Today (Feb. 13) marks our 3 months on the road! Seems way longer than that as the learning curve was steep.
We left Redmond, WA on a crisp November morning in our beautiful, shiny new RV-Sprinter, Airstream Interstate. Learning how to operate our new machine was first on the agenda of course. But equally important was to create an intimate choreography between Mark and I so that we didn’t step on each other’s toes. In a 120 sq ft motor coach, it’s easier said than done!
Outside of a very simple itinerary (drive due South!), we had no great expectations, so excited were we to finally get going after months of preparations!
So, 12 weeks later, here are 12 lessons learned (not in any special order):
- Always trust your apps and your instincts… and do ask around
Selecting the next camping spot (Independent RV Parks, State or Municipal campgrounds, national forests, or simply BLMs (Bureau of Land Management areas) for a few days or a few weeks is a tricky business at first. I currently have 14 apps on my iPhone that help find resting camp. We’ve learned to read the reviews, compare rates (ask for RV club discounts at time of booking for example), call ahead rather than assume, ask or pay attention to conversations in RV Park lounges where RVers love to share information about ‘their’ best spots
- If in doubt, wave and smile! It’s okay to talk to strangers!
Everybody waves… conversations start easily if you engage. We’re not ‘natural’ social butterflies, so we gently push ourselves and say… “Let’s mingle”! We’ve met wonderful people already…slowly forming our little community… thinking of you Jean, Janet, MJ & Jeff, Sam, Dutch… Also, thanks to Facebook, we reconnected with friends like Susan & Mike in El Mirage and Mary & Hal in Tucson.
- Never underestimate the power of WiFi
We use to take WiFi for granted – not anymore! Getting unobstructed WiFi or cell coverage is very challenging when on the move. RVers (including us) are continuously investing—pouring money into various techno gadgets. At best, it’s okay some of the places, some of the time. Comcast, so often the subject of our wrath at a mere interruption when we used to have a bricks and sticks home…. All is forgiven!!!
- Stores and other places we said we’d never go!
Like the real urban brats we were, we never set foot in certain retail stores because… well… not up to our uppity standards. Now, we love places like Walmart Super Centers (cheap, shop for everything under one roof, very efficient when your home is in the parking lot); McDonald’s (the coffee ain’t bad and breakfasts are okay + my oh my, some of these outlets have really spruced up the eating area!). And Casinos, some, perhaps all, allow overnight, safe and free parking in the hope that you will spend (lose?) it all at the gaming table. We learned about Casinos’ reward cards that offer discounts at the many in-house (and excellent) restaurants. We love casinos!
- We’re not on vacation
This is a good one… So used to planning for a one or two week vacation, that our natural instincts is to try to see and do everything in two days! Reality is, we have lots of time and it’s okay to stay somewhere longer than planned because we like it!
- “It’s all part of the adventure!”
“Life is where you park it”, a famed RV slogan, is sometimes a bit more complicated than that. There have been days of so-so weather, so-so surroundings and frustrations galore around red-tape issues. It’s all part of the adventure is a reminder to ourselves that that’s what we signed up for – this IS the adventure.
- Missing object of the day… chill, it’ll resurface!
No matter how small a rig is, things will disappear, get misplaced no matter how much we try to keep them in the same spots. “But I saw it only yesterday!”, I say, red faced with frustration. So we’ve learned: no sense getting excited. We simply announce in an official tone that “that my [fill in the blank] is the ‘missing object of the day’. Quit looking, it will resurface (or buy another one!)
- Exercise is key on the road
Not a lot of space to stretch in a 125 sq ft rig! Walking and hiking are key but not always enough. Planet Fitness, a worldwide very affordable gym, has been my saviour!
- Viva Amazon.com!
RVers love Amazon.com where packages get delivered swiftly to RV Parks, Whole Foods lockers, Post Office general delivery, everywhere. I don’t want to know how much we’ve spent on Amazon stuff since we left! One thing is sure… it’s usually cheaper than anywhere else anyway!
- The school of hard knocks
In this case, it’s about REAL hard knocks of our heads against the low bulkhead in the rig or knock an elbow while getting dressed, or catch that cabinet door that was left open, or… We’ve learned to bend our head and look around before we move.
- New old ways to spend an evening!
Commercial TV is out… backgammon, watching sunsets and in bed by 9:30 with a good book is in!
While Direct TV and Dish antennas are very popular in RV land, Mark and I felt that we didn’t cut the cord back home to do it all over again while traveling. We have a few subscriptions with HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Amazon Prime. When we feel like watching shows (provided good WiFi is available), we do. But so long to having the TV on all the time in the background.
- If it’s not the right fit, change it!
This lesson is the most consequential. We’ve just traded in our 2019 25’ rig, “Mr. Bond I” for “Mr. Bond II”, a 32’ Newmar Bay Star motorhome. The Class B Sprinter is superb in many ways – we love the way it handles the road, and how nimble it is. But it is not a good fit for full timers like us. Plenty of pictures of the new Mr. Bond II coming soon!
I recently came across an article that had assembled several quotes written by the late traveler-foodie extraordinaire, Anthony Bourdain. I’ve always loved his direct, no-nonsense writing style. I’d like to end this piece with one that much represents how I feel after 12 weeks and I suspect many more to come.
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”