Before we set out for the open road in 2014, we had come to the hard realization that full-time RV life is vastly different than living in an house. In retrospect, a lot of things are harder but are the rewards worth it?
From RV maintenance, how to store everything you own in such tiny space and learning how to do it all will take more than throwing caution to the wind. It takes skill, patience, flexibility, attitude, and a sense of humor through full-time RV LIFE. Can you do it?
This blog article contains affiliate links. We receive a small commission at no extra cost to you so we can continue to create more helpful free content. Thank you, we appreciate your support!
As we posted a blog Top 10 RV Tool Bag Must-Haves, having the right tools is very important in your motorhome or camper.
But as full-time RV owners, we also need to have some equally important tools to be successful in living the RV lifestyle. They are necessary so you can live the life you’ve dreamed about living in an RV on the road but also, to survive the inevitable and unexpected.
So, grab your hard hat and learn what RV life skills you’re going to need before hitting the road with your RV.
What You Should Expect as Full-Time RVers
Independence & Intestinal Fortitude
Independence can exhilarating and is a freedom within itself. You’ll reach that sense of accomplishment and believe that you can do most anything…by yourself.
However, we understand the RV lifestyle can also be scary. That’s why you need what we call, intestinal fortitude, also known as guts and courage. Because trust me, you ARE going to have those ‘oh shit moments’ on the road.
Seriously, things are going to go wrong; whether it’s in the middle of the desert, high in the mountains far from help or broken down alongside a busy road.
Some may require sidelining your travel plans until a part ships in or taking the time for repairs. And of course, they always…ALL-WAYS happen at the most inopportune times.
That’s where the intestinal fortitude part comes in. While it’s okay to turn your head to vomit or clean out your britches, just suck in your 6-pack abs and move forward. Seriously, 99% of RV life is attitude.
All of that said, there are ways you can learn before you churn. Read our Get on Course with RV Educational Resources. You can take any or all of the great course offerings by a couple different venues; Escapees RVers Online University or RV MasterClass. Good solid information by those RVing experts is worth the price.
And those of you who aren’t independently wealthy living off Grandpa’s invention royalties, multiple pensions or reaping your 401k’s yet, you’ll need to know how to find work to pay those bills and enjoy the reason why you’re wanting to live the RV lifestyle.
My friend and fellow RVer, Camille from More Than a Wheelin’ can show you how to find remote work through her webinars and courses. Her remote work courses are amazing and are perfect for those living the RV life.
Do Your Own RV Maintenance and Repairs
Face it, anything that has a motor or moving parts is going to require a little mechanical ability. You’re going to need to know how to do math to survive living in an RV.
Seriously, if you don’t know how to measure, calculate, compute and even understand the basics in engineering, go back to your hovel (sticks and bricks).
Let me be clear in saying RVs and campers are not built like houses. In fact, RVs are not built like the same one next to you. Each RV is hand-built by so many people.
Even the most expensive motorhomes are “rolling earthquakes”. So, be prepared to repair anything and everything that shakes, rattles or rolls.
That doesn’t mean you need to have am engineering degree. Heck, we certainly don’t. But as RV owners, you should at least know where to find the answers and which way is righty-tighty and lefty-loosey.
“RV Lifestyle Tip: Seek out information from knowledgable RV owners who have sworn at it, kicked it, wrecked it, ripped it apart and yes, finally fixed it. Their social media channels are great tools that can help you succeed!”
And, though I did mention earlier about being independent, you’ll still need to seek help when it’s not within your comfort level or knowledge. Its perfectly okay to ask for help or guidance. There are even times when we still do.
But remember, as mentioned above, all RVs are different. So, what works for their RV may not work for yours.
Whether it’s flushing your tanks or changing out the anode rod, you need to at least know where to find the answers. Because if you don’t, your RV will become nothing but a shitty-box-on-wheels (quirky phrase by Emily of OwnLessDoMore).
So, learning how to do your own RV maintenance, repairs, installations and upgrades is essential to RV life.
Otherwise, plan on spending a crap ton of money at RV repair facility where questionably-qualified RV techs do it for you. Trust us, we’ve been there and ended up worse than when we started.
Even so, RV tech’s and RV repair facilities’ calendars never coincide with our travel schedules anyways. Seriously, you can fly to China to get your parts faster than waiting for an RV repair facility to get theirs and fit you in.
So, it’s really important to know how to troubleshoot and repair basic plumbing, electrical and engineering components.
RV Lifestyle Tip: Commit to preventative maintenance schedule. By doing so, you’ll save not only money and time but headaches and heartaches down the road.
A great resource for RV repair or maintenance videos, check out RV Repair Club Videos
Improvise, Overcome & Adapt
This is a big one! If you’ve been in the military, you know these words well. If you’re not flexible, don’t know or care about finding answers on your own, your RVing experience will be short and miserable. You have to learn how to embrace every facet of RV life; the good, the bad and yes, the ugly.
You’ll learn quickly that everything must have a purpose. Because, living in a 350 square foot or less motorhome, fifth wheel or travel trailer is going to present hard-core limitations.
Everything you buy and pack in your RV will have to have genuine purpose. It will be imperative that you take into account your RV’s weight limits. Make it a point to understand your RV’s GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating).
So yeah, those 30 pairs and 10 Coach purses? Yeah, that’s not going to happen because you’re going to need something much more important than pretty things on your feet.
Living in an RV takes much restraint when it comes to glory shopping. Becoming proficient in organizing and storing your belongings will come with time. I can’t tell you how many times I’d buy something, thinking it would work, only to have to send it back to the store.
And remember, you no longer have the big kitchen with all that storage anymore. If there’s only two of you like us, you really don’t need 6 drinking glasses and 8 table settings.
For example, our RV is like Noah’s ark. We have two of everything; two placemats, two plates, two sets of silverware, two go-cups, two coffee cups and two wine glasses. And, yes, we even travel with two cats!
And all those cool kitchen appliances and gadgets? Oh no, you can only have ONE. So, instead of having a rice cooker, crockpot and yogurt maker, we have an Instant Pot that does all three (plus more!)
I can’t stress how important it is to keep a healthy understanding relationship with everyone living under that tiny RV roof.
You need to be ready for anything even when you’re really not. I know that sounds cliché but well.
There is no hiding stuff; whether its an embarrassing health problem, a crappy attitude or even a fart in your RV. You’ll find that you need to get it all out in front. No surprises.
Adapting to tiny living is 9/10ths of the RV Life Law. You can know everything about your RV (plumbing, electrical, how to drive it…) but if you’re not cohabitating amicably and respect each of your travel partners, admit it and go back to your hovel.
There’s so many other ways to adapt to a smaller lifestyle. It will be up to you to figure out how it fits you and your family. You all need to be onboard to make the RV life work.
“RV life is not going to work if only half of you are into it or if both of you are half into it.”
We get it, we all live by different sets of standards. Some of us put perspectives and ideals ahead of other less important things while others may opt for the opposite.
But, here’s the thing, you still need to have self pride. You’ll have a much more pleasant RV experience if you take care of your RV and your campsite. Remember, it’s your home.
Just because you don’t live in an HOA that demands the pristine yard with a white picket fence doesn’t mean you should let it all go. Don’t let your campsite look like the Clampets just moved in. Or the Munsters. Or Breaking Bad.
When you pay for a site in a campground or RV park, it’s like paying rent. Like a landlord, the campground owner doesn’t want you trashing up the joint or making it look ten cats dumpster diving at a fish market.
Show good stewardship by taking care of your site by keeping it picked up. Make your pets mind their manners as well as your kids; the littles and even yourselves.
Don’t be that guy who needs to be told to turn down the music, stop acting like a salty pirate (not that there’s anything wrong with that), or walking away from your dog’s juicy presents.
And those campground rules they hand you at check in? Yeah, those aren’t a substitute for puppy pads or making paper airplanes. Please read them, follow them and teach your children them.
Just maintain and clean your motorhome or towable regularly. It’s your home on wheels whether it’s for a weekend, month, season or full-time. If you take care of it, it will take care of you!
Oh, and take care of yourself. Take your showers and brush your teeth. Wear presentable clothes.
Sense of Humor
I saved the best RV lifestyle skill for last. Because, this is what will get you through even your most difficult days of RV life.
Before we set out for our RV adventure, a wise couple who had been RVing for over two decades advised us “don’t give up in your first year”.
And you know what? BEST ADVICE EVAH!!
While our first year on the road was 365 days of trials and tribulations, we learned a lot! We certainly had our share of blood, sweat and tears but we saw our rewards too. We oftentimes tucked our tails between our legs and looked around to see if anyone was watching. And, yes they were watching…and still are.
We didn’t quit. Everything we did were teachable moments. Trust me, there were a couple times where we came close to throwing in our crying towels but we kept our faith. But most importantly, we have to keep our sense of humor.
Back in the summer of 2018, four years into our RV life, we had a terrible run of despair and bad luck. Even after several years on the road, we know that RV life isn’t tall rainbows and soft kittens.
Just like us, you’re going to have some really crappy days and you’ll wonder, “is this the day we quit?“
Whether it’s because of a serious medical issue, a family crisis or an expensive major breakdown that could put you in the poor house, at least do yourself the favor of stepping back. Let out that big sigh and then laugh. Though it may not be funny when it happens, your sense of humor will carry you through.
Remember, laughter IS life’s survival mechanism. Just try to keep perspective and your compass pointing ahead of you. If you do look back, only do so to remember the lessons learned.
Don’t be so quick to give up only days, weeks or even months into your new RV lifestyle. Rome wasn’t built in a day and Magellan took years to circumnavigate the globe in a shitty wood boat.
We hope these RV lifestyle skills help. Just always keep in the back of your mind; “if it can happen, it will”. Like the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared”, so should you.
Whether it’s a tire blow out, a split in your black tank, or running out of propane on the coldest of nights, just take it all in stride and use the tools we’ve shared above.
But most of all, know that RV life is just that: LIFE.
Oh, and one last thing before you go! Check out our video about this very topic!
More about the RV lifestyle:
DISCLOSURE: This website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.