Experienced live-aboards share what life on the road has taught them.
By Janet Groene, F47166
Whether full-timer motorhome owners admit it or not, we all have been humbled by experiences we didn’t expect. Even seasoned travelers and veteran RVers encounter a learning curve. It’s a new world when you’re free to roam anywhere, yet you can’t go “home,” because you no longer have one.
Full-timers face new social dynamics, new and unexpected expenses, and new physical demands. They encounter new decisions, many of them difficult only because of too many good choices. On the other hand, many decisions are prickly because of health concerns, budget restraints, friction with family, mechanical breakdowns, and the fact that you hardly have room for yourself, let alone all the family and friends who used to gather at your place.
Full-timers have new things to argue about with their travel partner(s), new agreements and compromises to be made, new habits to be honed, and old habits to be abandoned. Here is what a survey of present and past full-timers revealed about things they learned the hard way.
- Since quitting her corporate job in 2008, Alexandra Jimenez has traveled full-time and has visited 36 countries and six continents. “What I wish I’d known before I went full-timing is to sell everything and not waste money on a storage space,” she said. “My (stored) clothing is now out of style and no longer fits. My shoes look old and worn. My furniture took up too much space. The money I could have saved on storage space over the years could have been used to buy a new wardrobe or new furniture should I ever decide to settle down again …. In the end, after years of spending thousands on storage, I still ended up selling everything and didn’t even make enough money to break even on storage costs.”
Still on the go, Ms. Jimenez has a Web site, TravelFashionGirl.com, which specializes in helping female travelers plan a simple, efficient wardrobe for a variety of destinations. Her advice is especially valuable when visiting other cultures and dressing with sensitivity to local customs. Her e-book, Capsule Wardrobe Essentials: How To Pack Light With A 10-Piece Packing List, is available at Amazon.com.
Janet comments: I found it worthwhile to store some things, at least for the first year. That gave us the opportunity to take a fresh look after a year on the road. Some possessions took on new importance. Many others were so irrelevant, we’d forgotten we had them.
- Richard and Laura Pawlowski, authors of the e-book 2 Years In A Tent, are not RVers, but their insights into finances, homelessness, camping, and travel are intriguing. After losing their longtime home to foreclosure, the Pawlowskis made lemonade out of the lemon that life handed them. The couple, who are in their 70s, loaded their car with a tent and basic supplies and hit the road. They had the adventure of a lifetime, landed on their feet, and ended up with untold — if not financial — riches.
“One of the most important things we learned was to go where the love is,” Mr. Pawlowski said. “Rather than risk the crowds and the attitudes of people who resist you for whatever reason, just go where you are wanted.” For two years they wandered 10 Western states while living in a tent, learning true minimalism, and reveling in the beauty of America’s national parks. They took solar showers, ate campfire food, slept under the stars, and made many new friends.
At the same time, the Pawlowskis say they grew spiritually, saved money, lost weight, and rebalanced their debt. They learned lessons they now share as “Tentonomics.” Look for 2 Years In A Tent on Amazon.com.
- Writer Jaimie Hall Bruzenak began full-timing with her late husband, Bill, then traveled alone after his death. She remarried and continues to full-time with her husband, George. Her books include Support Your RV Lifestyle! An Insider’s Guide To Working On The Road. For information about her travels, books, and RV Lifestyles e-zine, visit RVLifestyleExperts.com.
“I remember being surprised and sometimes disappointed about who kept in touch after we hit the road,” Ms. Bruzenak said. “I thought I was pretty close to some people (but) I never heard from them again. I also know single (full-timers) who were treated differently after their spouses died, but that could happen in or out of the lifestyle.”
Janet comments: We, too, learned that some friends drift away when you’re not there in person. Now I accept the fact that some people respond warmly to personal contact but are just not into mail, e-mail, Facebook, or telephone calls. Those most likely to stay in touch are other full-timers and those who understand the mobile lifestyle. For example, a group of Canadians who spend the winter in the same Florida campground travel to each other’s homes in Canada throughout the summer and stay in touch by e-mail all year.
- Stephanie Hackney, of HackneysTravel.com, said she and her husband, Douglas, learned that they “dragged along too much stuff. You can get most things you need anywhere, even in foreign countries.” They have visited 44 countries on six continents, and counting. “The way you spend your time on the road may be quite different from how you spend it in a ‘regular’ home,” she said. “I am an avid crafter and brought along lots of supplies to use in crafting. But I spent most of my time exploring where we were, not necessarily crafting.
“It can be hard to adjust to ‘normal life’ if and when you decide to live again in a permanent home,” she said. “The daily adventures and challenges are what make full-time road life so interesting, and it can be tough to adjust to living in a regular neighborhood, doing and seeing the same things day in and day out. That said, full-time life on the road can also develop into a routine of sorts. You can tire of seeing the same types of campgrounds, RV parks, etc.”
Janet comments: Some new full-timers learn the hard way that the reward is the journey, not the destination. Our friends bought an RV, spent less than a year looking up old Army buddies around the country for quick visits, and then went back to “real life,” because full-timing hadn’t worked for them. They never really plugged in to the full-timing lifestyle.
- Howard and Linda Payne, from Louisville, Kentucky, have been full-timing since 2005. They recommend getting full-timing advice from a number of sources, not from just one “expert.” Their Web site, RV-Dreams.com, includes information about RV-Dreams Educational Rallies.
Janet comments: The Paynes are correct that we’re all different, and one full-timer’s advice can’t work for everyone. Dozens of books are available about RVing in general and many about full-timing specifically. Dozens more full-timers have blogs. Listen to others, check blogs, attend rallies and seminars, and read everything you can. The best advice, we found, comes from other full-timers when we’re actually out there around the campfire, trading real-life stories.