Full-time RV living has been around since the 1950’s, I am told – at least for motorized RVs! I guess you could argue that the westward expansion encouraged by Thomas Jefferson and Horace Greeley actually started the mobile-living craze: Conestoga wagons may have actually been the first RVs!
Since then, adventurers captivated by the idea of travel throughout the United States have taken to the roads in all manner of RVs. The most serious commit to traveling in their RV all-the-time -- most will sell their stick-and-brick home and live permanently in their RV. Sometimes the decision is a “forever one;” sometimes it is for a predetermined period of time.
The most popular RVs for full-timing are motorhomes and fifth wheels, though truly any RV configuration would allow for this kind of lifestyle. The number of retiring baby-boomers and lower gas prices, in combination with a healthy gain in the stock market over the last few years, have combined to make this hobby even more popular. I read recently that another factor is the increasing complication of traveling by airplane -- more and more families are turning to RV'ing for vacations as one means to avoid the frustrations of air-travel.
The fact that today's RVs are very livable has certainly helped -- most are available with full kitchen, large bathroom(s) and living room, office area, fireplace, queen/king-sized beds, and full air-conditioning! The hobby is definitely back on the up-swing; June 2015 is reported to have had the greatest number of RV units sold since 2006. I read recently that there were now over 8 million RVs on the road. And as of the 2000 census, the US government reports that 1.2 million people are living full-time in their RVs as their nomadic wanderlust urges them around the country.
The lifestyle is also becoming popular to the younger generation -- taking to the highways, but still employed, by leveraging the ubiquitous Internet. The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association recently called attention to the fact that fastest growing segment of RV’ers are between the ages of 35 and 44, displacing the stereotype that RVs appeal only to an older demographic. "Road Schooling" (families of twenty- and thirty-somethings who elect to home-school their kids while travelling) is also gaining popularity. They have discovered a great lifestyle; one of the parents is typically employed and works remotely [from the RV] while the other parent schools the kids -- all while exploring the country. I wish I would have thought of this! What a GREAT way to teach your kids about America and American History.
Full-timers will typically overnight in public campgrounds or boondock: from Baja California to Alaska as they travel around. Some will "workkamp" at a private or government campground (be a campsite host at a National Forest, Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, or Fish and Wildlife campground) for extended periods. In return for their work, the workkamper receives a free campsite with free hookups for as long as they agree to stay. The length of the stay can be as short as one or two nights and as long as many months. Most full-time RV'ers follow the seasons and migrate north in the spring or summer, and south in the winters, however.
The best parts of full-time RVing are the flexibility in exploring new areas of the continent as deeply as you want (you can go where you want, as long as you want), and meeting new people. When you are done adventuring in a certain area and are ready for another front yard, you just move on to new scenery and new opportunities to meet people!
The RV community shares these adventures through blogs. These are some of the ones that we follow:
Many are attracted to the lifestyle because they have heard, “Full-time RVing is full-time fun.” But it will take a lot of work and test your patience as you are challenged to remain adaptable and flexible (‘cause things are just gonna happen!). While everybody will go through this decision process in their own way, here is a high-level punch list of some of the things you might want to consider:
Define what kind of Full Time lifestyle will fulfill you. Are you going to be in full-time “vacation mode,” or are you going to WorKamp (trading your services for a free camp spot at a National Park, for example) or are you focused on volunteering your talents around the country?
Do the math: Can you afford it? Don’t forget to include new expenses like maintenance on the diesel engine, campground fees, and Laundromat expenses.
Pick your RV to match your lifestyle. Travel trailer or Fifth Wheel or Motorhome? How biguva motorhome? Diesel or gas?
Rough-out your Top Ten destinations. You may not ever get to all ten – you are going to find so many new places on-the-road to visit! While it was easy for us to come up with our Top Ten list, we have decided to just go with the flow. We will travel where we are Led.
Identify your mission. We are created to be busy and social. In addition, our internal "motor" requires a purpose. There are zillions of ways to volunteer, get involved, and give back. What's YOUR ministry going to be?
Get rid of your “stuff” (but keep the essentials!) It doesn't make any sense to take a two-year road-trip (for example) only to return to a bunch of things that you did not need or miss. The odd irony here is that, while most of it is "stuff" that you bought because of, or for, the kids, the kids will thank you for pre-managing your estate for them! Get rid of it so they don’t have to!
Establish domicile. Being a full-time RVer and keeping up on the maintenance of a stick-and-brick home can be frustrating. If you decide to go "all in" you will want to sell the house and establish domicile in a state to your liking. "Domicile" is a legal distinction that will gain you access to important things like a state's Health Insurance program, voter registration, mailing address, taxes, banking, property insurance, and vehicle registrations.
Sell the Stick-and-Brick. Put the memories behind you – the house will now become a home in which a new family will enjoy making memories.
Have FUN in your mission! For us, it’s a new chapter in life! An opportunity to take the knowledge, wisdom, skills and talents that have been trusted to us and GIVE BACK! In some small way, our hand-in-hand partnership will be used to God’s glory. And in the meantime, Deb and I will get the opportunity to explore America and fall more deeply in love.