A few things I’ve learned from 6 months living on the road

I can hardly believe that it’s been 6 months since we sold our house and set off to try our hand at full-time RV living.  Without a doubt there has been a learning curve and we still become a little better accustomed to this lifestyle every week.  There have been good days and bad as well as a lot of learning about ourselves and life on the road.

Here are a few things we’ve learned in 6 months living in our little home on wheels:

1.  Route planning and resource management is time consuming.  If you want to camp for free on public lands (aka: boondocking) it’s likely you’ll be far from a town.  Or at least a town large enough to offer the resources needed.  So pre-planning where to get water, groceries, propane, fuel, etc. is a must.  If you want to camp in a city, planning ahead and making reservations at a campground or RV park is important as most desirable places fill up.  In addition, the weather is always a factor, as well as the route we’ll take to get from Camp A to Camp B.  It’s constant homework and can be both fun and frustrating.

2.  Receiving mail is tricky.  There really isn’t an easy solution for those of us without an address.  At least that’s what I’ve found to be true.  Banks, insurance companies and the like require a permanent address.  Using a mail forwarding service or the address of a friend or family member are the most common options.  Your mail will get sent to that address and then you must coordinate where you’ll be and when so that you can have your mail sent to the post office in said town via General Delivery.  Currently we’re waiting for our mail to arrive at the local post office before we can move on to our next destination.

3.  Traveling with a trailer (any trailer) will never be the same as traveling in just our truck camper.  The Casita has been an awesome addition to our set up and the extra space was needed for full-time travel.  However, we miss the days of traveling in just the truck camper.  There’s nothing quite like the ability to go down any dirt road without having to worry about being able to turn around.  We also tend to see more and get deeper in to the backcountry with just the truck since towing the trailer slows down our rate of travel quite a bit.  Whenever we decide to settle somewhere, we’ll be excited to resume our trips in the Four Wheel Camper.

4.  Living on the road can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be.  You’d automatically like to think that this lifestyle is a lot cheaper than living in a traditional house.  That’s not necessarily true.  It’s all about how you do it.  If you burn a lot of gas, stay in campgrounds and eat out often, those costs add up fast.  Alternatively, you can camp on public lands for free, only move once every week or two, cook your own meals and spend very little.

5.  The ability to have a new view out your window whenever you want is pretty great.  I’ve gotten a little burnt out on route planning and trying to figure out what to see and where to go next.   But then we park at a new location, open our blinds to an entirely new view and can’t help but think how cool it is that we can just relocate our home whenever we want.

6.  This lifestyle is easily mistaken for simple.  Though it’s portrayed as nothing but rotating million dollar views, this is hardly a simple way to live.  Not knowing where you’ll sleep next or where your water will come from or when you’ll get to shower again is not simple living.  It’s deliberate and thoughtful and I love that, but it’s not simple.  There are still bills to be paid, health concerns to address, things that need to be serviced, fixed and maintained.  It’s a different way to live but shouldn’t be mistake for a perpetual vacation.

7.  No matter where you are, you still have to live with yourself.  Let’s see if I can explain this one so it makes sense.  First, a short story.  The other day, while sitting in our trailer eating dinner, we were watching a Sailing La Vagabonde episode on You Tube.  They’re an Australian couple that have been sailing around the world for the last few years.  Their life looks like a dream.  One clip of this particular episode showed calm seas at sunset and the gentle sound of the sea tapping against their catamaran.  I thought to myself “wow, that looks incredibly peaceful”.  Then I realized… I’m in the middle of the desert looking out my window at the snow-capped Sierras, not a soul in sight and silence all around.  Isn’t this right here, my life, incredibly peaceful?  I think that’s what we tend to do as humans, look at others lives from the outside and generalize.  Yet, life is so much more complicated than that.  Mark & I’s heads have been full of so much crap the last couple of years as we sort thru a bit of mid-life crisis and a beautiful view doesn’t fix that.  So I’ve learned in the last six months, you can chase happiness all you want but you’ll only ever find joy in your environment once you’ve found peace within your own mind.

8.  This lifestyle has highlighted the importance of community.  I’m not sure if this comes with age or with having spent too much time alone in the wilderness but I’ve begun to crave friendships and relationships more than ever.  Mark & I are both very independent and introverted so we naturally seek seclusion.  However, the very best times we’ve had this winter have been the ones spent with family and friends.  A beautiful vista of untapped wilderness may feed my soul but so does the love and laughter of my family.  After six months on the road, I’m seeking a better balance of both.

9.  We have yet to figure out how our aviation lives and camping lives can co-exist.  I haven’t talked about it much here so you may not know that we have an airplane back in Colorado.  Making that purchase two years ago was one of the greatest accomplishments we’ve ever made. At the same time we had this dream of living on the road and for a couple of years we’ve brain-stormed how to combine our camping and aviation lives.  It’s for that reason that we bought an airplane with folding wings. But after one trip bumping it down the road on a trailer, we realized airplanes aren’t meant to withstand the constant jarring of the pavement. So this winter, we tucked the airplane in to our hangar and set off in hopes of finding a way to incorporate that life in to this life.  We have yet to find a solution that works for us.  Mark is meant to be an aviator, it’s his passion and his calling.  I’m his #1 fan in making that happen and also have a passion for the aviation community. So when we change course and decide to no longer live on the road, aviation will be the reason.

10.  The freedom and flexibility this lifestyle offers is priceless.  At some point in time we’ll live in a house again, we’re just not yet sure where that house is.  For now, living in a home on wheels keeps our options open and we love that.  We can live in an RV park near our business’s home base as needed.  We can live in the driveway of a friend or family member when projects need to be done.  We can live in the wilderness when we crave adventure and solitude.  We can live in an RV park in a new town when we want to explore the possibility of living there.  We knew we wanted to sell our house but we’re so glad we didn’t have to decide immediately where and what house we’d live in next.  The freedom to choose the life we want is a beautiful thing and something we’re trying to not take for granted.

Well…there you have it!  Just a few of the standout things we’ve learned from our first 6 months of full-time RV living.  It may not be glamorous but it’s real and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.  We love challenging ourselves, learning and growing from our experiences.  It’s quite unclear what we’ll be doing six months from now, where and how we’ll be living, but I can’t wait to find out!

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By Michele


Hi, I'm Michele, a nomadic wedding photographer and lover of the great outdoors. I live on the road full-time and document my adventures daily. This is my personal blog where I share and record my thoughts on living simply and intentionally with less stress and more joy. Check out my wedding and portrait photography at http://www.oncwest.com


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