What they don't tell you about living on the road
What should you know about living on the road? We asked Michelle from Making Sense of Cents! Tips on RVing with family, working on the road, & more.
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Michelle from Making Sense of Cents is living on the road in an RV, just like us. It’s an awesome way to live, but there are certain things about this lifestyle that may not appear so obvious. Today, Michelle takes some time to share some interesting topics they don’t tell you about living on the road.
In July of 2015, me and my husband did something crazy, something that I never thought we would do.
We bought an RV and started living on the road.
I never thought that I would be an RVer. Even as a kid, I never thought about this unique way of life once. I had never even hopped into an RV until we started looking at them.
And now, I’m having the best time while on the road.
The year when we first started looking at RVs, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. Since we were traveling a lot, we wanted to devise a plan where we could be more comfortable while bringing our dogs everywhere with us and so I thought RVing would be a fun way to travel part-time. By no means did I ever think we could make this living and travel arrangement a long term plan.
I quickly fell in love with the RV lifestyle. And, shortly after we bought our RV and we made living in it, year round, a reality.
We sold our family home and put everything in storage (we have since gotten rid of the storage unit). After that, we were free to go and left for a life filled with travel and living on the road.
Many people think we're crazy, and living on the road may not be normal. However, I wouldn’t want life to be any other way. So long live our former, more traditional domestic lifestyle!
We truly have it made. My husband and I have traveled to some really great places in just the year and a half that we’ve been RVing. To share some highlights below, we have been to places such as:
- The Pacific Northwest (my husband cycled 1,000 miles from Port Angeles, Washington to San Francisco, California, while I drove myself and our two dogs in our RV). We went to Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, Kalaloch and Ruby Beach, Hoh National Rainforest, La Push Beach, and many other beautiful places. This is still my favorite RV trip and I can't wait to do it again.
- Utah (many times) – Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Moab, and many other places.
- Colorado (many times) – Rocky Mountain National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado National Monument, Dinosaur National Monument, and many other places.
- Arizona – Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Sedona, and Phoenix.
- California – We park/beach hopped along the ocean highway and that was fantastic.
- Wyoming – Yellowstone National Park and Grand Tetons National Park.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
I still find living on the road to be very new to us, and we’ve learned a lot of things in just the short amount of time that we’ve been RVing. So, here’s what you should know about living in this unique way.
RVing costs can be as high or low as you want them to be.
I've found that there are two types of people that ask questions about RVing (these are not people who RV), and surprisingly, these two types are very different.
The first type generally thinks that RVing is extremely cheap, and usually thinks that only people down on their luck or out of a job would ever do it. Trust me, you’ll hear a lot of Breaking Bad jokes when you live in an RV. And, no matter how nice your motorhome is, you’ll hear “Your RV looks just like the one from Breaking Bad!” Why wouldn’t people think that’s an insult!?
The type on the other end of the spectrum tends to think that RVing requires a ton of money and that you need a trust fund and/or some great luck in order to live on the road.
It's funny how completely opposite people think, but it's true.
How much money do you need to live on the road?
We find that RVing can be extremely cheap or it can be very expensive depending on the way you go about living in one. Follow the link if you're interested in knowing how much it costs to RV. Luckily, there’s a spot for pretty much everyone to make RVing a reality and you are free to spend as much or as little money to make this alternative lifestyle work.
Because everyone travels a little differently, there is no standard budget for living in an RV. There are, however, common expenses you should be aware of before pursuing this lifestyle option.
First, the cost of your RV is one of the biggest expenditures you’ll have to make. You will either want to rent or buy your RV and after that, you will also have to pay for license and registration fees, property taxes, regular maintenance, and insurance.
Fuel is another item to add to the list of expenses. Typically, my husband and I spend around $200 per month on fuel, but we owe that in part to the relatively cheap cost of fuel these days.
Other considerations are the fees associated with living at campgrounds or RV parks. My husband and I have been fortunate to find great free camp stays throughout our RV journey, or we have even parked outside of homes belonging to our family friends.
You don't need all your stuff.
When we first started RVing, we came across many other RV couples who told us that RV storage space is near non-existent and that we would have a problem storing stuff.
This is far from the truth. We have probably 30-40% of our cabinets still empty, and we can’t even think of what else we could possibly store!
We still need to work on getting rid of some of our stuff and downsizing, because we feel that we don’t even need all that we have now!
Trust me, you really don’t need that much stuff.
You'll have an instant connection with other RVers.
RVers are some of the nicest people that you will ever meet. We’ve made great friends that are both young and old, and from all backgrounds. It is really easy to make meaningful relationships with people while on the road. RVing really brings everyone together!
Plus, whenever we meet new RVers, it’s as though we are long lost friend or even family members. There’s always an instant connection, lots of laughs after just a few moments of meeting each other, and going our separate ways (a normal thing in RV life). While my husband and I make a concerted effort to stay in touch via email, it’s always sad to say goodbye.
When we first started RVing (literally like a week in), we had a young couple knock on our door and ask us if we wanted to hang out with them for drinks that night. We had never met them before, but they said they saw us come into the campground and that they wanted to hang out.
This is completely normal when living in an RV, and it’s happened to us quite a few times.
Always add a few hours to whatever the GPS says.
If your GPS says that it will take 5 hours to get somewhere, you should expect 6 or 7, or even 8 hours in order to be realistic. And, if you have a gas motorhome, you may even want to double the GPS time.
From the very first day that you hop into your RV, you'll realize that your RV is nothing like your car. It takes more time to get places, you'll need to take more breaks, and you most likely won't be able to drive as far in a day as you can in a car because of the amount of work that it takes to drive an RV.
When we would travel in just our Jeep, we could easily do 900 miles a day and be just fine. However, in an RV, we have a limit of just 250 miles a day, 300 at the most. Anymore than that and it turns into major work with a lot of stress.
You'll want to follow the weather.
One thing I didn’t realize about RV life is how difficult it can be to RV in the cold. I always see things about people wanting to RV so that they can post up at their favorite ski resort or something else along those lines, and well, that’s not super realistic for the average RVer.
Sure, if you still have a full-time job and need to stay in one spot, then you can’t really follow the weather. But, if you are traveling full-time, you’ll want to follow the weather. That means you won’t want anything too, too cold, because then you’ll have to winterize your RV which costs a lot of money. Or, if it’s too hot, there’s a chance that your air conditioners won’t be able to keep up.
I’ve experienced both sides. At just 30 degrees, which we didn’t think was THAT cold, our water filter busted and cracked outside. I’ve heard of horror stories about water lines breaking because it got too cold in the RV even with all of the heat on. On the other end, when it was 100 degrees with high humidity, our air conditioners could barely keep our RV under 85 degrees.
How do people make a living on the road?
In truth, doing work is much more fun while in an RV. I know of many people who conduct daily business while on the road. RV life is particularly great for people who have online companies or who need to travel in order to meet with clients. Driving to meetings or conventions is far cheaper than flying. Plus you get the added bonus of being able to sightsee while on the way.
Personally, in order for me to be able to live in an RV full-time, I run an online business- Making Sense of Cents. It is a lot of fun being able to work and travel at the same time.
I thought it would be difficult at first. I thought it would be hard to find internet and email my subscribers, and that I would be too distracted to do my job, and so on.
I’ve come to find that I’m more motivated than ever to do my work, and having a great view out my window each day definitely helps make the process more enjoyable as well.
Your RV will always be in need of some sort of repair.
Whether your RV is brand new or old, there will most likely always be something that needs fixing or even replacing. After all, you are rumbling down the road with thousands of pounds of your home. This can make things jiggle loose, break, and so on.
Our first RV was a complete disaster and things were always broken. It spent nearly as much time in the shop as we did living in it - and it was one of the main reasons that we got rid of it and got a different RV.
And, that first one was brand new!
The tight space won't ruin your relationship (hopefully).
One of the questions I hear the most is “Do you guys get along even though you’re in such a tight space?”
Yes, we do get along, and it seems like most RVers still get along with their spouses as well, haha. If we didn’t get along, RVing wouldn't be fun.
Also, the second relationship-type question is "What do you do when you have Mexican food or something else spicy that night?"
Well, privacy is already out the window in an RV, so you just have to get used to using the bathroom with the other one just a few feet away.
Living on the road with family
While it’s only my husband and I in our RV, we have come across many larger families who spend a fair amount of time on the road. Many of the families that we have come across tend to do the bulk of their travel during the summer and winter months because that is when their children are out of school.
We owe the success of these on-the-road families to the overall shared value that most RVers have. Many would agree that you gain a much more in-depth and intimate experience while traveling to different destinations in your RV. You aren’t just a jetsetting tourist who bops from one place to another. The RV experience is a much longer haul and often provides a more authentic way of experiencing life while in different settings.
You'll never want to live in a "normal" home again.
One thing that I've learned over the past 1.5 years is that I never want to live in a normal home again. I absolutely love living on the road in my RV, and our next adventure will be to sail full-time.
Traveling full-time is a ton of fun and I have had so many great experiences!
Are you interested in RVing? What surprised you on this list? Lastly, let me know if you have any questions!
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner is the founder and writer at Making Sense of Cents. On her blog, she helps readers learn how to make extra money, how to save money, and reach their dream life. Michelle and her husband sold their house in 2015 and currently travel full-time in an RV with their two dogs.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2017. We've updated it to bring you the freshest information out there.