I'm guessing that was a commencement speech to some graduating
college students somewhere but I think it's equally appropriate at any
stage of our lives -- including making the leap into an RV
lifestyle, if that is on your radar screen.
So far I've been focusing on considerations re: getting
into that lifestyle. Before I summarize my recommendations and
provide some links to a few websites that may be helpful to you, I want
to talk a little bit about getting out of the RV lifestyle at
This is a term popularized in recent years that means having a plan
for transitioning from one phase of your life to the next, such as
moving from one job to another or from a lifetime career to retirement.
Oh, happy day! Jim poses
with some of the other electronics technicians on his last day at the
in Billings, MT. That marked the
beginning of our extended-RV travel days. (January, 2004)
It can also be used here in regards to coming off the road for
whatever reasons when roaming around the country is no longer desirable
or feasible. I bring it up primarily because it may affect whether you
sell your house in order to travel in an RV full time.
An exit strategy is something you should consider before selling your
house and disposing of all or most of your belongings -- but
don't let it prevent you from living the life you want in the shorter
If you think you'll someday want to live in your current house again, consider renting it out while you're on the road or allowing
someone to live there to house-sit. If you do sell your house, think
long and hard about keeping the most meaningful possessions -- like photos and family antiques and your
favorite chair -- in storage or at someone's house. It's not all that
expensive to rent a storage unit, even one that is climate-controlled,
compared to the cost of replacing furniture and other household goods
should you need them later. You can always decide a few months or years
"down the road" to give those
things to family members or friends if you love the RV life so much that
you never need or want them again.
We like Austin in the winter.
This is Town Lake Trail, a very popular multi-use trail on sunny days.
I've mentioned several times that Jim and I want to sell our house
and go on the road full-time in our Cameo 5th-wheel coach. We'd be able to enjoy
our travels more if we didn't have the cost and stress of home
ownership. We're just waiting for the housing market to improve so we don't lose
too much of our equity.
I realize our situation is different than some because we don't have
close ties to the Roanoke area. We just aren't emotionally attached
there. In addition, we would be better off in
the future to live in a smaller, one-level house that is closer to a
town/city instead of out in the country. We see only advantages
when we sell that house. When we do, there are
things we'll definitely keep in storage because we visualize having
another stationary abode in our long-term future.
Some place without snow would be
nice . . . (early December, 2010)
Some folks need solid plans for the future. We're on the same page with
them when it comes to financial security but we're not so much concerned
about having a definite "exit strategy" for this lifestyle as
far as where we'll live after we sell the house. We hope to be
traveling for quite a while. A lot can change between now and
the time we have to make those decisions.
At this point our "exit strategy" from the RV lifestyle is to
- live on our sources of relatively fixed income and not spend too
much of our savings, investments, and retirement accounts while we're
gallivanting around the country . . . because we plan to live a
long time, and
- figure out where we'd like to live in the
future besides Virginia so we don't have to make a sudden decision if
some type of emergency ends our traveling earlier than planned.
What's not to like about walking
barefoot, in shorts, on a sunny beach in January??
(Jim and Cody at Mustang Island
SP, Texas, Jan., 2009)
Meantime, as long as we're enjoying life on the road . . . this IS our exit strategy!
PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER
Here's a brief summary of my advice for folks who are
contemplating the RV lifestyle -- plus a few things I haven't
- Remember that this "lifestyle" encompasses many variations. Each
person tailors it to him/herself and it will probably morph over a
period of time.
- You can travel and live happily in an RV all by yourself or with a
pet; you don't
have to have a spouse or other two-legged companion along for the ride. There are numerous opportunities
to meet people along the way if you want and you can choose to enjoy their company for a few minutes,
days, weeks . . . or maybe become lifelong friends.
- There are many single, divorced, and widowed women who enjoy the solo RV lifestyle and some
of them have terrific blogs. There are also some internet forums
specifically set up for female RVers to share their experiences. If I
am widowed it's my intention to continue traveling around the country
by myself (and a dog) in an RV. Hopefully, I won't be widowed,
however! Jim says he will probably do the same thing if he's the
widower. That's how much we enjoy the lifestyle.
Sue and Cody on Colorado Trail
Segment 24 along the Continental Divide;
the Grenadier Range is in the
background. (July, 2010)
- The easiest way to determine if you will truly enjoy some version of an RV
lifestyle is to try it gradually before selling your house, leaving
your community, and/or giving up your day job. If you don't already have a suitable
RV for extended traveling (months at a time), rent one or buy
a used one and take it out for longer and longer trips. It makes sense
for most people to get their feet wet before taking the plunge into
- On the other hand, if you're at a critical juncture in your life
and have the courage to take that plunge, go ahead. What do you have
to lose? If it's a mistake, regroup and resume life in a stationary
dwelling. You might still enjoy traveling in your RV for shorter
periods of time.
- Don't let the assumed costs of an RV lifestyle intimidate you or
prevent you from even getting started.
Many people are able to live on less traveling around in an RV than
living in a stationary dwelling. There are innumerable ways to make your dream affordable. All of
the decisions and most of the costs are in your control.
Jim pauses on the road to Clear Lake to admire the
awesome Ice Lake Basin
in the San Juan Mountains near Silverton, CO.
- Plan your new lifestyle as thoroughly as possible before you hit
Research and talk to folks who RV a lot. Make lots of lists of things to do -- and add to them as you
think of more things to do!
Your transition to an RV lifestyle will be easier if you get your
ducks in a row before you head off into the wild blue yonder -- things
like setting up online banking, figuring out how to get your mail,
establishing your legal domicile, updating your insurance, etc. All
this can be done on the road but you'll eliminate some stress (and
have more time for fun) if you do most of it before you leave.
RVers are generally a very friendly, helpful bunch of people. Don't
hesitate to ask them questions. Every one of them had to start
somewhere and they are usually glad to share their accumulated knowledge and
experience with newcomers. You'll learn a lot as you go. Don't
hesitate to make changes that will enhance your life on the road.
- Have the courage to follow your dreams. You never know how much
your life can improve if you never try anything new!
SOME WEB LINKS
Despite the length of this series, I've only scratched the surface of
these topics and haven't even covered some others. Fortunately for you,
further research on the internet and in printed material and videos is fun. You'll find so much information
it'll keep you busy for as long as you want.
Just don't spend so much time living vicariously through other
peoples' travelogues that you don't get out there and make your own
Fun memory: Jim races Cody up a large dune at
White Sands Natl. Monument in NM.
Cody beat him to the top! That is very fine white sand, not
snow. (January, 2008)
Here are a few links to get you started in addition to ones I've
already mentioned in this series. I can't vouch for the information or
products contained in them; I'm just pointing you to several
websites that I've found helpful or interesting.
GENERAL RVing INFORMATION
This is a good site to start with -- the
Travel e-newsletter that will appear in your e-mail
Saturday morning if you subscribe for free. It contains all sorts of
links to just about everything RV-related: news about RV
manufacturers and their new rigs, upcoming RV shows, those inevitable
vehicle recalls, camping destinations, all sorts of how-to articles and
videos, links to several internet discussion groups, blogs by various
folks who want you to buy what they have to sell (which is one way to
make money on the road), blogs by folks who just want to entertain and
inform the rest of us, all kinds of helpful books and DVDs (which are
usually cheaper at Amazon and other sources), campground membership
clubs, and various other goods and services.
The editor, Chuck Woodbury, makes his living from this website and
travels as often as he can. He also includes riddles, quizzes, jokes,
bumper snickers, quirky museums of the week, reader surveys, recipes,
hints, and other tidbits to keep readers entertained and coming back for
more. You can access all of the previous newsletters he has archived,
More memories: friendly burros along the road
in the Black Hills of South Dakota (May, 2009)
Good Sam Club
members off and on over the years. The club publishes a monthly
travel, tips, and information magazine for RVers called Highways
that can be accessed on-line, as well as the CyberSam newsletter.
Members can also receive 10% discounts on private campgrounds
that are in the Good Sam network; we rarely stay at private
campgrounds any more but the ones we've used previously were at least
average. The club offers trip planning tools and technical advice free
with membership, and RV insurance, emergency roadside assistance (ERS),
extended warranties, and loans at additional cost. We haven't used any
of those services.
Both Good Sam and Camping World, which are part of the Affinity Group,
have had financial problems during the recession. They've recently
limited their repair service to only Camping World stores and not all
the independent RV dealers who used to be authorized. Research the
company thoroughly before making a large financial commitment like their
You don't even have to hike to get great views like
this at Rocky Mtn. NP. (September, 2010)
Another type of club that offers numerous services to RVers is
Escapees, which began in 1978.
Headquarters are located in Livingston, TX. Texas is one of the three
most popular states full-timers use for their legal residency. One of
the basic services Escapees provides is a mailing address for these
folks. They offer much
more to members, including educational
seminars, internet forums, a newsletter and magazine, travel services,
discounted camping, rallies, local chapters for folks who like to belong
to groups of other RVers, work and volunteer opportunities, etc.
I don't know anything personally about their fee structure or services
other than what I've read on their website and what satisfied members
have told us.
PLANNING FOR THE RV LIFESTYLE
In addition to the wealth of information provided at the three
links above, there are several other interesting websites set up
by individuals that I found while I was
researching information about full-time RVing for this series.
At least two of them appear to derive some income from their sites so
understand that they have a financial interest in the
products/services they are selling. I didn't find that distracting,
though. They have plenty of free information you can use.
One fairly easy site to maneuver is written by a retired woman
named Stephanie Henkel. Two of her pages provide a good
introduction to the RV
living well on less. I like her
list of free and inexpensive things to enjoy while
traveling around, further evidence that you can lead a full life on the
road without spending a fortune. Other links on her site take you to photos and
stories of places she has visited. I haven't checked out any of
What a great hike!
Sue and Cody on the trail up to Table Mtn. (the knob in the
distance to the
right) with two of the Teton
peaks coming in view behind it. (Aug., 2010 photo by
The most comprehensive website in this group is
RV-Dreams.com. Linda and
Howard Payne began full-timing in 2005 at age 42 and have built this
site up to about 160 pages of information. The pages I've read
have been very sensible, especially regarding
They have been quite transparent about their personal income
and expenses before and after hitting the road. How they
got into the lifestyle and how
they've maintained it should encourage others to take the
plunge. There are lots of interesting topics and a lengthy
Q&A page that includes
regularly updated information. I
don't know if the Paynes include a six-year travelogue; I
was too busy reading other information on the site to even
Your RV Lifestyle is another
"how-to" website written by a couple named Jill and Jose who are
a little older (55 and 60) than Howard and Linda but who also continue to make at
least part of their living on the road through their website and
work camping. Like the Paynes, this couple also left the
traditional corporate rat race to enjoy a simpler, more
satisfying life wandering around the country. This
page describes how and why they
made that decision. Other pages provide all sorts of useful
things to consider. There is also a trip log but I haven't read
any of it.
Several glaciers and three of the highest
Teton peaks as seen from the summit of Table Mtn.
Clouds rolled in as I
was descending -- my timing was just right. (August, 2010)
If you do a search for "full-time RVing" or similar wording
you'll come up with thousands of hits. Have fun reading! Any
conflicting advice you find just illustrates peoples' different
values and life perspectives.
A SAMPLING OF FULL-TIMERS' BLOGS
The world of personal websites and blogs has exploded in recent
years, especially blogs since someone else has already done most
of the web set-up and those are apparently pretty easy to start and
maintain. We have so many "issues" with Front Page,
the software we use for our website, that Jim
would prefer I ditch it and use a ready-made blog. I'd rather
muddle along with this site because I've got so much of
myself invested in it already.
Although our own website keeps me plenty busy I often peruse
personal ultra running and RV travel sites that other people
write -- not ones where they're obviously selling stuff,
but ones that describe their own adventures. Here are several RV
travel-related ones I like.
Jim and Cody pose on the Bannock Trail at
Grand Targhee Resort on a cold day in
late August, 2010. The Grand Teton ultras
are held here but not on this trail.
The first two are written by retired couples who have been full-timing in their RVs for several years. The
sampling of entries I've read on each site has been interesting and
I'll eventually be reading all the pages on the
their trip two years ago to Alaska. Spending a summer up there
is on my bucket list. If you look at the map on
their home page you'll see all the places where all they've been
since they began full-timing five years ago -- all across
the U.S., south into Mexico, and north to Canada. It's also
interesting to read the story of how they dove headfirst into this
The other couple, Dale and Gwen, have been full-timing for about
seven years. Their website,
RVeCafe, has multiple sections, including Gwen's
and Dale's RV repair and maintenance details. He also keeps a
log of many of their activities. The couple's RV lifestyle is
similar to ours in that they move every couple weeks. They
recently completed a three-month work camping experience in
California but it wasn't a very positive experience so they're
back to being completely "retired" again. We found their
site originally on a Carriage, Inc. internet forum and have had
some e-mail correspondence with them. They
own the same brand of 5th-wheel we do, a Cameo. We hope to run
into them some day.
Pretty alpine pond in the Alaska Basin of
the Teton Range. (early Sept., 2010)
If you'd like to follow a hip younger woman's RV adventures
blog, i'm gonna live like
i'm dying. She sold her house in Los Angeles last
bought an RV, and has been traveling full-time across the country with her dog
in what she calls "bdh" (Barbie's Dream House).
Her site has some very cool photo features. If writing in
lower-case with stream-of-consciousness thoughts and . . .
substituting for punctuation annoys you, you may not
enjoy this site but check it out anyway. I'll be interested
in seeing how long she continues to travel. She's having a blast
Another blog written by a young
woman who frequently travels solo
away from her home in Taos in a little Scamp trailer is
GoneScamping.com. Deonne has a master's degree in creative
writing, a career that is well-suited to life on the road.
She's as spunky as Lary. One of her original goals was to see all the national
parks in three years, an ambitious goal considering there are
almost 400 of them! A recent unexpected development, falling in
love, now has her torn between traveling extensively and
spending more time in one place. (Maybe she can talk her fella into
traveling with her??)
FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS LIFESTYLE
Deonne's experience illustrates how fluid our lives can be --
and how full of rich experiences we can't begin to predict.
We humans are continually making choices that affect our future
but they don't have to be permanent decisions. We are resilient,
adaptable creatures. We can always change our minds and head in
a different direction, literally and figuratively, when we want
or need to.
View from our campsite of the sunset over Raven Lake at
Huntsville SP in Texas (January, 2011)
If you've ever thought about how great it would be to hop into an
RV and explore the country for months or years on end, start
planning now to make that dream come true --
sooner rather than later. There's always a risk that "later"
will get here a lot sooner than you expect. Make every day
I'll end this series with yet another quote I like. I hope it
gives you a little nudge to set some new goals and follow your
dreams, no matter what they are:
"It is only when we truly know and
understand that we have a limited time on earth and that we have
no way of knowing when our time is up that we will begin to live
each day to the fullest, as if it were the only one we had."
~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
Next entry: visiting El Paso, Texas
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil