When this sea lion dives from the rocky perch, he goes into the unknown depths. Will he have a joyful frolic in the waves and enjoy a mouthful of fish for dinner? Or, will he need to swim for his life away from predators?
The choice to adopt the RV lifestyle is somewhat like the sea lion in this photograph. In my experience, plunged from a rock solid career and country home into a sea of unknowns. I wanted the taste of a joyful tour of the US and Canada, of a feast on regional specialties. I thought about the challenges, yet dismissed them as surmountable. In preparation for the transition to fulltime RVing, I read multiple books and articles on the topic from people who made this choice. I remember taking a quiz about whether I had the stamina to successfully live on the road. I passed the quiz, but the road test was difficult. Now, with 14,116 miles logged on “Dolly’s Pride,” our Prevost bus conversion/motor home, I can honestly conclude that only the actual experience of fulltime RVing will answer the question: Are you ready to take the RV lifestyle plunge?
I am going to give it to you straight. And if you find this summary hard to handle, you need to stay in a safe cove clustered like these sea lions, piled up, side-by-side. Stay in your suburban neighborhood and go to the office every day until you drop or can afford to retire. I assure you, fulltime RVing takes you out of this comfort zone. It represents the new counter culture of people, more affluent and respected than the hippies of the 60s, but still a group that mainstream America cannot quite accommodate completely. This has frustrated me but not made me park the coach. When I take the long view, the benefits outweigh the negatives. Let me give you commentary on a few very important considerations in regard to relationships, equipment, and the traveling experience.
Relationships: On Saturday, October 3rd, Ed and I celebrated our wedding anniversary – 11 years together. We were not sandbox sweethearts. We came together with the baggage of failed marriages, kids traumatized by divorce, and diverse values grounded by his “farm boy” roots vs. my “Kaufmann’s girl” only-child background. Ideally, I would say leave this baggage at the door, but human nature lends itself to dragging this junk wherever we go as the compilation of life’s experiences.
We’ve locked horns many times in loud, emotional debates before and after moving into the RV. What is different since we have moved into the RV? Plenty. We have a new kind of interdependence and need for civility. There’s no office to retreat to on Monday. There’s no extra room to go to and close the door. We have had to come face-to-face with our differences of opinion, reach a compromise, or agree to disagree. We communicate more frequently about things that really matter not the simplistic mutterings like Did you feed the dog? Or what’s for dinner? We have to keep on talking whether the conversation is pleasant or not.
We work together, dividing tasks – he drives, I read the map. He takes care of the mechanics; I take care of cleaning the inside of the coach. We have had to identify our strengths and preferences for jobs as simple as doing the laundry, washing dishes, and pumping fuel. In a corporate environment, there’d be efforts to cross-train the team. Perhaps we will eventually arrive at that level of teamwork. For now, there’s what Ed does well and what I do well.
There is definitely an infringement of space in the coach. As a writer, I require quiet and minimal distractions. For this, the coach is less than an ideal environment. Unless I wake at the crack of dawn or wait for Ed to go off to sleep, it is difficult to get into the zone of concentration I need. Ed likes to talk a lot, so his business calls add to the distractions. It is not a perfect work environment unless only one of us is inside the coach. That’s when it gets really quiet, levels of concentration peak, and performance soars. It is challenging to run corporate business from inside the coach. I would expect that a consultant would advise against, but we still forge ahead upstream if only to prove we can.
We are still muddling our way through this relationship stuff. Ed says it’d be easier if he traveled alone, and there are times when I am ready to say go it alone. In the end, loyalty, tolerance, and shared experiences hold us together. He admits that living with him would make anyone crazy. And, I have a tendency to want things my way. We work to maintain harmony every day.
Neither of us has placed ads in the personals advertising for a new spouse. We build every day on the dream we launched when we moved into the RV and drove those first miles together. We still look at the engraving on our Zippo lighter that says: “Let’s do it together” as a reminder of our commitment. And, just as truly happened a week ago, we will still stumble along that beach in the dark to find the path through the dunes; and we’ll work together when an enemy, like the thief who stole my purse, needs reckoning. We know that we can count on each other.
Equipment: Ed should really write this section, because he knows the coach inside and out. Without his commentary, I will stick to what I can say with confidence. Travel in an RV that is reliable. That means that you need to have vigilance in repairing and maintaining the equipment that makes its go. Living in an RV is like living in a machine. If you have to hire the work done and are clueless about making things mechanical things work, stay in a house. If you neglect routine oil changes and maintenance, stay in a house because sooner or later you will be in an RV that is no longer mobile.
If you are accustomed to unlimited running water and tethered to running lots of electrical equipment, forget the RV lifestyle. You need to be ready to Go Green. Unless you are hooked up to a water and electric source in an RV park, you need to conserve your water and energy. There’s a limited supply of water that an RV tank can hold, and the tank for your waste water has a capacity limit too. Our coach batteries won’t run the microwave, the electric stove, printer, washer/dryer, water heater and a Conair hair dryer too. Learn to watch your amperage. We don’t consider these things in a home connected to the Municipal Water Authority or TXU Energy. We just use as much as we please and pay the bill at the end of the month.
The Traveling Experience: Whenever Ed and I mention to people that we plan to eventually take our coach to Central America and South America, people who have been there react with this comment, “Be prepared to see poor people.” Well, we haven’t been south of the border yet, but I have seen poor people in the US and Canada as well. I have seen young people in Alberta who live in tents outside of Banff because they cannot afford housing. I have seen men curled in fetal positions where steam rises from grates on sidewalks. You will see poverty and struggle, something that you may not see from the window of your suburban home. Unless you are heartless, this will have an effect on you. It makes you count your blessings and appreciate your bounty.
Unless you have a large savings account, acknowledge that you will not be in RV resorts every day. Expect to boondock and enjoy what comes with staying in these parking lots or out of the way places. By boondocking, we’ve been invited to watch t-ball games and celebrate a birthday Cajun style. We have witnessed sunset over a lake. We made numerous new acquaintances with townspeople simply curious about our rig.
Simply by showing up, we have been behind the scenes of the Prevost manufacturing plant, the Carson & Barnes Circus, a Myrtlewood workshop, and crabmeat packing facility. These experiences are better than any attraction created for typical tourists.
We do not travel as tourists. We come as travelers – interested in the people and the place. I engage Rotarians by attending a weekly meeting since I can no longer attend my own home Club. Because of this High Island is more than a place smacked by Hurricane Ike, the Ninth Ward is a neighborhood I hope can be rebuilt. Fulltime RVing gives us the freedom to move and see hundreds of places, become attached in some small way. I pity the person who returns every August to Ocean City, New Jersey for a two week vacation. They have missed the opportunities to broaden their interactions with people and see new places.
These travel experiences are all chronicled in my blog “Did Someone Say RV Road Trip?” These experiences are the content for interesting armchair reading for some, vicarious trips for others. They are the reason that I stick to fulltime RVing. They are the best part of having a house on wheels.
So back to my question, Are you ready to take the RV lifestyle plunge? I do not think you really know until you just do it! So if I were to build my sandcastle, it would look different than this one. Mine would have wheels.