It’s been a full year since we drove away from our three story sticks and bricks home and moved our essential belongings, including our furry babies, into our 26 foot motorhome we lovingly refer to as Starbuck. We had officially moved into our RV on my husband’s 30th birthday, December 19th, 2014. We took our first long haul trip just a few days later to south Texas (3000 miles round trip). Read about that adventure here.
Our first year as full timers has been a mishmash of emotions. It’s had its ups and downs, but the downs have become vital learning experiences. We can confidently say that we have come out of this year with more knowledge and clarity about the RVing lifestyle than what originally was assumed.
Any plans to settle down yet? Absolutely not! Our adventure has barely begun and we will keep on trekking. As we reflect on our first year, we can’t help but notice the many revelations we have made along our journey. This list covers only the main ten.
#1 Beginning the full time RVing lifestyle was much easier than we had anticipated.
When the idea to full time RV first came to mind, actually starting was the most difficult part. Imagine standing at the edge of a high rock about to plunge into a sea of cool blueness. You know it is going to be fun, but everything in your body is telling you that you shouldn’t jump. The most difficult part is leaving the ground. Once you do, you’re just along for the ride and you end up having a blast!
We talked and read about full time RVing for three years. It was late one September day in 2014 when I looked at Levi and said, “Let’s sell the house and buy an RV. We either do this or stop talking about it.” I was getting sick about planning for that someday. Apparently Levi felt the same way. Less than three months later we were living in our RV, house and possessions sold, and planning out our first travel destination. We took one more trip in the spring before officially venturing outside of Las Vegas, where we had met, lived, and worked for over a decade.
#2 The RV (and car for that matter) will always need repairing.
Like anything in life, things get old, damaged, and in need of some TLC. Our home on wheels and “get around town” car have been no exception to the rule. The buck didn’t stop with regular maintenance. This year, our vehicles have experienced everything from light bulb replacements to new tires, electrical shorts to plumbing issues, and leaks to tows. On top of that, the timing of such situations is often discovered on weekends, holidays, or in the middle of Nowhere America when and where service is nonexistent. When it rains; it pours.
In every instance, regardless of its magnitude, we have been able to remedy the problem. We handle much of the little things that need replaced or repaired in the RV. (Correction: Levi does; I supervise.) Everything else is left to the professionals. Repairs and service have become second nature in this game of travel so we have to be flexible and ready with a Plan A, B, C, etc.
#3 Budgets are very important for those on a fixed income. Be prepared for the unexpected.
Our actual income has decreased to about half of what it was when we lived in Vegas. However, our expenses are about half of what they were then, so it equals out. Even so, we
continue to keep a budget and keep feeding our savings for those unexpected events.
We experienced a couple of surprises this past year: Levi’s hernia surgery and Laya’s emergency vet visits due to an abscess. There were planned expenses that we anticipated and saved up for as well: new tires for the car and rig and annual auto insurance fees (we like to pay that upfront to save some cash).
For the moment, until we feel more financially flexible, travel destinations will be determined by available work opportunities and compensation. A gig in an uncharted territory that can continue to meet our financial needs is the ideal scenario. So far, we have been pretty lucky accomplishing this goal.
#4 Two heads are better than one.
Speaking of luck, and not meaning to sound too cheesy, my better half is the best part about our travels. It’s nice to be able to share so much with your best friend and work to solve situations together. Like Levi says, “We can do this. We are a team. We’ll work together, and if one of us is down, the other can step up in the meantime.” Doing this has helped make the adventure that much sweeter!
#5 There are loads of job opportunities out there!
One of our biggest worries about full time RVing was how to finance our new lifestyle, especially at this time in our lives when retirement is out of the question. We were unsure where the work camping job market stood or what employers were seeking in potential workers.
Not to jinx ourselves (or the RVing community as a whole), but it appears that gigs in and around the nation are in abundance and thirsty for help. We have the next two seasons all set, working at campgrounds in Kansas and Michigan. As a plus, both positions offer site and pay that meet our budget needs. This is not the case for other work camping positions that may offer only the site for some hours of service, no pay included. *For more information on work camping and preparing for an interview click here.
We typically find jobs through Workamper News which requires an annual fee to access the work ads in various locations around the U.S. There are many, many other websites, we discovered, that announce full time RVer gigs, free of any fees. A list is included here.
#6 Fellow RVers are always there to lend a hand or a word of advice.
It is amazing to eyewitness and be apart of the camaraderie that develops along the trail among strangers. In our experience, full time RVers, especially those that have been on the road for more than a year, seem to be more than willing to share their tips and tales. From finding the best sightseeing locations to learning about how often one should check torque on tires, we have gained a whole slew of knowledge that we are more than happy to absorb. Plus, making lifelong friends and swapping stories is always a bonus.
#7 Our nation is a beautiful landscape with much of it unpopulated!
This first year we have traveled almost 6,000 miles in and out of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. We have taken in the beauty of sunrises and sunsets and observed the calm and not so calm beauty Mother Nature infringes on her ever-changing landscape. This adventure has allowed us to slow down and breath in the cool, dry air of desert nights and feel the stinging, sideways rain of the south.
It is something to behold, but unfortunately may be overlooked as people rush from point A to point B. Much of the wide open spaces of America are indeed uninhabited and desolate, but solitude can be awe-inspiring!
#8 Civilization is good too.
Of course, after spending several days or weeks away from the world, camping or traveling the many miles though unpopulated land, it is always reassuring to come back to the comforts of civilization. Grocery stores, retail outlets, vehicle repair shops, and banks help us replenish supplies and get the rig back in tip-top condition. Also, simply being around the hustle and bustle of the city life is something we are all too familiar with and still need a dose of every-so-often.
#9 The best experiences are the cheap ones and the unexpected ones!
Some of our most cherished moments on the trail occurred with little money in our pockets. Hiking a small sliver of the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) in California for a day and scuba diving in Lake Tahoe required gas money and a sack lunch. Reno’s Annual Hot Air Balloon Races is a free event open to the public that we were fortunate to attend. Perhaps the best times have been gathering with friends and family for a homecooked meal or sharing stories around a campfire.
For one reason or another, travel plans and schedules were changed, but every change on the road has become an exciting escapade, as my friend Jody always says, “Be open to new experiences.” We stumbled upon Meteor Crater in Arizona on our way to south Texas. What an interesting find, this accidental occurrence in the middle of the desert! Another time we found ourselves (again in the middle of the desert) shooting off hundreds of fireworks with about 10 other people after meeting a fellow that sold fireworks for a living. The entire spectacle was up close and sparkly.
#10 Even though we are living our dream there are still more things we want to do!
There are days we stop and tell one another, “I can’t believe we are actually doing what we had talked about for the past years.” The fact that we are accomplishing what we set out to do is quite paramount. Where else can our dreams take us?
There are a few more items we will be adding to our bucket list after this first year like hiking sections or the entire trail of the PCT and/or AT (Appalachian Trail) and eventually moving towards community service positions (natural disaster reliefs, outreach programs). Just like New Year’s Resolutions, these are our “On the Road Resolutions.” There is no telling where our travels will take us!