One of the best aspects of RV life is the number of people you meet along the way. When meeting new people, especially those who do not RV, an inevitable question is, “Where are you from?”
That naturally leads into the conversation about traveling full-time and living in our 5th wheel. It’s amazing the looks we get – some are intrigued by the idea of roaming freely while others are shocked at the thought that we have gone outside the norm.
During a recent conversation a woman said to me, “What a great idea – it’s got to be so much cheaper living in an RV!”
I couldn’t help but chuckle because that is so far from the truth.
Now let me preference this by saying that everyone travels differently – everyone has different needs, desires and budgets. The amount of money you spend while traveling as a full-timer will vary greatly.
But – it did get me thinking – what a great article this would make LOL.
I figured I would do a side by side comparison so others can see as well:
Full-Time RVing Expenses
Stick n’ Brick Expenses
Campgrounds – this cost can vary greatly – the longer you stay in one location – the cheaper the rent.
Utilities: Water – FREE Electric – if staying for a month – have to pay electric / nightly rates include electric Propane Cable / Internet Garbage – FREE
Utilities: Water Electric Gas Cable / Internet Garbage
Fuel – much higher due to diesel, distance we travel, and pulling an RV
Insurance – car, RV
Insurance – House, car
Registration – car, RV
Registration – car
Maintenance – car, RV
Maintenance – House, car, yard
Health Insurance – this expense if far greater on the road since we have to carry independent coverage
RV Expenses vs Traditional House Expenses
Most of these expenses are fixed, but there are a few that will vary. Everything is based on choices we make along the way.
We spend more in gas/diesel than we ever did living in a home and that was with 2 cars. We also spend a great deal more site-seeing/eating out as well. The insurance on our vehicle and RV are more now than they were when we lived in Illinois. And, don’t even get me started on health insurance!
Despite living in an RV, we have all the same expenses and though some expenses are cheaper, we are finding others that are quite a bit more.
Living full-time on the road seems to be a dream for
many. How can it not be!
Dreaming of adventures – where to go – what to see – what to
No one ever wants to start dreaming of the end – that certainly
is a buzz kill….
But, the reality is, everyone who decides they want to travel full-time needs to have an exit plan. Everyone needs to know what they plan to do when the time comes to stop traveling – for whatever reason: boredom, fatigue, financial, emergency.
What will you do?
Where will you go?
Will you stay in your RV?
If so, where? Warmer
Colder climate? is
your RV equipped for colder climates?
Will you sell the RV?
Buy a home/condo/townhouse?
Do I want the hassle of owning a home again? Should I rent something?
These are all important questions that need to be discussed PRIOR
to hitting the road. Naturally the plan
doesn’t have to be in depth because things change, nor do they need to be set
in stone, but you need to have a plan – an idea of what the future will look
Our exit plan is still something I continually struggle with
on a daily basis.
We always said we wanted to be in warmer climate – snow was
something we only wanted to see on TV.
But all our grandchildren are up north.
Ditching the kids is easy, ditching the grandkids – not so much!!
Yes, technology allows us to “see” the kids as often as we
want – but have you tried to FaceTime with a 2 year old. Attention span is that of a fly!!! Video calls just cannot take the place of
being with them in person.
Yes, we can fly home to visit them. But if we do that, how often? Every 2-3 months? Is that in the budget? Will work allow such frequent travel? Will we stay with the kids or get a
hotel? Is THAT is the budget? Though I continually come back to this plan –
is it really affordable?
Again, an exit plan does not have to be set in stone in the
beginning. It may evolve over time as
our needs change. Ours started out with finding
an RV resort in Florida to park the RV so we can live in it. Mike can always find work. I can continue working remotely, or go back
to teaching, or simply find something else I love to do.
In fact, I am writing this from sunny Florida and am
contemplating changing our exit plan again since the weather is so beautiful…. decisions,
So, our exit plan.
Though I would love to be in sunny Florida enjoying the sun
on my face, the sand in my toes and the salty air on my skin, being with our
grandchildren often is what makes us smile daily.
So, as of right now, November of 2019, our exit plan will be to head back up north to be closer to the grand-kids.
I sure hope our children are done having children –
otherwise, how will we ever enjoy the warmer weather!!!
Descending 650’ in 90 seconds is no joke. The sheer darkness is enough to scare anyone – big, small, grown, young, man, woman… doesn’t matter. Losing the ability to determine if your eyes are opened or closed, is frightening.
But how far is 650’?
This article did a great job to help visualize just how far down one would travel if heading to the salt mines by comparing the depth to the height of certain national monuments.
Statue of Liberty = 306′
Washington Monument = 555′
St. Louis Arch = 630′
Since the early 1920’s people have been fascinated by the salt mines and have enjoyed descending into the great depths to explore them. The Hutchinson Salt Company realized that turning the unused sections of the mine into a museum could bring many tourists to the area. However, using the one small elevator simply would not work since each time visitors were brought down, production of the salt had to stop until the people were safely in the mine. So the production of a new shaft was started in 2004, taking nearly a full year to complete.
The new hoist was a double-decker elevator built to accommodate 30 people – 15 on the lower level and 15 on the upper level. The new elevator also allowed for larger items to be brought into the mine making the process of harvesting salt easier and quicker for the men below. Some items would require the men to disassemble them so it could fit in the hoist and reassemble it once they were in the mine.
In June of 2013, the Kansas Underground Salt Museum
Tours take visitors through the many chambers ranging from
2,500 to 15,000 square feet with ceilings as high as 17 feet in some
areas. Each chamber is separated by a 40
foot square block, referred to as pillars, left intact to support the salt
At times, sections of the chamber floor began to rise, so
workers used railroad ties to help prevent the floors from moving.
Once items were brought into the mine, they remained below forever. Below is a vehicle referred to as a Mantrip. This type of car was used to transport miners to and from the mining areas.
Miners used railroad
cars to help transport the salt along the tracks.
Not all salt was worth
mining. Some sections of the walls only
contained small amounts of salt, and since it would cost more in man power to
retrieve the salt, some areas were left behind.
To help keep track of each section, miners wrote the month, day and year on the pillars indicating when that section of the mine had been worked on.
Since the mine is so far below the surface, it naturally maintains a temperature of 68 degrees with a very low humidity. Because of this, the Underground Vaults & Storage uses 26 acres of the mine to secure such items as original movies, television show masters, medical records, valuable documents and even actual costumes from popular movies. That section of the mine is highly guarded and is not open to the public; however, several items were given to the museum to put on display.
Sharing ones mistakes is never easy – it requires an
individual to become extremely vulnerable.
Being vulnerable is not easy for me. I prefer to keep things private – I don’t
enjoy attention. What is easier is
putting up a front so that all appears well.
After all, we all carry burdens – the last thing I want is to add
additional burdens onto others.
I don’t say this to evoke empathy from anyone – I say this so you truly understand I share this only to educate others.
If you truly want to live this lifestyle, you must learn
from others to ensure you don’t lose the one thing you are seeking – FREEDOM!
When researching this lifestyle, I did my research!! After all, I am an educator – we LOVE to research! I made sure I truly understand what I was getting into. It all started with creating a budget. I needed to know what type of expenses were to be expected. I read any blog I could find that was willing to share their expenses while being on the road. I knew I would have fixed expenses and flexible expenses, and that those flexible expenses would just continue to grow until they were needed. I knew those expense you did not touch – they needed to be there, just in case. So, I created a spreadsheet listing everything I could think of and more – just to ensure I had a real sound idea of what the monthly cost would be.
Once the budget was created – it was time to turn my
attention to the #1 reason that prevents non-retired individuals from hitting
the road – health insurance.
We are not retired – and as an independent contractor, I did
not have health insurance provided by an employer, so before hitting the road,
I needed to have this figured out.
The first place I turned to was the marketplace which, if
you have never been there before, can be very overwhelming. There are hundreds of plans to choose from:
Gold, Silver, Bronze, different insurance companies, different deductibles,
different coverages, etc. This is where
we decided that our domicile would be Florida since they were the only state,
at that time, which offered a nationwide plan.
However, the cost for this plan, for both of us, was $1,400.
Now I knew the most costly expense would be health insurance
– that is just the way of the world. But
I wasn’t willing to spend that so I looked into the health share options like
Liberty Health Share. It looked very appealing.
The total cost was only $600 a month for both of us. In comparison to the $1,400, $600 was a
steal. I most certainly had concerns –
though they looked like an actual insurance company – required deductibles,
out-of-pocket expenses, health screenings, lab work – in the real small fine
print they couldn’t guarantee payment.
I played devil’s advocate for weeks – was this really any
different than a conventional insurance company? Blue Cross Blue Shield has been known to deny
claims – they have been known not to cover expenses.
We were both very healthy; after all, we both recently had
physicals and received a clean bill of health.
So – instead of doing the “right thing” – I decided, since
we are both healthy, to forgo the health plan option and put that money aside
so that IF it was ever needed, we could draw from that fund.
Now – I know you’re shaking your head at me right now. I’m doing the same thing as I write this.
The first year was GREAT.
Though I had to visit the immediate care for a sinus infection, and have
lab work done, since the money was put aside – no worries.
Labor Day, September 2nd changes everything.
Michael woke me up in the middle of the night in
excruciating pain. He informed me he had
been up for some time trying to get comfortable, to no avail. He had already taken something in hopes the
pain would subside – no luck.
The pain was in the middle of his chest and in the middle of
his back. So I pull out my phone and do
what we all do – turn to Google. I type
in his symptoms and wade through the many options- ugh! Needless to say, Google was no help.
I get out of bed and say the only realistic choice is to
head to the ER.
I know exactly what is going through Mike’s head at this
moment $$$$$$$$$$$, and to be honest with myself, it was going through my head
But, no worries. I
have money aside for this exact reason – quick jaunt to the ER – find out it’s
something simple – pain meds – go home.
Since the location of Mike’s pain was “unusual,” they needed
to run several tests to start ruling out possible issues. They decide on an ultrasound of the
gallbladder and notice it appears to be infected. Again the location of his pain did not point
to the gallbladder, even after the ultrasound.
The doctor wasn’t truly convinced that the gallbladder was the cause of
such pain. His first reaction is to
admit Mike so they can observe him.
If I could include sound on this blog, it would be that of a
cashier register machine – from the olden days – cha ching, cha ching, cha
Let me just say, my husband’s health was and always will be
my #1 priority – I would have, and still will, pay until my dying breath any
price if it ensures he is okay.
After hanging my head with embarrassment, I inform the
doctor that we are uninsured, and not from the area, and would prefer that we
take him to his doctors as soon as possible to have him looked over. The doctor understood, wanted to run a few
more tests to rule out other possible options and to possibly get a better idea
of what was going on with the gallbladder.
After a long 9+ hours, they release us with some strong pain
killers and advise us to have him seen by our doctors when we get home.
Well, that didn’t take long.
We do believe our drive home caused additional problems for Mike because
we were back in the ER by the evening.
Now – I can keep dragging this story out – but let me just
say – 2 additional visits to the ER, a 3 day stay in the hospital, 2 visits to
the radiologist, and specialists has us seeing bills we have never seen before. We can all do simple math – I most certainly
did not budget for this!!!
Remember – we received a clean bill of health!
And in a blink of an eye, everything changed.
I don’t share this story for empathy – I share this story to educate you.
Knowledge IS power!
DO NOT think a clean bill of health means you can forgo
DO NOT think $600 or even $1,400 is a lot of money.
It may have taken several years for Mammoth Cave to become a
national park, but it only takes 1 visit to marvel at its grandeur.
With family in Tennessee, we have passed through Kentucky
many, many times over the years, but never stopped to visit Mammoth Cave
National Park. Each time we passed the
sign on the expressway, we ALWAYS said, “We need to stop one year and visit the
It’s sad to say that at 48, I was finally able to visit this
Getting to the caves in the early 1900’s wasn’t always easy,
so the Louisville & Nashville Railroad built a rail line between the two
cities and for $3.00 you could visit the caves.
Our visit, however, started with this…
And cost us $40.00….
Learning about the history of the caves and the massive work
it took just so we can walk through it is amazing… Please keep in mind that I am not a
photographer, so my pictures do not do the caves justice.
The sheer power of water and how it can create structures such
as these will forever dazzle me.
There are numerous tours that can be taken. We chose Domes and Dripstones which was a 1 ½ -hour tour descending hundreds of stairs. Would not recommend this one if walking long distances is difficult or stairs are a challenge.
Driving to the caves, we discovered this cemetery:
And learned is was named after a church which was
established by Homesteaders who have lived on these rolling hills of Kentucky
for centuries prior to the attention given to the caves.
Many are currently resting on these acres.
We would highly recommend making this a stop along on your
Selling the house went much quicker than either of us
anticipated. Deciding to list it with a
realtor was the best decision we ever made (aside from traveling). We signed a contract to list the house on
Monday night, the realtor brought someone by Tuesday and presented us with an
offer within hours.
Yes it is. Confirmation
we are doing the right thing – on the right path.
(or severally underpriced our home)
Let the purging begin.
I will say, this was the hardest part. Though I was excited to start a new chapter,
knowing we had to go through 17 years of “stuff” was going to be a monumental
task. Every time I got rid of one box, I
swear 3 more appeared. We spent weeks
going through our possessions and making piles.
Things the kids wanted, things to store, things for friends/family,
things to donate. We chose not to have a
garage sale or to list things online. I
had no desire to put in the additional work I knew it would take, so whatever
did not go to the kids or storage, went to Goodwill. Fifteen trips to be exact. (I do regret not doing an Estate Sale – see
“I’m Not Lost, I’m RVing”)
There were days I was giving myself a pep talk as I was
walking down into the basement. Telling
myself I could do this!!! I got
this!! Only to open the door, see the
immense piles of stuff, and turn around and head right back up the stairs.
Be prepared to cry.
This was such an overwhelming task that there were days where I just
wanted to sit and cry. Going through a
life-time of memories was difficult.
Constantly made me think of the kids and our grandkids…are we doing the
right thing…should we be leaving them….will the grandkids remember us….what if
And the list goes on….
In the end, multiple people reminded me that our house will
be on wheels. If I miss them too much…we
can come home. If something happens…we
can come home. That’s the beauty of
traveling…we can pick up and move any time we want.
So, how did we go through so much so fast? We accepted an offer that wanted a 30 day
That is the main reason why I didn’t go through the hassle
of selling things. I didn’t have the
time or energy to tag, post, advertise, store, etc. We had WAY TOO MUCH STUFF!!! It needed to go and FAST.
Kids got the first pick.
Contractors got the second pick.
Rest went to Goodwill.
Did I mention we were renovating the house when we sold
Still amazes me that we sold a house while the tub and toilet were in boxes in the kitchen.
Sell your home within 24 hours of listing it and accept a 30
That’ll get ya’ movin’!!
It is not easy to go through 47 years of “stuff.” Our home was only 1600 sf. I cannot imagine those with larger
homes. The bigger it is, the more you accumulate. So glad we moved out of that 3000 sf home
before dreaming about this lifestyle.
Most people would say, sell it, have an estate sale, garage
sale. But we are all different. I am not one of those people willing to hold
onto something on the off chance someone will want to buy it one day; nor did
we have the time to allow for it. We had
30 days to get packed up and out.
We did what any other parent would do….we told our kids to
come in and take what they wanted.
Now, this can go one of two ways: 1) They will fight over items because they all
want the same things, or 2) They will look around the house and think, “Why
would I want any of this old stuff.”
Not that our children stated #2 out loud, but all four of
them already had homes established, so other than a few pieces (probably those
items that reminded them of mom..lol), they didn’t want anything.
So, this still left us with a house full of “stuff.” We started packing containers with items we
knew would one day come into our new home.
All the while, keeping in mind that we will be moving into a MUCH
No more collecting 10 coffee mugs, but really only using
your one favorite.
No more 2 sets of everything: plates, bowls,
silverware…can’t have it!!!
7 spatulas….who needs 7!!!!! And why did I have 7 to begin with!!!
Packing the items that would be going into the camper with
us was the best place to start. Even
though we didn’t know which rig we were buying at the time, we knew the size of
the rig would be dramatically smaller.
So, we had to be practical.
SIMPLIFY… NEED vs
WANT. What do you NEED?
Boy that is a tough question!!! And depending on which one of us you ask,
will depend on what the answer is.
I would probably say, “Yes, I NEED those 25 pair of
leggings, AND 7 pair of jeans AND 3 pair of yoga pants, AND 5 pair of workout
You get the picture.
I went through my closet 4 times and still have the items
above…….if you saw the size of the closet I use and the size of the closet Mike
uses, you would be amazed (or would you???
Don’t woman always collect more clothing than necessary?)
But, do I NEED them?
The answer is, NO!
Simplify!!! (if only
I could take my own advice…….. )
Know the feeling you get when you meet someone famous?? You get star-struck! You spend time learning about a person, watching them, following them. You get this feeling of excitement when you finally “see” them in person, right in front of you.
I spent almost a year following Howard & Linda from RV-Dreams. I found their blog when researching the RV life. You see, I’m a dreamer. I ALWAYS dream. Always have my head in the clouds. When my husband shot down my idea of traveling (by that I mean backpacking) through Europe I began to think about traveling around the US. There were countless advertisements on my Facebook feed showing how to travel the US in just a few months. Got me thinking…why not try that.
I’m a teacher. I get the summers off. Maybe convince my hubby to, somehow, get the summer off.
That’s when I came across RV-Dreams. I found Howard’s
journals and began reading about their journey.
I can recall staying up many nights well past 1 a.m. reading “just one
more journal.” I found myself crying,
laughing, shaking my head, but most of all, I found myself relating to
them. It became an obsession. For months I began researching and following
others out there who travel full-time.
My nights were consumed with research and my days were clouded with
dreams. Could WE do it? Could I find something to do on the
road? I had “tasted” the Kool-Aid
After months and months and months of research, I wanted to learn more. RV-Dreams was holding an informational rally in the fall to help educate others’ on the possibility of taking life on the road. What better way to learn more about the lifestyle than from people who have been doing just that for more than 12 years. Since I had spent so much time reading about their life, of course I was excited when I finally met them. To me, they were a celebrity
We spent the week just learning the basics. We learned everything from different rigs, to basic mechanics, to places to stay and even ideas on how to finance such an awesome life. Most of all, we spent an entire week with like-minded individuals who all had the same goal: experience life. We joined a community of wonderful people. Never have we felt more comfortable around a group of strangers – even Mike. We forged life-long friendships with amazing people
If you find yourself wondering or dreaming about doing the same thing – surround yourself with like-minded individuals. They will help your vision come to light!
I had become so engrossed with the idea of traveling that I honestly, at first, didn’t even think about the kids. After all, our 4 children were grown and have lives of their own. They are busy with work and activities that we didn’t see them often, so naturally, they were not on the forefront of my mind.
That was until the plan started to become much more real and the idea of not seeing our grandkids became a reality. Don’t get me wrong. We LOVE our children, but we absolutely ADORE our grandchildren. Leaving our children was hard – but leaving our grandchildren was heart-wrenching.
I can’t even tell you how many times, mentally, I backed-out
of our plans.
And then, I realized, the number of people who put off their
plans, for one reason or another, and it then became a distant dream.
Life can be too short.
I do NOT want to be left with the “what if” syndrome.
The 21st century has afforded us the opportunity
to stay connected!!! Our electronically
advanced society puts us in the same room as others. Hell, our grandchildren will have a better
grasp on technology than we will.
Watching all the YouTube videos, reading everyone’s blogs –
I knew we HAD to do this!!
So, we started tapping into this wonderful technology. Video chatting!!!! We decided to try this out with our middle grandchild, Braxton. What a hoot! He is certainly use to technology – his mother is on it all the time – constantly putting the camera in his face (love you honey). Now, he wasn’t even 2 yet, so bear in mind his attention span was probably 5 seconds – but it was PERFECT! It was the affirmation I needed to confirm what we wanted to do is okay. Not that we needed “permission,” just acceptance that we can be away and still see them – watch them grow!!!
So, how does one leave their children?
By simply getting in the RV and drive.
And when you miss them, you call them. Video chat them. Scroll through Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat. Look at their faces and SMILE.
We are doing what many others only dream of doing – we are living life and exploring our beautiful country. One state at a time.