Full-time and extended RV travel ALWAYS involves unique emotional challenges! Are you (and your travel partner) up to them?
Most can certainly be overcome but, if you're contemplating an RV lifestyle, you should know what to expect - It will not be all fun and games! By knowing what to anticipate and how others have dealt with similar situations, at least you might recognize your concerns and fears as normal.
I thought I was prepared for this adjustment. For me it is more about the isolation of not having family and friends around for months on end. Since we are usually on the move whether every few days or a week at a time, we are not able to get involved in activities that may be available at some of the parks. This also eliminates developing any kind of friendships with others.
More information and books are now available for retirees to read about changes that come when couples retire and how it can impact their daily routines together. However, the information is geared towards staying in either your home or same city. Usually there is still some support system or family already in place. The adjustment becomes more about redefining many of the roles and purposes of one's life from a family and career focus to new found purposes and choices.
The RV lifestyle brings so many, many changes for both people but I have not been able to find any information specifically for RVers. For example, I always had my own emotional and physical space prior to this new adventure. Now, I find I have neither. ~Janet
Janet's letter brings to light what, I'm sure, is a common problem not many RVers talk about openly - even amongst each other.
While there are special blogs, web sites, clubs, and forums dedicated to solo RVing, travel with children, full-timing, boondocking, working on the road, and many unique RV travel situations, I agree that there is very little available about coping with the hardships that extended RV travel puts on individuals and on relationships.
With this page, I hope to begin a dialogue about these unique emotional challenges. It's my hope that it will include input from other RVers who feel the same way. At the bottom of this page, I invite you to send in your own thoughts and experiences.
RVers who simply move from a winter home in the north to a southern home in an RV park are simply moving from one home to another. While friends and family will be missed, new friendships and communities will gradually take root in the RV park. And those using their RV for a two or three-week long vacation, before returning to thier "normal" life are also not likely to experience the special emotional challenges mentioned above.
The intent of this page is to address the unique relationship demands of life "on the move." Here I hope to share what I see as some of the unique emotional challenges faced by those living the nomadic life.
Randy and I get along with each other fine most of the time but RVing has a way of testing us. Of all our arguments, some of the most memorable occurred on our extended RV trips and, yes, there were some doozies. Later, we seldom recall what we were fighting about but we always remember exactly where we were at the time.
When people ask how we can possibly live in such a small space, twenty-four-seven for months at a time, our pat answer is, We dont live in our RV, we only sleep, wash up, and cook meals in it but you should see the size of our living and dining rooms! The truth is, getting along, while spending that much time together isn't always easy and the one thing most outsiders cannot even imagine.
It's rare to find a couple where one half isn't more keen on the idea of long-term travel than the other. But no surprise there! It seems to me that, often, the longer a couple is together, the less stuff they actually agree on. We've all met the Bickersons - openly at odds. If one says black the other insists on white. And I'm sure you'll also recognize the Timebombs - without confronting each other, each partner builds a big pile of resentment inside until one day - kaboom!
Of course, emotional challenges as they relate to couple issues aren't unique to RV living. While it's true that a new adventurous lifestyle can rekindle the flames and bond couples closer together, any marriage that's already on the rocks is not likely to survive in the close quarters of RV living.
For the last eleven years, we've traveled on extended trips together, between five and twelve months at a time, in a nineteen-foot Roadtrek camper van. Through trial and error, we've learned a few tricks - or as we call it, "emotional protection" - to preserve our personal space and emotional well-being.
Whether traveling alone, as a couple, or with children, most seasoned RVers will agree that this lifestyle is not for the fainthearted or those easily discouraged. While there seems to be plenty of practical and technical RVing advice available, not much has been written about the emotional challenges - aspects which, left unaddressed, might be one of the biggest factors in determining whether youll be able to handle (and enjoy) this way of life. Knowing what to expect and having some idea of how to ease or avoid situations and deal with your feelings, could alleviate some common fears.
Being removed from loved ones for long periods is difficult to imagine. But with email, social media, and reasonable long-distance rates, being far away doesnt mean you have to be out-of-touch. With a computer on board, you have an even better option: voice and video calls over the Internet. Now that we have a grandchild, we bought a good web-cam and earphones for our laptop (both inexpensive). Using Skype (one of several free downloadable programs) we have unlimited free video calling to anywhere in the world. All we need is a wi-fi Internet connection. I just love seeing my one-year-old grandsons face light up when he recognizes his Oma on the computer screen.
Another good fix for the Missing Your Loved Ones Blues is inviting them to join you for a week in a sunny, fun location. Many full-timers report that, although they dont see family as often, their visits are now longer and more memorable. Living in your RV, its usually not a big deal to visit family, parking either at thier homes or a nearby RV park, and stay for days or weeks at a time because you maintain your own separate space, are self-sufficient, and not under-foot the same way.
You will be missing a lot of birthdays and regular family get-togethers. We don't consider this to be one of the major emotional challenges because these events roll around annually and there will likely be future opportunities to attend. We do try very hard to plan our travels to be back for bigger one-time events such as a family wedding or the birth of a grandchild. Luckily, these events are scheduled well in advance, making our lives easier. Sickness or a death in the family cannot be planned for and could interrupt any trip, even a one-week vacation, so there's no sense letting fears of missing them keep us home.
For some, this emotional challenge is almost as stressful as selling everything and going full time. Youll learn to relax as time goes by but, to minimize those worries, especially on your first trip, consider arranging for a house sitter or, at least, have someone check on the house and report to you regularly.
Full timers, of course, have the biggest emotional challenges with huge adjustments to make, often leaving behind a home, job, community, family, and friends, all at once. Such a large transition needs to be made with eyes wide open. Even then, you can eliminate some of the fear by committing to it in stages. You might ask for a sabbatical from your job rather than quit or retire. Some choose to rent out their house and keep their stuff in storage for at least the first year. Having this insurance policy and permission to change your mind and go back to your old life can make it less scary.
A big challenge of the transient lifestyle is having to make new friends constantly. And, just when youve established a good bond, its time for one of you to move on. Its like changing schools as a kid, leaving all your friends behind, every few weeks. On the positive side, you'll have more time for new relationships and are sure to meet more interesting people from all walks of life.
RVers are a very friendly breed and will welcome you at happy hour or around the campfire; no matter what size rig you drive. Every RVer is in the same boat and looking for some company along the way so its never difficult to befriend fellow travelers. Expect lots of one-night-stands, however, and, although youve exchanged phone numbers and addresses, dont be offended if you lose contact we all meet so many people, we cant stay in touch with them all. Even if you never correspond but run into each other again years later, youll probably be greeted like a long lost best friend its just the RVers way.
Another thing to consider: once you feel comfortable with your new friendship, who better to discuss the special emotional challenges of your lifestyle with, than someone following a similar path?
To meet new people with common interests that you can connect with for longer, consider making friends on-line. Join forums to discuss almost any topic dear to your heart. Those who post regularly soon get to know each other and carry on a very real, albeit cyber relationship.
Solo RVers might anticipate lonelinessas one of thier biggest emotional challenges but, while I travelled without Randy recently, I found I actually met more new people than when we travel together and have each other for company. I'm not blaming Randy, in fact quite the opposite. He's the one with the outgoing personality. I tend to be more reclusive and get lazy about making new friends when he's around.
As a single traveler, I tried to start conversations wherever I went. Even the simplest comment or question often led to an interesting conversation. If you're hoping to meet a potential travel partner, don't be afraid to introduce yourself to couples - every couple is bound to have some single friends and most, given the chance, would love to introduce you to each other.
How can you be bored when every day is a new adventure? To keep things interesting, we try to change the pace. Hiking every day, even through spectacular scenery, can become tiring. After a month in the desert we long for some trees. After weeks in nature we need to hang out in a city or town before we can see and appreciate things through new eyes again. Luckily, when you live on wheels, its pretty easy to move on down the road just a few hundred miles to experience a totally different landscape.
For RVing newbies, my best advice is to test the waters slowly take several shorter trips before committing to long-term travel.
Having said that, when Randy and I started RVing, we dove in virtually no knowledge, no plan, and no "emotional protection". We bought our first RV and, after only two short two-week vacations, quit jobs, packed everything into storage, and headed bravely and blindly out for a full year on the road. Not only were we inexperienced and naieve, but we had not even lived together until that trip. We certainly faced our share of relationship and emotional challenges and it's a wonder we made it past the first two months on the road. Then again, maybe, it provided us with the ultimate relationship test. If we could make it through the emotional challenges of twelve consecutive months on the road, we might just be able to make it through almost anything. So far, (now over ten years later) it has proved true.
How About You?
Please share your own experiences and emotional challenges here. You don't need to reveal your real name or identity to contribute. You can read contributions from other RVers below.
This is the place to share your experience and stories about emotional challenges you've faced or witnessed while living on the road. It's also the place to ask questions and seek support and advice from others. These issues can be sensitive - if you prefer, use a nickname.
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...
Ingrid from Sweden
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Full Time Traveling
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Ray and I have been RVing full time for 7 years now. It took some adjusting from living in a stick house (like paying attention to the level in the black …
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Rving with Pets
We are going on our maiden RV two-month trip with two small dogs. Norman, my husband, thinks it will be miserable for them and us. I think they will …
Part-time or Full-time?
My husband and I travel in a little Lance slide-in camper. We've been out on the road for as long as 3 months, quite a number of times. We never miss our …
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Seven Years On The Road
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Really good advice
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Very Happy You've Begun this Conversation!
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