“I think I want to move back to Texas. I miss our friends and our family.”
“Your family was here visiting us two days ago and my family visited us last week. Do you really mean you miss queso?”
This is a conversation Heath and I have all. the. time. Heath is constantly explaining to me that he misses “Texas” which means Tex-Mex food or that he misses “home” which means weekly happy hour margaritas with our friends.
We learned during our fifty state tour that keeping community when you travel full-time takes constant effort. We struggled with losing our close community of friends and always being surrounded with unfamiliar surroundings. Today, I’d say most of our favorite friends are full-time travelers. But when America is as big as it is, it’s surprisingly difficult to meet up with friends on the road. We’ve actually met our friends Kristin and Jason Snow on the side of the road twice just to hang out with them.
Two years of experience and one much nicer RV later, and this summer has been filled with visits from friends, family, and strangers. In this post, I’m sharing a few of the ways we’ve stayed connected with people this summer including caravanning, hosting friends, and meeting up spontaneously on the road (and the pros and cons to each!).
This year before we left Texas, we met a couple–perhaps most notably the only fulltimers we know who are younger than us!–who happened to have a similar travel route through the Rockies. We decided to meet up with Mark and Gaby from Catch the Cudas in Grand Teton National Park and make our way to Canada together.
Mark and Gaby met us at Gros Ventre Campground, just south of the entrance to Grand Teton National Park. We had relatively no plans going into our caravanning adventure and ended up spending almost a week exploring the Tetons (my and Heath’s favorite national park) before traveling north through Yellowstone and across Montana toward Glacier. We hiked, kayaked, and ate dinner together each night.
Despite having the welcome distraction of friends to hang out with, we still spent half the day working, half the day exploring (which is our general rule for working full-time on the road). But the best part of caravanning with these cool kids was that we had the chance to try new things. We boondocked on BLM land we found on Campendium. We built a fire and tried out night photography (below) which Mark is excellent at.
But my favorite thing that caravanning with these two made possible was kayaking down Snake River.
The first time we hung out with Mark and Gaby back in Austin, we all went kayaking together on Lake Travis. When we arrived at the Tetons, a ranger suggested we kayak Snake River. Between our tow car and their small RV, we could position our vehicles at two points on the river and take a couple hours to float down a gentle portion of the river. I was dying to try kayaking down a river (mostly because you don’t have to row as much since the current propels you forward 👍) but it’s difficult to find a place to park our big rig riverside to make it happen. With Mark and Gaby, we were able to take the afternoon off to enjoy a gorgeous day of kayaking. Plus, a two-hour float with friends is way more exciting than a two-hour float with just Heath and I.
Pros to Caravanning:
- You get to hang out with friends and familiar faces as often as you want.
- You have extra motivation to get outside and be active.
- If you get tired of the people you’re with, you can retire to your own RVs and take a break.
- If you run into mechanical issues, you have the peace of mind of knowing someone else will be around to help you. After having major slide issues in June, this was huge for us! While traveling with the Cudas, we ended up needing to pull over when our brakes got a little too hot going through mountains and we had to replace our front two tires after noticing they were wearing unevenly. Having them around made this way less stressful!
- We had the chance to really get to know Mark and Gaby because we spent so much time eating & playing together. It is so rare for us to be able to spend so much quality time with another couple.
- They drove behind our RV + tow car as we traveled north to Montana. If you’ve ever been behind a big, slow RV in traffic, you know how annoying this can be!
- You both have to pay for campgrounds and find campgrounds that can accommodate two rigs. When you’re in national park country in the summer, this is especially difficult! We did spend our last night camping together in the parking lot of the Huckleberry Patch, a small restaurant and gift shop just outside of Glacier NP. They told us we could stay the night for free as long as we bought pancakes in the morning. Deal.
Hosting Family in Your RV
At our first ever RV park, our new neighbors imparted some valuable knowledge to us about RV occupancy. Regardless of how many your RV can physically sleep, the rule of thumb is this: you can host 6 people for drinks, 4 people for dinner, and only 2 people for sleep. To put it simply, they recommended never hosting people overnight in the RV. It’s just too small!
But after telling our families about our plans to visit Banff National Park & Glacier National Park, both of our parents decided to visit us on the road. My parents and younger sister would fly and meet us in Canada and Heath’s parents + grandparents + granny would all drive up in an RV and camp with us in Glacier. We were a mixture of nervous and excited for obvious reasons…But both experiences were awesome and we would do it again in a heartbeat!
Pros to hosting family:
- Our families could sample our full-time RV lifestyle (and see that we really aren’t crazy 😉
- We could visit with our families, which we don’t get to do nearly enough!
- We could create lasting memories, which is cheesy I know. But hiking around Lake Louise in the rain and then making burgers in the RV is way more memorable than any weekend visits we’ve made to our parents’ houses in the past.
- Dry camping with my family meant we couldn’t shower in the RV or use a lot of water period. This meant walking to showers at the national park which were less than stellar.
- Sleeping with other people in the RV is really difficult for me. When the first person wakes up in the morning, everyone else wakes up from feeling Heath walking around the rig. I’m not a morning person. This is my nightmare.
- RVs aren’t built for a full family of adults. While we actually had plenty of storage space for all of our families’ luggage, we definitely ran into each other, tripped over shoes, and fought over the bathroom mirror.
- We accomplished no work. Like, at all. We took a few mornings for meetings while our families visited, but for the most part, we spent as much time as possible with our fam. Cause it isn’t every day that you can drive around Glacier National Park with your 80-year-old Granny. #priorities
Meeting Up with Friends on the Road
Like I said earlier in this post, most of our meet-ups with friends on the road are completely spontaneous and spur of the moment. While most RVers try to plan travel routes ahead of time, we rarely actually know where we will be and when. This makes it harder to make plans, but makes it easy to take adventures when the opportunity arises. We’ve had two awesome spur of the moment adventures this month.
Yesterday evening we pulled into a @cabelas for the night. A little while after I got a text, “Are you parked next to us at Cabela’s in Idaho?” As it turns out, our friends Kerensa and Brandon from @drivedivedevour happened to pull in right next to us. The country seems to feel a lot smaller when a lot of your friends are constantly driving around the country in an RV as well🚎. #winnebagolife #cabelas #boondocking
A photo posted by Heath Padgett (@heathpadgett) on
- Having Kerensa and Brandon of Drive, Dive, Devour knock on our door in a Cabela’s parking lot. We knew we’d be in the Coeur d’alene area around the same time, but neither of us expected to find ourselves randomly parked next to each other at a Cabela’s! Talk about crazy. We ended up hanging out in the parking lot for a night and then visiting a nearby lakefront campground the next day. Since we all work full-time on the road, we split our day up between working, kayaking, and hanging out by the grill. Totally spontaneous, extremely fun (and the ideal way to find community on the road while not sacrificing your work).
- Visiting our bff Sean (also our wedding officiant) in Seattle, Washington. Sean, who lives in Austin, randomly texted us while we were in eastern Washington so we decided to drive a couple hours out of the way to hang out with him in the Emerald City. Finding ourselves visiting friends from home in random cities across the country is one of our favorite parts of RVing. It’s the perfect dose of home when you’re 1,500 miles away.
A photo posted by Sean Richards (@seankrichards) on
Pros to spontaneous meet-ups:
- The adrenaline rush of randomly bumping into friends. (Also the rush of opening your door and seeing two people you recognize, but not understanding how they found you in a random parking lot off the interstate)
- These meet ups take less time out of your schedule than caravanning or hosting, which is helpful if you’re working full-time on the road.
- They are more memorable experiences since you didn’t expect it.
- You can’t plan these adventures! Which means you can’t guarantee they will happen. So it’s not the most reliable way to keep in touch on the road.
Keeping Community When You Travel Full-Time
A lot of people are afraid that because they are becoming nomadic, it will be difficult to keep a community. While you’ll lose a lot of friendships on the road, we’ve made so many new friends who share similar values to us. The key is intentionality. Most of the time, community on the road means we have to go out of our way to hang out with old friends or to meet new ones.
Two years ago we were in St Louis, Missouri and the fridge in our old RV had just blown up. We were stressed, to say the least. One of our favorite authors and fellow full-time traveler, Chris Guillebeau, who we met earlier that year in Portland, was hosting a book tour five hours away in Nashville. It wasn’t exactly on our route to Chicago, but we decided to go anyway.
We knew that an evening with friends and meeting new people would be good for us. While on the way, we tweeted a picture to Chris and told him we were driving our RV to his book signing. He was excited and shared it with several of his friends who were going to be there. Once we arrived, we instantly made several friends, had people buy us drinks, and after the signing we hosted an impromptu tour of our RV.
Two years later, several people we met at that book signing are some of our closest friend to this day. We’ve realized that community on the road is all about expanding our comfort zone and redefining what friendship looks like.
If you’re hitting the road as a nomad, here’s a few tips to keep your community strong:
- Pick up the phone. It’s practical and old school advice, but still holds true. We try to call our parents and good friends at least a couple times a month, so they know our RV is still running and we’re alive.
- Befriend people in Facebook Groups and on Instagram. If I had a dollar for every time Heath said, “I invited over this couple I met on Instagram to have dinner with us…” But strangely enough, his strategy works. Because of casually making new friends on social media, we’ve met people like Mark and Gaby Cuda. A quick way to find people who are RVing are to check hashtags like #rvlife #nomad #rving.
- Get out of the RV. All it takes to make friends in a campground is to be that couple roasting s’mores outside or walking around the campground with a glass of wine. Most RVers are friendly and eager to connect with other campers on the road. Bonus: When you’re young and RVing, older couples love hearing about how and why you’re RVing full-time.
- Research RV meet ups or rallies. There’s ton of RV meet ups that happen all over the country.