Secrets Full-time RV’ers Will Never Tell You

Sharon and Dave 2015Secret #1. Rv’ing can be super cheap, but it can also be incredibly expensive. Of course this seems obvious, but it’s being new to the road that will bite your finances. You will make mistakes with regard to planning, and most of them will be ones that cost you money.

Most people will say you don’t need to make reservations, and whether you do or not depends on your flexibility.

Secret #2. Your RV will limit your flexibility. Weather will limit your flexibility. Add your budget to the mix and you have the perfect storm. Ha! No really, so you want to go visit Anytown, USA? You will be limited by time of year, temperature, and costs. This is of course obvious, but the actual assembly of this 3D puzzle in real life with real constraints is incredibly difficult. It involves researching an area with regard to weather and elevation, potential places to stay, costs to stay there, and speed of getting there. Faster is more expensive, slower (using Weekly or Monthly rates) is cheaper. Sometimes you can’t opt to go the speed of your choice.

The different ways your RV limits you is the following: How much insulation do you have? Are your water tanks heated? How well does your AC work? Are you able to boondock and go offgrid if you want to (if so, for how long?). Even knowing the answers to these and having an idea of how things will play out, doesn’t fully prepare you for dealing with the actual limitation of say, choosing a city in an area to visit but knowing the surrounding areas are outside the temperature band of what you can reasonably pull off. This map gives you a general idea, but with planning, keeping an eye on elevation of your travel path is critical!

Secret #3. Planning for your budget doesn’t necessarily mean those options are available. If you aren’t interested in Boondocking (not everyone is!), sure, staying somewhere for a full month is the cheapest way to go. Daily rates are super expensive, Weekly rates are less so (but only likely affordable if you use this option sparingly), and Monthly rates are where the financial wiggle room is. But, to stay somewhere that meets your interest, temperature range, and time of year? Everyone else in an RV is doing the same thing – and they snagged all those Monthly rate spots A YEAR AGO.

Our plans A, B, C, and D have all been squished and gone splat. Spend a month in Utah? Nope. Ain’t gonna happen. The place we were interested in was booked a full year ago, and still has a waiting list.

Our idea of spending a month (or two!) in Boise, Idaho? Gone. Too many other folks had the same idea – LAST YEAR and there is a waiting list for the places we wanted to go.

A month in Portland? Nope.

We’ve spent the last several weeks planning, re-planning, pulling my hair out, and planning some more.

For a few days we are chilling out in Pahrump, Nevada to escape the heat of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and even getting a spot here was luck.

Spring is migration season, and as hard as it is to get a spot where you want in Winter, that difficulty remains all year round! I’m telling you this because no one else will. The easiest thing to do is travel off-season, but that again flips your 3D puzzle on it’s side and has you evaluating if you want to BE in those places off-season. Chances are, you don’t.

Sure, we CAN boondock, but we only want to occasionally. A day here, a day there. A small RV means small water tanks and we prefer having at least partial hookups.

Secret #4. It is incredibly time consuming to figure this stuff out. Before we set out, I began following several bloggers of folks like us who work for a living and travel by RV. I will tell you this, no matter how much time you think it will take to learn the ropes of the road, and plan travel paths, it will take you longer when you sit down to do it. Possibly two to three times longer than you expect. Doing this while working 7 days a week is beyond exhausting.

For non-retirees, personal time is different than neighboring retirees. Almost every day we are asked if we’ve seen (some nearby place) to say, “No.. um… we were working. We’re mostly just here for the weather and scenery!” I think people think we’re a little nuts…

Anyway, we had some great travel ideas in plan for the summer, in an affordable method (Monthly rates – yo!), but those plans are not actually doable in a way we can afford, at least not without having the full year mapped out and reserved ahead of time. We could still go to the places we want, if we traveled using overnights and Weekly rates, but that method is way, way outside our budget.

As luck would have it, we finally found a place where we can hang our hats for the next month. It’s in a beautiful part of the country, has great weather, and, holy cow, it’s even affordable! I never would have guessed we’d be able to stay on the Coast in Central California without making some blood sacrifice, but we can!

Grover Beach, California wasn’t part of the initial set of plans, but I’m very excited to head there and check it out! Based on the last several weeks of planning, I have no idea what to expect after next month. If we like it, we may stay there for a few more months (if they have spots available) – who knows? So to our friends and family who keep asking where we will be next so you can come visit us, I’m sorry to say – we’ll know when we get there!

It’s disappointing that our initial set(s) of plans didn’t work out, but our new plan looks pretty nice so far. I’m really shocked we found an affordable place in California, that was probably one of the last places I ever would have expected!

Secret #5. As crazy as all of this is, it’s still amazingly awesome. There is no place in this country I want to be for 12 consecutive months, so even with all of the above, living in an RV is still fully worth it to us!

It looks like the next year will be very interesting one way or another. To those of you following along, thank you for reading!

This post was written in Pahrump, Nevada.

Frodo and the Fridge

Frodo March 2015

Does your dog tap the fridge to request peanut butter? Yes, Frodo is very spoiled. But he’s also well trained!

Since Frodo has a lot of issues with allergies, he frequently gets peanut-butter-topped-benadryl. What, you didn’t know this was a thing? It’s a thing. Trust me.

When it’s time for benadryl, all it takes is one of us getting the bottle out of the cabinet and he runs to us and sits down, eager to enjoy it. We made tapping the fridge and “finding” the peanut butter part of the game, so he’s thrilled to have his medicine.

Yes, Frodo is a very good dog…! It’s a joy to spoil him 🙂

Camp Crashing

October at KOA Asheville West
The view from KOA Asheville West – October 2015

Have you ever crashed a wedding? Hmm, me neither. But lately I have been cramp crashing! Specifically, I’ve been living at a campground while we wait for our house to sell, surrounded by other people who are truly camping. It’s an interesting experience, and apparently a life-hack.

Feeling stressed? Tired? Worn out, and in need of a vacation? Surround yourself with others who are on vacation and the vibes carry over. Maybe it’s just walking past people’s campfires at night, but it’s a pretty neat trick! I don’t know what it is about campfires, but they seem to create happy, relaxed feelings. Is it just me?

This morning I awoke feeling stressed about work, and the remaining things we have left to remove from the house before we transition to completely full-time RV living. And then, I opened the window shades in our Airstream and remembered. I’m at a campground, and it’s a holiday weekend! Our “neighbor” has festive lights hanging from his RV awning and I remembered where I am and what I’m doing here. And I smiled. Life is really good. As Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Counting My Blessings…

Sharon and Pam

I know… it’s rare for a photo of ME to be on this site, but that’s because I’m usually the one behind the camera! I love this photo of me with my Mom-in-Law. And of course, I love her – she’s awesome beyond words – and she gave me Dave!

Sharon, Dave and Pam

It was wonderful to have her stay with us and get a chance to just sit, have some coffee, and talk. Some things in life simply can’t be quantified. I’m very blessed, and I know it.

My Cancer Prevention Project

No Day Like TodayMany years ago now (at least it seems that way), I developed an allergy to corn. Because of how pervasive corn-derived ingredients are in the United States it took us somewhere between 6-9 months to learn what living corn-free REALLY means. It felt overwhelming and difficult. It felt crazy. It was in a word – exhausting. As a family, we had to overhaul everything we thought of as normal.

Since then, I’ve had health issues that also challenged “our version of normal” and forced us to take a look at our lifestyle yet again. What and how were we eating. What about exercise? And how was stress being handled?

So yes, more changes were made. But each time we did what we thought was necessary at the time, it felt overwhelming and exhausting, and we created a new version of normal.

The other day I fell down the rabbit hole of research again and discovered I had fallen into complacency. Though I read ingredients on everything I use, I have become accustomed to ingredient lists that include items that are “safe” for me because they are not corn-derived, but I stopped asking questions beyond corn. After investigating for corn-derivatives, I didn’t ask – what is this? What is it made from? How is it made? And most importantly, is this safe for my health?

I intend to live a long, happy, healthy life. But I am in charge of, and responsible for my own health, and it’s time to stop riding in the passenger seat and get back behind the wheel.

Personally, I feel there is a lot we can do to “prevent” cancer. I’m not talking about early detection screenings – I’m talking about true, actual, prevention. Eating well, and living a healthy lifestyle can really go a far way into providing good health. My diet is overhauled and re-evaluated on a constant basis (for a variety of reasons) and I’m happy to say I’m back into strength-training (that’s a topic for another day, I’m sure I’ll talk about that soon). Strength-training makes me happy and I’m very glad I have finally been able to get back into the groove after a very long break.

But my environment has room for improvement. My lack of knowledge about sunscreen made that glaringly obvious. I’m upset with myself for allowing myself to be ignorant for so long.

So… I’m on a quest to Reduce My Toxins. Essentially, I will be looking at a variety of personal care products such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, lotions, household cleaners, etc, and drive down the source of every single ingredient and determine if I want to continue to use that product, or find a safer alternative. I’m not going to just let my eyes glaze over at word recognition in an ingredient list without knowing for sure, what that ingredient does, and what it’s possible effects are on my health.

Each single item will probably take me a week to research so this will be an ongoing project that could last as long as a year, but one I think worth doing. I’m ready to create a new version of normal.

Because I wanted an easy way to keep track of my research and thoughts, I’ll be blogging my findings on a specific blog I’ve setup for this purpose. Since I’ll be looking up common household items (for example, my most recent research project was Softsoap liquid hand soap), you’re welcome to follow along. I can’t promise it will be interesting, but it will be informative! Here is the site for this project: https://reducemytoxins.wordpress.com/

I will still be blogging here (on Drink More Decaf) about life in general, the new site is just a way to give my research a home. I could never find my notes in Google Docs! Anyway, if you choose to check out my “research” site, I hope you find it helpful!

Jan 2015 Sharon and Frodo

The Forest Awaits!

April 2015 Bent Creek Experimental Forest
Photo taken April 1, 2015: Bent Creek Experimental Forest (Pisgah National Forest)

“This life is yours. Take the power to choose what you want to do and do it well. Take the power to love what you want in life and love it honestly. Take the power to walk in the forest and be a part of nature. Take the power to control your own life. No one else can do it for you. Take the power to make your life happy.”
― Susan Polis Schutz