As we get closer to our year mark of full time RVing (June) I’ve been wanting to write a post on how this experience has been. I find myself comparing our journey with other full time RV families I follow on instagram and it set unrealistic expectations for us. I feel like they’ve done a disservice to other families who may seriously be considering taking the leap by projecting an image for their perfect instagram feed. What you see on social media, and what is actually happening behind the scenes are two completely different worlds. You’ll get snippets of the truth – “That time our school bus broke down in the desert and we only had a couple hundred dollars in the bank” or “We’re really looking forward to taking a shower with water pressure!” And as a viewer when you hear those brief windows into a reality you pass it off as a funny story, a small bump in the road that adds character in their journey. But when you’re up to your eyeballs in it you start to realize the weight of these little statements.
This post is important because I know so many people contemplating taking the full time RV leap and I haven’t seen ONE full time RV “influencer” who I feel is being honest about the trials of this life path. Maybe we’re the only ones, but I doubt it. This blog started out as a place to share our miscarriage and TTC journey and SO MANY women/couples reached out to thank me for being honest about that painful time as they were going through it themselves. What is it about us (humans) that makes it so hard to be honest about our struggles? I feel like people think, “If they know this about me, they’ll like me less.” “If I’m honest that i’m struggling they’ll think less of me.” Or “I don’t want to appear weak.” But what I’ve found from blogging without a filter is the honesty has just made my relationships stronger. And in fact, I’ve gained so many more friends from it. I promise you aren’t the only one struggling (with getting pregnant, with postpartum depression, with motherhood, with anxiety, with your marriage). Not being honest about your struggles just leaves you in chains, it also keeps you from having a support system from the people who want to love and be there for you the most.
So here I am again, having to be the voice of truth in a sea of hundreds of full time RVs posting their completely spotless, clutter free, glowing white RV interior shots (HAHAHAHAHA).
When Tim and I started this journey we wanted to document it on social media and through a digital documentary. What we quickly found out was how impossible that was for us. Let’s start with social media. First, I found that there are thousands of full time RVs and all the “big” ones post these gorgeous interior shots with not ONE item on their kitchen counter which is REDICULOUS. Your RV kitchen is like 50 square feet so OF COURSE you have like 3 appliances, your coffee and tea containers, spices, dish and hand soap, paper towels, clean dishes drying etc. on your counter at all times. I’m realizing that I think they just clean their trailer hardcore one day, take like 500 photos from all different angles and then post them for the year. Which, is brilliant in terms of batch producing content. But that’s not what we were looking for in terms of documenting our journey. I’m not trying to “project an image” I’m trying to live my life and be present in it. I’ve got enough sh*t on my plate, I don’t have spare time to be fake for the internet. (Am I coming off too harsh? I think i’m going to have to come back an edit some of this…)
There’s also this whole trend now of gutting and completely redoing your RV. Which is super cool and I think if you are employed with a job you can work remotely and this is legit going to be your home, then great. But I didn’t want to use our travel budget and time making our trailer perfect for instagram. I want something that runs, is liveable and no it’s not instagramable but I want to spend my time outside of our trailer actually enjoying where we are.
Now a word on full time RV Youtubers. Here, I’ll give serious props. Because I think we lasted one month of uploading to our YouTube channel. (I’m not even going to leave a link, it’s that much of an epic failure.) Turns out, national and state parks don’t have ANY cell service. And Wifi? Forget it. We bought a cell booster antenna but it was impossible. I remember one video from a full time youtube family where the guy had to drive HOURS to find a Starbucks and then he had to sit there for SEVEN hours for the video to upload. We don’t want to deal with that. This time is about us as a family and so quickly being consistent with content was all consuming. This constant stress as the day came to an end and I had to find somewhere to get enough service to upload to instagram. Or staying up until the early hours trying to go through videos clips of Tim’s billion and a half different camera angle b-roll of a waterfall and then being totally dead the next day to actually enjoy where we were.
Ok, so ranting aside. If you are thinking of taking the jump here’s what I would say:
- We both wish we had done this BEFORE we had kids. There’s several reasons for this. The biggest one is – we’re traveling the country and barely scratching the surface of what we ACTUALLY want to do (restaurants, bars, hikes, white water rafting, etc.) and instead pissing through our savings visiting every playground and Children’s Museum in the country. Then next big reason is it’s completely dictated the type of truck and trailer we got which are both bigger and more expensive than needed if it’s only two adults. I think our entire opinion about full time travel would be completely different if we were just doing this as a couple. In fact, I would probably be one of those obnoxious people posting photos on the daily of my spotless kitchen while enjoying a hot coffee leisurely from my refurbished dinette and loving it.
- No one talks about the huge start up cost full time RVing is. If you are working remotely and have an income, then you may decide to finance your RV. But because we don’t have a consistent income we wanted to own everything outright so we didn’t have to stress about not being able to afford any monthly payments. Also, there’s all sorts of “RV stuff” that there’s no way you already own. A lot of technology -back up cams, bluetooth tire pressure thingy, cell phone booster, an $800 drone your husband swore he was going to use but only actually uses when drunk and crashes it into rocks and trees, etc. I would say all in, from dishes to decor to technology, you’re going to be around $8-$10K in Amazon purchases. And that’s without us doing any sort of RV reno work.
- If you are traveling with your partner – You will be stuck in 250 sq feet with your husband’s farts and unnaturally loud chewing. You better go into this with a rock solid relationship because if you are towing your RV you are in for an epic education in hitching up, backing into a space, and dumping your partner’s sh*t. We have heard stories at campgrounds of men who have literally backed up when parking and run over their wives. And like, i’m not sure if it was an accident? All i’m saying, is things get heated. If you have kids – You will not have access to childcare. You will not have date nights. You will have nowhere to hide.
- Planning your trip is a lot of work. So much work, that we just gave up with the planning and take it day by day. Not having a set schedule opens us up to enjoying where we are and staying for as long as it takes to see everything we want to. But it also means when you’re trying to find a campsite for the next day, it can often be slim pickings. Because of this, we’ve had to stay in Walmart parking lots more than I’d like. We’ve had to stay at some super sketchy mobile parks that I would have preferred we didn’t. It takes about 8 – 12 hours to plan each location – where you’re going, calling around to all the RV parks to see who has availability. If you’re planning to see the whole country, 8 hours x all the locations is A LOT. So planning ahead was impossible.
- RVs were not made to live in full time. We wish we got a Grand Design and just paid the extra money. We wish we had the “Arctic package.” We wish our warranty was at least 2 years and not one (plan for a lot of things going wrong in your trailer). We wish we’d got a fifth wheel for – higher ceilings, more clothing storage in our room, a wider living space so it didn’t feel so claustrophobic on bad weather days. We wish we were only 30 ft long. I wish I had an entry way closet for jackets and shoes. I wish I had a normal sized fridge (If you have a kid(s) this is really important). I wish we’d gotten a trailer with a deck (maybe a toy hauler?). We can’t hang outside of the trailer often because Evelyn only wants to run into the road on repeat (doesn’t matter how many toys/activities I give her at our site. It would be so nice to have a fenced in deck extension on our trailer so we could kind of be eating our meals outside.
Thanks for the therapy session. I’m feeling better. It’s 12am. And now I’m going to start the dishes and cleaning the trailer. Then I have to plan our day for tomorrow. And I need to prep all of Evelyn’s travel snacks because I can’t do it when she’s awake because she tries to eat them all and pulls on my shirt screaming. So tomorrow (today) as I’m posting on our instagram (@pelletiersatplay) about sightseeing in San Antonio just remember you have childcare, a shower (maybe even a dishwasher and washer & dryer!), you can go out for a girls night or a date with your husband, you can get a pedicure or take a fitness class. There’s pros and cons in any lifestyle. And I know I’ll get those things again one day… and then maybe I’ll miss full time travel. Maybe.
Xo & Wine (+whine),