Reflecting On 3 Years of Fulltime Travel
|Our first campfire at our first RV park on our first night as fulltimers...Bodega Bay, October 3, 2012|
We all like to think we're different. After all, most fulltimers already think outside of the box having ditched the traditional American Dream, sold off 90% of their possessions and consciously chosen to live in less than 300 square feet of space. But, it appears we all make the same "mistakes" our first year(s) on the road. These are the lessons we learned after reading everyone else's Nomadiversary blog posts and yet decided not to follow their advice when we first hit the road. Poo-poo on your "lessons"...we're different!! And hopefully we'll have some new tips to share as well.
Tried and true universal lessons we learned but you're bound to ignore, just like we did:
Slow down!! As in don't drive your RV 75 mph hogging the fast lane. Truthfully, I (Lynn) rarely drive and when I do I tend to stay in the slow lane and will continue to slow down, as necessary, rather than pass anyone. Yep...I'll be the RV going 25 mph behind the tractor (I have gotten better). But for Clark...well, lets just say he spent the first few months driving the Mutiny as if it were a pursuit vehicle. If there was someone on the road in front of us, come hell or high water, we were going to overtake them. Then we hit the mountains and our gas engine just didn't have the chutzpah to go over 25 mph. It was then Clark realized the reason for the great big windshield..it offered an incredible view! He could actually drive and enjoy the scenery if he just slowed down a bit (and not just in the mountains). As a bonus, we even get slightly better fuel economy and less dirty looks when we drive like sane people.
|These are actually from our first 7 months on the road...minus a few places we forgot to grab one.|
Fulltime RVing is not Fulltime Vacationing. This kinda goes along with "slow your roll" but is a bit more encompassing. When we first started traveling we went to some great places in California (our original home state) and treated ourselves to life's luxuries. Clark had just retired and we were coming off the high of his retirement/farewell party and my birthday (our official departure date is the day after my bday). So we went to Bodega Bay and drank wine and ordered fancy cheese boards in posh joints that had Adirondack chairs overlooking the bay. We then spent the holidays in San Diego eating our way through Little Italy and watching Christmas plays and paying the big bucks for a fancy full hookup site.
As we started traveling around the country we looked for local restaurants to check out and coffee shops to visit and wines to taste but quickly found out that one does not need to taste all the local cuisine in every single town. This revelation came after a few not-so-good meals that were not-so-cheap. Further study showed that just because a small town cafe is ranked number 1 on Yelp did not mean it was worth spending our hard earned dollars...especially if the number 2 restaurant was McDonalds or Waffle House. Similarly, if a town has a "local coffee roaster" but comes up last in Yelp reviews behind 3 Starbucks and the Dunkin Donuts you might want to pass.
Observations from the Mutiny crew:
Embace the JoMO (Joy of Missing Out). Without fail there will be an awesome gathering or amazing event or phenomenal convergence that's happening on the other side of the country and you're going to be stuck in your RV, in a hail storm, all alone. It will be the one time you have exceptional wifi service so you'll be able to watch your friends (or bloggers you follow) post hundreds of gorgeous photos with captions like "you should be here", "best time ever", "most amazing and memorable event in my entire life", "I could die happy tomorrow", ad nauseum. So we freak out a little and try to plan ambitious routes traversing the country at breakneck speeds in the hopes that we'll never be left out again. This phenomenon is called FoMO, or the Fear of Missing Out (from Wikipedia: "a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent").
|Quite possibly our favorite spot so far...somewhere in the Grand Staircase~Escalante, Utah. No wifi, no cell phones, no neighbors.|
Take the Road Less Traveled. I was fortunate to grow up as an Air Force Brat. Adventure is in my blood and, thanks to my dad (RIP), looking for the extraordinary in the ordinary is part of who I am. I've written before about our "accidental adventures" but I can't emphasis enough how freeing it is to have no reservations, no time commitments, no pressure to "see it all" and no expectations. Many of our best adventures and quirky finds have been impulsive decisions made on-the-spot. We literally have seen the highway split and decided to take the road less traveled...just because. Inspiration, besides my dad's lust for life, has come from books like Into the Wild, Blue Highways: A Journey Into America, On the Road, Eccentric America, Travels With Charley and many others. There really is so much more to see than life from major highways like I80, I5, I10 and I95.
|A 40 foot tall grasshopper sculpture found along the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota.|
|Coffee and journal...a perfect day for me.|
|Clark's perfect view...|
I've written before about how we ended up in the Mutiny. Besides our tent trailer, which was just a vacation rig, it's the only RV we've ever owned. And we were perfectly happy with it until we started looking at different models every time we stopped in an RV shop for repairs or supplies. All of a sudden those Fifth-wheels with the living rooms in the front were sooooo much better than what we had. And then the idea of really being minimalists and going with a smaller rig...maybe even a van...started percolating. Then it was a rig with a different layout that would allow for 6 adults to sit comfortably in our "living room" (not that we've ever had an issue before). I wanted a washer and dryer and garage and a bed I could put away to have more floor space. I needed an island in the kitchen, a mock fireplace and pass through storage. But wait, I also wanted to have a smaller footprint and to be able to stealth camp in the middle of Los Angeles (kidding) without sacrificing my 80 gallon fresh water tank. The point is...no rig is going to fulfill every desire and, as you move about the country gaining valuable knowledge about yourself and your travel style, what you think you need now might not be what serves you well in the future. For what it's worth, in our circle of friends who have been on the road for at least 6 months (traveling, not stationary) more have expressed a desire to go smaller than bigger at a ratio of 6 to 1. Granted, this may be reversed if our friends were less nomadic and preferred RV resorts over boondocking.
Here are some major things that changed for us over these past 3 years:
1) We went from not personally knowing a single fulltime RVer and having zero social life to sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the amount of socializing we could do if we had the energy...within a year. It's probably much more easy to arrange a social life now with sites like RVillage.
2) We went from staying exclusively at RV parks (preferably with full-hookups) our first two years on the road to trying to boondock/wildcamp at every opportunity...thanks to our solar install last winter. This has been a huge change and the most rewarding.3) We had never blacktop camped (that's dry camping at a place like a Walmart parking lot) until February of this year! Now we think nothing of it...especially for an overnight stop, although we have spent up to 4 nights blacktop camping in a few places (legally and with store permission).
4) We learned that we're "West of the Rockies" people. While the East Coast is pretty spectacular and we absolutely loved chasing the fall colors from Maine to Florida an overwhelming sense of "coming home" enveloped us somewhere near the Four Corners. We love the openness, high desert meets mountains and vast amounts of public lands (and my hair loves the lack of humidity). After heading back west our feeling that the Mutiny was just too big, at 32 feet, disappeared.
From coast to coast, through the mountains and deserts, a whirlwind trip to Alaska and back and all points in between our 32 foot Class A has served us very well. The Mutiny may not be perfect but she's perfect for us. We learned to be satisfied and content with what we already own.
There are, of course, other tidbits of advice one could give...like just because something is "RV sized" doesn't mean it's actually functional in an RV and purchasing a clock that shows the date and day of the week can save a lot of headaches but hey...some things need be learned by trial or fire.
We love to hear from our readers and fellow travelers. Leave your favorite tips (or questions) in the comments below.