Shhh… Things About Full-Time RVing Nobody Talks About

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: 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.

About Ellen

Fiction writer and photographer, I travel the country with my sweetheart of a husband as a "full-time RVer."
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7 Responses to Shhh… Things About Full-Time RVing Nobody Talks About

  1. Ingrid says:

    Once again, you’re spot on. Great post!

    • Ellen says:

      Thanks, Ingrid! Did you get snow in your spot of Arizona this holiday season?

      • Ingrid says:

        No snow for us in Phoenix for Christmas, but today is New Year’s Eve and the rain won’t let up and it’s cold. Less than 30 minutes to our north, the snow is falling and Flagstaff is blanketed. Where are you wintering this year?

  2. I once had dreams of being a part-timer, about half and half. The house my (then wife) and I owned at the time was very affordable (payment-wise), and family/friends were close-by to take care of things while we would be away. So, a vision of 6 months wander-lusting around the country, followed by 6 months of staying put inside our 2 acres with comfortable brick home. What could be better?
    All this would commence when our two daughters were graduated and out and about on their own. Meanwhile, if they hadn’t flow the coop yet, one (or both, legal age) could live there rent-free, simply keeping the old homestead up. We would even cover the costs of repairs (unless she/they were somehow responsible for said repair).
    Alas and alack, once the birdies had flow the nest, my wife of 25 years informed me that she wanted me to move out, because she no longer cared the way she should and needed to “find herself.” (Never mind the boyfriends she had accumulated along the way and wished to commiserate with them on our phone and probably at our mutual domicile.)
    So, I found myself “traveling” to a run-down efficiency apartment in town. We (wifey & me), having no minor children at the time (both 18 & plus) chose to work out a no-fault divorce which the state of Florida offers. Less than six months later the deed was done. She kept the house w/payments (not many left) and assumed care of all our several pets, while I had her agree not to ever touch a penny of my veterans pension.
    Fast-forward several months. I met Karen, and we were later married. I found myself with more money in my pocket than I’d seen in, well, forever. We shared all expenses, and soon we both had the “traveling itch.” We bought a used RV and began taking short trips (several days to a couple weeks). We LIKED the idea, and decided that was what we wanted to do.
    Mexico Beach, FL (yes, Hurricane Michael’s recent victim), began to get “uppity” instead of remaining the sleepy little fishing/family coastal village it had always been. Taxes shot up. The writing was on the wall.
    We began using our RV taking trips to check out places to move. We both loved the mountainous area between NC and SC, and that’s what we zeroed in on. Found a great place in SC in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains, bought the land, contracted for a house, and began listing our properties in FL. FL was BOOMING at the time, and we make a real killing on our house and three other contiguous lots we had acquired at bargain basement prices. The deal was done. We made the move.
    Alas again. Family matters (re: daughters and their spouses) soon ran into monetary problems. We helped, being assured of repayment. Then things began to fall apart. Son-in-law with great FedEx job (regional sales manager) came down with Myasthenia gravis; the daughter (his wife) developes breast cancer. Other crap followed with other daughter and s-i-l.
    And then, yours truly develops problems, some Vietnam wounds related, others hereditary. Our months on the road grew more sparse and sparse until we’ve hardly used our RV in years.
    So, as the old saying goes, “The best laid plans of mice and man. . .”

    I hope the two of you wander/wonder on as long as you see fit. And again as always,

    –Mike 🙂

    • Ellen says:

      Hi, Mike! Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment. We ran into a lot of people when we started (and still do) who dreamed of hitting the open road but for whatever reason couldn’t… or they did for awhile but settled into one spot, usually for health reasons. We’re grateful we can do this, but I do worry about those who head into full-time RVing with only the rosiest of ideas about what it entails. Hope you and yours are sharing a fantastic holiday!

  3. competentrver says:

    Hi Bob and Ellen! Your article is accurate but only in an individual way. Sure, there can be issues in anyone’s life. How one interpretes and reacts to their circumstance is the bigger factor. Happy folks will likely remain happy in a FT lifestyle. The reverse is also true. Changing your lifestyle will not likely change your attitude toward challenges and how you see them. My thought is if it isn’t fun you shouldn’t do it – allied across every minute of every day. Much of happiness is perception.

    • Ellen says:

      Thanks for stopping by and adding your thoughts, Mark! I completely agree that “much of happiness is perception,” which is why I couldn’t hold back my thoughts about some of the things full-time RVers don’t mention much. We had never RV’d before we decided to go full-time, so we had a lot to learn.

      I also agree that if something isn’t fun, why do it? Which is why we’re still out here on the road, exploring and meeting people, having a new adventure nearly every day, and why we just can’t seem to settle in one spot. At the same time, I think we’re doing a disservice to people who think full-time RVing is the answer to all their troubles, that it’s somehow the portal to a perfect life (if you haven’t met these folks yet, you will) without speaking up about the realities of this lifestyle.

      We started in early spring of 2009 — not many RVers were blogging back then; available information by 2015 had mushroomed, so had we been thinking of starting then, we might have made a different choice. Maybe not.

      As long as people head into full-timing with some idea of what they’re facing, I wish them well.

      BTW — Kudos to you doing the on-the-road training gig! I was doing online training before leaving for the road!

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