Living in a van down by the river is a figurative expression meaning being a complete failure at life, a drain on society. However, nothing could be further from the truth for many, including us, who choose to live minimally in vans or even downsizing to small RVs and campers while enjoying freedom and travel.
So, fasten your seatbelts! We’re going to take you on a wild ride showing you how downsizing RVs works for us…and maybe give you that nudge to do it too!
The whole living in a van down by the river has been around ever since…well, ever since living in a van down by the river could exist. And guess what!? Since downsizing RV’s, we are now ARE living in a van (or tiny RV) down by the river (or mountains, canyons, boulders, etc.)!
So, we thought it would be helpful to those contemplating the same to share our perspectives of downsizing RVs or to a van.
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DOWNSIZING RVs? WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW!
Is BIGGER better?
It’s been oftentimes said, “bigger is better”. America’s society has put such a high prestigious value on keeping up with the Jones’. But at what cost do we (collectively speaking) place on happiness?
From big homes with big garages with everything stuffed in them, it’s become more of a show than actually living life. We oftentimes worked two and even three jobs to literally have it all. Admittedly, we have fallen into that preverbal society-driven trap several times.
We, then, looked at it all and asked ourselves, “why are we doing this?” No viable answer could be spoken. It’s NOT how we want to live now or even down the road in our senior years.
Even after a half-dozen years of full-time RVing in big rig RV’s (formerly a 44′ fifth wheel toy hauler and 42′ luxury fifth wheel), we asked ourselves again. And since we’ve been down the road with this decision before, we already knew the answer.
So, as seasoned full-time RVers, we dared ourselves to walk the plank a third time. But this time, we’re downsizing RVs to 25 feet! It would give us more opportunities to explore more, go further and faster with less limitations. This meant that big honkin’ fifth wheel just had to go!
So, after a year on the road after downsizing RVs, I wanted to share our perspectives, problems and solutions to give you a glimpse of what Vanlife is all about.
Mobility is key!
Our main reason for trading our big honkin’ fifth wheel was mobility. We were finding ourselves wanting to spend more time exploring different areas than sitting in a campground or RV park for weeks at a time.
Now, if we don’t particularly like the weather or a location, we simply pack up our Compact Class C motorhome and pull in the slide. In less than five minutes, we’re headed down the road to new destinations.
And speaking of mobility, we’ve found especially when boondocking, when the wind blows and our slide topper takes a beating, we simply pull in the slide and turn it around. Yes, we’ve even done that in the middle of the night. And because we live small, there’s not a whole lot of stuff lying around that prevents us from doing that quickly.
Not ever saying we didn’t appreciate our fifth wheel, it did present some issues when trying to navigate or park it.
Anytime we made a reservation for a campsite or parking spot, we always had to ask if we could not only fit our 42′ fifth wheel but our long-bed dual rear wheel RAM 3500 and ample space to maneuver it into the site or space. And if we wanted to boondock a little further off the grid, we always had to pre-scout the route and area where we could park.
But now, by downsizing RVs, we can drive our small motorhome to restaurants, stores, and even the gym! And you simply can’t beat driving to a National Park trailhead, parking our compact Class C and eating lunch at our dinette before stepping outside to hiking or even kayaking.
And let’s not forget, it’s actually cheaper for us to park at campgrounds because we don’t need a big rig 50 amp site!
Home is where we roam!
People laugh when we tell them our home is where we roam. By downsizing RVs, we can now take our home and park it in our family’s or friend’s driveway, at a restaurant parking lot, shopping, post office, and even doctor’s office.
But seriously, we’ve taken our Mini Moho to Longhorn Steakhouse, the UPS store, public libraries, and even a Veterinarian for our nomad cats! Our Winnebago View has the same footprint as our RAM 3500. In fact, our RAM was a little wider at the hips than our Mini Moho (with the slide in, of course).
There’s nothing like driving our home to the grocery store and packing our refrigerator and pantry all in the same parking space! Oh, and if we see a good café or diner, we stay parked and walk over for lunch! Of course, if we need to run the air conditioner, we simply set start our generator and out the door we go!
Location, Location, Location!
We chose to RV because we want to travel and part of our journey is finding locations that appeal to our interests. We love parking out in the boonies on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) or public lands. Hence, why it’s called boondocking.
With our meager 25′ motorhome, we are afforded some different travel and parking opportunities that we didn’t have with our big honkin’ fifth wheel. Before downsizing RVs, there were a lot of places we had to scout out before even attempting to drive our truck and RV fifth wheel.
Now, our small Class C’s footprint is actually less than what our Ram 3500 was. Literally, now we can go anywhere!
Now, all we do is network with like-sized RVers or we research free camping on Campendium. We get to experience more incredible and in some cases, even more daring views that we couldn’t ever enjoy with our big rig RV (within reason, of course!).
I’m not proud to admit this but when we had our big rig RV, we had a lot of non-essential stuff. I’m here to tell you that just because you have all those beautiful cabinets, closets and compartments in your motorhome or towable RV, there’s absolutely no reason to stuff them to the gills.
When we cross-decked to our small 25′ Class C motorhome, we quickly learned that we can’t have it all! Though on a much smaller scale, we went through the same downsizing process when we moved from our 3600 square foot home into our then 44′ fifth wheel toy hauler. We had a ton of CRAP to get rid of.
And now more than ever, everything we own must either be multi-functional, be extremely important or it doesn’t go in our motorhome.
Shopping can be challenging and more expensive
If you’re not familiar with van life, tiny living or the minimalist lifestyle, you won’t understand some of our shopping woes. From food prep and cooking, to buying clothes and storage constraints, we have a whole new set of challenges by living in a much smaller space.
For example, we used to buy a 4-pack of toilet paper. However, now we buy one or two rolls of toilet paper at a time simply because we don’t have the storage space and our vehicle/RV weight is even more critical. And no longer are we buying big jars or cans of anything. We search for single-serve of everything. From olives and pickles to peanut butter and pizza sauce.
What used to take Dan several hours to even a full day or multiple days to do his RV maintenance now only takes minutes to just a couple hours. From flushing our RV black tank to making the exterior sparkle and shine, it takes him half the time to keep our Winnebago View motorhome looking her best.
Our compact size Class C motorhome requires less maintenance, less parts and of course, less stress. Dan doesn’t need half the tools as he had in our fifth wheel. And if he does bump into a maintenance challenge that needs a special tool? We find a place where we can either borrow or rent tools. Or we borrow them.
Getting them repaired quickly?
This is a challenging part of living in a smaller RV or van. If something breaks beyond Dan’s abilities or professional knowledge, we are headed to a garage. And that means, we will have to vacate our motorhome with our kitties. We have to put our trust into the repair facility that they will not pillage our meager belongings. But hey, we live minimally anyway, so really, there’s not much to take, right?
And believe me when I say, it may become more costly which is reason why we apprehensively signed on the dotted line of an extended warranty program. We know that if and when something happens to the Mercedes Benz chassis or engine, it’s going to be expensive. So, it’s a buy now or pay later security blanket that we chose.
Tiny RV or Van also means tiny showers
If there’s one thing we could change in our small 25′ Class C motorhome, it would be the bathroom size. Because there’s almost nothing more uncomfortable than trying some contortionist position just to shave my legs in our tiny shower! And poor Dan has to wash his hair like a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
As we talked about it in our YouTube video RVers 10 Question Challenge we joke about our bathroom. On a positive note, we’re grateful that our View’s bathroom is almost double the size as a Class B van’s!
Many of the ladies may ask, “how do you shave my legs in a tiny RV or Van?” To answer that, “I don’t”. And of course, I get the return of raised eyebrows with the assumption I’m growing a forest down there. But wait, there’s more to that challenge.
During a night of cocktails and campfires, our RV nomad friends Matt and Diana of Adventurous Way shared their secret. They told us to go score ourselves a monthly gym membership at Planet Fitness. They told us the showers are huge (so I can shave my legs!), private and super clean.
Fast forward, since having my PF Black Card® membership, we love it. Dan goes with me as my free guest. And, if we have time, we also can get in a short workout too. We can use any of Planet Fitness’ 2000+ locations nationwide. And get this…I can relax in the exclusive Black Card Spa (just me, not guests).
However, sometimes we may not be anywhere near a Planet Fitness. So, we politely ask some of our friends or family we moochdock (park in the driveway or on their property) at if we could score a 10-minute shower. They are always eager to provide us with clean towels and show us the way. We just bring our own shower gear (shower gel, shampoo, razor, shave cream, etc.)
Either way, now I have no more excuses for razor stubble.
Tiny RV Living is NOT for everyone!
We’ve often told people that living in an RV isn’t about loving each other, it’s about liking each other.
So, downsizing RVs from our former 380 square foot of living space to half of that, we had some serious dealings…even after 35 years of marriage!
Has it been easy? Let’s just say it took us practically a whole year to figure out how to live with each other in such small confines since downsizing RVs. And then add in two cats that plot to trip us in our tiny living space, it’s had it’s challenges. But the trade-off is amazing!
That’s a Wrap!
In closing, our friends and family and even fellow RV nomads thought we are simply nuts living our much-smaller RV life. But you know what? Our list of pros outweigh the cons of living in a smaller RV. It’s just a different kind of journey.
Take a tour of our Winnebago View:
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