I routinely cause people in my social circle to question my sanity. Sometimes this is for good cause. Most recently, our decision to explore purchasing another RV for our second full-time RV experience has befuddled more than a few of our friends and kin. Of course, one could argue that they should be accustomed to such befuddlement by now…
Choosing an RV lifestyle
In any event, despite the appearance of insanity, this is actually an informed and reasoned decision. Actually, those who know me best should also know that I rarely make major decisions without conducting detailed research and consideration anyway. After attempting to explain to several people some of the core reasons why we are pursuing this lifestyle, I decided to write a quick post to explain our motivations. The list quickly became rather long as I started jotting down my motives on a pad of paper. I was surprised by how many reasons I have for choosing a full-time RV lifestyle.
In no particular order, my reasons for choosing a mobile lifestyle instead or fixed lifestyle follow.
I am a wanderer
I admit it. I spent most of my life making excuses for this one, but I finally have embraced the fact that I am just a wanderer. I doubt this will ever change. I’m not one to let the grass grow beneath my feet. I break into a cold sweat when anyone mentions “lease,” “contract,” or any similar term.
I am cheap. An average, decent apartment or small house in our area would cost $750 or more each month for rent and utilities. It would not be difficult to spend twice that amount, but it would be difficult to spend much less while avoiding frightfully substandard housing. I know many areas have even higher housing costs. The prospect of spending this much money on an expense category that offers no return is enough to make me physically ill. I just don’t get it. Living in an RV, at least for those who are frugal, can consistently save money over more common housing options.
My wife, Terri, has been battling ovarian cancer for more than three years. Diagnosed at Stage IV, her disease initially responded well to treatment, metastasized to her brain (requiring her to have brain surgery and whole brain radiation treatment), subsequently metastasized to her liver, went into remission, and recurred yet again in her liver. The years of disease, chemotherapy treatments, surgeries, and radiation treatments have taken their toll on her body. Terri now requires accessible housing for her own safety. Unfortunately, accessible housing is exceptionally difficult to rent. Allowing her to sustain additional injuries living in inaccessible housing is not an acceptable option. The two-year wait to be accepted into Federal programs that might assist with accessible housing is not an acceptable option. Purchasing or building an accessible house is not a realistic option. Modifying an RV to suit her physical needs is, however, an option. A full-time RV lifestyle allows us to have safe, accessible housing at a price we can afford.
I own it
Well-used RVs can be purchased for the cost of moving into an apartment or house. An extra few thousand dollars can provide an even nicer or newer RV. I am baffled by the amount of money many landlords and rental companies expect renters to fork over for a rental property. At least when I invest that same amount of money into a used RV I am accruing equity. I have an expectation of recouping at least some of the money I have spent on an RV at a later date. I may or may not have a great place to park, but at least I own my “mobile home” – and that beats paying rent any month.
The full-time RV lifestyle offers freedom. I realize this has become an over-used buzzword in certain circles, but that does not change the truth of it in this case. The full-time RV lifestyle provides freedom to travel, freedom of location, freedom from monthly rent and utility payments (unless voluntarily staying at an RV park), and freedom of schedule.
I like to travel, see new places, and experience new things. Travel has been a life-long passion. I am never home from a trip for long before the wanderlust returns. For this reason, I have always gravitated to jobs that let me be out and about – the more travel the better. The full-time RV lifestyle affords me the opportunity to travel. My house is where I park. This lets me avoid paying rent on a house that I am not using while I am traveling, while also allowing me to spend longer in a given place since I brought my house along for the ride.
Work camping opportunities
I am a starving writer who occasionally takes on other work to keep bread on the table and gas in the tank. Full-time RVers have a unique opportunity that has come to be known as work camping. Work camping typically involves working, either part-time or full-time, at a park, resort, or other location with RV sites available. The work can be quite varied, but typically offers an RV site with full hookups (FHU) plus a stipend or salary. These arrangements allows full-timers to stay in one place for a while without paying for an RV site and to earn some money at the same time. Work camping is something I look forward to trying.
Travel is a priority for Terri while she is yet able
Terri has had a lot of ups and downs during her battle with cancer. Truth be told, she has surprised her doctors with how many times she has bounced back from a particularly poor condition. Nonetheless, her disease is chronic and recurrent and she will likely never be free of disease. The continued treatments and disease progression will thus continue to rob her of the ability to do many things. Terri has a few things she would like to do, and a few places she would still like to see, while she is able. Full-timing in an RV will allow us the opportunity to travel to some of these locations and spend as much time there as we choose. Fuel prices will limit our miles, but the ability to spend longer at a destination will help to offset these expenses. Traveling in an RV will be considerably easier on Terri than traveling by car or by mass transit.
Out-of-state medical care
Terri is fortunate to receive good medical care at Billings Clinic in Billings, MT. Terri has access to some of the best and brightest, and the most talented and most dedicated, physicians and medical providers that are available anywhere. Unfortunately, there are specialties that Billings Clinic is not able to offer, and Terri just happens to need a few of these specialties. The nearest options for neurooncology, neuroophthalmology, etc. are 600-800 miles away. Appointments with these specialists frequently result in additional testing or referrals; consequently, these trips can require a stay of several days up to one week in a distant location. Making significant out-of-state journeys for advanced health care every few months is a strain that will be made easier by bringing our house with us for the journey.
Connected to communities in several geographical regions
I am connected to communities in several areas of the country. This situation simultaneously leaves me feeling at home on both sides of the country, but also not really feeling at home anywhere. Sometimes I feel a bit like the proverbial man without a country. Full-timing in an RV will allow me to spend longer periods of time with people who are important to me, but who are geographically dispersed.
I like the lifestyle
Enough said, I suppose.
Work can be location independent due to modern technology
As a writer, I can write from anywhere. A laptop, electricity, and occasional Internet access are the tools of my trade. The laptop travels with me and RVs are set to run on either shore power or battery power. Several options are readily available for recharging batteries during extended periods of off-the-grid living. Wireless Internet access is readily available at any decent coffee shop, many (if not most) public libraries, and a growing number of other locations. Mobile Internet access is also available for a fee from mobile phone companies. Modern technology allows me to work from nearly anywhere in the world where I choose to work. Full-timing in an RV allows me the opportunity to work when and where I choose.
My parents made me this way
It’s all their fault. We moved frequently so I learned to love the adventure of a new location, though I suppose I also developed an aversion to putting down roots. I vividly remember my father, a minister, browsing RVs while considering an on-the-road evangelistic ministry while I was still a kid. My father never made the move to a full-time, on-the-road ministry, but the seeds of a life on the road were sown in me just the same. So, ya, it’s all my parent’s fault because they made me this way.
It just suits me
I don’t know how much I can or should expand on this point, but full-timing in an RV really does suit me on every level. This lifestyle fits who I am.
We’ve done it before and loved it
Been there, done that – and survived to tell the story.
It’s a natural progression
I have spent years traveling all over the country by automobile. I have traveled far and wide, often driving hundreds of miles out of my way just to see a new route that I had read about or about which I was curious. I have made more cross-country trips than I can remember, frequently sleeping in the car for days on end. I traveled the entire trans-Canadian highway with my four children one summer just to take a different route from Washington to New York. I have also full-timed in a 1974 Volkswagen bus for several months, and lived in a 1970 Fan house trailer for two years. Considering my history, I suppose full-timing in an RV is a natural progression that was bound to happen.
I want to slow down when I travel
Traveling by car often leaves me feeling hurried because I will either need to sleep in the car (my back now protests this option) or waste far too much money on a hotel. Full-timing in an RV will allow me the luxury of stopping when I want to stop. My frequent trips between Montana and Upstate New York have already slowed from the insane 36-hour marathon they once were to a still-rugged 60- to 72-hour marathon. Several recent trips have seen me experimenting with shunpiking once again, something I used to do religiously when I first started these journeys more than a decade ago. The full-time lifestyle will allow me to slow down when I travel. The journey can become the focus rather than the destination.
Ever-expanding community of full-timers
I am not alone in choosing a full-time RV lifestyle. The reasons why people choose to full-time in an RV vary widely, but many people do make the choice to become full-timers. I am not the only person to choose this lifestyle, but instead am joining an already-expanding community of other full-timers.
Writers (at least this writer) require solitude and peace – but my kids live in the city
Sad, but true. (Okay, my daughter has now embraced rural life, but still lives in a small town not too far from a city.) Living near my kids means living with too much noise, pollution, traffic congestion, and confusion. Living far away from my kids means expensive travel costs and very expensive hotel rates when I visit. Fortunately, there is at least one very nice RV park in their city. In fact, I am writing this article while sitting in an RV at that RV park. The full-time RV lifestyle allows me to have the best of both worlds in this situation. I can migrate in my mobile, little home to wherever I choose, but still base out of the area where my children reside.
Turn the key on bad neighbors
I seem to have encountered more lousy neighbors in the past few years than I did in the nearly forty preceding years. I’m not sure if this is indicative of a trend in our society or just bad luck. Either way, the full-time RV lifestyle offers the advantage of being able to turn the key and move to a better location when faced with disagreeable neighbors who do not understand the concept of respect. This “turn-key” solution sure beats being locked into a year-long lease.
Everyone around me is happier when I have space, peace and quiet
This could also be stated in the negative: no one is happy when I don’t have enough space, peace and quiet. I will admit that I tend to get ornery when I am overloaded with noise, confusion, traffic, congestion, and chaos. Part of this is just me as I have always liked peace, quiet and solitude. Another part of this is leftovers from a brain injury I sustained during a serious accident in 1997. I’ve never been able to deal with noise and confusion since my brain injury. Any type of chaos or confusion causes uncontrolled anxiety and debilitating stress. Consequently, I need regular peace and quiet for my own sanity and psychological well-being. I can tolerate only limited doses of city life before anxiety gets the best of me. The full-time RV lifestyle will afford me the opportunity to escape from the busyness of cities when I need that critical solitude and quiet.
I’ve long been a fan of simplicity. My favorite philosopher, not surprisingly, is Thoreau. One of my favorite books is Richard Foster’s Freedom of Simplicity. Among my lifelong heroes are the desert fathers and mothers who, choosing a life of simplicity, forsook all to pursue God in the solitude of the desert. The full-time RV lifestyle provides a ready opportunity to practice simplicity. Obviously, not all full-timers practice simplicity, but the lifestyle lends itself quite well to simplicity. The full-time RV lifestyle fits perfectly with my life-long interest in simplicity.
Closely related to simplicity is minimalism. Minimalism is concerned with the reduction of possessions to the bare minimum. I am also a minimalist who literally can fit every personal belonging into one bag. Barring the use of storage facilities, the full-time RV lifestyle precludes the accumulation of too many possessions. There is only just so much room in an RV. There is even less room in the smaller RVs that I am looking at purchasing. Further, furnishing in RVs are built in thus eliminating the need for furniture. The full-time RV lifestyle is perfectly suited to minimalism.
Decent RV parks tend to be quieter, cleaner and better-maintained than many apartments and rental houses that are more expensive
I do not plan to always stay in RV parks, just as I don’t always stay in designated campgrounds when sleeping in my car or in a tent. I happen to enjoy boondocking and plan to continue that practice in an RV. Nonetheless, I can rent a monthly site in a quality RV park in my area for less than what I would spend for rent and utilities on an apartment or house. The catch is that many RV parks are cleaner, quieter, and better-maintained than many of the houses or apartments in this area that would cost more money. The full-time RV lifestyle allows me to live in more pleasant surroundings while saving money.
My wife’s disease and disability has placed a tremendous strain on our finances. Anyone who has ever dealt with the years of lost income and mounting medical bills that accompany advanced cancer can understand this situation. Particularly now that I cannot work outside of the home because she needs 24/7 care, it is very difficult to keep our heads above water financially. It is irresponsible to commit to a rent payment and utilities that I may well not be able to pay each month. Full-timing in an RV will not fix all of our financial woes, but a bad month financially would probably mean staying parked in one place rather than making a planned trip. This is a more responsible scenario than being evicted from an apartment or having the electricity turned off for non-payment. Full-timing in an RV provides a measure of fiscal security while avoiding irresponsible financial commitments.
Ultimately, there are probably as many sets of reasons for full-timing in an RV as there are full-timers. In other words, I am sure we each have our own reasons for choosing this lifestyle – or any lifestyle, for that matter.
I was surprised by just how many reasons were behind my own decision to become a full-timer once I started putting it on paper. I also suspect that Terri may have her own reasons which sometimes coincide with my reasons while at other times differing. This is as it should be.
Fortunately, we still agree on the decision.
Full-timing in an RV is certainly not for everyone. Those of us who are suited to the lifestyle have the opportunity to save money while living wherever we want to live at the moment. Full-timing, for me, makes sense for at least 25 reasons.