It’s easy to get lost in daydreams of traveling the country in a home on wheels. Whether it’s the destinations or the gear or the simple bliss of freedom, we know much of the fun is in the planning. But if you do decide to take the leap and indulge the traveling fantasy, you should know what you’re in for. We created a list outlining 13 reasons – yep, that number is intentional – one can expect in a full-time lifestyle. While this choice of life has its obvious perks, such as a constant change of scenery, no rules or guidelines, and a variety of adventures and cultures, we didn’t want to conceal the truths of what this looks like on a daily basis. We didn’t know what to expect before we hit the road and have adapted (mostly), but we thought such a post could benefit those self-doubters who underestimate themselves and maybe any disillusioned individuals who might overly romanticize the experience. If you plan to someday travel in a similar way to us, such as boondocking without consistent electrical and water hook-ups, and you can stomach the realisms described below, then you’re ready for adventure.
What to expect from the full-time glamping lifestyle:
- Really liking your traveling partner can save you: Yes, quite literally you might need a caring companion to save your life from bears or bandits or boredom. But what we mean is that a trip like this can test you and bring out your worst. You’re constantly out of your element and while you might ride the highs of freedom, you’ll also suffer the lows of handling frustrations out of your control or experience. If you’re traveling with someone who will still like you after you rant and rage over traffic or look like a smelly misfit from sleepless and showerless days, you’ll be just fine.
- The #2 on the list could be a deal breaker: If you’re traveling with a significant other, the elephant in the room is the tiny bathroom, which in our case separates the bedroom from the kitchen. You might be so comfortable that you don’t mind doing your business next to your loved one. But remember that small, confining space we mentioned? It’s hard to evade odor. If you want to keep some semblance of romance in your relationship, you’re going to make inconvenient trips outdoors to find a more private area when the time calls.
- Long hot showers are rare and exquisite: Don’t even think about taking a bath on a trip like this. When it’s crucial to monitor your water usage and holding tank levels, you get used to quick showers that jump all ranges of temperature.
- You put getting a good night’s sleep to rest: Enjoy your Tempurpedic, climate-controlled sleep while it lasts. Even if you upgrade your camper’s mattress (tried that), there are many factors that will impede on your rest, including elevation changes, thin walls that relay noises from nearby roads, the unsettling of the camper, longitudinal and latitudinal changes that can shift the daylight hours, and extreme weather changes where one night the temperature can reach 70 degrees and then a drive into the mountains can drop it to 30. Imagine sleeping in sweat with your battery-powered fan one night and then layering on your long johns the next.
- Schedules can become your nemesis: You have to be more flexible than a contortionist when you’re on the road since things rarely work out as planned. We’ve found that if you try to stick to a schedule or dedicated route, you’re left to the wills of traffic, weather, and crowds. Although we might have a proposed plan with potential events and adventures, we try to leave our days open.
- Everyday tasks become laborious chores: Without the appliances that come with a home, simple chores take time and careful planning. Laundry is saved for towns that actually have laundromats and those that don’t charge exorbitant amounts per load, and dishes are done in a small space where water usage is scrutinized. While there is less space to keep clean, it’s also a confined space that’s easier to clutter and faster to collect dirt. When you have a natural entryway (grass, sand or dirt), it has a tendency of finding its way into your home.
- You get over the relationship with your phone: When cell connectivity is as reliable as a punctual doctor’s appointment, your phone is as helpful as a paper weight and consequently creates anxiety without the instant access to information. Life becomes stressful if you create situations where connectedness is critical, so it’s much easier to unplug and enjoy cell service when it’s conveniently available.
- Downsizing never seems to be enough: Even if you go overboard like we did on camper size (oops), you’re forever limited on space. This includes everything from clothing to cookware to condiments. You might find that you fit everything just right into your closet only to learn that every time you dig for a shirt it’s a battle to keep clothes on hangers and find what you’re looking for. It’s not until you start the trip that you realize you can get by with much less stuff and a smaller camper.
- You’re always ready to pack and move like a fugitive on the run: When you’re moving like a turtle with a shell on its back, you’re never quite settling in at a destination. Each time you anchor down and set out your slideouts and awning and belongings, you know you’ll be repacking and then unpacking all those things again in a matter of days. It’s a tiresome chain of tasks that can be hard to adjust to when you previously enjoyed the comforts of a home where you could forever leave items out for convenience. Fortunately, with time your efficiency improves.
- Camping doesn’t mean a permanent vacation: Traveling means new destinations and promises of fun-filled adventures, both of which can be costly. While you have the luxury of visiting places where you can eat at local restaurants, attends area festivals, tour museums, and go on guided trips, you also have to sustain a budget so that your travel doesn’t get cut short due to high expenditures. There’s also a need to ground yourself, even though you’re moving on wheels, to remember this is an everyday lifestyle and each day doesn’t have to be booked like a vacation.
- Social interactions involve spontaneity or strategic work: It’s not as easy to rendezvous with friends when you’re on the road, but it does get lonely with just yourself and your traveling buddy. Whether you’re introverted or extroverted, everyone desires social interaction. If you’re an introvert, it can be hard to create such interactions, and for extroverts, the nomadic life might not have enough interactions. To socialize, you might have to get creative and seek out opportunities with locals at something as basic as an area festival or farmers market. If you can plan it right, you can also meet up with friends around the country. If you think you can rely on social media for your socialization needs, refer back to #8 on the list.
- Mechanical savviness is a required skill: Not everyone is strong in this category, but you need some basic understandings of handy work if you’re going to survive on a trip like this. If your current lifestyle doesn’t involve owning your own toolbox, then you might not have the essential skills and should start developing them before jetting off. Or, invite your favorite handyman/woman along. Additionally, camper repairs can cost two to three times the cost of repairs in a vehicle or home due to the specializations. And even then, you don’t always have access to skilled laborers to help when things break, which they will.
- Creating a backup plan becomes second nature: No one has a crystal ball, but you can try to predict the challenges you’ll face. Day-to-day life is much different than your 8-5 routine, which is great, but you have to be able to remain calm under stress and think strategically as new dilemmas arise.