We started living full time in an RV on April 24, 2017, and people frequently ask us how we’ve liked it. Since I’ve only recently begun to write things on the inter webs, I’m going to rely on the cliche pros/cons list.
I feel like Captain Obvious even listing this, but it’s been really fun to travel. We’ve always had a travel itch, but other obligations have sucked up all of our disposable income. Now, we’re able to travel in a very nice motorhome, but our monthly budget is actually smaller than living in a house.
The United States is an amazing country, and we’ve been really lucky to have seen so much of it this year. Just this year we’ve been to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. We’ve seen beaches, magical forests and deserts.
Downsizing is liberating. Being surrounded by useless clutter is frustrating. Living in an RV forced us to downsize and it keeps pressuring us to get rid of more. Sure, we’ve purchased a few things along the way, but we have gotten rid of far more than we’ve acquired.
The benefit is that you’re surrounded by the things you absolutely love or can’t do without.
Also, it’s great to not have a massive house (and yard) to clean and take care of (but, we do have some RV chores that home owners don’t have).
Family relationships and memories
Living in an RV is helping my wife and I develop a stronger relationship with each other. We’ve become better communicators and are constantly improving our ability to work together.
We’ve been creating some great memories together. I took my son whale watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon. It’s been a few months since our outing but he still talks about it. He gets excited to find camping spots and isn’t shy to share his opinion on whether we picked a good one. I hope he remembers these journeys well into adulthood.
Social life (or lack thereof)
My wife and I are both solidly in the “introvert” category. We both felt stress due to the social obligations which are a normal part of the home owner life. We have lots of people we enjoy spending time with, but now we get to do it on our terms and our schedule.
We have enjoyed meeting a wide variety of people since starting RV living. While we may not seek new friends as actively as other RVers, we still get to have some great interactions.
Off grid living
There is something primitively satisfying about off grid living. Understanding the basic elements of nature and being able to leverage them for your benefit without the assistance of anyone else is incredibly rewarding. It’s difficult to describe. You feel a deeper connection to the earth and life.
The more efficiently we can live, the longer we can stay in primitive, beautiful environments. And seeking out these efficiencies has become enjoyable, almost to the point of becoming a hobby.
There are also environmental benefits of living off grid, but I’ll admit I wasn’t seeking out ways to live more green. Hopefully our efforts offset the environmental impact of our gas guzzling engines.
Only one item goes in the Neutral zone, and that is homeschool. We didn’t really have a choice here. It wasn’t something we were thrilled to implement, for several reasons. Like most kids, our son seems to more readily internalize advice from anyone besides me and my wife. To add to the mess, my wife and I often struggle to be patient teaching Kalepo.
Now that we’ve been doing it for a few months, it’s getting better. Dolly has taken the lead in teaching, since I work full time and Dolly’s work is more cyclical. We’ve been able to see Kalepo’s progress, and it’s clear he’s learning and progressing. We’re learning not to push him too hard, but instead help him learn to enjoy learning. We still have our moments, and it’s still not super fun, but we see it as a necessary sacrifice to make RV living work, and it’s worth it.
Traveling and seeing new things has also enriched his education. For instance, being able to see a variety of animals and how they live has provided memorable teaching moments for us.
Prepping to start RV living was way more work than I imagined. It took a tremendous amount of research and work to get everything lined up. We needed to make sure we could afford it, figure out how to get mail, learn about RV’s (which we had no experience with), find and buy an RV (and hope we didn’t make an expensive mistake), dealing with the RV loan and transaction was way more work than planned, learning how to use an RV, figuring out how to tow a vehicle, learning how to drive a huge bus, determining which parts to buy for towing, figuring out parts we’d need for the RV, etc, etc. There was so much, and I’m glad it’s behind us.
Finding places to stay
Finding places to park and camp is extremely time consuming. In order for this to work financially, we have to camp in free areas as often as possible. Even if we wanted to camp in parks (which would have been convenient on occasion), RV parks in popular areas are often booked way in advance, which isn’t great for people like us who don’t plan that way.
So, we have to scour the internet looking for free or cheap places to stay. We have to check to make sure:
- We can fit our RV
- Our RV can handle the roads (lots of camping is requires driving on rough roads that are impassible for an RV)
- The area is within strong internet service (so we can work)
- Allows pets
- Allows large pets (some places only allow lap dogs, essentially)
Beyond that, we ideally like places that:
- Have good weather
- Are near great natural wonders
- Allow us to not be surrounded by neighbors
- Aren’t parking lots
- Have services relatively close by (within 30min or so)
Every time we move, we have to go through the entire search process again. It’s not a search process either of us enjoy, so this goes on the con list.
Beyond places to stay, we also spend a lot of time figuring out:
- How to avoid low bridges or overpasses
- Where to shop for groceries
- Where to do laundry
- Where to get gas
- Where to attend church each Sunday
- Where to fill up on fresh water
- Where to dump waste (fortunately, we don’t have to worry about this one anymore thanks to our composting toilet)
I’ve been an Amazon addict for a long time. I love being able to find high quality or obscure items and have it show up 2 days later. On the road, it can be hard to get packages. We have a mail forwarding service that scans our mail, which is awesome, but packages prove to be a bit trickier. There are plenty of articles that dive deeper into the struggle of getting packages on the road, and they are all true.
We were really lucky to start our journey around the time Verizon announced their unlimited data plans. We jumped on that and are pretty happy with how it’s worked out.
Some things just work better over WiFi. You can’t download OS updates on cellular data, and backing up data is often slow.
Also, the internet can be really slow when too many people are using the Verizon network at once. We don’t experience this too often, but when we do, it’s painful. Larger cities are often the worst. Nothing was as bad as Moab, UT during Fall Break. The entire area was packed with people, and there were times we couldn’t even load email or open Google.
For the most part, our internet needs are met. But, from time to time, I miss my WiFi.
So far, I think the pro’s outweigh the cons. We’re still enjoying the experience and we feel like we get more proficient at this lifestyle every day. I’d be lying if I said I enjoy every moment. I don’t think this lifestyle is for everyone. But for us, for now, it’s working.