In honor of our one month-anniversary full timing in our 22-foot 1968 Airstream Safari, we present: Five things we know now! Or now know! A listsicle!
Some context: we spent almost two years on a shell-off renovation; we are taking “a break” from employment, so have time, but are on a $ budget as we travel. Also, we expect this list to be very different a month, two months, a year from now. We are still very new to this but have gone from zero to some knowledge and it has been interesting to compare what we expected to what has been reality, and we thought we’d share since we’ve learned so much from others who have.
1. The renovation was a success! Everything’s working, reliable. Now, part of me shies from making such a bold statement, for fear of jinxing. But it’s worth it to say
“hats off” to Ben and the sub-contractors who contributed their muscle and expertise. I get particularly goose-bumpy proud when we pull up to a campsite and I go through the simple three-step process to get the fridge going on propane – and it works!
2. Having made some careful considered investments up front, we are really enjoying the benefits of being able to “cut the cord” and exist (very comfortably) without hook ups. Two things in particular make this possible: the solar (four 100-watt panels) and the energy efficient on-demand water heater.
3. It’s possible to plan 24 hours or less in advance, especially off season. Websites, apps, social media, chats with locals, real life maps, our GPS have all contributed to helping us figure out where we want to go, how to get there and where to stay. That’s not to stay there haven’t been mistakes. The ones I hate the most involve bad directions and it’s 25 miles to the next turn-around. That’s not just a waste of time but precious gas. But we are always learning from our mistakes.
4. It’s more than okay to stay in an RV Park. As we were preparing for the trip, I loved reading about the boondocking, wild, off the grid adventures of the full timers out there. I romanticized that was the way to go. And of course the phrase “trailer park” comes with a lot of baggage. However, sometimes an RV Park really fits the bill: when you need wifi and/or a long hot shower being two reasons that come to mind immediately. Also, in our brief experience, sometimes, in order to save time and gas, an RV Park may be the best physical location for your goals. In cities (like Boise) and tourist hot spots (like the Redwoods) we found they were our most practical options. Plus they are generally staffed by awesome people as committed to your satisfaction as any fancy hotel concierge.
5. The percentage of our budget spent on various categories is not what I
thought it would be. I thought our costs would roughly divide in thirds: transportation, food, and accommodations. However, we are spending way more on transportation, i.e., gas, than I anticipated. Don’t know why I’m surprised-we are averaging around 12 mpg and we have had a pretty ambitious route, leaving September 8th from California to get to Idaho, Wyoming, Montana before it got too cold. It does make us (me) pause to weigh gas costs (and wear and tear etc) into any pros/cons of a particular side trip, or scenic route. In the next month I think we will spend less on gas, and likely food too, as farmers market season winds down. We hardly spend anything on accommodations, i.e. overnight fees for camping. Maybe 10 bucks average, figuring in lots of free sites and the occasional 30 dollar RV park.
Some other thoughts we’d include if this was going to be a fifteen takeaways list:
-We did not bring enough books – digital or otherwise; gotta have at least two in the queue ready to go at all times.
-I LOVE cooking with limited fridge/storage space. Forces me to use what I have and get more creative; cuts down on waste.
-I brought too many clothes. There is no need for a short-sleeve sweater. You know? However that second pair of sandals is coming in handy after this fox stole my Keen in the Tetons (no joke-we put the other one out to lure him back so we could find his hiding place. No luck).
-We started out with extreme discipline rolling up our bed (foam topper , sheets, pillows, comforter) and stashing it in the truck every day. Now we roll it up but keep it in the trailer, out of our way, but in your way if you came over for dinner and wanted to sit at our table with us.
-We have excellent places to stash stuff, but could probably use even more. The age old “where do you put the clothes you have worn once, but aren’t ready for the dirty clothes bin yet?” question hangs over us. Help?
-We love our truck, but if you are shopping, consider 3/4 ton with a standard bed. We have 1/2 ton, extended cab and long bed which complicates some of our maneuvers.
-15 GB of data was how much we used our first month. AT&T allowed us to up it from 10GB retroactively, which I appreciated! We need data for all that last minute planning, but I’m also a bit of a news junkie so someone else might do ok with less.
-We get so much joy out of flashing our America the Beautiful pass at the National Park entrance gates! Ours was a gift.
-It takes two people exactly one month to use a tube of Tom’s toothpaste!
-Composting toilets rock! And public bathrooms do too, if your other choice is a composting toilet.