When I hit the road seven years ago to begin full-time RVing, I had no idea how much it would reshape me into someone I would barely recognize from my “old life.”
Traveling full-time across the US has been an eye-opener and slowly but surely transformed my mind, body, and soul for the better.
When you think your ideas and attitudes about life are set in stone, then you watch them meld into something new is both exciting and baffling.
To help you understand what happens to many RVers who embrace the lifestyle, keep reading on the most significant changes we observe after many years on the road.
How RVing Can Change Your Attitude About Life
There are two types of RVers, those that travel full-time or seasonally and those who take weekend getaways or seasonal vacations when they have the time.
Within the full-time RV community, you will also find two groups of people: those that adapt to the life and those that “put up” with the hassles of RV living for the sake of a partner or to travel more affordably.
In this article, I will only be speaking of those who either immediately or over time taken 100% to the RV life and can’t imagine going back to their previous existence.
What makes the difference in these people’s attitudes?
A combination of things adds up to a life-changing perspective that maybe isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but makes you question the purpose behind this great big world we live in and how we fit into the puzzle.
No, I’m not going to get all philosophical about the meaning of life. Still, I will be candid about my (and many of my RV pals) ideas about what is important now over what we thought was important before we began our journeys.
RV Minimalism: What Living Full Time in an RV Has Taught Me
I start with the general need for stuff because, as anyone with a camper knows, you can only take so much with you.
The difference is that once you live with fewer belongings, you realize you don’t miss them, and you get a sense of what items you need as opposed to wanting.
Like most people, I had a closet crammed full of clothes in my home. When we were getting ready to sell the house to go all-in on our RVing adventure, I had great difficulty and anxiety parting with the majority of my clothes.
I still brought too much and quickly realized that I did not need winter boots “just in case” as we focused on travel in the south. My first purge of the RV left me with a clothing code: 10 main items along with five pairs of socks, underwear, and swimsuits.
A mix of shorts, t-shirts, and one pair of pants each works for us and our space. We never get anything new until an item wears out, making things simple.
The same goes for kitchen or bathroom items and general decor. We don’t need six forks, only two.
Minimalism becomes a new way of life that is so freeing. You wonder why most of us strive our whole life for the big house full of mostly useless items that require a lot of time and money for upkeep.
Instead, RVing has left us with an appreciation for nice things and that wonderful hotel bathtub, but no driving desire to have those things.
I still find my lack of enthusiasm over shopping for anything surprising, as it was such an integral part of my old life.
RVing opens up such a whole new world of experiences, and I’m not strictly speaking of seeing popular tourist attractions or off-the-beaten-path natural wonders.
While we have done and seen so much in our traveling years, the way we approach new experiences is vastly different from before.
When you only have a long weekend or a week for a vacation before you have to get back to work, you automatically have stress trying to plan your itinerary, get to the destination, fit in all the sights you want to see.
Before you know it, you’re packing up and heading back with little relaxation to show for it.
The most significant attitude change full-time RVing brings to experiences is the pace of taking things in. You have your home with you, so there is no packing, unpacking, or worrying you forgot to unplug the coffee maker.
You have fewer time constraints, so you can meander through the museum as long as you wish because you can hit the beach tomorrow.
When you don’t need to rush, you notice so much more about your surroundings, and people and nature watching takes on a whole new dimension.
Most of our favorite experiences have been when putzing around a new town. We get to watch a sweet, madly-in-love old couple sharing laughs over breakfast or catching a lone sea turtle basking on the shoreline early in the morning before the crowds arrive.
I traveled extensively before RVing and never felt as observant as I do now. It’s a nice change.
We are often guilty of judging others; it’s human nature. I suppose I never realized to what extent I judged people and things until the tables turned.
It’s amazing how people think RVing is cool when you take it out for random trips, but when you decide to go full-time, the strange looks and prying questions begin.
The assumptions about why we went full-time started with people saying we didn’t have enough money to keep our house or we hated our family. Neither was right, but trying to explain our reasons for “taking off” in our mid-40’s was challenging to get across even to close friends, so we quit trying.
That experience led us to quit assuming we knew why others do things the way they do and stop putting our two cents in how they should do it differently. You never know what is going on behind closed doors, and it’s not your business to stick your nose in unless invited.
The second reason we are now way less judgemental and more open-minded is that you meet so many people on the road. We camp in one place for typically a month, which lets us not only mingle with other RVers but get to know the locals as well.
Everyone across the country, no matter their status, wants the same things; to be safe, have food in the fridge, a roof over their head, and spend time with those they love. Everyone also has tragedies and struggles that may or may not be evident.
The lesson is your life is the only one you have, so make the most of it and leave others alone.
Why did I waste energy critiquing the lives of others? Did it bring me joy? This question was sobering, and now I find my past actions embarrassing and actively work to stop the madness.
The transition from being a judgemental person leads to being more helpful to others.
When you travel in an RV, there are times you need a strangers’ assistance. From blowing a tire on the highway to being a campground newbie trying to hook to the power pedestal correctly, there are situations where people stop and help without hesitation.
I honestly had a suspicion of people who were always so willing to help in my old life. What did they really want in return? Money? To visit their church? To help them move furniture next week?
After thousands of miles and dealing with a myriad of situations, I see that people help because they genuinely care about others.
Now that we see people differently because we are less judgemental, we are also quick to help when we see people in need.
It just feels good to boost others’ spirits whenever you can, and you never know when you will be on the receiving end.
Money was the end all, be all of our previous life. You needed it to pay the bills, and even more if you wanted to take vacations or have a boat or get braces for the kids.
Our attitudes about money are drastically different than before.
Most of us scramble and toil at unfulfilling jobs to bring home a paycheck, but then find a way to spend even more to “keep up with the Joneses,” and the cycle spirals on.
Now, after slim lining our belongings and RVing for years, money is only a means to an end. Yes, everyone needs to take care of the basics: food, healthcare, housing, emergency savings, but money doesn’t need to control you.
You can control how you make your money work for you. This statement isn’t coming from people with a hefty savings account before or after hitting the road, either.
While we both left high-paying jobs to travel, we did need to pay off everything to depart on our journey debt-free.
The adage, “Live within your means,” is true. The way to break the burden of money controlling your life is to live under your means no matter how much or little you are bringing in.
We do freelance work and do stints workamping at campgrounds for whatever that state’s minimum wage is. It isn’t much, but enough for us, and we make it a game to save a portion every month by being what we term frugally fun.
This frugality means creating a crazy meal from whatever is in our pantry before spending a dime at the grocery store—walking or riding our bikes before choosing to pay for a bus ride or Uber.
We know that not everyone can find enjoyment from RV living, and many people struggle daily to maintain the basics of life. We now see that money does not bring you happiness; it just relieves the stress of worrying about how you’re going to pay your bills.
Money is about balance. I used to spend without thinking about small differences in price.
Now I shock myself at what a cheapskate I have become, not because I can’t afford something, but because I don’t want to be wasteful. Every extra penny saved keeps up living this fantastic lifestyle, and being frugal is no sacrifice at all.
In our typical old life, we didn’t need to fix the car or air conditioner or figure out our taxes.
Plumbing leaking? We panic and call a plumber!
Once we hit the road, our need for self-sufficiency skyrocketed for two reasons.
First, we didn’t want to spend our money to pay others to do something we now had the time to learn to do ourselves. Second, we spend plenty of time in remote regions where there are no other people to help us if needed.
As we boondock often, we have the supplies and skills to handle daily living without power. Building a fire and brewing up coffee the old-school way, and cooking eggs over an open flame is ego-boosting.
In our world of instant gratification (even for RVers), it’s nice to slow down and enjoy the process of feeding ourselves and getting our daily caffeine fix without the help of electricity.
It’s also nice to know how to change the oil, repair broken plumbing, fix the awning, and a hundred other things we can now do on our own.
There is something incredibly calming about knowing how to do things, and it builds confidence that you can figure out how to fix the things you don’t.
My attitude is now that there is no need to panic when things go wrong. Fix what you can, or adapt if you can’t but don’t create drama when none is necessary.
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Conclusion: Embrace Simplicity and Awareness
This article touches on a few of the many topics on how full-time RVing can change your attitude about life.
The RV lifestyle created a simplicity and awareness in my life that I wasn’t aware was even missing. In these crazy current times, I feel lucky we chose the RV life.
Living fully in the moment and taking in the blessings of the day are the greatest gift our RV travels bring daily. We are grateful we can continue our full-time journey and see where the next road will lead and the new RVers we will meet!
"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide