Traveling is stressful. The journey is amazing when you look back at it but getting there can be less than ideal at times. We enjoy our final destinations and love going to new places, although we recognize that there are some downfalls to traveling, which I will describe below. The order is fluid, much like traveling, changing as the situation warrants it. At times, one stressor may be more apparent in a state then in other states. If stressors were fixed, it would be easy to just fix a few of them. That’s part of the journey, adjusting to each stressor in stride.
1. Finding a Place to Stay the Night: This one is hit or miss, depending on the states we’re in. In the western states, boondocking options are abundant, rest areas are more open to overnight camping, and space is everywhere. As you move east, space is at a premium and it becomes much harder to find places to stay the night. We’ve gotten much better at this with experience. There have been times we’ve had to keep driving in order to find something that worked, a definite stressor in bad weather or when it’s dark.
Always read up on state rules. Many states don’t allow many hours at a rest area. Be respectful of places you do find that are nice enough to let you stay. Some helpful options include:
Wal-Mart: Be respectful and even call ahead to determine if they allow overnight resting
Texas Picnic Areas: These are great for overnight traveling around Texas
Parking Areas: You can find these on various maps or at freecampsites.net
Beaches: The Gulf of Mexico offers a lot of public camping on beaches. These beaches are safer because the sand is much more compact in areas.
Bass Pro Shops & Cabelas: These places are amazing. They are the one stop shop to get gear for the RV, get some new clothes, and even eat at their restaurants.
National Monuments and National Parks: Sometimes you can stay in their visitor centers
Casinos: These are some of my favorites because they have on-site food and entertainment.
2. Finding a Place to Dump Tanks: You don’t want to be driving around with a full black tank. That extra weight is cumbersome and bad for gas mileage. Looking at sanidumps.com is a great option for finding a place near you. Sometimes you will have to pay a campground to dump if they offer those services. There are a few places to keep an eye out for a dump site:
Gas Stations: Many gas stations offer a free dump. Pilot and Flying J stations will often have a paid option. Remember to have all things hooked up if doing the paid one. Timer starts immediately.
Rest Areas: This one is a surprise. There have been a few nice rest areas with a free dump.
Blue Boy: Have one of these and you can dump your black and grey tanks into these and dump them into pit toilets or dump stations without having to move the trailer.
Campground or RV parks that offer $10 or less dump prices.
3. Finding Water: This one is always a stressor if boondocking or dry camping a lot. If you know you’re going to be heading out to a boondocking place with little water around, try to fill up ahead of time, followed by filling up backup jugs of water you carry separately. We like to fill up three 5-gallon jugs and put them in the back of the truck. It sucks to run out of water and need to find a place when your system is sputtering. For more information in finding water, check out our guide to finding water here.
4. Setting Up and Breaking Down Camp: This one is a pain because of the differing times RV parks and campgrounds have checkout time. It’s just like leaving a hotel, except you have your entire life with you. It’s time consuming to go through all the pre-trip checklists involving torque and air in tires, hitch setup, moving stuff to the bed to avoid breaking, etc. We have developed a solid routine that makes this process much less painful then it was early in our travels, but it doesn’t make it any less stressful.
5. Finding the Right Gas Stations: Many people probably think of this one as an odd one, but it stresses me out a lot. If we were a standalone RV, this process would be easier, but we’re towing a 21-foot trailer, so the ideal positioning of the pumps is key for us. We need a gas station to have their pumps parallel with the road or if they are perpendicular, they need to have an access road that allows us to exit the other side or not have the building directly in front of the pumps. We’ve been stuck in one, having to go down a tiny alley to get out.
Take some time and look at some of the gas stations in this country and notice that at times a 90-degree sharp turn is needed to make it out of the pump. We fear these and are always looking for gas stations that are RV friendly. If traveling on freeways, this is easy to do with TA, Flying J, and Pilot across the country. Since we travel down a lot of backroads or less populated areas, it becomes more difficult.
6. Making Sure You Can Get Out: This is another one of my biggest stressors. I’m always fearful that I’m going to go into a place that has no outlet and have to backup a long way to get back out. Unfortunately, this happened recently at the Oregon Coast. I was more excited about showing Kristen an iconic rocky outcrop when I turned into the viewing parking lot not realizing it had no outlet. I immediately stopped when I noticed and had to back up around a corner onto the highway. My backup skills are much better than when we began this journey, but the fear from when we first started has stuck with me. It's not something you want to do often.
7. Avoiding City Traffic: Anyone who drives an RV knows and fears this. We have tried to time our avoidance of major cities' rush hours as best we can, but it’s not always that easy. A major mismanagement of timing occurred during the rush hour traffic of Houston, Texas. Hours of this stressful driving, towing a travel trailer, made my shoulders, neck, and back ache tremendously. Try to avoid city traffic as best you can if towing anything. People drive terribly and have no concern that it takes you longer to stop.
8. Dealing with Dirt all the Time: I feel like I’m in a never-ending losing battle with dirt. I try to sweep, vacuum, or dust daily but it doesn’t matter. You will always lose. It makes me wonder how much dust was in our house before that I missed because I couldn’t see it. In an RV, it’s apparent with the space being so tiny. We have our windows open more in a trailer, along with a fan that is circulating mass amounts of air constantly. The combination is ideal for sucking in and placing dirt in every possible space. I’ll admit, I’m a bit of neat freak, having to dust or vacuum constantly. Having a portable Dyson hand vacuum is key for this job.
9. Weather: We’ve become weather junkies now that we travel. We’re always stressed about the upcoming weather. It didn’t help that our first year of traveling was during a polar vortex. Every time we tried to avoid cold, the area froze around us. People would just tell us this wasn’t normal for the area. If we were in a dry desert area, they would have freakishly large amounts of rain that lead to large washouts and fears of getting stuck. Our biggest fear came in Sedona, AZ when we were boondocking out in the red sand desert. A ranger stopped by telling us to evacuate because we were camping in a washout spot because 4 days of rain were expected, starting that night. We couldn’t leave that night, so we held out till the next day. Hooking up was terrifying with the ground starting to become overly spongy. Luckily our 4x4 got us out.
A second situation happened on Enid Lake in Mississippi. It rained 7 inches in a few days, causing flooding in two rivers that flowed into that lake. The water went up near the trailer after being hundreds of feet lower a few days prior. If you’re traveling, paying attention to the weather is key, but it doesn’t always help because situations arise that are out of your control and you must adjust as best as possible.
10. Maintenance: This one is always a stressor as I know or learn the things that I must do to keep everything in top shape. Having to get on the ladder and clean solar panels can be a stressor for me in the winter months when it’s cold and I’d rather be inside. Having to remember to re-seal the trailer, always watch for potential leak spots, re-grease the wheel bearings, and check the brakes. Having pre-check items like torque and air in the tires, waxing the entire trailer a couple of times a year, sanitizing the water system, and washing it often, start to add up. There’s a lot of time that needs to be put into the upkeep. I've been stressed about having to wax the entire trailer but washed and waxed it the other day and it was well worth it. The scratches we acquired from boondocking near Zion National Park came out.
Although these top 10 stressors are always there in one form or another, they don’t hinder us from traveling at all. If anything, we simply do our best to optimize the numbers above and counter issues as they arise. Taking it one day at a time helps, but does lead to some pileups, so planning for these issues is also key. Finding the right balance to deal with these stressors is itself a full-time job, but rewarding, nonetheless.