I’ve spent a great deal of time in RV forums and digital groups of various shapes and sizes over the past couple of years. I mean a LOT of time.
From that time spent, one of my personal beliefs has been confirmed:
Fear is an extremely powerful force, always active in our lives and in our world, that we should all work to understand better.
It’s a 4-letter word that shapes our beliefs, our relationships, our decisions and our overall experience on this planet. Even when we are completely unaware, fear is hard at work behind the scenes in an attempt to keep us “safe”. That is fear’s job description.
Case in point: As I write this, I am in the midst of a full-scale standoff with my fear as we attempt to make a significant decision on the direction of TREKKN. Fear insists that I need to stay with what I know, stay in my zone, stay comfortable. In essence, it is trying to convince me that thinking small is thinking safe.
And this perfectly introduces the real theme that will run through this post: The need to see the distinction between keeping yourself safe and keeping yourself comfortable as you consider the full-time RV lifestyle.
Fear does a remarkable job of blurring the lines between safety and comfort, all in an effort to pull you back from some perceived dangerous edge. Let’s see what these fears sound like in the lives of everyday folks, including ourselves, who have faced down the fears of the open road and experienced a sense of freedom that relatively few ever will.
The Top 5 Fears Full-Time RVers Face Before Hitting the Road
It almost goes without saying that not everyone sees the prospect of living full-time in an RV, on the road for months at a time, as a desirable situation. For some, that sounds far more like a recipe for misery than the epitome of freedom.
(Pssst…you can go even deeper into this question of whether full-time RV living is right for you by grabbing my ebook titled (surprisingly), “Is Full-Time RV Living Right For YOU?” It’s 40+ pages of exploring the questions surrounding this process, and I believe it will be very beneficial for you.)
But you. You’ve been stricken with a serious case of wanderlust and sit there deeply tempted to uproot your life and experience a level of adventure (and uncertainty) that few can even imagine stomaching.
So in no particular order, let’s spend some time diving into the most common fears that I have observed (and experienced) for those considering the full-time RV life. These words are for you, fellow wandering soul, especially if you’re not quite wandering yet.
*Side note: In addressing these fears, my default will be to address the specifics that couples and families are likely struggling with. I don’t intend to ignore those who are considering this path as individuals, but my experience and observation in the full-time RV space tell me that the biggest fears surface for those of us trying to make this happen with the lives and welfare of others also on the line. Plenty of common ground exists between the two life circumstances, but some of this material may not be directly applicable to the solo adventurer.*
1. I’m Afraid of Losing My Space
We love our space, don’t we? As an American, I’ve come to expect a certain amount of personal space in my living situation. It’s what I’ve become accustomed to and it’s what I’ve been comfortable with.
According to a 2017 survey, Americans enjoy more average living space per person than any other nation on earth: 656 sq ft.
But does that mean it’s what we need? No.
Just look at societies around the world that still thrive and remain filled with happy humans living in approximately 53-70% of the space that we enjoy: Brazil, Mexico, Spain, UK and France. This is largely due to a difference only in mindset. (This doesn’t mean they don’t express a desire for more living space, as the survey also points out.)
My family of five (sometimes only four present) lived in less than 200 sq ft of space for 17 months. We chose it, we accepted it, we dealt with the inevitable inconveniences that came along with living in 40 sq ft per person (6% of the US average). And we packed a lifetime of memories into those months.
Why? Because we decided it was worth it. We decided, for a time, to value adventure and experience and memories over personal space.
Your happiness only depends on your personal space when you make the decision that it does. Not a moment sooner.
ONLY YOU KNOW THE REALITY OF YOUR SITUATION
Having said that, I understand 100% that every single person is different in terms of what they can tolerate on this front. I also understand that we each live our lives with a wide range of other personalities along for the ride. Some personalities should probably not be in confined spaces with other living things for very long (easily annoyed?). I’ve met my fair share of them.
If you find yourself living with such an individual, one whom you are afraid (or highly uncertain) of remaining in close quarters with for an extended period of time, one who tends to be very volatile and/or abrasive, I cannot confidently recommend this lifestyle to you. It is highly unlikely to improve your living or emotional situation.
Here’s the truth: In our time on the road, plenty of emotional mess was stirred up due in large part to that smaller space. There is no doubt about it, it was very challenging and at times extremely exhausting.
For our family, it didn’t end in tragedy or damaged relationships. We all learned some lessons about ourselves in that uniquely tiny environment that we probably would not have learned in more comfortable and spacious circumstances. And I am grateful for those lessons which have ultimately brought us closer together and given each of us a better understanding of ourselves, of each other, of human nature.
TAKE AN HONEST AND UNBIASED LOOK
Take stock of your own situation. Be honest with yourself. In your gut, you know which camp you fall into and you need to listen to that and not to anyone else.
If your fear of this small space truly is based on a need to keep yourself safe emotionally, not just comfortable, then it should not be ignored.
2. I’m Afraid of Losing My Things
There is no right way to embark on a full-time RV adventure. But many people, including ourselves, find themselves drawn to this path because of an aching need to offload the accumulation of stuff, to simplify life. The adventure part of it seems to come as an added bonus.
When we decided to hit the road, we were all in on reducing and simplifying across the board. We had already been on the path for a while before even considering full-time RVing.
When the time came, we sold our family home and we sold or gave away probably more than 90% of our possessions. We kept only the essentials that would fit into a small storage unit ($65 per month).
We have zero regrets.
Downsizing is exactly what our souls needed. More than likely, we will be ready to go through that downsizing process again when we hit the “empty nester” stage in a few years; it has become an essential part of our ongoing journey. (We are hopeful that another RV adventure is in our future as well, but only time will tell.)
THAT’S OUR STORY. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE YOURS.
You can do this full-time RVing thing however you see fit. If you don’t want to get rid of one frigging spoon, you don’t have to. You can find plenty of storage out there for whatever you choose to keep while you go off and RV. You’re in control.
Don’t let anyone guilt you into a decision to go all minimalist to make this happen if that’s not what you need. Pay attention to what’s going on inside, always.
Now, if your issue is more along the lines of “I’m afraid of being separated from my stuff”, that’s a different animal altogether. If you are not prepared, even eager, to at least leave behind piles of stuff for a time in order to have a completely new and freeing experience, I have to strongly suggest that you consider other lifestyle options that are more in line with your current needs and mindset. (And the possibilities are still endless!)
There’s no shame there. There’s no guilt. It just is, so honor that and take the next right step for you.
3. I’m Afraid of Losing My Comfort
Life is always and unequivocally a series of trade-offs. It’s give and take. It’s yin and yan.
Take security and freedom, for instance. There is a universal tension between these two, built into the fabric of our existence. You might experience it most directly in the employment arena:
- You love the security of a steady paycheck.
- You do not love the lack of freedom that comes with that steady paycheck, often limiting your personal power and freedom.
- You consider leaving the steady paycheck to do your own thing, something that you believe you will enjoy and that will increase your personal freedom.
- The thought of losing that sense of financial security, of stepping into the unknown, just proves too daunting and intimidating to overcome.
- The choice is made to opt for security over freedom. At least for today.
See, tension. It’s the kind of tension that seems to take on a life of its own within your own life, taking up residence in your twisting gut or your tense shoulders.
The truth is you can always choose to have more of one thing, but it most often involves (at least temporarily) giving up the other thing in this tense relationship, the thing that you still crave.
WHAT IS YOUR COMFORT WORTH TO YOU?
In the decision to full-time RV, this same tension exists. In order to experience the freedom of travel and breathtaking moments and stunning locations, you have to give up some security. But that security often looks more like comfort.
I know that’s what it looked like for us. We had to get extremely uncomfortable to even start down this path (uncomfortable enough that I pretty much shut down completely for a couple of days early on in the process). We had to accept new and challenging situations with uncertain outcomes, both during the preparation for launch and after launch. And we had to deal with the discomfort of losing our routine and trying to find a new life rhythm.
So here’s the question if you are considering full-time RVing: Do you love your comfort (security) so much that you will allow it to hold you back from an opportunity to experience freedom and adventure?
Give and take. Tension. Always. Embrace it, and then decide.
4. I’m Afraid of Losing Control
Oh boy. Here we go. Confession time.
As we started down the path toward full-time RVing and I faced my “shutdown period” that I mentioned above, I listened to a podcast that helped me better understand what I was struggling with and what I needed to do to get past it.
In the podcast, Tricia Leach from Keep Your Daydream was interviewing another full-time couple and getting some insight from them on their struggles, lessons and victories while on the road. If I remember correctly, they were on the road with at least four or five children.
The husband/dad stated that he had gained a new superpower as a result of their decision to embrace the full-time RV lifestyle. He explained that he had always been the one to take control, plan, and ensure that things went smoothly and according to plan. Control was part of his identity.
But on the road, he quickly realized that his need for control had become extremely counterproductive. He became aware that he was trying to control things that did not need to be controlled, things that were not intended to be controlled.
THE FULL-TIME RV SUPERPOWER
So what was his superpower developed on the road? The ability to simply go with the flow.
When I heard this, I immediately realized that my need for control was at the heart of my shutdown. I didn’t have answers to all of the “what ifs” that I was facing, all of the unknowns that had surrounded me. I did not feel safe, I did not feel secure, because I couldn’t predict the potential outcomes and work diligently to bring them into reality. I had lost control, and my mind was fighting to get it back by shutting down the whole show.
Because uncertainty is uncomfortable.
So I made a decision. I decided that all I could really do was take the next step in front of me and trust. I couldn’t see to step three, and I certainly didn’t know what life was going to look like if this all actually came together and we hit the road. And I had to come to peace with that unknown, that uncertainty, and just go with the flow.
Today, would I claim that going with the flow is my superpower? Well, that would be a stretch. It’s a daily decision to let go (on my good days), to relinquish control. Uncertainty is still uncomfortable for me.
Am I in a better place with letting go than I was before that whole process started? Absolutely.
What about you? Where are you at with letting go and going with the flow? Are you willing to improve in that area so that your full-time RV experience can be everything it possibly can? I sure hope you say yes.
5. I’m Afraid of Losing Approval
Just when you thought you were going to get through this entire post without one point being targeted at you, I have to go and play the “approval card”. Sorry.
But whether or not you recognize this fear will depend largely on the types of circles you run in. And possibly on your track record of sticking with the status quo or not.
You see, one way that people often keep themselves feeling safe and secure in community with others is by expecting certain behaviors from the members of that community. When a member does not behave in a way that is congruent with the acceptable behaviors of the community, negative feedback begins.
*Note: When I talk about community, that includes family.*
BE WHO YOU’VE BEEN, OR ELSE.
But it goes deeper than that. Within a community, members often also feel the need to predict the behavior of a certain individual based on that individual’s history. When the individual behaves in an unexpected manner, even if it is within the standards of the community, negative feedback can still result. This happens because the unpredictable behavior stirs up fear and uncertainty in some members.
Essentially, when they can’t predict your behavior, they feel that they are losing control.
Understand that negative feedback does not just include direct, verbal feedback. No, it’s more common to simply see a distance developing between that “rogue” individual and the other members of the community, initiated by the other members. This clearly, although non-verbally, communicates disapproval and is intended to bring the individual back “in line”.
As I said, the types of communities you belong to makes a huge difference in response and approval. For instance, if you have been an entrepreneur for a while and you run in those circles, the community is more likely to accept “risky” behavior, decisions like hitting the road in an RV. This is a far more risk-tolerant group as a whole, willing to embrace the unknown and unfamiliar.
YOUR COMMUNITY OR YOUR LIFE
There is nothing inherently wrong with standards of behavior in a community. They probably exist, to one degree or another, in every single community.
The problems begin to surface when that community expects you to place their comfort and sense of security above the path you feel is calling you forward into a more fulfilling existence.
Only you can choose your response to negative feedback like this from your community. Every situation is different. But be aware of the reality of the situation, the dynamics involved in that feedback, and choose your path wisely.
Which Full-Time RVer Fears Are You Currently Facing?
As always, I would love to hear from you about the journey you are on. I would love to hear how you have overcome some of these fears or are continuing to face them down daily as you move forward in your journey.
More than anything, I want the best for you. Whether that is a long spell living in an RV or not. That’s why I wrote this post: Because this decision does matter and it should not be taken lightly.
You deserve to live your best life. Go out there and find it, because that’s one thing Amazon won’t deliver to your door.
Todd Bonner loves a competitive game of table tennis, a breathtaking hike and simply exploring new places. 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 pictures of Glacier National Park (probably his favorite spot on earth) or creating new products for Clever Camper Company.
Thursday 18th of July 2019
Todd, in #5 I think it is helpful to realize that negative feedback from our “community” may also stem from their own fears - losing connection with a loved one, friend, business partner, etc. - and when the source of those fears they can then be addressed. We’ve personally enjoyed the support of our family, even though we are doing “this crazy thing”, because we spent precious time with them before departing, and we leverage technology to maintain those connections. Indeed, changing things up in our lives has created continual opportunities for personal growth and deepened relationships with people we no longer see in person.
Thursday 18th of July 2019
That is an excellent point, Kelly, and I agree with you 100%. It's a point that I honestly should not have overlooked. I think if I hadn't been trying to wrap up that looong post (and long #5), I might have gotten there!
That is an excellent reminder to allow other folks to feel what they are feeling, without putting yourself at the center of the issue.
Thank you for the great feedback!