Five things I learned in my first year as a full-time RVer:
1. There’s Certainly More Than One Way to RV
RVers come with a myriad of backstories, reasons, objectives and goals. There are people enjoying a weekend in the outdoors, fulltimers who travel the country, fulltimers who live in one RV Park all year, workers following contract or temporary jobs and seasonals who park their RV for a summer or winter in one place just scratches the surface of the many different types and styles of RVing.
Some people live in their RVs because they want to and others because they have to, having depleted other housing options. There are young families traveling fulltime, which means parents working and home-schooling children. There are retirees seeking to see the country. Outdoor enthusiasts chasing national parks. Frugal travelers seeking free campsites. Wealthy travelers seeking first class services. And a wide array of others are represented on the road and in campgrounds.
Understanding the reality of this diversity is especially important in framing discussions of all things RVing. There are no absolutes in the world of RVing, no right way or even best solutions. Every RVer has a story that drives their wants, needs and approach to camping, and no two stories are the same.
2. Freedom and Minimalism is Awesome
I sold my house and travel fulltime, rarely staying anywhere more than a few consecutive nights. The flexibility of having everything I own with me combined with the freedom to move at any time is exhilerating. This lifestyle has definitely opened doors and provided glide paths to new opportunities, knowledge and friendships.
I have barely scratched the surface of exploring the people, cultures, history and natural wonders of this country. I traveled merely 25,000 miles across 15 states in my first year of full-time RVing. Here’s a video overview of my first year: 1 Year in 3 Minutes.
My sail stands tall and the breeze has been favorable. I will remain on road until the winds change.
Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.Benjamin Franklin, American Polymath
3. Campground Reservations are Challenging
Campground and RV Park reservation systems are lacking in functionality and effectiveness. Even finding a campground can be a challenge, much less the maize of checking ammenities, availability and making a reservation.
There is no single go-to reservation system. Government campgrounds generally use either recreation.gov or reserveamerica.com. Private campgrounds use various proprietary systems, and some even require phone calls to make reservations. Frequently I also encounter first-come-first-serve sites, which forces a roll of the dice as they can not even be reserved in advance.
Yes, I have identified several APPS that help with locating campgrounds as I identify here: Free Camping and Travel APPs . The process involves juggling multiple apps, websites and following up with phone calls. It’s unfortunate and occasionally frustrating that there’s not a simple process to find, locate and reserve a campsite.
4. Campground Costs Vary Dramatically
The range in pricing of campgrounds is drastic and largely unpredictable. I have stayed overnight for free – a night in a parking lot while traveling and while volunteering.
I have paid as little as $14 per night at a Corps of Engineers campground and as much as $85 a night at a private RV park. Finding a frugal, yet safe and enjoyable home on the road is always the objective for me. I target a budget of $30 per night, and have no trouble beating that number over the course of several months.
For the first seven months of 2019 (212 nights) I spent $3,725, or an average of $17.57 a night. March was my highest spend at $947 for the 31 days with an average of $30.56 per night. May was my lowest spend at zero dollars, as my site was free in exchange for volunteering for the National Park Service.
5. Volunteering is Incredibly Rewarding
I seek volunteer opportunities for the fun opportunities, but the experiences have been equally rewarding. Living and traveling full time provides me the flexibility to go to the unique experiences.
I am grateful for the opportunities to help others through Habitat for Humanity and National Park Service. Check out how I find these gigs: Work Camping. Next on my list is not so altruistic in helping others, but serving as a volunteer for the non-profit Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in September and October.
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