How do we feel after 6 months of full-time rv living? Read on to find out if we love it or hate it, our best and worst experiences, and what we’d change if we could.
Before we bought our RV 6 months ago, I had never even spent the night in an RV. Despite that, this whole thing was my idea. For years I’ve thought that the ideal retirement would be to buy a motorhome and travel the country. Then about two years ago I realized I didn’t have to wait. But, I had no idea if I’d enjoy the RV life. Heck, I really had no idea what the RV life even entailed.
When Brandon and I met, I shared my dream with him and he thought it was pretty cool. Early on I don’t think he realized just how serious I was. But, when I sold my house and began seriously making plans to buy an RV, he learned quick that when I get an idea in my head, it’s hard to shake it loose. Thankfully, he didn’t try. Instead, he encouraged it.
Throughout it all, there was this fear and a giant question of “What if I hate it?” “What if we hate it?” There were discussions of renting an RV first to try it. And, of course, that was the suggestion of many of our friends and family. Why on earth would you put so much money into something you may not even like. What if you buy it and try it once and then you just have to turn around and sell the RV you just bought?
These are all valid questions. And, these are the questions that were constantly swimming in the back of my head as we went through the process of shopping for an RV. I knew there was a chance that I’d hate living in an RV.
Minimizing the Risk
Brandon and I are so much alike in so many ways. That’s why we work well together. One thing we both have in common is that when we set our minds to something we go all the way. It’s all or nothing. We don’t just dip our toes in the water, we dive in head first. Sink or swim.
Our decision to jump into the RV life was no different. So, we knew that if we wanted this to work, we had to do our research and minimize the risk. This meant several things for us:
- We would only buy used (someone else could eat that new car cost)
- We would only buy what we could pay cash for
- We wanted to do our best to get the right rig the first time out
There were two reasons behind those first two items. First, I’ve been debt free for years and that wasn’t going to change (and I’d managed to get Brandon on the debt-free wagon and wanted to keep us both there). Second, I wanted to let someone else pay the new RV price-tag and instead get the best value for our money. Buying used meant that we could get more RV for way less money – and in doing so have a better chance of accomplishing the third task.
I knew that one of the biggest risks we had was buying the wrong RV and ending not enjoying the RV life simply because we were in the wrong rig. So, we had to look at what is important to us and use that as our starting point.
I know many people will advise you to just buy one and get started and then you can always upgrade. And, that’s not bad advice. But, what if the one reason you (or your partner) ends up hating the RV life is because of the tiny bathroom? Or because they didn’t have enough space to do their favorite craft or to work?
Those were our considerations. The tiny bathroom in most RVs was the one thing we were both looking forward to least. It was honestly the thing I most felt might make me hate RV living. Again, while we’d been looking for over a year prior to buying, the bulk of my experience even looking at RVs involved tiny wet baths (the kind where the bathroom is the shower).
Our other major consideration was that we both still needed to work. We both do computer work. I do marketing consulting and he’s a programmer. So, we weren’t going to be comfortable just working on our laptops and sharing the kitchen table. We both need large monitors and space.
So, we looked at every RV with these considerations in mind. Initially, we thought we’d go with a 5th wheel toy hauler and use the toy hauler space as office space (ala Changing Lanes). Then, we looked at Class As. And, eventually, we landed back at 5th wheels (purely due to cost). Read more about our RV search.
After looking at many more 5th wheels we stumbled across the layout we felt was perfect for us. During the time we’d looked at Class As we’d realized that we didn’t need a separate room to work, we just needed enough room to work. This changed the way we looked at the different floorplans.
With just the two of us, we didn’t need a huge couch. We wouldn’t likely use a kitchen table, we didn’t need that. Those spaces could be repurposed as workspaces. The only thing left was the bathroom. As we continued to search we did see a few floorplans with larger bathrooms that we felt more comfortable in. Then, we found the front bath floorplan and we were done.
The only problem with that floorplan was that it’s 42′ long. We’d really been planning to stay under 35′. But, we knew this was the one. This was the floorplan that was most likely to result in us enjoying RV life, without constantly wishing we’d bought something else.
6 Months Later: Did we make the right choice?
Short answer is yes, very much so.
When we made the drive to pick up our RV we had no plan for what we’d do when we got it home. Would we put it in storage? Would we take weekend trips? We knew it was too big to fit in the driveway. We’d just have to figure it out. But, I knew I didn’t want to put it in storage. I knew that if that happened it decreased the likelihood that we’d actually use it. We’d take a trip here or there but mostly it would sit. I didn’t want it to just sit.
I knew that I wasn’t going to enjoy moving in and out of the RV constantly. I don’t even like packing to go on trips. One of my favorite things about RV life is the ability to travel without having to pack. I don’t have to worry about forgetting something, or having an uncomfortable bed.
After driving 800 miles to buy Bessie (that’s her name), we took a week to bring her back home. By the end of that week I was sold. I told Brandon I had no desire to go back to the house. This was my home now.
Luckily, he was enjoying it just as much and his response was “Guess I’m selling my house.” And, six months later that’s exactly what we are doing. I’m typing this to the tun of power tools as workers replace the flooring in the house and we work on the finishing touches to get it ready for market.
We have been living in Bessie full time for the last six months, moving occasionally and checking out various campgrounds around North Alabama.
What have we learned after living in our 5th wheel for 6 months?
We’ve learned so much. The biggest thing we’ve learned is that all that research we did was well worth it. We got a great camper. No RV is going to be trouble free. And, buying used you can expect that there will be things to fix. Even buying new there will be maintenance and probably things to fix.
There’s definitely more maintenance in an RV than in a regular house. There’s always something. And, you certainly don’t have to empty the black tank when you live in a sticks and bricks. But, it’s worth it.
We gained more than we expected by buying used. Our used rig came with so many upgrades that we would have wanted. Things like SnapPads, an automatic electric cord (that rolls up into the side of our rig at the touch of a button), RVLocks, and upgraded stairs.
Then there were the thing we didn’t even know we wanted that now we know to look for when we do change rigs. Things like how easy it is to access our hook-ups (compared to some others we’ve seen). We love the MCD two-layer shades that came in our camper and thought they were pretty standard, until we started looking at the rigs around us and seeing the cheap paper shades that come in most of them.
All in all, we feel that we did really good and all of those little things have added to our enjoyment and to our success.
At this point, we don’t have an end-date. As I look around my tiny home I love the feel of the space and realize just how much stress having a large sticks and breaks creates for me. I like knowing that my space is limited and that I can’t collect a ton of things I don’t need. I like knowing that I only have to clean three rooms (that have about the same total square foot as the living room in Brandon’s house).
We’ve also realized this last few weeks that we’ve really gotten used to being able to talk to each other from anywhere in our home. Being back at Brandon’s house (off and on) the last few weeks it’s been frustrating to both of us that we can’t carry on conversations when one of us in the living room and the other in the bedroom.
It’s not all sunshine and roses
And, anyone who tells you different is selling you something. There have been some tough times during the last six months.
- We struggled our first week in the RV because the AC wasn’t working right and it was 100 degrees outside in FL (and AL).
- We have struggled at times to find RV sites large enough to accommodate Big Ole Bessie.
- We had both toilets (yes both) break the same week. Part of the reason we wanted two was so we’d have a back-up and there we were with backup!
- Our water supply froze
- We got flooded out of an RV park
- We had a leak in our underbelly
What’s been our best experience in the first 6 months?
That’s an easy one. Definitely our time at Emerald Beach RV Park in Navarre Beach. Such a beautiful location, right on the Santa Rosa Sound.
The RV park had a private beach and an amazing pier where we watched both sunrises and sunsets. We really wanted to stay longer than we did. We definitely plan to go back.
What’s been our worst experience in the first 6 months?
That would have been Memphis. We did have good moments during that trip, but overall it was just a very stressful trip. Between going for a specific purpose (to find desks at Ikea) and feeling very limited on being able to go downtown (due to limited parking for our big dually), combined with the terrible roads. It just overall wasn’t a great trip. But, at some point we’d like to go back and have a redo, when we can just relax and enjoy the area at our own pace. Even despite the negatives, we enjoyed some amazing sunsets and riverviews.
These days we rate things on that scale. On a scale of Navarre to Memphis…
In the end, I can say without a doubt…
We don’t hate it. We love the RV life!
If you’ve thought about giving the RV life a try, go for it. You might hate it. You might love it, but there’s only one way to find out.
Every one of those negatives that have happened have been worth it for the sunsets we’ve enjoyed, for the extra time together, for the lowered levels of stress and anxiety, and for the ability to travel and do things that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.
You don’t have to go all in like we did. You can take baby steps. You can rent an RV. You can be weekenders. You can do whatever works for you.