When we first hit the road a few months shy of five years ago, we didn’t think we were your typical RVers. We were not married, we were not retired, and we certainly were not independently wealthy. What was typical, it seemed, was that we had started feeling slaves to our possessions, wanted to travel, and had grown sick of the daily grind and were searching for more out of life.
To compound things, we were five years into a struggling technology startup, paychecks were inconsistent and big changes to our lifestyle seemed far out of reach due to our lack of financial stability. We had decided that the business had serious potential and was on the brink of breaking through, but it needed time to stabilize. The conversations about downsizing started to be frequent and suddenly our four-bedroom dream house felt more like an anchor around our necks than a place we enjoyed calling home.
The daily grind of traffic in the New York metro area, not to mention the cost of living, had me daydreaming of a life “elsewhere” more than I cared to admit at the time. I had grown up traveling. My father was a travel agent during my early childhood and road trips had been a regular part of my life. My partner, Kala, had deep roots in our hometown and asking her to move seemed like a stretch with everything else up in the air. Was our relationship ready to take on the extra stress and burden of not only being away from our family but living in a 400-square-foot space?
I approached the conversation with Kala as a bit of a long shot. Our relationship had been tested with the business startup, but this was an entirely different level of pressure on our new relationship. It turns out what we both love about each other made the decision easy. Neither of us had been “glass half empty” types and moving into a small apartment felt like a step backward. What if we hit the road instead? “Let’s do it” came much faster than expected and planning had begun.
Fast-forward six months and the day had finally come. We crammed everything we felt we couldn’t live without into a 10-by-10 storage unit and piled everything else we needed into our newly purchased class A motorhome. Did we make it? Well, more on that later! Looking back on five amazing years on the road, here are our top tips for hitting the road with your partner.
Avoid Buying Twice, Consider Buying Used
As far as motorhomes go, we went big! After looking at over 150 motorhomes, we did what most don’t and went straight to a 45-foot Class A diesel-pusher motorhome. This wasn’t a weekend vacation; we were selling everything, and this was going to be our home and our office. We would be spending a lot of time in the RV and fellow RVers we spoke to made it very clear that “buying twice” was an incredibly expensive exercise. Rather than just looking at the price of the motorhome, we chose to look at the purchase from more angles. We wanted something that demonstrated solid build quality, low maintenance costs and was easy to resale.
One of the first things we did was look at units two to three years older than the unit we purchased to understand what type of depreciation hit we would be taking. We also joined owner forums to talk to other owners about their experience. The data made a class A diesel pusher the clear winner not only for build quality and reliability but overall low cost of ownership. Our intention was to buy used but we ended up actually buying new. This was based on the fact that we could not find a single used RV in the model that we were looking at for sale. It appeared owners didn’t want to sell them, another data point that told us we were heading in the right direction.
Managing Relationships in Close Quarters
Let’s talk about the biggest question that was lingering in the back of both of our minds when we decided to hit the road. Can a couple really live and work in an RV together and not only survive but enjoy and grow our relationship during this new chapter?
It is absolutely true that relationships in close quarters can be challenging. You rely on your partner more than ever, not only for relationship and emotional support, but for everything including basic things like parking your house! You are in this together and being on the same page before you go in makes things easier for sure. Convincing or persuading your significant other may be part of your strategy in hitting the road and that’s OK, but in the end, before you hit the road, they need to choose this lifestyle for themselves and be OK with that choice or you’ll be in for trouble down the road.
Also, in RVing, anyone will tell you that mistakes will happen. When they do, how you conduct yourself and your relationship can mean the difference between years on the road versus weeks. For us, we remind ourselves that placing blame isn’t important. Being right about who caused an issue never helps. Even more importantly, talking about “what started the fire while the house is burning” isn’t going to do anything but make things worse. Focus on resolving the issue as a team, then when things have calmed down and emotions are in check, talk about how you can do things better next time.
With some practiced listening and a lot of patience, we have actually come to see challenges as just part of this lifestyle and it has made our relationship stronger. We not only feel like we just enjoy each other’s company, but that we are a team that approaches and solves challenges together better than we ever did alone.
Remembering to Take It Slow – You’re on RV Time
Our first year of travel went by like a blur. We were so busy worrying about our next stop, our next campground reservation and our next move that we don’t remember most of the first year. Part of the problem is we looked at this like a vacation, not a lifestyle, and that meant we tried to pack our itineraries full of things to do like we were going to end up missing it all.
This isn’t a vacation, it’s a lifestyle, and after years of trial and error we’ve found that three to four weeks per location is right for those still looking to work full time from the road. If you don’t need to work, that can be condensed considerably to one to two weeks, but for those with work to do you usually only have weekends to explore so make sure you plan to have at least two to three weekends per stop. While in new locations talk to locals. Websites and trip planning articles are good, but nothing beats that local touch, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice on what isn’t talked about online. Taking it slow is most true on travel day as that is where mistakes happen. Take your time and don’t worry if you are late or won’t make it to your next destination in time; it’s best to just pull over and enjoy the fact that you now live in a house on wheels. It’s true what they say, home is where you park it.
Routines Can Be Lifesavers
It seems just when we think we have the hang of things, we let our guard down and things go wrong. When hitting the road, we had a relatively trouble-free first six months but that was because our guard was up. Then the issues started and the vast majority of them were due to operator error. When we look back, we now realize that each issue occurred when either we broke routine or switched who was doing what from our norm. This culminated in me attempting to park at an RV rally without Kala first exiting the vehicle to assist with directing. I’ve done this 500-plus times, what can go wrong right? Well, a short cement pole that was out of my line of sight thought better of my arrogance and took out a bay door on the side of the RV, which had survived without a scratch up until that point. What had gone wrong? First, I had rushed to arrive early when our routines had previously always capped daily drive limits to 500 miles or less. Second, I had not followed our parking process of always having a spotter and walking the perimeter before attempting to park. Thankfully that was the first and last time I ever made that mistake, but it was a valuable lesson that saving time doesn’t always mean taking shortcuts or breaking time-tested routines.
RVing – The Loneliest Social Lifestyle?
Kala did very little travel before we hit the road full time and her relationship with her family was — and still is — extremely important as it often is with Italian families. I, on the other hand, am from an Irish family and we tend to see each other for the holidays and that’s about it. Regardless of your family and friend dynamics, hitting the road will likely be a big adjustment.
One thing people don’t often realize until they hit the road is that with this lifestyle you are starting from square one each time you move, meeting new people and introducing yourself for the first time everywhere you go.
This transient lifestyle can sometimes feel lonely and we believe this is why RV rallies, meetups and other social gatherings have become even more popular in recent years. If you are a natural introvert there may be an adjustment period as forming long-term social bonds can take longer when you are moving around all the time. That said, it’s not impossible to overcome and we’ve actually found that the camaraderie of the lifestyle has made for lasting friendships among many that we met on the road and now consider our closest friends. In year five we now plan meetups with close friends all around the country, something we never could seem to get going back at home with friends. This can be harder with family, of course, as they are not on the road, making meetups harder. Technology has played a huge part in our ability to keep in touch with family and friends back home. We schedule regular FaceTime and phone calls with our loved ones and while difficult at first, soon it becomes just like any other relationship. While keeping in contact while remote is important, we find it’s always important to travel home for big events and holidays every year. It’s not only great to see the ones we love, but after a few weeks it reminds us why we left the hustle and bustle of the NYC metro area and hit the road in the first place. New on our agenda for this year is shared holiday vacation time with friends and family. Since we are always on the road somewhere new, we’ve invited loved ones to join us in mutually agreed vacation destinations where we stay in our RV and they can join in on the adventure!
Erik & Kala are full time RV’ers who have been on the road since early 2015. They love to live life to the fullest, traveling across the country blogging about their travels and experiences. Visit their blog to see their motorhome and travel adventures.