Letting go doesn’t come very naturally to me.
Nope, I’m a “details” kind of guy. And I’m not sure you can be into the details without simultaneously wanting to control all of the details. It’s kind of a package deal, I think.
And I’m kind of proud of being a details guy; I’m quick to point it out as a strength in many settings. And yet it can be such a point of weakness at the very same time in the larger context of life.
Case in point: Going through the process of preparing for the full-time RV lifestyle is no walk in the park no matter how good you might be at letting go. But if letting go happens to be an area where you struggle, like myself, it can start to mess with your head in a serious way.
So, you can imagine that when we tried to put all of those “letting go” pieces together in a 100-day window in 2017, my detail-obsessed mind had a bit of a fit and simply wasn’t having any of it. In fact, we almost missed out on the opportunity to experience full-time RV living because of this struggle I faced.
But we need to put some flesh on this skeletal idea of letting go so you can understand what folks like me might face, and the valuable lessons we all have the chance to learn, while preparing for and living the full-time RV lifestyle.
Learn the Art of Letting Go through Full-Time RV Living
Before I go any further, I want to point out that I am primarily writing about this topic from my perspective for two reasons: I had a lot to let go of, and I can’t see inside other people’s minds.
Every person in the family, including my wife, Julie, faced many of the same challenges that I did. We were all letting go of much of the life we had known in terms of possessions, routine, stability, normalcy. Each of us was making the decision to embrace the unknown and move forward without all the pieces of the puzzle lying neatly on the table in front of us.
So obviously, we all struggled with this process to some extent. I’m sharing with you what it looked like mostly from my perspective because that’s the only perspective I intimately know.
And with that, let’s begin at the beginning: the decision to purchase an RV. Because it’s pretty clear that if we can’t put that piece in place, then none of this really matters.
The Decision to Purchase an RV Without Knowing How Long You Will Use It
My friend, this one tortured me night and day for weeks. Honestly, it had me tied up in knots. It would have been bad enough if we already owned a truck that could tow one of the travel trailers we were looking at. But no, we owned a Nissan Altima at the time.
In essence, I was staring down the barrel of making two major purchases within a two-month period: a 3/4 ton truck (I had never owned a truck of any kind) and a 26-foot or longer travel trailer. Now, major purchases are never simple nor easy for me. They always involve some angst and questioning, wondering if it’s truly the “right” decision, the “responsible” decision (I’ll get into that one below).
But believe me when I say that it felt like a completely different animal in the context of full-time RVing because we had no real idea of how long we would choose to live this lifestyle. (Did I mention that we had never owned nor rented an RV before this decision?) We made an initial commitment to stick with it for one year, come hell or high water, so that’s as far as I could possibly see as we faced down these major purchases.
In order to take this major step toward a new and adventurous lifestyle, I had to completely let go of my need to know what life looked like on the other side of it…and whether that was one year or five years down the road.
Challenging? Um, you could say that.
You might also like to read Life After Full-Time RVing: The Financial Reality of Selling Our Truck and Travel Trailer.
The Desire to Be “Responsible” with Finances
After making it through my first letting go challenge by purchasing our 26-foot travel trailer in March 2017, it was time for the next major life event: Sell the family home we had owned for nearly four years.
The actual act of selling the house, believe it or not, did not feel like a major emotional obstacle for me. With our second child graduating that summer and only one middle schooler left, we were prepared and eager for a change of scenery, a change of pace.
Fortunately, we had also chosen to sell very near the peak of the real estate market. We had 12 showings, two full-price offers, and a contract to close, all within a week. This meant that we were on the verge of having a sizable chunk of change roll in, more than we had ever been responsible for.
In actuality, it was this profit from the sale of the house that truly enabled us to make this major life transition. This was a crucial component in turning this crazy dream into a reality. We planned to use that profit to put a healthy down payment on that 3/4 ton truck I mentioned above and also to purchase all of the RV accessories to complement our new home on wheels.
And there was more accessorizing to do than I ever would have dreamed! It was difficult to keep hitting that “Buy Now” button on Amazon even though I knew I was purchasing necessities for my family for the full-time RV lifestyle.
With each purchase, I was still asking, “Am I using this money responsibly? Is this the right decision?”
Believe me, that’s a tough question to answer when your RVing timeline is completely up in the air. How long would I need these things? No one really knew.
But I let go of those details a little bit more and we quickly moved toward Launch Day in late May 2017.
The Need for Pretty and Perfect
You may not realize how much you depend on your life looking polished and pristine, until it doesn’t. At least, that’s generally how it went for us.
When you’re picking a new neighborhood for your family to live in every 2-5 days (we moved pretty fast in our travels, especially the first few months), you realize rather quickly that the aesthetics of your surroundings will have to take a back seat.
Because when you are full-time RVing, few things matter more than your RV hook-ups (water, sewer and electric). On the road, the hook-ups quickly rose to the top of the list of necessities and most other preferences rapidly dropped.
A couple of months into our travels, if we were able to find an RV park or campground with a flat, gravel, pull-through site and those all-important hook-ups, we were pleased as punch! The amenities and conveniences beyond that paled in comparison. (Well, my youngest son might disagree with that statement, but we’re talking about the “big people” here.)
For each of us, it helped us understand on a deeper level how much we have convinced ourselves that we need. It helped me learn to be grateful for the small conveniences in life (clean, running water for instance) and let go of that aching need for a shiny and flashy appearance on everything I encounter.
I believe that’s a very important life lesson that we all need to keep learning. Repeatedly.
The Tendency to Judge Quickly
Early on, it was very natural for us to look for settings and locations that were familiar to us, places that had an outer appearance similar to our old neighborhood. And that kind of worked for a while.
During our first few stops within Texas, while we were learning the RVing ropes and staying close to home for that first five or six weeks waiting for a family wedding in the area, this wasn’t a very big deal. We stayed at established and reputable RV parks with full hook-ups and decent amenities for a week or two each. It was a comfortable introduction to the RV lifestyle.
When we headed north toward the Colorado border in late June, however, things quickly began to change for us. Things got a little more uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Now, we began looking for those places to just make a quick one night stop to break up our longer journey. And that, I discovered, is a completely different situation.
I distinctly remember leaving the Dallas area and heading west on I-20 into this great adventure. Our very first stop as we headed toward a visit with friends in Lubbock, TX, we entered the tiny town of Lorraine, located a couple of hours southeast of Lubbock.
As we drove through the all-but-ghost-town of Lorraine, it stirred up all kinds of emotions. It felt eerie and uncertain. It was our first legitimate unknown scenario, and we had no idea what to expect when we found the small $15 per night RV park where we had made a reservation. (It’s called Ms. G’s RV Park, if you’re curious.)
All we knew was that our situation was changing, and we weren’t sure how to manage those changes emotionally. Our natural reaction to that uncertainty was to judge this place and wonder if we belonged here, if we should actually stay here.
An Unexpected Hospitality
We pulled into a tiny “under construction” RV park with only about 12 or 15 RV sites and were greeted by the very friendly owner who got us all situated in our new site. (That took a little while, as I was still very much getting accustomed to backing that trailer into spaces.) No amenities apart from the full hook-ups. Nothing. It was just a patch of gravel carved out of the endless cedar trees, pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
As we were still trying to acclimate to this unfamiliar setting, the park owner knocked on our door and delivered a bag full of peaches he had picked from his own tree. We chatted some more and quickly became friends. Hospitality in an RV park in the middle of absolutely nowhere.
The rest of the evening, we made s’mores and chatted with another full-time family who pulled in after us. They were just beginning their journey as well, and we had so much in common that the night flew by in conversation as we enjoyed one of the most peaceful settings we could remember, complete with a stunning west Texas sunset.
That night, Julie and I discussed this issue of quickly judging places by their appearance. We talked about not wanting to miss out on similar situations, opportunities to connect with others, because of our tendency to judge in order to keep ourselves feeling “safe”.
Yes, we learned an important lesson that night which deeply impacted our next 16 months of travel. And we are so grateful that we were given that opportunity to learn that the most important thing you can do in a new and unfamiliar situation is to pay attention to what you are bringing to it.
What Do You Need to Let Go Of?
If you have experienced the full-time RV lifestyle, we would love to hear what you found yourself needing to let go of along the way. Just drop a comment below and enlighten us.
And if you are considering this lifestyle, but struggling with how to let go of some of these things in order to embrace a completely new lifestyle, tell us all about it in the comments below. We would love to hear what it looks like for you and help you move forward in any way that we can.
Is Full-Time RV Living Right for You?
Maybe you are reading through all of this information and really just trying to process whether or not full-time RV living is really the right path for you. It’s a very valid question, because I can guarantee you one thing: It’s NOT for everyone.
I wrote a 40+ page ebook on this subject, to help you work through this challenging question and get to the right answer for YOU. No one else’s opinion or experience ultimately matters here; you have to conduct an internal audit of sorts to determine if a move in this direction even makes sense. You have to get a feel for whether it would even be healthy for you.
I hope that this post, and the ebook, together can help you arrive at the right decision for YOU.
Todd Bonner is the quieter half of the dynamic TREKKN duo. He spends most of his time sharing information about RV travel and safety, RV accessories and tips, and the National Parks he has visited and still desperately craves. When he’s not busy working on TREKKN, you will often find him staring at breathtaking pictures of Glacier National Park, his favorite spot on earth.