In our first year of full-time travel, we drove over 20,000 miles, visited 19 National Parks and 25 states, and hiked over 700 miles. Traveling full-time in our RV “Rio” has been an amazing adventure, but it is not always picture-perfect. So… is it actually all that it appears to be on social media? Here are 11 lessons about life and the world that full-time travel has taught us:
1. Change is scary…and that’s a good thing
As humans, we are creatures of habit and find comfort in routine. Change is hard and taking the risk to embrace a completely new lifestyle was scary.
How would we do living in a small space? How would we get consistent internet to be able to work? What would our friends and loved ones say?
The decision to transition to a full-time travel lifestyle in our RV came with more questions than answers, but we are so glad we took the leap. We could’ve stayed in our comfortable apartment and stable familiar jobs, but if we did we may have never experienced the level of fulfillment in our lives we have now,
By going outside our comfort zone and giving full-time RV life a chance we have experienced personal growth that has allowed us to perform better at our jobs, nourish our relationships, reconnect with friends and loved ones, and improve our physical health and mental well-being. The nature of trying new things and constantly being exposed to new people, places, and situations has helped us become more resilient and we find that we can better handle adversity and challenges that come up along the way.
Doing the things that scare you allows you to learn and grow towards living the best possible version of your life. Most things that will move the needle in life or will change you in a meaningful way are going to be big, scary, and uncomfortable. And that is what makes it all worthwhile.
2. People care much less about your life choices than you think
Remember how I said we were worried about what our loved ones would say or think? In our experience that turned out to be a much smaller deal than we had imagined in our minds.
At the end of the day, the people in your life who truly love and support you will support your decisions and want you to do what makes you happy. Sure, there were some strange and surprised looks and some concerns, but at the end of the day there was a lot more positive feedback, curiosity…and even a hint of jealousy. Our family now loves hearing our travel stories and “living vicariously” through the experiences we share. It has become something that deepens our connections, not something that made us outcasts.
One sentiment that comes up time and time again, from family and strangers alike, is to travel and have experiences while you can. Tomorrow is never guaranteed.
Most people are too concerned with their own lives to worry too much about what you are doing. Your loved ones will support you, and at the end of the day the only person you owe anything to is yourself. You know what will make you happy and you deserve to live a fulfilling life.
No matter what your ideal life looks like, you owe it to yourself to reach for it. Your life’s journey is your own. And you only get one chance to make it what you dream of.
3. People are good
One of the biggest concerns we had when heading out to explore new places was whether or not it would be safe. Would we find ourselves in dangerous situations when boondocking for free out on public land? Would we be able to get help if we ran into trouble with no one we knew around?
Full-time travel has restored our faith in humanity. The news or social media can skew your view and make you feel that everything is scary or that people are inherently bad or out to do others harm. In our experience, we saw so much more good.
We were welcomed into small communities and treated like family, met people from all over who were more than willing to help or share tips and resources (like when we had solar problems but no generator), and made friends that we continue to keep in touch with.
Bad things can and do happen and not everyone can be trusted, but if you are vigilant of your surroundings and stay open-minded when meeting new people, you might also find that the world is full of good and kindness.
Full-time travel has helped us broaden our perspectives, challenge our biases, and gain a new appreciation for the world in which we live.
4. There are other great ways of living to consider
Society can make it feel like there is really one “correct” way of living. Go to college, get a job, buy a house, and put down roots.
After over a year of successful full-time travel, we have seen for ourselves that there are so many ways to live life.
We were able to travel full-time and see more in one year than we could in years of using our PTO, without sacrificing our years or financial stability. Just because one way of living is done by many, doesn’t mean it’s the only option.
And you don’t have to be special to try something different. We are normal people who took a risk and went after a dream and you could easily be too, no matter what that dream might look like.
Boat life, homesteading, or ex-pat living, anyone?
5. You can’t escape the mundane
Even in a full-time travel lifestyle that on paper seems like it would be all glamour and adventure, you can’t escape the mundane. There are still daily demands like chores to do (grocery shopping, laundry, dishes, etc.), and things to keep in order (finances, taxes, maintenance, appointments, etc.).
With RV life in particular there is A LOT of maintenance to keep on top of, while also navigating the normal constraints of working regular full-time jobs and trying to get out to explore and hike as much as possible.
No life is picture-perfect, but it truly is all about perspective. The mundane of normal everyday things feel less trivial or cumbersome when you are in love with the life you lead each day. They are part of the engine that makes that life possible and in that there is gratitude and acceptance.
6. Even places not on your radar can have a lot to offer
In the initial planning of our full-time travel itinerary, we focused on popular destinations like National Parks. The more we traveled between those bucket list destinations, the more we realized that the lesser-known places not on our radar also had a lot to offer.
Social media can make it seem like the big flashy destinations are the only ones worth visiting. Our recommendation is to not overlook lesser-known or lesser-visited places. Going beyond the National Parks you can get amazing views and experiences with fewer crowds, and make quality connections within the local communities.
Just because you haven’t seen a place on a “best” list or posted about over and over again, does not mean it’s not worth visiting. Sometimes those places you find or stumble upon might just be that much more special because of it.
7. You can live with less
Downsizing from 1300 square feet to just under 400 square feet was a big change. We feared letting go of items. How could we possibly bring everything that we needed in an RV?
The funny thing is that after a year of full-time travel in our RV, we did an inventory of all our belongings. There were SO many items we had never used in that year and had forgotten we even had with us.
When your life becomes more focused on experiences you start to realize that you can live with less, because it’s not all the “things” that truly matter. Your happiness increases without that extra stuff weighing you down or making you feel cluttered.
Try taking note of how much you actually use or need on a consistent basis. I would venture to guess it might be a lot less than you think.
8. Time is precious
Aside from working remotely and not commuting, full-time travel allowed us to take advantage of our time outside work by bringing adventure and nature right to our doorstep.
Even after a year of exploring, it still doesn’t feel like it was enough time. People often ask us, how long do you plan to travel full-time? We don’t know, but we do know there is still so much in this world we want to see and do.
Seeing family experience scary unexpected health challenges and spending so much time in nature really connects you to the fragility and finiteness of life. Time is not guaranteed and we plan to take full advantage of all that we have been given.
If we can spend more time doing what we love; traveling, connecting with nature, and hiking, we plan to do so.
Why spend your precious resource of time limiting yourself or settling for a life that doesn’t fulfill you?
9. Nature is healing
Life comes with many stressors. Whether it is relationship strains, health concerns for yourself or your loved ones, financial concerns, or something else.
After years of grinding our way through college and graduate school and starting our careers, we sort of lost sight of what we really needed to feel our best. We spent more time sitting indoors than being outside or getting in some movement.
Once we found ourselves getting exercise each day and spending hours in the peace of nature, we noticed a big shift. Our moods were improving, our energy was increasing, and our ability to navigate challenges and obstacles was far better.
We felt happier and healthier than we had in a while. And we accredit that to spending more time in nature (which is backed by science), focusing on filling our life with meaningful experiences that align with our values, and bringing a mindful approach to our life.
Nature has a really impressive way of supporting our health and well-being if we allow it to.
10. There are always sacrifices
A full-time travel lifestyle is amazing in many ways. At the same time, it can come with many sacrifices.
Another big lesson learned through full-time travel is that there is no black and white. Nothing is all good all the time. We love traveling to new places and having new experiences, but that also means missing a lot.
Missing family, missing holidays, and missing birthdays. Feeling joy to be in a new place, but crying because you wish you could be visiting your loved one in the hospital. Feeling guilty for all that you are not able to be a part of.
Life is about balance and we try to make the most of our travels and our time with loved ones, but there will always be sacrifices. And it is a hard pill to swallow.
11. There is no gift like the present
Zach and I both feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunities we have in life, both through privilege and hard work. We were in a position where we could take the dive into full-time travel and we haven’t looked back since.
Now, we can’t imagine going back to the life we had before. It’s like we walked through a portal and unlocked many new opportunities. It’s just what we need during this chapter our of lives.
The present is all you are given and we see it as the most amazing gift. The opportunity to fully and deeply experience each moment. You never know if the places or experiences on your bucket list will be the same tomorrow or a few years down the road. Waiting could let those opportunities slip away.
If you were to make the most of each moment you have in life, what would that look like? And how could you start to incorporate more of that in your day-to-day now?
Celebrate the gift of today before it slips away.