There are somewhere around a bajillion RV and vanlife bloggers successfully instagramming it up these days. It’s great seeing so many nomads sharing their stories of living and loving life on the road, but since the majority of the popular RV bloggers are full-timers, they’re not exactly a representative sample of the RV community.
In reality, full-timers are just a small percentage of the people who own RVs. Most RV owners are part-timers like James and me.
The FITRV: Proudly Not-Full-Timing Since 2010
As Brooke Baum, editor of WinnebaGolife blog said when she wrote about why she gave up full-timing,
“Taking a trip in an RV and living full-time in one are very different experiences.”
I certainly get why people choose to full-time: the freedom, the ever-changing scenery, cheaper than rent, etc. Even with all that awesomeness, here’s one thing I’ll bank money on.
James and I will never be full-time RVers.
Before I list out our own personal reasons why, let me just say this. I’m not writing this to convince you NOT to full-time and I’m certainly not trying to invalidate your choice of full-timing. I’d never begrudge anyone their lifestyle choices. Besides, how boring would this world be if we all wanted to do the same things? You do you and we’ll do us and let’s embrace our differences.
My motivation to write this is so you understand our own personal mindsets on why we chose the part-time RV lifestyle we have. We get asked about it all the time, and we’re long overdue in discussing it openly. So here goes!
Reasons Why We Don’t RV Full-Time:
Separating Vacation & Home:
We like the symbiotic balance of having an actual home, and having the RV as a vacation… it makes RVing continue to feel adventurous and fresh. When we’re in vacation-mode, we’re naturally more present and mindful. We’re motivated to explore our surroundings. It gets us excited for new and novel experiences. We’ve done trips as long as 6 weeks, and that’s pushing our limits. When the RV starts feeling a little too “home-like”… you know, the days start to look the same, or we’re less interested in getting out exploring… we start getting a little antsy. That’s when we know it’s time to point the rig home.
Our Sticks & Bricks Routines:
There’s an element of having a permanent home you just can’t get with a nomadic lifestyle that we’re not interested in giving up. I’m not sure what to call it, but it has to do with the ‘knowing’ of things.
Knowing our hometown friends and neighbors. I’ve got two friends at the permanent house I walk with on the regular. I’ve come to find such comfort in that connection. The walk really isn’t as much about exercise as it is a chance for us to catch up. After a long trip on the road it’s just the normal I need. Same goes for James. He’s got a group of cycling buddies constantly blowing up his phone to ride. He loves joining his fellow hometown masochists in beating each other up on weekly rides.
Knowing our established medical providers (and Mel’s vet!). You can certainly manage medical needs on the road but we like knowing our providers and them knowing us.
Knowing our neighborhood. At our permanent home we’ve got favorite hangouts and we know what places to avoid; so when we want to go out and do stuff it’s pretty much effortless. When RVing, you’re usually in unfamiliar areas so it becomes more trial and error and hit and miss.
Knowing our problems. We know we live on a busy street, and that there are scorpions running rampant in our yard at night. Knowing our problems helps us handle and tolerate them. In the RV, most problems are unexpected and unknown until the moment they smack you in the face. Like when Lance broke down and left us stranded in the Bakersfield CA area. It took months to get the rig working again. Had we been full-timers, that would have been a very big deal.
RVing Doesn’t Change Who You Are:
I think this is something you don’t learn until you actually have an RV, but it’s important to understand. It’s easy to romanticize RV-life and think if you can just find a way to sell everything and hit the road, you’ll somehow become a better, more adventurous, brave, and exciting version of yourself. Look, if you lie around all day watching Netflix at your permanent home, you’ll likely do just that in the RV, too. The RV doesn’t automatically make you any different and it certainly isn’t a band-aid for unhappiness. YOU have to create that sort of change within yourself. Where you do that, whether at your permanent home or on the road doesn’t matter. So knowing this, James and I aren’t swayed by the commonly mistaken notion that we would be any different or our lives would be ‘so much happier’ if only we could full-time.
James’ Tinkerer Gene:
I love hearing stories of James when he was little. One uncle once proudly told me a story of James, not even 2 yet and just barely walking, how it was so strange a little baby spoke in full sentences. He said to baby James, “Hey little Jimmy, how ya doin’?” (Add the Jersey accent there for the full effect.) Apparently “little Jimmy” responded indignantly. “My name is James Nicholas Adinaro Junior and I am NOT Jimmy.” I can totally see that happening, which is probably why it amuses me so much. His mom has told me loads of stories too, like how he loved to engineer things, to tear them apart and put them back together just because. He’s still like that today, and if you’ve followed his shop build it probably doesn’t surprise you. James’ shop is his true happy place. It isn’t the RV, it isn’t on his bike, and he’ll deny this but it isn’t even in the house with me! James loves to build, to modify, to tinker, to complain about all his shop hardships, AND to run to the hardware store 5 times a day when he’s in project mode. So James without a shop wouldn’t be a happy James. I would never ask that of him. And since his shop isn’t mobile, a permanent home it is.
Destination Logistics Can Be Tiring:
Finding a place to stay in the RV takes work. Towards the beginning of a trip, it’s welcomed work! It’s all fresh and exciting and part of the wonderful adventure! But towards the end of the trip, I’m totally over it. If a place doesn’t take reservations, you may roll there only to find all spots taken. Or you may GET that spot and then discover you hate it. Maybe noisy neighbors, maybe the lack of personal space, or the RV park seems unsafe… whatever it is, you find yourself counting down the hours or days until you can leave. Bad destinations will happen, but you put up with it because when the good destinations happen, they can be so magical you forgive all the hardships. I suppose it’s like anything in life; you take the bad with the good. The uphills for the sweet downhills. So while we love RVing, if we’re out too long we start to burn out on the effort of figuring out logistics. The permanent house looks really good about then.
Pesky Day Jobs:
Well okay I’ll be honest. Only JAMES’ job is pesky. Mine rocks. He’s in IT and I’m an online wellness coach/personal trainer (James calls it my ‘play job’ which it soooo is). The great thing is we can both work remotely, so no problem there. Until we can’t find any cell service, that is. And since I like to meddle (I mean check-in) daily with my trainees, I’m always hyper-conscious of how many bars I have. James has an added challenge. Sometimes he’s required to fly to see his clients. And since that calls for business attire, his clients would probably start thinking it was weird if he always showed up in the same suit. You know, because we’d probably only have room in the van for one suit.
Mel (our cat):
I suppose this reason would be very different if we were interested in RVing in a 40 foot class A or 5th wheel, but we aren’t. In our van, Mel has just over 100 square feet of space to roam; not ideal at all. It means we have to make sure we get him outside every day on his leash so he doesn’t go too crazy. But a cat that’s leash-trained isn’t like a dog. A cat will wander cautiously on a leash, but not too far, so there’s no real exercise happening. At our sticks and bricks, Mel’s behavior is totally different. At the house, Mel goes into Spaz Mode daily and sprints laps through the house, bounding over chairs and furniture, up and down the stairs, bodyslamming into us and using us as a launchpad. Spaz Mode is when the real Mel comes out! There’s nowhere for him to do that when he’s in the van, so he’s forced into a more sedentary cat lifestyle. The house keeps Mel young and playful, and that means a lot to us.
Things On The Road Aren’t As Sexy As The Instagram Man-Buns and Vanlife-Girl-Butts Would Make It Appear:
While the pics online may look amazing, there’s oftentimes a lot more going on outside the shot that you’re not seeing. It isn’t because RVing influencers are trying to deceive anyone, well okay at least MOST aren’t. It’s that, probably just like you on your own trips, we take pics of the joyful moments on the road. The stuff we want to hold onto and remember and be grateful for.
Think of what you put in your own actual physical photo albums and scrapbooks collecting dust in your bookshelf… it’s the proud moments and happy stuff in your life. Instagram is the same way; one big photo album focused MOSTLY on life’s joy. It doesn’t make it wrong, it just doesn’t give the whole story.
Here’s something I bet we can all agree on.
Being on the road is ever-changing, incredibly dynamic, and so much is out of our control.
You might head to a boondocking spot you heard about and find the road is washed out (yep, it happened).
You might plan to camp remote backwoods for many days, but you’ve run out of water (yep).
You might seek serenity somewhere amazing, like Joshua Tree, only to have obnoxious neighbors on both sides, one cranking Stevie Nicks and the other cranking Bad Company (yes, that happened, too).
You might find yourself in the middle of a violent storm and be stuck in the rig for days on end.
Point is, it takes flexibility and acceptance that all those things out of your control are part of the adventure. James and I are certainly flexible with life on the road and we’ve learned to embrace the unexpected, but sometimes the best part of our journey is going back home.
That is, until the road starts calling again.
And trust me, it always does.
YOUR TURN! We’d love to hear from you… are you part-time or full-time and why? We’re always curious to hear why others chose the RV lifestyles they did, so scroll down and leave a comment!
Happy & Healthy RVing, all! Part OR full-time. 🙂