Three months ago we set off from Reno, NV, in our 31’ 1998 Winnebago Brave RV. My husband spent about a month renovating the interior to make it a home for us. As our departure date came fast approaching, we made the final arrangements for our life on the road. We had a hard departure deadline because we had an event we needed to be at on our first stop. So that morning we frantically finished packing up the RV. Threw everything inside that we could imagine we would need for our lives on the road.
That was our first big mistake. Actually, our first big mistake was buying a 30 foot RV, but more on that later.
Lesson number one - YOU DO NOT NEED EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU NEED.
When we were packing up our house, I was very careful to separate things for the thrift, things for storage, and things for the RV. I set aside pots and pans, our coffee maker, a set of 4 plates, bowls, mugs and wine glasses. Yes, all glass. Realized as I was packing the RV that glass was entirely unrealistic and threw it all back in a box for storage. Now we have a couple of plastic plates, bowls, wine glasses, and our Yeti mugs and we are set.
We also made the mistake of setting aside enough clothes in case we didn’t have access to laundry for months. Like every pair of leggings I own. News flash - you will have access to laundry on the road. And you will also probably wear the same outfits on repeat. Heed our advice and pack lightly. You don’t need 12 leggings. You don’t need 5 bathing suits. You don’t need 10 golf shirts. You don’t need a giant coffee maker (we got this stainless steel French press and its absolutely perfect). You don’t need a tent and air mattress (seriously, we brought these things thinking maybe we would get adventurous and spend some nights in remote locations where we could only access by foot - just no). Pack the necessities, which for us include:
French Press and Yeti mugs, solar lanterns, battery pack charger, cordless vacuum, our Isagenix supplies (this one is non-negotiable for me, despite the fact that we have an entire cupboard stalked with Isagenix, since it provides us two meals a day most days), dry shampoo, hiking boots, rain jackets, comfortable active wear, a couple easy to style pieces for going out on the town, Chacos.
This is not a complete list - but you get the idea. Pack lightly. You can always pick necessities up on the road.
Lesson number two - BUY A SMALLER RIG. This is a pretty big one for us. Neither of us had ever even stayed in an RV or trailer, so when we were looking we had no concept of what to buy. We found a great deal on our ’98 Winnie and both fell in love. We had convinced ourselves we needed a bigger rig (1) because we needed a bathroom and shower, and (2) because we would want the extra space since it was going to be our full time home. What we didn’t factor in was how horribly incompatible with our travel lifestyle it would be. We thought that it might be difficult to navigate bigger cities, but figured the convenience of more room would outweigh having to drive our rig through traffic. And we were definitely wrong!
It is certainly nice to have a roomy RV. And our rig would be perfect for people who want to camp out at RV parks, state parks or sites where they can leave the rig and explore with a tow vehicle. But we decided against a tow vehicle because of the added cost and stress of pulling a vehicle. Having our large rig makes stealth camping very difficult (though not impossible - we have been able to city camp at a couple stops along the way but not as often as we would like) and parking is an absolute nightmare. We waste time and gas driving around trying to find parking, and curse to ourselves every time we see a nice compact van perfectly parked in a single spot.
Driving a 30’ RV is also no easy task. Driving days are very stressful for Bry and we are constantly getting whipped around in the wind and having to travel at lower speeds to feel comfortable on the road.
If we had it to do over, we would have tried to find a used converted van or Class B vehicle for the convince of travel through cities.
Other things we’ve learned in three months of RV living:
-The toilet will always smell. No matter what product you get to clean the tanks. Poo-pouri has been our best friend;
-You need a good generator. We purchased this one and are so glad we did. It's big but is powerful and pretty quiet. We like to boondock when possible to save money, and we can run this all evening (which is necessary for AC in hot and humid places) on a tank of gas;
-As a general rule, add 10-15 minutes per hour of Google Maps travel time. RV travel is slow, people;
-Google Maps satellite will be your best friend. We always use this feature to look up larger parking areas in advance;
-Don’t assume all Walmarts let you park for free. Campendium and Harvest Hosts are our live savers (check out this post for more on that). Many state parks charge for essentially dry camping. So you are paying to boondocks on their land. There is lots of free camping out there, you just need to find it;
-You can cook some pretty great meals on the road - a dutch oven and grill will go a long way;
-This will go wrong. This is just a given. Accidents happen when things aren’t properly secured. Your breaks or your tires or your fuel pump or your tanks will have issues. Build in extra money for these additional costs;
-You will spend a lot of time together with your travel partner. Like, a LOT of time. Find things to do on your own for a little reprieve. I like to wake up early and write, or go on longer bike rides just to get some solo time;
-Staying in shape is not that hard. Just get outside. We packed work out supplies, and frequently go on hikes, runes, and bike rides. And we are always walking. We walk 5-6 miles on average most days;
-Buy an atlas and download offline maps. You will not always have service (especially in the National Parks);
-There is a wonderful community of full time travelers - connect with them and learn from each other!
We are so grateful to be on this journey, and we are constantly learning about how to effectively manage full time RV life. These are just some of the lessons we’ve learned up to this point, but we will keep sharing as we get farther into this journey!