Full-Time RVer Tips for Saying ‘So Long!’ to the Sticks & Bricks Life
Full-Time RVer Tips for Saying ‘So Long!’ to the Sticks & Bricks Life
Insights for creating the right mindset, downsizing, planning, and telling your family.
By: Noel Fleming & Chris Miller
You’ve said yes to the call of full-time RVing. A major transition awaits you. As the old adage goes, life is a cabaret and your show is about to hit the road. Navigating the process and embracing life as a nomad is a complex journey. That’s why we’ve asked several new RVers to share about their recent entry into full-time RVing, so we can summarize their experiences and advice here – as well as our own.
Getting a drone’s-eye view from their perspective can provide a sweeping view of the landscape ahead. An understanding of necessary steps coupled with a realistic timeline can provide a structure for mindset and action.
Start with Perspective
Perhaps your decision was spurred by wanderlust, the ability to work remotely, the desire to travel while the kids are young, or the celebration of retirement. There is motivation behind your choice. Identifying the reason, giving words to your “why” can remind, and empower, you through the days ahead when checklists loom large and your attention is pulled in multiple directions. Knowing the why fuels your determination and encourages next steps.
Some people find it helpful to make the why overt. Jot it at the top of your calendar. Hang it on a placard by your morning mirror. Tell Siri to remind you of it each night before you go to bed. Make the intangible force of the why visible.
Naming the why gives you a reason for celebrating and reminds you that this action is a choice – your choice. You don’t have to do this. You GET to do this.
Can you believe it? YOU GET TO DO THIS!
Every adventure has an arc or two. Excitement builds. Challenges come. This will certainly be the architecture of your adventure into full-time RVing. This truth may best be seen in classic children’s books such as We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, where a family seizes the call to the wild and encounters challenges ... tall grass, deep rivers, oozy mud, dark forests, swirling snowstorms.
The book’s characters understand the truth that the obstacles cannot be escaped. Repeatedly, when faced with a challenge, they proclaim, “You can’t go over it. You can’t go under it. You’ve got to go through it!” Children who read the book, chant those words, and actually giggle with glee, knowing the dangers that await on the next page, and still pronouncing with great gusto their determination to carry on.
It is this child-like enthusiasm and actual love of the obstacle that would benefit us, too. In fact, many historical figures have been like-minded with the five-year-olds that stomp across the playground fiercely and joyfully reenacting the bear hunt. Obstacles are more than things to be avoided or, at best, endured. Obstacles are to be embraced. The obstacle is the way.
Begin the Preparation
Downsizing is where your “why” becomes real. This may be the most obvious intersection of emotional and physical energy demands. Assessing every item of furniture, clothing, paper, and photography that you have accumulated over the years can be daunting. Begin to minimize as early as possible, organizing your belongings into the four categories of sell, donate, keep, and trash.
Traditional yard sales and online marketplaces (Facebook marketplace, eBay, Craigslist, Nextdoor, Offer Up, etc.) provide ample venues for your merchandise.
Local thrift stores are a common go-to for general recycling of belongings. You may want to also consider specific causes that are always in need of certain donations. Examples: homeless shelters, pregnancy centers, nonprofits that support people doing job searches, schools, American veterans, or Habitat for Humanity. This link may get you started on pinpointing organizations to consider. Choosing the recipients of your donations adds meaning and lessens the sting of letting go.
Most people, even the most ardent minimalists have a few special possessions that tug at the heartstrings as you decide what makes the cut to take on the road. Is it your collection of marathon t-shirts or the garden stepping stones with the handprints of your grandchildren? Some items can be creatively transformed for RV life. Swatches of marathon t-shirts can become a pillow cover; a photo of stepping stones can become the cover of a travel journal that logs your next adventurous steps.
And then there are the exceptions.
These are the things that don’t fit easily into the minimize plan. One of our interviewees had whittled down every material item she had except the one that stood before her in her driveway – her car, not just any easily replaceable car, but the one passed down from her grandma, the car she had learned to drive in.
In cases such as this, finding a friend or relative that will treasure your treasure may be a viable option. Using a storage unit for any items that you have decided to keep may also be a wise alternative. Weigh the costs and benefits. There is no wrong or right. It is not “cheating” to maintain a storage unit. When you are able to slow down the process and work through your belongings without panic, you will arrive at the decisions that suit you best.
As you work through the logistics of tangible items, there are non-tangible tasks to address as well.
Establishing an official domicile takes top priority, since many other logistics hinge on it. The process of establishing residence varies from state to state. Many factors are worth considering, such as health insurance, vehicle insurance, ease of mail services, requirements for registering vehicles, establishing a business, paying taxes, and voting. (Read why one GoLife couple chose Florida).
Allow enough time to research, make decisions, and take action. The Escapees site provides a more thorough look at establishing a domicile in a state that best matches your need profile.
Once you’ve made your choice of domicile, you will be able to follow through on subsequent actions such as registrations, insurance, taxes, and legal documentation.
Going paperless has many benefits. It reduces the amount of snail mail that you receive, it decreases the number of times that you need to have mail sent to either your designated mailbox or a chosen site on the road, and it increases the speed at which you receive information - allowing you to address needs in an expedient manner.
Assess Internet Needs
Assessing your need for connectivity on the road will be vital for your nomadic life. Many aspects of full-timing living, as opposed to vacationing, rely on access to reliable internet service. Working remotely, entertainment, safety, homeschooling, connecting with family and friends, and trip planning all place demands on connectivity and data plans. It is easy to underestimate how much would be sufficient for your lifestyle.
Campground WiFi does not often offer reliable sources. Before you head out on the road, research the vast variety of plans available from different providers and have an understanding regarding the benefits of cell boosters and hot spots. Designing a system that works for you is crucial. Many RVers have gone down this road before you. Their experience can be a helpful resource as you assess and formulate a plan that meets your needs. We often look to technomadia.com and rvmobileinternet.com for tips.
Collect Resources to Help with Planning
If you are already an experienced RVer, you undoubtedly have trustworthy resources that assist you on the road. Your decision to full-time RV may increase your use of them and prompt you to consider adding to your portfolio.
A quick Google search will reveal countless curated lists of apps that are must-haves for digital nomads and RVers. This article may be a helpful resource as you consider apps that assist with exploration, work, weather, navigation, safety, and enjoyment on the road.
Memberships such a Passport America, Thousand Trails, and Harvest Hosts can help obtain reservations for overnight stays.
Facebook Groups often provide a community of like-minded individuals that value being connected, even during nomadic life. If you do not already belong to a group that offers knowledge, assistance, encouragement, and positivity, consider joining one and establishing some roots. (This article shares more on the benefits of groups and some links).
Test it Out
As much as is possible, preview your choices before hitting the road full-time. Use the apps, tryout your data plan, participate with the online communities. Your confidence will grow as the logistics are tested and revised where appropriate.
Share the News with Your People
Now that you’ve worked through the business end of a myriad of details, it is necessary to factor in the people quotient. You are the one who has chosen to hit the road and in so doing you are likely saying ‘so long’ to family and friends as well. While your new adventure is just over the horizon, the important people that you leave behind may also need to prepare for your absence and perhaps the uncertainty of when your paths may cross again.
It is meaningful and simply respectful to allow your local posses to marinate on the idea of your departure long before you actually leave. Celebrating your connection with those people via a special event, like a happy hour or a meal, will remind all parties that what you share is not dependent upon proximity.
Discussing or making plans for how you will continue to connect from the road goes a long way in making the goodbye feel less permanent. One RVer we spoke to highlighted the difficult discussions she had with her grandsons. She had to explain the differences of what her time with the boys looked like now – for either impromptu gatherings or special holidays – to what it might look like in the future when she lives in her RV and there would no longer be trips to grandma’s house. She made sure that even though the kids were initially sad, they could envision fun sleepovers and camping trips with her down the road.
Give Yourself Grace & Persevere
As you establish a timeline that works for you, be gracious to yourself. Allow adequate time for research, decisions, and actions. Going from a ‘sticks-and-bricks’ home to RV life is an enormous change. Change is stressful – even positive change.
Keep your eye on the “why” for full-time RVing. Give yourself props throughout all stages of the transition. Recognize the obstacles and seize them for opportunities. A grand adventure awaits.