The new year not only marks the beginning of 2022, but also the 6-month mark in our travels. We feel like seasoned veterans, though I’m certain we have more to learn. Going through the topics below, you would think that our travels have all been doom and gloom. That really isn’t the case! However, it’s not exactly as foot loose and fancy free as one might imagine. What we have enjoyed are the unexpected delights on the road that you can never plan for, the unique beauty of each location we have visited, the wonderful people we have met along the way, and the time we have given ourselves to experience this adventure, before we are too old to want to bother. 😉 That being said, here are some of the lessons we have learned thus far.
Understanding costs: Generally speaking, I would take whatever figure you have in your head for how much your travel will cost and then double it, especially with inflation, higher demand for spaces at campgrounds, higher fuel prices, and the unexpected items you will end up spending money on during your travels. Being economical about where you spend your money, reducing waste, and squelching the impulse to buy more things that you probably don’t have space for are all great ways to help keep your travels more affordable.
Memberships: Harvest Hosts has turned out to be the most worthwhile membership for us. As we travel from one destination to the next, the Harvest Host stays have helped provide a respite in between longer stays that is both delightful and often informative. For one-night stays, it is great.
Thousand Trails was a waste of money. The membership was only good for designated places in the Pacific Northwest, we could only stay for a maximum of 14 consecutive days and then could not use the membership again until 7 days had passed. Because we couldn’t get into Canada and Washington was incredibly smoky due to wild fires, we didn’t end up using the membership as much as we had originally thought we would. To get the most out of this membership, you really need to plan ahead and also cross your fingers that wildfires and travel restrictions don’t impact your plans.
KOA locations have been better than we thought…so far. I understand that the quality of the resorts are really a case by case basis, but the locations we visited were much nicer than I had imagined and we are planning to stay at more of them in our travels.
Discount clubs: Escapees has proven to be the most useful for us and Passport America has been a waste of money…the parks that are participating with Passport America have been pretty lackluster based on the reviews we have read, so we have not taken advantage of it. Good Sam seems to be the most widely accepted if you are looking for any discount clubs.
Campground Reviews: For planning tools, we have utilized Campendium, google, and RV Life campground reviews the most to get a better understanding of what to expect and how to choose the right places to stay to ensure we have the most enjoyable and positive stay.
Cell service and internet access: WiFi is never as good as anyone says it’s going to be at most RV parks. Staying connected is challenging and expensive no matter how you slice and dice it. Even with the PepWave cellular routing device, multiple cell phone plans, hotspots, etc. we have had spotty service at best just about everywhere we have been. Satellites are another option, but are even more expensive…so expensive that we decided it wasn’t worth it. However, if you are working on the road, this may be a more reliable option until Starlink service becomes widely available…we just can’t say since we have not used satellite service.
Insurance: Insurance is tricky and not designed for nomads. Having two different addresses (our home in Oregon and our mail forwarding address in Texas), has proven to be a difficult concept for insurance companies to wrap their heads around. Just because we have a mail forwarding address in Texas doesn’t make us residents to Texas, but they don’t understand that. It takes lots of reasoning and explanation on multiple occasions to get this stuff straightened out. 🙄
Health insurance has proven to be the most challenging. When we tried to sign up for health insurance on the open market in Oregon, we were initially denied because we gave them a mailing address from Texas. The people we spoke with said we needed to apply for insurance in Texas even though we aren’t residents in Texas. 😡 They weren’t even going to tell us why our application was denied, and they don’t allow you to fix anything and try again. So, if you make a mistake on your application, you are just screwed. That is absolutely infuriating.
However, fortunately for us the open enrollment period was just a few weeks away, so we had another opportunity to try applying again. This time, we had to tell them that both our home and mailing address were our Oregon address. That seemed to work, even though USPS did inform them of our address change. All I can say is good luck, don’t expect common sense to work in your favor, and do your research well in advance so you aren’t left with a gap period without insurance.
Mail service: One of the best services we have relied upon so far during our travels has been Escapees mail service. They really know their stuff and are very organized. Their system is easy to navigate, you can sign up for scanning service so you can either download and/or destroy scanned items, or have them mailed to you in your next planned mailing. This helps cut down on postage, though there is a fee for scanning, just FYI. I have also utilized the USPS store finder app to ensure that general delivery mailings are accepted at the post office closest to us. IMPORTANT: Make sure you allow ample time from your mailing date for items to arrive so they don’t get to the post office after you have already left the area. Otherwise, you may be waiting a long time for the mail to be returned to Escapees and mailed out again.
Tech on the road: Most of the technology we have relied upon on the road has worked great so far. The ecobee thermostat, One Control tire pressure monitor, Mopeka propane tank monitors, and LevelMatePRO leveling apps have all been worthwhile. Our biggest challenge has been with the solar. Unfortunately, we lost a solar panel somewhere between Las Cruces, NM and Alpine, TX. 😳 That meant Matt needed to re-wire the remaining panels to maximize output, and even still it has not worked that well since then. We have not seen anywhere near the solar output that we anticipated, even when we had all of our panels operating, so make sure you still have a generator with you to help fill the gap.
Extended Warranties: Don’t buy extended warranties…especially now. You can’t get work done in a reasonable amount of time anywhere and most parts are out of stock, so you end up having to fix and source things yourself. Unless you plan to stay in the same spot for months at a time and also have another place to stay while warranty work is being done, you likely won’t take advantage of an extended warranty if living full-time on the road. However; this may still be a better option if you have a home to return to and don’t mind a repair shop or dealership holding onto your RV for months at a time.
Moving day set up and tear down: Walkie talkies are a must for arrival and departure communications. We punched a hole in the rear drivers side of the trailer, and partially destroyed a bike rack and our bikes by not using them to communicate. As such, we have made it a rule ever since to always have the walkies on when backing into and out of sites. It seems silly at times, but having an easy way to communicate can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars if you can also avoid making silly mistakes. We also have a departure checklist and an arrival checklist to make sure we don’t forget things, like securing the tv, doors, and cupboards, or turning off the water heater, water pump, and thermostat to reduce the risk of damage on moving days.
Planning ahead: Thinking three steps ahead is a must if you need anything specific, such as shipments or appointments. If I want something shipped to me, I need to know which service is being used (Fedex, UPS, USPS, Amazon Locker), beforehand. I also need to make sure I build in ample time for delivery so the package arrives within the window of time we are at our destination. The same goes for appointments. We have had to schedule truck and bike maintenance, haircuts, doctor’s appointments, etc. Figuring out where you will be and when can help make this possible, but sometimes you have to push out your expected timeline to get these things done, especially with continued labor shortages making it harder to secure appointment times.
Wind is not your friend: Wind has been our biggest adversary. Wind, if strong enough, can topple your rig, so paying attention to wind forecasts is a must. For example, in Port Aransas we intended to spend part of our stay camping on the beach; however, a huge windstorm rolled through during that time, which thankfully we knew about in advance. We were able to extend our stay at the RV park, which provided a stable platform (cement vs sand) and more shelter from the wind with neighbors and structures to block some of the wind. I use the Windy app to keep any eye on wind forecasts for the areas we are traveling.
Wind is also a factor on travel days, because driving with massive crosswinds or headwinds can be dangerous. Matt found an app called Weather on the Way that shows wind trends along our route so we can plan accordingly. If it’s too windy, it’s better to stay put and adjust plans rather than take the risk and end up in the ditch, or worse.
Freezing temperatures: If the area you are staying is going to experience sustained temperatures below freezing, make sure that you are not hooked up to a water supply, any hoses and water filters are in the pass through or other insulated area, your water heater is on, water pump is off and lines cleared (run water taps until there is no water coming out), and you have an insulated underbelly during cold snaps. This should help prevent the cold from freezing and potentially damaging your plumbing, your hoses, and your water filters.
Moving is exhausting: Taking more time at each destination is one of our resolutions come next spring. Moving frequently requires a lot of energy with prepping the trailer for departure, meal planning, gas/travel stop planning, and setting the trailer up upon arrival. Plus, a lot of the roads are not great, so they can really beat you up when you’re towing. And, if you add inclement weather in the mix, it makes for a very long day. If you can stay for longer periods of time at your destination, this is the way to go. On average, we have been moving every week, and that has proven to be too frequent for us. We hope to spend 2-3 weeks at our destinations in the future. That means planning ahead so sites aren’t booked up and prevent us from enjoying an extended stay.
Stress: Stress doesn’t go away, it just shifts. Instead of worrying about the house, our jobs, and other parts of the daily grind, we worry about keeping the travel trailer and truck intact and operational. Travel days are especially stressful with the risk of doing damage increasing every time we move. You essentially put your trailer through a mini earthquake every time you move it, so things are going to break. Since it’s not just our recreational vehicle and it’s now our home, it has become more important than ever that we keep it safe.
Missing: You will end up reflecting on the things you miss and don’t miss while being on the road full-time. Matt misses space, both personal and physical, to enjoy his hobbies. He also misses his tools, building things and stable internet. I miss having a permanent foundation on a house, especially during inclement weather. 😂 I also miss having a toaster oven, a dishwasher, having access to all of my cookbooks and my workout space. Collectively we miss our friends, and having a garden and a yard. What we DON’T miss are our jobs and the gray of Portland, so you win some and you lose some.
There’s always something to do: Taking time away from work, I would have thought I’d be going stir crazy by now, but that has not been the case. I never cease to have things to do. The blog and cooking take up quite a bit of time. There are always basic tasks that need to be attended to, such as cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, dumping tanks, filling tanks, getting gas or propane, etc. Maintaining my CPA license, handling issues related to our house, setting up appointments, planning future travel logistics, and other miscellaneous tasks are ever present in the “adulting” category. And exploring our surroundings, of course! Find me some time and I’ll find a way to fill it. 😊
Even though we have run into some challenges and have missed a few things, we are learning to pivot and adapt to each new environment, and to live without all of the conveniences that modern life has to offer. It really isn’t so bad living without these things…simplifying life. Everything has its place and purpose in our travel trailer, so adding anything new usually requires giving up something else and taking its place. It makes us more grateful for what we have, will help us prioritize what is important to us when we choose to settle down again in one place, and has helped us refocus our energy on our relationships with each other, our friends and our family. I look forward to what the second half of this journey will reveal, and am excited to share it with you all as well. Happy new year, and may you also get out and enjoy some awesome adventures in 2022. ❤️