The Many Ways To Be a Full Time RV Nomad
One of my favorite hobbies is spying on other full time travelers and RV nomads through their blogs and social media accounts. There are so many ways to "do" this lifestyle and all of them fascinate me.
On the extreme minimalistic side there are Overlanders and Vanlifers.
The term "vanlifers" (obviously) refers to people who live in a van. Some are equipped with more storage, technology and creature comforts than you thought possible in such a small space. Others are as rustic as you can get.
Overlanders typically live in a jeep or truck, but some simply pack what they can on a motorcycle or bicycle.
The principle form of lodging is camping and most stay on the road for extended lengths of time and span international boundaries. Overlanding generally involves long-distance travel to remote locations that are under-documented and where little prior exploration has occurred.
On the not-so-minimalistic side of the full time RV scale are people like us.
Yes, downsizing from the typical middle class suburban home we lived in for 16 years to a 400 square foot RV required us to pair down our belongings in a significant way.
But, our life could hardly be described as roughing it. 😊 Over the past 20 months, we've transformed our little home on wheels into a comfortable haven that's equipped for our day-to-day life in pretty much every way.
The Most Important Thing for Full Time Travel:
Figure out what works for you.
There are a lot of full time RVers, vanlifers, and overlanders who are fully or partially spontaneous with their travel plans.
But, after 20 months of full-time RV living, we feel like we have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't - for us. And planning our year in advance is solidly in the "what works" column. Here's why:
4 Reasons Why We Plan Our Year In Advance
1. We both work full time and require an internet connection to do our jobs.
We have a pretty good system in place that includes data plans for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, so we have a lot of options. Even still, we have to know in advance that we are traveling to an area with a strong cell signal and reasonable upload and download speeds.
2. Our RV is a large 43 foot 5th wheel.
Many campgrounds and RV parks simply can't accommodate larger RVs. We are also limited by the size and condition of roads leading to some campgrounds and boondocking destinations. We like knowing in advance that we will be able to get to our destination and that once we arrive, there will be room for us.
3. RVing and camping are super popular activities at the moment.
Over the past two years, this country has seen a HUGE increase in the amount of people traveling and camping in RVs. This means that if you wait too long to reserve a space in any given destination, there's a good chance everything will be booked.
In order to ensure that we get to stay in the most incredible places at the time of year we want to be there, advance reservations is a must.
4. The planning process takes a considerable amount of time. I prefer to do it all at once and then just relax and enjoy the year.
In 2021, we got to go to some of the most amazing places, many of which would have been off limits had we not had advance reservations. So, I started planning and making reservations for 2022 in August of 2021.
Over the past few weeks, I've completed our year's itinerary and, like last year, am sharing it here.
What Should We Do When We Get There?
If you have any suggestions for things to do and see in any of the areas we plan to visit this year, please leave a comment and let us know! So far, we've received a handful of suggestions from generous readers who notice that we are visiting an area they are familiar with and it's fantastic!
And, if you're interested in following along with more of our journey, check out our new monthly travel journal, Let's Get Lost.
January and February
After spending the holiday season with our family in Colorado, we are trading in the snow for some Southern California sunshine.
- January 9 - 22: Desert Hot Springs, CA (In the Coachella Vally, Near Palm Springs)
- January 22 - March 5: San Diego, CA
- We are spending the month of March boondocking in Arizona, in and around Ironwood National Monument and the expanse of wide open space near the Utah border. (What's boondocking? See the FAQ's below.)
- We'll spend the first two weeks of April on Antelope Island, a peninsula on the Great Salt Lake in Utah, then head east to the Flaming Gorge near Ashley National Forest. We visited both of these amazing places last year and can't wait to return.
- We'll head back to Colorado in May for graduations, birthdays, Mother's Day, and other family events we don't want to miss.
June kicks off a 4 month stretch in the Great Lakes area, primarily in areas of Michigan and Wisconsin.
- June 7 - 18: Indiana Dunes, a state park near Chicago
- June 18 - July 2: Muskegon, MI
- We'll spend the whole month of July in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, not far from Mackinac Island, exploring areas around Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior.
August and September
- July 30 - August 13: Chequamegon National Forest, WI
- Augst 13 - September 3: Wild Rose, WI
- September 3 - 24: Door County, WI
- We'll spend the month of October in North Carolina, near The Great Smoky Mountains and the southern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We rode the length of the Blue Ridge Parkway on our motorcycle several years ago in July. This year we plan to take a week to ride it again, in the hopes that we'll get to enjoy the changing leaves.
November and December
- November 6 - 19: St. Louis, MO
- November 20 - January 7: Colorado
FAQs about Full Time RV Travel
A: Boondocking refers to camping on land without a developed campground, generally on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. Boondocking sites are generally first-come-first-serve and do not contain any accomodations.
With a few exceptions, it's almost always free to camp on BLM land, but there are a few rules that it's important to adhere to. Check out this page on blm.gov for a complete list of rules and regulations.
A: When planning our travel schedule, I rely heavily on Campendium.
Campendium is a user-reviewed website with information about campgrounds and RV parks everywhere. Fellow campers offer information about road conditions, quality of the sites and the area as a whole, amenities, cost, internet and cell signal strength, and anything else that might be useful to other campers.
A: We rely on a service provided by Dakota Post. Amongst other things, Dakota post provides us with a physical address and collects our mail for us. We are able to view our mail online and can choose to have the folks at Dakota Post forward it to us or shred it.
A: Yes! My work as a recipe developer and food photographer has not been diminished at all as a result of full time RV life. My RV kitchen is much smaller, but I've found that having a large kitchen is not at all necessary to cooking, baking and recipe development. In fact, we've entertained groups of up to 30 people with food cooked in my tiny little kitchen.
Having said that, this year, I plan to publish a series of recipes that are specific to camping, full-time travel, and cooking in a small kitchen. You'll be able to find those recipes from our Full Time RV Living page.
If you're interested in baking, check out my other recipe blog - ofbatteranddough.com.
A: We both work full time and require an internet connection to do our jobs. We have a pretty good system in place that includes a signal booster and high data plans for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, so as long as there's a signal with reasonable upload and download speeds for one of those networks, we're good.
Does having plans with three networks mean our monthly cellular bill is high? Why, yes it does. 😊 But, we don't mind. For now at least, that's just the cost of living and working on the road.