“It’s not all sunsets and hot tubs.”
In recent years, more people are being drawn to RV life as the cost of living is going up. I mean what’s not to love about having a place to call home without the commitment of mortgage payments and underwhelming artificial scenery? The power of social media has done a great job at highlighting the glamorous side of RV living and the freedom that comes with it. Maybe you can even recall scrolling through pictures on Instagram of people bragging about how amazing it is to wake up each morning on a new mountaintop while taking photos of themselves doing their favorite yoga routine with their dogs.
Truth is, there is a huge unglamorous side to living the full-time RV life that isn’t being covered on social media. While RVing is truly an amazing experience, it’s not meant for everyone on a long-term scale. Before you put that “For Sale” sign stake in your yard, let’s get real on why the full-time RV life can be completely overrated.
1. Driving The RV
If you’re not a seasoned truck driver, you will probably need some time to get adjusted to driving the RV from place to place. Asides from the obvious, that an RV is much bigger, and heavier than any other vehicle you have driven, most people don’t realize that RV’s need a bit more time to come to a complete stop when braking. As if driving the RV itself wasn’t hard enough to get used to, if you plan to have a normal vehicle with you, you will be towing it behind the already bulky RV. Consider this when other cars zip around you as you are trying to make your way on unfamiliar roads to your new destination. This is magnified even worse when you find yourself caught in rush hour traffic or in the middle of a popular city.
Let’s also not forget that the average RV doesn’t get much more than 9 mpg. Although it’s tempting to always be on the road and exploring new places, filling up the gas tank especially on a long trek can leave your wallet crying.
2. No Personal Space
Personal space is good for the soul, and relationships. No matter how in love you are with your significant other, after living the RV life, you will gain a whole new perspective on appreciating personal space. It’s one thing to spend weekends with your significant other, but it’s a whole new ballgame when you’re forced to be with each other 24/7.
Here are several common scenarios to consider.
Your partner ate something last night that didn’t agree with them. They have spent over an hour on the toilet and you can’t go outside for a breath of fresh air because it’s pouring rain outside. You look desperately for your Lysol spray as a final frontier, just to come to the realization it’s nearly empty and nothing is capable of saving you now. Although this scenario may seem like an extreme case, be prepared to share your *ahem* daily habits.
Can’t sleep at night? Unlike living in a regular home, you won’t be able to just go out into another room to avoid waking your partner up. Even if they don’t wake up from rocking on the small mattress when you get up, they will likely wake up from the clicking sounds of you typing on your computer in the common areas.
Being in a confined space over long periods of time has its own unique challenges, but sharing those challenges with another person can make a situation even more complicated.
3. Unreliable Internet Connection
When you decide to live the RV life full-time, chances are your income depends on your internet connection. Hopefully one day in the near distant future, free Wi-Fi connections will be in abundance anywhere you go. The harsh reality is, that it’s not and it’s even harder to get connected when you’re traveling in more remote areas.
Although many campgrounds offer Wi-Fi, sharing the signal with other RV campers can call for a very unstable internet connection. The other alternative is to get a Wi-Fi hotspot from a mobile cell phone provider. These are great and many RV lifers swear by them, but unless you have a good mobile signal from the provider you chose, it can be useless in many areas.
4. Finite Utilities
While living in a house the idea of electricity and water feels like an infinite resource, that is unless you don’t pay your bills and the utility companies turn it off. Living the RV life brings a whole new challenge to using your utilities on a daily basis.
When it comes to electricity, you’ve probably never had to experience deciding whether to turn your AC off, so that you can plug in your fridge and toaster oven simultaneously. In some RV parks, you’ll experience unsteady electricity sources. You’ll also want to monitor your electricity meters to make sure you are not at risk of frying your RV, which can be a very expensive fix.
Monitoring the electricity usage isn’t the only utility sacrifice you will make. When you make the switch to full-time RV living, you’ll have to pick up water conservation skills too. If you don’t get into the habit of conserving water, you’ll find yourself cleaning up a huge mess down the road.
You’ll find most full-time RV campers have mastered the “Navy Shower” technique. If you’re not familiar with that term, it is referring to when you take a shower with the water only turned on when you need to rinse the shampoo or soap off your body in order to conserve water consumption. Sure you can always use a campground bathhouse, but keep in mind you will be sharing them with everyone else on the campsite. Not only should you be prepared to wait in line with all the other campers, but also be prepared for a rather questionable environment. Wearing flip flops to protect your feet from germs while public showering is highly recommended.
5. The Crappy Side of Waste Management
Everything that goes into the RV, must come out. Yep, you know exactly what we’re talking about and let’s just say it’s not worthy of your Instagram feed. Normally when you use the restroom in your home or in public, you just flush and the rest is history.
That’s not necessarily the truth with full-time RV living. If your toilet is like majority RV toilets, everything you put into it will be routed into a holding tank. Just like your water tanks, your sewage tanks will need to be dumped out and sometimes it can be a dirty job. There is also an art to managing the water in the toilet so that it stays clean. Unlike a traditional toilet (or composting toilet), you will actually have to pump water into the toilet before going to the bathroom.
Since your toilet sits right on top of the waste tank, it can sometimes bring an unpleasant odor throughout your RV as it waits to be emptied out even if it’s not full. Luckily there are some chemicals specifically made for breaking down waste and neutralizing the smells, but you will still need to be conscious of the type of toilet paper you are using. That extra soft regular toilet paper you loved at home won’t likely cut it for your RV toilet. Using standard toilet paper like this can cause clogging problems in an RV toilet which not the type of problems you’ll want to deal with. You’ll have to get comfortable with using special toilet paper designed to dissolve quickly which may not always be ideal for comfort.
6. Your Things Will Break
If you can go an entire year without spilling coffee on your laptop, congratulations! You are officially a superhero. Limited counter space means you’ll have more stuff packed into a tiny space, and RV’s are prone to shaking. Whether you’re on the road, or someone bumps their butt on the table by accident, expect things to spill and other things to break.
Don’t get too attached to nice things, because this happens, and it will happen more often than you’d like!
7. Minimal Wardrobe Options
Just like everything else in the RV, you will be sacrificing space in your closet. If you are the type of person that enjoys being able to have a wardrobe for every season and occasion, you will have to choose wisely. This is especially true if you are sharing closet space with another person.
Keep in mind that winter jackets and coats can take up a huge portion of your already limited closet space leaving you barely any room for other clothing.
8. The Laundry Hustle
Speaking of clothing, let’s get real about laundry. Asides from waste management, this is arguably the most daunting task. Sure, no matter where you live laundry still has to be done (unless you are living in a nudist colony), but it is incredibly inconvenient for the full-time RVer. First, you have less space to hold your dirty clothing and because you already have minimal wardrobe options from your tiny closet, it should come as no surprise that you will be washing your clothing, more often. Secondly, unless you have a fancy RV with a washer and dryer, you’ll be utilizing the laundry room wherever you are staying. In the event that they don’t have washers, you’ll have to make a trip to your nearest laundry mat, which can be a haul within itself.
Going to do laundry can turn into an extremely time-consuming chore. You’ll be fetching quarters from every crevice of your RV, bringing all your laundry supplies, and most likely staying with your clothing to make sure the dryer actually gets warm enough to dry your laundry on the first round. As a pro-tip, always be prepared to have extra quarters for second dryer rounds, or in the event a machine doesn’t register one of your quarters, which happens. A lot.
9. Limited Kitchen Space
What does limited kitchen space mean? It means less space for storing food both in both the pantry and the fridge, less space for all your pots and pans, and less space for actual cooking. It also means, more trips to the grocery store! Don’t expect to make a large meal with leftovers to eat the next day, because you won’t have the space to store it. In turn, you’ll be spending more time cooking each day.
Since you will likely only have space for a couple of pots and pans, most of your meals will likely be rather simplistic, or out of a crockpot. If you are the type of person that enjoys a good hearty meal every night, RV life is not for you.
10. Very Little Natural Lighting
Although it’s difficult to tell from the outside view, RV’s don’t have much natural lighting to offer. This is because they typically have very small windows in a short amount of space. No matter what time of day it is, you will be in total darkness without turning on most of the lights.
If there is one thing you should absolutely consider upgrading, it’s your RV lighting.
11. The Maintenance
Instead of doing yard work once a week, you’ll be doing regular maintenance on your RV such as emptying out the water and septic tanks. It should go without saying that RV’s aren’t built to handle the everyday wear and tear of being permanent homes. This means that by living in them full-time, you’ll be replacing many parts of the RV such as your seat cushions.
No matter how handy you might be, chances are you will also have to get it serviced and it can happen at any place at any moment. While you can always stay at a hotel as your mobile palace is being worked on, it may be a bit challenging if you are traveling with pets like 61% of RV owners.
12. Coming Back into Regular Life
For many people, the RV life is an escape from the reality of living life on the grid. It’s not uncommon for people to take a year off in order to go explore the world in their RV. The reality is, it’s typically not a permanent living solution. The RV is a depreciating asset, and unlike owning a home, you can’t get out of it, what you put into it.
Once you have decided to give up the RV life, you will have the challenge of getting your finances back in order in order to afford the expenses of living in a standard home.
About the Author
Kristen Moore is a freelance digital marketer with a degree in Communications and a passion for connecting audiences through creative storytelling.
When Kristen is not working as a digital nomad, you will likely find her spending time outdoors and volunteering with animals.