Prior to embarking on our one-year tour of US state and national parks in a vintage Airstream travel trailer, we’d never spent a single night in an RV. Not a single one of us, not even as a kid.
Needless to say really, we had (and still have) a heck of a lot to learn.
We’ve had to learn everything from trailering, to campground etiquette, to how our appliances worked.
We have also had to learn a lot about living in an RV
When it comes to living in our RV, we’ve tried to maintain as many of the habits and practices as we had at our stationary home.
This helps us cope with the transition to life on the road, but it also poses a challenge to adopting the RV lifestyle because living in an RV isn’t the same as living in a house in several respects.
Here are some of the challenges we face on a daily basis, and then I’ll weigh in on whether or not life is better in an RV.
Bathrooms: We had 2.5 baths in our house at home, and we used them all. We now have a 1/3 of a bath. The bath has a toilet, shower, and sink in one. We’ve only used the toilet, and only the kids use it. Katie and I shuffle across the campground to the bathrooms when we have to go, and we do all of our bathing at the campground showers.
Sleeping: 4 bedrooms, who needs them? You would think a family of four would, but it turns out that we don’t even need one bedroom. At night, we turn our couches into beds. The kids sleep in one bed, and Katie and I in another. It’s tough, but we’re getting better at it.
Play Space: At home, we had a den and sunroom that served as a play area. It was three times larger than our RV. We also had a formal living room with one couch. It was basically a roller skating rink. In the RV, we’ve got two bins for toys and almost no space to spread out. As such, we try to spend as much time as we can outside.
Cleaning: Cleaning at home was a constant activity, and it is in the RV as well. In the RV though, the space is so small that it’s really hard to keep anything clean for more than a couple hours.
We get undressed and dressed in the kitchen. We eat where we sleep. The kids read books and play with toys on their bed. The tight space means we’re always making a new kind of mess, which always means a new kind of cleaning. Wiping down. Sweeping. Boxing toys. Stacking books. Gathering sequins from crafts.
If it’s raining, the space in the RV seems to shrink and the mess doubles.
Trash: We collect trash in a grocery bag, so we make a quick walk to the dumpster twice a day to dump our trash, plus extra trips for really raw diapers. We feel this is better than a big trashcan and trash bag, as a big pile of trash will quickly smell up the trailer.
Water and Electricity: Not instantaneous like at home. Both must be carefully managed.
For water, we’re either hooking up to a hose or filling a reservoir. Our limiting factor here is a 30 gallon waste water tank. Fill it up, and we’re driving over to the dump station to purge it.
For power, we can plug in or run a generator, but neither option can run all of our appliances at the same time.
Driving: You know when you pull up a Google Map listing and it says it’s a 3 hour drive but you know you can make it in 2:45. Forget it when RVing. When I see a three-hour drive, I know it will be a solid four. Right lane, five below the speed limit, stopping often for gas and bathroom breaks.
So is life better in an RV?
We’re three weeks into our adventure, and I won’t go so far as to say that living in an RV is the best way to live. Not yet, and maybe, probably, never will.
It’s really cramped, and there are a lot of hassles that come along with realities like power, water, and waste.
Despite the drawbacks, I like the lifestyle so far. The slower lifestyle of RV travel has already given us a lot of time to spend with our kids and a means of exploring far corners of the country.
I’ll weigh in again on this question in a few months, once we’re better settled in.
Any full time RVers reading this, I’d love to hear your take on life in an RV versus life in a house? Leave a comment below.
Marie Watson says
Mark, I like that you mention how living in an RV has given you more time to spend with your children. Although you don’t have as much space, it seems like it is always more important to be able to make memories with your kids. My husband and I have been thinking about buying a camper and going on a summer road trip with our family. It sounds like it will be an unforgettable experience.
Mark Kelley says
Hi Marie, thanks for sharing. I hope you and the family get out on the road this summer.