On May 31st, 2016 we closed on our house in St. Louis and officially began living in our RV full-time! We’ve seen more of the country this past year than some people do in their whole lives. Living in our home on wheels hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it. We started out having never towed a trailer and neither of us ever did any RVing growing up. We had no idea what to expect, but we knew we’d regret it is we didn’t embark on this journey.
Some Stats from the Last Year
We’ve stayed in 27 different RV Parks. Most RV Parks we have stayed at are about the same. Some, we would never go back to. Others exceeded our expectations and made us wish we could stay longer. We wish all of them looked like the RV Park in Maine, pictured above.
We’ve parked in 3 drive-ways (aka Moochdocking). We are very grateful to the family and friends who allowed us to invade their space. We stayed right on a lake in Michigan, spent time on farmland in Illinois, and enjoyed the bayou in Mississippi. Thanks to Dominic, Uncle John, and James!
When we couldn’t get internet service, we spent two nights in hotels. One of our most difficult weeks to date happened when we realized too late that the RV park we would be staying in did not have any cell service or wi-fi. Mike had a deadline for work so we had leave the trailer for a couple days to make sure he had reliable internet. At the time we were miserable, but looking back, it turned out to be an adventure.
We did one over-night stay in a Cracker Barrel parking lot. We still haven’t done any boondocking besides this one night stay in Ohio. For 2017, we upgraded our batteries and plan to spend some significant time camping out at places without full RV hookups. It is a challenge that we are anxious about, but we think it will provide us with even more unique opportunities.
In the past year, we made it to 13 National Parks. One of our goals was to visit as many of the countries National Parks as we could. We have mostly planned our route around the location of the parks. In addition to seeing as many of the 59 National Parks as possible, we have also visited many other sites run by the National Park Service that include 3 National Monuments, historic battlefields, sailing ships, and other important cultural sites. Our annual National Parks pass has been the best purchase we made for this journey.
We’ve gone to 14 breweries. We take any opportunity we can to try some new beers. If we can find a dinner spot that is also a brewery that is always a bonus. It is always fun and exciting to get a sampler flight of beers. Hot Springs National Park was probably our least favorite National Park, but one thing that makes it special is that it is the only National Park to host a brewery, Superior Bathhouse Brewery.
9 wineries. Before we hit the road we lived in St. Louis, MO. Many people don’t know that Missouri is home to many wineries. We had a tradition of spending our anniversary visiting wineries each year. It is only natural that we seek out wineries whenever they are near one of our stops. We really enjoy wineries that offer tasting along with scenic views.
One distillery. We’d certainly like to try more distilleries, but have not come across many of them. Cathead distillery in Jackson, Mississippi is a pioneer in their area. They have a very cool facility with a tour, tasting, and bar area with games like giant Jenga, and giant Connect Four. Hopefully 2017 will bring more opportunity for us to discover more distilleries.
We’ve gone to 4 sporting events. Obviously the biggest of them was a World Series Game at Wrigley Field! We were also able to catch a Boston Red Sox Game, Bears vs Patriots in New England, and a Cubs spring training game in AZ. You will hardly catch Mike not wearing something representing one of his hometown teams, so having these opportunities while on the road have been exciting for both of us.
On top of all that, we’ve experienced countless other amazing events, places, and views. There is no way we could quantify everything we have done in our first year. Sometimes we need to remind our selves how lucky we are to have new experiences waiting for us at every stop.
We are so humbled by the amount of wildlife we’ve had a chance to see – from the tiniest lizard scampering across the desert sand to a great humpback whale hurling it’s 40 ton body out of the ocean. It is truly amazing how diverse our country is in people, landscapes, and wildlife.
But enough of the nostalgic reminiscing…
What Have We Learned?
This 30 foot trailer is ample space for us.
Sometimes we it’s hard to remember what it was like to live in a house. What did we do with all that extra room? While sometimes the trailer can definitely feel its size, like when we are both on phone calls for work, most of the time, we have no problem living together in this size space.
However, we’ve also learned it’s really hard to keep a small space clean and uncluttered.
A jacket laying around, dishes on the counter, along with a couple pairs of shoes at the door can seem like a huge mess in such a small space. But, then again, it’s also really easy to clean-up. 🙂 While moving day is not always fun, one benefit is that we get a clean start, literally, at each stop.
It’s ok to talk about poop.
It’s really funny that once you start RVing, it is totally normal to casually talk to other RVers about things like toilets and sewer hoses. When living in a house, you don’t put much thought into the sewer system, however dealing with it is definitely part of learning how to live in a RV.
Water and electronics don’t mix!
Ok, we actually knew that one already, but we were reminded of that fact, when on our first week living in the RV, we didn’t get a cable opening sealed up well enough and it stormed all night and water leaked in, ruining our RV’s radio unit. Water leaks can be a huge problem for RVs so it’s important to always make sure everything is caulked and sealed property.
Always check the tire pressure, or better yet, just replace the tires on your RV if you buy it used.
We had a blow out on our trailer tire in Mississippi last November that destroyed the tire and the trim on that side of the trailer. We realized later that even though the trailer was only 3 years old when we bought it, the last owners likely left it sitting for a long time. We probably should have replaced the tires, just in case. Now, before moving from one spot to another, Mike double checks the tire pressure to be safe.
It is really windy in West Texas and New Mexico!
Wow, we had never seen such wind! Driving the truck in the wind was awful (it ripped our truck bed soft cover right off!) but driving the truck with the trailer hitched up was even worse. Mike did a great job keeping it under control!
Speaking of wind, the trailer is not going to blow over in the wind.
This is one I am still trying to convince myself of, because sometimes it really feels like it might! We’ve had our share of bad weather, and we’ve learned that the trailer really can stand up to a lot. Also, the wind and rain usually sound a lot worse inside then they actually are.
Utah is really a pretty and diverse landscape!
We’ve had an idea of what some places would look like, others, like Utah, completely surprised us. We thought Utah would be dry and desert-like. Some sections of Utah are like that, but there are plenty of green areas, along with beautiful mountains, valleys, rivers, and canyons.
Check to make sure the RV Park location has internet service, and then double check!
We have to work to support this lifestyle so, internet is a must for us! Technology is amazing and we are so lucky to live in this day and age that we can work from pretty much anywhere. However, we have learned that there are some places that don’t have internet service…like the middle of nowhere south Texas, and the mountains in Utah. We try to do our research to make sure the places we stay have service, but there have been a couple times when it just didn’t work out and we’ve had to scramble to figure something out. Near Big Bend National Park, we spend a lot of time at a cafe and ended up leaving 6 days early. In Utah, we had to spend two nights in hotels and then move to a new RV park which meant losing out on about $100 that were non-refundable from the first park.
Always get everything in writing.
We were burnt by an RV Park when we were verbally told something, but didn’t get it in writing. In the end, it was our word against theirs, and we don’t want to be in that position again. (You can read about it here.)
We don’t miss the things we had to part with to make this trip a reality.
When we downsized to the travel trailer from our house that we only brought with what we considered to be necessities. As the year went on we even found more things to part with. We do have some storage at my parents house (thanks Mom & Dad), but we think if we were to go through those things we’d probably be able to part with more of that stuff too. The experiences we have been having are way more important to us than most of the possessions we used to have.
You will meet some of the best people!
One unexpected thing about full-time RV living is meeting other people with the same lifestyle along the way. At first we weren’t really connected to the community of RVers. As the year went on we were able to meet many people, and have even gained some great new friendships. Our Instagram account has been our favorite way to see what other full-time RVers are up to, and a great way to make plans to meet up.
What is next for us?
We don’t really know! When we started this full-time RV journey we knew we would be on the road for at least a year. We probably won’t live this lifestyle indefinitely, and we have many conversations about what might be next. For now, we plan to continue RVing and have many more stops planned for 2017.