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By Sarah Croy
Today is our three month anniversary of hitting the road full-time in our RV. Before our launch, We’d never owned an RV, so it’s been a whirlwind. The last months have gone by so quickly, and I feel like we are just getting our bearings in so many ways. It’s been a huge learning curve, and while we are starting to find our feet, we have also made a lot of mistakes along the way. For others considering this lifestyle, I thought I’d share some things for your consideration and amusement.
Less really IS better:
Before we decided to RV fulltime, I had been in research mode for months and months. It seemed like I looked at all the models under the sun that could work for a family with 4 kids, and still give us the modicum of privacy we knew we wanted. (Kids will already know somethings up when the rig starts a rockin’, so some distance and a door was a non-negotiable for us.)
We looked at travel trailer vs. fifth wheel, fifth wheel vs. toy hauler, class a vs. class c, mid bunk vs. rear bunk, and on and on it goes. We went to RV shows, walked in and around, and tried all the spaces out. Once we had a better idea of what we liked, we took the kids along and let them get a feel for some of the ones we were considering.
Eventually, we settled on the Grand Design Solitude 3740bh. The main reasons were the many satisfied customer reviews and the fact that this rig is four seasons rated – so no frozen poop tanks in cold weather, and 2 a/c units for warm weather. Space means length, and this thing is 4O. FEET. LONG. Add the monster dually truck to that, and we’re hauling a massive rig down the road. With so much adrenaline running through our systems, I’m surprised we haven’t both had a panic attack. (I may have cried a little and nearly passed out watching hubby maneuvering in my rearview mirror.)
Not surprising, we did manage to sideswipe it and cause $4,000 of damage before we even left our hometown on launch day. Granted, the post is on an old section of road where it literally sits 6 inches back from the street, but still – ugh.
We have had a few other close calls since, but thankfully no other damage as of this point. The thing I didn’t research and really consider, was how stressful traveling down the highway with such a long tall rig would be, or how hard finding and navigating into a spot would be. We have been really happy with the space itself – we switched out the hide-a-bed couch in the bunkhouse for a 4th bed, put curtains up for privacy in bunks, and still have plenty of storage space. With the bunkhouse at one end and the master at the other, it has also allowed us to separate the kids and give them a little more breathing room on extra nasty weather days.
In order to enjoy the traveling portion a little more, I am now in a new research season, trying to find a smaller rig we could possibly change to. Hubby agrees that it’s way more nerve-wracking than we reckoned and is waiting for me to announce what I feel our best options will be. ( Researcher hat officially donned). I’m currently considering some Class A or Class C models that have a set of bunks and a bed over the cab, or some other more unique ideas I’ve seen on the interwebs.
Know your limits:
One of the few regrets I have is that we ended up launching with some debt still hanging over our head. We couldn’t find a used version of the aforementioned rig anywhere near us, so we ended up buying new. Having a set, non-negotiable budget agreed to in advance is crucial. You’ll get on that RV lot or in the showroom, start looking at all the shiny rigs with their new features, and before you know it you’ll have signed on for a rig twice your original discussed budget. You CAN find what you want with some patience. I know now we could’ve bought a used rig for far less, and done the same basic changes to make the kids fit, as well as purchase a warranty to give us the peace of mind we needed. If we had, we could’ve paid for our truck in cash instead of financing it, as well as pay off the one credit card that I’m beginning to think will haunt us into the afterlife.
The other thing is knowing how far, and how fast your family can handle traveling. There is so much to see; it’s easy to overdo the planning trying to squeeze it all in. We are from Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, way up in the northern panhandle. Everyone online was talking about how fantastic Florida is in the winter, and we loved the idea – but then we realized that it was pretty much as far away as possible from our starting point. With only a few weeks to get there, it would be a mad dash cross country. Tired travel is never a good idea, and with a big rig, even less so. We also happen to have 4 kids who are neurologically diverse and change + rushing = disastrous meltdowns for them. So, we made the decision to slow it down and headed to the Oregon coast for the winter.
Fulltime RV Life Isn’t a Magical Cure For Everything:
I know, I know, not what you want to hear. I get it – the idea is SO romantic. Live simply, let go of the stuff and the bills, not have all your time eaten up by a job just to pay for it all, actually see your teenagers on a regular basis. I spent years dreaming of a tiny house, and then an RV and travel. When we actually got to the living of the dream, there was a bit of a reality check. There are always piles everywhere, for example. 4 kids produce on average 1,273 random piles anywhere and everywhere, every day. Laundry is always waiting, just like before – and since you can’t own as many clothes, guess what – you have to do it now instead of shoving it in the corner. You may not own a vacuum anymore, but you will sweep over and over again, especially if you also have pets – which we do. The internet is full of all these beautiful, amazing pictures of remodeled and perfectly laid out mini homes. The reality is you live in this little home on wheels, and it will be messy at times.
You will still have bills to pay, even if they are different than before. You will still have things break, and instead of having someone come over and fix it, you will have to drop your home off and make alternative arrangements for the whole family (and pets) until it’s done. You can set up a budget down to the penny, but there is going to be a lot of unaccounted costs as you find your feet.
Fluctuation in fuel costs, unexpected repairs, tire blowouts, park fees, dump fees, toll roads – there is a lot to consider — the more money you can have set aside, the better – especially on the road. The more income streams you can add to your life the better!
It Is Going To Be Hard:
Absolutely the biggest thing that we couldn’t prepare for was the challenges that living in such close proximity would bring. Not the physical space challenge everyone imagines – we actually really love the simplicity of a small space that can be clean in less than an hour. It’s the fact that living in such close proximity doesn’t leave any room for elephants. It feels like we are constantly working out a conflict of one sort or another, a meltdown of some variety, a crossing of boundaries that needs to be discussed and reinforced. When we’re upset there isn’t any way to pretend otherwise – sure, we can take a walk and cool off, but there are no longer 1,000s of square feet to hide away in until we forget about it. There have been several times when I am the one having a meltdown and crying, but you know what? It’s getting easier.
The kids are adjusting to the upheaval of moving day; we’re down to about 1 out of 4 losing it per move. They’re learning to be kinder and more helpful to each other. They’re noticing when mom needs help and offering without being asked. We are all becoming tuned in to the weather, and everyone knows that if the sun shows up, we’re out the door and off to explore. We’re tackling all sorts of basic life skills that we couldn’t seem to fit into our old life. Things like cooking and baking with patience as we learn measurements and clean up extra spills, overcoming sensory issues with water and learning to swim, building healthy coping skills for anxiety and conflict resolution with new friends, what a budget means and how to differentiate between wants and needs.
Some people set out to do this for a predetermined amount of time, some until they just don’t want to anymore, and some do it permanently. Everyone has said the 1st year is the hardest, so I figure let’s make it to year one, and then we can make a decision. The best thing about this life is you can change your scenery whenever you need to until you find what feels like home – and you get to see some amazing things and make some amazing friends along the way.
Happy Travels –
Sarah and her family decided to drop out of the rat race and start enjoying the “retirement fun” early. She and her husband sold their house and 95% of their belongings, and left their hometown to explore the country and make as many memories as possible before the kids grow up and leave home. Hubby works a regular day job that allows him to travel to different states, and she runs a health and wellness biz as well as shares her thoughts and experiences on her blog. They are slowly making their way along pretty much any part of the country that touches the ocean with their 4 kids, dog, cat, and rabbit in a 40’ fifth wheel. You can follow their adventures on Instagram @thosecrazycroys and @wellnesscrusader, or read more at wellnesscrusader.com