Two full-time RVers reflect on the lessons they learned in their first year RVing.
Last April, I stood in front of our old house and stared at the “For Sale” sign in the front yard. The day finally came — Lucas and I packed the cats into the back of our mini cooper and we traveled to Louisiana. We’d stay with Lucas’ mom while the house sold and then we could buy the RV we dreamt of.
Thoughts of that day cause tears to well up in my eyes. Tears for memories and friends we left behind in Denver. Some days, I wonder what life would be like if we continued on with the traditional lives we lead. However, I can say without a doubt I wouldn’t change anything!
It’s been a wild ride, and we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and the lessons life has to teach us. So, we want to share with you 10 surprising lessons we learned since we set out on the road last August.
1. We didn’t need all that stuff.
Before we sold the house, we needed to figure out how to get rid of all the stuff we accumulated in our life.
We sorted through our huge 20×20 foot basement — boxes filled with books, clothes, electronics, crafts, and memories. We spent hours going through everything, and we only kept a small pile of camping gear.
Most of those items we rarely used on a daily or even yearly basis. To think we hauled all of that clutter to multiple houses –it amazes me. Honestly, I’m glad it’s gone!
2. Relax! Everyone breaks down in the RV eventually.
Our first breakdown occurred on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, and I had a massive freak out. I questioned why we chose to RV while Lucas, the calm headed one, tried to figure out the problem. After the mobile mechanic paid us a visit, we hit the road around 1 AM.
Now, I compare that to our most recent breakdown about a month ago: we couldn’t get the bus to move and this time we needed a tow AND a hotel room! This time, though, I didn’t panic — I took it in stride as we found a solution.
I wish I could’ve gone back and told myself a year ago to take a chill pill because breakdowns are part of RV life!
3. We’re happier when we can be outside every day.
Over the past few years, I discovered how much I need to be out in nature. And of course, you would think RVing gives you that experience on a daily basis.
Well, not exactly… sometimes we stay in the RV and work for weeks on end. Those are times when I need to tell myself to try to get outside.
I’m happier, healthier, and my husband and I fight less! So, for both his and my own sanity, I try to get outside and commune with nature at least once a day.
4. We get to spend even more time with friends and family than we used to.
Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post about how it can be lonely on the road. Finding our tribe helped, and we work hard to keep up those connections. As a result, we’ve found a community on the road we didn’t anticipate.
However, we still have friends and family of the non-mobile variety all over the USA. So, we scheduled our route to see friends and family whom we haven’t seen for years.
Being on the road gave us the opportunity to make friends and family a priority. Now, we can spend a little more quality time with everyone when we pass through their hometown.
5. Slow down!!! Take a little more time to explore.
Every full-time friend we spoke to said you move too fast your first year RVing. And after our first full year, I have to say I agree. In fact, we still move a little too fast this year for my tastes.
On some of the stretches, we’ve moved 2-3 times per week. It’s about time we got out of that habit!
Between working on our business, the blog, the podcast and exploring the National Parks, we’ve got our hands full. I’ve already vowed to plan a slower route next year and to spend 2 weeks at the majority of our future destinations.
6. Camping can be expensive.
Before our first year RVing, I thought this lifestyle would be a great way to cut our expenses. However, if you aren’t careful, the cost of RV parks and gas will sneak up on you.
On the west coast, in particular, it’s not uncommon to find campsites over $75 per night! So, how do we offset the big costs? We’ve come up with a few ways to limit our burn rate:
- Boondocking aka free camping: West of the Mississippi, you can camp on many public lands for free. While you might not have hookups, camping for 1-2 weeks on public lands reduces our costs. And, sometimes the views are amazing!
- Leveraging discounts clubs like Good Sam, KOA, Escapees and Passport America. Often times we can get a certain amount off per night which can often recoup the cost of the membership.
- Traveling less and be sure to ask about weekly/monthly discounted rates.
7. Do research on your resources.
Over this past summer, I waited until the last minute to book our campsites. So I did what I often do best: PANIC! I’d find myself heart racing in front of the computer, worried I wouldn’t find anything.
Not only did this mean we ended up at some sub-par campgrounds, but I often overlooked the resources available to us! To name a few unfortunate circumstances we found ourselves in:
- No dump station when we needed one
- Terrible internet signal
- No laundry as we had a mountain of clothes to wash
- Pay showers
If we planned ahead and I had time to leveraged campground review websites, we wouldn’t have found ourselves in one of those situations as often. I still managed to find something every time though…
8. The internet can be hard to come by.
I’ll add my voice to the mass of RVers who say, “Campground Wifi is terrible!!!”
And even though this ties into our previous point, there’s always more to say on the lack of internet. When your work relies on a decent cell signal, sometimes you go to great lengths to find the internet.
We’ve traveled two hours one way into town to find a coffee shop or a Starbucks for reliable wifi.
Oh, and that time in East Glacier where we sat sweating in the car near the Amtrak station because we didn’t have reception at the campground… yea we’ve done that too.
When you have to travel daily for internet because either you poorly planned the trip OR people said in reviews they had a connection when they didn’t… I can tell you it gets REALLY old after a couple days.
9. This isn’t a vacation.
Most people we talk to think we’re out hiking in the parks every day. Even though I’d love to hike every day, we don’t always get to hike in beautiful places.
Last year we had a ton of fun, but this year we’ve started to reign it in and figure out how to thrive in this lifestyle.
Work comes and goes, and we’ve started to make a living. Oh, and one shameless plug, if you would like to find out more about our services, take a look at our work with us page!
10. We’ve loved our first year RVing!
Now onto the good part! In spite of the breakdowns, the lack of internet, and the non-vacation — I wouldn’t trade this for anything.
Lucas and I are happier than we’ve ever been, and it’s because we get to work when we want, where we want and see places we never thought we would when we were tied down to one location.
We started a blog and a podcast which enable us to connect with others and learn things we never even dreamed of. This life has opened so many opportunities, and I’m grateful for our chance to hit the road.
I think back to the day we left Denver. Yes, I still get misty-eyed, but I don’t regret it one bit. After the first year RVing, I can’t wait to see what new adventures we find over the next year!