2 months into full-timing and we've discovered that some of our expectations of what this experience would be like haven't exactly lined up with reality. While none of it has changed our mind about choosing this lifestyle and we feel the positives far outweigh the negative, it seems we were both a bit naive going into this. Maybe it's because of our past camping trips or vacations or how #rvlife is portrayed on social media, but we've definitely had some surprises, both good and bad.
Expectation: Tons of down time and relaxing by a campfire vs. Reality: Very little free time.
What's a bit strange about full time rving is that all your "life stuff" comes with you...working, house maintenance, cleaning, laundry, pets, exercise, food shopping, and running errands is all still a part of your life, you are just mobile now making some of it a little more challenging. And while we no longer have a whole house and backyard to take care of, Wanda and Walter require a lot of work, repair, and maintenance because driving around your home on wheels tends to beat it up a bit.
There are a lot of systems to keep up with, it takes time setting up a campsite, breaking down a campsite, or even just leaving the house for the afternoon. Living tiny also means a smaller kitchen and refrigerator = more trips to the grocery store and time spent trying to find your way in a brand new store every time you shop. Plus there is a constant worry about your resources, do we need propane, are we conserving water, what are the tank levels at? Not to mention the hours you will spend researching....different campsites, driving routes, places to stay, things to do, it eats up hours of our time pretty much on a daily basis. Travel days are also longer than you expect. And while we love working on our website and writing blogs so that all of you can be a part of this adventure too, it all takes time.
We move around a lot and are only in a place for a few days so we have to balance all of the above while exploring the town, hiking the best trails and seeing the sites other people have recommended. SO all together, this leads to very little time to just hang out. I think a lot of RV newbies also have trouble with this, being in a new place makes you feel like you HAVE to go see and do everything, its almost like a weird sort of guilt if you don't, because we are lucky to have this opportunity. I think with time this will get easier and since we are FINALLY in warmer weather, we will try to slow down a bit. And now we can at least work outside!
We have always been very active, we enjoy being on the go and wouldn't really change this, it was just a bit unexpected.
Expectation: Adapting to tiny life would be a real struggle for all of us vs. Reality: All 5 of us adjusted a lot quicker than we anticipated.
Downsizing from a large 3 bedroom house, with a big kitchen and huge backyard, we worried that we'd feel claustrophobic and were a little concerned about the two of us being on top of each other constantly. So much about how we lived day to day changed from the more elaborate meals we used to cook, to all of us having plenty of room and space to spread out in, to the long luxurious showers we were able to take and our plethora of clothing options from our walk in closet. ALL of that changed drastically. We now have 3 cabinets and a small closet for all our clothes, not enough space for shoes or all the pet stuff, nowhere to really go if we got annoyed with each other, a miniature kitchen to try to cook in and a small shower.
But we have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly all 5 of us adapted. The girls found there own areas of Wanda to hang out in when they need alone time, we have found ways to give each other space, the dog beds and toys are easily tucked away when traveling, we built shoe cubbies in empty space, we cook inside and outside to give us more options, the smaller wardrobe suits us just fine and nobody feels claustrophobic, because a lot of our time is spent outdoors. It was a pretty seamless transition for all of us into this tiny life. We also learned pretty quickly how to conserve water, propane and our other resources and how to waste less overall. Even two months later, living in the RV seems so natural to us. Goes to show you how much more adaptable we all are than we give ourselves credit for.
Expectation: Ease of Meeting People and having a community vs. Reality: Loneliness
This has been hard for both of us. We were used to spending a lot of time with our family and friends and we didn't really realize how isolating this life can be at times. A big part of this is probably skewed expectations from Instagram and YouTube. We follow so many couples and families our age who do this, who meet up with each other and it led us to believe that making friends would be easier. We figured it would be simple, we obviously share a lot of common interests.
Unfortunately, so far we haven't really experienced that sense of the RV community that we were looking for. Part of that might be our fault because we hit the road in the off season, it's been cold throughout most of the east coast and we have been moving fairly frequently. So, a lot of the campsites we have been staying at were pretty empty, had an older population of permanent residents and the weather kept us from really walking around and meeting people. It seems kind of obvious now that considering this lifestyle, we should have expected a lot of time alone, but the whole feeling of loneliness and longing for people to talk to, take a hike with, share a meal with kinda snuck up on us.
Expectation: Planning our Route/Finding Places to Stay would be Easy vs. Reality: Route planning is extremely time consuming and its not so easy to find a place to stay every night
We have traveled quite a bit, and are pretty good at organizing trips, finding things to do and planning out our days. But I guess the difference is in the past, we'd already done research to find out where we wanted to take a trip, so we were more familiar and had a better idea of what we wanted to see and do and were only planning a specific block of time. Since we are pretty unfamiliar with a lot of the US, it takes hours to research where to go, the best hikes, must see places and activities and then once we have that figured out, we then have to start searching for a campground that is conveniently located, pet friendly, reasonably priced, and available. Plans have changed several times for us based on weather and repairs so a lot of this is also done at the last minute. And as we have experienced, sometimes we just can't find a spot, so we have strangely become comfortable sleeping in a Cracker Barrel or Walmart parking lot.
Expectation: We'd really miss all our stuff vs. Reality: How amazingly freeing it is to live simple and minimally
Neither one of us is particularly materialistic, we've always leaned towards choosing experiences and trips over having expensive clothes, cars or things and neither one of us likes clutter. Everything in our house kinda served a function and we never had stuff on the counters or any knickknacks lying around. That being said, it was quite amazing how much stuff we accumulated over time. Going through everything and "purging" by donating, selling, throwing out or storing was an overwhelming process. The thought of living for a year or so without all of it freaked us out.
But being on the other side of that, I can tell you it is an incredible feeling to let go of it all. To not be held down or held back by stuff, by letting go of some irrational attachments to things that didn't even really make us happy, we have learned what we really need and that list is relatively simple. By leaving behind the weight of it all, we have gained a wonderful sense of freedom which makes even our future look a lot simpler.
We hope this helps any future full timers or anyone thinking about possibly taking the plunge get a better picture of what real life on the road looks like. It always helps to know what you are getting yourself into.
Did you have any expectations when you first started Full Time RVing? How about reality checks? Let us know in the comments below!
By Ashley Quiambao