With full-time RVing picking up in popularity, we know we’re not the first to put together a list of pros and cons. There are a few things on our list, however, that we haven’t seen published or heard discussed. If you’re thinking about hitting the road, there are some things you should take into consideration about the lifestyle. Here is our list of things (in no particular order) that SUCK about full-time RVing:
Showering and Cooties – You won’t always be able to shower when you want or where you want. Our preference is to shower in our rig, but with limited fresh water on board it’s not always possible. If we’re parked somewhere that has water and sewer hookups, we can shower in our rig every day, but when we’re parked somewhere that doesn’t have one or the other, or both, a single shower could deplete half of our 40-gallon fresh water supply and/or fill our 40-gallon gray water holding tank by the same amount. So, although it doesn’t happen often, we sometimes have to use the bath houses in whatever park we’re camped at. And if we’re on the road and overnighting it in a Wal-Mart or Cracker Barrel parking lot, a shower isn’t an option at all. A bird-bath will have to do.
All the bath houses we’ve ever used have been pretty clean. They’ve had large shower stalls with a bit of a changing room attached, and plenty of sinks, mirrors and electrical outlets. You can take care of everything you need to do before stepping out, and compared to the bathroom in most rigs, have a lot more room to do it in! But for me, none of that matters. The only thing I can think about when stepping inside a bathhouse is the thousands of people who have used it before me, and then wonder how often it’s cleaned. Personally, I would prefer it to be burned down and rebuilt after each use. I struggle with my towel touching the back of the shower door when I hang it on the hook, my shampoo, conditioner, and face and body wash containers being placed on a foreign surface, and then figuring out what to do with my wash cloth when it’s not in use because it absolutely cannot touch anything! Yes, I’m a bit of a germophobe. I also don’t care for wearing flip-flops while showering or dealing with the occasional creepy-crawler that considers the bathhouse its home, and me an intruder. None of this seems to bother Hakam, though, as he could bathe in a puddle after a rain storm, but it’s a very big deal to me and one of my least favorite things about full-time RVing.
The Poop Proximity –Do you like to poop in private? Are you one of those people who fear pooping within ear-shot of others? Do you lift your feet when you’re pooping in a public restroom stall so that no one will be able to identify you by your shoes later on? Or do you just sit there, holding it, waiting for everyone to leave? Well, if you’re one of those people, you should know that most RV’s don’t afford much privacy when it comes to “doing your business.” The door separating the bathroom from the rest of the RV is so much of a joke it might as well not exist. The only way you can poop in a small to medium RV without your travel buddy knowing, is if their nose and ears are severely out of whack, or they’re sleeping. Brutal, but true. Everybody poops, that’s reality, but most people are used to having a certain amount of privacy when doing it. When you live in 150 square feet of space with someone else, you’re not always afforded that privacy and have to get used to pooping within close proximity to each other! You better either really love the person you’re traveling with, or have absolutely no romantic feelings for them whatsoever!
Clean Up Your Room! –Until you live in 150 square feet, you will never know just how quickly a space that size gets “messy”. It only takes a few dishes to swallow the counter space or a couple of items on the floor before you’re tripping over them. Jackets, backpacks, dog leashes or grocery bags on the couch will leave you without a place to sit, and wallets, watches, glasses, shades, keys and cell phones on the dining table will leave you without a surface to work on or eat at. Shoes left by the door can kill you on your way in or out, and limited clothing drawers and shelves that are not well-organized will make it impossible for you to find anything. Laundry and trash accumulate quickly because you don’t have residential-sized bins to place it in, and an unmade bed will only serve as a very large focal point. And even if just one of these areas is messy or cluttered, the entire space appears that way because you can see it no matter where you are within it.
It takes approximately 2.2 seconds to absolutely destroy 150 square feet of space, but the good news is… it takes about the same amount of time to clean it up! However, in order to maintain a clean and organized space, and possibly your sanity, putting things away immediately after using them is necessary.
Adulting–A lot of people are under the impression that living on the road is considerably cheaper than living a more conventional lifestyle, and to some degree it certainly can be, but it’s not as cheap as most think. There’s no escaping certain expenses like vehicle and RV insurance, gas, vehicle maintenance, cell phones, and groceries. And that’s just the bare essentials. It doesn’t include over night or week-long stays at RV, State or National parks, vehicle or RV payments, life insurance, medical and dental insurance, prescribed medications for yourself or a pet, pet food, veterinarian visits (because they will happen), a little cash in your pocket to enjoy a new area or dinner at a new restaurant, and of course, savings. So, as you can see, this lifestyle can be as cheap or as expensive as you choose to make it. To live as cheaply as possible, however, means you will most likely be doing-away with some things others might consider necessities.
We’re lucky to have Hakam’s military pension, but it equals only a fraction of what we earned when we were both working full-time and living a conventional lifestyle. That means we’re on a budget. It means we can no longer afford a lot of the dinners and entertainment we used to spoil ourselves with, and that can take some getting used to! Although we have a new and much more appreciated kind of entertainment, we still sometimes want crab legs… but we’re on a fish-sticks budget!
Keeping on track with the budget since we started full-time RVing has been a challenge for a few reasons. First, we agreed before we started that the first stint of our travels would be dedicated to visiting the family we never got to see while living the conventional life. As a result, we knew this meant accruing additional expenses on things like extended stays at parks and military bases, and gas. Second, Richey had two major surgeries on both hips and knees and his recovery after each is between four and six weeks. This caused us to move back our start date with Amazon so he can recover. And finally, and probably most significantly, we haven’t been full-time RVing long enough to know exactly what our travel style is and what our monthly expenses will be. For all these reasons, our expenses have not only varied each month, but they have exceeded our budget as well. We know our expenses will lessen and become more predictable when we begin to travel just for us, but for now, trying to maintain a budget is very frustrating!
What a Beach? –It’s everywhere! It doesn’t matter how many times we sweep the RV, how many rugs we put down, how little we traipse in and out, whether we wipe our feet before entering or even take off our shoes, there is no eliminating it. I’m talking about SAND! We could be camped on a concrete site surrounded by lush green lands, walk across our very large patio rug, climb our carpeted stairs and then wipe our feet on the mat just inside the door, and STILL accumulate so much sand inside you would think we were camped on a beach. All those things help, of course, but not enough to eliminate the problem. It’s like magic sand… it just appears out of nowhere!
Small Space and His/Her Face –In one of our first posts I mentioned our RV is 180 square feet, but I’ve since learned it’s actually around 155. Other than providing more accurate dimensions of our living quarters, neither one of those numbers make a difference when it comes to having separation of space, or lack of. Hakam and I have never been the type of couple that needed “alone time”, so that’s not what I’m referring to in this segment. I’m referring to the fact that the 155 square feet we live in is essentially one room, which sometimes makes it difficult for us to carry out different tasks at the same time. Of course, I’m also referring to the times it’s not possible to step into the great outdoors (dark, buggy, raining).
If you’re the type of person who likes to read or write in silence, but your rv-mate wants to watch tv, what do you do? If one of you snores so incredibly loud that the other can’t fall sleep, but there’s no spare bedroom, do you make the “snorer” sleep outside in a tent, or maybe the vehicle? What if your rv-mate gets a call from a friend and the conversation seems to drag on and on and on, do you ask them to take it into the bathroom so it doesn’t sound like you’re part of the conversation, too? And what if one of you likes to crank the A/C way down when it’s bed time but the other doesn’t… do you suggest they add more layers of clothing? These are just a few examples, but there are literally dozens of scenarios that will test your patience and willingness to compromise when living in 155 square feet. It can be a little frustrating but we’re learning and getting better at it all the time… Hakam has only had to sleep in the tent twice!
Bugged Out –We look forward to exploring each and every new place we visit, and for the most part… we get to. Sometimes, however, our expeditions are cut short or don’t happen at all because of pesky bugs! We wrote a post about our visit to the Everglades National Park where we were literally attacked by swarms of insects. And although they weren’t as fierce during the day, their presence still made it impossible for us to stay out very long and explore the area. And venturing out at night would be nothing short of a death wish. The flying, biting, insects literally pelted the airstream with such force and consistency it sounded like it was raining.
One of the last State Parks we camped at (Perry Lake) was beautiful, near the water, and surrounded by small peninsulas. And although we got to explore all the places we wanted, we quickly learned to take shelter before the sun set or contend with wading our way through thick swarms of what we think were gnats. They got in our mouths, our hair, and on and in our clothes. They would also surround our camper, so opening the door around this time meant they would get inside, too. And we’re not talking just a few gnats here, we’re talking thousands! So, even though we got to explore much of the area, we always felt deprived of at least a few hours a day because we were forced inside like a couple of teenagers with a curfew. We literally planned our days around the bugs! Insects aren’t always present and bothersome at the places we camp, but when they are… they can ruin a visit to even the most beautiful destination.
I’m Still A Girl – I think some people automatically associate the life of a full-time RVer or nomad with that of a “hippie” or “yippie” or some other lifestyle that sways from the norms of society. And although full-time RVing is certainly different, it’s about as different as we plan on getting. We embarked on this journey for one reason… we got tired of working our lives away. We got tired of looking back at year after year and realizing how much of ourselves we gave to our employers at the expense of our families and our mental and physical health. We got tired of being tired, so we made the decision to live a different, more unconventional life that would allow us the freedom to take care of ourselves, visit our families whenever we wanted, and travel… and do it all by simply living below our means.
Having said that, you won’t find either one of us swapping our attire for a tie-dye wardrobe or twisting our hair into dreadlocks. Well, I might actually pick-up a tie-dye shirt or two… I’ve seen some pretty cool ones. I’m also not going to stop coloring my hair, shaving, or wearing makeup. I’ve been asked so many times why I don’t just stop coloring my hair and do-away with the cost associated with it. And the answer is…. because I don’t want to! And although I don’t always wear makeup, when I want to… I’ll do that as well. I’ll also continue to paint my toe nails, use my night-time anti-wrinkle cream, squirt perfume on my wrists, wear a dress (and even twirl around – ha!), braid my hair or put it in pig tails, giggle, and any other girly, cutesy, ladylike or dainty thing I want! Ok, so I should have stopped before I got to dainty, but you get the point.
So, although it’s a little frustrating to be asked so frequently what lifestyle we identify with, our answer is always “ours.” It took us a long time to break free from a life that drained us mentally, emotionally and physically, so now we’re going to live the way we want. We’re not sure what lifestyle that conforms with, maybe it encompasses certain aspects of many, but it’s ours and we’re happy. And ultimately, that’s all we wanted.
Hot Tin Can –When the outdoor temperature is abnormally high, the air conditioner on The Willy Wagon has a difficult time keeping up. When we were camped at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, TX, for about a month in July, it was frequently well over a hundred degrees (105 – 115). When we returned from an outing a couple of times, we were surprised to and see that the AC had completely stopped working. And let me tell you… you don’t know the true meaning of HOT until you’ve stepped into an airstream that’s been sitting in those temperatures without a/c. Luckily, we only had to reset the breaker to get it started again. It’s a small space so it doesn’t take long to cool, but it was always a little warmer inside than we would have liked even when things were working well. The blazing heat just didn’t allow The Willy Wagon to reach and maintain an acceptable indoor temperature. It was always just a little uncomfortable. That’s the first and last time it’s happened since we’ve been on the road, and we’ve camped in high-nineties and even hundred-degree weather before, but I think that extra five or ten degrees was all it took to push our a/c unit over the edge. Thank you Texas! It made us very aware of our home’s limitations, though, and extremely thankful that Richey was at Doggy Daycare on both those occasions… and for that very reason.
We hope this gave you just a few things to consider if you’re thinking about hitting the road full-time. Next week we’ll be posting our favorite things about full-time RVing, which will include a few less obvious benefits of the lifestyle that people often overlook and forget to mention.
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