with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Is Living on the Road Full-time Right for You?

Is full-time life on the road right for you? What kind of person can live on the road full-time and call it home? What does it take to go it alone (or with others) on the road?

Full-time life on the road is hard work. It is uncertainty. It is fear. When you take your life on the road, you are no longer bound to a familiar and stable community. You no longer belong to the church down the road, have access to familiar grocery stores or shopping malls, and post office. The little cafe you love to dine at a couple times a week – gone. Left behind. Familiar doctors, clinics, jobs, co-workers, friends, a way of life you are comfortable with are all left behind. For some this is a good thing. For others, it can be much harder.

If you are part of a family, it is even harder to leave. If you are going to take any of your family or partners on the road with you, things can get even harder to take them with you.

Before we get to determining if living on the road full-time is right for you, let’s look at some of the reasons people do live on the road.

Why Choose Life on the Road?

Expectations

The most common reason people choose to live on the road is work. Their jobs involve frequent travel or they have to travel to find work. Some of these people forego the traditional apartment rental for a recreational vehicle, their home away from home. No matter where they travel within the continent, their home goes with them. Some of these traveling workers have a home base, a residence elsewhere in the country, and visit it on weekends or when possible. Some make their home their recreational vehicle (RV) and bring their family along for the experience.

The next most common reason people choose to live on the road is family. Older parents and grandparents want to be closer to their family which is often spread across the country. They will travel to and from the different family members’ areas, living in their motor home or travel trailer, helping the family out for a while and then moving onto to the next visit. These people may or may not have a home base, but they use their RVs as traveling apartments going from place to place to spend time with family.

Many people classify “snowbirds” as full-timers, but technically they aren’t. They are more part-timers. They travel with the sun’s warmth, spending four to six months a year in one place and then heading back to the other place for the rest of the year. Many snowbirds have a permanent home near family and friends, and they use their RV to spend the winter in warmer climes awaiting the thaw in the north. These people have community in both places, traveling only between the two points with side trips. Snowbirds can make this two point journey for decades, growing old with the two different communities. Full-time travelers often don’t stay in a community long enough to become part of it.

There are those who go on the road full-time who have the goal of seeing what they never saw or missed the first time around. These people stay mobile for a year or two, going from tourist site to tourist site, or seeking the strange, unusual, or just interesting things to see out there. After a year or two, most get worn out from the effort and they tend to either return to their original home stomping grounds or they find a place that is comfortable and they make that their new home.

The rarest of the full-timers include Brent and I. We are the folks who sold everything and stored the rest with friends and family and hit the road. We don’t have a home. We have a birth place, places we love and call “home” for those interested in that concept, but we don’t have a “place to call our own”. As Brent says, “home is where Lorelle is.” Anywhere I lay my hat is home. Home is where the heart is. All the cliches are ours to use because the world is our home and where we stop, that’s the place.

Full-time travelers like Brent and I may have a permanent address and may call ourselves residents of a place in order to meet the government’s rules and regulations about residency, but we haven’t “lived” there in years. We left our concept of home behind in 1996 and have been on the road in one way or another ever since. The few others who are living on the road full-time travel from place to place where temporary work or their hearts guide them. Sometimes they spend time with friends or family along the way, other times they just open a book or magazine and decide that this is the next place on the itinerary. Some map out a whole year, others live by their whims. Their home is on their back and they just go where they feel like it, stopping where they want and spending time, and then moving on.

Full-time on the Road: What Does It Take?

Whichever kind of full-timer you are or want to be, here are some of the skills you will need in order to survive on the road full-time:

Sell Or Give Away Stuff
Before you can take your life on the road, you have to get rid of your stuff. It isn’t easy, but you have to dump all thoughts of sentimentality and emotions attached to stuff. You don’t have to get rid of all of it, but the big items have to go. This separation of yourself from your stuff is an important step to take in preparing yourself to leave it all behind, literally as well as psychologically.
Learn to Live Small
Moving into a trailer, motor home or other style of RV, you have to learn to live small. The size, weight, and shape of stuff, as well as its versatility, all comes into play on a scale you never dreamed of before. Every roll of toilet paper, every can of food, every piece of paper, they all add weight to the load the vehicle has to pull, and it all takes up SPACE, a valuable commodity in an RV. Books are the hardest thing for RVers to deal with when they hit the road. Travelers tend to love books but books take space and weight. A friend of ours has a rule. For every one book into his RV, two have to leave. It’s tough rule, and he breaks it from time to time, but it is the kind of self discipline you need to have to maintain a much minimized lifestyle on the road.
Learn To Be Alone
When you take your life on the road traveling, you do meet a lot of new people, interesting people with fascinating lives. But you also spend a lot of time alone or with your traveling partner. This can take a toll on relationships, but if you are traveling alone, it can get tiresome unless you either like being alone or you learn to enjoy being alone. Learn to read and entertain yourself. Learn to be comfortable with silence. Learn to enjoy just listening to music, and get yourself a hobby while traveling. If you are a person who has trouble being alone or have problems with silence, life on the road may be very challenging for you.
PATIENCE
I told the universe I needed to have more patience in my life. I then met my husband. I told the universe that he had taught me plenty about patience and that I was now done learning. We bought a truck and trailer and then we went on the road full-time. Okay, I told the universe. I’ve learned EVERYTHING there is to know about patience. I’m done. Finished. Stop the lessons, please. Then we took our life on the road to Israel. Universe! Aren’t you listening! I’ve learned all there is to learn about patience! Please stop! Obviously I’m not done learning. Living on the road requires more than patience. It requires a sense of calm, peace, and inner strength to not throttle the next idiot you meet who greets you with “I don’t know” or something more inane. Driving a huge truck and pulling an even bigger trailer teaches you things about patience that you can’t even imagine learning, like becoming used to waiting ten minutes for a break in traffic to pull out of a gas station, or driving round and round neighborhood cul-de-sacs because you missed the turn and you can’t back up. There are so many lessons in patience to be learned when you hit the road, start practicing on your patience skills before you even get out of the driveway. Not a patient person, don’t do this. It will kill one of us.
Trust Strangers
Leaving your family and home community behind means you have entered a new community. Looser knit, it is the community of travelers. People in trailers and motor homes always stop to help fellow RVers, even if they don’t need the help. The attitude of the traveler is “that could be me one day” and they want to help because, thank goodness, it happened to somebody else. But the day is coming, you tell yourself. You learn to trust strangers on the road, fellow travelers, campground owners and residents, gas station attendants, shop clerks, and, most frighteningly, mechanics. When it comes to the repair, care, and feeding of your home on the road, all the characteristics you need for life on the road (risk, courage, faith, trust, and patience) pop into high gear when facing a mechanic.
Curiosity
We’ve found a common thread running through the personalities of most of the people we’ve met on the road: curiosity. They are just curious folks. They want to learn more about…anything and everything. They are still child-like when it comes to visiting Disneyland or the Kennedy Space Center. They enjoy taking classes at campgrounds and traveling to new and interesting places. They are like explorers in a modern way. This curiosity keeps them young and alive, always seeking a new perspective, a new challenge, and a new friend.
Risk
If taking your life on the road full-time can’t be compared to jumping out of a plane with a potentially faulty parachute, I don’t know what could be. Traveling full-time involves risk. You risk your life driving such a huge and cumbersome vehicle through rush hour traffic. You risk your life choosing less traveled paths, not knowing exactly where you may end up. You risk finding a safe place to stay when you pull into a campground without a reservation during the high season. Shoot, you risk your life just dealing daily with your electrical, water and sewer systems. It’s a risky business living on the road and it takes someone willing to tackle risk to live on the road full-time.
Research
You have to learn how to research, be it in books, libraries, on the Internet, or otherwise, you have to learn how to study and evaluate information. You have to know how to ask the right questions. This helps in travel planning, travel preparation, learning about living on the road, and learning how to gather information if your route needs to change along the way. Taking your life on the road isn’t as easy as jumping into a vehicle and saying bye-bye to your life. You have to research residency issues, taxes, insurance plans, bill paying, mail forwarding, and so much more than you ever thought of before. Things become more complicated on the road sometimes, and you have to learn how to research your potential solutions before you get to the decision-making stage.
Make decisions
When you travel on the road full-time, you have to make decisions all the time. Which way to go, which road to turn on, which campground to choose, which campsite, which restaurant, which grocery store, which…okay, there are a lot of decisions. Some days it feels like all you do is make decisions. What ever happened to the concept of life of the road, leave all your cares behind. Gone! You have to be a decision maker when it comes to life on the road. There isn’t much in the way of support and you have to learn to take the risks when it comes to making those decisions. Once you have made all the decisions necessary for that day, then you can relax, watch the sunset, listen to the birds, frogs, and crickets, and rest until the next decision comes your way.

Is Full-Time Right for You?

We’ve given you some of the reasons why people travel full-time and some of the characteristics and skills needed for life on the road. Still interested? Then start your research and planning and welcome to the rare club of those who value life on the road.

 

4 Comments

  • bernardo
    Posted August 18, 2006 at 0:08 | Permalink

    very real. Is it worth it? I wouldn’t change it for anything.
    (full timer, living on the road for 3 years.

  • Rayne
    Posted January 1, 2007 at 22:35 | Permalink

    yup, i’m inspired. although, i may need to learn how to drive and get a car. or, get creative. :)

  • Patrick
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 11:31 | Permalink

    So many questions… What type rig?? Tow car or motorcycle, start up cost?? Can you give me a website that may answer these questions. Loved your article

    Thanks

    Pat

    future full timer

    • Posted October 28, 2011 at 18:33 | Permalink

      There are a lot of articles out there with one view or the other, and I’ve found a lot of them very bias. The key is to choose one that works for you. Seriously.

      If you have all the money in the world, it doesn’t matter, you can choose anything you want as long as it fits where you want to go and what you want to do. If you are pinching pennies, this still applies. It must take you where you want to go and help you do what you want to do.

      If you need to travel with a lot of stuff and you like luxuries, then motor home or trailer.
      If you want to travel lightly and feel the road closely, motorcycle.
      If you are physically fit, go with trailer (5th or otherwise) or truck and camper.
      If you aren’t physically fit, go with Class C or A motor home.
      If you want to stay high in the mountains, in backwoods, BLMs, and off road, then tent, small trailer, class C, anything under 26 feet in length (with vehicle though a tow car is okay) is the only way to go.
      If you are traveling to big parks, then anything goes but if you are in big campgrounds and trailer parks, they don’t like crap vehicles. Some won’t take trailers only motor homes.
      If you are staying on the road for weekends, go cheap. If you only travel during summer, go cheap.
      If you are living in this full-time, makes sure it is durable, weatherproof, all season, and comfortable.

      So what do you want to do and how to do you want to get there.

      That’s all you need to know.

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