This is part 2 of a series. If you haven’t already, please read How To Avoid Loneliness as a Solo Full-time RVer (Pt. 1) first.
Whether you fall more towards introvert or extrovert, whether you prefer deeper or more superficial conversation, there are two big areas to focus on when it comes to interaction with others.
First is staying in touch with people you already know. These days cell phones and the internet have made it easier than ever to keep in touch with loved ones, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen automatically.
When I started full-timing, I was a bit surprised at how difficult it was to keep up with some people. Your schedule may be quite different than it was when you were stationary, making it harder to match up your free time with their free time. Plus, if you have a blog or are active on Facebook or something like that, friends of yours may keep up religiously with that and thus feel like they’re all caught up with what you’re doing without having to talk to you. The problem with that is you aren’t getting any time in with them.
You’ll probably find, like I did, that the key is to be more proactive. If they won’t talk or e-mail you, then you’ll have to make the first step. Plan time into your week to call or write to people. Keep their snail mail addresses on hand and send postcards as you travel. Let them know that just because you’ve moved on to a different phase in your life doesn’t mean that you don’t still want to stay friends with them.
For all of that though, it’s a sad truth that not all relationships will survive the distance. Some friendships may have been founded on being coworkers, or being in book club together, or some other part of your life that you’re done with now that you’re traveling, and without that common bond there’s nothing to talk about. Other people just need face to face contact, and will find it difficult to keep up by less personal means.
For those whom you slowly fall away from though, understand that it is a natural part of life. Even if you take traveling out of the picture, people change overtime, and so too does the company they keep. Chances are you don’t have all the same friends now that you had 10 years ago, just because of the ebb and flow of jobs, interests, and hobbies you’ve had during that time. Change can be scary, but try to look at it as a good thing. That hole in your social life left by those people who aren’t traveling will soon be filled by new people you’re meeting on the road.
RVing gives you the unique opportunity to meet a lot of different people, from all walks of life. If you’re naturally outgoing, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to get a conversation going and start making a new friend.
If you’re more shy, there’s still hope. With a little effort it shouldn’t be too difficult to start up conversations with other RVers who you’ll be meeting at campground for starters, because you’re guaranteed to have at least an interest in travel and RV’s. In the RVing world, sitting outside on your porch while parked at a site is like an unspoken invitation for other campers to come say hello. After saying hello, just start by asking where they are from, where they are headed, or about some well known attraction in the area that you’ve seen or are going to go see. You can also inquire about their RV, most RVers are very proud of their rigs and happy to talk about them. From there the conversation will probably turn up other common interests to talk about.
You can also try chatting up people you meet at various attractions as you travel, if you’re looking for more casual conversation. Again, talking about the location you’re at currently would be a safe way to start a conversation without seeming too forward.
If you’re work camping like I do, you’ll have coworkers and possibly guests/customers to get to know. And again, the chances are good most of your coworkers will be interested in travel. If money isn’t an issue for you and you’re not work camping, you might want to consider doing occasional volunteer work as you travel. Not only does that open up the same opportunity work campers have for interacting with others, you also get the satisfaction of doing a good deed – helping out in the community you’re visiting.
For those people needing deeper interaction, it helps to be an instigator. If you’re getting along well with coworkers or other folks staying in the same RV park as you but the friendship has stalled out, be the one to invite them along on an outing, or over to your place for dinner or a game. Not everyone you meet on your adventure will be ‘good friend’ material, but you’ll never find the ones who could be if you don’t make an effort. The more people you interact with, the more chances you’ll have to find people who you are compatible with. Make the effort now, and it’ll pay off down the line.
Another option for all new RVers is to join an RVing community. Several exist and can be easily found online, a good place to start is for looking for groups who have the same kind of RV as you do. If you get to know someone online it makes meeting them in person when your paths cross on the road much easier than starting a conversation cold with someone you don’t know. Plus it gives you access to a network of knowledgeable people when RV related problems crop up. You’d be surprised, just how friendly and helpful your fellow RVers turn out to be. While you won’t have contact with them on a daily basis like with a more stationary existance, meeting up after even a long absence can feel like it’s been no time at all, and you’ll both have all the adventures you’ve been on to catch up on. Which brings me to a final important point.
Your house now has wheels, and that means you get to be where you need to be, when you need to be. There is no rule that says you need to immediately hop to the other side of the country when you become a full-timer, and no rule saying you can’t come back to visit and catch up with family and friends or even have a ‘home port’ of sorts to base your travels out of in the event that you decide you need a more stable support network than what you can find solely on the road. You have not ‘failed’ as a full-time RVer, everyone’s definition of ‘full-timer’ is a bit different and the very best thing you can do is mold the term to fit your needs, not the other way around.
Personally, a few months into my first stint on the road this was the biggest problem I faced. At Amazon there was virtually no opportunity for conversation while on the clock, and the cold weather meant meeting other work campers staying in the park was challenging because everyone stayed huddled in their RVs with the heat on. I’m more of an introvert most days, and I prefer deeper interaction with fewer people. At Amazon on my lunch breaks I was only getting very light superficial conversation with coworkers during lunch and on break, and it wasn’t enough for me. By the time I realized what I explained to you all last week about different types of interactions, I was already in a bit of a funk since those deeper friendships take longer to build.
When you go full-timing, you are going to make mistakes, maybe even big ones. The trick to coming out on top is to identify the problem and then do whatever you can to get out of it. I had promised my parents I’d be home for Christmas before I even became a full-timer in September, but I ended up being doubly glad for the decision. Going back to Wisconsin for those three weeks gave me time to charge my social ‘battery’ and plan on how to do things differently next time.
Now here at the Badlands, I’m having no problems on the social front. I made the effort to invite coworkers out hiking with me very early on and have become friends with several of them. I’ll be going back to Kansas to work at Amazon this fall, and I’m confident I’ll do it better this time with what I’ve learned. And I hope that sharing what I’ve learned will help you too.
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The first photo is another person from the online RVing community that I’ve had the great fortune to meet in person, Kim of http://kimbopolo.blogspot.com/. Kim overcame one of the biggest hardships imaginable on her journey to RVing adventure: a tornado tore through her and her husband’s home while they were in the planning phases of getting it sold and just months away from her pulling the trigger on a RV purchase. This gal is living proof that if you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to achieve it.
The rest of these photos were taken on hiking trips with coworkers. The second I took from the top of Saddle Pass on our first ascent, from top to bottom: John, Nathan, Jeff, and Jim. The third is me with Lindsey, another hiking aficionado. She’s from the Atlanta area, so funny to think that I really wasn’t that far from her when I was living in SC. The fourth features me with Jim and Lindsey again, coming down from Saddle Pass on our second time tackling it after a failed (but fun!) attempt at coming down a different way. The fifth was taken at the Cliff Shelf Nature walk and features Willie, not so much of a climber, but we managed to get him on the maintained trails and he enjoyed himself.
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