A&A Discuss 10 Things Nobody Tells You About RV Life
Updated: Jun 8
End of Week #53
Gualala River Redwood Park, Gualala CA
Miles traveled since last week's post = 0
Total miles traveled to date = 7,955 with trailer
Message regarding George Floyd and the events in Minnesota:
Well, it's June now, and the world is still just as heavy as it's been for the past 3 months or so. In fact, you could say it's even heavier now than it was before. We may not have TV out here in the woods but we are very well aware of the events that have transpired in the past week of life, especially in our home state of Minnesota. Adam and I both grew up outside of the Twin Cities, worked in the cities and have had a hard time watching our cities uproar in racist murder, fire, and destruction over the past several days. It's been hard to be away from friends and family during a world pandemic, and it's been even more painful to be away from our roots, our Minnesota home, while people demand justice for George Floyd. Mostly, I am at an utter loss for words and I am filled with so much anger and sadness that I'm not entirely sure what to do with it all. I may end up writing a whole post on my thoughts of the matter, and things we can do to help fight racial injustice in America, but for now I will link you to a recent post I made that further details my current feelings - here.
Another week has gone by in the Redwoods. For the past few weeks we have been working here around the campground, which helps break up the days and our time, as a majority of things in the surrounding area are still not yet open to full capacity. Over the weekend Adam and I had another bonfire with the neighbors, and did some light exploring of a new beach we hadn't yet been to just a few miles north of here. We also stopped in town to pick up some food to go one day, and to our pleasant surprise we found out they were open for indoor dining! For the first time in several months we had a "normal meal" inside a restaurant, and it was so strange and awesome at the same time.
As summer creeps in, and campgrounds across the country start to open back up after covid19, I wanted to take some time to go over 10 things you may not have known about what it's like to live or camp in an RV. It's been more than a year now for us, living in our 32 foot long wobbly box, and while most things are absolutely wonderful all the time, there are still some other things that present challenges, or aren't always the most enjoyable to go through.
So let's talk about those things now!
A&A Discuss 10 Things Nobody Tells You About RV Life
1. Boondocking can be scary.
I used to have full on anxiety dreams before we even left Minnesota. We were still living in our townhouse in Woodbury at the time, and the same type of dream would repeat itself for weeks before we finally moved out. We were all alone in the middle of nowhere and a lady would frantically come to our door demanding help from people chasing her, but the people chasing her would be in on the stunt and together they would all rob us or worse. The dream bothered me so much that I sat down with Adam and we talked through a detailed plan of what we would actually do if my dream ever transpired to reality. It eased the anxiety, but the thoughts have always been there. Absolutely anything can happen when you are in the middle of nowhere. We have heard the stories, we saw the news last winter when the RV couple down in Texas were camping on the beach and were murdered and their RV was stolen and driven to Mexico. Anything can happen. But that doesn't mean it will...
When picking a boondocking location, if there are any odd people or situations taking place it is extremely important to be prepared or to leave. As much as it's nice to have your privacy, it's also helpful to boondock in locations where there are many reviews online, and other people camping there while you are there. It gives a sense of comradery and a sense of other eyes and ears on your home and all your belongings. But like other full-time RVers we also have items to help keep us safe, such as a gun, an ax, bear spray, mace, and other "tools" that we will hopefully never really have to use. And probably also like other RVers, we have a rule in place that if either person feels intuitively that something is not right or if they are uncomfortable with a location then we must pack everything up and find somewhere else to stay. There is no sense in risking anything when your gut tells you something isn't right.
At the same time it can just be scary to boondock simply because you are in fact in the middle of nowhere most of the time. You might be experiencing pitch black darkness like you have never had before, or you might be hearing the sounds of animals at night that you've also never heard before. It is something you eventually adjust to and you start to develop an awareness and hypersensitivity to your surroundings, and that further guide you in making the decisions you make while you are boondocking.
2. Life and death still happens back "home"... while you're out here.
And death is never easy. We have already had this affect each of us individually in some sort of way since leaving, and you just never know when it could happen again. It's scary and saddening and a lonely and uncomfortable way to process and grieve, but it's something that happens. If you are not able to make your way back to your home state to your family when it happens, then the best you can do is be there for them virtually as much as possible. This means phone calls, texts, and video calls and a whole lot of self reflection in the RV.
But this also goes for the big celebrations in life too - maybe more so pre covid19, but even as the future goes on. The weddings, the holidays, the birthday celebrations and summer nights. It all still goes on while we are out here. And while it's never easy to miss out or not be able to join in on the fun with loved ones, we also have to remember that we are doing a lot of things right now that other people aren't able to do too. It's important for us to always make the best of each day and create our own fun along the way.
3. The toilet stinks. And poop accidents happen.
Before you assume the worst, let me explain. By poop accidents I am fully referring to the process to empty the black tank at a proper dumping station. And by accident I mean sometimes there are plugs left inside the hoses that are forgotten to be removed, but the lever might have already been pulled to empty the toilet tank in the RV, and now you have a problem on your hands where the only thing you can do is pull the hose out and let the... remnants ... fall to the ground. Yes it happens to the best of us, I promise. Thankfully for us it's been probably over 6 months since we have had any sort of "accident".
As for the toilet though, yes she definitely stinks from time to time. There are things you can do to help combat the smells, like RV enzyme fluids that you dump down the tank, or even by dumping more water than usual down the toilet. I often will keep the vent open in the bathroom or spray essential oils in there too!
4. Things break. It's not built to last or live in full-time.
A harder concept for me to come to terms with is the fact that the RV is not built like a regular sticks and bricks home, in fact it's quite fragile. Wallpaper strips off. Trim falls off. The walls are thin and brittle. One tire stripping on the highway can ripe up your whole RV. Anything can happen and you have to treat it with care, give it regular maintenance and essentially just go with the flow. Whenever I'm showering I always have this horrible thought that if I were to slip and fall either in the shower or while putting my clothes on, I could essentially go right through the wall into the living room... it's comical, but also frightening.
The main thing to point out here is that RVs were not built for someone to live in them full-time. What we are doing here is going against the grain (just like most things in our lives), and we must understand this and keep this in mind with our day to day living.
5. You will stay in weird places and meet weird people along the way.
I think this one is just a fact of life. It goes without really saying, but you will stay places that you wouldn't necessarily want to ever stay again, and you will meet people that you don't want to necessarily ever encounter again. Thankfully for us we have not really had too many of either of these experiences, but there has still always been an odd duck or two at various RV parks we have been. We have only once ever met someone who legitimately freaked us out, and it happened to be while we were boondocking - but thankfully at a place we only spent one quick night at.
There are a handful of cities we do not wish to ever stay again, either because we didn't like them, they were gross, or they were just weird in a not so good way, but that has also been a good way to narrow down future travels in life or narrow down future places to live!
6. Storms are extremely dangerous, and terrifying.
We learned this lesson the hard way, firsthand, last summer in South Dakota and I will be forever traumatized from our experiences. Storms are absolutely dangerous in an RV, and you can really only withstand so much wind and rain before things start to go sour real fast. The most extreme wind we have experienced was about 60-70 mph gusts on the edge of the Badlands and that was the most terrifying experience of my life. That storm kept us up the entire night and we really had no choice but to wait it out and see what happens. Within a few weeks later, still while in South Dakota, we experienced such torrential rain that it started pouring in through the windows and through the AC, and we had to put towels everywhere. But thankfully all the worst storms happened last August and have not yet happened again to us.
Being members of a lot of online RV groups, we see the horror stories on Facebook all the time.... RV's ripped to shreds by wind or hit by trees. I've even heard stories from friends online of the RV being lifted off the ground by nearby tornados. Every bit of this is my absolute worst fear, but all we can do is prepare the best we can by always being aware of the weather and being ready to try to evacuate the whole trailer or just ourselves and the cats if we need to. One of our current back up plans for severe weather is to fill up all the tanks in the RV with water to make ourselves heavier, and another plan is to move us and the cats into the van because then we have the ability to drive somewhere safer or ride it out in a heavy little brick of a vehicle.
7. There are a lot of scary and deadly things living out in nature.
Every new campground seems to have new creepy crawlies to watch out for and new things lurking out in the woods. In most places we go we do not encounter much of anything at all, not even hiking on the trails. But in other places you have to be more careful anytime you are outside or exploring in nature, especially when it comes to poisonous snakes and spiders, or even bear.
We have had our fair share of bear encounters, mostly in Wisconsin, and once on a trail in the Grand Teton Mountains, but we are prepared with bear spray, a blow horn and by making loud noises and clapping while we stand our ground. Here in Gualala, CA, there are brown recluse spiders, very poisonous, but we have not seen any yet on the property. In other places there are very large tarantulas that might be harmless but absolutely scare me to death. And in a lot of desert or midwest locations there have been a lot of different snakes, especially rattlesnakes, but we have only once encountered a rattler and only a handful of times seen other snakes. We are always as careful as we can be in looking out for what might be out there while at the same time trying to make the best of every experience.
PS. That one time we were hiking in Sedona we absolutely heard a very angry mountain lion growl in a canyon and sent us trotting swiftly down the trail back towards the van.
8. Messes are normal. Your standards for clean will change.
It doesn't matter if you are a clean freak or not, I promise you that your standards for clean will absolutely change. You have less space to clean, which is the upside, but things seem to get dirtier faster. This includes dishes, dust and litter and hair from the cats. Not to mention clothes piles, shoes, and just "stuff" that you have left to your name. We do our best to keep things tidy so it doesn't feel like we are in a crazy pen, but every now and then the dishes can start to pile up and box us in, leaving us not much sink or counter space. When we are in a time period of a lot of travels the laundry can also pile up on the sides of the beds, and even in our bins it still can be overwhelming.
As a general rule of thumb I try to vacuum and clean up mess on the entryway rug from stuff outside, and other dirt from the cats at least every other day, and we try to do the dishes no less than every few days or so too. Now that we are in a place where we have easy access to laundry we are doing loads every week and it is helping out a lot!
9. It isn't butterflies and rainbows every day.
There are always ups and downs to full-time travel and living in an RV, especially in terms of loneliness. I know I've talked about the loneliness a lot before, but you don't always hear about that from those that travel long term. When you are used to being close to friends to hang out with or in regularly having interactions with coworkers, family and even neighbors, it can be quite extreme to let's say - live in the middle of nowhere in the woods in an empty campground. But we have adjusted a lot to things over time and are continually finding new ways to feel less alone. Technology these days definitely helps but can also make you feel even more lonely at times since you can't hug people through the phone.
The worst part about loneliness lately is that we had a few planned meetups with friends and they were obviously cancelled due to covid. And since the status of covid across the states is still unknown it's hard to not know when the next time you will see friends or family. Each day we get through things the best we can and right now we interact with our fellow workamping coworkers too. At the end of the day we have each other and we try to work through our loneliness together.
10. Being out of your home city and state during world events makes you feel lost, helpless and even more alone.
This year has been one for the books, for any of us. It's hard to even remember at this point some of the horrific things that transpired in the beginning of the year, because the present day reality is so bad all by itself. You could say it's a blessing that we got going with this lifestyle before things got really bad out there, but it doesn't take away from the difficulties and challenges we face in navigating all of this out here alone. It has now been a solid 3-4 months of pandemics, and now riots and protests, while we are out here trying to find places to "live" and work. We had plans - many of them for the whole entire year - and all of that has greatly changed now. I've mentioned a lot before in previous posts about what it's been like to navigate RV living while coronavirus is taking place across the country, and now we are watching our home state and then other cities around the world riot and destroy over the racial injustices we all must face.
Regardless of the places we live and travel to in life, Minnesota will forever be our true home in our hearts with us wherever we go. We are always thinking about our friends and family and what they are dealing with back "home" while we are out here doing what we are doing. First we were fearful for their health and safety in day to day living because of a virus and now we are fearful for their safety because of dangerous riots and fires. The worry never ends, and this year has obviously magnified it. At times we worry about what it would mean for us if we were faced with these challenges head on, either from something happening to us, or to our families. But at the end of the day there isn't much you can do to control the state of how things will be, and you also can't let yourself waste away your days worrying about how they might go. Sometimes we have to force ourselves to do our best to let go of the attachment to the outcomes, and over the fear of what could happen, and do our best to just live each day fully instead.
“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all -- the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later."
But you see, it's all worth it in the end. Every last thing I mentioned above and anything I forgot to mention or left out. All of it is still worth it. Because we are living life our way. We are seeing, exploring and experiencing things we never would have gotten the chance to do. We are learning new things about this country we would never have learned from watching TV or reading a book. We are meeting new people. And we are forever expanding our horizons, reaching outside of our comfort zones, and continuing to grow together and as individuals in the process.
We are spending more time doing the things we would rather be doing, because after all - that is what life should be all about...
The year might be almost half over, and it may have been the most bat shit crazy first half of any year we have all ever experienced, but that doesn't mean that there still isn't time to achieve your goals. Next week's post will talk about ways you can still change your life in the last half of 2020, or even in the next one year's time. There are always things you have control over that will better your own life experiences and provide you with more happiness. Don't give up on 2020 just yet!
*Currently under construction and paused at this time.*
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