Reflecting back on our first year of full time RV living, much of it has gone as planned, but there are a few things that we didn’t expect!
- Vehicle repair costs. We started our adventure with brand new almost-everything: new motorhome, new truck, new motorcycle. In our budgeting process, we didn’t include repair costs, figuring problems SHOULD get fixed under warranty. But, routine maintenance comes up sooner when you’re on the move and that adds up: motorhome chassis oil change/lube (every 6 months), Onan generator service, truck oil changes, motorcycle service and new motorcycle tires. When our rear AC unit went out, we paid for a wasted service call in Las Vegas, because we didn’t understand how the warranty repair process worked. Even when the AC replacement was done under warranty, it didn’t cover all of the service call costs. The most recent incident was discovering our severe alignment problem which necessitated the emergency replacement of our steer tires and has significantly shortened the life of the tag axle tires. We have requested to be reimbursed under warranty, but all of the players are pointing the finger at each other: Spartan chassis, Goodyear tires, Entegra, and the dealership that sold us the rig. I am not optimistic. Paying for all of the routine maintenance and non-routine repairs has added up to thousands of dollars. We can afford it, but didn’t expect it to be quite so much.
- High camping costs. We read a lot of full-timer blogs while researching this lifestyle and figured our nightly camping fees would average about $30-40. We’re finding it actually costs us significantly more ($45-50 average) for several reasons. First, our large size simply cannot be accommodated by all campgrounds, especially the older, and less expensive, ones. Our weight is also a factor, as we have found that our heavy bus will sink in soft gravel or dirt. So we look for RV parks with lots of maneuvering room and solid pads, which tend to be the newer and more expensive parks. Additionally, we are often staying at desirable locations in peak season – at peak season rates. And, we LIKE the highly-rated RV parks with paved level pads, 50 amp electrical service, nice restrooms and the occasional hot tub. At the end of the day, we will usually choose a really nice, cushy RV park in a prime location over a less expensive park – because we like it better. It’s a conscious decision that may end up costing more, but we feel it’s worth it for the comfort and convenience. We could do it cheaper if we needed to, but for now it’s the cost of our particular travel style.
- The weather is never “average”. As we planned our first-year route, we blithely said that we would “follow 70 degrees”. We meticulously researched the normal weather patterns and monthly averages at each planned stop, with the intent of maximizing our time in the nicest possible weather. Well – it hasn’t always worked out that way! Charleston was freezing. We weathered an ice storm in Northern Florida and another while staying outside New Orleans. We were in Spokane when it hit 104 degrees. Hurricane and Moab UT had highs in the mid-90s in late September. And in Santa Fe, we encountered mid-October snow. None of these reflected “average” weather patterns for those areas. You just have to be prepared for anything.
- Missing familiar surroundings. I lived in South Florida for almost 33 years, 30 years in the same Pembroke Pines neighborhood! I had such deep ties after working, living, raising 2 children, worshiping and volunteering for so long in the area. So many memories and relationships. I significantly underestimated the difficulty of emotionally detaching from such a long-term life of stability in order to launch into this nomadic existence. Now, our life is constantly changing as we move from place to place – nothing is familiar except what we carry with us. It has been a process of adjustment, more so for me than for Jeff, I think. It’s getting better over time, for a couple of reasons. One is that time and distance lessons the pain of leaving all that was familiar and stable. Being a nomad IS the new normal. Also, I find that staying in a nice place for an extended period of time (a few weeks or more) allows me to put down mini-roots. I can shop in the same grocery store more than once, become familiar with the area, and feel like its home, just for a little while. I like that.
- This US is full of wondrous places. As we travel, we keep finding new and exciting places to go and things to see. There is just so much to do in this enormously varied country of ours. The National Parks are glorious, but so also are the large and small towns, each with its history, culture, cuisine, and activities. We’ve been at this a year and have only begun to scratch the surface of everything that is out there. It could take a lifetime to see it all.
That sounds just grand. Looking forward to it!