Getting yourself and your family ready for the full-time RV life can be pretty dang stressful and overwhelming. You might even catch yourself as you’re going through this process asking “Is RV living worth it?” I mean, who wants to go through all the trouble of hitting the road if it’s not worth it. Am I right?
Well, let us tell you something. For us, it was worth it. So, so worth it.
Our Backstory to Full-Time RV Life
Let’s start with a quick backstory on us and how we got here.
When we decided to move from a house to an RV our daughter was in college, our middle child was about to graduate high school, and our youngest son dreamed of adventure. We pushed past our fears and decided it was now or never.
Within a span of four months we had sold our house, most of our belongings, and our cars. We bought a brand new 26-foot travel trailer and a tow vehicle. Then we hit the road full-time with our three kids.
For a year and a half, we traveled through the United States and Canada. There were hard times and absolutely amazing times. We navigated our travels while one kid was in college, watched our youngest son make some life-long friends, and learned the hard way how to prepare for winter RV living.
After visiting 36 US states, 5 Canadian provinces, and 15 US national parks, it was time to hang up our full-time RVing hats.
And now that we’re back, we’ve been asked if it was all worth it.
Here’s why we answer that question with a resounding yes!
Why RV Living is Worth It
Oh, The Places You’ll Go (And See)
Before we RV’d full-time, we were lucky to go on one vacation a year. For the first six months of RVing full-time, it felt like a vacation (almost) every day. That vacation feeling definitely started to wear off, but…
In a year and a half, we visited 36 states! Not to mention all of the incredible National Parks we saw, both in the US and in Canada.
I feel incredibly grateful for all the places we saw and experienced with our children. It’s fun to watch a movie, read a book, scroll through Instagram, see a destination and realize that not only have I been there, but I created life-long memories with my family there as well.
Which leads me to point number two…
Remember when we…
Those are three words we love to hear come out of our kids’ mouths.
Sometimes it’s looking back on the stressful times, like…remember when we were freaking out because water was flowing through the master bedroom?
And other times it’s looking back on epic hikes.
Sometimes it’s…remember when all five of us lived in a 200 sq. foot travel trailer? That’s my favorite remember when story.
But through the stressful times, the epic moments and those days we did nothing but just hang out at the RV park, we were creating life-long memories we hope our kids will continue to look back on, even as we create new memories, together and apart.
Taking Those Risks
Six months after we stopped RVing full time and moved into an apartment, our oldest son took a seasonal job in Alaska.
He found a job posting for a boat tour company as a barista in Seward, Alaska. He applied, had an interview shortly after, got the job, bought a plane ticket and was on his way to completely unknown territory. (Well, not completely unknown. He was actually born in Anchorage, Alaska and visited Seward when he was a couple of weeks old. But we’re pretty sure he doesn’t remember that.)
He took a risk. A risk we know he’s glad he took. Would he have taken the leap to move to Alaska if we wouldn’t have RV’d full-time? Maybe, maybe not.
What we do know is that during his senior year of high school all anyone talked about was your college path. Where are you going to college? Are you excited about college? What are you going to major in…in college? Those were the questions he was met with on a daily basis. Which can be a big stressor for someone who doesn’t feel the college path is the right path for them.
So that made a gap year (ok, gap year and a half) traveling in an RV full-time such a good decision for him. It not only allowed him to take a step back and figure out his next steps, but it also allowed him to meet others who look at life a bit differently (other than his parents). College isn’t for everyone and I wish schools would focus a little more on that.
I think RV living as a gap year, through all the ups and downs, was definitely worth it for him.
Made Life-Long Friends
I’ll be honest, when we started RVing full-time I had no idea what to expect as far as meeting people. Questions like will we have anything in common with others, do RVers just keep to themselves and what are RVers like anyway were rolling through my head.
But let me tell you, fellow RVers are amazing.
We met so many people along the way and many of those we have stayed in contact with. Some we made a point to meet up with again and either share a meal or you know, travel for two weeks together in Canada.
The people you meet during your RV travels is completely up to you. You can decide to keep to yourself or you can make an effort to talk to your neighbors and invite them over for drinks or s’mores by the campfire. I am so thankful for the people who made an effort to talk to us and vice versa. They made our travels much more enjoyable and we’re grateful to call them friends.
Learning to Live with Less
I used to be a woman who liked my things. I placed a little too much value on items. They defined me and as soon as I had that one thing I thought I needed, my wish list grew to include the next shiny object.
I’m not exactly sure what made me start to change my way of thinking and what I valued. It might have started with a documentary I watched about a minimalist lifestyle.
It was a documentary about recognizing the important things. It made me think.
Selling our house that I just knew would make me happy once I had it, and all of the things we had accumulated over 20 years of marriage that I thought defined how successful or valuable we were, was easier than I thought it would be. It felt so incredibly freeing.
Living with up to four other people in a 200 square feet space for a year and a half tests the boundaries of what we need for a comfortable life. We loved it. It has shaped what Todd and I want our future to look like. It’s a future about experiences rather than stuff. Let me tell you, that feels amazing.
How can you start living with less?
We started by following the Minimalist 30-Day Minimalism Game. On day one, you get rid of one thing. On day two, two things. On day three, three things. You get the picture. Later we kicked it up a notch and got rid of a household of things, including the 2,300 square foot house.
But we started with one thing. Try it. It might just change your life.
Will RV Living Be Worth It for You?
I don’t know if RV living will be worth it for you. I know there are stories of people who tried out this lifestyle and simply didn’t like it. It’s easy to get sucked into the world of social media where everything is beautiful and life is perfect. You see an RV parked in the mountains and you think “I want that.”
But sometimes the reality is much different.
Yes, RVing was much more expensive than we expected. RV parks annoy us, moving too often was exhausting, and there is always a chance that something major will go wrong with your home at any time. But, the big problem was us. We had unrealistic expectations, didn’t plan ahead as much as we should have, and had less-than-positive attitudes most of the time.Trailing Away
Do they regret their decision to RV full-time? Nope. Not at all. What they learned far outweighed the challenges of RV life. But it’s good idea to read stories like theirs to put everything into perspective.
The bottom line is, you won’t know if RV life is worth it for you until you try it. The great news is that there are several ways of trying it before going all in as an RV owner.
- Try renting an RV first to see if you like it. Even if you’re certain you will love an RV lifestyle, renting a rig will help you figure out what type of RV you want and the features you need (and don’t need).
- Ask to join a friend or family member during a weekend road trip
- Spend an afternoon with a friend to test drive their rig and learn more about the RV water, electrical, and sewer systems
- Dip your toe in the RV life water by keeping a home base while you try out the RV lifestyle for a few months
Our Plans for the Future
Now that we’re living a stationary life again, Todd and I have been asked quite a few times if we’ll RV full-time again. The short answer: we have no idea. We’re trying really hard to be fully present in our current season of life.
Our youngest kiddo will graduate high school in three years. We want to soak in every minute of it with him. Our middle son comes home from his seasonal job in Alaska soon. We want to be here to support him as he figures out his next steps. Our daughter enters her senior year of college and is both freaking out and getting excited about the future. And we absolutely want to be available to freak out and get excited right along with her.
For us, RV living was worth it. We did something hard and new and abnormal. We went against the flow. It shaped how we view the world and put into perspective what’s really important in our lives.
We encourage you to take some steps, however small or big those steps might be. Who knows…those steps may just lead you down the path toward a full-time RV lifestyle.
Julie specializes in helping you whip up delicious meals in your tiny RV kitchen, as well as RV organization tips and helping fellow RVers make their RV feel like home. Her favorite RVing spot is in Banff National Park in Canada where yes, the water really is that blue and the people really are that nice.