Our First 3 Weeks of Full-Time RVing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!
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Our First 3 Weeks of Full-Time RVing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!

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This is a guest post by Lindsay McKenzie of Follow Your Detour. We met Lindsay and her husband, Dan, at the RV Entrepreneur Summit back in February. I’m excited to share their stories today about the many adventures (and misadventures) of jumping into the #RVlife.


I can’t even believe it has been three weeks since we left our hometown of Colorado Springs in our GMC Sierra truck pulling our 2005 Forest River Rockwood 5th wheel…our tiny home on wheels! On April 8, 2017 we officially became full-time RVers with zero clue what we were doing, a small idea of where we were going, and a whole lot of faith!

In only 21 days, we have learned a tremendous amount about ourselves, RVs, this crazy lifestyle, and our beautiful country. But don’t let our pretty Instagram photos fool you, it hasn’t been all pretty sunsets and happy days. It doesn’t take long to learn that this lifestyle definitely requires a good amount of sacrifice. Here’s our experience…the whole picture.

The Good:

The incredible destinations that we have already been to.

Driving through White Sands National Monument

We’ve been in 4 states already (if you include Colorado), explored 5 national parks, driven about 2,000 miles, and have checked off a few bucket list items. For us, the traveling aspect was the number one reason we chose this lifestyle and that piece has not disappointed us. The more we’ve seen, the more excited we are to keep seeing. It feels unreal to wake up in your bed, jump on your bike and in 5 minutes be at the Grand Canyon watching the sunrise. Or to walk outside your door and have the red rocks of Sedona or the Pacific ocean in your front yard!  

Boondocking in Sedona!

The memories we’ve collected.

In one day, we watched the sunrise at the iconic Grand Canyon and then saw it set over gorgeous Lake Havasu. How many people can say that? Every single day is truly an adventure and good or bad, something exciting always happens. We honestly feel like each day is a new page in this incredible book of our life that we are writing. No job or house in the “burbs” has ever made us feel that way. I’m already excited for the countless amount of stories that we will get to share some day.

Being out of our comfort zone and learning new things.

Having never owned or even camped in an RV before, we truly mean it when we say we were “clueless”. We’ve had to learn every single thing about our 5th wheel from step one of attaching it to the hitch, to how to repair various parts. While it’s been scary having things break already, it’s been a new opportunity for us to learn more about our home and how to do maintenance on it. Though we probably should have learned more before we left, it’s like learning a new language…you learn much more quickly when you’re immersed in it and really have no choice but to learn. But we’ve also learned a lot about ourselves, and each other, too. The best part though is that this learning has led to increased confidence in ourselves and our ability to sustain this lifestyle.

Placing value on experiences rather than acquisitions.

Deciding what could fit in the RV and what we had to sell was not at all easy. Being able to choose only 20% of our wardrobe and cram it into the most inaccessible spots, was also not ideal. But I will say that there has not yet been 1 day where I wish I had something I left behind. In fact, I can hardly even remember what is in our storage tubs that are sitting in my in-law’s basement right now. I don’t miss the clutter, I don’t “need” more space, and I am way more fulfilled by the experiences this lifestyle has already provided me with.

Some of the few pairs of shoes we brought with us…but who cares with this view!!

More quality time together and for ourselves.

Thinking back to our first couple years of marriage, I remember coming home from our jobs around 5:00 pm, walking the dogs, working out, cooking dinner, cleaning up dinner, preparing for the next day, and then maybe getting to spend an hour cuddling on the couch together. We lived for the weekends so we could just be together. However, our weekends were filled with errands, laundry, yard work, etc.

Living in our RV now, sure we still have some of the same day-to-day tasks. But we have more choice in how our day is spent. Dan has work obligations and spends most of his days inside the RV in his “office” at our kitchen table. Then when he finishes his work…adventure is waiting right outside our front door. Preparing dinner often consists of grilling outside in beautiful destinations and weather. Housework takes us 30 minutes max (cleaning less than 200 square feet is much less daunting). We exercise in nature…swimming in lakes, hiking, and biking along trails, jogging along the beach, and the dogs come with us! Oh, and yard work? Nope!

Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park

We also wake up much earlier now, giving us more time in the day. It’s a totally different story when you’re not having to hit the snooze button 3 times and rush to get ready for work then suffer through a long commute. When you look out your bedroom window and see nature, you really don’t want to sleep away the better part of the day. This gives us even more time to get through the things we have to do so that we can do the things we enjoy most. Overall, this lifestyle is way healthier for both our minds and bodies.

And a few other honorable mentions…

Meeting friendly people from all over the country, gaining perspective and seeing different ways of life, knowing that if we fall in love with a place we don’t have to leave (or if we hate a place we can hit the road, Jack), and having an all-around simpler way of life.

The Bad and the Ugly:

New stressors have caused us to bicker at each other more than normal.

Dan and I have been married for 7 years now and have been together for 10. So we’ve had a decent amount of time to adapt to each other’s quirks, determine our “roles” in our relationship, and have become much better communicators than we were at 24 and 26 when we first got married. We’ve also traveled a lot together so we’re used to being in stressful situations and working through them together. But RV life has brought us a whole new bag of struggles that we’ve had to tackle with teamwork and would probably have gotten a C – if we were being graded. Towing through tough terrain, forgetting important steps that could have caused us and others serious harm, navigating unknown roads…the list goes on.

I’m not sure you can fully prepare for situations like that. We are having to continually apologize for snapping at each other. “You never listen to me!”, “oh, so now you’re an expert?”, and “you’re driving me crazy” are a few things that have come out of our mouths recently.

The s*** that breaks!!

I typed that with anger and a cuss word because seriously, just when we fix one thing, something else breaks. Since we bought the RV, we have fixed:

  • the water heater check valve,
  • the refrigerator vent,
  • a plumbing leak,
  • a cabinet shelf (okay we haven’t gotten to that yet, but it’s on the list),
  • the generator,
  • the power converter,
  • the trailer brakes cord,
  • and the interior lights.

This doesn’t include the exterior issues that we know we need to face someday soon but are choosing to currently ignore and knock on wood each time they come up. Yes, this is our fault because we bought an older 5th wheel. Yet we’ve been told by many people, whether they have a brand new rig or a vintage fixer upper, that you’re constantly repairing things. It’s just a part of home ownership – RVs included.

Dan fixing the refrigerator vent on day 3!
Dan fixing a plumbing leak on Day 7

The gas bill is a real dream crusher.

Our truck with a 36-gallon tank is averaging 7 miles a gallon when we tow. Gas prices have ranged from $2.25 – $3.00/gallon and, as I mentioned before, we’ve driven around 2,000 miles. You can do the math if you want but…

I’m not sure what we expected but that was a huge eye opener for us and has made us reevaluate how often we change locations.

Travel days…enough said.

Again, I’m not sure what we expected, but I think it was something like this…

But…no.

Sure, we’re driving through scenic areas and my camera is usually hanging out the window taking horrible moving shots and I’m oohing and aahing the entire time. However, travel days mostly consist of white knuckling through high winds, traffic, or “windy woads” (inside joke of ours!), or bumps that you hope don’t send everything flying in the RV.

Then there’s the stress of finding gas stations that are accessible, eating fast food more than you’d prefer, gas station bathroom breaks, and navigating through unknown areas. When you arrive, the fun doesn’t end…you have to maneuver into your parking spot and then pretty much undo all your hard work from the start of the day (level, detach, unpack, unstrap).

This is another reason why we hope to slow down a bit more and stay in one place for longer amounts of time. I should also mention the planning that is involved with changing locations…the route (we learned the hard way that you can’t just trust Google to know you’re towing a 30-foot rig and to find the best roads), researching where to park, making reservations if you can’t find a free spot, etc. I’m tired just writing about this!

follow your detour
Somehow I did snap this great shot out the window in Saguaro National Park…we were NOT towing though!

Adjusting to #rvlife.

RV life is really a trendier term for full-time glamping. While our RV is very homey, comfortable, and cozy, there are typically bugs joining us and maybe…okay, definitely…a bit more dirt than we’d prefer. We also sleep wonderfully in our bed and right now we can hear the ocean from our windows.

While I’d love to say we fall asleep to the sound of the waves, most nights our neighbors are having a campfire and the smoke is wafting in above our heads so the windows stay shut. Oh but the sounds of the ocean and seagulls during the day, you ask? Right now I am listening to the hum of the generator so that Dan can charge his computer while he works. Sometimes we have to shower in not-so-clean outhouses…and pay for it. And it took 2 weeks before we were brave enough to poop in our own bathroom. What goes down the toilet, must come out!

Balancing real life vs. feeling like you are on a permanent vacation.

Even though some days it feels like we’re on never-ending vacation, we aren’t. We still have life to do…work, grocery shopping, laundry, errands, etc. Somedays we feel a lot of pressure to sight see and get outdoors. But then there are days when you just want to do nothing when you finish work. This lifestyle is exciting, but it can also get exhausting trying to make the most of each day and each place we’re in. Are you seeing a trend here? WE NEED TO SLOW DOWN! We really want to view this experience as a lifestyle change, rather than a fun “adventure” or “trip”.

A few extra “uglies”.

We miss our families terribly. We missed watching our nieces and nephews hunt for Easter eggs, we missed the birth of our cousin’s baby, and couldn’t visit my aunt when she was in the hospital. It sucks.

At times, we’ve felt a little lonely and wish we could share this experience with the people we love. There’s also something to be said about familiarity. Knowing exactly where the grocery store is and being able to drive there without even thinking about it. I guess a sense of “normalcy” has its benefits too. We miss church on Sundays and streaming online isn’t the same.

Since I like compliment sandwiches and its common knowledge to start with the good, put the bad in the middle, and then end with the good again, I’m going to wrap this up on a high note.  I really didn’t want to sound like a brat in this post. I didn’t want to complain about the bugs, the heat, and…

(Sorry, had to. I love Jimmy Fallon!)

those bathrooms…while being steps from the beach and literally living the dream. I just want to be completely transparent. Sometimes you get wrapped up in what you see on blogs and Instagram and its simply just not real life.

Maybe you noticed, my tone was very different in the good section vs. the bad section. The good was filled with heart and passion. The bad was filled with humor and I laughed while typing it and reading it aloud to Dan.  That’s a testament to how we’ve handled the bad. We laugh it off (eventually…after I’ve cried it out in the bathroom or something), learn from our mistakes, and try to improve the things we can control.

Besides, all the good completely outweighs the bad for us.

If you are considering full-time RVing, I think you have to just go for it. Don’t take our word for it. You’ll quickly learn if it’s worth the sacrifices or not. Everyone is different and can have very different experiences based on their decisions and interests. We haven’t regretted our decision to become full-timers in the slightest.

Thanks for reading and following along with this “detour” we’re on.

[Need more convincing that RV life is awesome? Here’s 29 Reasons to Live in an RV.]


Follow Lindsay and Dan at FollowYourDetour.com

Instagram: Follow_Your_Detour

Follow Alyssa Padgett:

Travel blogger

Second half of Team Padgett and full-time traveler in our Winnebago Brave. I blog about our travels, how I run our production company from the road, and the ridiculous things Heath does on a daily basis. My husband thinks I'm funny.

  • Lindsay McKenzie

    Thanks so much Alyssa!! I had so much fun writing this and hope your followers enjoy it!

    • Great article Lindsay. Laughed out loud about the generator noise and going to the bathroom! We’ve been in our RV for 7 months and my husband refuses to go number 2… I can’t say I hate it. lol!

      • hahahaha

      • Lindsay McKenzie

        That’s hilarious. I can confidently say I am a proud pooper in our RV. Dan is still not loving it. Ha ha…too much? Thanks for the love Liz!

  • Melanie Knott

    Loved it! I am really enjoying the “this is what it’s really like” posts from you guys and Lindsay & Dan.

    Thanks so much!

    • Lindsay McKenzie

      Glad you liked it Melanie! Appreciate your kind words and constant support!

  • Robb Strobridge

    Lindsay great post! It was great meeting you both and sharing a few minutes ato the RVE Summit. We are excited to follow your journeys and appreciate a complete perspective of being on the road full-time. It isn’t all what our Facebook Poststatus and Instagram posts portray, and it’s not a vacation everyday like our friends and famI’ll think, it is a great lifestyle though that we are not ready to trade back to a 9 to 5. Travel on my friends and keep sharing!

    • Lindsay McKenzie

      Hey Robb!! Loved meeting you guys as well. Thanks for reading and for the comment love! Hope to cross paths with you guys again someday. Love seeing what you guys are always up to on Facebook as well.

  • Emily Scott Robinson

    My husband and I have been full-timers for a year and can relate to EVERY WORD OF THIS! Great post– thanks for sharing the truth. 🙂 The good is worth the tough. We’ve grown so much. Slowing down helps a ton. Happy travels! 🙂

    • Lindsay McKenzie

      Phew I am glad so many people can relate and we aren’t just doing this ALL WRONG! Even though I know there are plenty of things we should be doing differently that would probably help. It’s all about the ride though! Thanks for reading and for the comment Emily. Follow us and PM me or something so maybe we can meet up sometime!

    • Lindsay McKenzie

      P.S. saw your from Greensboro…we lived in Raleigh for a little! Fell completely in love with everything about North Carolina!

  • Teresa Rosche Ott

    Thanks for the dose of reality, Lindsay. It doesn’t deter me, but it does make me want to boondock and chill out for longer periods.

    Your Instagram might not be 100% of your day-to-day, or even 10%, but it’s real – and gorgeous!

    Thanks for sharing the start of your journey.

    Alyssa & Heath – thanks for inviting Lindsay. Good choice!

    • Agreed, they are awesome!!

    • Lindsay McKenzie

      This is so sweet of you to say Teresa! Thanks for taking the time to read and leave such a kind comment. Chilling out for longer periods is a MUST!!

  • Kimberly Button

    This is so true!!!!!! Thanks for the honesty!

    • Lindsay McKenzie

      Haha! It’s not a glamorous life but its a dang good one! Thanks Kimberly!

  • Camille Attell

    Hey Lindsay-great article! Had I written a “three weeks in” article (or three months for that matter), I would have said the exact same things. We’re eight months in now and it’s still an adjustment! But I wouldn’t trade it because I think I’ve grown and learned more these last eight months than probably the last few years. Thanks for sharing-I think sharing the real, raw, and ugly parts is just as important as the pretty instagram shots.

    • Lindsay McKenzie

      Thanks Camille – I have a feeling the adjusting doesn’t really ever end! But you’re right, the growth you experience is worth it all! I appreciate your sweet comment!!

  • Lindsay, thank you so much for sharing all of this! So so appreciative of your transparency and we’ve been SO loving following along with your journey!

    • Lindsay McKenzie

      Thanks Jordan!!! We love following you guys as well!

  • ChelleandDonnie Coffee

    We will be starting with the 5th wheel as soon as we sell our house, but staying in the area until I retire from my teaching job. Thank YOU for the “truth’s” to the bad’s and the uglies. In our older travel trailer we had just about all of those things go wrong and also our fender skirts tore off in the lovely wind. It gets expensive, We’ll take your advice and start slllloooooowwwww.

    • Lindsay McKenzie

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!! Wish you best of luck in your transition and yes, take it slow!!

  • Lindsay, thanks so much for the honesty, humor and thoughtful article, as I am preparing to go full time by the end of the year and your insights will definitely be helpful! Like you, I have never spent a night in an RV, but your run down of the good, bad and ugly has encouraged me to jump into the deep end of the pool! At least now I know what to expect! 🙂

    • Lindsay McKenzie

      I am so happy to hear that it helped you! Good luck with all the preparation. You will love it! Even with the uglies! Thanks so much for your comment!

  • Pingback: What’s Life on the Road Really Like? – Everywoman()

  • Shannon Murphy Minner

    Thanks for the honesty. Even though I don’t plan on going full time I am starting the travel trailer journey from scratch. I have no clue what I am doing.

    • No one ever does 🙂 We all just fake it till we make it and ask a zillion questions along the way!

  • Brandi

    I love this! It is the truth. When we first had the thought of purchasing an RV I read about all the amazing people going full time and life was awesome. Then I found Heath and Alyssa and they were great enough to share the whole truth. We have kids who have come to love the RV travels and it is in our plans to take year off of work and travel the US with them. In the mean time we take week long trips or weeked trips to learn more about the RV life. We to were hesitant about the toilet in our RV and avoided using it the first trip (the kids were wondering why they has to go all the way to the bath house to use the restroom but we just gave the “because I said so” response. Lol. Also on that first trip we couldnt get our water to work (while we were getting ready to leave we figure out it was just a kink in the hose), our rigerator went out luckily we planned on bring a large cooler anyway and we realized we could have used a few more things to cook with even after checking off the list we found of things to brings on your RV trip. The first time was the most stressful but even then when I was sitting there enjoying the outdoors with my family and realized that I loved this lifestyle. Good and bad. Lol!

    • Haha, yep everyone seems to have a good amount of stories about all the crazy things that go wrong when you start RVing! It’s always something 🙂 But yes, the good outweighs the bad!

  • Kevin Strauss

    Fantastic post and I especially love the shoes picture and its caption. Priceless!

  • Great article! Thanks for sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly. And the reminder that while full-timing isn’t a 52-week-a-year-vacation, it still has its up sides. Also, thanks for the reminder to be cognizant of “full time mode” vs “vacation mode.” In vacation mode you have to rush fit it it all in, and at the end you feel like you need another vacation. 🙂