Life in an RV -- for an extended period

My closest neighbors are a retired couple in their late 60s. They took early retirement for their jobs in their mid-fifties, sold their house, bought an RV, and spent ten years roaming the US, often working at RV campsites for extra money, but generally moving on after a few months.

There is something about this that appeals to me greatly. Now, I’m only 41, I just bought a house, and I have no nice pension forthcoming other than that which I cobble together myself. Still, once my daughter is done with school and I’m 55 or so, I would in theory be free to do this.

So has anyone here RVed for a long time? What are the upsides and downsides of this life?

And, as an added bonus question, have you (or anyone you know) ever lived in an RV in place of a house – ie, not for travelling purposes but while remaining in more or less one place and working a regular job? What are the limitations on this?

I would think with increased cellphone coverage and the widespread availability of wireless Internet, there might be situations where this is cheaper than paying rent if you limit your mileage. But can an employer prohibit you from staying in their parking lot overnight? Would you have to spent 6 of 7 nights parked at a WalMart to make this work? What does an average RV camping site cost? How often would a single person or a couple need to refill their water and dump their waste? (I know I could ask my neighbors this last question, but it seems a little intrusive!)

I’ve never lived in an RV myself but…

I spent some time last summer working on a project (building an addition for a church) alongside a group of folks who live in RVs year-round. Their volunteer group sends them on a couple projects a year to various churches around the country where they work for a set amount of time and then are free to go and do whatever when they’re not on a project.

I inquired with one of the women as to why her and her husband decided to live this way. He was a freelance architect and she had some sort of heavy office job that required an MBA and all that. She said that they had been volunteering for a while and realized they spent more time away from their nice big home than they spent in it. And, while the group is all volunteer, the churches that “hire” them do have to pay each worker a stipend so they can take care of themselves while on site. They get enough money for food, sundries and gas and probably have a little extra to spend on things like clothes and shoes once in a while.

So, they liked their work so much that they decided to give up the house and just live in the RV full time. They spend about 6 months a year camped out in church parking lots doing their thing, and the rest of the time they spend visiting with friends and relatives across the country, in their RV. They basically decided they wanted to break free of the “trappings” of every day corporate life.

One of the other RV couples included a wife who didn’t work on the project, but came along anyway. She was sort of the “den mother” of the group, taking care of things like quick errands during the day or making cookies for everyone to share.

She had an actual job - doing medical transcription. I had to help her set up the WiFi from the church office to her RV so she could download the doctor’s audio files every evening and transcribe them on her laptop.

Note that all of the people I worked with weren’t radical Christians or anything. They were pretty much just people who left their 9-to-5s in order to do a little physical labor, see the country and do some good deeds. They were also all in their mid-50s and older - so they didn’t have kids they abandoned and probably had some decent savings and investments under their belts.

Mine is an example of RV living with a goal in mind, but I bet there are plenty of people out there who just decide to live this way because it’s fun and exciting. And you’re right that technology allows them even greater freedom than it might have before.

The Fiberglass RV forum just added a board about full-timing:

My folks do this every summer. In fact, right now, I think they’re in Wyoming. Or South Dakota? I know my step-mom is squealing at the cowboys. My father e-mails us updates about their adventures several times a week.

Before this summer, they were “workkampers.” They’d go work at a campground as landscapers/office help/what have you for the summer, and in exchange they’d get their site and hookup for free, as well as a small weekly stipend. They’ve done it in Colorado, Wyoming, Alaska, New Hampshire, and Virginia. One year they didn’t even come home for Christmas…they got a gig working at a Hickory Farm kiosk in a Las Vegas mall.

This summer they’re taking “off,” ie, not workkamping, and they’re just driving around. They really love the West, and visit there every chance they get.

The rig is expensive, about the price of a decent house. I believe my father’s RV loan is for 20 years. So you don’t buy them so much as rent them for awhile. Gas, as you can imagine, is a problem, plus it’s BIG and hard to maneuver.

That said, they have all their housely belongings with them, and it’s cheaper by far than staying in a hotel. I think they pay anywhere from $15-25 a night.

I’ve gone “camping” with them (Ivylad doesn’t call it camping, but then again, I don’t think sleeping in a tent and peeing behind a bush is fun) a few times, and it’s great, although rather close quarters. The thing you have to keep in mind is everything has a place and everything must be in their place if you’re not using it.

You’ll find RVers to be a fairly friendly bunch, and I think if you ask your neighbors they’ll be happy to give you some advice.

My parents RV fulltime (truck and 5th wheel).

My dad picked my mom up on the last day of school (she was a teacher) and off they went. That was several years ago. They usually come back around Christmas and stay for a month or so. This year it was a little longer as they both had some health issues that needed to be sorted out. Otherwise, they generally stay about 2-3 weeks in each location before moving on. Their rig is pretty set up - wireless Internet, satellite TV, DVD player, etc. It is a far, far cry from the tent camping we did growing up.

They had planned to do this for years so they were pretty ready. There is a huge community of full-timers out there with lots and lots of resources. In fact, the summer before they retired, they went to Idaho for a full-timer summer school camp thing where they took classes on all sorts of topics.

If you have any particular questions, let me know and I’d be happy to answer them or pass them on to my folks…

My father did, but it was in the 1960’s, well before I was born. He was living in Billings, MT and working as a bricklayer. From what he’s told me (and it hasn’t been much), it sounds like the place he parked his travel trailer was more like a trailer court than a campground. This wasn’t so uncommon in Montana…the town I grew up in still has (as of a month ago, at least) a place like that, called a “Camper Court”. It has what I would call a traditional trailer court (single-wide and double-wide mobile homes) and spots for RV’s/travel trailers. I would guess that most RV’s only rent a spot for a few days, but if you needed to stay there longer, you could probably stay as long as you are willing to pay.

I’m pretty sure my mother never lived in the trailer, which means that he was definitely done with that lifestyle by 1970, when they were married. So, perhaps the limitation is that it’s a pretty small space and it was not a very glamorous lifestyle…fine for a bachelor, but not necessarily suitable for a wife and family. He kept the trailer, though, and we went camping with it quite a bit. He finally sold it in 1990 when we moved to Minnesota.

One of the only stories he’s told me about that time is that he once forgot to buy candy one Halloween and had to hide with his lights off, etc. in his trailer while kids kept coming up to the door.

A friend of mine’s Aunt lives in hers; she tows her car behind it and travels all over the country. It is a very nice RV - as big as some apartments I’ve lived in :slight_smile: and it’s a hoot to watch her little dog chase the windshield wipers.

The old couple that I bought my house from had bought an RV and they planned on touring the country. It doesn’t appeal to me at all. To me, a vacation has room service…

That’s what my wife said when I mentioned a “camping” vacation. If she has to make beds and cook, she’s not on vacation!

I do have a friend and his wife who started out full time RVers with a 40’ fifth wheel and truck. Now they still have that, but spend most of the Winter at their double wide in Florance Arizona. They do travel from place to place from Spring to Fall though.

Thanks for your responses. The links were especially interesting. Like I said, I’m not on the brink of doing this, just curious to hear the stories.

I believe you can rent an RV if you want to try it out. I have no idea how expensive they are, but if you consider you’re saving money on hotel and some dining out…

My mom lived in an RV for ten years until her second husband died. At that point she pondered whether to continue living in one by herself and decided that she wouldn’t. She liked living in it but didn’t want to navigate it into parking position.

She says now that she misses living in one. “It was my home and I could change my front room window to show tress, beaches, sky, rivers, lakes or whatever I wanted. I traveled a lot, never packed a suitcase , and had everything I owned with me when I got there”

First of all you must like travel.

I worked with a man during a summer where he was in the state until late fall, then down south. He waited too long and the pipes froze up. It suited him to travel around. Another couple traveled around for years and they enjoyed the life style, seeing the country. I guess the people that like it are campers from way back in their young years.

I camped out every vacation and many weekends. Now I get to crippled up in in tents and unheated areas. I could go places again with an RV.