By Mitch R.
Since beginning our RV adventure, many friends and family have asked us, “How’s life on the road?” and “How is your life different now compared to living in one place?” The answer is complicated, but having now completed almost three months on the road, we can better describe how our lives and our lifestyles have changed since leaving our “sticks & bricks house.” Some of these differences we anticipated, but many we didn’t.
Perusing this question for my first blog post, the lyrics of the Talking Heads song, ”Once in a Lifetime,” came to me:
And you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?
And you may tell yourself
MY GOD! WHAT HAVE I DONE!?
Although we have embarked on a great “once in a lifetime” adventure, some aspects of it are far from the beautiful life and house we had before. Not that we’re complaining, but such an adventure requires some adjustments. Fortunately, we both have a spirit for adventure and welcome change and new experiences.
First and foremost, the biggest change is that we are driving our house! Picture, if you will, what life would be like if every time you needed to have your car worked on, you had no place to live. That is truly the essence of full-time RVing: you do whatever you can to avoid having to get your vehicle serviced.
Self sufficiency and industriousness are key ingredients of successful RV life. When we left our home, we packed a small bag of what we thought would be essential tools – hammers, screwdrivers, allen wrenches, measuring tape, drill, wire cutters, pliers, etc. We also brought useful items like Velcro strips, duct tape, flashlights, and cable ties. These have come in handy already in numerous ways. Also some tools I threw in just for kicks have become essential – like a crimping tool and a digital multimeter, which have impressed many a customer service representative.
It’s amazing even to me, an electrical engineer, how much of the RV subsystems are managed ultimately by electronics. However, I quickly had to purchase numerous items I didn’t envision needing, such as a wide variety of fuses, square allen wrenches, metal-piercing drill bits, a wire hacksaw, and a crow bar. We have become very resourceful and have learned a great deal about the inner workings of our RV, including the HVAC, plumbing, electrical systems, and uncountable other sub-components.
This leads me to the next important fact about RVing (mentioned in Valerie’s previous blogposts): When you buy a new RV, it’s under warranty just like a car would be. However, warranty issues are handled much differently than they are in automobiles. When you buy an RV, the vehicle is such an agglomeration of components and subassemblies from dozens of different manufacturers, that quite often when something goes wrong, the warranty repair or replacement work must be handled by the sub-system manufacturer, not the RV manufacturer. It takes time, experience, and extreme patience before you even figure out which company you should be calling. (“Press 1 to for repairs, press 2 for parts, press 3 for sales, press 0 otherwise and wait another 20 minutes before a person, who probably won’t be able to help you, answers the phone.”)
In the two plus months that we’ve been on the road, despite the 15 pounds of manuals onboard, we’ve had to call most of these companies several times: Thor (RV maker), Freightliner (chassis), RVComfort (HVAC thermostat), RVIBrake (auxiliary braking system for tow vehicle), Winegard (mobile satellite management), DirecTV (obvi, right?), Jensen (sound and navigation system), True Induction (stove top), and TriMark (keyless entry/security system). Numerous other problems merely required consulting the owner’s manuals: Magnum (energy management), AquaHot (water heater), Fisher & Paykel (dishwasher), Dimplex (fireplace) and I’ve had to open and study every one of the five fuse boxes in the vehicle. In our sack-full-o’-manuals, only five of them have we not yet had to peruse. Quality kudos go to Cummings (engine), Allison (transmission), Thetford (toilets) – three big thumbs up and “phews” there – as well as Whirlpool (washer and dryer) and Kwikee (electric steps).
The next lesson of life on the road has been allocating time to make all the phone calls necessary to understand why something has failed and how to fix it, and then allocating additional time to fix it. I have found that early mornings are often the best time for these endeavors; people seem easier to reach and they are more likely to return your call that day. Mornings have also become my project and repair time.
In the early days of our travel, almost every morning was devoted to either a repair project or multiple problem diagnoses with the help of telephone support staff. A few people now recognize my name when I call, and a couple even have given me their personal cell phone numbers to call them directly. I seriously can’t imagine how someone who isn’t reasonably handy and intelligent could maintain an RV, even a new one. I imagine that owners must simply let things break and not repair things that aren’t mission critical. Indeed, considering my experiences renting RVs in the past – that is EXACTLY what they do!
Being a Type A perfectionist might be a detriment to my sanity in this new RV life, but from a maintenance standpoint, it keeps me ahead of the curve on repairs, and behold, the list of problems is not increasing as rapidly as it used to! Our first list of repair issues totaled 24 after just one night in the RV. The second list, compiled over the next 5 weeks (including several weeks when the RV was sitting idle), totaled 28 items. In the next 6 weeks, we’ve only added another 12 items to the list. Looks like progress!
As far as lifestyle, it’s hard to find time to do things that used to be routine. Arriving in new places so often, we are excited to get out and explore. It feels like being on an extended vacation to endless new destinations (except we do have to work!).
One of the big adjustments we had to make was to pace ourselves. When we first mapped out our itinerary, we planned to do everything we wanted within a year. We quickly realized we didn’t have enough time for exploring AND taking care of business. We had to reluctantly decide to skip certain places and events entirely. Even so, we clearly cannot do it all in one year, or even 18 months. As a result, we are seriously considering extending our travels for two or three years.
While we have scheduled more time to take care of business without missing the sights, it’s still challenging to find time for things like exercise, reading, and catching up with distant family and friends. In just over 2 months, we drove 11,000 miles, which amounts to roughly 30 hours per week. That’s like a six-hour commute to work and back five days a week. Granted, this commute time includes sightseeing and getting to fun destinations, but we hadn’t considered how it eats away our days.
RVing can be a sedentary life style. We don’t belong to gyms anymore, so regular exercise becomes more challenging. To combat this, we try to walk or run every day, and we bought a set of variable weight Bowflex dumbells. They don’t take up much space (very important in an RV) and can be adjusted so that the user is lifting from 5 to 52.5 pounds each. Fortunately, neither of us watched very much television prior to RV life so that hasn’t changed, which keeps us from spending even more time sitting down.
Planning healthy meals can also be a challenge due to the limits in our kitchen of a two-burner stovetop and a small microwave/convection oven combo. We find ourselves eating out more than we used to because we are often getting together with long-lost friends or family members. Even when it is just the two of us, our desire to experience the local cuisine and nightlife of the places we visit drives us to eat out. Getting enough exercise and eating right are even more challenging than before.
One final and particularly difficult adjustment is the fact that RVers as a whole seem to be morning people – and we definitely are not! RV parks have check-out times similar to hotels, meaning your rig must be buttoned up and on the road by 11AM, typically. We learned the hard way our first week of travel that driving the RV after dark is a scary and risky undertaking, so now as a rule we are docked by dusk. That means it’s tough to do any exploring or sightseeing on travel days.
Additionally, quiet hours at RV parks are typically from 10PM to 7AM. We would love to see a two hour shift on these hours, but alas, we appear to be in the minority. To our dismay, we found some RV parks even lock the gates at 10PM so you’re locked in (or out!) until the next morning!
Despite the challenges and misalignments with some of our personal routines, we love the RV life! I call it living like a turtle – you take your home with you wherever you go. Hopefully the RV life will love us back: the problems with our rig will diminish and we’ll figure out more efficient ways to balance work, driving, exploring, eating well, and exercising. It’s certainly a big adjustment from the life we used to live, but we are reveling in the opportunity and are motivated to adjust our lives to find the right balance.
RV life definitely is not the “same as it ever was…same as it ever was.” But this *is* our beautiful life!
Want to read our adventures from the beginning? Start here.
Want some more perspective on our story? See our About Us page.