/ Retrospective

Six months of travel

In celebration of our first six months on the road, we will be rolling out a series of blog posts about our experiences and explaining the improvements we've made to our RV. Let's start by getting an overview of the last 6 months.

Time 6 months (Jan 31–Jul 31 2017, 181 days)
Driven 6,600 miles
Visited 9 states

Total paid for RV parking: $3,912.01
Paid camping: 139 days (of 181)
Percentage of paid nights: 77% paid
Average nightly cost of paid camping: $28.14
Average nightly cost: $21.61

Our first six months had us dashing about after things like changing our domicile to be with Escapees (CA -> Livingston TX), getting new driver licenses while there, buying a toad (Forth Worth TX), having solar panels and batteries installed (Yuma AZ), getting the coach serviced (Las Vegas NV), getting the toad improved (Twin Falls ID, and later Helena MT), and so on. It was only in late April that we started to slow down our travels, before that we just briefly paused at what was nearest to an interstate. We were also much more dependent on shore power until we got our solar install done, in late March. In the six months, we only had one extended boondocking stay, in Dixie National Forest, Utah. Going forward, we will definitely be boondocking more.

Tourism

We cannot recommend America The Beautiful pass strongly enough. $80/year gets you free access to all NPS areas.

Questions and Answers

As part of our celebration of six months of travel, we solicited questions from our followers on Instagram. Here are the answers:

@lwrncpchy1 What was your biggest fear, if any, when you first started out?

Ane: My biggest fear was definitely money. Since 2005 I always had a steady, well paying desk job, with benefits and a 401k, so making the jump to work freelance was very intimidating. I had enough savings that I knew I could float myself for a while, but I didn't want to rely on that. However, what I didn't want was to look back later in life, wondering what it would have been like if we gave this a try. So down the road we went!

alt

Tommi: I traveled between US and Europe for months at a time a lot ten years ago, so I was pretty comfortable with just landing somewhere with my life packed in two bags of luggage. While I've held steady jobs over the years, I also started a business as my first "real job", have freelanced a lot, and regularly work for people I've never met. What I worried about more was serious mechanical breakdowns of the coach, getting stuck on a tiny forest road, and such everyday things.

@_mermaidsandpirates_ Do you guys work on the road?

Ane: I am working part time, doing what I did before we went fulltime, which is Creative Project Management. Luckily, that is something I can do easily from the road. Before RV life, I was working for an advertising agency so I've continued to do some freelance work for them and their clients. I also just started an Etsy shop, which is something I always wanted to do, but never had time for. You can check it out here: http://www.probablyagooddog.com

Tommi: I'm a software developer and have an entrepreneurial personality, so I can work pretty comfortably anywhere with a good enough Internet connection and clean electricity. Check back later for blog posts about our connectivity and computer setups.

@dkeahey Has it been like you expected? If not, what's the biggest difference?

Ane: Having never really RV'd before doing this, I didn't really have any expectations as to what it would be like. I think the hardest part for me was actually the time in between buying our RV (October, 2016) and hitting the road full time (February, 2017). We were stationary at an RV park just north of San Francisco and it rained almost every day. We had a leaky living room slide so had to live with it pulled in. We still hadn't fully put everything away and it just felt really cramped. That experience was not expected and not pleasant. The first real sunny day we experienced was in mid-February when we arrived in Palm Springs, CA. That was a wonderful feeling! I don't think any of us (dogs included) are in a rush to get back to rainy SF!

The other thing that I feel was unexpected is how easy it has become to drive such a large vehicle. I was very nervous in the beginning and definitely had white knuckles driving it home from the dealer!

alt

If you're reading this and worried about the same thing, I would recommend taking a lesson (we found our instructor through http://www.rvbasictraining.com). We also watched a lot of YouTube videos about driving, parking, hand signals, etc. before we purchased our RV.

Tommi: I think the biggest thing I was just completely unable to comprehend is that we'd end up being remote enough to have no cell signal at all, of any kind, for days at a time. That has happened only once or twice, but it has made me realize how much I rely on an Internet connection for route planning.

And while Ane says that driving our coach was easier than she expected, at the same time, I have to add that many little things are harder than I expected. For example, to plan a 2-3 hour drive on a rural highway, I look at satellite views of every little town on the way, trying to find areas large enough for us to pull over and have a pee break. Our division of labor is that Ane is the primary coach driver, and I do all the planning & navigating.

Finally, nothing can ever prepare you for the series of setbacks you will unavoidably encounter at some point. As the quote goes, "the only thing that always works on an RV is the owner". But, so far, we've fixed every single thing we broke, and have only scratched the coach a little bit!

@gypsiesofconsciousness Sending a message through time, what you tell yourself 6 months ago?

Ane: "You don't need all those clothes!" I downsized A LOT but I still have way too many clothes that I don't wear. Slowly going through them and donating along the way. And actually, you can replace the word "clothes" with just about anything we brought along and it stands true! I can honestly say I don't miss anything we let go of during downsizing. We have one very small storage unit in California. It has sentimental things like photos, awards, keepsakes, yearbooks, a larger than life poster of ones self (I mean really, I can't be expected to get rid of this!)

alt

For one year of storage, we're paying about $600 so we told ourselves we'd keep the storage unit for 12 months and then decide what to do with it's contents.

Tommi: Can I send a message to myself 12 months back? "Start prepping now!" I wish we had already had the toad setup before we headed out (but at the same time, we didn't want to buy in California and immediately transfer registration to Texas, and needed baby steps with learning to drive the coach); I wish I had gotten dog vaccinations and such in order sooner; I'm still carrying a bunch of things that need "just one more thing" before I can get rid of them; I feel like too many unknowns remain about the coach, such as proper maintenance routines.

If you're in a position where you're planning to start fulltiming, and can physically park an RV on your property, take your time with the transition. We couldn't, and that made us rush things. We made the unusual jump straight from no RV experience to fulltiming -- most people probably aren't as crazy.

The amount of things we've learned in the last 6-12 months is literally mindboggling. It would have been really nice to be able to make decisions on e.g. what gear to buy well in advance, and not at the last minute as we go along. For example, we had the toad wiring harness installed in Fort Worth TX, the braking system in Yuma AZ, but only in Twin Falls ID did the jeep get into a shape where it was safe to tow. There'll be a blog post about that, soon..

Thanks for all the questions submitted! We'll do this again in 6 months.
In the meanwhile, please get in touch on Instagram

Where to next

We plan our long term travel very loosely. We know we'll get to see Grand Canyon, we know we intend to be boondocking in Arizona by January, and we know there's a solar eclipse coming. That's about it, the rest is just a big bundle of possibilities for us to discover, usually about a week before we get there!

As for this blog, we're planning to distill what we've learned about RVing, and what we've done to the RV, into a series of blog posts. We'll talk about buying an RV, driving, toads and towing, how we stay Internet-connected, all the tools and gear we've needed so far, and all the things we've broken & fixed (usually in that order). Stay tuned.