Several weeks before we headed off on our trip last year, I wrote up a FAQ article about our travel plans. It has remained a pretty popular page on this site, probably because folks researching RVing assume the article will include valuable information about traveling in an RV full time. Of course, my post discusses things like the Tower of Terror and MacGyver, so it’s probably not all that helpful, but sometimes people need to learn things the hard way.
Anyway, it occurred to me as we visited the homeland of Virginia last week, that we were fielding a lot of really interesting questions, and actually being able to answer those questions made me realize just how much we’ve figured out over these past ten months. Many of these questions were things we once wondered or worried about ourselves, so I figured it might be helpful to answer them here.
Of course, a lot of the inquiries were personal to us, but I’ll include several of them here since they may be of interest to some of our friends and family.
How are you really doing??
We are really, truly, honestly, having a great time. Ever since we hit the road for real, it’s been smooth sailing. Over time we’ve figured out how fast we want to move, what kinds of places we want to visit, and what we value in campgrounds. We’ve had an awesome time meeting up with old friends around the country and we’ve met tons of super nice people on the road. While this lifestyle is not without its challenges, overall, it’s been a really good experience.
How many miles have you traveled?
Barney’s current mileage is 6,784 (which includes about 1,000 miles from before we actually started traveling full time). Our mileage is not nearly as much as one might expect, and it’s a LOT less than some of our fellow full time travelers. We have one set of Instagram friends who recently posted that they’d traveled to 42 states and put on 23,000 miles in SEVEN months. They said they typically moved every other day. Just thinking about that kind of pace makes me want to take a nap. Our situation is just very different. First, we have no particular timeline for this project, so we’re not trying to stick to a particular schedule (for example, 48 states in 12 or 24 months); second, we got stuck in Massachusetts for 3 months which significantly reduced our mileage; and third, we never intended to travel quickly. Indeed, if you look back at that old FAQ article, you’ll see, “not rush[ing] around” was one of our priorities from the beginning. So what we’ve been doing has worked for us, but we are, unquestionably, outliers.
What’s been your favorite place?
This is a tough question to answer because there are several places we’ve truly enjoyed. New Orleans, Austin, and Nashville were fantastic small cities with awesome live music scenes; we were blown away by the gorgeous beaches on the Florida panhandle; and Lexington and Savannah were stunning in completely different ways. Yeah, I can’t answer this one….
How hard was the transition from house to tiny home?
Honestly, the transition was shockingly easy. At some point when we were living in our old house, we realized we were really only using about one third of our 1100 square feet (which was comparatively small to begin with). We had a dining room table that had seating for six, but 95% of the time, it was just the two of us sitting down to eat. Now, we have a dining room table that seats two. Our house had two and a half bathrooms, but we never used the second full bathroom. Now we have one and a half bathrooms and it’s perfect. Dixie had two large beds and a huge crate, but usually slept on the sofa. Now she has one large bed, and she still sleeps on the sofa. We used to have three feet of space on each side of our bed. Now, we have a couple inches. But we sleep just as well. With Barney, we use all our space, all the time. There’s no waste and we really don’t miss the extra room.
What do you miss most?
There’s a certain amount of comfort and ease that you lose with this lifestyle and we definitely miss that at times. There’s comfort in knowing that if you have a problem, you have a list of friends who live nearby you can call on for help. There’s ease in knowing where things are and how to get from Point A to Point B in your hometown. When you’re living on the road, all of that is gone. We were incredibly fortunate to be near family when I got hurt. Had that happened in Arkansas or Louisiana, the situation would have been exponentially more difficult.
As for the “ease” part, most of it is really minor, but after a couple months you do start to notice the simple things you once took for granted. When you travel full time, every time you get in the car, you have to fire up the GPS because you never know where anything is, every grocery store is a mystery, every trip to get your hair cut is a ‘cross your fingers and hope for the best’ moment, every time you want to get your mail forwarded, you need to figure out where you can have it sent (not all campgrounds accept packages) and make sure you’re going to be there when it arrives. (If your pile of mail shows up the day after you left, that’s not good.) Most of the time it’s all ‘part of the adventure,’ but sometimes you just want to know where the damn mustard is without having to walk up and down 9 aisles.
Do you miss working?
Fine. We miss the conversations we used to have with our colleagues about complex issues and working with really smart people to come up with strategies to address… yeah, no. We don’t miss it.
Do you miss your old social life?
We don’t miss it per se, but we definitely recognize that our social life is very different now. One thing you realize when you’re on the move all the time is it’s easy to ‘make friends,’ but it’s hard to ‘build relationships.’ We’ve met lots of great people out on the road, and the one thing we think over and over is: ‘We would be really close friends with those folks if we lived in the same place.’ But that ‘if’ is a big issue. You can only bond so much with people over a couple days. No matter how awesome they may be, strong relationships usually take time to build. And that’s something you simply don’t have when everyone is constantly driving off in different directions.
The flip side is, in our old life, we hardly ever met anyone new. Our friends were our friends and we didn’t have the time nor the inclination to meet new people. Now, we have every reason to be social and we talk to more strangers than we ever have before. It’s made our daily lives a lot more interesting and it’s given us strong incentives to keep track of our new friends and find ways to spend more time together.
How do you and Kevin spend so much time together and not kill each other?
Beats the hell out of me. We are always together and we always get along. I don’t know why it works so well. It just does. I’m sure ‘relationship experts’ would tell us we’re doing it all wrong, but we’re happy and neither of us are interested in messing with a system that seems to be working just fine.
How long are you going to travel?
Given what we’ve done so far, and given how big the U.S. is, I can’t imagine doing this less than another two years. Of course, anything can happen, but this country is huge and we like to travel slow and take our time checking places out. So, the absolute minimum is another two years.
Where are you headed next?
We’ll be spending a couple weeks in New England before crossing the border into Canada. We’ll then spend the remainder of the summer touring the Maritimes (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, & Prince Edward Island) before returning to the U.S. Unfortunately for him, Kevin is not nearly as excited about stalking Canada’s dreamy Prime Minister as I am, but I make the travel plans, so six weeks in Canada it is!!
How is your leg doing?
All things considered, it’s pretty good. I still struggle with certain things (squatting down, lots of stairs), but it has improved a lot. I haven’t tried really stressing it – like doing difficult hikes involving scrambling- because the bone won’t be fully healed until the 1 year mark and I am not about to create a setback for myself. I have good days and bad days with regard to discomfort, but that is what it is.
How is Dixie doing?
Really really well. We were seriously concerned about how she would adapt to all this, but she’s been a champ. When we’re driving, she’ll curl up in front of the passenger seat and go to sleep, and when we’re parked, she’s content to be underfoot 95% of the time. She can relax knowing she has eyes on us at all times and she only has to monitor one door. And best of all, she gets a lot more attention and exercise than she used to get when we were at work all day and exhausted every night.
The biggest issue we’ve been having with her is that as she gotten older, she’s started to develop arthritis and it’s becoming more difficult for her to make it up the very steep stairs into our RV. She can do it, but she sometimes hesitates and has to start over, making her even more hesitant the next time. We’re going to be trying some new joint supplements her vet told us about and we got a prescription for Rimadyl, which is a doggie anti-inflammatory – that should help with her pain. If we can just keep her discomfort down and her confidence up, she should be ok.
How do you guys not weigh 4,000 pounds? All you do is eat.
Au contraire! While I post a lot of food pictures on this blog, those are really the highlights. The majority of the time, we make our meals and eat at home, and we generally eat pretty healthy foods. So when we do go out and eat fried chicken, it’s not the end of the world.
How often do you have to handle the tanks?
Assuming we have full hook ups, we dump our gray water (sink and shower drain water) every couple of days (even if we have a sewer connection, we leave our gray tank closed and dump it all at once in the interests of not letting crud build up on the inside of the tank). If we don’t have full hook ups (which is something that often happens at state and county parks), we can limit our water usage and go as long as five or six days, if we need to. As for the black tank (toilet), we can go at least a week, usually 10 days. It just depends how much we are home.
Is that terrible?
Nah. Just like changing a baby’s diapers or picking up after your dog, you get used to it and it’s not a big deal. (It also helps that I am writing this and Kevin is the one who handles the tanks…)
How do you “limit” water usage?
If we don’t have full hook ups at a campground, it means we need to move our entire RV to a central dumping site in order to drain our tanks. That is a giant pain, so we try to not waste room in the grey tank (there’s not much you can do about the black tank…) So, if I’m washing dishes, I turn the faucet off while soaping everything up and use a minimal stream of water to rinse. When showering, we have a toggle switch so we can get wet, turn the water off, lather up, turn the water back on to rinse, and repeat. I’ll hold off on washing laundry since the washer uses a ton of water. Additionally, when we are going to be staying at a place where we have to watch our water usage, before we arrive, we’ll cook up large quantities of easily reheatable food – soups, stews, chili, pasta, etc. That way, we’re not dirtying up tons of pots and pans when we’re trying to conserve water.
How is cooking in the RV?
Other than not having a regular oven and dishwasher, it’s pretty much the same as in the house. We have a convection microwave, so that creates a reasonable substitution for the full size oven, and our Instant Pot gets used all the time. Kevin grumbles about the propane grill (‘blah, blah, blah, it’s just un-American, blah blah blah,”) but it gets the job done, and when he has time, he can use his bullet smoker to slow cook meats.
What is your division of labor? Who does what?
(Note: This is the nice way of saying: “On your blog and Facebook, we always hear about what Kevin does. What the hell do you do all day? Sit around and eat bon bons??”)
Kevin: Drives the RV from location to location, handles the tanks, routes our trips (makes sure the GPS isn’t going to send us a stupid way), cooks, does routine maintenance on the RV, and kills bugs.
Laura: Drives the Xterra once we get to a location, cleans the inside of the RV, plans our trips (researches locations and campgrounds and books reservations), washes dishes and laundry, points out bugs that need killing.
Dixie: Rinses dishes, notifies pack of impending thunderstorms (more reliably than our weather radio, I might add), and justifies my decision to buy an expensive vacuum cleaner since she tracks in half the outdoors every. single. day.
Have you missed having more closet/storage space?
We have plenty of storage space, and if anything, we’ll probably get rid of some things that we haven’t been using.
Do you have any regrets about buying the RV you bought?
Not really. We can certainly see the appeal of some other layouts and models, but if we had it to do again, I don’t think we would make a different choice. We’ve been very happy with the layout we chose, the amount of storage space we have, and Tiffin’s willingness to stand behind their product. We were amazed how quickly Barney became “home” to us, especially after so many years of living in our house. And while there are certainly amenities we would love to have, we’d rather have the extra cash to spend on sightseeing and fun stuff rather than having sunk it into our RV.
What’s the worst thing about your RV?
The insulation sucks. Higher end motorhomes have heated floors and double pane windows. Heated floors might sound luxurious, but they are actually really helpful in an RV because the entire underside of a motorhome is exposed to the air. So when it gets cold, air swirls underneath and comes up from the floors. And the single pane windows we have are pretty worthless. When it’s cold, you can feel the air coming right through the windows. All of which is not that big of a deal if you successfully chase 70 degrees year round, but when you get stuck in say Massachusetts in November, it’s not good. The only way to heat the place at that point is to use your propane heater – which works wonders, but you burn through propane super quick and then have to move the entire RV to go refill the tank. Inconvenient on a good day, super problematic when one of you has a broken leg.
Do you both drive?
Kevin does the vast majority of driving (75%). I need to do more, but he’s gotten so good at it, that I hesitate to jump in and then crash Barney and ruin our whole day. It’s kind of a vicious circle: The more he drives, the better he gets, the less I want to crash Barney. But I’m only gonna gain confidence if I drive more. The other benefit for Kevin though is that I drive the Xterra whenever we get where we’re going, and we spend a LOT more time driving around in the Xterra than we do the motorhome. If we actually split the motorhome driving evenly, he might have to suck it up and drive the Xterra once in a while.
Are you gonna change anything in your second year?
We are working on slowing down even more. I was under the impression that spending a week at each stop would be the right amount of time, while Kevin always thought we’d want more. Turns out, he was right. We seem to routinely find ourselves wishing we had a few more days to explore the places we visit (the seemingly endless rainy weather this spring has not helped). So, going forward, we’ll be looking to significantly lengthen our stays at our various stops.
Well, those are the questions that stuck in my mind as we visited with friends these past couple of weeks. If there’s anything I didn’t answer that you’re curious about, feel free to ask in the comments section below, or email us.