Every so often we see a rash of comments in RVing groups, blogs and forums from folks who hit the road and are now disappointed with their choice.
And they almost always blame all the bloggers, vloggers and Instagrammers out there who seemingly focus on the positives and oversold the lifestyle (as if we earn a commission each time someone hits the road?!?).
The sunsets, nomadic meetups, amazing boondocking, great hikes, abundant bandwidth and just generally non-stop amazing experiences.
As if life on the road is full of unicorns who only fart rainbows.
‘Why don’t the bloggers also share the downsides??’
Fact of the matter is, I know of very few bloggers who only share the positives. What we find, is those in the dreaming stage so often underestimate or pass over the realities that have been shared.
So what are some of the realities that a dreamer might miss amongst all the pretty photos?
We hosted our recent live video chat on this exact topic, and came up with our Top 10 List (one for each year we’ve been on the road!). We had SUPER fun hosting this with over 350 live viewers joining us (thank you!!).
Here’s the hour-long archive of it if you’d like to catch up… or for the bandwidth challenged and video averse, we have it all written out below with lots of links to relevant content (but you will miss Chris barking like a dog, just sayin’).
In celebration of our 10 years on the road – here are our top 10 things that suck about full time RVing:
1) Society’s Perceptions
In this lifestyle, in the same day you can be looked down upon as RVing being your last ditch effort before homelessness… and asked if you’re a trust fund baby living the high life. As many of us as there are on the road these days, there’s still a lot of stereotypes that come with the lifestyle.
You’re either down on your luck, or independently wealthy on permanent vacation. Just an average middle class citizen working 40 hours a week like many of us? Not as much awareness out there of that.
Pro: Fact of the matter is, most of us are somewhere in-between. And this lifestyle is accessible to such a wide variety of budgets.
2) Legal Ambiguity
You might often feel like you’re skirting through grey areas. Well, because you are. Despite there being hundreds of thousands of full timers out here – we’re still a very small percentage of the population. And many laws just don’t keep us in mind.
- In the past couple of months, we’ve seen South Dakota (a popular state for RVers to domicile at) propose taking away the right to vote for those who don’t actually reside in SD. Recently there was also rampant fear mongering being spread in reaction to a small wording change to a HUD document defining manufactured homes (no, this little change won’t render full timing illegal – that’s been disproved even by Snopes.com).
- There are laws that change as we cross state lines, ranging from if you can buy beer in the grocery store, how long your RV can be to when a state considers you a legal resident despite your intentions (and thus owing state income taxes and needing to register vehicles.)
- What can be written off, and what can’t on taxes?
- When does an RV become considered a commercial vehicle and need to be registered as such?
- Will your domicile claim stick if it comes in question?
- Will your bank accept your permanent mail forwarding address, or seize your accounts if you can’t provide a real residential address to satisfy the Patriot Act?
Pro: There’s little legal precedent on this stuff so far, and we have advocacy groups like the Escapee’s helping keep us alerted.
Escapees Advocacy Feed (Worth supporting Escapees for this alone!)
3) Varying Costs
We know people making it work on as little as $500/month to folks with $5000+ monthly budgets. Depending on your stationary cost of living, living on the road CAN be cheaper – but not necessarily.
For those wanting to minimize their costs as much as possible, here’s some of the compromises you’ll find:
- The places you can stay will be limited to cheap/free camping options or camp hosting opportunities.
- To get a quality RV, you’ll likely have to go pretty old.
- The pace you can keep will be slower if you don’t have a big fuel budget.
- There are substantial upfront expenses you’ll need to make to be setup to be off-grid for extended periods of time.
- You’ll need to be resourceful in other ways when life hands you speed bumps
The reality here is.. if you suck at managing money in your sticks & bricks life, you’re going to suck at it on the road too.
The pros: RVing is one of the most flexible lifestyles that allows you to adapt your spending to your budget as needed. Want a cheap month? Stay still, volunteer and boondock. Want to make some miles, budget for the extra fuel expenses.
It sucks if you’re stationary, but it sucks even more on the road.
- Nationwide insurance networks are disappearing, and RVers play domicile whack-a-mole to keep up.
- Getting in to see a new primary care physician or specialist in a new location can be trying.
- Managing chronic conditions has challenges.
- It can be difficult to keep up with routine healthcare on the road unless you return to your home base regularly.
Possible solutions include: Telehealth, concergeice physician networks, urgent care clinics, medical sharing programs, nationwide PPOs, going to a different country.
Pros: If something major does come up, you have the unique flexibility to go where the specialists are, and not just settling for what is local.
5) RVs Themselves
While you might consider your RV your home, that doesn’t mean it has the qualities of a sticks & bricks house.
- RV is short for Recreational Vehicle. Just like any other vehicle, their value tends to go down as you own them. You’ll have to maintain them to keep them operational, and you’ll likely sell it for less than you paid for it… far less. It’s like paying rent in that you’re paying for housing costs but without building equity, but yet have all of the headaches of home ownership.
- Construction build and suitability to full time living vary quite a bit. These are homes that are under constant earthquake conditions and thus subject to more wear and tear through normal use.
- When they break down, you’ll have to attend to fixing them – navigating new mechanics and repair shops all of the time. Not fixing them can mean literally being stuck.
- Even ‘big’ RVs can feel feel small and constrained at times.. especially when multiple people are trying to get stuff done. Tight passage ways, cooking space, smaller appliances, restricted storage, etc.
- Appliances aren’t always the best.. we have a particular dislike of how loud RV roof air conditioners are.
- RVs provide little privacy with thinner walls, and even with stabilizers nearby neighbors or other people in the RV can tell when there are moments of increased physical activity (ummm… playing Dance Dance Revolution, of course, what did you think we were talking about??)
Pros: RVs allow us to be mobile and location independent. We don’t have to pack our bags, we sleep in our own bed every night, we never forget our toothbrush, we know what drawer the wine opener is in and we are always at home while traveling.
6) Resource management
Unlike living in a fixed place where all your amenities are just there and unlimited in usage – with RVing, everything is in buckets and tanks.
- Water tanks need to monitored and kept at their proper levels (filling the fresh, emptying the waste.)
- Fuel costs vary and finding RV accessible stations can be frustrating.
- Propane availability and costs vary widely across the country.
- Power sources will vary, from 20A or 30A availability requiring deciding if you run the A/C or the microwave, various adaptors needed, and managing off-grid power usage if dry camping.
- Mobile internet usually comes in ‘buckets’ of data for cellular & satellite (unless you score a sweet unlimited data plan!), and free WiFi is sometimes not overly usable.
All has to be managed and kept track of, something you just don’t have to deal with in most stationary homes connected to the grid of municipal utilities.
Pro: This makes RVs pretty darn self contained, allowing autonomy to navigate the widely varying camping options – from sites with varying hook-ups and wild camping.
7) Lack of Continuity
Each new location you land, it’s like moving into a new neighborhood. Well, because you are.
- From finding the best place to get an awesome gluten free pizza, doing your normal grocery shopping in a new store, finding a hairstylist for a new cut, to locating a reliable dentist to fix that annoying tooth ache.
- There are new roads to navigate, different traffic patterns, different local customs and ways of doing things.
- You’ll be putting far more mental time into adapting to new situations than you’re used to, and less time just living.
Some days, it gets old putting so much effort into these basic things you might take for granted otherwise.
Pros: Exploring new places and variety is part of the joy of travel! It keeps us on our toes, and keeps life from getting routine and boring!
8) Work Life Balance
If you need to still earn an income, it can be hard to find that sweet balance of getting in work hours that produces the income you need to afford your lifestyle, and put away for your future. AND still enjoy the traveling lifestyle you selected.
- You’ll be tempted by constant new things to go explore, people to spend time with and keep putting off the work until ‘tomorrow’.
- Working in a small space, particularly if you have others in the household not working on the same schedule – can be frustrating and distracting.
- Repositioning days and constant setup/take down cut into your life.
Pros: You can have some fricken awesome amazing office views, and your after-work activities are always changing.
9) Community & Maintaining Friendships is Tough
Community on the road is different than a local continuous community.
- You’ll constantly be meeting amazing people and then saying ‘until next time’.
- Next time might be years down the road.
- Your time together may be limited, and thus you don’t want to take it for granted. This can become difficult if you get well connected and can’t be in constant social mode.
- You’ll have to make extra effort to have ‘more than Facebook’ level connections when you’re apart, which can be difficult when most everyone you feel close to is a long distance relationship.
- Meeting new people usually starts with the same old surface levels conversations, and can get old – especially for us introverts who get recharged by deeper connections.
Pros: You meet some of the most awesome like minds on the road.. after all, we’ve all taken similar life paths!
RVing for Introverts (video)
10) Campground & RV Park Living
Campgrounds vary so much, and sometimes living in them can be awesome to sucky.
- Logistics vary from how you make reservations, availability, rules (restrictions on age, pets, RV type), location, pricing, upfront deposits required and the type of amenities offered.
- Arrival can be challenging, depending on how easy the spots are to get into. Parking your house isn’t something stationary life prepares you for.
- Spaces can be close together, offering little privacy between neighbors.
- Whatever your pet peeve is, you’ll likely end up parked right next to it at some point disturbing your ideal tranquility – the boisterous family reunion, the non-stop loud air conditioner on a perfectly good open window day, the barking dog who’s owner has left them alone for the day without acclimating them to life on the road, the neighbor who idles their diesel engine for what seems like hours, active & playing children, lawn maintenance day or the couple that likes to dine outdoors listening to loud polka music. (And that’s just THIS week.)
- Campgrounds are transient neighborhoods – there’s a lot of constant motion as people arrive, setup, pack up and leave.
- While you might be living your daily life, your neighbors will include a variety of folks on their well earned vacation or retirement.
Pros: It still amazes me that there’s this network of over 20,000 neighborhoods we can just pull in and be at with relative ease. Certainly easier than buying a house in a new neighborhood or signing a new lease. Don’t like your neighborhood? With an RV – you just put the key in the ignition.
It is Really This Awful?
Most of the time, life on the road IS awesome. But just like any lifestyle choice you might make, there are realities. So please don’t let the above discourage you.
For over 10 years, we have continued to choose this lifestyle. See some of these past posts where we have focused on the rainbows & unicorns:
When the sucky parts add up, we take a break and try something else for a bit. Such as our winter in the Virgin Islands back in 2010 or last summer’s Alaskan adventure.
We like to shake it up, and think we’ll continue to consider RVing our home base for a good long while.
So, what things SUCK about full time RVing for YOU? We welcome your stories and comments below 🙂