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“Move out of your apartment and enjoy the RV life,” they said… “It’ll be fun!”
Ok, that’s only sort of what happened. We enjoyed our past couple of monster road trips (2020 and 2022) so much that it became the catalyst for us letting our apartment lease lapse, putting our stuff in storage, buying an RV, and taking on the RV life. It was also one solution to dodging another Ohio Winter!
I will say though that full-time RV life tends to be made out to be a fun-filled non-stop adventure.
Here’s my take on things so far… it’s not. Yes, there are some amazing super cool things that you can see on the road. And taking your home with you pushes that convenience factor to the max.
But on the other side of the equation, @#$% will constantly break or be problematic and you lose so much of your time fixing things, driving, or planning.
Is it worth it though? After 45 days of living the RV life, I’m ready to share my honest thoughts with you so far.
What has our RV life consisted of so far?
We moved into our Jayco Jay Flight SLX 7 trailer on October 6. That means there are three of us living in a 22’ trailer.
Some people might think that’s crazy but don’t forget – this is like a palace compared to when we slept in the back of our Honda Pilot for 30-40 days during our other road trips…
For the month of October, we stayed at two different campgrounds in the RV. The pickings were slim since it’s northeast Ohio and not a lot of campgrounds stay open that late in the year. But we wanted a chance to learn the ropes of RV life and to give us a chance to unveil any RV issues that would need to be addressed before leaving. That way we would have a place to stay (my mother-in-law’s) should we need to drop off the RV to be fixed.
The first was Countryside Campground in Mogadore, Ohio. That place was inexpensive, close to my mother-in-law’s, and had full hookups. We could only stay there a couple weeks though because they would be closing for the season.
So our second RV park was Silver Springs Campground in Stow, Ohio. This campground allowed us to extend our time through the end of October. The downside was that they only had electric at the sites – there was a separate dump station and fresh water fill-ups elsewhere on the grounds.
Well, folks, we learned a heckuva lot, and doing this dry run was great for us. It allowed us to focus on the RV life, figure out what we needed to do, and make changes to the RV to suit our needs. And with a small trailer like ours, it took some creativity to find ways to make everything fit in an organized way.
Most of the organizers we bought (and so much other stuff!) were from Temu. I bet we saved 40-50% over what we would have paid on Amazon for the same products. You can read my thoughts on Temu as well as get a discount code for 50% off your first order here.
The good news is that Lisa and I spent way too much time learning about the ins and the outs of RV living before we even moved into it. Between YouTube, blogs, podcasts, and RV Facebook groups, we felt comfortable with most everything by the time we actually got rolling.
Beginner’s tip: immerse yourself beforehand in learning everything you can like we did – that helped tremendously!
That said, there are always going to be things to figure out. For instance, the site we had at Silver Springs wasn’t great because it was so incredibly unlevel. It took us quite a bit to get it level, too, so we really didn’t want to move it if it wasn’t necessary.
We don’t have to worry about black water thanks to our composting toilet. However, we still needed to be able to fill up our fresh water tank and dump our gray water tank multiple times.
Since we were maybe 60-75 feet from the nearest fresh water spigot, we would occasionally fill up a 5-gallon water jug and pour it with a funnel into the tank. There are other ways we could have done this, but it was a good opportunity to get another workout in!
And with our gray water, we would dump that into a 5-gallon portable bucket several times and carry it over to a gray water dump nearby.
Not perfect solutions but they kept us from needing to move the trailer during our stay.
And then on November 1, we pushed off! It turned out to be one day too late too since it snowed the night before!
Since then, we’ve been slowly working our way through the first half of our first road trip loop. We made our way through Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana… and we’re now in Texas. We stayed at RV parks, boondocked, and did overnights at Cracker Barrel.
Now we’re near the Austin area to celebrate Thanksgiving at my brother and sister-in-law’s house. In early December, we’ll make our way back to Ohio to complete our first loop.
The joys of RV life
Let’s start with the good stuff we’ve been enjoying!
The biggest part of this adventure is to be able to experience so much that this country has to offer. A few of the cool things we’ve done…
• Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky – We decided not to do a cave tour because Lisa would get too claustrophobic. But we did go into the entrance of one for just a short distance and the visitor’s center there had a lot of cool info (these caves are amazing!). We did a nice hike just under two miles on one of the trails there, too – the scenery was beautiful there!
• Hattie B’s in Nashville, Tennessee – We had eaten here on a previous road trip and learned how good this place was. So we made sure to eat dinner here as we passed through on this trip. We didn’t spend a lot of time in Nashville – we’re going to do that on our way back to Ohio. But I can tell you, I’ll be pushing for Hattie B’s then, too!
• Natchez Trace Parkway in Tennessee – We boondocked at a pretty campground here. The biggest problem is that there were bees EVERYWHERE. Aside from that, it’s a beautiful area and we enjoyed a nice hike while we were there. We stopped at the Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark) site and learned quite a bit about his amazing history – really interesting.
One night while there, we pulled out a ladder and brought a blanket up to the top of the RV. We hung out and gazed at the stars. And then something crazy happened… while we were lying there staring at the skies, a big flash of light streaked over our heads really low in the sky. We were all in awe at what we just saw. Lisa dug into it later and figured out that it was most likely a meteor. This thing was just so low and blew our minds – super cool!
• New Orleans – We had only been to New Orleans one other time before, which was during our road trip during the pandemic… I hated it. I thought it was dirty, overrated, and just not appealing. I’m glad we stopped again though – we had a great time.
The food was better (including the beignets at Cafe Du Monde and dinner at a couple of other restaurants), the street performers were fun to watch, and, well, not having a pandemic going on kind of helped!
Still not my favorite place, but it was a good stop on this trip.
• Boondocking right on the beach! – How cool is it that there you can pull your RV home right up to the ocean and sleep on the beach just feet away from the ocean waves rolling in and out?
We did this twice so far. We stayed a couple of nights at Rutherford Beach in Louisiana for the low, low price of $0 (the price is right when boondocking!). We found a spot and just set up shop. I’m not gonna lie – this wasn’t perfect. The mosquitos were crazy and it wasn’t very warm out… but it was still cool!
We spent the first night shining a spotlight out the window nervous that the tide would sweep us away! That was even after checking the tide charts and knowing we were going to be just fine. We relaxed a little more the second night but still checked outside a couple of times in the middle of the night just to be sure.
How awesome is that though? The first day rained quite a bit but the second day was rain-free (but cloudy). We walked along the beach collecting sea shells and it was just cool to be able to do without being in an expensive beach house somewhere.
The second time was at Crystal Beach in Texas. This visit was 100x better than the first. We had better weather (in the 70s and partly cloudy), fewer mosquitos, and we felt more at ease with the tide schedule.
The tears of RV life
Not everything in this RV life we’re living has been bringing us joy though. There are a few problems that we’ve been having that have taken away some of the enjoyment from the trip…
• Rushing things along – You would think that considering that we’re spending 9 months living in an RV we’d have all the time in the world, but it just doesn’t seem like it.
We get to a place, stay for a night or two, and then move on in order to keep on schedule. If we want to make it to my brother and sister-in-law’s house in time for Thanksgiving, we need to keep on moving.
That means a lot of times we don’t even get to explore a place much if at all. We’re all realizing this and it’s taking a toll on us.
In a nutshell, we’re trying to fit too much in and that actually brings the enjoyment level down substantially.
• The big letdown – We found out that the fridge in our RV runs solely off battery. We’re sure that the salesman had told us that it was both electric and propane because that’s a big thing we knew we needed for our boondocking plans. That’s a rough one for our RV life.
We learned this when the fridge alarm started going off in the middle of the night because the battery was almost dead (which I had already swapped out with a 100-amp lithium battery). I’m now working with the dealership to try to get this rectified because we felt misled. In the end, we’re probably going to need to add another battery at the very least to be able to carry us through several days of boondocking. Ugh.
• @#$% keeps breaking – We have a brand new 2022 RV travel trailer – how much stuff can really go wrong with it, right?
Wrong. You’re pulling your house behind you over bumpy roads and twisty turns. And stuff just breaks anyway when in an RV life (or any life for that matter!).
Here’s where ours started to go downhill. We were leaving from New Orleans and had just had breakfast in the trailer, packed it all up, and hit the road. We drove about an hour and a half and then stopped to get gas (at Costco, of course!). After I filled it up, we pulled right into the Costco parking lot to eat lunch in the RV. We walked into the trailer and found that the sliding window over the dinette had shattered somewhere on the drive.
I talked about it more in a post on my Instagram feed, but here’s some of it…
Something likely hit the window (my guess is a bird). There wasn’t anything inside like a rock to indicate anything malicious… it’s just the way life goes sometimes.https://www.instagram.com/p/CzowhFXRZkk/
We spent an hour and a half in the Costco parking lot in the rain getting the glass removed so none would fall out on the road.
I spent so much time on the internet and phone trying to figure out where to get it replaced. It was extremely frustrating. We stopped and got supplies and then rerouted to an RV park for the night. Lisa spent a couple of hours vacuuming every nook and cranny in the area where it happened. There was glass everywhere and in all our stuff.
I put up cardboard and sealed both sides with plastic sheeting. It’s not perfect, but hopefully it’ll hold up. A whole new window needs to be ordered and won’t arrive for almost two weeks. We’ll be at my brother and sister-in-law’s then and we’ll be able to get it done.
We now have the replacement part ordered and set to be fixed while we’re in the Austin area. What a mess! And, I’m sure you can guess that this isn’t covered under warranty.
After that, our water heater just randomly stopped working. It can run on propane, electric, or both and none of those were working. The important thing is that Lisa got to experience the cold shower to learn that it wasn’t working and not me!
I spent the evening learning about this water heater and how to troubleshoot some things. I tried a couple of things and then the next day called the manufacturer. She essentially just pointed me to some YouTube videos, which, believe it or not, helped me diagnose the problem. With all the headaches hitting at once, I was happy to find out that it’s just a bad thermal limit fuse that’s easy to swap out and costs about $10 for a few replacements on Amazon.
We also had the drawer under our dinette basically fall apart. Lisa took care of this with some finishing nails I happened to have on hand and Gorilla tape hidden on the outside (don’t leave home without it!).
• No time – This one’s been frustrating for me. I’ve mentioned this a couple of times before, but I tend to get stressed when things stack up on my plate. My mind thinks of everything like a checklist item and if those items continue to build up, my brain wants to explode.
I’ve gotten better at relaxing with some things but I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever be able to just let go of completely.
The struggle for me in this RV life is that it’s a big time suck with the way we’re doing it. Yes, there are some great things going on, but we spend our time either driving, planning, or fixing things. We drive a handful of hours, get to a site, and set up shop – that’s one day gone. Maybe we stay two or three nights there so we spend the next day figuring out what we want to do around the area as well as planning the next place to stop. Believe it or not, that’s a lot of work!
Oh, don’t forget about fixing problems with the RV when those creep up.
Sometimes we’ll try to squeeze in doing something nearby and then we move on. That means closing down everything and driving again. The cycle then starts over.
In the meantime, there hasn’t been a chance to just relax and immerse ourselves much in the location we’re visiting.
It’s also taking away from opportunities for me to work out as often as I’d like (I brought my dumbbells and squeeze in a workout every chance I get!).
I also need time for the normal day-to-day stuff: paying bills, writing for this blog, replying to comments, and emails, etc. And my checklist of other odds and ends that need to be done continues to build up.
That doesn’t even include the stuff I was hoping to do that I can’t find time for like making more videos for my YouTube channel, flying our drone, or even sneaking in some Kotlin Android programming training.
What we’re going to change
RV life isn’t easy. There will always be things that break and other problems that need to be addressed.
But there are some things we can control and the three of us are all on the same page. Without a doubt, we need to slow the F down.
There’s no denying that – that’s our biggest problem right now. If we spend more time in one place, we win multiple times over. We have more time to explore the area, more time to plan the next stop, and more time to focus on relaxing or catching up on odds and ends. As a bonus, we spend less money on gas per day by not driving as often and spreading it out.
The problem is that we still have a loose schedule to maintain. For instance, when we leave Texas in early December, Lisa and Faith want us to be back several days before Christmas. That sounded easy when we first planned on that, but apparently in this RV life, that can make us still feel rushed.
So what’s the answer? It’s easy actually – we need to stop at fewer places. We need to quit trying to cram in seeing everything and spend more time at the places we truly want to visit.
That will mean driving a little more on some days or just doing a quick overnight at a Cracker Barrel here and there, but then that means we can slow things down at the places high up on our list to visit and stay longer.
So has our RV life been a failure or a success?
We’re still early on things. We plan to be on the road until possibly around June of next year. So calling things a success or failure would be premature for sure.
Instead, I would say that we’re learning and adjusting to make the most of our RV life. And that, in and of itself, is a success.
Plus, we are still having fun. We’re spending time together and we’ve already experienced some cool places – we’ve just been rushing ourselves up until now. What’s an adventure without some struggles though?!
And for me, I’m most excited about our trip out west again, which will be loop 3 of our trip in the spring. So if we can work out the kinks and streamline our process by then, I’m all for it!
Plan well, take action, and live your best life!
Thanks for reading!!