It’s a friggin’ dream.
That’s what you most likely say when you look at our full-time RV life on the road here on the site. Am I right?
There’s nothing you can think of that you want to do more and you are just positive that this is the perfect life for you. It would eliminate everything you currently despise or struggle with.
(Spoiler alert: Laundry and taxes still exist on the road. In fact, we wrote a post all about RV life and laundry solutions.)
But we both know that our life portrayed online is not the full reality. It is absolutely skewed to the pretty and the positive.
I do my best to “keep it real” by occasionally complaining about an RV repair here, a truck problem there or my stitches on my 22nd anniversary. (I know, very thoughtful of me.)
Sometimes, however, that just doesn’t cut it. Sometimes you need a headline that draws attention to the more challenging side of this unusual endeavor.
The 5 Hardest Things About Full Time RVing
And so we find ourselves right here, under that headline, ready to lay it all out and show you what you should potentially be prepared for. Let’s rock this:
Hard Thing #1 – Pretty much all space is shared space
Fellow introverts be warned: You will likely be challenged with this lifestyle.
In fact, there will be days that you are sure you are going “around the bend” of sanity, never to return again. Just…a few…more…minutes…alone!
Before launching into this lifestyle, I was the ultimate early riser. My weekdays almost always started at 5 or 5:15 am and I would relish the 45-60 minutes of alone time that led the way into my day.
On the weekends, I was still up before 6 am and could sometimes enjoy up to 2 hours of complete silence to open my day. Sigh…
This schedule was my norm even while working from home when I did not have a “full work schedule” to contend with. That’s how much I loved that sacred time of reading, writing, meditating and just thinking in the morning.
That window of time, without another eyeball on me and with walls between me and everyone else in the house, was the oxygen my spirit craved and seemed to survive on.
Your situation may be significantly different
And here’s the deal: Depending on what type of RV you end up with and how many people are in that RV, you could find yourself in a much more “introvert-friendly” situation. You could have your own untouchable and private space where your introversion can thrive.
But for me, this has been one of the most challenging aspects of living full time in less than 200 sf of space with five people along for the ride. So you should be aware.
Hard Thing #2 – You are always lost at the grocery store
I kid you not: Grocery shopping is probably the most exhausting and mind-numbing task that we accomplish on a regular basis with this lifestyle.
Even back in our bricks and sticks home it seemed to take a lot out of us…which is why we started using the online ordering options. [Insert tear of mourning here.]
But I am not exaggerating (much) when I tell you that each shopping trip at a new grocery store seems to feel like a full day of work! We walk out bleary-eyed and pale, staring straight ahead into oblivion and drooling out one side of our mouths for the remainder of the day.
When you never know what products you’re going to find at a given store, nor where in that store to find what you actually need, it can really sap your mojo!
Pathetic? Maybe. Seems pretty insignificant? I get that. But it’s true.
Couple that “brain drain” with the greatly-reduced size of our refrigerator and you have a recipe for the grouchies. Because now we have to make two reasonably large trips to the grocery store on a weekly basis instead of only one weekly trip.
Hey, I am aware that this stuff is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. Really, I have not completely lost touch with “reality” and I realize that the trade-off is pretty dang good.
But you may not be able to fully understand the grocery store toll until you live through it for a while.
Here are a few tips we learned along the way to make grocery shopping a little easier.
Hard Thing #3 – You have to give up your demand for “perfection”
When I look back on my 20s and 30s, I see a young man determined to create a “perfect” life for his family.
The right cars. Right TV. Right house in the right neighborhood with the right yard and the right schools. You get the idea.
But when we hit the road, I learned to lose control a bit.
I learned to give up that need to check every detail of our next location before we arrived. The fact is, I just couldn’t keep up with checking the details at the pace at which we moved (normally a new spot every 3-7 days or so).
I didn’t need to know whether our RV site was going to be paved or grass or dirt. Or six inches of mud (that was fun!).
Instead, I learned to let go.
In learning that, I began to notice that the situation we often ended up with was better than where my preferences or demands would have led me.
When I let go and stopped demanding, things were routinely and surprisingly better. I found that my plans and preferences had actually seemed to often block the path to better things available out there.
I know, it’s a bit counter-intuitive for our typical American “take charge” attitude. It’s hard to accept…until you experience it for yourself.
What is your superpower?
Before we sold the house and moved into the RV, I remember listening to a podcast that really helped me to let go of my paralyzing fears and embrace this journey ahead of us.
In the podcast, the gentleman spoke about keeping your focus on the remarkable experience you are creating for yourself and your children, on the horizons that are broadening, and not on the things you don’t know or are uncertain of or can’t control.
But he also mentioned that he had developed what he considered to be a superpower during their time on the road: The ability to go with the flow.
My first reaction? That’s not a superpower!
The more I contemplated it, however, the more it made sense. Again, it goes against the grain of our Western need for control and precision. Maybe that is why it feels so freeing to embrace it.
Can I say that this is now my superpower? Depends on the week you ask me. 🙂 But I sure am a lot closer to it now than I was 13 months ago, and that feels close to perfect.
Hard Thing #4 – Routine and schedule can easily become like mythical creatures
During the periods of my life that I have been able to set my own schedule and/or work from home, I discovered something:
I thrive on schedule and routine.
When I did not have those things imposed upon me, I began to feel dazed, confused and uncertain about everything. My focus and progress seemed to be elusive.
Do we have any routine at all?
So after 13+ months working on the road in a travel trailer moving at least every seven days on average, have we found ways to establish some routine in our lives?
Hmmm….I guess it depends on the week you ask me that. Because each one is honestly different.
More often than not, the week consists of 2-3 days that include a full work schedule and planned productivity (normally the first 4-5 hours of each day) and other days that are much more free form. That has been our typical(ish) rhythm.
Could we do better in this arena and increase our productivity and business results with more structure and routine? I have to say yes.
Do we want to do that? I guess it depends on the week you ask me that. (Sensing a trend?)
If I had to put the lesson for me into one sentence: Learning to hold routine and schedule loosely, instead of having a death grip on them, has helped me to experience the distance between my productivity and my innate value.
In essence, I can have days of the week that I am far less productive without feeling guilty about it, without completely stressing out about it and feeling like I am somehow less worthy.
Routine and schedule are still necessary components in my life, but they have their place and are not allowed to call all of the shots and determine each step. There is a bigger picture to consider.
Hard Thing #5 – Lack of community
Community has played a large role in our life as a family. Most of that community, for our kids and for us, has come through churches that we have attended over the years or through connection with the parents of our kids’ school friends.
At this point in our lives, we don’t have a church or school community to provide that social foundation.
Right now, our 14-year-old son is obviously doing his schooling here in the RV. So no school community to rely on and connect to.
And even if we chose to try and attend church while on the road, which we have not, it would not fulfill that same need for community because of the fast pace at which we move around the country. It would be new people nearly every week.
Extroverts come in handy on the road
Now, we have been able to make some great connections with other families in a couple of spots over this past year. Not surprisingly, we can trace these connections directly back to the social circle that our 14-year-old “social butterfly” has developed. When there are kids around at an RV park, he will make friends. Sometimes even if we are just there for a few days.
So the most significant social connections that we have made resulted directly from his friendships since we ended up meeting the parents of the friends.
In fact, we are about to head into Canada for a two-week exploration of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia with one of these families…and we are excited!! And our son is about to come out of his skin with anticipation of good friends to hang out with for a whole two weeks!
Update: We had a blast on our Canada trip! You can read about our time in PEI here and an incredible Nova Scotia hike we went on here. And if you need some tips for crossing the Canadian border by RV, you can read those here.
Yes, it is a real challenge and it is definitely hard to navigate those missing community connections for long periods of time. We continue to try and be more proactive in developing those connections, but it can be difficult to keep that focus in the natural flow of life on the road even when the need is there.
Truthfully, other families seem to have done much better in this arena than we have and have maintained better community connections. (Most of those families have been on the road longer also, which could be a major factor.)
And we are getting better at it by plugging into some Facebook communities for full-time RV families where you can find out if other folks are in your area and reach out, etc.
Full-Time Travel Has Its Challenges, But It Has Its Rewards As Well
You could easily guess that the positive side of full time RVing has outweighed these hard things about the lifestyle. If the positive did not outweigh the negative, we would probably not be on the road any longer.
This is exactly what I have been trying to hint at with the pictures included in this post. The positives are significant!
(Sidebar: The nature pictures included were taken July 2018 in Acadia National Park, Maine. And it really did blow our minds!)
But the challenges, as a whole, are nothing to sneeze at. My hope is that you will factor in these possible challenges if you are considering the full-time RV lifestyle as an option.
One last thing to consider: You should expect higher highs and lower lows if you choose full time RVing as a lifestyle.
We heard this piece of advice before ever hitting the road, and we have found it to be a very true statement. Life is less flat-lined and more dynamic than what you may be used to in a standard existence.
Knowing this ahead of time, and preparing ourselves mentally to experience this reality, has helped to keep us out of “panic mode” when a low period hits. We have learned that we just need to ride it out sometimes and not make any rash decisions at those low points.
We want the absolute best for you with your future plans, and the best situation will come about when you deeply and honestly consider the pros and cons. Each pro and con will affect your family differently, so take our input about the hardest things you will face and make the right decision for you. Here’s to a happy life…whatever you choose!
Todd Bonner is the slightly 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, probably his favorite spot on earth.
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