RV Life: Reflecting on Our First Year

November 19, 2022

The marquee the day we picked her up

November 18th marked one year since we closed on our RV, the first major step in our journey into full time living. It wasn’t a fast transition. It was the end of February before we sold our house and moved into it, having gotten only one night in it before that. Then March before we took it out for our first trip for a week before commitments brought us home, and June before we got to really set out on the road and travel around Florida.

We have spent only about 5-6 months of the last year actually getting to travel. A variety of reasons from work, family and health reasons keeping us in our hometown for the other months.

We’ve been asked so many questions through this journey, and we have asked so many questions. We’ve made mistakes, discoveries, and had pleasant surprises. We’ve had few regrets, but we have had them. We’ve gotten frustrated with each other, but we’ve grown closer, learning about ourselves and each other in the process. We’ve laughed, cried, smiled and been wowed. It’s been everything we dreamed of and reinforced that this was not only the right move for us, but the best move, and one we plan to continue for awhile.

So here’s some of the questions we’ve been asked, or asked ourselves.

WHAT MISTAKES DID YOU MAKE? We’ve made several little ones–issues parking our rig, reservation mistakes, forgetting where we put something (it’s crazy to think you can lose something in 200 square feet). The biggest ones have been modifications we did or didn’t do, or buying new RVs (yes, plural, we had to get one for my dad, thinking he would be in it awhile, only to be trying to sell it less than 6 months later–and both ours and his were new). Unfortunately, due to when we were buying–during the RV craze as we emerged from Covid, used inventory was minimal, and what there was didn’t work for our family needs or our budget. We also learned a lot about the changes and shortcuts manufacturers made due to high demand, and spent several months waiting on warranty work to be done over several trips.

WOULD YOU CHOOSE A DIFFERENT RIG? We absolutely would. While many of the manufacturing issues couldn’t be foreseen until the surfacing of issues from the production line rushing, some things we should have paid more attention to–a 2 seater couch for a family RV? It’s made making decisions on changes very difficult, especially since the main room is our place for work, game night, TV, and meals. We’ve toyed with whether we should have gotten laundry, but for the most part, laundry mats are easy to find with only some issues. Heating and cooling have been an challenge, but much of that is due to RVing in Florida in summer, and since we have to be in Florida, we’ve made it work well. Most places our 37′ rig has fit into without issue, but we’ve had some close calls. While we would have preferred something smaller, this has been a perfect size and travels well, plus we fit in most of the places we’ve wanted to go–we just research maps, walk it before driving to a site, and stay on the phone as we park.

HOW DOES WORK AND SCHOOL WORK? We have 3 completely separate spaces, not including the outside, so this hasn’t been a major issue. We added a Mifi to our Verizon plan since it had the best coverage for where we planned to be. While their service has declined with the transition to 5G, it still works when we need it, but we have a back up plan to work in a library or coffee shop, if needed. We have a folding table for the bunkroom so my son can do school in there if one of us has to be on Zoom. I usually work at the dining table or the couch, depending what I am doing, or I may do calls from the bedroom if I am on the clock but the boys are not.

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH HOT, COLD, AND HURRICANES? We’ve made a few modifications to better insulate, skylight inserts and reflectix on the windows, as well as adding rugs and fans or heaters, as needed. We’ve had 2 hurricanes since we’ve been in this rig. For one (Hurricane Ian), we were at our home base in central Florida, so we stayed inside the house we park at, but sealed her up and used mobile home tie downs to keep her from tipping, and she held. For the second (Hurricane Nicole), we were in north Florida with plans to head out of state after work that week to visit family. The area was still recovering from Ian the month before, and it wasn’t looking good, so we decided to run north and out of state. It meant having to take additional time off work, but since it would engulf the entire state, it seemed like the smartest move that would still let us get to our family trip. It paid off and we were safely out of harm’s way. This past week, we have been dealing with near freezing temperatures, but we planned accordingly and added extra batteries for electric heaters when boondocking, and budgeted for propane to run the furnace, keeping both the inside and underbelly (where tanks are tucked under the insulated panel) warm. I’ve got a blog coming out with more details soon, so stay tuned.

HOW DO YOU COOK? This one is easy–the same way you do in a house, only smaller! We have an oven in ours, so we still meal plan and either cook together or take turns. We do cook in smaller batches, but still enjoy waffles, stew, steak, meatloaf, and still make our own dog food. I can even bake cakes, cookies, muffins and make fudge, just like I did in a house. Cleaning is also the same. We made sure the products we use don’t damage our tanks, and we have to clean a little bit more often since it gets dirty faster, but we can clean the whole place top to bottom in under an hour.

HOW DO YOU SHOWER? We have a full size shower, so this isn’t an issue either. We have a smaller water heater and, if we are on tanks, we have to take super short showers or, if possible, use a bath house or a quick sink bath and skip the daily shower. The cool thing is that our shower has a switch on it to turn the water to a trickle or, if we are really rationing water, we can turn it off and on since it regulates quickly.

DO THINGS BREAK? Of course they do! We live and work in something year round that was designed for long weekends and a couple of vacations a year. Not to mention, those manufacture defects that were issues when we bought them. Luckily, my husband is very handy so can fix just about everything, plus we are pretty good about preventative maintenance schedules. But things always go wrong, and at the worst times. An emergency kit and an emergency fund help with parts, and there’s always a hotel or family member’s house in a pinch.

WHERE DO YOU PUT EVERYTHING? We downsized a lot of things, kept a few in storage with family, and got smaller versions of things when we could. We have containers for a lot of things, some things have to be folded just right, but we have what we need–probably more than we need. As we adapt, we are learning to let go of more.

DO YOU MISS HAVING A HOUSE? Sometimes, yes, but most of the time, not really. We’ve added cozy touches to make our RV feel like a home, we just have the privilege of taking it with us everywhere–a huge plus since I am allergic to everything and never know if the hotel we are at will trigger a reaction. Mostly, I miss either the space to spread out and play fetch with the dog, or the convenience of a washer when something gets spilled, or we are stuck inside on a cold rainy day. But we have gear and just get outside anyway, or plan activities strategically for those foul weather days.

IS IT EXPENSIVE? This is a tricky question because it has to do with how you choose to live. We have dramatically cut expenses, but the cost of things have nearly doubled in the last year. We still manage to live off of one full time income, and we still splurge on conveniences or things we accidentally got rid of (cold weather clothes!). We don’t have utility bills, but we have to buy propane for the camper or have camping fees through either our memberships or if we stay at a state or national park or destination campground. Most of our maintenance has been warranty work or upgrades, but as the rig ages, we will have upkeep and repairs to factor in. I haven’t compared expenses, but I do think it is less expensive than a house.

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO TRAVEL? This has been a tough one since we have been to some great places around Florida and, in the last week, have been traveling up the east coast to see family and explore areas we haven’t gotten to spend enough time in. I love the beach so staying in the Keys and the Outer Banks have been amazing, especially with beautiful starry nights. But time in the woods and seeing wildlife has its own magical connection, too. So, collectively, I think my favorites have been the places without much around and without a ton of amenities that were close to nature.

HOW DO YOUR KIDS LIKE IT? My youngest son that travels with us loves it! He gets lonely at times since most full time families travel out of Florida in the summer, but there were never really kids around our house to play with either. We budget our internet use to allow for him to play online with his friends, so he still gets those connections, and he loves that he can just ride his bike around and get independence. Our older son that is out on his own now and was profusely against the idea when he lived with us is intrigued. He didn’t realize how much room and homelike qualities they can have, especially in 5th wheels, and briefly entertained the idea of living in one as they planned careers and relocations. Both love that it gives us more time for them and for family and makes us happy.

Boondocking at a vineyard in North Carolina

DOES IT GET LONELY? Sometimes it can be lonely since many people keep to themselves and I am naturally introverted. But we take the time to talk to neighbors, chat with people we meet while out and about, and talk to our camp hosts. We always find friendly people, and some are people we have stayed in touch with.

WHAT’S NEXT? As we venture into our second year, we have a few ideas in mind, especially now that we have more knowledge and some experience. My husband is working on growing his photography into a full time business, I am still trying to figure out how I can maintain my job that requires a Florida location while still traveling beyond the state lines, and we will venture to places we haven’t seen before. We also plan to do some additional renovations to this rig for more off grid options so we have more places to stay. We may even look at a different rig for a better set up so we can have family and friends over and have a better work space (a long work day sitting on a bench is not fun).

Like or comment below, and share with others to support the blog. I post weekly about teaching, traveling and family. Until next time, you can find me on Tiktok @sonya.BOMSquadleader , on Instagram at sonya_barnes_a2t , or our adventures at BarnesOnMove.com, Facebook & TikTok at @BarnesOnMove

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