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 incredible destinations that we have already been to.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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…
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!
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.
Follow Lindsay and Dan at FollowYourDetour.com