June 22, 2017 marked one year since Cheryl and I pulled out of the RV park in Aubrey and began the adventure of a lifetime.
It’s hard to decide exactly which date to call our “nomadiversary”. Was it when we moved into our rig (June 5), when we closed on the sale of our townhouse (June 14), or when we hit the road (June 22)? I prefer to think of the last date as the most important one, as the others seemed to be mainly part of the transition. Until then, we were still rooted in one place. But on June 22, we truly became nomads.
As I was thinking about what to write in observance of our first nomadiversary, I realized that the year flew by with very few surprises and little drama. I’m a researcher by nature, so I had the benefit of the knowledge shared by thousands of full-time RVers who had gone before us. Overall, our experience has been pretty much what I expected, if not even a bit better than I’d hoped for. But here are nine truths we’ve learned along the way.
1. Patience and practice make perfect (or at least close to it).
Over the last year, we gradually became comfortable, and ultimately fairly proficient, with driving our big rig. Towing it on the highway is not much different from driving any other vehicle, provided that you have an adequately-sized tow vehicle, and our Ford F-450 Super Duty has proven to be a reliable and relatively comfortable workhorse. But maneuvering almost 60 feet of truck and trailer in tight spots is another story. I remember our days of learning how to communicate well when we were backing it into a parking space, the numerous attempts it usually took to accomplish that task, and the frustration and frayed nerves that sometimes resulted. Somewhere along the way, we evolved into a smooth-functioning team with the skills and confidence to get around obstacles and into some ridiculously tight spaces with a minimum of fuss and friction. Onlookers (parking a big rig inevitably seems to attract an audience) went from grimacing and shaking their heads–or at least that’s what I imagined–to complimenting us on our ability and precision. That was (and still is) a good feeling.
2. It’s important to find and maintain your own rhythm.
We have slowly found a rhythm of travel and living that suited us. We learned that we like to avoid back-to-back driving days whenever possible, and to plan for no more than about four hours of driving to allow for unexpected delays or scenic stops along the way. And although it was sometimes tempting to rush to our next destination, we realized that it’s far more relaxing to spend more time at each location, with some days devoted to doing basically nothing. In our former life, there were so many things always begging to be done, so much pressure to be as productive as possible, that I felt guilty if I didn’t maximize my waking hours every single day. Simplifying our lives eliminated much of that pressure, and now these “down days” have become an important part of our routine.
3. Reap the benefits of slowing down.
Living life at a slower place has also made more room for serendipitous experiences: beautiful sunsets, breathtaking views as we turn a corner, interesting discussions with locals and fellow travelers, and unexpected learning opportunities. RVers tend to be a friendly, outgoing bunch, so it’s not unusual for someone to walk over and strike up a conversation moments after we arrive in a new location. By not being on a strict schedule, it’s no big deal to spend half an hour or more sharing stories with new acquaintances. After decades of living in a fast-paced world, I’m still a work in progress at slowing down, but at least I’m headed in the right direction.
4. Avoid over-planning.
Cheryl and I are both natural planners. But full-time RV living has shown us the benefits of keeping our plans flexible. We’ve learned to plan, but not too much. Although we have a general idea of where we’re headed, we often don’t know exactly where our next stop will be until a day or two before we get there. We try to avoid making campground reservations unless they’re really needed (like over a holiday weekend, or when we need to be in a specific place). That gives us the ability to extend our stay if we’re enjoying a particular location, which we’ve done many times.
5. Open yourself up to new relationships with fascinating people.
Many people think of full-time RVing as a rather solitary life, but that’s not the case. In fact, one of the best surprises of our first year has been the number of new friendships we’ve made on the road. While we were in a tiny town in central Colorado painting our living room, Sylvia walked over with a bottle of wine and said, “you look like you need a break.” (She was right.) We became friends, keeping in touch online and later meeting up with her and her husband in December in Phoenix. In Terlingua, Texas, just after we’d returned home covered with mud from a hike in Big Bend, a neighbor who had pulled in earlier in the day invited us over for a drink, and that was the start of a wonderful friendship with Rupert and Holly from South Carolina, whom we subsequently traveled and went sightseeing with for a few weeks through New Mexico and Arizona. At the Xscapers annual Convergence in Quartzsite, Arizona in January, we became friends with dozens of like-minded travelers, some of whom–like Jason and Lisa, transplants from British Columbia to the US, and Stacey and Gary from Spokane, Washington–we later met up with at other destinations. And through RVillage, a social media site specifically for RVers, we met Patrick and Judy from DeLand, Florida, who were also making their way north to Alaska. Even though we all eventually go our separate ways, the internet allows us to keep in touch with all these new friends, share their travels, and plan for the next time we’ll get together in person.
6. Make a point of catching up with friends and family.
Another benefit of full-time travel is the opportunity it gives us to catch up with friends and family. Instead of waiting for them to come to us, which may never happen, we are able to go to them. We’ve gotten to visit with friends from Plano who now live most of the year in Summit County, Colorado (twice); one of Cheryl’s college roommates in Denver; the girl who lived next door to me when I was in elementary school who is now a teacher in Grand Junction, Colorado; the son of friends of ours who is attending college in Gunnison, Colorado; Cheryl’s great aunt and cousin in El Paso; several friends from our congregation who now live in Phoenix and Tucson; Cheryl’s numerous cousins scattered throughout California (including some she had never met), as well as her great-uncle Jack for his 80th birthday in Los Angeles; my brother and his family and Cheryl’s aunt and uncle in San Francisco; former colleagues of mine who now work in Hollywood and Silicon Valley; and probably a couple others that I’ve neglected to mention. Without the constancy of relationships that we enjoyed when we stayed in one place, these visits feel even more important and special.
7. A small space and limited “stuff” are still more than enough.
We have learned that 400 square feet is plenty of room in which to live. We truly don’t feel cramped, and if we ever crave more space, all we have to do is step outside into the great outdoors. We’ve also discovered that even though we sold, gave away or donated most of our possessions when we moved, we still have plenty of “stuff”. In fact, we’ve both been surprised at how little we actually need. With few exceptions, we haven’t missed most of what we got rid of, and there were only a couple items that we later had to repurchase. On the other hand, we kept some things that we haven’t needed, and there will probably be a comprehensive purge of that excess before the end of this year.
8. Finding your way around a new location is part of the fun.
Being away from the conveniences of living in one place in a big city has taken some getting used to. There’s not always a Home Depot nearby when I need one, Cheryl misses her regular massage therapist, and almost every week sees us trying to find what we need in an unfamiliar grocery store. And yet, experiencing how people live in each new area has also become part of the fun: we’ve enjoyed exploring small towns, trying out the local cuisine, and finding the odd sights that imbue each place with its own personality.
9. Adventures like this are meant to be shared.
Finally, we have loved having the privilege of sharing our experiences and memories with you and the rest of our friends and family. That was one of the reasons that Cheryl was such an avid scrapbooker in our previous life. Although space and weight constraints make paper scrapbooking impractical in an RV, sharing our stories, photos and videos online here on our blog and on our Landmark Adventures pages on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube is faster and has allowed us to reach a wider community. So many people are intrigued by our new lifestyle–or even wish they could do what we’re doing–and they look forward to our updates almost as much as we enjoy sharing them.
In the last year, we’ve seen countless amazing sights, witnessed the incredible grandeur and beauty of our country, deepened our knowledge of the environment and our responsibility for it, and–perhaps most importantly–gotten to spend more time together than we ever have before. We hope that we’ve inspired at least a few people to ask themselves if they are living the life they really want to live, and if the answer is “no”, to have the courage and conviction to change that while they still can. Every day, we remember how very blessed and lucky we are to be able to be on this journey at this point in our lives.