Do you think full-time solo RV living is glamorous? With all the vanlifers, full-timers and nomads filling up our Instagram feeds with their gorgeous photos, it can be tempting to think that living this type of lifestyle is a dream come true.
I’m not going to lie — it kind of is a dream come true for many of us out here and it is pretty glamorous at times (hence the term glamping, not camping). But as always, there is more to the story than just what you see on Instagram. The reality is that in between those picture perfect moments, a lot of hard lessons are learned living full-time on the road.
Even though I had a lot of practice on weekend or week long trips prior to hitting the road full-time, there was still a huge learning curve to overcome transitioning to full-time solo RV living. As much as I had practiced and felt prepared, I still didn’t anticipate having to learn some of these things the hard way.
My experience probably is not typical for a woman who is hitting the road as a full-time solo female traveler. Often I get asked, “Aren’t you too young to be retired?” (I’m not retired) or “Are you doing this all on your own?” (Yes I am and apparently that is strange to some people.)
Although, there are just as many ways of doing this thing as there are people, there are no right or wrong ways to do it. This journey of mine has been a natural progression of things; always something that I wanted to do, but never fully stepped out and did. Until, one day everything fell into place perfectly in my life and I saw my chance to take it and run with it. I haven’t looked back since and have never regretted my decision for one moment.
If you are considering choosing full-time solo RV living, here are some things to know before you go.
What to Know Before Choosing Full-Time Solo RV Living
Be comfortable with being uncomfortable
You have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable – really quick. As great as it is to be able to go anywhere you want at any time, wake up with amazing views and live an authentic life full of freedom, there is also a lot out here that is outside of your control. Mainly, the weather.
Extreme conditions, unfamiliar surroundings and venturing into the unknown can all be uncomfortable. Plus all of these things regularly play into this way of life. So, the sooner you learn to live being comfortable with being uncomfortable, the sooner you will begin to enjoy your new way of life.
You will also be learning a completely different way of doing things. You may not have a shower or internet on demand. You may not have electricity or running water. You have to pack and unpack every time you want to go somewhere. If you have pets, you might not just be able to leave them at home. Depending on the areas you decide to travel around, you might be sleeping in both below freezing temperatures as well as 100 degree days, all in the same week — trust me!
Things that you think will work, won’t and things that you thought you had figured out, you might have to relearn. Speaking with other people that are also full-time on the road, this is common. We all have so much to learn, no matter how much we have tried to learn or how much we have practiced, prior to choosing full-time solo RV living.
Maybe you are someone who will hit the road and immediately be living in comfort and luxury. For myself, and all the other people I have spoken to, this isn’t the case. The faster you learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, the better your experience will be as your journey gets underway.
Always have a Plan A, Plan B… AND a Plan C
You need to not only have a Plan A & B for absolutely everything, but also a Plan C – and I mean for EVERYTHING! What happens if you get to your campground and it is full? Then, where will you go – what’s your Plan B? What happens if Plan B is a place you can’t find? Then, what’s your Plan C?
At first when I hit the road, I thought Plan A & Plan B would be enough, but learned that when I am venturing into unknown territory, it never hurts to also have a Plan C. Having a Plan A, B AND a Plan C, helps to put my mind at ease that whenever I get somewhere new that I will have at least one option that is good.
This does not just apply to finding campsites and places to stay, but also goes for almost everything else you will be doing out on the road, including the basics such as cooking or showering.
When I first hit the road, it was my first long-term experience living without electricity. While I had a couple small options for power, I had not considered how those might work or not work for cooking (I know… dumb).
I had an induction cooktop burner, but not a powerful enough source to run it, and I refused to use propane (I’m stubborn). So, it was something I had to figure out. In that learning process, I learned how to campfire cook on wood, I learned how to start charcoal briquets in the wind, I bought a butane single burner (but couldn’t find butane fuel anywhere) and finally broke down and bought a propane camp stove. Among all of those options and others, I now have six options for cooking – and needless to say will never have a cold meal again.
Downsize & minimize (and then repeat, repeat, repeat)
No matter how hard you try to downsize before choosing full-time solo RV living, you will bring way too much stuff. It happens to everyone. No matter how good you think you are at minimizing, organizing, planning things out and only taking what you need, you will still overpack and you will bring too much stuff.
When I first started downsizing, I set up a pile in my living room of things that I would take on the road. I was intentional and purposeful in selecting each and every item. Before I added it to the pile of things to take, I asked myself if it was something I really needed, or wanted, to bring with me – like REALLY wanted or needed. I thought about what life would be like from day to day and how often that item would serve its purpose.
Then, when I finished the pile I went through and pulled about a quarter of it back out. So, I truly thought I was downsizing the best that I could. Since hitting the road, I have purged the tiny house maybe three more times, eliminating even more items from my 70 square feet of living space that I had originally thought I needed to bring. Instead, those things had just become more clutter in my tiny home that I wanted to get out of the way.
Embrace slow travel
Another one of the things I wish I would have known before hitting the road is that you don’t have to see everything all at once. When I first hit the road, I had a list of places I wanted to go and things I wanted to see. For some crazy reason, I decided that I had to go to all of these things in the next six weeks. Why did I put that kind of timeline on myself? Because, I wasn’t used to this kind of travel.
In my previous corporate life, I only ever had limited amounts of time for travel, so it took me a while to wrap my mind around the idea that I didn’t have to rush back home when I was done seeing something. I could continue on — at my own pace — and see whatever it is that I want to see. I’m learning to embrace slow travel.
Ready to embrace slow travel? Check out some road trip ideas here.
There are more good people out there than bad
There are not scary men with knives waiting in the bushes to kill you along every roadside. Domestic violence statistics show the staggering number of women — as well as men — in danger in relationships, making full-time solo RV living appealing for many women especially. Sometimes the danger is more likely found in our own homes than out on the road.
While I wouldn’t encourage you to jump into life on the road naively, I also will tell you that within the first few weeks of being on the road my faith in humanity was completely restored. I had no idea that I even needed that, but as cynical as I was about people, I quickly learned there are more good people out there than there are bad.
The time I hit the road was right before some major holidays. Luckily, I was still within distance of being able to travel back and spend those holidays with family. However, the people that surrounded me didn’t know that. They were out on the road too. Within just days, I received two invitations to holiday dinner from complete strangers.
People were so concerned that I would be alone on the holiday, that they invited me to join them for theirs. My heart was glad and although I had to kindly decline both invitations, I learned that being on the road means you are not leaving a supportive community of people behind, it means you are gaining an entirely new community of support –one that is full of people that understand and are doing what you do.
Life on the road might be harder than life as you know it now
When it comes to things you should know before choosing full-time solo RV living, this is a big one! Life on the road is not as footloose and fancy free as most people believe it to be. It takes a lot of time planning, researching and learning new ways of doing things. In fact, you might find living on the road is more difficult than life as you know it now.
You are going to have things to contend with, not only geographically speaking, but physically, mentally and emotionally as well. I thought I would just hit the road and have all the time in the world to myself to focus on the things I wanted to get done. I didn’t anticipate the amount of additional time it would take to do the day-to-day things that I need to do in my new lifestyle.
Add to that the frustration of having to chase down an internet connection, a laundromat, a shower, dumping your own tanks or hauling your own water, and we are talking about a whole lot of extra hours every week that you are devoting to simply managing this new lifestyle.
But just like anything else, what takes time to learn at first, eventually becomes second nature and your new normal. What seems difficult and tedious at the start, will eventually just become a new part of what you are now doing and will be easily incorporated into your new life.
Everything is going to be okay
For anyone, male or female, leaving the traditional lifestyle, society and ways of living, for life on the open road is a risk. You are literally venturing into the unknown. You are trading a sure thing for an unsure thing. You are trading the normal, acceptable, societal ways of doing things for a new path – one of which you may have no one to follow.
You may not know where you are going from day-to-day. You may not know how to answer the questions that people will ask you. But the trade off is this: living this way, you may come to feel that you are truly living.
I feel it daily, often have tears in my eyes from overwhelming gratitude for this life I get to live as a full-time solo traveler. For me, everything is okay — better than okay actually! If you are thinking about hitting the road, it is possible that everything is going to be okay for you too.
To travel is to live.
It has been eight months that I have been enjoying full-time solo RV living on the open road but in many ways, I feel my journey has just begun. As much as I practiced, planned, researched and prepared prior to hitting the road, these are several of the things I wish I would have known before choosing full-time solo RV living.
Let this be an encouragement to you if you are thinking of doing the same. There is no right or wrong way of doing this. Each person’s path is their own unique way of getting to this point. You will have your own things to learn along the way as well, but hopefully just a few less now that you have given me the chance to share what I have learned along the way on my journey so far.