Thursday, March 17, 2011

Full-timing strategies

Joe: Lately, we have been hearing from a lot of folks who are talking about selling their homes, storing their most precious possessions and getting rid of everything else. Why? Because they are going to become full-time RVers. They want to visit old friends, explore new places and spend their winters where the snow doesn't fall.

In most cases, we applaud those folks for taking action to make their dreams come true. Unfortunately, a number of these dreamers have no RVing experience. They have not spent so much as one night in an RV. Or, their only RVing experience has been weekends at the lake and an occasional one or two week vacation.

Too many of these folks have made their decision based upon an article they have read, a website they have viewed or a conversation with someone they met. They have not had the experience of living in a confined area with the same person day after day. They don't know if they will be comfortable driving a large motor vehicle along a busy highway (and they are all busy).

They are making the decision to completely change their lifestyle based upon what they think full-time RVing is all about rather than what they actually know about it. There seems to be this notion that once the "Sold" sign appears in their front yard their life is going to be carefree and without problems or responsibilities.

They think that becoming a full-time RVer is the same as going on an extended vacation.

Now, don't misunderstand. A lot of folks with no RVing experience have retired or quit their jobs and successfully joined the ranks of those who live and travel full time in their RVs. Some have even written entertaining and educational books based upon their experiences.

We have not seen many books, however, by those whose dreams were shattered because they bought the wrong RV. Nor have we seen any books by the folks who sold their house, furniture and possessions only to discover they were not cut out to be RVers.

Vicki: First, understand that when you become a full-time RVer, you are not going on vacation. You are changing your lifestyle. You are not just dipping your toe in to test the water. You are immersing yourself. You want to do some serious thinking. We would like to suggest that you develop three full-timing strategies; an entry strategy, a lifestyle strategy, and an exit strategy.

Your entry strategy is essentially preparation for making the transition from your present lifestyle to a full-time RVing lifestyle. This is where you find answers to the question “How will we fulltime?” A home address will have to be identified. Financial plans formulated. Details worked out about banking, bill paying and mail forwarding. Decisions will have to be made about what stuff to get rid of and what to do with the things you keep. It will take time to research the questions. It will take time to implement the answers. And, most importantly, it will take time to test them.

Joe: Your entry strategy should include spending as much time as possible in your RV before making the move to full-timing. Longer trips will help you evaluate your present RV’s suitability for full-timing. Is it small and agile enough to take you where you want to go? Is it big enough to carry all your worldly possessions and to provide the creature comforts you require? Is it durable enough to handle the wear and tear of full-time living and long-distance travel? You might discover that your present RV, while it may be great for weekends and vacations, is not going to satisfy your full-timing needs.

Longer trips can be used to research and test your arrangements for banking, bill paying, internet service, cell phone service, obtaining medical care, getting prescriptions refilled, and receiving mail.

Trips of longer duration will also help determine if you and your spouse are ready for the togetherness of the full-time lifestyle.

Vicki: Your lifestyle strategy should identify what you will do as a full-time RVer. Where will you go? What will you do? We have observed that most full-time RVers begin as serious travelers. The first couple of years they move quickly from place to place, never staying in one location for any length of time. Their mindset is still like vacationers. Destination, mileage and time oriented rather than simply enjoying the journey. Once they have criss-crossed the country a couple of times, however, they begin to slow down and spend more time in the places that appeal to them. This is usually the time when they re-evaluate their lifestyle. Some will continue to travel, although at a more leisurely pace. Many will look for a home base, perhaps a campground, where they can settle in for two or three months at a time between journeys. A few will find a comfortable RV park and take up permanent residence. And others will return to a more conventional dwelling. Your lifestyle strategy should be flexible. Recognize and allow for the fact that your interests and circumstances can, and probably will, change as you go down the road.

Joe: Your lifestyle strategy can be anything you want. That’s one of the joys of full-timing. As Vicki mentioned, most new full-timers take advantage of their open-ended calendar by traveling. They go to all the places their previous time-constrained lives prevented them from visiting. Some travel with a purpose. They have places to go, things to do, and people to see. Others travel aimlessly, just to sightsee. A number of full-time RVers use their travels to locate the perfect retirement community. Many full-timers, after a couple of carefree years, return to the work world. Some start on-the-road businesses. Others find temporary or part time jobs. A good number become volunteers. Whatever they do, they seem to choose an activity that satisfies their need to be useful or productive, yet allows them to remain in their RV. Be careful here. You may end up back where you started.

A lifestyle strategy should be flexible. It is just a starting point. Your lifestyle will change as you observe and experience what the open road has to offer. You will evolve as you go down the road.

Vicki: Your exit strategy is simply a plan or arrangement that permits you to make the change from full-time RVing to a more conventional lifestyle.

We are acquainted with a number of full-timers who have come in off the road. Some became full-timers with the intention of returning to a more conventional lifestyle when they reached a certain point in life. Most of these folks developed both their entry and exit strategies knowing that, at some time, they would leave the full-time lifestyle.

Other full-timers, over the course of a number of years, have slowly evolved from leisurely travelers, to occasional travelers, to living year-round in an RV park, to moving into a conventional dwelling. And there were others who suddenly found themselves in a position where their personal circumstances forced them to leave the full-time lifestyle altogether. Obviously, the transition was a lot smoother for those who were psychologically and financially prepared for the move.

Your exit strategy simply takes into consideration that you might not spend the rest of your life living in an RV. Our observation is that those who are the most content are the ones who had some kind of exit strategy. Your exit strategy doesn’t have to be rigid. But it should provide you with options.

Vicki: All of our full-timing friends love their lifestyle. They love the sense of self-reliance, the people they meet, and their sense of freedom. You can join them. Do your homework, research, talk to other full-timers. Develop your entry, lifestyle and exit strategies. And take time to enjoy the journey!


Joe and Vicki Kieva are the authors of a number of books and e-books about RVs, RVers and RVing.

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