Second Year Resolutions of a Full-Time RVer
Plus, an honest look back at the struggles and successes of year one.
By: Sue Ann Jaffarian

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been living on the road as a full-time nomadic writer for an entire year. I’ve been so many places, met so many people, and learned so many things, even about myself. Especially about myself.

How this New Journey Started

On December 31, 2018, just days after my 66th birthday and retiring from a very long career as a corporate paralegal, I left Los Angeles, CA, for a new life in a 2016 Winnebago Travato that I named Novella. We were a team from the beginning. Everything I owned was in the van. Novella became my constant companion, day in and day out, and she didn’t let me down. My Travato is an amazing vehicle and home. 

Travato parked near house under large trees

Moochdocking at a friend’s place in Virginia.

When I first set out, friends and family asked me how long I planned on doing this. My pat answer was: “When it stopped being fun or if I ever became physically unable to do it.” I made a commitment to myself to full-time for one year, whether I liked it or not. One year. Near the end of the year, I would take inventory and decide if it was something I wanted to continue.

A Year of Full-Time RVing in Review

In 2019, I visited thirty-six states, spoke at twelve libraries and at three non-library events. I attended the first WinnieB National Rally and was a first-timer at the 2019 Winnebago Grand National Rally. I also attended five meetups with other Winnebago owners. In the middle of all that, I had five pet/house sitting gigs, released a new book series, wrote four articles for WinnebaGoLife, and got a second tattoo. I even spent a month with my family in Massachusetts. Novella did her part by racking up over 25,000 nearly trouble-free miles.

Travatos of every color parked in a line on the grass during the Grand National Rally

 WinnieBs at GNR 2019.

During my first year, I also downsized my belongings even more. In February, a friend who is a professional closet organizer helped me pare down my clothing and store it better. In October, I got rid of more - including appliances I wasn’t using. In December, I culled again. Novella and I are running pretty lean, at least for me. I also made modifications while on the road to help me live more comfortably in my small space. 

Some of my favorite places from my 2019 travels include the Grand Tetons, Carlsbad Caverns, the Everglades, and the heartland of the U.S. (no longer just “flyover states” to me). Being more of a loner, I was super surprised that I loved the huge Winnebago Grand National Rally event. But I did and cannot wait to return in 2020. If you’ve never been, GO! Of course, since my Travato is a magnet for other travelers, I have met plenty of people on the road as well. I am always giving tours and answering questions about my van/house.

Sue Ann and Winnebago Employee smiling for a photo wearing safety glasses

Winnebago Factory Tour at GNR.

However, by early November, I was running on empty emotionally and physically. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had a blast! But I had really pushed myself to the limit running around, trying to see everything, meet everyone, working on books, and attempting to do and have it all. People were giving me suggestions daily on where to go, what to see, what to eat. On top of that, my readers were clamoring for more new books. I did my best to keep up, but started feeling like I was managing their expectations, not my own. 

That same month, a string of storms caused me to hole up in a small city-operated campground in North Carolina for six days, giving me time to reflect on the previous ten months. 

Did I still want to do this? 

YES! A thousand times YES!

There is no doubt at all that I want to continue as a full-time RVer. The freedom is seriously addictive. I joke with friends that I’ve become almost feral. The idea of returning to a life lived within walls makes me want to chew my foot off, like an animal caught in a trap. I know one day I will have to get off the road, but not yet. There is still so much to see and do. So much to learn about this world and the people who populate it.

4 people sitting at a picnic table playing cards with a Travato in the background.

Meetup with other Travato owners in Belle Isle State Park in Virginia.

As I mentioned, I have also learned a lot about myself during this year. Being alone on the road allows for a lot of self-reflection and growth. I am much more self-reliant and mechanically inclined and have become much less fussy about things. My overall attitude now is more go with the flow.

So how could I revamp the way I travel to make it even more fun and less stressful?

Resolutions for 2020

Get outside and exercise more.

Since owning my Travato, I have lost 55 lbs and am much healthier overall. I exercise regularly and being outside helps continue that success. When I first started, I joked that I was as outdoorsy as chintz curtains. Now I’m as outdoorsy as a picnic table – stable, sturdy and outside, but in no rush to climb steep or narrow trails or kayak lakes and rivers. Baby steps.

Plan less.

When I first started full-timing, I planned out everything and had reservations everywhere. One of the things I learned during my first year was to relax and let the road take me where it goes. Most of the places I want to see aren’t going anywhere. If I miss it this time, I’ll see it next time. One of my greatest joys is waking up and deciding what I am going to do or where I am going to go that day. Sometimes I go to bed with one idea and wake up to another. I still write every day, but I may not travel or go sightseeing every day. And that’s okay. Sometimes sitting in my camp chair reading a book or napping is exactly what I need. Lollygagging is not a sin when you’re a nomad.

Travato parked on grass with a green wreath on front grill

Novella dressed up for Christmas at a Harvest Hosts location in Florida.

Don’t overbook.

In 2020 I am not going to rush from one end of the country to the other, from event to event. I will book events and meetups that allow me to travel more leisurely and see more sights, less asphalt.

Stick closer to my budget.

This is a biggie! The first several months of my full-time journey, I was blowing through my monthly budget like a drunken sailor on leave. Now I boondock or dry camp more. I love doing this and the freedom it gives to move around on a whim. I still reserve some campsites, but they tend to be national or state parks or other places I want to specifically go to or where meetups are set. One of the reasons I bought a Travato was its self-containment features.

I also don’t buy things I don’t need, no matter how good the sale. Everyone loves souvenirs, but in an RV you don’t need the clutter. That’s why I started buying small pins that I affix to the headliner above the dash. They are inexpensive and don’t take up valuable space. However, once in a while, I will buy a tee shirt.

Collection of pins and patches in cab of Travato

There would be more pins, but unfortunately, not all places I visit carry them.

In 2020, I plan to eat out less. After all, I have a nice kitchen in my van and cooking for myself is healthier. I have also gotten rid of camping memberships I never or seldom used.

Looking Ahead

As my first year on the road comes to an end, I look forward to my second year with great anticipation. Now that I am a seasoned full-timer, I will be easing into this next year like it is a comfy hammock … but on wheels.

Above the galley in my Travato is the following quote. I don’t know who said it, but I repeat it to myself every day, like a mantra.

“There will come a day when I cannot do this. 

Today is not that day.”



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