Traveling full time is exciting and freeing, becoming more of an option that people are exploring prior to retirement. Housing costs are increasing at an unsustainable amount, leading to a new housing bubble crisis in the future. Rental options are more and more limited and are increasing in the same housing inflation bubble. Due to these issues, many are turning to alternative ways of living, not just for the freedom it affords but also the decreased costs of being nomadic.
As the nomadic lifestyle becomes more accessible or necessary, there are issues that arise. The dynamic of traveling is constantly shifting, leading to many unforeseen consequences or hurdles that will need to be addressed with the growing population of nomads. Before making the jump to full time traveling, there are a few things to consider. It’s not all unicorns and rainbows but can be with the proper planning and expectations.
Here are some factors to consider before making the jump:
1. Difficulty getting into RV parks:
As more and more people travel full time, RV parks available are having more difficulty meeting demands. This can be stressful during various peak seasons of each state. You’ll have to research peak seasons of each state. Some states have higher rates in winter as they are the go-to for sunbirds. Other states, like Oregon have higher rates during the summer due to the cooler climate. Be prepared and plan. This means making reservations weeks, months, and sometimes even a year in advance. It may seem crazy, but if you want to spend your winter in Florida, you better have reservations a year in advance or it will be difficult to find a place.
2. Cost of Gas:
Traveling full time is costly when it comes to gas. This will depend on the size of your vehicle and type. A Class A will get far less gas mileage than a travel trailer for instance. Cost of gas varies by state. The general idea is that the cost of gas from Texas, and to the East, is cheaper. Gas on the West Coast is overly expensive, making travel much more expensive. The caveat is that there is more BLM and other free land to park on in the west, so finding a balance is key. States like Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico are the best balance of gas, price, and free land.
3. Maintenance and Repairs:
Things break often or require constant maintenance when traveling full time. The constant movement in your RV causes things to break or weaken over time. This will need to be fixed or addressed somehow. An RV experiences a mild earthquake each time it drives on the road. Imagine the force exerted over the course of a full year of travel. Other maintenance factors are anode cleaning for the hot water, sanitization of your water tank, constant torque and air pressure monitoring, re-doing seals around the entire RV, and waxing and washing. It’s a busy process but worth it with a planned schedule of tasks.
4. Tight Shared Quarters:
I don’t care how many people think that living together or alone in a tiny space is no problem. It will have some downsides at one point. When living with another in close quarters, there are more struggles, such as having to play limbo to get around each other or cook together. This is obviously less of an issue for those with massive Class A or Class B RVs. For many of us with smaller RVs, Vans, or Cars, size is a factor to consider. Many people look at our 21 foot and think, I couldn’t live in that. We tell them, look at how you live at home and do the math on how much square feet you actually use. For us, we were always on the couch with the TV and gaming systems, kitchen, or bathroom. The square footage used was small compared to the rest of the house. Living small made sense for us. For others, it may be a deterrent, so it’s a major factor to consider when deciding to downsize and travel full time.
Furthermore, being around someone constantly is a stressor. This can either strengthen relationships or break them. A helpful tip is to utilize your outdoor space. You have it, so use it to take some you time. Other ways to split space is to have one person in one half doing something while the other is reading or watching their own shows. Having some separation is not only beneficial, but necessary in a small space.
5. Living with Less:
This factor can be stressful for many used to having everything with them in their 4,000 square foot house. Living tiny, means downsizing, which you can learn about here. Maybe you can’t bring the smoker and the BBQ but even more sad is that 60” 4K TV can’t come with you. These were my sad face factors. Downsizing to a small TV was extremely difficult but has been worth it. You can’t bring tons of dishes or cooking appliances. Try to get appliances that act as multi-use pieces, such as an Instant-Pot Mini.
We had to give up the giant Kitchen-Aid Mixer. I now actually whisk things by hand, which has worked out just fine. There is an appliance for everything, which eats up counter space or storage space, meaning you can’t take much with you. We’ve come up with ways to blend and mix more effectively, such as using a hand immersion blender in a silicone measuring cup. We have the measuring cup and can use the hand blender for making sauces, salsas, and soups with ease. Having items work in multiple ways is a necessity when living tiny.
6. Finding a Place to Stay:
Not everyone can stay at an RV park. The costs are high, often reduced by memberships like Passport America, but not always an option. For many, boondocking or dry camping is the main method of stay because of solar and/or cost. This is much easier as communities grow in places like Yuma or Quartzsite. Not everyone can make the travel to these locations, so finding places in their area becomes more of a necessity. Checking sites like freecampsites is helpful to find those great places you can stay at for 2 weeks at a time. Be aware that the West side of the country is more open to free camping. If boondocking or dry camping are what you want, make the journey west to Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California.
7. Finding Water:
If you’re boondocking, finding water is a factor you must consider. You will need to fill up prior to going to your open site and follow it up by finding more water as your stay continues. More information can be found here on finding water. Conservation of water becomes another factor when boondocking. Washing dishes with little water usage, showering military style, and flushing with the least amount of water are all factors to consider.
8. Finding a dumpsite:
The other major factor that goes with water is finding a place to empty your black and grey tank. Dumpsites are in various locations, some being free at rest areas or gas stations. At times you will need to pay to dump at a campground, which offers this service to outside guests. A helpful option for those boondocking a lot is to purchase a blue boy. This giant blue container allows you to fill it up with the black tank and grey tank, hauling it off to a dumpsite without having to move your entire RV or trailer.
9. Dealing with the Stress of Traveling:
This one is made up of things many of us don’t consider until we’ve traveled, such as getting in and out of gas stations, dealing with dirt all the time, and long-distance traveling. You can read more about stressors I experience when traveling here. When traveling, factors like the wind are things you must consider. If towing a travel trailer, the trailer acts like a giant sail behind you, taking the wind and moving you and the trailer. Speeds then must be adjusted, usually at or under 60 mph always. Due to the lower speeds, semis scream past you creating a suction that pulls you in and spit you out to the right. The west coast locks towing vehicle speeds at 55 mph but in other states speeds are 75 to 80 mph. This includes semis, as when a semi’s wind force at 80 mph and you at 60 mph causes tremendous force differences that require holding firm to the steering wheel. Managing these forces for several hours is draining, a major factor to consider when driving long distances. We tend to avoid highways so that we can see rural America, but this isn’t always possible, or it takes 4 times as long to get somewhere, further increasing gas costs. Traveling has many unforeseen and foreseeable stressors, which are factors to consider when deciding to make the leap to full time travel.
10. Dealing with Weather:
Weather is a major factor when living full time in an RV. Some RVs are built for 4 seasons, but these marketing gimmicks are often not the case. Being aware of the seasons and countering them becomes a constant struggle. You may think that being in the desert means you’re safe, but a surprise storm can create massive washouts or ground that becomes unstable. Many an RV has been stuck due to these factors. Other times, freezing temperatures can easily freeze the pipes and cause them to crack, which can be an expensive fix. Keeping a water hose attached to your RV when it freezes, causes the water forced inside to freeze and expand, ripping holes in places or breaking your system. Knowing when to unhook water, wrap pipes, place heaters in certain places, not use a water pump when things are frozen, etc. are all factors to remember when dealing with freezing temperatures. Hot temperatures have their own struggles. You can move up in elevation as temperatures rise, but if that’s not an option, then dealing with heat in a box is stressful. Windows open, fans going, and water wraps on your neck are the main option for boondockers. For others, getting reservations for places in the summer is a necessity in hot places due to the immense need for A/C.
These 10 factors are a baseline of what to consider if deciding to travel full time. We’ve discovered these factors as we’ve traveled and hope that they provide others, deciding to make this nomadic transition, with some helpful guidance in preparing for these changes. If you know what’s to come, the stress becomes less of an issue than being blindsided. Even with all these factors and the stresses they’ve caused, we wouldn’t change a thing. It’s been part of the adventure.