So you want to live in an RV, huh? Well, I’m here to tell you that not only is it liberating, exhilarating, and at times ridiculously breathtaking, but also entirely doable. Having traveled over 8,000 miles solo in my 1988 motorhome “Big Betty,” I’ve experienced my fair share of RV living’s ups and downs, from hitting a tree in Big Sur to watching the sunrise at Zion National Park. But despite its many challenges, RV living can be wholly invigorating in mind, body and soul, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience you will never forget.
Throughout this series we will discuss route planning, RV finances, some of my favorite places in the West, and various tips for staying healthy and happy en route. No time to waste, let’s get this show on the road!
Part One: the Logistics of Leaving
Step 1: Buying the RV
First off, are you sure it’s an RV you want? During my time on the road, I encountered every form of motorized living from ginormous Taylor Swift-esque tour buses to converted passenger vans to motorcycle camping. Basically what it comes down to is how much money you’re willing to spend, the amount of remodeling/repair you’re interested in doing, and which amenities you want to have on board. Or in other words, where you land on the spectrum of diva to dirtbag. I decided that having a fridge, furnace and functioning bathroom were essential to my prolonged sanity. Plus, cooking and baking are two of my critical creative outlets and stress relievers, and thus justified the need for a kitchen.
So let’s talk about RVs. Like any new car, a new RV will begin to depreciate as soon as it rolls off the lot, and renting an RV for any extended period of time will quickly burn a hole through your wallet. However, in my extensive research, I found that countless new-ish RVs are available through private sellers or dealers, and often have surprisingly low mileage. I lucked out and bought my RV from a friend, which ensured that I was getting an honest answer as to its mechanical state, and enabled me to decorate it however I wanted!
Step 2: How to Quit Your Job
Now, ideally your boss is totally on board with your plan to skip work for a few months to travel the country, rub noses with wild porcupines, and embrace your inner ski bum, right? Well, for the rest of us, making the transition from weekend warrior to full-time adventurer may require leaving your job. But before you do, here are a few things to keep in mind: some employers offer a form of sabbatical, while others may be willing to negotiate reemployment upon your return. You can also look into freelancing, teleworking, or other means of making money on the road (more on that later in the series), but as tempting as it may seem to give your mean-spirited boss the finger on your way out the door, don’t burn bridges, you may need them later.
Step 3: Selling Your Car
For me, selling my beloved 1994 Nissan Sentra was a difficult decision, but critical to fully extricating myself from the city, and helping earn some extra gas money. Depending on your situation, you might not be ready to part with your automotive companion, in which case finding long-term parking at a friend’s house or towing it along might be a better option. However, if you do decide to sell your car, check out its true value on a site like Kelley Blue Book, and don’t be afraid to hold out or negotiate in order to get the best price possible.
Step 4: Storage Units
Prior to this trip, I’d never set foot in a storage unit, and had zero interest in contributing to America’s strange obsession with accumulating piles of stuff. However, depending on how long you’ll be gone, it can be worth it to store sentimental items, breakable valuables (trust me, you do NOT want to bring grandma’s china on your RV trip…) and various furniture items you’d probably end up buying as soon as you get back home anyway.
Step 5: Mail Forwarding
Taking a break from bills and junk mail may seem like a tempting respite, but avoiding your mail completely is not advised on the road, unless you want to end up like me with a month-long overdue Golden Gate Bridge toll. Log onto www.usps.com to have your mail forwarded to a friend or family member, or opt to have it delivered in batches at various points along your route. Many post offices offer General Delivery, and will hold your mail up to 30 days.
Step 6: Taking a Self-Defense Class
When I told my mom I was going to travel around the country for three months alone in an RV, I’m pretty sure I gave her an ulcer. However, after taking a self-defense class and investing in an armory of pepper spray, bear spray and a taser, she was slightly more appeased. Unless you are very comfortable and adept at using firearms, having one in your RV can actually be more dangerous than not having one, since most attackers will overpower and take it from you. Your best form of protection on the road cannot be found at Cabella’s, however, but in common sense. Your intuition and perception of potentially dangerous situations is far more valuable than any weapon. Check out the book Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker for more reading on the topic.
Step 7: Creating a Travel Blog
What’s the point of living in an RV if you’re not going to brag about it to all your co-workers back home? For me, creating a travel blog was an easy way to answer the questions “Where are you? What are you doing? Are you alive??” without answering a bajillion emails, and a fun way to for me to share and archive the many stories and photographs I collected along the way. A couple platforms I considered using include Blogabond and Travelpod, but I eventually settled on this theme by WordPress.
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