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This week we celebrate our first nomadaversary–one year of full-time travel in our motorhome. In honor of that event, let’s talk about 12 things I learned from our first year of travel.
How it all began
On Monday, May 30th, 2016, we set off from the RV park near San Francisco, California where we lived for the previous 4 years. We sold or gave away a lot of stuff, including our only car, a shed to hold our bikes, and some furniture. We started driving and spent our first month of travel in Redding, California at an RV park that cost us less than $500 per month.
Since then we’ve been through 18 states and Washington, DC, many of them for the first time. Life isn’t always perfect, but I wouldn’t trade the past year for anything.
We also started a blog and watched it (and its following) grow. We started a business selling used books on Amazon (yes, you can do it even with limited space in an RV!). We’ve learned new things about ourselves, our RV and this wonderful, crazy United States of America.
Our inspiration and a lot of knowledge comes from RVers who started their full-time travel journey before us, and we always like to “pay it forward” by sharing what we’ve learned.
1. Buy the smallest RV you can comfortably live in for full-time travel.
Vehicles that are shorter (both length and height) are easier to move and will use less fuel to get to places. Also, a smaller RV will take less time to maintain, park, set up and break down wherever you camp. A 20-foot van might take 5 minutes to set up while a 40-foot 5th wheel with 3 slides could take an hour.
2. Own as little stuff as possible
Even in an RV, it’s possible to hoard stuff (we’ve seen it many times). It’s also possible to cram more stuff into an RV than it’s built to carry weight-wise, which is very dangerous. Make sure you don’t exceed manufacturer specifications for both cargo and towing. You will find over time you also need less stuff.
3. Watch the weather
Whenever you plan to drive, check the weather along your route. We also try to check the weather starting a day or 2 ahead of time, in case we need to leave early or stay longer. We avoided snow, huge rainstorms and tornadoes by checking the weather.
4. Visit friends and family
By taking detours or extending our time at a location, we were able to:
- Stop in Texas to see family I never met before (I have a LOT of relatives and they’re spread all over this country and others).
- I got to see my cousins in Tucson that I only get to see every few years.
- We made our first cross-country trip and went to a friend’s wedding (someone I hadn’t seen in 20 years).
- We went to our nation’s capital (Ryan’s first time) and got to hang out with my friend who moved there (post coming soon).
- Thrift shops for our book business where books were FREE or a few cents and gave us hundreds of dollars in profit.
- See my mom, who retired to the opposite coast and hadn’t been to California in 4 years.
If we rushed through or bypassed those opportunities, we would miss out on the enrichment it brought to our lives. When you travel full-time, you set your own pace. Try not to decide you’re too busy to take detours.
5. Don’t be afraid to learn and try new things
Even though we’ve been RVers for over 7 years, we won’t pretend we know everything. That’s just impossible. So at the risk of sounding stupid or naïve, we ask questions every chance so we can learn more. We try new things too–not just with our RV but in general. During the past year we laid new flooring, Ryan built furniture and we figured out how to fix all sorts of little things on our own.
We also tried all sorts of new food and restaurants, I did some upgrades to my road bike myself, and I shot a gun for the first time in Georgia. I also, for the first time ever, own a Facebook business page, a Pinterest account and an Instagram account.
For the past year, we also did not own a car for the first time since either of us got our driver’s licenses. Well, we have a “car” but it’s 35 feet long! We don’t own a tow vehicle and travelled everywhere on our bikes, using public transportation, and very occasionally renting a car.
And while I always created my own recipes, I usually just throw ingredients in without measuring, which makes them hard to share. Now, I measure, write them down, and share them on this blog.
6. Be flexible
Sometimes things don’t work out and plans have to change. You can get upset and stressed out, or you can remind yourself you have a home on wheels and a change of plans just means different adventures are awaiting you.
7. Keep up with maintenance and repairs
We try to troubleshoot whatever we can ourselves, but for jobs we know are beyond our skills we won’t hesitate to bring the RV to an expert. Sure, sometimes they mess it up (like with our brake job debacle) which means you have to carefully vet everyone you let touch your RV, and consider travelling further if there are no good options in your current area (and it’s safe to do so).
8. Bring internet with you
Driving for hours with a navigation app running on your phone is a data hog. We attach our phones to our WiFi hotspot while navigating. Also, campground WiFi is usually slow and overcrowded. It’s also good to have a back-up if one carrier doesn’t work in your area. We have Verizon phones and an AT&T hotspot, which covers us through most of the country.
9. It’s OK to make mistakes
As I said in #5, we don’t know everything. Be prepared to not always make the right choice. These things happen. To avoid them as much as possible, do your research from reliable sources and ask for advice from the RV community before making decisions you’re not sure about.
10. Choose experience over expense
I don’t suggest buying an RV in poor condition that you have to fix all the time (fix it before you start traveling). But I also don’t suggest getting the most expensive RV you think you can afford. Stressing over where the money for your next loan payment is coming from or living in Wal-Mart parking lots because you can’t afford a campground doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.
Also, don’t put all your money into buying your rig and have no emergency fund for maintenance and repairs. Even brand-new rigs break down.
11. Don’t let anyone convince you that you can’t travel full-time
If family and friends are not supportive, turn to the RV community for support in your decision. Naysayers are probably projecting their own fears and ignorance on your situation. They may even be jealous, or hoping they can prevent you from leaving because they’ll miss you.
There are very few barriers that can’t be overcome, including financial situations and chronic illness. If full-time travel is your dream, do your homework, plan and prepare, and do it. This is your life; don’t let others decide how you live it.
12. Don’t wait until it’s too late
This is our first year of travel but 7th year as RVers. We always thought we couldn’t travel because it was too expensive, we couldn’t find income, it would be too hard. Well guess what? It’s cheaper for us to travel full-time than it was to live in the San Francisco Bay Area full-time. I found a job that lets me work remotely, plus we are quickly building a business that will replace that income. And it’s easy, because we’re doing something we love.
Our biggest regret is not travelling full-time sooner. Don’t let it be yours, too!
What’s next for us
We will definitely keep travelling full-time! Thank you to everyone for their responses to the survey. Here are the categories that readers want to hear about:
- What it’s like to live in an RV. This subject is throughout most of the posts, but I will write a focused update soon.
- Ways to make money so you can travel full-time. If you are new to the blog, I recommend starting with our first post about our online business. If this route is not for you, not to fear; we will talk about other ways to make money as well. I also publish monthly income reports; one will come out this week.
- How much it costs to travel full-time. I publish monthly expense reports detailing where we stay, how much it costs and costs for other things like fuel and food. The expenses for April are in this post.
- Places we go. These posts occur 1-3 times per month. For some of our favorite places, you can read our post about Portland and Glass Beach.
- Food posts. The post in #4 is a good one. For recipes, visit the Recipes category at the top of any page.
- We also had a write-in vote for more information about any repairs we do. These posts are in the RV Renovation category.
If you didn’t have a chance to answer the survey and there’s a topic not listed above that you would like to hear more about, please feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also use the search box found in the right-hand column beside all posts. Type in your keyword and it will bring you to any related posts.