There’s a down side to full-time RVing most full-timers and those who support the lifestyle don’t want to talk about. It’s human nature to focus on the positive reasons you made a particular decision rather than to admit you might have made a mistake, that you probably could have done a little more research or changed course earlier. We’ll never know how many people who head into full-time RVing throw the engine into reverse, park the rig, and put a For Sale sign on it. When we started out, we were told most full-timers last about three years, but who knows? If there’s real data on it, it’s kept under lock and key somewhere.
Lots of issues could lead to giving up the full-time lifestyle. Sometimes health forces someone or a couple to hang up the keys. For others, it’s a matter of finding a spot where they end up spending a lot of time anyway, so they purchase a house or property and travel less. Lately, I’ve seen a few posts in RV forums from folks saying it isn’t what they thought it would be (or it’s changed over the years) and they’re fed up.
Even so, we meet people all the time who are looking forward to a full-time RVing lifestyle. Maybe you’re one of them. If so, you need to know there’s more than meets the eye.
Two important aspects of our lives — banking and voting — are causing some issues for an increasing number of full-time RVers.
Although having a domicile address is perfectly legal and in some states (such as South Dakota) it’s considered a residential address, not all banks see it that way. We decided to switch banks and ran smack into an issue: the bank said they couldn’t open the account because we didn’t have a “residential” address, and pointed to the provisions of the Patriot Act as their reason for their requirement. I’ve read the Patriot Act, which really doesn’t say this (it says banks need to figure out a way to be able to identify their customers but doesn’t specify how) but it’s still a full-timer’s problem.
And this was in South Dakota, which we’d never had a problem with before. We did, eventually, get the new account set up (same bank, different branch office, believe it or not).
The truth is, we all want the government to be able to follow money trails if they think funds are tied to illegal activities. So the government makes laws that don’t affect most citizens — but because we live a unique lifestyle, we sometimes get hit in the crossfire.
Some new full-timers are saying they’re having a hard time registering to vote (see one example here: https://rvtravel.com/fulltime-rver-without-physical-address-unable-to-register-to-vote/). Voting requires a physical address, and states vary on how they define “residency” and/or “physical address.” Sometimes you can use an RV park’s address. But not always.
It’s important to ask around among current full-timers to find out what’s worked for them in these areas.
Not the Same as a House
When we tell people that because we had never RV’d before we didn’t realize there was so much work involved, other RVers laugh and nod their heads. One said, “If you ain’t fixin’, you ain’t RVin’.” So true.
Too often someone says, “Well, you have to fix things with a house, too.” Yeah, well, let me tell you, it is NOT the same thing.
When your furnace stops working in your sticks-and-bricks (SAB) house, the unit isn’t usually wedged into a one-foot cubic space behind a flimsy piece of wood that wants to break before you get past the tiny little nails holding it (barely) in place.
Yes, you can call a professional to come out and fix things when they break, but often they want to take your house in for repairs — and you could be without it for days. And they’re charging you about $130/hour for that deprivation.
When your furnace stops working in your SAB, you don’t have to unplug your house and drive it someplace to have the propane tank refilled. For that matter, you don’t have to unplug your SAB house and take it someplace to have the oil changed.
When things break, it isn’t like it is when something in a SAB breaks. Everything is cheaper, flimsier, and wears out faster. And finding the parts isn’t always easy. Getting it fixed can be expensive.
So — no. Living in an RV isn’t the same thing as living in a SAB house. And that’s the truth.
Life Goes On
Whether you’re on the road or not, life goes on. Your life is pretty much the same, except you’re traveling instead of sitting in one place.
This might seem obvious, but I often get the impression from people that they think if they sell their sticks-and-bricks house to travel full-time they’ll some avoid all the crap life can dump on you. Sure, they know they’ll still have bills to pay, bad weather to contend with.
What they don’t realize — until they’ve lived it — is how convoluted it can be when you live on the road and something has to be resolved. Getting off the grid is a fine thing, unless you’re waiting to hear whether the IRS is going through with an audit you’ve appealed (for example). Medical issues can further complicate things.
If your relationship is lousy, don’t expect going on the road to make it better (though it could… but it could also make it worse). Go stand in your garage. Imagine living in that space (half that space if it’s a two-car garage!). Now imagine living in that space with your significant other. Sharing tiny closets and narrow drawers. Deciding whose stuff goes where.
Given All That…
Would we do things differently if we’d known ahead of time what we were facing? Honestly? Maybe.
Are we looking for a place to hang up the keys? Off and on.
Like most full-timers, despite the pitfalls and disappointments, we can’t imagine doing anything else. At least for the time being.
If you’re considering a full-time RV lifestyle, read everything you can about it. Try it out. Talk to people.
Most of all, know yourself and what you’re expecting from the lifestyle. If what you want from living on the road isn’t matching what you’re seeing or hearing or experiencing, think long and hard about selling that sticks and bricks house. Or make a plan for getting back into that SAB when you’ve had your fill of roaming.