The pros and cons of full-time RVing are different for everyone. What I might think of as a disadvantage, like lack of kitchen space, you might view as an opportunity to eat out more often. When my husband and I were brand-new full-timers, the pros and cons were about equal. But over time, the cons have almost disappeared. Partly because we got used to the lifestyle, but also because we learned to view the cons as growth opportunities. Twelve years into this adventure, here’s how we did it.
Pros and cons of full-time RVing are personal
“You’ve lived that way for how long?” my husband and I often get asked. When some people learn that Jim and I sold everything to travel, they look at us like we have two heads. Others just smile and say “Wow, that sounds cool!”
The majority of non-full-timers we meet tend to focus on the size of our home. Even if they are already RV owners, they say that the relatively small living quarters is the biggest reason they won’t give the nomadic lifestyle a try. When I look at our 27-foot rig, however, I see the size as a huge plus. We used to own a 100-year-old, 3,700-square-foot home/office, which took up all our free time just to maintain. Now, my home takes about 15 minutes to clean top to bottom. The cost of maintaining our RV is a fraction of what that big old house cost us! Giving up square footage is worth the trade-off for me; I’ll never go back to a home that size.
There’s an old saying by the motivational guru Wayne Dyer that proclaims: “Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.” If you can do that as a full-time RVer, you’ll open the door to awesome experiences, even when things don’t go as you had hoped. Here’s how we practice it on the road, and turn the cons of full-time RVing into positives.
Full-time RVing forces you to engage with others. But you’ll enjoy better relationships too.
Living in a tiny space forces you to practice your people skills. For instance, the tight confines of our RV require Jim and me to get better at communicating with each other. If we don’t work through a disagreement and reach a compromise, traveling becomes far more difficult than necessary. We’ve found that whether you’re in a couples or family arrangement on the road, you’ve got to learn how to negotiate with one another. For example, RV travel requires teamwork to get from point A to point B without incident. The routine RVing chores of breaking camp, hitching up and helping the driver navigate all require communicative travel buddies working together to help the journey flow better.
As for solo full-timers, my single friends tell me that having a self-reliant attitude is necessary, but to enjoy the lifestyle you’ll sometimes need to reach out to other humans. Like when you need help dealing with a mechanical issue. Or when it’s advisable to hike with a buddy in bear country. They also say that joining RV clubs and organizations for solo travelers has not only helped them become more social but also emboldened them to explore places they might not have gone otherwise.
Whether you’re traveling alone or with your loved ones, full-time RVing helps us grow as people. It places us in unpredictable situations that encourage a better understanding of the world around us.
Full-time RVing requires you to give up stuff. But it also shows you the real worth of your possessions.
If you’re anything like most people, you probably believe that your possessions outwardly demonstrate your place in the world. My husband and I did, and so did our circle of friends. We followed the parade of colleagues, friends and family members who eagerly spent paychecks on homes, cars, clothes and other status symbols. It seemed like a perfectly normal thing to do. But when we decided to become full-timers and pared down our belongings, we saw the true cost of all that stuff. It didn’t take long to learn that the most meaningful things we wanted to take along for the ride weren’t always the most expensive or flashiest. They were simply the basics that made our life’s daily tasks a little easier.
Over time, it became easier to let go of even more things. Like many other full-timers, we follow a “one in/one out” rule to minimize clutter and maximize cabinet space. Buy a new T-shirt? Better choose an old one to donate. Is the dog ignoring some toys? Drop them off at the nearest animal shelter where other pets will appreciate them more.
Many non-full-timers view this minimalistic lifestyle as a major con of full-time RVing. “I need my (fill in the blank here) or I would go crazy!” they tell me. But I see it another way. Sure, I miss my old sewing machine and full-size kitchen. But living with less allows me to spend more time exploring the country, instead of working extra-long hours to pay for new possessions. Jim and I are having way more fun exploring the world today.
Full-time RVing constantly disrupts your life. But you get better at handling change.
The predictable nature of a stationary life isn’t all bad. There’s a lot to be said for knowing where you will lay your heads at night. But when you choose to move your home down the highway to an all-new location, change is inevitable. From figuring out different grocery store layouts to learning the driving habits and customs of a new region, every time you relocate, you’re solving a puzzle. In our early days on the road, the pace of constant change frustrated me. I used to consider myself a planner, someone who mapped out trips to ensure a smooth journey. But I quickly learned that this lifestyle only allows so much room for that level of predictability. Things happen, like tire blowouts and wrong turns. I knew that if I didn’t learn how to get through them with a sense of humor and ease, our journey would end. And that was the last thing I wanted.
I can only speak from my experience, but I believe that the pros and cons of full-time RVing all add up to make us into better people. The longer you stay on the road, the better you can cope with change and adversity in all aspects of life. Float like a duck on the water and difficult circumstances become less upsetting and far easier to deal with. The result is an adventurous life that is full of more joy than you ever thought possible.