Last week several of our readers, many of them full timers themselves, correctly identified the cover photo as Seasons In The Sun in Titusville, FL. We spent a great year there and miss all you guys.
We made a lot of mistakes in preparing for our mobile life but we got the big stuff pretty much right. That’s because I did a lot of research before we headed out and there was a lot of sacrifice to get to the point we were financially able to pack up and go. That will come as a surprise to some who see mobile living through rose colored fantasy glasses as some kind of carefree existence. Hopefully I’m not bursting anyone’s fantasy bubble by pointing out that it takes a lot of planning and work to get ready to roll.
So, here’s how you sabotage your mobile life before your wheels ever touch the pavement.
Be In Debt
I just can’t fathom people who finance their RV or camper trying to live full time. Vehicle financing is a much shorter duration and higher interest rate, which means those payments are pretty steep. A camper payment, plus insurance, plus lot rent at an RV resort means you’ll be paying as much or more than for a small apartment. Debt is the great killer of RV dreams. To get us far enough ahead to go on the road we worked, saved and sacrificed. I worked two, sometimes three jobs at a time to save up enough money that we could pack up and go. We slashed our spending, paid off debts, there was a lot of sacrifice involved. If you gloss over finances, your RV journey will be painful and short.
Don’t Have An Emergency Fund
Debit is the biggest killer but a close second is not having an emergency fund. You’re taking a trailer made out of lightweight materials and bouncing it down the road. Pardon my language but poo-poo happens. You need enough of a cash cushion to survive an accident or major repair. Diesel trucks are fantastically expensive to maintain and water leaking around those damn rubber roofs is a constant problem. Sure, you can get campers fixed for a lot less than a similar repair on a house, but you have to be prepared. I consider $3,000 the bare minimum emergency fund, though there are plenty of people who scoff at that number, saying it’s too high.
You Have a Dangerous Breed Pet
Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, Chows, Dobermans and Rottweilers face outright bans at many parks. Some parks have restrictions on the size and number of any dog. We left on the road with a Belgium Shepherd who was sweetness wrapped in fur and there were still parks we had to skip because she was just too big. Not to mention living in 318 square feet with two big dogs was a little cramped and the animals were a constant source of dirt in the camper. From what I saw, the best full timers had either no pets for maximum mobility or one small dog. Look, I’ve heard all the arguments about it not being the dog, it’s the owner. I get that. But park rules on pets are frequently dictated by the insurance company and many of them won’t insure the owner against incidents involving dangerous dog breeds. Even if the park lets you in, expect the stink eye from the neighbors. I’m not arguing the merits of any dog breed, simply stating the reality. If RV living is a possibility in your future, then stick to small dogs.
You Have Family Needs
This is a difficult topic because it involves opinion. My opinion is that RV living with kids is kind of a difficult lifestyle for children. Having said that, I also have to point out that we saw people full timing with kids at all but one park. So people manage life on the road with kids but it’s not fun for anyone. At one park kids were not allowed to be anywhere outside without being accompanied by an adult and they strictly enforced that rule. At every park, including one state park, kids had fairly restrictive rules imposed on them. I’ve also met people who sideline their road life to help out a single parent son or daughter or aging relatives. Family reasons are the second most common reason people hang up the steering wheel.
The math on kids changes if you’re adopting RV living strictly as a means to move from one city to another. That gives you time to check out school districts, figure out which neighborhoods are most attractive and find a good deal on a house. That’s a different situation. Using RV living over the summer to smooth the transfer to a new city is an excellent idea. A lot depends on the motivation.
So, there you go. If you want the best chance of having a good ride when you head out on the road, then make sure you do your preparation before you head out.