Updated: Dec 15, 2021
For some time, when I pictured a place to call home, I imagined my family living tiny and simple. I was always pretty particular about when, where, and on whose terms. Everything had to feel just right: the view, the location (likely off-grid), the connections I made along the way, and the timing.
Envisioning Your Place
I desired a place where I’d feel comfortable enough to leave the door wide open and look through the screen while sipping on a cup of coffee. A place so familiar and safe that everyone knew their neighbors and the guests who visit. I knew that selecting a simple place to call mine had to be a decision that wouldn't keep me up at night, like most of the places I'd lived so far.
Tiny House or RV?
Thankfully, I had the perfect opportunity to purchase a tiny house during the pandemic. I even had a company customize it and everything. But, oddly, although I had this planned years in advance, I couldn't ignore how rushed and pressured I felt. I was about to make a down payment on the house, but those feelings came over me, and I had to listen to that little voice in my head that said, "Not in this season. Give it time."
So, I decided never to compromise, no matter how long, drawn-out, and aggravating the process. Even if it goes in an unexpected direction, this is a significant, life-altering decision after all.
Making the Purchase
After listing the pros and cons, my heart led me to purchase a 2009 Frontier Explorer Travel Trailer instead. I researched for weeks, and as soon as I came across this particular RV on Facebook Marketplace, I knew I was going to own it.
Surprisingly, it appeared to be in fantastic shape for an older model. Just five hours after the seller created the post, I felt compelled to send them a message at two in the morning. We connected that evening. By daylight, I was across town, inspecting the RV. Two things stood out to me: an impaired awning and two burnt-out light bulbs. Everything else was perfect. I instantly imagined myself living there with my children.
During your research, you'll discover that it's necessary to compare the price to Kelly Blue Book and allow an inspector to look it over. Use this as a guide before making your purchase. However, it likely won't work out this way, which was the case with my purchase. Fortunately, I'm more of a gut feeling type of person, which worked in my favor. I learned the RV was used infrequently and kept safely in storage for many years! After examining the roof, checking for mold and potential water leaks, I was ready to negotiate a price and make an investment. (It's even more empowering when you can talk the seller down a few hundred bucks!)
My Travel Trailer includes a rear bunkhouse and a private front bedroom. There were no leaks, soft spots, or damage. It had a solid roof and floor, an electric awning, cold a/c and heat, a 3-way fridge, an oven and stove, lots of storage, and the tires were in excellent condition. It was equipped for the road and conveniently winterized. With a clean title in hand and two other buyers on their way to purchase this RV, I felt that the pressure was on. However, my confidence and intuition overpowered my hesitancy, and it turns out I made a quality purchase.
Educate Yourself and Become Resourceful
I've learned that it's critical not to allow fear of the unknown to paralyze you when you know a lifestyle is meant for you. Weigh the pros and cons. Prep your family and get them comfortable with the idea of living in an RV. Explain "why" instead of "what." My girls were excited about the change as well.
Research multiple contacts for maintenance. Join RV groups. Be open to discuss your concerns, and you'll learn how relatable they are. The more you educate yourself, the more empowered you become. One myth about RV Life is the cost of living. Be willing to pay the price to live the way you want. Although some people move into an RV to save money, please understand that living in an RV full-time can be equally expensive as renting a house or an apartment, whether stationary or traveling full-time.
Utilize YouTube. I like to call it "Youtube University." You can research, practice, learn a new skill in three days and begin packing for your journey instantly! Unsure how to seal the cracks in the RV? Don't know the difference between the black and grey tank? Unsure where to park it, or just overwhelmed by the entire process? Watch every informative and instructional video possible. If time is a factor, hire someone to do that job for you! Don't restrict yourself. Give yourself room to grow and experience learning curves. Be okay with the time it takes to save money to buy an RV if you don't want payments or if you decide to renovate. Trust me; it's worth creating a space that brings you joy, simplicity, and clarity every day.
I've learned to understand and value the requirements of some of the RV Parks. They have standards to keep up the park's image. They expect you to keep it clean as possible, or else we'd end up in a "trailer trash" park. If a park starts making exceptions for one unkept trailer, it'll attract others just like it. Some resorts won't allow RVs older than ten years - including those that are undergoing renovation. I've witnessed people go out of their way to paint the outside of their RV (it's pretty impressive), but it's still a 1994 camper, and some parks won't accept them. Luckily, if you meet in person and show pictures, they may work with you.
It's essential to understand the type of preventive maintenance it takes to equip your RV for full-time living, or else you'll be dishing out more money than you anticipated. When I purchased mine, I expected to come out of pocket an additional $3K-$5k, so I budgeted properly for that. Thankfully, I haven't in repairs, but I have to make the place homey and start its maintenance. Here are a few maintenance tips to successfully maintain your RV:
-Top off your battery.
-Clean debris off the roof.
-Check headlights and brake lights.
-Check under the hood (if it applies).
-Examine your tires.
-Lubricate the slide-outs.
-Test your safety equipment (fire extinguisher, smoke detector, etc.)
-Clean your air conditioner.
-Examine your tires.
-Caulk your cracks.
-Understand your water system.
I know it seems overwhelming, but keep in mind it's very similar to a regular vehicle. RV service technicians are willing to weigh your RV, service the brakes, deep clean, inspect your propane, etc. Budget for camper repairs and price out a list for all of them. Also, make sure to keep your options open to different RV technicians for each service and check your sources. Everyone's services and prices will vary.
Make Assembling and Dissembling Easy
When it comes to setting up and disassembling your RV, keep it simple. Disconnect everything: your water hose, extra plugs left in the junction box, sewer hose, etc. Bring the levelers down. Ensure that your door is closed/locked. Use a bungee cord as tie-down straps.
Never Allow Bad Energy Into Your Place
I was hesitant and filled with so many emotions when I started this journey. So there was no reason to add anyone else's sentiments and opinions to it. Ensure anyone you allow into your place of peace has good intentions and genuinely happy for you on your journey. The energy must be right. When you choose a specific journey such as this one, others may assume the cause of the change or think you're going through a crisis because your preferences don't align with theirs. 'Home' has different meanings for everyone.
Just think, you’ve customized the place you call home. You’ve made it your own. You’ve determined that this bold choice is what you want right now. Ultimately, you want people just as excited as you are, and that may not happen right away. So, if you’re not sure about your decisions, don’t expect anyone else to be. However, reassure them that you don't have to be labeled a gypsy or own a truck to pull your trailer. Trust me; I learned the hard way, it doesn't matter, friend or stranger, check the energy. Be mindful of who you share your lifestyle with. It's pretty personal to me, which is why I keep my Simple Living Instagram page private for now. Until it feels right, I don't accept requests right away. Don't worry. You're still invited.
Unfortunately, some people can't step into another person's world; some have to physically place themselves there to honor what you've done with the place. But, little do they understand, you can be happy for someone even if it's not for you; you can compliment them without it signifying that you want to live there too. Relax, folks. It's a tour. I didn't ask to be roommates.
Most people I share my RV life with have told me I'm living their dream. Yet, they won't pursue it themselves until they retire. You don't have to wait to live your life how you want. It doesn't have to be a trade-off. The pandemic has shown us how short life is and to give value to what's most important right now. The earlier, the better, and the more genuine connections you make, the more centered you'll feel. It doesn't have to make sense to anyone else: your life, your way, your terms.
Understand that you may develop decision fatigue when it comes to the next best thing in an RV. A lot of the choices you make are seasonal. When it comes to living conditions, we automatically think long-term, but sometimes you have to live seasonally when you live in an RV. There may be something crucial to have in the summer that you won't touch in the fall. For example, I do not use my stove during the summer, but I'm much more open to it in the winter when I actually use my propane.
Another example is deciding on whether you need more storage for food since the refrigerator is small. I've wanted a deep freezer for a while, and I spent a lot of time thinking about it, but instead, I changed how I stored food in the refrigerator. I was able to break down boxes and use Ziploc bags versus containers. I realized that there are some things that I don't have to buy in bulk. I've learned how to acclimatize and weigh my decisions carefully.
Wander in Your RV, Not Your Head
When I moved out of my place, I gave away most things and sold a few items. I had to make sure I was okay with separating from materialistic things. I hung onto gifts, and I happened to collect items over time, but they weren't bringing me much value. Take the opportunity to look around your new space. It's okay to sit in emptiness for a while and not purchase items right away. Conscious consumerism is key. You can even participate in the #LessisNow Challenge and include a friend as an accountability partner. Every 90 days, ensure that you haven't collected more items.
Learn to be okay with letting things go. You can quickly become claustrophobic in a place with excessive clutter. According to a study by Princeton University Neuroscience Institute, "Visual clutter competes with our brain’s ability to pay attention and tires out our cognitive functions over time." There is certainly an association between a cluttered space and feelings of anxiety. So create a space that allows your mind not to wander.
“Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things so we can make room for life’s important things—which aren’t things at all." -Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus (The Minimalists)
Must-Haves, Needs, and Wants
Plan for the worst but with high expectations. Expect things to break or leak. Create an effective maintenance plan. Make good use of RV blogs, groups, podcasts, etc. However, please don't solely rely on them. Until you do it yourself, you won't know, and you'll drive yourself crazy wondering 'what if.' Some RV lifestyle blogs are great at click-baiting. So, it's essential to understand your own needs. What are the things that you are willing to compromise, and is it worth it? Everyone has their top five things that they can't go a day without, and your list will look different from mine.
My Must-Have Items:
1. To live more with less.
Living more with less gave me room to create more pleasure in my life.
After downsizing, I realized that I didn’t need much to make me feel complete and have clarity. Instead, it represented freedom, adventure, and flexibility.
3. Simplicity in a clutter-free space.
For me, living in an RV means there is less to clean and fewer items to move around. It gave me more time to discover. Sometimes we get so caught up in our to-do list that we forget that we have things we want to do!
4. Peace and clarity.
Living tiny has taught me how to live simply and how to be more organized.
Less space signifies less stuff, and you consume less energy. This leads to a lower carbon footprint.
RV Living Dislikes
RV living comes with various pros and cons. One disadvantage is that you automatically live an active lifestyle whether you want to or not. When you live in an RV, it requires a lot of maintenance and demands you to be more active when operating your home. Some people walk into their houses and don't have to worry about half the things you do in an RV.
The upside is that if you're traveling, you understand this. You're okay with it because of the money you save on hotel costs. Perhaps you have the luxury of waking up in a completely different place or the option to move your entire home when you want. Suppose you have arranged everything in your life to accommodate that. Every so often, we want to be lazy and not have to deal with things, but sometimes that's not an option.
Another disadvantage of RV living is having a smaller tub. It's unfathomable for me precisely because I take more baths than showers; for a person who bathes for self-care and leisure, that is a disadvantage. I attempted it, and it was very uncomfortable, but I knew this needed planning. As a solution, I book a hotel room, go to my boyfriend's house, or rent an Airbnb with the kids to relax sometimes. But I did that before RV living too.
Another disadvantage is not having a full-size washer and dryer in the RV. It can be tricky, especially if you have kids because you have to wash ten times more than you usually would. Are you willing to compromise on this? If you have downsized and are wearing the same apparel, you have to wash the same things. If you are someone who has a lot of clothes, it can still be overwhelming. You may be able to go a while without washing, but that massive amount of laundry can be overwhelming. For me, I'm pretty simple. I wear a lot of the same outfits. I don't particularly like transporting stuff from place to place. The majority of the time, I stay in a resort with a laundry mat that's easily accessible. (However, we all know that if we didn't have to go to a laundry mat...we wouldn't!) Depending on your setup, you can install a washer and dryer in your RV or purchase a portable washer and dryer.
Another drawback is owning a 30 amp versus a 50 amp RV. Suppose you exceed the watt capacity or the 30 amp capacity. In that case, you can easily trip your breaker. Some kitchen appliances cannot run simultaneously depending on the voltage, so keep that in mind. Again, it's an active lifestyle for many reasons, whether you want it to be or not, because that's how you survive. For me, that's as much as a disadvantage as not having a tub.
RV living can be challenging when you have to reset the water heater constantly. There were instances where I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know how to reset the heater properly. I've gone without hot water for weeks and had to use a kettle to keep my water warm. I had to understand my setup. Sometimes it took a while to reset, and that was certainly an annoyance for me. It wasn't impossible, but it was an inconvenience. However, once I spoke with a professional and learned how to do it, it wasn't bad. When you have to do these things, you learn to appreciate the comforts that we take advantage of every day.
Contribution Over Consumption
We rarely focus on experiences and being present because we assign so much to ourselves. When you reduce your consumption level, you can focus your attention on what matters most to you instead of the responsibilities you’ve taken on. According to Kumar and co-author Nicholas Epley, a Professor of Behavioral Psychological Science, experiences tend to present more enduring happiness than material purchases.
Imagine that: you'd have the ability to gift your time to yourself and others. You can concentrate more on showing up as a better support system when you don't have to agonize about deadlines, commitments, and expectations. You can say yes to everything you put off..because you can make time for it! Aside from every point made, you should go for it if your "why" matters way more to you.
What are some of your biggest concerns before going full-time? If you already are, what were some of the obstacles that are no longer a concern for you?