Here it is, the number one thing I have learned from full-time RVing that I wish someone would have let me know beforehand. Oh, there are other lessons I’ve learned from life on the road, but the big things can all be traced back to this one simple fact. It’s taken me some time to come to this realization, and I wonder if posting this will change how other wannabe full-timers tackle getting on the road.
Happily Ever After
What I expected: From reading other full-timer’s first hand accounts, I knew to expect that RVing life wouldn’t be all fun and games. I did a lot of prep work and research and considered myself better prepared than most who get the funny idea to be intentionally homeless.
I was prepared when fixes became necessary on my new-to-me RV and didn’t freak out over the time and money needed to keep one in good running shape. I knew not to treat full-timing as one perpetual vacation and that I’d still need to work if I wanted to keep traveling. I easily grasped that thriving as a full-timer required the ability to think outside the box and be flexible in your plans. And I understood that RVing wasn’t an inherently cheaper way to live, which leads me into…
What I didn’t expect:
This is true for all major life changes, so even though I didn’t read about it on any RVer’s blog when I was searching for information I should have known: Who you are doesn’t change, even if your lifestyle does.
Let’s take my bit about RVing not being inherently cheaper as an example: your tastes won’t change. If you enjoyed the finer things in life before you started RVing, you’ll likely desire a more expensive and newer rig with more amenities. You’ll want to stay in nicer resorts with all of the bells and whistles and the bigger price tag. Basically, you’re RVing lifestyle isn’t going to be cheap, and it’s possible that if you make the decision to live more cheaply, that you’ll end up disliking full-timing.
But this also applies to your personality, your needs, and how you view the world. If you had emotional baggage, it’s not going to magically disappear once you hit the road. If you were a negative person before, you likely will still view the pitfalls of full-timing negatively. If you had a hard time introducing yourself to strangers and were reluctant to strike up conversations with people when living stationary, that willl be your default setting on the road (this is me).
What I learned: This one simple fact, that despite the changes that full-timing brought about I was still going to be me, had a huge impact on various parts of the full-timing lifestyle that I hadn’t anticipated. I’m going to go over the first three that come to mind, but there are likely dozens.
What I expected: Getting on the road, especially as a solo, would build confidence because of all of the work, new skills, and dedication required. And it did.
What I didn’t expect: Confidence is also built partly on self-esteem, one of those facets of You that doesn’t change with a major lifestyle change. After getting on the road my confidence improved, but I still had low self-esteem days, that hadn’t changed.
What I learned from RVing: If you want to change how you view yourself, start with how you view others. You’ll be exposed to a lot of people on your travels with very different lifestyles and interests. Learn to view other people with compassion by focusing on what you have in common instead of what’s different, and see how it changes how you view yourself. You don’t have to be perfect or know everything to be able to view yourself as a worthy person. Learn to see everyone as worthy. You don’t have to agree with everything they stand for, just understand that everyone has value and is deserving of respect. Through this, even on low self-esteem days, I can usually convince myself that I am worthy, and deserving of respect.
Slow it down
What I expected: Full-timing was suppose to be about slowing down and smelling the roses. About escaping the hectic fast paced life of the modern American, and enjoying a better work/life balance. About mixing work and play and such a way as to make vacations unnecessary. About taking your time getting from point A and Point B and enjoying the ride. And my work/life balance has changed for the better.
What I didn’t expect: Experienced full-timers will tell you to limit the number of driving hours in a day, and to stay multiple days in one location before moving on. It sounded good on paper, but when I’m moving between jobs I only have so many days to get there, and I’d rather do these “repositioning” trips quickly without delay so that if something goes wrong, I have extra time to fix the problem and still make it in time for my job start date.
For all that I’ve learned from full-timing about going with the flow and accepting that things will turn out all right in the end – I am, at heart, still a planner. That facet of my personality hasn’t changed, and I feel a lot more comfortable when I have a limited amount of time to make the drive in one quick rush, and to enjoy myself once I get there. I also don’t feel comfortable letting my bank account get too low, and when that happens, I can’t enjoy myself while traveling.
What I learned from RVing: Instead of standing on the fulcrum of a teeter-totter, with both sides perfectly balanced and level at all times, my ideal work/life balance would be more akin to jumping from side to side on the teeter-totter. I work hard to save up money quickly, and when I’m in that phase there’s limited time for fun and games. And then once my bank account gets to the point where I feel like I have the leeway – I play hard, and take quite a bit of time where I don’t work at all.
What I expected: This was the part of full-timing that I knew the least about and concerned me the most. I did a lot of calculations on cost of living and wages at seasonal jobs and I was reasonably sure I could earn enough to make this lifestyle viable, but I didn’t know for certain. Most full-timers who work camp don’t depend on it as their entire source of income, and information was scarce when I was researching it online.
What I didn’t expect: As it turns out, you can make enough from just work-camping to live on. Maybe. I have discovered that I can, but can you? It really depends on what level of comfort you’re use to and what you’re willing to do to be able to travel. Yes, this all goes back to your individual needs and tastes.
What I learned from RVing: Right now through work-camping alone, averaged throughout the year, I earn just slightly more than I’m spending. But that doesn’t help all of you much, so let me try to explain.
This is what I’ve found to be true from my two years of experience:
If you just work camped all year, took only the time you needed to travel from one job to the next and had no other down time from working, took all of the over-time you could get at each job, you could either live frugally and save up quite a bit of money in a year, or you could spend money on your days off and buy some pretty nice things for your RV. But if you’re doing this, it’s really not much different from working a “real” job, so what’s the point of being a full-timer?
You can take advantage of the freedom full-timing offers and take breaks between jobs like I do, or you can work more consistently but only part-time. This will give you more time for traveling and fun, but unless you had a minimum wage job before you hit the road, you’re likely going to be earning less money averaged throughout the year than you did at a 9-5.
I don’t say you’re guaranteed to earn less money, because if you have a specialty skill that lends itself to travel, it’s quite possible that you can still earn good wages, but if you’re doing the more traditional and common seasonal work (all the stuff I’ve done goes in this category – retail, housekeeping, camp hosting, food service, warehouse worker), it’s all low skill, low pay. On the plus side, it’s also lower stress.
So perhaps the most important things to think about when pondering if full-timing will work for you have nothing to do with anyone else’s experience, but are solely about You, because you won’t magically change when you change living arrangements.
Can you learn to be okay with less certainty and stability in your life? Will you be content with less living space and less stuff? Can you be happy without a solid and consistent community network? Are you willing to make sacrifices in exchange for greater freedom?
Full-time RVing is only a Happily Ever After for those people whose personality is compatible with it. Often when strangers tell me “Gosh, I wish I could do what you’re doing”, I think what they’re really saying is: “Gosh, I wish I could be as happy as you are.” And what makes me happy, won’t make everyone happy.
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