In 2015 my husband Mike and I left our sticks and brick home to live full-time in an RV. We decided to concentrate on the western states because there are so many places we hadn’t visited and I had not photographed yet. Mike had an early retirement and I actually had to quite my job as the web administrator at a local community college.
Prior to hitting the road we planned, saved, and paid off debt. We started this about three years before leaving. For seven years we had owned a small teardrop, [email protected] trailer. We sold it and began looking for the right rig that we wanted to adventure in. We were undecided at first whether we wanted a 5th Wheel trailer or a Class A motorhome. For two years we searched for an RV before we settled on a 32′ Class A Four Winds Serrano.
This spring we gave up the open road and went back to living in a home. People always asked us how long we planned to travel. We would just say, when it feels right to do so. Well, that time has come and we felt it is a good time to leave the lifestyle. Currently, we’ve been in our new home for a month. It’s been great setting up our place with new furniture and getting to know our new community, Molalla. The bonus is being close to our family. We’ve already had outings and get togethers with several of our Oregon family members.
Why We Decided to Quit Full-Time Travel
During the last year or so of living in our RV and traveling, we have had many problems go wrong with our RV. RV manufacturers don’t make them well enough to live in for a lengthly amount of time. We were not the conventional RV travelers. We spent a lot of time wild camping in BLM lands. This meant often, traveling down unpaved, rough roads to camp in the most beautiful places, off-grid. Doing this saved us money in camping fees but in retrospect, we can’t help but think this kind of usage contributed to more wear and tear on the rig.
The cost of repairs was taking away from the fun of our full-time adventuring. Staying in places to get RV repairs done, was the least fun of it all. It was usually places that really didn’t inspire me photographically. We wanted to be out more exploring and hiking to new locations.
Mike and I hope to sell our RV and possibly get something smaller to adventure in. Not exactly sure what it will be yet but we have time to figure it out. We still plan to travel often. It will be nice though to have a place to come home to after trips.
Pros & Cons of Full Time RV Travel
Since I get asked about the pros and cons of traveling full-time, I thought I’d write this post for those who may be curious or plan to do this in the future.
Freedom – There is nothing like the feeling you get knowing that you are free to go anywhere you want, at any time. If you don’t like a particular location, for any reason, you can move on. We often didn’t make reservations as we wanted the freedom to change our plans.
Living Off-Grid – During our first travel year we invested in solar panels so that we could stay in public lands, without the worries of being connected. Doing this saved us money from expensive RV parks and campgrounds.
Excitement – The excitement of venturing to new places is the best thing ever. There were so many places we visited for the first time. It was thrilling to be in the most beautiful places and experience them.
Meeting People – During our four years on the road we met many people. Some became very good friends and we would see them often out there. It was great to meet other like minded individuals.
Spending More Time With Friends & Family – We had more time to stop in and visit family members that we just didn’t have enough time to see while working full time. We attended more family get togethers and weddings we just wouldn’t have been able to get time off at work for in the past. It was wonderful to also meet up with old friends we hadn’t seen for many years.
Minimalism – Living in a smaller space you are forced to live minimally. Every time we bought something new, we usually found something we could give to the Good Will. We liked living off-grid so we learned how to conserve our power and water so that we could stay longer in wild places.
Maintenance – RVs require a lot of maintenance . Things will break down at some point. If you aren’t mechanically inclined, then you’ll have to pay the high cost of an RV repair shop. As we’ve discovered, Class A motorhomes are the most costly for repairs, particularly if they are diesel. The cost of tires and everything else seem to be more on a motorhome.
Where to stay during repair work – When we scheduled RV repairs, sometimes we couldn’t be in the vehicle. We did have a few places let us stay in the rig overnight. This happened when our large slide out broke. We scheduled during a trip to NYC, hoping the work would be done during our weeklong trip. Unfortunately, when we returned the parts were not in yet and we still had to stay three nights in a hotel room.
Crowded Camping Season – During prime camping seasons you need to really plan ahead to where you’ll stay. Campgrounds and RV parks during the summer months are booked way in advance and are usually sold out. During two summers, we camp hosted close to family in Oregon. Not only did we get a free campsite, but we had a chance to volunteer at the state parks for a small amount of hours of work per week. Last summer, we hit the mountains and stayed in USFS campgrounds, which didn’t cost much.
Working On The Road – I found it hard to concentrate on my business because there were always so many places to see and visit. It’s not fun being cooped up in an RV working when you are surrounded by a beautiful destination.
Before starting to travel full-time, I got rid of my desktop computer and decided to use my laptop since we had limited space to work in the RV. I was not a fan of doing image processing on it. Because of this I have a huge archive of images I need to process sometime in the near future. A larger screened, desktop for me is a much more pleasurable way to do my workflow.
As you can see, there are more pros than cons in my opinion. If we didn’t have all the costly repairs during the last year, who knows, maybe we would still be out there. We don’t regret the experiences we’ve had or the places we visited. All in all, we’ve had a really enjoyable time!
Good article. I’ve definitely thought about doing it. I also know I romanticize it and am not mechanically inclined. I don’t think full time RV life would be a good fit for me, but I would like to eventually do some smaller adventures.
Thanks Scott! Yes, for those of us who are not mechanically inclined or rich, need to think smaller. We are looking at more of a van for our adventures. Hope you won’t let it stop you from exploring in some kind of rig!
Nice positive write-up Patricia. I get asked the same thing by a lot of people from my insurance rep at Geico to hospital PA; so many yearn to do what we did.
Like you, after 2.5 years of full-timing I now love my brick n mortar again but I look forward to getting something more durable for future wilderness travel. I’ve always loved the Aliners and the various copycats. They have a wide variety from the basic scout to the larger one with half bath/wet shower, small frig, cookstove. Some have fantastic lg overhead skylights which I love. Small, compact, light, they are little more than bumperweight after my 4K box trailer! And best: they set up from dropping stabilizers to hoisting roof in 10 mins which is great if its inclement weather and your tired. I look forward to taking one to De Na Zin and the Sierra someday.
Good to hear your news.
Hi Tina! Glad you are enjoying your new home too! That trailer sounds like a perfect fit for you! I hope you can get one down the road and enjoy traveling again. Hope to see you again one day out there! Take care!
We will miss you on the road, but I know we’ll still be connecting now that you are off. You guys had more than your share of rv back luck. You inspired us in our journey to full time it. I got so much good info from you in preparing to hit the road. Looking forward to seeing where your path takes you now.
Thank you Phyllis! We’ll miss you too! I’m glad though we’ll still have times when we can get together. I hope you guys enjoy the summer location. Maybe we’ll come that way for a visit :)
Good, informative article, Pat! Ed and I have wondered about that type of living too and your writing helps answer some questions.
Do you know if there is any way to beef up the frame of your rig? I wonder if that would help make it last longer.
Thanks Debbie! There are RVs that are more durable. I guess you can get anything if you want to pay for it. We know people that didn’t have the amount of trouble with their RVs like we had. I think for the type of boondocking we like to do a travel trailer or 5th wheel is a better option.
Thanks for posting this reality check, Patricia. Certainly a lot of logistical challenges to pull off this sort of lifestyle. Did you ever feel lonely out there with just the two of you?
Thanks Richard. We did miss being around family and good friends especially around the holidays. I can’t say we ever felt lonely though with just the two of us. We met up with other full-time travelers whom we became friends with during each season in the southwest. That was always fun.
I hear ya. We have been full time living off the grid for 12 years now (http://roadslesstraveled.us.)
Luckily, I am handy and have only been in an RV shop a couple of times. Once for a cracked fresh water tank in our 5th wheel trailer, from going down those bumpy BLM roads and once for an axle replacement from the bumpy roads in Nova Scotia.
I do agree, the Pro’s outweigh the Cons, that’s why we are still doing it and are actively looking for a new 5th wheel trailer, but like you say they just don’t build them very well to handle the rough roads that we subject them to.
You guys enjoy that new house and take care, Mark & Emily Fagan And Buddy, the wonder dog!
Hey, good to hear from you Mark! We still may meet out there one day ;) You guys are the ultimate inspiration for full-timing it! Thanks so much and good luck with the hunt for your new 5th Wheel!