned for, and ended up finding adventure and making new discoveries along the way. I guess it could be said that 2013 was a pioneering year.
As a non-retired couple living and travelling in an RV fulltime, we are bucking convention and it has allowed us to have an outsider’s view on ourselves and the culture we live in. We have been able to recognize the many good hearted, creative and adventurous people doing inspiring things, and have seen cultural ills too. There are many different Americas, each is unique and worth taking the time to appreciate.
Full-time RVing can be a great lifestyle, especially if you crave new experiences and a sense of adventure. While most full-timers are retired and have the luxury of pensions and Social Security, the lifestyle is still within reach for many “non-traditional” younger wannabe RVers.
The first step is realizing this lifestyle exists and is an option. For us, it seemed like we stumbled upon a secret, and in some ways, it is. It bucks convention in that it promotes living simply, and works a lot better with less debt and “stuff”. This lifestyle will not work for people who desire prestige and a gain in material wealth. Less is more seems to aptly apply.
Most people can quickly determine if they are in the position to set off on the road in short time. Debt is probably the largest obstacle. A modest amount may be acceptable for the frugal, but for those up to their eyes in student loans, credit card debt, and excessive car payments will have to eliminate these before pursuing the idea much further. Medical insurance can also be an issue, for the time being there are some affordable options for folks willing to ride with a high deductible. Houses can be sold or rented, and things can be stored or sold. We have modest car and student loan payments, and “catastrophic” type health insurance. We rented our properties and have a property manager, and sold just about everything that would not fit in our RV.
Why are we doing this? This is the question that came about after my wife and I began to examine our life. For several years we had been tossing around the idea of finding a new area to relocate to. While neither of us were unhappy with our current situation, living in a historic neighborhood near the Baltimore Harbor, our life had become predictable. I was a real estate agent and Alayne an accountant; jobs that we had become weary of. Our life felt programmed and not one we had consciously chosen. We, like most people, enjoy traveling for the recreation and growth found in the process. Also like most people, we were confined to short time periods and money was often an issue.