As summer comes to a close, I’m realizing over two months have flown by. Derek and I are no longer transitioning to RV living. We are no longer packing boxes and talking wistfully about our future in tiny living, or counting the days until our trailer arrives. This lifestyle has actually become our reality! While the two of us reflect on the first two months of RV living we find so many aspects of this lifestyle that we love, as well as some challenges that we still need to navigate. It was difficult to narrow our list down, but I’m going to share with you three aspects of RV living we love and two challenges we are still working through.
Derek and I have the freedom to live wherever we want! Okay, so currently not wherever we want…until our upcoming wedding we have decided to stay in the area to continue working, and spend time with family and friends. However, we still get to decide where we want to live and how long we want to stay there. At first we took our time with moving, and stayed in one campground for an entire month. It was greatly necessary for us to unpack and experiment with our rig in one location as we settled into this new lifestyle. In our second month Derek and I became more daring. We made a month long reservation in a different campground, using it as a home-base to travel out of on a few shorter excursions. Now we have drifted back to the first campground with plans to move two more times this month. In fact, we’re moving to a new location later this week! To date we have stayed in two different campground locations, at a music festival, and in a friend's driveway. Not too shabby for only two months of RV living!
We have found joy at each location for its own unique features and perks. One campground offers a shorter commute to work for Derek and a smattering of hiking trails for Boone and I to explore, but the actual spot we park the trailer is located in a gravel lot very close to neighbors. The other campground is luxurious in space by comparison, feeling like a private wooded oasis, complete with multiple ponds and bunnies to visit. It also hasn’t been maintained to look the prettiest, is further away, and had a weekly dumpster pickup of 1 AM on a Tuesday- which inevitably always woke us up each week. Our first music festival in the RV was a great experience, check out our blog post about it here! While there are ups and downs to toting a travel trailer to festival grounds, I’d say we were fortunate to have a positive experience. The grounds were for the most part level, and also spacious! We loved being close enough to the stage from our camping spot that we could eat lunch and still listen along. Staying in our friend’s driveway was probably the most challenging move yet! We loved being able to pop in and visit with friends, with our home. Upon arriving we (Derek) was able to back into the driveway and park the trailer. The tricky part was actually leveling our rig because the incline of the driveway was so extreme. Luckily, we had access to a large workshop and could borrow a cinder block or two to place under our tongue jack. Traveling full-time will continue to give us more freedom to choose where we live. When we have outgrown a place, or feel an itch to keep adventuring, we can simply move on to the next.
Another aspect of living in the RV that Derek and I greatly appreciate is the way our life has become more streamlined. To live in a tinier space, you need to have fewer “things”. We began donating, selling, and recycling our belongings months ago. At first it was a slow, and sometimes painful, process. I used to walk into our library and think, “I will never be able to get rid of all of you!” For the record, yes I do talk to my books like cherished friends and yes I did cry a few times when I lovingly sent them off to new homes. Derek, I’m sure, had similar feelings about piecing out his record collection. Fast forward a few months and I can’t even fathom being so attached to the physicality of a book. It's a book! Our whole mentality about possessions changed once we were able to see the extreme benefits of trimming out the extra. Timber Hawkeye and some of his ideas about life really helped us see downsizing as a good thing! For example, again with books, I now think…. I can download that book on my Kindle, or let’s take a trip to the library. If I’m really jonesing for a physical copy of a book (sometimes one just needs to scribble thoughts all over the pages), I can find that book at a second hand shop then donate it back somewhere. I’ve learned that the physical object does not have to be present for that object, or the memories of it, to stay with you.
It wasn’t just books and records to sort through though. We had rooms filled with years and years of accumulation, drawers full of bits and bobbles long forgotten, and boxes hidden away in the attic. Derek and I tackled it slowly at first, then gained speed and prowess. We could enter a room with determination, collect boxes for donations, and be done by dinner. I won’t say it was a perfect or easy process. There were many an item that made it to a donation box only to resurface in the kitchen junk drawer or back of the closet a day or so later. Together we tackled streamlining our belongings. Once we finished organizing a room we would go over that room a second, and third, and sometimes fourth time in the weeks that followed. It felt a little like taking a fine tooth comb over every aspect of our life again and again. Critically we questioned if there was a need for 22 coffee mugs in our new home or the number of t-shirts we should bring along with us. Our bedroom became one giant pile of piles: piles for loved ones, piles for the thrift store, piles for a landfill, piles to sell, and so on. In the RV we still critically think about our belongings and purge what we don’t need. We are working to organize the “things” we have in our life in a tiny space. Not being bogged down by having so much we don’t need, and sometimes didn’t even use, has made our hearts lighter. Our eyes have been opened to how little we actually do need, and what is most important to us in life- love, relationships with others and the natural work, and our time.
Small disclaimer about downsizing your belongings: Don’t get rid of something you aren't ready to get rid of! Take the time to appreciate the item and get rid of it when you are feeling better about that, or simply keep the item. While Derek and I were purging we had a few mementos that we don’t use daily, but just didn’t want to get rid of. I’m so grateful that we had family and friends encourage us to keep priceless and irreplaceable items, as well as offer a small amount of storage. The quilts my grandmother made for me… KEEP! The stuffed monkeys we’ve each had since childhood… KEEP! For each person the process of downsizing will be unique, along with what items you feel compelled to keep. Do what feels good to you.
Hands-down, my favorite part about RV living so far is constantly being out of my comfort zone and growing in our flexibility. Each day something is changing, there are new things to learn, or we are trying out a new experience. We have worked every day to make our lifestyle converge with our mindset. Derek and I want to soak up what is out there with great gusto. The world is full of opportunity to experience and grow as people. Whether it is learning how to hitch up the trailer or problem solving why the toilet is leaking, we are challenging ourselves. I realize that I’ve said being out of my comfort zone is my favorite part of RV living, and this is one of the shortest paragraphs, but I think it stands for itself. Being challenged, constantly putting yourself in new situations, can make you feel alive!
Now it's time to talk about some of our challenges. We knew that drastically changing our lifestyle wouldn’t be all sunshine and butterflies. It is important to work through each challenge and get one step closer to our life goals! Some people out there, I’m not sure exactly who, have said snail mail is dead. They couldn’t be further from wrong! While we have limited the amount of physical mail sent to us, it has been almost impossible to eliminate it completely. In the age of online shopping, we have also run into a snag. Package tracking technology has helped us know when to be on the lookout, but aren’t 100% accurate all the time. Receiving mail has been one challenge for us. Currently we are still having mail sent to our sticks-and-bricks location until it is sold. Derek and I try to make a trip at least once a week and gather mail, along with any packages that arrive. We are usually pretty attentive, and mail doesn’t sit for long. There have been times an unexpected package has sat for awhile, like the very large Amazon shipment of a folding picnic table that was an early surprise wedding gift. Derek and I know that our system is not sustainable, and we need to figure out some next steps when the house sells. A few relatives have offered to get our mail and send what is important to us. We are grateful because this is a cumbersome yet important task, but don’t want to eventually have mail sorting feel like a burden.
Services exist out there in the world that sort and digitize mail for you. Escapees and UPS are two viable options we have heard positive reviews of. While convenient, mail forwarding services do add additional cost to your monthly and yearly budget. When ordering online while traveling there are several solutions to getting your packages delivered. If you are staying at a specific campground, you can simply ask to use their address. This also works if you call ahead and have the package delivered close to when you will arrive. Amazon also has tried to combat the hassle of receiving packages for customers that don’t want items sent to a permanent location. They have created areas with self-serving kiosks called Amazon Hub Lockers. Customers ordering a product can add an Amazon locker location to their address book, and then have the product shipped to that locker location. When the package is ready for pick-up, customers receive an email with a security code to open the exact locker with their package. Derek and I have not tried this service, but talked to a few fellow full-timers that recommend it! Right now mail feels like a struggle; we have to plan when we’ll go out of our way to pick it up and sometimes take impromptu trips for important items. In our future travels it may still be a logistical nightmare, but we know there are options and solutions waiting when we are ready to tackle it.
One of the biggest, and possibly most anxiety-inducing, challenges we have faced so far is the hunt for remote work. Figuring out how to make money, while traveling full-time, is a necessary challenge to tackle. A goal of ours is to find a way to work smarter so that we work less, thus having more time and energy to enjoy more of what makes our lives full. To put it lightly, the struggle is real. Derek and I have been taking turns hunting for remote work throughout the past months. Remote positions are often open nationally, and there is a larger pool of job hunters, but Flexjobs has really helped us in our search! This website vets companies, making sure they are reputable, that offer partial and full remote positions. We’ve experienced a lot of rejection, and thankfully some successes! It sounds like a typical job hunt: a lot of noes and some yeses. However, our situation comes with a few more factors that can limit the job market pool. We actively look for jobs that offer remote positions, don’t require cable or high-speed internet connections, and seem personable.
Before this summer, I was a classroom teacher and taught for about eight years in a variety of settings. When I first started hunting for remote jobs I looked for online teaching jobs with VIPKid and K12. What I quickly discovered was that although I was qualified and could make a decent wage with these types of positions, they often required more stringent internet capabilities than our Verizon jet pack could provide. I had to shift my job search from video-based teaching, to positions that were more about content creation at your own pace and upload times. Derek is still working full-time, and hunting for remote positions in the IT field. Although I am still searching for a remote job in the realm of education, I just found a little bit of success and accepted a position working as an environmental educator! The timing couldn’t have been more perfect; I’ll teach the month of September, then wrap up right before we leave for our full-time travel after the wedding.
Our lives are a whirlwind right now as we plan our wedding, and travels starting after. I am a soon-to-be-expert at juggling campground reservations in our local area while we stay close to home base before our travels begin. Derek is a technology and problem-solving guru when it comes to the RV, and the balance to my scale when all the worries start to take over. Not only have we changed where we live and how we live, but through this journey we have learned valuable information about ourselves. We have learned new skills. We have made a few mistakes, oops! Derek and I have been lucky enough to have the support of one other throughout it all. We’ve pushed ourselves to be our best versions, and really hone in on what success and happiness look like for us. Even though this transition has some challenges, we wouldn’t change our decision to live and travel full-time across the country in our home! Tell us about your loves and challenges in RV, or sticks-and-bricks, life. Know of any remote jobs, send ‘em our way! Let us know here on the blog, write a comment on this week’s YouTube video, find us on Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram. To follow along on this journey with us like, subscribe, follow... on whatever social media platform you use.
Until next time,
The Tie Dye Travelers