Seven months ago I sold my house and moved into my camper full time! I had always wanted to give this lifestyle a full year before deciding what was next but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to actually do it. Now that I’m creeping up on a year I’m in awe of the experience so far.
Some have asked what my future travel goals are and how I decide where and when I’m going to be. Here are a few things that impact my travel and what I’ve learned along the way.
Gas prices! Whew! They are high and when you have to fill your tank multiple times a day while traveling, it can deplete funds rather quickly. If you plan to enter into this lifestyle make sure you take gas prices all across the country into account. I’ve seen prices be as much as $1.50 different from one area to the next. I’ve even driven across a state line and found gas to be $1 cheaper than what I had just paid for it a few miles before. Talk about frustrating!
Not only gas prices, but also think about wear and tear on your vehicles. Keeping up with regular oil changes, getting the breaks checked, transmission fluid flushed (when needed), these are all things NOT to skimp on while full timing. Make sure to check the air pressure in your tires on a regular basis and have them rotated and checked as recommended. You do not want to have a blowout while driving down the road simply because your tire pressure got too low.
I can’t express to you how important your vehicles are in this lifestyle. Think about it, you no longer have a rent or a mortgage you are paying so these are the things you are going to need to put money toward. Make sure you have an emergency fund saved that you don’t use for anything else. This is the money that can only be used if it is really an emergency and not because you want that new thing-a-ma-jig. If you do have to tap into that account, make sure that you replace those funds as soon as possible.
When I first started out, I dreamed of traveling every day to a new place and exploring so many things I had yet to see. I think I had expectations on myself to see as much as possible in the shortest amount of time as I could. In the beginning, I did just that and had some really great experiences. I also learned, however, that isn’t really my style. Not only did I spend a large portion of money in gas but my animals and I were exhausted!
I’m a power driver and I love road trips! I have driven as much as 18hrs in one shot before getting too tired to drive any further. I can typically drive 10-12hrs before it really becomes a strain for me to drive more. I get up before the sun and drive all day to reach my destination. It’s just something that has always been easy for me and something that I enjoy doing. Driving in general can be tiring though, and driving with a trailer is much different.
When driving a trailer you have to keep an eye on everything! You have to allow more time to stop if there’s an emergency. Spend more time thinking about space before you enter another lane. You have to keep an eye on the trailer itself and check your mirrors more often to make sure everything is in place back there. Also, you have to include all the other drivers who WILL pull out in front of you or drive recklessly to get around you because no one wants to be stuck behind a “slow trailer.” The concentration and focus it takes will cause that driving exhaustion to hit much faster and for me that started to add up fast.
I started to have what I affectionately call, “driving hangover.” I would be even more tired than I should be, I would get really grouchy, and my stress level would increase much faster than it should. Yes, I can drive for long distances like a champ but I also have to allow myself time to rest and recuperate after those trips. I hadn’t taken that into consideration in the beginning and found myself really exhausted after a few long days of driving. Now, I try to limit myself to no more than 6hrs of drive time a day. If I do have to drive longer than that, I try to fit in times of rest to get out and walk or stretch along the way and see something fun.
I also take the weather into account. When it’s really cold and snowy outside I would much rather be in the warm desert. If it’s going to be hot and humid, traveling somewhere that is cooler has been on my list. Living in a camper means knowing your preferences and knowing your camper. How cold does it have to be before your waterline freezes? If you aren’t staying in a campground where can you fill your water tanks or dump your other tanks? Do you have enough electricity to power your air conditioner if it’s too hot? Where can you fill your propane tanks so that you can turn the heat on? These are all things that may seem overwhelming at first but become second nature once you get used to it.
It also helps to have places to stay that you can pay long term. Staying in a campground every night can add up really quickly. Finding a place to pay by the week or month is often a better deal. You can also be a camp host and earn your spot for free by doing some volunteer work around the campground. Maybe you have friends who will let you stay in their driveway or on some property that they own. There is also BLM land in most of the western states that allow boondocking for free up to 14 days at a time before you have to move to another location. National Forest campgrounds are often much less expensive or you can find boondocking locations within their boundaries that are off grid. Be sure to talk to the local rangers to help you out.
I have found that I enjoy going to an area and staying there for a few weeks or a month. I like finding the everyday rituals in places like going to the same grocery store or gas station more than once. The small town post office, or the little bakery helps give me a sense of belonging in this nomad journey. I enjoy interacting with people in an area the way I wouldn’t be able to if I were there for only one night. If you’re going to go on this journey, figure out what style best fits you. There is no right or wrong way to do it, just see what you like.
As I look back over the past seven months I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned and how quickly the time has passed. It continues to be a fantastic experience and I’m learning more and more how to live in the moment.
Cheers from the road!