I cannot believe that it has been seven years since we sold the house in California and started our wandering life. The longer we travel, the more I love full-time RV livings. But we have definitely learned some lessons along the way. Here are seven of the most important ones. Throughout our website, you will find others that we mention from time to time. But here are my favorites!
When you get to then end, please add a few of your own. We have so much to teach each other!
1. Travel Planning and Research are a Fun Hassle
Are you a planner? Or would you rather wing it? Over our 7 years of full time RV living, we have done both. Now we lean more towards planning, or at a minimum, we research things out.
After deciding on a general direction for the next loop, we spend a lot of time looking at various trip idea web sites. I even use Pinterest for ideas. My favorite technique is to type “Visit Some-town-here” into Google!
The next step is always to search for articles about the area. We love to ask “why is this town even here?” Was it forestry? mining? Was it a train depot or a river portage? I love learning a bit about the history of the area before we get there, so we know what to look for. Then we follow up with “why is it still here?” Which is sometimes a completely different question.
Another reason to do a bit of planning is to set reservations. There was a time in the RV lifestyle when reservations were not a major part of life. We used to be able to drive into any area and get a spot.
Our current reality is this: for stays a week or longer you really need reservations a few days in advance. If you want a month or more, start making some phone calls! This, of course, will depend on where you are going. But it is likely that if you want to be there, so do a few other campers!
2. Adjust Your Travel Speed
When we left California in 2012, we were on vacation! Bill was exploring the Lewis and Clark Trail. I started calling it the “Lewis Sneezed Here” tour. Every 50 feet there was a place to stop, some sign to read.
We were on our way to Sedalia, Missouri for our first Escapade (the annual Escapees Rally). By the time we got there, four months later, I was ready to hang up the keys. Stop and start. Pack and unpack. Drive and stop and go to museum and drive and stop and start and pack and unpack. Really?
Full time RV living is not the same thing as a vacation trip. After long conversations with hubby, we decided to set a pace. Two nights in a spot is not enough to see anything. For the most part we stay at least one week in any location. Many times we stay a month. In the winter we stay three to four months. Your mileage will vary. And, of course, rules are made to be broken.
We also declare “travel sprints” where we drive two to five days in a row, at 200-300 miles a day, and basically don’t unhook. There is no pack and unpack. There is only sleep and drive.
Catch our article on “Joy in the Journey”
3. There is Always More for Next Time
Along the lines of travel planning and pacing, we have learned to always leave more for next time. In your research, you will find lots of things to do in an area. We plan out day trips from our central parking spot. We usually plan for two of these per week, and maybe a couple of afternoons to closer areas.
Because I still work part time, even our play time needs to be balanced with the rest of life. We need to pay the bills and wash the car and take the dogs for a walk.
So if you find that you did not set aside enough time for an area, make some notes. You already have a plan for next time you come through. And there will be a next time, right? One of the nice things about RV Living is that you can plan to come back!
4. Learn How to Drive
If you are a retired semi driver, or a stay-at-home mom that has never driven anything bigger than a SUV, you still need to learn to drive an RV.
Expert Drivers Still Need a Little Practice
Of course, the semi driver might have extra experience and knowledge. But a motorhome with a car behind it has a different shape than a semi. Even the power of the engine to pull your chosen rig will be different. So even for the expert big-rig driver, a little practice in a parking lot can go a long way toward avoiding problems.
A Car Driver is a Beginner with Large Vehicles
Now for someone who has not driven large vehicles, the world is completely different. Whether your attitude is “I’ve got this” or “It is too big for me,” the answer is always a little training. At a minimum, get the rig to a large parking lot, put down a couple of safety triangles (you need to carry them anyway) and drive some circles around the parking lot. Early morning at an empty mall would work fine.
Check out our article on Why Women Should Drive Large RV’s
Get Some Training
I had never driven anything large when we left California. The salesman for our first motorhome was an amazing coach, and he got the sale! He drove me to a safe place and taught me about mirrors, and turning angles.
Another place to learn is YouTube. There are several good videos, but the one I really learned a lot from was Driver’s Confidence Course – Backing Into a Campsite.
You can also purchase a class from LazyDays or RV Driving School, as well as from several others.
Get the Correct Driver’s License
Don’t neglect the driver’s license. Many states require a special drivers license for driving large vehicles. Last I checked, California requires a license if your vehicle is over 40’. Texas bases their rules on total weight, and it is different for motorhomes and trailers. You must follow the rules for the state that issues your license.
Ignore the license at your own risk. If there is an accident, you will be considered an unlicensed driver if you are not current on the correct license. This will impact your insurance, and could cost you a major ticket or lawsuit.
5. Life Still Happens When You are Traveling Full Time in an RV – This is not a vacation
Medical problems, tax prep, business issues, family problems. These are all part of life. They all keep on even when we choose to spend our lives as gypsies. It can be tempting to go on vacation from this stuff. Before you leave your sticks and bricks house there is certainly a checklist of things to consider and re-organize.
- How will you carry important files?
- How will you deal with an internet connection and phone service?
- Does your medical insurance travel? Dental?
- What is your plan for
- Can you access your banking on the road? Do you need a branch or can it be done remotely?
- How will you get your mail?
- What is your plan for a major medical problem?
I know that list is a bit of a downer. But it will be even worse if you don’t consider it up front!
6. Social Media is a Blessing and a Curse
When my parents traveled 6 months a year, staying in touch with them was tough. They used pay phones when they could. In the last couple of years of their travel, they had one of the early cell-phones. My mom was a courageous first adopter of connecting a cell-phone to a laptop to get her email. Dad just walked away and left her to her puzzling.
I am a geek and I can’t help it. I have loved the rise of the internet, with its quick access to every question. A waiter asked me the other day “Who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories?” In 30 seconds I had an answer. I was a bit embarassed that I didn’t already know!
An amazing gift from the internet is the ability to connect with my two beautiful
I love being able to track where fellow RV travelers are headed, and sometimes connect with them.
Pam’s Rules for Living with Social Media
Of course, unless you are living under a rock, you know the problems that have come up with Social Media, especially Facebook.
- Some of the stuff in my news feed is toxic to my soul.
- We could easily spend our whole life on a device. You are traveling for a reason. Get out there.
- Your private conversations on Facebook are vulnerable. Best attitude: there is no private information. Be nice!
- People are meaner on social media than they would dare to be in real life.
So here are my new rules for social media:
- Avoid toxic people – this is really just a rule for life. But it’s easy to select “ignore” or “un-friend” in Facebook when someone’s posts are angry, insulting, or just depressing.
- Avoid toxic newsfeeds – same as above – unfriend them and they go away.
- Limit your time on line to X minutes a day. Go see the world!
- Turn off the notifications that bounce past your phone screen. Do you really need to see every post that every friend makes, the minute they make it?
- Be nice! And reward your friends who are nice. Really? Do I have to say this?
7. Your Partner Relationship Must Get Better or It Will Get Worse When You Live in an RV Full-time.
We have been married for 35 years. Some of it was a stretch. Most of it has been excellent. But I will tell you that living in 300 square feet will teach you a lot about your partner.
One solution that helps us a lot is to have defined “me time”. Early in the morning, I make him coffee and leave him in bed. He stays put and does not talk to me for about an hour. I use that time to read and pray and plan my day. It has been a huge help to my mental stability.
Even with that, we discovered early the places where we are not patient and flexible with each other. These had to change, or we would be on the road to chaos.
Bonus Lesson: Eventually You Will Stop Traveling Full-time
No, we are not planning to stop just yet. But many of our friends that were traveling when we met them have now hung up the keys. Some bought a little house and a much smaller RV.
Others parked their RV on a lot that they purchased or leased.
However you decide to do it, it is wise to have a penciled in plan for how you might stop. Do you have enough income to rent an apartment? Maybe a nest egg to buy a house? As you travel, think about the places you might want to live. How many people get a chance to do that?
Wow you made it to the end! Share with us what lessons you have learned as you travel? Are you getting ready to travel? What questions are you running in to? We would love to chat!