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March of 2022 marked five years of living in an RV full-time for us, and it has me feeling all the feels. I feel like the last five years have gone by in the blink of an eye. I can still picture that final moment when we took a look around our large, empty home for the last time. We had followed through on our dream, and it was surreal and included a range of emotions: excitement, fear, relief, anticipation, and sheer exhaustion from downsizing to 400 square feet in a little over a month.
Initially, we didn’t expect to be on the road for more than a couple of years. We were going to find a new home base and RV part-time. You could say living in an RV grew on us pretty quickly. Never before did we have the flexibility to travel where we wanted, whenever we wanted, and how long we wanted. Our full-time travel dream really did come true.
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Our perspective on living in an RV full-time
To say we have many lessons learned after living in an RV for five years would be an understatement. This lifestyle is certainly not for those who have trouble living outside the box. While there are notable aspects of living in an RV that set my heart on fire daily, I’m not going to lie; there are also many frustrating times. If you don’t have a flexible nature or succumb to anxiety easily, this may not be the lifestyle for you.
While there can be anxiety with this lifestyle, I know that living in an RV takes away a lot of everyday pressures. Because you don’t have a large home to clean, a big yard to maintain, a work commute (we both still work), and other expectations of living the norm, things tend to roll off your back a lot easier.
Besides traveling to breathtaking places in the US and Canada, we could park our home in some of our adult children’s driveways from time to time. Moochdocking (mooching off electricity and water while parked in someone’s driveway) is one of this lifestyle’s most significant benefits and memories. We were able to have lunch with the grandkids at school, attend a baseball game, or have movie nights in the RV. This has not happened as much lately due to family moves, and we miss it. If you ever have this opportunity, grab it. Parking in a family member’s (or friend’s) driveway gives you the comfort of your own home while still allowing you quality time with your family.
Lessons learned living in an RV for five years
If you came to this post for a list of “Dos and Don’ts”, you won’t find them here. I’ve written plenty of those informational blog posts for your learning and enjoyment. This post is focused on the life lessons we’ve gained from living in an RV versus a traditional home. This five-year “nomadiversary” (fancy RV speak) has me feeling nostalgic and reflective.
This full-time travel lifestyle has been eye-opening, impactful, exhilarating, and precious to us. It’s been a life-changing road trip that has taught us more about ourselves in five years than the rest of our lives combined.
Now, let’s get to those lessons.
Expect the unexpected when living in an RV
Flat tires, broken leaf springs, tornado evacuations, slide motor malfunction, GPS-related travel mishaps, broken skylight, and roof leaks are just a few unexpected “adventures” we’ve experienced traveling full-time for five years.
“Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and start being excited about what could go right.“Unknown
We do our best to mitigate these unexpected mishaps in many ways. I don’t think anyone taught us how to avoid these situations; we just lived and learned and hoped not to repeat them.
Let me share some habits we picked up along the way to save you undue stress:
While we know that the unexpected WILL happen, we’ve also learned that it’s all in how you react. Learning to go with the flow and change plans on the fly quickly becomes embedded into this way of life. And to us, the advantages of living in an RV far outweigh any unexpected mishaps we’ve experienced along the way. I mean, everything can’t be perfect ALL the time on the road. But I’m sure you know that life isn’t always ideal living in a traditional home either. I know these setbacks we’ve experienced regularly have given us better coping skills to handle whatever life throws at us once we stop traveling full-time.
Stop caring about what other people think
When we decided to sell everything, buy an RV, and hit the road full-time, we received a lot of respect, admiration, and joy regarding our drastic lifestyle change. But not all the comments were positive. Some people just can’t wrap their heads around selling their home and living in a tiny RV. Their home is their security, and that’s OK. Living in an RV is not for everyone.
“What other people think of you is their business. if you start to make that your business, you will be offended for the rest of your life.”Deepak Chopra
We would get comments on social media about how we could afford this lifestyle. “must have a trust fund” or “it’s nice that you have a big pension” were some of the top ones. Well, neither is true. Craig and I both are not at retirement age, and we continue to work, or else we can’t afford the cost of healthcare.
All this to say, we learned that what other people think of our decision to live in an RV full-time isn’t relative. And for us to worry about what they believe is a waste of our precious time. We will continue to go against “the status quo” because it’s what makes us happy in this season of life. And I sure hope to carry that feeling throughout the rest of our lives.
The size of your house should not define you
My husband and I worked hard for our big house in a nice neighborhood. It felt like we “made it.” We allowed our home to define us and give us status. We achieved the so-called American Dream after all. But, as soon as we started living in an RV, we realized we had lived in a house, not a home. While it was a good investment and led us to some great friendships, it didn’t bring us joy.
“A house is made of walls and beams. A home is made of love and dreams.”Unknown
We spent so much time working to afford our lovely house with not much time left over to enjoy what mattered most–our family, friends, and travel. Living in our RV truly feels like home every time we step through the door.
I will admit that I miss having the room for big family gatherings (and a bathtub). But I know I will have that again someday on a much smaller, manageable scale when the time is right.
Letting go of material possessions is a gift you give yourself
I didn’t realize how much I was caught up in the cycle of accumulation. It was all around me. My house was full of decor, furniture, electronics, cars, adult toys (think motorcycle, boat), and so much more. Too much.
I didn’t understand how heavy all those material possessions were on my life until they were gone. Once I started living in an RV full-time, I felt a freedom I could never have imagined.
Free to travel where I wanted. The freedom to spend our money in ways that made us happy versus paying to store all our possessions in a large home. I am free to take time for myself versus cleaning a large house or taking care of a lawn.
What we learned
Now we focus on experiences. Instead of giving each other gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, etc., we buy experiences for each other. We also do this as much as possible for our kids and grandkids. The memories from the experiences far outweigh that toy that will sit in a corner and not get played with soon.
Essentially, living with less has given us the gift of perspective. The perspective to see what is truly important in life. And it’s undoubtedly not things, at least for us.
Slow down and appreciate living in an RV
When we began living in an RV, it was full steam ahead for the first six months. We immersed ourselves in our dream of full-time travel, and we didn’t want to miss a thing.
We would stay in each new location for only a week. And while we were in a new place, we would try to see and do EVERYTHING. Eating out, visiting breweries, sightseeing, and hiking were just a few activities taking up our time.
Eventually, exhaustion kicked in, and we realized we couldn’t keep up the pace. Craig was working full-time, so we were exploring or moving the RV any time he wasn’t working. We didn’t spend any time recharging and appreciating our new lifestyle. What was once yard work and housework had turned into packing and unpacking the RV and traveling from place to place?
We realized we were treating this adventure like we were on a permanent vacation, which was not sustainable.
We had to give ourselves downtime to rest, plan, and appreciate our new surroundings.
Once we slowed our pace, which included staying in places from two weeks to a month, we felt like we could breathe again. We made the mistake of confining ourselves to a rigid schedule, and if we hadn’t made adjustments, it might have discouraged us from continuing this lifestyle because BURNOUT is real.
Appreciate nature and treat your planet with the love it deserves
Living in an RV has exponentially heightened our love of nature and, concurrently, our concern for the health of our planet. One of our goals for this journey is to visit all the National Parks in the US. So far, we are up 24.
Traveling through diverse landscapes and visiting marvels of nature, such as Arches and The Grand Canyon National Parks and Valley of Fire State Park, opened our eyes to the damage of environmental abuse. I can’t stand and look at one of only 25 ice glaciers remaining, starting with 150 in 1850, in Glacier National Park, and not think about our grandkids and their kids and so on.
Will there be any glaciers left for our future generations to cherish? The thought brings a tear to my eyes every time. It made me want to be part of the change needed to preserve our beautiful planet, the only one we have. And more than that, prevent deaths caused by extreme weather, a direct result of our disregard for the health of Earth.
You may be wondering what you can do to help our planet
I implore you to also get out of your bubble and look around at what’s happening to the Earth. Did you vacation in Lake Meade or Lake Powell this year and experience record low water levels that prohibited you from being on the water? Have you been through wildfire, as I have in Durango, CO, and been told to evacuate? Have you driven past the marker, as we have, leading to the Athabasca Glacier (Jasper National Park, Alberta, CN) that showed where the glacier was in 1935?
Seeing it with your own eyes, as I have, will make a world of difference. It’s like the old saying, “If it isn’t happening to you, is it really happening”?
You CAN overcome your fears, really
Overcoming fears was huge for me. I had so many fears before living in an RV, more than Craig, I’m sure. Fear of leaving my career, fear of walking away from my large, beautiful home, fear of selling possessions I thought mattered more than my happiness. fear of making new friends, and fear of failing at living in an RV.
How I face my fears since living in an RV
What worked for me (and us) was focusing on “our why” when fear crept in. Our why was, and still is, to explore, connect, and have no regret. This mantra helps us focus on our goals and meet roadblocks head-on. Without it, I know we would have missed out on some pretty incredible experiences.
“Being scared is part of being alive. Accept it. Walk through it.“Robin Sharma
Fears can be paralyzing. My fear of heights is an example of that. Over the past five years, I’ve faced this fear repeatedly and approached it differently than in previous years. This RV lifestyle makes me feel FREE in a way I never have, and that feeling is always present when I am walking towards, let’s say, the rim of The Grand Canyon. The free-ness I feel and desire to explore gives me a new appreciation for what I’m experiencing, making the fear easier to overcome. And the more I face it, the easier it gets.
“Don’t let your fears stop you from living your best life.“Tina Klinefelter (that’s me)
Staying connected while living in an RV is challenging
We thought it would be easy to stay connected to everyone, but we were wrong. Circumstances, weather, jobs, and logistics sometimes dictate our travel plans. Unfortunately, this has us missing out on some important family events from time to time.
In the beginning, as I mentioned in the intro, two of our five children (including three grandchildren) had driveways we could park in. Those connections were priceless because of the quality time we could spend with them all.
We also have three other kids and two grandkids that we spend time with. This, along with parents, siblings, and everyone being in four different states, makes it difficult to spend equal amounts of time.
We do our best when it comes to staying connected, but it’s not as easy as we thought it would be
Besides balancing time with family, we have friends we want to spend time with, full-time jobs, and travel adventures to schedule. This can lead to a planning nightmare because we don’t want to let anyone down.
Connecting with family and friends is essential to us and one of our “whys.” While we do our best to see everyone and do everything, we quickly realized that we WILL let people down occasionally. And we have to give ourselves grace when that happens. With a large family spread across the country, we can’t be everywhere with everyone at the same time unless they invent time travel real soon!
Some ways we stay connected while RVing when we can’t be there in person:
If you have any other ideas for staying connected while traveling full-time, please share them below. Lord knows we don’t get it right all the time and could use some helpful ideas.
Follow your dreams – don’t wait till someday
Why didn’t we do this sooner? That thought comes to mind all the time. Our dream was always to travel full-time in an RV when we retired. If we had waited till then, we might not be in good health, or our circumstances might be different. Then we would have had regrets and missed out on so many adventures.
Taking the leap that we did has opened our minds to other possibilities, other dreams. Some of those dreams are RVing through Europe and Alaska, living on a boat for a season, or housesitting in another country. Everything is attainable with a positive attitude and the willingness to face fears and take risks. RV life has opened our minds to ALL the potential adventures.
“Don’t wait till someday because it might not be there.”Tina Klinefelter (me again)
The only person you have to impress is yourself
This lesson may seem silly to some, but it was a big deal for me. I used to wash, blow-dry, and style my hair every other day and apply full-on makeup EVERY day. Even if I was just running to the store to pick up a couple of things, I had to put on makeup to cover my rosacea because I might run into Queen Elizabeth or, even better, Dave Matthews.
Since living in an RV, I go out of my home more often with no makeup. I rarely curl my hair and only wash it 2-3 times a week. 😂 OK, OK, it’s more like two days. I also have a minimal wardrobe compared to my THREE closets full of clothes and shoes in my former home.
Who the heck was I trying to impress all those years? I’m not saying I don’t put on makeup when I’m getting on a Zoom call or going out with Craig. I wear a lot less, and it’s more natural and takes less time to apply. If only I could get back all the time wasted showering, blow-drying, applying makeup, and trying on clothes.
Finally, living in an RV is not as lonely as you might think, thanks to a welcoming RV community
I saved the best lesson for last. 🥳
“You’re only as lonely as you allow yourself to be.“Tina Klinefelter (I’m on a roll!)
We discovered that living in an RV and traveling full-time is NOT lonely unless we allow it to be. Because we put ourselves out there, we’ve also learned that the RV community is one of the kindest and most welcoming groups of like-minded people on this planet. They are “our people.”
Our decision to attend the RV Entrepreneur Summit (RVE) in 2019 was life-changing. The conference was just what I needed to kick-start my business. And it allowed us to form some crucial personal and business relationships. I joined a Mastermind group with five other lady entrepreneurs who travel full-time. This community has led to some life-long friendships we are genuinely grateful for.
Just to highlight the kindness of this community, let me share a couple of stories
When we were on our way to the RVE Summit, our rig broke down a couple of hours away on a major highway. We had to wait on the side of the road with our non-stop meowing cats for tow service/maintenance. I posted this situation on the Facebook page for our event. No sooner did I post than messages started rolling in. So many other nomads were on their way to the summit and offered to stop and help, bring us food, find us a place to stay, and recommend maintenance services. We felt so loved and not alone.
Another RV community encounter happened on a boat ride in Lake Powell. We sat next to Jimmy while waiting to board the boat. We had a wonderful conversation and found out he and his wife traveled by RV for a while when they were younger. His wife had since passed, but he had many friends who still were RVing. When he built his cabin near West Yellowstone, he added two RV pads with full hookups for his friends to use when he was there during the summers.
As we were leaving our chat to board the boat, he said, “Hey, if you folks are ever in the area, I would be happy to have you stay on my property.” After he walked away, Craig looked at me and said, “there’s no way he will remember us”! I contacted him six months later and stayed on his property for two glorious weeks. He asked for nothing in return, and we paid him for his kindness in meals!
Our newest adventure, thanks to the RV community
I am finishing this post in a “sticks and bricks” home in Asheville (the first time out of the RV in five years), and the reason we are here is because of the RV community. Our friends, Cindy and Barrett (pictured above), are hiking the Appalachian Trail (they are so brave and adventurous!), and we are house, and most importantly, pet sitting for them for six months. It was a perfect situation for us all and we couldn’t be more appreciative of the opportunity to see what stationary life is like again. At least temporarily.
We have RV life to thank for the possibility to travel in other ways. Besides other housesitting gigs, we could campervan around Europe or live on a boat – the possibilities are endless, and this community is so supportive and influential in all the ways you can be a nomad to continue adventuring.
Living in an RV will continue to provide lessons as long as we are willing to accept them
The overall theme here is that we’ve become more intentional with how we live our lives. We focus on what’s important to us and what supports our “whys”: full-time travel, connecting with family & friends, and having no regrets.
Living in an RV has changed us in so many beautiful ways. We care more about our environment and care less about what people think of our choices. This adventure of a lifetime will continue to impact our years to come; I just know it.
We are grateful for the opportunities and lessons living in an RV has provided. We don’t take a moment for granted. We also know this lifestyle will continue to give us life lessons for years to come. We just need to recognize them and continue changing and growing outside our comfort zones.