3 Lessons I Learned Living in an RV

The day I left California, I had no idea how much I would learn on the road. I took a trip around the State as a test run and I thought I’d hit all the possible issues I might see as I went across the country. I’d even already replaced an entire engine on a mini trip to Utah. There was no way I would keep running into problems. I was wrong.

This time when I left, I had no intention of returning. I had no plans to not return either. Instead, I set out with one goal in mind: Get to Myrtle Beach by my Birthday for the Carolina Country Music Festival. What would happen after that was a mystery to me.

Well, what happened after that (and quite a bit before – like here, here and here) was a whole lot of engine trouble followed by more engine trouble.

Eventually it all finally ended my attempt at driving Murphy, my big old RV, any further. This landed me smack dab in the heart of New England on the border of Road Island and Massachusetts. Of course I went on one more mini road trip up to Maine in my car, which I had shipped out from California. I absolutely had to make it to Maine because that was my second softer goal from the beginning: Get to the farthest place in the United States from where I started.

You can read all about my trip through the links embedded above, but you won’t get the whole story. You’ll get an outline of mishaps and comedy, breakdowns and mental breakdowns… but not the stuff in between. I’m saving the good stuff for a work of fiction. No one would believe it anyway.

If you choose to live in an RV or even just take a trip in a motorhome, hopefully some of my hard lessons learned will help you out before you start.

So what? What did I learn on this road trip?

In all, I reached the two goals I started out with: Get to Myrtle Beach and make it all the way to Maine before summer ends. My third and final goal was to hit every state, but for some reason deep in my heart it was never solidified.

I knew that Murphy would never make it to all 48. She’s just too old; more of a local camping trip vehicle than a long-hauler now.

To be clear- she did fully recover with a new motor, transmission, hoses, spark plugs, belts, fuel line, fuel pump, speedometer gauge, starter.. you name it she probably had it replaced before I had to give her up. She found a new home with another first time RV-er and I hope that she gives them as much joy as she gave me.

The time I spend in Murphy taught me three valuable things about traveling in an RV.

  1. Always expect to break down.
  2. Get a routine.
  3. Write everything down.

Lesson 1: Always Anticipate Breakdowns

Especially when traveling in an RV, taking for granted that you simply will break down is essential. If you’re going long distances in a car, the likelihood is also high. It’s better to just assume on any long trip that you will have mechanical issues, like I did.

If you're traveling in an RV, always be prepared for a breakdown. Click To Tweet

There are many ways you can handle breakdowns, but it’s better to prepare in advance and antipode that one will always happen.

Here are some tips:

  1. Get AAA, Good Sam, or some other roadside assistance service that covers the entire area you will be visiting.
  2. Have basic tools with you, including a towel and a rag, and learn how to tighten and change hoses, belts and little things before you leave. Basic mechanical car knowledge is a must.
  3. Learn to smile sadly and be kind, even when the price of a repair is giving you a heart attack. Kindness and understanding go a long way. People will empathize with you if they like you and you will likely get better prices and even free repairs for the small stuff. Read more about my experiences with this here.
  4. Have a backup plan. Don’t just plan what you will do in case of a small breakdown, an overnight breakdown or a week-long repair. Have a plan for what you will do if your vehicle is completely out of commission. What happens if you’re 3000 miles away, like I was, when you decide you just can’t fix it anymore?

Lesson 2: Get a Routine

Road trips are all about routine. If you want to stay on track, eat healthy, exercise regularly, and especially if you’re working remotely along the way, always have a set routine. Things to keep in mind when setting a routine:

  1. Different activities require different routines. Will you be driving every day? What will your routine be on driving days? “Exploration” days? These days must be structured differently, yet kept as similar as possible.
  2. What time do you want to get up every morning? Having the same sleep schedule is key to mental health, physical health and your drive to continue driving. I personally loved getting up before 6AM on a daily basis.
  3. Choose an exercise to do at least once per day or every other day. Stay healthy, not stagnant. Especially if you plan on driving most days if not every day, having some kind of exercise is necessary. I hiked a lot. Everywhere I went, I went on a hike.
  4. Check in with someone at “home base” once a day. Give yourself that anchor to look back on and also let someone know you’re alive.
  5. Remember to make personal hygiene a priority. It can be easy to forget when driving 4 days straight, but it helps you feel better and helps strangers feel better about your presence.
  6. When you decide on a driving day, how long will be the maximum amount of time you can/should drive?
  7. Always plan out your next stop before you leave your current location.

Lesson 3: Write Everything Down

Even if you’re not a “writer,” you’ll want to write things down. The small details that made something so special are often forgotten. I wrote everything down on my journey, but I still feel like it wasn’t nearly enough. Document your adventure so that one day you can look back and remember it all with impressive detail.

Document everything while you travel. The small details that make something so special are often forgotten. Click To Tweet

It’s also important to document every single detail of work done on a vehicle like a motorhome. They’re much more complicated than a normal vehicle or house. Keep a separate record of the work you have done on your motorhome, because like I said, you will break down at some point.

What have you learned RVing?

I’m sure there are many more nuggets of wisdom I could impart on you all, but for now that is all. Can you think of any lessons you learned while on a road trip? Share them in the comments! Share this post with your friends, too!