Too much of a good thing. Pulling the plug on full-timing

August 30th, 2011

I love to RV. The freedom, the rush of landing in a new place, the chance to make friends, overcome new challenges and discover new towns. Oh, and new places to eat.

What I learned the hard way is that the full-time RVing lifestyle can be too much of a good thing. About 16 months ago, my wife Rose and I got the happy feet. We decided to sell our house and most of our worldly possessions, buy a fifth wheel and a F350 dually to hit the road – for good. We had never RV’d before. Ever. The biggest vehicle I had driven was a 25′ Uhaul. Somehow, the thrill of adventure, the joys of being on our own schedule, and the draw of the West Coast of the US of A overcame the reality of driving 14,000 pounds of fifth wheel for the first time. Plus, we had gained confidence from all the great advice out there on how to succeed at the full-time rving lifestyle.

It started out well enough. Up California’s I-5 to Redding for an easy, flat drive. Then up into the mountains around Mt. Shasta, where our trailer brakes mysteriously locked up at 55 mph – happily, without major incident. The miles churned by, and after several months of hitching and unhitching, getting lost, learning how to back the beast into tiny spaces and all the joyful husband-wife banter that accompanies such tasks, we both noticed a small crack in the full-time dream. Being on the road 24/7 was slowly turning RVing into a routine, instead of what we had originally hoped for – a chance to escape routine.

But, we both loved heading off into the unknown, excited about what sights, sounds and tastes the next town would bring. We pressed on into Oregon and Washington, where the coast lived up to its reputation for over-abundance of mist and fog. Our trailer held all of the comforts of home, with a well-stocked fridge and a flat screen TV, so who cared if we were trapped inside? When we got cabin fever, off to the brewpub or wine bar to sample the local faire.

The more towns we visited, the harder it became to admit we weren’t on “vacation”. It became nearly impossible to pay homage to the master known as the household budget. Once we hit a new place, we had to investigate it, which meant eating out at the local restaurants, paying fees to visit a park or landmark, (which we were too young to get the senior discount) purchasing local delicacies, visiting the farmer’s market, all of which cost money. Even with my full-time RVing job in place as a freelance copywriter, it was hard to keep up with the credit card. On several occasions we were tempted to try ‘boondocking’ (aka park for free) in beautiful areas that didn’t have a campground. Unfortunately, trying to discreetly park a 34′ fifth wheel is not easy and we figured that the local authorities would turn us in as soon as we got settled into our Lazy-Boys.

Even as we headed south toward San Luis Obispo, the RV vacation kept on going; no matter what we told ourselves, somehow we’d end up in a local eatery staring down at a bowl of delicious clam chowder with a chilled glass of Chardonnay close at hand. After a few more weeks, economic reality could not be ignored, but we were still not ready to throw in the towel. I think it was around Palm Springs where the epiphany happened. We had booked a spot for Spring training in Tempe, and Palm Springs was the point of no return: were we ready to make some serious lifestyle changes, buckle down, and remain full-time RVers? We had presumed that this lifestyle would be less expensive than our mortgage-laden former existence, but the price of health insurance and accessibility to healthcare added to the budget malais.

We celebrated our 1-year anniversary on the road in Palm Springs, where the constant routine of moving and the lack of fiscal discipline became the one-two punch that sent the full-time dream to the canvas for good. We currently live in a traditional house in Sacramento, CA. We now own a much older and more modest motor home and will part-time RV throughout the year, when we can afford it and when we cannot resist the ‘travel bug’. For me, the RV dream didn’t die. It’s just on hiatus, waiting to return as it was meant to be, a way to escape the routine of life by getting out on the open road and seeing what’s around the next bend – hopefully, a crisp chardonnay and a fresh cup of clam chowder.

Don | Sacramento, CA

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