Before you think you can just jump on the bandwagon and live in an RV full-time, there are a few things you need to learn to accept and manage. The open road has many twists and turns, but these 5 things will undoubtedly throw you for a few loops if you don’t learn how to deal.
1. All Creatures… Great and Small
You will be combating insects of every type, shape, and danger level. There will be spiders, ants, mosquitos, gnats, and bees. They will hunt you down for the animal that you are and they will suckle your fear-teats for all the sweet nectar your humanity has to offer. At some point you will lose food, your peace of mind, and possibly some blood to these creatures.
With a little research online, you’ll find that for whatever insects plague your rig, someone else has already come across them and learned to deal with them. With a little time and experience, you will also learn all sort of ingenious ways to stay safe and combat these pesky critters.
If you stay in the U.S. and stay away from city zoos, you’ll most likely be able to avoid the lions and tigers… but there will be raccoons, opossum, and bears (oh my!). This is called “nature” and, whether you live in an RV or in a cabin in the woods, you just need to deal with it.
Do a little research about the areas you are going to visit. Read up on some self-defense tactics against wildlife—go buy an air horn, some bear mace, a snake bite kit, and a storm whistle and carry them with you when you go on excursions. This does not mean you can approach the first mountain lion you see to get an Instagram photo. You’re still going to be dealing with very dangerous creatures, but you don’t have to live in a bubble.
2. Shit Happens… No Really.
Everyone poops. When you live full-time in an RV, you will be dealing with poop at some point. Whether it’s coming from your pets, your guests, your children, your partner, or your own body… shit will happen.
You will see the poop when you empty your tanks. You will smell it when the wind is right or when your cabin pressure changes. When visiting a public dumping station, you will smell the poop of all those who have come before you. You will learn that your partner (no matter how cute, frail, or proper they might be) is capable to producing some of the foulest scents known to man.
There will be times when it gets on your hands. There will be times when it gets on your clothes. There will even be times when it sticks in your nose. You hope that’s not a literal statement, but one day… while you’re spraying out your black tank, thinking about how life is just ducky, you’ll misjudge the water pressure by just a little bit and—splish!—poop on your face. It’ll happen. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow… but mark my words: there will be poop… on your face.
3. Space Is Limited
You will not have enough space for everything you want. You’ll have to decide what to take and what to leave behind. The best you’ll get in an RV is about 450 square feet of living space—and that’s if you’re “lucky” enough to own one of those 43 foot road beasts. To cramp things even more, there are some things the RV itself requires—like tools, hoses, and leveling materials if you don’t have built-in levelers. That leaves very little space for you and your travel companions to use for all your food, dishes, clothing, and “stuff.”
As you’re packing the rig for your journey, you will also find yourself questioning your travel companions’ sense of priorities by the things they deem absolutely necessary to survive. Before you react in a rage, take a moment to think about things you’re trying to squirrel away.
Do you really need a CD spindle that’s only half full? Wouldn’t it be better put them in a carrying case or find a smaller spindle? Is it possible that the two cubic feet of space your dusty unused juicer is taking up might be better filled with five or six things that you actually use on a daily basis? And what about grandma’s fine china? Wouldn’t that be safer if you just left it at home?
There are many clever ways to maximize the space you have in your RV, but the best method of all is to decide whether you really need to find space for it in the first place. You just can’t take everything.
4. Those With Whom You Roam
No matter how much you love the one you’re with… there will be a moment or two (or perhaps more) when you just want to take your coffee mug and beat in their teeth. You need to never act on these impulses. Understand that your partner is the same person you loved and cared about yesterday—even if they are an unbearable monster today. A travel companion will help make your nomadic journey a rich and joyous experience.
You’re going to learn a lot about your companions—for better or worse. Their idiosyncrasies will become endearing and maddening, but when they’re gone you won’t be able to envision your journey without them. What you need to do on a daily basis is remember their importance, accept their differences, find mature solutions, and learn how to keep the peace. It’s not going to be easy but it will pay off in the end.
5. You’ve Been Wasting Resources Your Whole Life
If you venture into the dry camping / boondocking / parking lot surfing categories of RV life, you’ll want to pay special attention to your resources. Be it money, food, electricity, internet bandwidth, or water… you will begin to watch every shred of your resources and you will realize how much slips through your fingers when you go about your daily life.
You know how you’re taught to conserve water by turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth? That will be taken to a new extreme when you begin to learn how to brush your teeth with the water pump off, using only what’s left in the pipe. Mike has mastered this in our rig. He can wash all of our morning coffee accessories with what’s left in the pipe. Go him.
For you, a lukewarm, 5-minute drip-n-rinse shower will become the norm and you’ll be super happy the first time everyone in the rig can bathe without raising the gray water level indicator light. Revel in the fact that while your friends in California “deal with” water restrictions, a conventional shower head uses 5-8 gallons of water per minute, and you comfortably average only two gallons of water a day (not counting what you drink). After you’ve run out of water and propane a few times, a fifteen minute hot shower will become a special treat, only to be experienced when you’re visiting with friends or when you “splurge” for a night at a “real campground.”
No matter how you slice it, you are in for some big changes when you move into your rig full time. Some of it may sound horrible, but it’s really awesome when you make a game of it. Focus on the fact that you’re experiencing more and impacting the world less than most people, even if you drive your house everywhere you go.