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The Full-Timing Experience

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Making the decision to become a full-time RVer is one of life’s “big ones.” Only in a few other instances will the average person have the opportunity to choose a new direction for his or her life that will have the impact this one does. The change from a conventional life to a full-time life on wheels has outcomes as dramatic as going from single to married, from being childless to becoming a parent, or from an idle life to fully employed. It affects where you are, what you do, how you do things, who you are associated with — in short, it’s a whole new ball game. For that reason, it is definitely a question that deserves your very best attention and thought before you take the plunge.

It is a fact that not everyone is suited for full-timing. True, anyone can do it, but not everyone can do it successfully. For example, theoretically, anyone can jump out of an airplane with a parachute; anyone can raise goats on a farm; anyone can live the life of a hermit in a shack in the desert; but the reality is that most people don’t want to do those things.

By the same token, from the standpoint of being physically able to, anyone can get a motorhome and live it it full-time, but not everyone wants to.

Psychological makeups are the deciding factor; not everyone has the attitudes necessary.Which takes us to the question: How do we know if we are suited for full-timing? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could simply take an attitude test and the score would tell us whether or not we should go for it? However, there are some characteristics of successful full-timers
that are readily apparent to anyone who observes such people carefully. A review of some of them might help a person who wonders about his or her prospects for the full-timing lifestyle.

Anyone considering making the dramatic change in lifestyle that full-timing calls for should ask him/herself these basic questions:

Am I dissatisfied with the way I am living?

If you are completely happy with the life you are living, why make a big change in it? If you get up happy, spend the day happy, love the people around you, enjoy your home and where you live, why on earth would you want to change it? On the other hand, do you have the feeling that you would like to go more, do more, see more — a feeling that you want something more in your life than what you have and that something has to do with seeing other places, other people and other things? If your answer is “yes,” then you are beginning to fit the full-timer mold.

Do I like adventure and excitement?

Surprisingly, not all people do, but it is definitely a characteristic of most full-timers. They’re the people who are always looking at maps and seeking new roads and places to visit. They’re curious and have enough daring spirit to tackle the unknown. They listen to others tell of wonderful places they’ve been to, and it makes them want to go, too. Most have some of Daniel Boone’s genes!

Am I a daring person?

Very simply, you have to be rather brave just to tackle driving a motorhome or pulling a big trailer. Most full-timers’ motorhomes are quite large because they serve as homes, so it isn’t unusual for the rig to be 30-plus feet long and weigh 10-plus tons. Getting behind the wheel of such machines and joining the traffic in a city or on a winding mountain road isn’t a task for a timid person. Successful full-timers are people who don’t mind a challenge.

Am I a gregarious person?

Full-timing is definitely a “people-intensive” lifestyle. The best illustration of that point is that RVers talk to each other. They don’t need formal introductions, they don’t even need reasons to greet each other and start chatting; they simply do it naturally. RVers live close to each other in parks; they have to be good neighbors in order to get along. On the other hand, if you are shy and reticent around strangers, you might find that you have a problem fitting in with the RV crowd.

Above all, do I have a good relationship with my spouse?

Full-time RVers live very close to their spouses even in the largest motorhomes. It takes real understanding and the ability to compromise for a couple not to get on each other’s nerves. In a house, they can get away from each other relatively easily by going into another room. But in an RV, another room is only a few steps away. Most successful full-timing couples are good friends.

Most of the good aspects of full-timing can also be considered bad aspects. For example, getting rid of a house means getting rid of the chores associated with maintaining a house, but there are new ones in maintaining a motorhome Instead of housecleaning, lawn mowing and cleaning up after the neighbor’s dog, there’s windshield washing, RV cleaning — inside and out — and fixing the multitude of little things that break. And it means getting rid of some of the expenses associated with having a home: property taxes, insurance, maintenance costs, utility bills; but the substitution of others, like big fuel bills, licenses, campground fees and entrance fees to attractions. One of the nice things about being in a house is that you have friends, neighbors and relatives nearby to associate with and enjoy. On the other hand, in a
sense, you are “stuck” with whoever they are. You’re in a fixed place for better or worse. Being able to change locations quickly and easily in a motorhome is a great feature of the RV lifestyle. If for any reason you are dissatisfied with where you are — sweather, neighbors or whatever — all you have to do is fire up your engine and go somewhere else.

Deciding what to do with a house is probably the single biggest question that most prospective full-timers face. Three scenarios are possible:

  1. Both want to sell it, in which case there is no problem; they simply sell it;
  2. Neither wants to sell it, in which case it is necessary for them to figure out how to keep it and full-time too; and
  3. One wants to sell and the other doesn’t, in which case there is a dilemma.

In case no. 2, the answer depends on your financial circumstances. If you can afford to keep an empty house, get someone to watch out after it and go. If you cannot afford to keep it empty, the answer has to be to rent it to someone — bearing in mind that being a landlord carries with it potential problems, such as tenants who tear up your property, don’t pay the rent or vacate while you are in Mexico. In case no. 3, a possible compromise is to arrange to keep the house for a
period of time while you test the waters. Perhaps after six months or a year, the solution will appear obvious: You either decide to sell it or return to it. The important thing is that your house is there if you want it, and your mind will be at ease if you decide to sell.

The second big question that a couple ready to start full-timing faces is what to do with all their things. You can’t take it all. The accumulation of things that we have in our houses simply won’t fit in our motorhomes, even if they had the payload capacity to haul it. Obviously, you have to get rid of a lot of it. Suggestions offered by those who have “been there, done that” generally include a careful choosing of the things that are essential.

Among those suggestions are some recommended guidelines:

  1. Don’t take anything you haven’t used in the last year — particularly clothes.
  2. Give each person “veto power” over what the other packs (you have to like each other to play this game without rancor).
  3. Weigh your coach and determine how much weight you can add without violating the gross vehicle weight rating. What is left over can be stored if your plan is to return to “regular life” at some future date. However, in most cases it is advisable to get rid of it. Offering it to your children, your grandchildren or other relatives is the most common way of disposing of possessions. One of the benefits of giving it to your close relatives is that you can still see those things when you visit them.

Do people who have gotten rid of their things to travel full-time often regret their actions? Full-timers give a resounding “no” to that question. After the immediate pain of seeing your accumulation of things go, there is a rapid recovery. Very few full-timers would take those things back if they were offered.

Those who are trying to decide whether or not to become full-time RVers face a number of formidable questions. No one can give you the answers. You have to figure things out for yourself and you can do that if you follow some of the sensible suggestions that have proved successful for the thousands of happy people who have chosen to make theirs a life on wheels.

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