My husband and I are home! After four trips in our RV, 15,000 miles, and 18 states and 2 provinces, our RV is once again in our driveway.
In September we did a circuit from southern Ontario through Ohio and Illinois to Indiana and then up north through the Dakotas to Winnipeg and home. Then in November we went south to Charleston and left the RV in storage there; in January we flew down to Charleston and took it to Georgia, Florida, and ultimately Texas; and then last month we picked it up again in Houston and drove it home. We put a sticker on if we stayed overnight; here’s where we’ve been since the fall:
We plan to do that next year, too, though we’ll be heading through the central states–Michigan, Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma in the fall–and then spending some of the winter in Arizona, Nevada and Utah before returning home (so if you’re in those states and you’d like to book me to come and give a Girl Talk on sex and marriage to your church, just email my assistant Tammy!)
We’re empty nesters this year, and I’ve been getting more and more requests to speak, so Keith and I decided to take the plunge and drastically change our lives. We bought this “Minnie Winnie” RV, and Keith switched to half time at work, so that we could be on the road for a few weeks at a time. It’s been so much fun. We just love it! And it made the transition to being an empty nest a little easier. It’s harder to miss your kids when you’re so busy with a new life.
A bunch of you have emailed and asked, “so, what was it like living in an RV?”
And today I thought I’d share a bit about it, along with some tips that Keith and I have come up with. Of course, we just had such BRILLIANT foresight and planning to launch our first RV trip when gas prices were the lowest they have been in ages (we were just so SMART to do that, right? 🙂 ), but here are some things that you can actually do something about:
Living in an RV: Comfort and Convenience Tips
1. Bring Very Warm Clothes and Blankets
Florida in January is not necessarily warm. In fact, it went below freezing several nights.
Here I am in my fleece sweater, with our comforter around me, and my fingerless gloves (I didn’t plan to bring the gloves; they just happened to be in my jacket pocket, thank goodness!).
We brought our comforter from home rather than sleeping in sleeping bags, and it was so nice (and super warm!). Just don’t assume that just because you’re going to warmer places that it will always be warm, especially at night.
2. Bring Things That Are Luxuries
Or at least things that make you feel like you’re at home! Instead of bringing your worst set of dishes and your worst hair products and your worst clothes, bring stuff that you like.
For me, that meant bringing good knives for when I cooked; a good frying pan; my comforter, and even my slippers! They’re ugly, but they’re so comfy.
And it meant bringing a large collection of teas. I love my teas, since I don’t drink coffee or pop anymore, and so I filled up a whole drawer with teas and brought my tea maker. That way I never felt like we were “just camping”. I felt like we were living!
3. Bring Lots of Tupperware
We remembered to bring all of the kitchen stuff except for Tupperware. Yes, you need dishes and pots and cutlery. And, yes, you need groceries. But you will have leftovers. Make sure you remember to bring something to put those leftovers in, or you will end up scrounging old tea tins and peanut butter jars and anything else you can find!
4. Buy Two of All Important Things
Because we took multiple trips we were forever packing and repacking. And sometimes we’d fly home after leaving the RV somewhere, only to rejoin it later. We quickly realized that we couldn’t be bringing very many things from home if we wanted camping not to be a hassle. Even something like a hair dryer–do I really want to be lugging that back and forth and trying to remember not to forget it?
Besides, packing for a trip is stressful enough. If you also have to pack kitchen stuff and sleeping stuff and all the stuff we don’t normally have to pack, it becomes overwhelming. So we just made the decision to buy two of a lot of things. We bought two garlic presses. Two good carving knives. Two paring knives. Two comforters. And yes, even two hair dryers!
And I bought second sets of all our bathroom consumables, too, like toothpaste or hair mousse or moisturizer. It just stays in the RV and I don’t have to worry about it.
Living in an RV: Communication & Media Tips
5. Get Karma for Better Wifi
One of the most frustrating things about life in an RV is the wifi. At most RV parks it’s sketchy at best. In the morning, when few people are on it, it often works great, but at night, when everybody is trying to stream Netflix, It will take forever to load. And we were both trying to work while we were on the road!
A friend of mine suggested Your Karma wifi. Karma is this tiny little device that converts any cellular signal into a wifi signal. Up to 8 devices can connect at once. You can sign up for a certain amount of data a month, or you can “pay as you go”, buying data as you need it. I chose the second option, since I’m only on the road in the United States every now and then.
It works out to about $10 a GB. One day I tried to see how long a GB would last, and I worked on my blog straight for 6.5 hours. That’s pretty good!
The best part is that ANYONE can join your Karma device without affecting your speed. But when they join, you get either money off your monthly plan (if that’s what you have) or you get 100 MB free. I ended up earning about 500 MB as I used about 3 GB, so it was a nice boost!
And it meant that when we had long days of driving, I could check comments on the blog or check my email when we stopped for lunch. I’d just switch on Your Karma for a few minutes and I’d be all done.
If you travel a lot, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Get $10 off through my link if you’d like to sign up (and you can give me another GB of data free when you do that, too! 🙂 ).
6. Get Express VPN So You Aren’t Hacked
When the wifi at the campgrounds was bad, we would go to a McDonald’s or Starbucks and use their wifi.
Then I met up with my friend Ryan Langford, who runs the Ultimate Bundles, and he told me a scary story. He and his wife were traveling in Europe and using Starbucks’ wifi. Someone hacked in to their signal, stole their passwords for their banking info, their email, and their blog, and then sent them a ransom note. They stole the blog, and said that unless the couple paid them a significant amount of money, they would take the blog down and delete everything, and steal all their money.
After three very stressful days constantly on the phone trying to prove who they were, they got control back. But apparently this is becoming more and more common. I’ve since heard of other bloggers who had the same thing happen to them.
The solution? Get Express VPN, which encrypts your wifi so when you’re using a shared server (like at an airport, a restaurant, or a campground) no one else can hack in. We signed up immediately and I use it all the time. It doesn’t slow anything down, but it gives me a lot of peace of mind! And it’s really easy to load on both desktops and phones.
Since I travel so much I now consider this a must. I want to be able to use wifi and get work done while I’m away without stress.
Find out more here--and if you sign up through that link you’ll get 30 days free (and so will I! Thank you! I’ve made my assistant sign up and my kids, too. This stuff is too important when you travel!).
7. Bring Stuff To Do at Night
My husband and I watch Netflix when we’re home, but while we’re out in the RV we like trying to keep media at bay. So I bring my knitting and we often play a strategy computer game together. Or we try a board game for two people.
Bring lots of books, bring crafts, and bring things to keep you busy in the evenings!
Living in an RV: Travel Tips
8. Stop and Smell the Roses (or See the Sights)
One of the best parts of our trips were the things we never planned to do.
Keith says that I have a “sixth sense” about where we should stop, and whenever I say, “pull over here”, he knows to listen now! We’re bird watchers, and three times on this trip I’ve said, “I think we should go for a quick hike here”, and we’ve found a new species. Which to him is a big deal.
Once I saw a sign for a beach in Northern Ontario, and I said, this is the spot! And it was. It was gorgeous.
Another time we stopped to see the Terry Fox Memorial (he’s a Canadian hero who ran halfway across Canada to raise money and awareness of cancer back in 1980, but died before he could finish his run. Now every year Canadians run for Terry–and for cancer).
It was a very moving experience, but we hadn’t even known that it was there. We also stopped at the Andrew Jackson house, Biltmore House in North Carolina, several hikes, and more, all without specifically planning it. We spotted something that looked interesting and we went. It’s a great way to see the country!
9. Stop and See Friends!
But we didn’t just stop and see the sights. We stopped to see friends, too! I have a list of all my online friends in a database now, with what city they live in, and when we know we’ll be in the area, we stop and say hi. Here I am meeting up with Courtney Joseph from Women Living Well when we were in Ohio. It’s just a great way to solidify those relationships.
10. Be Spontaneous–Don’t Always Book Ahead
My husband likes to book all of our campgrounds and plan out all of our driving ahead of time. But that meant that we ended up cancelling quite a few at the last moment, because we enjoyed the place we were staying so much that we didn’t want to leave. Here’s a beautiful small RV park right on the Gulf Shores in Alabama. We discovered it, and then thought, why go to Texas early when we can stay here?
After paying cancellation fees several times we stopped booking ahead. Yes, we had two nights where every campground seemed full (though we finally did find an opening), but on the whole, it was more fun to go without a specific agenda and to be free to stay a little longer if we were enjoying some place (or if the weather was lousy for driving!)
I’m glad to be home, and I hope that next year we’ll do fewer trips but make them longer, because the back and forth was tiring. But spending a lot of the winter in the south, rather than with the snow, was wonderful. And my husband and I learned that we don’t get sick of each other, even in confined spaces!
So if you have any other questions about life in an RV, ask away! And I hope that one day I’ll meet up with you on my travels, too.