Have you ever thought about living in an RV? The kids are grown and gone and now it’s your turn to cut loose. We used to dream about running off to join the carnival or the circus. Now we’re all about downsizing, freedom, and lightening our anchors. With families spread all over the continent, many people over 50 are opting for living in a recreational vehicle and hitting the road.
They’re living the dream. Visiting their grandkids. Seeing all the sights they couldn’t afford to see while dragging along five children. Newly retired people are discovering that they like the nomadic lifestyle.
Downsizing and Going Mobile – Is RV Living for You?
If you always wanted to travel but never did, buckle your seat belt and take a ride in an RV. You will be enveloped in the comforts of modern camping, or Glamping as it is becoming known. The ride is smooth. The amenities are top-of-the-line. The people who design RVs thought of just about everything and incorporated it into their designs. Glamour Camping is no longer the wave of the future — it is here.
But is the mobile RV lifestyle really for you? Only you can answer that. Perhaps exploring some of the good and bad points from people who are already living the dream (or nightmare?) might help?
You always wanted to travel…
You always wanted to travel. You’re in a position where you no longer need a stationary home. You are all about sufficiency, now. By all means, pack it up and hit the road. Do your research though, and take a good look at what you need and what you can live without.
When considering a Recreational Vehicle purchase, you can spend a small amount for a used, fixer-upper. You can opt for all the perks and spend as much as the mortgage on a palace. Or you can settle somewhere in the middle. Some RVs have minimum options while others have custom Italian ceramic tile with marble countertops and the latest in technology for remote-control living.
First the AWESOME Stuff About the RV Lifestyle
There are a lot of upsides to RV living. We’re just going to cover a few of the best ones here.
A change in weather is just around the next bend.
It’s too hot. It’s too cold. Temperature drops into the single digits cause cold weather dwellers to long for the comforts of a 50 degree Florida winter. In the Florida summer when temperatures crest that 100-degree mark, southerners wish for the 72-degree comfort of the Minnesota wilderness.
In an RV, your travels can be scheduled to incorporate the best of the best weather-wise. Hit the northern states in the depths of summer. Enjoy the wilderness, or tour the fabulous cities and sights while the temperature is perfect. When the snow flies, head south into Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and states where the winters are generally milder.
The perfect weather for your trip is, literally, just a short drive away.
Sightseeing can be relaxing and enjoyable.
Traveling with a mini-van full of kids is rarely a pleasant experience. Vacations, when your kids were young, were probably a mixed bag. Trying to please everyone and never quite succeeding. The end result was usually frustration because at least one child was always having a bad time.
Sight-seeing while trying to do a continuous head count to make sure you didn’t lose a kid meant no joy for mom and dad. You didn’t dare take your eyes off the kids long enough to actually look at Niagara Falls. One second of looking away meant you lose sight of one kid. You finally found them just as their barrel crested the top of the falls…
Now that the kids are grown, you can take the time to enjoy the sights you missed during their childhood. You can hike the Grand Canyon. Kayak down the Ohio River. You can actually look at Niagara Falls. Visit the biggest ball of string and not worry that one of the kids is trying to sneak it into the van to take it home. You can visit Luray Caverns. Enjoy your sight-seeing. You’ve earned it.
Park, plug in, and poof – you’re home.
You have choices that range from state parks, national parks, private campgrounds, or even Aunt Nellie’s driveway. Wherever you park becomes your home. Different types of campgrounds have different amenities. You can even set up in a permanent RV park rather than traveling.
At some private campgrounds, there are pools, lakes, arcades, miniature golf, and tons of activities to occupy your days. Many have internet access via wifi right on site. All the comforts of home are right there in one place for you to enjoy. There are even time-share campground networks that offer all the amenities in locations across the country. They are set up for short-term or extended-stay options. Paying into the time-share “club” allows you access to the entire network at affordable rates.
State and national park campgrounds usually offer variety from totally rustic to full hook-ups, including running water and electricity. A rustic site is basically just a parking spot or clear spot in the woods. Some offer outdoor toilets while others have bathing facilities with flush toilets and working (albeit probably not very warm) showers. A full hook-up campground offers more amenities, but the cost is also higher. Most state and national park campgrounds have stay-limits, meaning you can only reside there for a certain period of time.
Say goodbye to utility bills and mortgages.
Unless you opt for the super expensive model with all the perks, you can ditch the heavy cost of having a mortgage and the accompanying utility bills. You will have to pay nightly fees when you stay in campgrounds, but these are minimal compared to the costs of homeownership.
Everything is right there in your recreational vehicle. Living in an RV, not stopping at restaurants to eat saves both money and time while.
You can actually earn a decent living while traveling.
With the internet, the potential for earning while traveling the country is almost limitless. You can write a blog about your travels and earn from advertising on your site. Write articles for a travel magazine or other website and let them do all the marketing for you. Run an Etsy shop and ship your products out from post offices all over the country.
You are only limited by your own imagination.
There is Always a Downside…
There are several things to consider when planning to live your dream and converting to RV living. As with all major life changes you should do a lot of research. Know what you’re jumping into before taking the plunge and spending your life savings on a recreational vehicle.
You can’t take it with you.
RV space is very limited. When you downsize to an RV you have to decide what to keep and what you’re willing to let go. Wall space is extremely limited, so your favorite painting may have to stay behind. All that sports equipment you’ve collected over the years? That probably won’t be coming along either.
Paring down your life to fit inside a 250 square foot (or smaller) living space can be both cleansing and heartbreaking. You can pack up everything and pay to maintain it in a storage unit. That can cost a pretty penny year after year though. And do you really need that lamp that broke four years ago? Or the sofa you got when Aunt Millie upgraded hers?
The heartbreak is in letting go of things like family photos and heirlooms. If you have an extended family, you can gift them with the opportunity to hold your prized possessions. Determining what to keep and what to let go is a daunting task.
Counter space is very limited.
Due to the need for efficiency in design, countertop space in a camper or RV is often limited (unless you have one of the deluxe models with slide-outs and lots of space). Multi-purposing available space becomes a necessity. That means your dining table probably doubles as your computer desk/office. It also becomes your food prep area when it’s time to cook dinner. And since seating is limited, it is also where you entertain visitors.
Figuring out where to stash the laptop during dinner can be a huge issue if you make a living online while you’re traveling. Some RVs are large enough to have a small dedicated desk space, but most don’t have this luxury.
One dirty dish totally trashes your entire home.
In a house, you can entertain guests in the living room while a whole sink full of dirty dishes languishes in the kitchen and no one will know. In an RV, your dirty dishes are right out in the open and totally visible to anyone that comes for a visit.
Other concerns for cleanliness are mud, dust, and general clutter. In a house, they aren’t as noticeable. In an RV every speck of dirt is right there under your feet. But you can’t have a huge vacuum, carpet cleaner, and gobs of cleaning materials in your camper. You have to figure out what you need to keep your home clean, where it can be stored, and what works best for you.
The upside is that, living in an RV it will only take you minutes to clean…
Internet access isn’t always available.
Many campgrounds and many rest areas have free or inexpensive WiFi, not every place you travel will have internet access. If you’re in a remote part of the country, you might go days without being “connected” to the outside world. With an online job, this is a major consideration for travel plans.
If you are heading into a known “dead zone” you’ll want to make sure your family knows you will be out of touch. You’ll need to give advance warning if you work online. Your boss or your customers will need a notice of some kind.
Some cell services work almost everywhere, but it is not always feasible to use your cellular service as a wireless hotspot. Data rates in remote locations are spelled out in the small print of your contract – that part that no one reads – and streaming Netflix will burn through data in the blink of an eye.
Satellite TV is a wonderful option for some people. But if you don’t have a clear view of the sky, your dish will be useless. Choosing a campsite for good TV reception can become cumbersome. If you like being remote, forget the satellite dish.
Your wardrobe will be very limited.
In a house, you can keep clothing for all seasons. In the summer, you pull out your shorts, t-shirts, and Capri pants. Maybe you have a hoodie for the cooler evening hours. You pack your winter clothes up in several boxes and hide them in the basement or a spare closet. In a trailer, you don’t have that option. You have limited space where you can store clothing, shoes, coats, and boots.
So what do you keep? That favorite dress you only wear once or twice a year? Gone. That favorite pair of boots you wear to show off your calf muscles? Gone. The huge Michelin-Man down-filled coat that keeps you toasty warm in blizzard conditions to 20 degrees below zero? You might be able to keep that, but you’ll need to find a storage space for it because it will fill the entire closet.
Figuring out your wardrobe becomes an exercise in what can be layered over what when the temperature drops. Mix and match clothing options are also a good way to coordinate different outfits. Stretching a two week supply of clothing into a month of unique outfits is possible.
You no longer have the luxury of privacy.
When your living room doubles as your dining room and then becomes your bedroom at night, you have no privacy. Unless you have the super-deluxe model with an actual bedroom, your bedroom, changing room, and office are all in the kitchen. The bathroom is the only room with a door, and changing in there might be an exercise in contortionism.
Cleaning your toilet is not as easy as a swipe and wipe.
One of the neat things about RV living is that they have all the luxuries of a regular home with some slight modifications. Unless you are at a campground with full sewage facilities at your campsite, you have to pump out your toilet regularly. Gone are the days of a swoosh and a swab with a long-handled toilet brush and a flush.
Your RV toilet is basically a rolling porta-potty, sometimes complete with the sweet-smelling blue goo. Some have flush capabilities, where the contents are then stored in a tank. You can easily research gray and black water holding tank cleaning procedures to learn about these systems.
No matter how your plumbing is rigged, you need to pump it periodically to clean and maintain it. Many campgrounds have facilities for this function and they will list this on their websites or in brochures. If your selected campground doesn’t have a facility, you’ll want to find a public facility nearby if you’ll be in that area for an extended stay.
Living in an RV Can Be the Perfect Solution for You
We’ve covered some of the good things and some of the bad things about RV living. Ultimately, your sense of adventure will be the deciding factor in whether or not living in an RV is the right choice for you. Whether you choose a small runabout, a full-fledged fifth-wheel trailer, or the converted bus-sized luxury edition, your recreational vehicle can offer a rewarding lifestyle.
The most important thing is to ENJOY LIVING.
Watch this video from a young lady who has made the jump:
Featured image: CC 2.0 Chris Leishman via Flickr.