Note from Chickery’s Travels: This is a guest post from our friend, Laura of Chapter 3 Travels (bio below). We’ve been a big fan of her blog for a couple of years now and finally had the chance to meet her & her husband in person last month. We whole heartedly agree with the advice she shares in this article. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Since the summer of 2016, my husband and I have been traveling fulltime in our motorhome. During that time, we’ve gawked at mind boggling natural wonders, learned about everything from ancient civilizations to modern scientific breakthroughs, and, perhaps most importantly, met numerous kind, thoughtful, and interesting people. The overall experience has been nothing short of phenomenal. Unsurprisingly, however, it has not been without its challenges. We’ve weathered some serious storms — physically, mentally, and emotionally — and, along the way, we’ve learned a lot of lessons we think are worth sharing.
Here are a couple of the things we would advise a new RVer as he or she prepares to hit the road.
1. Get the good insurance.
While it is tempting to try to save money on insurance, we’ve had multiple experiences where we needed our health insurance company to come through for us in a big way. Thankfully, they did. We have friends who needed their entire diesel engine replaced — at a cost of more than $40,000 — and their insurer quickly sent the check. When it comes to health and RV insurance, we are convinced it is better to be over-insured rather than under-insured. If you’re facing enormous RV repairs or a serious medical situation, the last thing you want to do is sit on the phone with your insurer pleading with them to pay the bill.When you need these companies, you need them and that is not the time to find out you were penny wise and pound foolish.
2. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Put another way: Research, Research, Research! There are so many resources available to fulltime RVers these days. Everything from what kind of RV to buy, to which campgrounds are nicest, to what sights are worth seeing has been discussed to death on the internet. But all the information in the world doesn’t help anyone if it goes unread. One of the questions we are frequently asked is whether we have ever felt unsafe at a campground. Our answer is always “no.” But it’s not because there aren’t plenty of somewhat sketchy campgrounds out there. It’s because I always research places beforehand and if I see reviews that call into question the safety of the area, we just go elsewhere.
By doing our research we’ve also avoided problematic roads and routes, we’ve purchased high quality products we’ve used and loved and never needed to replace, and we’ve avoided wasting time and money on overpriced tourist attractions and restaurants.
Additionally, our research has led us to lesser known places we might have totally missed had we just shown up without a plan.
There are people who will tell you that all of life’s joys are found in the unexpected; that you should just wing it and see what happens. For us, that’s just a recipe for stress, aggravation, and disappointment. Doing our research beforehand has consistently served us well.
3. Go slow.
Just about everyone who starts RVing starts too fast. Of course! Who wants to spend a week in one place when they can hit 3 different national parks in that same week? The thing is, while life in an RV simplifies some things, it complicates others, and those things can create stress that is only magnified when you are constantly running around.
Many of the things you take for granted in your sticks and bricks house are much more difficult and time consuming when you live on the road. You don’t know where anything is in a grocery store… heck, you don’t even know where the store itself is!
You have to figure out where you can get your mail forwarded, where to get your hair cut, where to have your car repaired, and which veterinarian to go to. You need to make three meals a day and then do all your dishes, clean your tiny living space, and dump your tanks – none of which you can do while you’re sitting around at a laundromat waiting for your clothes to dry.
All of these things take time and if you’re constantly zipping around from one destination to the next, what should be a fun lifestyle can quickly turn into a stressful nightmare. And that’s the thing: this is a lifestyle, not a vacation. Build in time for your normal life stuff, for the additional things that RV life requires, and, most importantly, for yourself.
4. Understand that everything in RV life is a tradeoff.
The bigger your RV, the more comfortable it will be, but the fewer places you’ll be able to camp. Conversely, a smaller RV will mean you can go anywhere, but you’ll likely sacrifice comfort and convenience.
When it comes to the social aspects of life, nomadic RV travel often leads to people making more new friends than they’ve made in years. The tradeoff, however, is that after a week or two, all those new friends end up driving off in different directions.
On a related note, while fulltime travel means having numerous incredible experiences and adventures, it also means missing out on lots of events and milestones back home. It is an awesome life, but there are tradeoffs to be made and it is wise to give some consideration to how you want to handle those.
5. Appreciate the importance of weather.
Understanding the importance of weather in RV life is not just a matter of chasing 70 degrees.
I recently completely changed our intended Spring travel route because I realized my original route would have us driving straight through Tornado Alley during tornado season. We spent last summer nervously watching wildfires burn out of control just miles from where we were camped.
Cold weather can wreak havoc on RV systems, extreme heat can cause a tiny home with lots of windows to become a greenhouse, and getting caught in bad weather can make you go absolutely stir crazy.
Never underestimate the importance of weather when planning your travels and when evaluating how you felt about a place.
6. Be honest with yourself about what YOU want.
It’s easy to look at someone else’s Instagram feed or blog and think “that looks amazing!” but you have to be honest about whether that’s true.
Before we started, I was sure we’d be out boondocking in the desert for weeks at a time. But, honestly, we haven’t done that at all! Between complexities with our particular RV and the costs of solar, it just hasn’t made a lot of sense, and the reality is, it just doesn’t appeal to us the way we thought it would. No big deal, but I’m glad we didn’t go sink a ton of money into solar panels on day one. Same goes for many RV related purchases.
Until you figure out your style of camping, hold off on spending hundreds of dollars for things you might not even need or want.
7. On a related note, don’t drink the Koolaid on Instagram or other social media sites.
I can assure you, there are very few super hot babes standing on top of their hipster-perfect vans demonstrating perfect tree pose while gazing into the distance at sunrise.
8. Life can be messy. Plan accordingly.
In other words, have an emergency fund and prepare to be flexible.
No matter how much you plan, things will sometimes go awry. We’ve faced enormous unexpected emergencies that we’ve had to handle on the road.
If you don’t have funds set aside to address these things, or you struggle with changing your plans, you’ll face even more stress and emotional upheaval when you are least prepared to deal with it.
9. There are as many different ways to RV as there are RVers. Do what you want to do and what makes you happy.
One downside of doing all that “research” I just told you to do is you’ll run into plenty of people who think their way is the only way to go. Our advice: ignore those people.
If you want to boondock for months on end, do it. If you’d rather be hooked up to 50 amp, water, and sewer every single night, that’s good too. Want to work camp? Awesome. Want to volunteer? Great! Want to be a slug? Fine.
Your Class A doesn’t have to be a diesel pusher, your travel trailer doesn’t have to be an Airstream, and your tow car doesn’t have to be a Jeep.
You should do whatever works for you, keeps your budget in check, and makes you happy. Don’t let anyone make you think your style of travel is wrong or ‘less than.’ If you’re happy, that’s all that matters.
The last two and a half years have truly been life-changing and something we will cherish forever. We’d encourage anyone thinking about taking the plunge to go for it… just be realistic, be flexible, be prepared, and, when all else fails, be ready to rely on your sense of humor to get you through.
Author bio: Laura and her husband, Kevin, have been traveling fulltime in their motorhome since August, 2016. Just recently, they expanded their pack by adopting a one year old German Shepherd puppy named Thor. She writes about their travels, observations, and misadventures on her blog: Chapter 3 Travels.
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