People assume that life is a breeze for RV nomads. Always traveling, never seeming to work, constantly meeting interesting new people and going on exciting adventures. That’s the good life, right?
But how accurate is this idea of what life is like for full-time RVers? Is it really just a stress-free life of non-stop fun??
Nope, it’s not. Sorry to burst that bubble for you.
As with anything in life, full-time RVing has its advantages as well as its drawbacks, and full-time RV nomads have a unique set of challenges that they face while living life on the road.
Lucky for you, I have lived the RV life and experienced many of the challenges firsthand. I’ve had my wins and my losses, made many amazing memories and a handful of regrets. Today I’m compiling a list of 5 potential drawbacks to the full-time RV lifestyle, along with a few suggestions on overcoming said drawbacks. These are the less-savory elements to RVing, experienced by myself or heard anecdotally from my RV nomad friends.
If you are considering diving into life on the road, it will benefit you to know of some of these challenges so you can determine if life as a full-time RVer is for you. Give them a read and think hard about how you may react in similar situations.
Are you ready for an unfiltered snapshot of RV life?
5 drawbacks to full-time RV life
Here’s a quick overview of the potential regrets and challenges I will be describing today. If you are in a hurry, feel free to jump around to the sections you are most concerned about.
- Loss of community
- Unhealthy lifestyle
- Fewer daily comforts
- RV maintenance
- Limited wardrobe (and storage)
Not every RVer is going to experience every drawback on this list. In fact, a few of these drawbacks might actually be considered advantages to some RVers.
1. Loss of community
For many nomads, be it the RV variety or the international type, the first and most noticeable change from their lifestyle switch is a loss of community. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to pack up a whole extended community of friends and family and load them in the RV.
The first few months of RVing can be especially hard as green RVers face a whole gambit of challenges, all without the support of their community.
Many veteran RVers admit to a difficult adjustment period immediately after hitting the road and driving away from good friends and beloved family. I have some RVer friends that say the sudden loss of community was jarring enough to make them reconsider their decision to leave in the first place! (Fear not, years later they say that transitioning into full-time RVing is the best decision they ever made).
Not only is it difficult to be away from pre-existing friends, it’s also difficult to maintain new friendships while traveling. The thing about travelers is that they travel… like constantly. A friend you made one week might be gone the next. Or you might be the temporary friend to another RVer.
Overcoming this challenge
My number one tip for overcoming the loss of community that RVers face is to call your friends. Take advantage of the community you already have and call them constantly. If they are too busy to talk, schedule a better time and follow through. Call your best friends from home, call old friends from school, reach out to people you love and don’t talk to enough.
Trust me, this will help immensely. During all of my own nomadic periods of life (including the one I am currently in), I have deeply relied on phone calls and video calls as a tool for staying grounded and fighting off feelings of loneliness.
And while I did say that it can be difficult to maintain new friendships on the road, I didn’t say it’s not worth trying. When nourished well, nomadic traveler friendships are the best kind of friendship. Who wouldn’t want a community of people who are driven to live the same freeing lifestyle as themselves?
Give your friendships on the road a solid chance by staying in touch with your new RV friends. Let them know where you are headed and see if they want to join. Maybe organize a meetup that will bring in a large group of RVers to one area. These types of meetups can become annual events used to freshen friendships and make new ones.
The last piece of advice I have for overcoming this challenge is to look inward. Learn how to enjoy time spent alone. Work on your inner self and discover what brings you peace, fulfillment, and joy. As the old adage goes, wherever you go, there you are. You can’t run away from yourself, so learn to love time alone and embrace isolation as best as possible.
2. Unhealthy lifestyle
It can be difficult to stay healthy while living in an RV. Gas stations and convenience stores don’t exactly have the healthiest selection of snacks, and it can be tricky to maintain a consistent workout routine while moving around constantly.
I have known people to regret full time RVing once they realized how difficult it was to maintain their previous standard of health and fitness.
Additionally, full time RVing can feel a bit like full-time vacation, even while holding down a job and having other responsibilities. The relaxed carefree environment that RVs foster can inadvertently promote increased alcohol consumption and use of other substances. Day drinking is okay every once and a while, but it may become an issue if beers are being cracked at noon every day.
Overcoming this challenge
Thoughtful meal prepping and a membership to a cheap nationwide gym are your best defense against slipping into unhealthy patterns.
With limited kitchen space and appliances, cooking in an RV isn’t exactly easy. Developing a tasty meal plan and meal prepping system can help to prevent nights where you don’t feel like cooking or thinking about food, and munch on a whole bag of chips for dinner.
Plan vegetable heavy, nourishing meals that can be prepped in advance and easily warmed up later in the week. I like to make vegetable and potato burritos when I meal prep. They are easy to make, refrigerate and freeze very well, and are always incredibly filling.
To stay fit and strong, try joining a nationwide gym with many locations. This can help to ensure that wherever the wind blows you, you can still get your sweat on. Also, gyms have bigger showers with more hot water than most RVs. Definitely a sweet bonus to enjoy a nice long shower occasionally as well.
If you don’t have the budget or desire for a gym membership, develop an at-home daily workout routine that works all the main muscle groups. Practice light yoga to stay limber and take walks on local hiking trails for a strong heart.
An object in motion stays in motion, right? Be that object.
3. Fewer daily comforts
I won’t sugar coat this, RV living is typically going to be a little less comfortable than living in a house or apartment. This is mainly due to limited space, fewer appliances, and less effective climate control measures in place.
It can be difficult to keep the interior living space of an RV warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Be it from poor quality insulation or low-power furnaces and ACs, RVs are notorious for leaving the people living in them too hot, or too cold, and rarely “just right”.
In the bathroom, RVs have small showers (if any) and rarely come fitted with a bathtub. Some RVers struggle to get a sense of feeling truly clean because of this. The unclean feeling can be compounded when all of their clothing is dirty because, surprise, surprise, RVs don’t have washing machines and they forgot to go to a laundromat.
Overcoming this challenge
Sadly, to embrace full time RV living, some of the daily comforts that can be enjoyed in a house must be left behind. If you love soaking in a private bath every night, then full-time RVing might not be for you. But, if you are willing to say goodbye to a few amenities, there are plenty of workarounds out there to make up for most of them.
Buy a whiteboard and hang it in your RV. Use it for meal prepping and to schedule important tasks such as trips to the laundromat or grocery store. Stick to this schedule and it will become habitual.
A daily self-care routine is an easy way to start each day feeling clean and refreshed. Sure, it may not be a nice cleansing shower, but that revitalized feeling can be mimicked with a quick sponge bath, a hot towel to the face, and a spritz of jasmine or rose water.
The best way to overcome issues regarding staying warm or cool enough in an RV is simply to invest in quality gear. For the winter months, buy some nice down duvets and a couple of quality space heaters. During the summer, AC units can be recharged or replaced if they aren’t doing the job. As they say, if it’s broken, fix it.
4. Difficult RV maintenance
New RV owners often balk when initially confronted with the myriad of tasks that must be regularly performed to maintain a camper.
There’s fresh water tanks to keep full and grey water tanks to keep empty. Black water tanks must also be kept empty AND they have to be cleaned regularly to function well. Tire pressure should be monitored diligently, there are always a million things to clean, and don’t even get me started on protecting plumbing during freezing temperatures.
Whew! That’s a lot, and honestly it hardly even scratches that surface of what must be done to keep an RV rolling. Every change of season and environment results in a new batch of chores to tend to, ranging from minor to major.
It sounds exhausting, but trust me, it’s worth the blood, sweat, and tears.
Overcoming this challenge
Learn! Learn! Learn!
Okay hear me out, taking on all the responsibility of maintaining an RV is actually a really great opportunity to learn a massive number of new skills and work on overall technical and mechanical proficiency. Sure, there is a steep learning curve, but most people are shocked at how quickly they pick up most of it, and eager for more once they get a taste.
If you run into a task you’ve never done, or a gap in your knowledge, you can always turn to the internet. Better yet, your RV park neighbor is probably more than eager to pass on some of their hard-earned knowledge and experience. Don’t be afraid to ask for some tips and tricks!
5. Limited wardrobe and storage
RV living is not exactly conducive to having much stuff. This pretty much boils down to the fact that RVs are not that big. Even if they are big and have plenty of storage, hauling around a bunch of extra gear is only fun until you get to the gas pump and realize how the extra weight is dragging down your fuel efficiency.
Depending upon the size of their rig, every RVer has to decide how much of their storage space they are willing to sacrifice for clothing. Huge wardrobes can take up a huge amount of space, and most RVers eventually realize that having a closet full of clothing they only wear on special occasions isn’t worth it.
Overcoming this challenge
This one is actually pretty easy, simply because most people who are RV living find themselves wearing mostly the same outfits every day anyway. Don’t ask me why because I truly don’t know. It’s this weird response to hitting the road and pursuing adventure. The same thing happens to many folks who travel abroad long-term; people just sort of stop caring about wearing a diverse wardrobe.
But, if you know that you simply can’t abide wearing the same outfit daily, I’ve got some tips for you. First, buy as many multipurpose pieces of clothing as possible. These will be pieces that can work with almost anything else while looking and feeling good.
Similarly, buy some nice “going out” clothes that can be reserved for special nights, but can be used for many types of occasions.
As far as non-clothing items go, prioritize gear, tools, and equipment. Have solid first-aid kits and some board games for rainy days. If you love reading, buying an electronic reading tablet is an excellent way to read while staying lightweight.
Keep sentimental items to a minimum, anything you simply can’t part with but don’t want to lug around can be put in a storage unit.
Is it worth it?
Ohhhhhhh yes. My oh my, yes, it is worth it.
RV living is tough stuff for sure, but all of the effort is more than worth the reward. You’ll have to sacrifice some comfort and luxury, and maybe use a bit more elbow grease than you normally do in a year.
But your return on investment? Mountains taller than you can imagine. Sunsets of the deepest reds and purples. Cold alpine lakes and warm tropical beaches. You’ll see wildlife you never knew lived in this country, drive through quaint, small-town America, and realize why certain regions became designated as National Parks.
Like I said, it’s definitely worth it.
Do your research!
If you’ve still here and reading this, then you are doing this step right. Research is critical to determining if RV life is for you. Sure, some of you may know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you crave RV living. If that’s you, that’s great! Go for it.
On the other hand, if you are curious but hesitant, there could be some good reasons for that. Continue to read more articles that describe the realities of a full-time RV lifestyle. Look at RVer forums online to see what kinds of conversations are being had. Look inward, be honest with yourself. Don’t go all-in on RV life if you know it’s not your cup of tea.
Frequently asked questions
Our readers want to know what RV life is all about!
Do RV parks allow full-time RVers?
Yep! Every RV park has a unique set of rules and regulations, but many are quite friendly towards long-term campers.
Where should I begin RV shopping?
Exploring an RV dealership is a great first step to buying an RV, just don’t let them convince you to sign any dotted lines! After seeing some RVs in person, online forums can help guide a decision-making process.
What more is there to say?
Just keep researching the realities of living in an RV, and when you feel the moment is right, pull the trigger. Life has a habit of slipping away from us, and many folks do not get to live the life they want. They assume that all of the exciting adventures they want will just eventually happen. Well, you know what? They won’t.
Adventure happens when we make it happen. Life is lived when we go out and make ourselves feel alive. Do you want to live in an RV? Then go out and buy an RV, get rid of all of your extra stuff, and hit the road.
Honestly, it’s that simple.
Good luck my friend, and happy camping.