5 Mistaken assumptions the new full-time RVer makes

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By Nanci Dixon

Being almost four years into full-time RVing, I can see clearly (or at least more clearly than I previously could) the mistaken assumptions I made when starting out.

1. Full-time RVing was going to be one long (very long) camping trip. Nope! After the first year, I noticed the “real” campers were still sitting around their campfire battling mosquitoes while we were inside watching Netflix. We were not camping anymore; we were living in our camper. (I have learned that I love having the time to watch Netflix and it is still special to sit around a campfire – just not every night.)

2. The excitement of new places will wipe out missing family and friends. I still miss friends, still miss our children, grandchildren and neighbors. Long-distance emails and FaceTiming are not the same as actually getting together with someone a couple of times a week. Alas, we found that our kids, grandkids and friends all have their own lives that seem to go on well without us. When we come “home,” they are not flocking to our door every night or even every other week.

We meet new people everywhere we travel, and some have become long-term connections. We stay in touch through messaging, email and blogs, and meet when we can.

3. We will have a no-maintenance living. Nope! Just like a house, stuff happens and stuff breaks. While we can clean the motorhome front to back in about 15 minutes, we don’t have any leaves to rake, grass to mow, snow to shovel – but there are still routine maintenance items to be taken care of. Fresh water systems need sanitizing, the oil needs changing, tires need to be pressure-checked, flats need replacing, a hose leaks and the AC quits…

Nanci’s cozy home on wheels

No maintenance or breakdown is insurmountable. Inconvenient, yes, but it can be worked through with diligence, a little know-how and money. Bringing me to the next assumption…

4. It is going to be soooooo much cheaper than living in a house. Eh, not necessarily. Our primary WiFi connection is usually cell service. We have two different providers and three devices to make sure we have coverage. With that, along with satellite service, campground fees, gas, insurance, car/motorhome license tabs, repairs and entrance fees, we are coming close to our monthly housing expenses when we owned our home.

When I remember that we are not on a perpetual vacation, I can watch spending and cut costs. Staying in one place longer to take advantage of lower rates will stretch the dollars as well as cut travel costs. We have to weigh if a premium oceanfront site is worth the dollars, or if a mom-and-pop campground works for one night traveling through. Work camping for a few months slashes expenses tremendously. Biggest cost-cutting? Recreational shopping is just not an option anymore.

5. I will love wherever we are if we can only be full-time RVers. (“Oh please, oh please, oh please!” I said.). I was wrong again. Sometimes we are just parked at a campsite waiting out a reservation. Other times we’re waiting out the weather, waiting out a repair, or worst of all, sometimes we’re waiting for our rowdy weekend neighbors to please pack up the barking dogs, screaming kids, full-volume radio station, smoky campfire and go home.

We can pick up and move. Some sites are glorious and some, well, aren’t. Reviews and Google Earth can help decide both the campground and the site. We don’t have a lot of choice on neighbors but, generally, we have found that campers, RVers and tenters are all a pretty friendly and happy bunch. And those noisy weekend neighbors? They are just enjoying the couple days of freedom until they return to the 9-5 on Monday. Whereas on Monday, I will still be camping – perhaps around a campfire but more likely around Netflix.

Nanci Dixon is a full-time RVer living “The Dream.” She works and travels across the country in a 40’ motorhome with her husband. Having been a professional food photographer for many years, she enjoys snapping photos of food, landscapes and an occasional person. They winter in Arizona and love boondocking in the desert. They also enjoy work camping in a regional park. Most of all, she loves to travel.

##RVT921

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Robbie
8 months ago

Nanci, we started our 14th year as full-time boondockers on October 1st of this year. We agree with everything you have said in this article. We prefer to say we are always at home; others say we are camping.

Connie
8 months ago
Reply to  Robbie

Wow… 14th year as full-time BOONDOCKERS?

Wow! There has to be some kind of award for that! There should be.

Jill Dudley
8 months ago

Very well written, Nanci. I’m four years into full time RVing, also. I couldn’t agree more with your observations. Thanks!

Dan
8 months ago

Oh so true everything

Kevin
8 months ago

We have found that we have several kind of days while full-timing. There are travel days, they sometimes morph into exploration days. There are set=up and pack-up days. There are tourist days, planned (well not real planned sightseeing. There are other days (haven’t figured out a tag for them) where you do the “normal stuff”. You know grocery shopping, rig maintenance, refueling, laundry the day to day stuff that doesn’t change (just your location).

JBC
8 months ago

Hope the nightlights are off once you close your door for the night. Wonderful ‘reality’ check for those thinking about full-time RVing. You cannot tell them the truths often enough – and even then they still only hear the what they want to. For those just RVing occasionally much of what Nanci outlines still applies. A RV/motorhome requires ongoing maintenance, if you want WIFI, etc. it’s not cheap and there are always insurance, etc. costs. There is so much to enjoy but there is ‘reality’ too that is well outlined in these 5 points. Thanks

Ronl
8 months ago

We are not truly “full-timers” but spend weeks and sometimes months in our RV and the author’s experiences mirror ours to a T! And while we might not be huddled around Netflix instead of a campfire, we are engaged in other indoor activities bemoaning the blasted smoke from the neighbors, some of whom have also gone back inside but left the fires burning!! We don’t live that much differently in our RV than we do in our 2 homes but we do get to experience the panorama of America through our windows as we drive from place to place, go to museums, events, attractions, and meet new people constantly. We are both retired executives who spent way too many years in a silver tube 35000 ft. In the air, sitting behind a desk or at meetings and conferences at luxury resort hotels we never got to enjoy. It’s wonderful now to see and experience “fly-over” country from the comfort of our own cockpit, but sleep in our own bed, use our own bathroom and prep our own food in our own kitchen that we “carry on our back” so to speak.

We love this retirement plan!!

marty chambers
8 months ago

There is nothing you said that are not painfully obvious. Your problem is you miss your roots and that is fine. Yes, the RV is your “home” where else would you hang out. Out with the mosquitoes? Don’t you do anything else than watch Netflicks? Do you hike or anything? Or do you go from camp to camp to do the same thing in each one? Do you go to national parks? Craft shows? Photo expositions? Something? How would life be less boring for you in a house?

Please understand, I am not trying to tear you down. Yes, I can see where people have all kinds of misconceptions about full timing. And I fully support your opinion and observations. I always say that everything in life is a compromise.

I think the issue is that you want your house back.

Joe S
8 months ago
Reply to  marty chambers

Well said, Marty… but your comments won’t change those who are determined to “Use a rock for a hammer.”

Chuckles and disbelief abound every week reading about those who experience problems caused by permanently living in RVs that were not designed or constructed to be used as year-around homes. They add to those problems by staying semi-permanently and permanently at campgrounds that were not intended to be mobile home parks.

Most of the complaints might better reflect reality when reversed to feel at least a bit of empathy for others who have to put up with YOU!

Concrete (literally) examples: 1,000 Trails members watch the best campsites in every campground gradually transition to leased concrete pads for permanent living and chained off leased campsites sitting vacant. Those of us who joined for recreational stays only get the leftovers… while picket fences go up, sheds are built, lawn swings appear, and multiple potted plants are lined up and watered. Pio Pico campground in San Diego is the most egregious example where original contracts allow RVs that many years ago could no longer move. Those run down sites look like homeless squatters. No one chooses the campsites in eye-site of them unless that’s all that’s available.

SO WHO REALLY IS THE UGLY NEIGHBOR?

MikeS
8 months ago
Reply to  marty chambers

I think both you and Joe S missed the point if the essay. The author isn’t talking about living in a RV permanently anchored in an RV park, and I’m sure she does most, if not all the activities you mention. The point is that, if you are full timing, you can’t do those things everyday, 365 days a year. One would have to be a millionaire AND have a endless energy. If you’re a full timer, your rig IS your home, and you still do the kinds of things that everyone does at home…watching TV, loafing on the sofa, cleaning etc… That is very different from “squatting” in a run down RV.

Do I miss my roots? Sure, but I have family on both coasts to visit. I’m a retired Rural Letter Carrier, before that I was in the US Coast Guard, I’ve worked and played outdoors my entire adult life. I sure don’t miss the North Atlantic during a storm in January and I sure don’t miss shoveling snow or sliding down icy mountain roads, doing 360’s in my jeep for a living.

Now, back to the movie I was watching.

Nanci
8 months ago
Reply to  marty chambers

Thanks for your comments! Yes, we do a lot more than watching Netflix, although we watch a lot more than we used to when keeping up a house and working late at night, pre retirement.

We are currently Park Hosts in Arizona and hike 3-6 miles a day in the beautiful regional park, have a list of all National Parks and National monuments across the US that we are gradually checking off. We are also fortunate to have made a lot of friends in our campground that get together for communal campfires (no mosquitos) and potlucks.

When we get to a town to camp for a few days or just a nights stop, I google “things to do near me “ and we have found some wonderful, off-beat places, museums, points of interest to visit. Those are not the mistaken assumptions and the reasons we began RVing.

Again, thanks for your comments. It gave me pause to think of all the reasons we began and continue to RV.

And BTW, I never, ever, want my house (the lawn work, the snow, the cleaning, the stuff) or any house back!

Nanci
1 month ago
Reply to  marty chambers

Thanks for your comment! And yes we do have more than Netflix! We hike from 2- 6 miles a day in some amazing places and my husband rides mountain bikes. My goal is every national park but this year we only got to Death Valley due to Covid. We Boondock a lot In the desert southwest and are park hosts at two regional parks. I also drag my husband to every museum and spot of interest I find.
No problem staying busy!

Glenn
8 months ago

Just curious about the rope lights around the rig. I assume they are for pack rats. Do you find them effective and did you have any problems prior to using them? Nice picture too!

Ronl
8 months ago
Reply to  Glenn

You better have them in the desert or be carried off by pack rats!

Nanci
8 months ago
Reply to  Glenn

The rope lights seem to help- we have had no pack rats eating our wiring while our neighbors have. There are huge pack rat nests around our area in the desert. Since the photo above was done though, I push the lights way under our rig so that it is not so bright and won’t disturb our neighbors. I have on a timer to turn on at dusk and off at dawn.

Nanci
1 month ago
Reply to  Glenn

We had found the likes effective in the past but we were mobbed by pack rats this year. I waged a war! We added sonic repellers under the rear engine and the front generator, rodent spray, fresh cab and dryer sheets in the bays and finally rat traps outside. Got rid of them. I think starting the generator and engine every couple of days for a short while helped too. They built a nest under the hood insulation in my husbands truck! He thought the green leaves sticking out were odd.

Bill T.
8 months ago

Well written and thanks for sharing, Nanci. This is one of the best “true” full-time RV’er stories I have read in a long time. There are a lot of stories posted on the internet and through newsletters, requiring the reader to sift through company lifestyle sales pitches and other window dressing to get to the real details of full-time, or like my wife and I, extended RV living. I can really identify with parts 3, 4 and 5. Safe travels and thanks for the story.