RVing: Now vs. at Retirement

So you’ve been poking around on forums, reading blogs, and staring longingly at the RVs that pass you by on the way to work. You wonder where they’re going, and wish you were among their ranks. But then you sigh, tell yourself to follow your friend’s advice and be realistic, and move on with your daily life. Once you retire, then you can go RVing full-time, as long as you work hard now and save up enough money.

Being realistic, what does that even mean? I typed ‘define realistic’ into Google, and this is the first thing it gave me:


re·al·is·tic Adjective

1. Having or showing a sensible and practical idea of what can be achieved or expected: “jobs are scarce, so you’ve got to be realistic”

To most people, being realistic equates to choosing the safest route. It’s about getting all your ducks lined up in a row, and acting once you know your chances are the best they’ll be. It’s about following what others before you have done, the tried and true method. But the reality is much different, are you ready for it?

Nobody can tell you what’s realistic for you, because they aren’t you. They don’t know what you’re capable of, what you can achieve when you put your mind and heart into it. RVing full-time is something that is seen as a reward that you can pursue once you retire, but it doesn’t have to be this way, nor is it necessarily wise to wait.

The problem with doing something ‘later’, is it’s not specific enough. When we tell ourselves that we’ll do something later without putting a due date on it, it tends to keep getting pushed back. Oh, I’ll do the cleaning later. I’ll get around to reading that book later. Planning out that vacation will happen later, when I’ve got time. But we never have enough time, until we make it a priority. By putting off your dreams off until later, you run the risk of downsizing them along the way, as other things keep cropping up that need to be taken care of, or even of running out of time, and not being able to do them at all.

Sure, there are a few benefits for waiting until you’re retired to go RVing, but even these things aren’t certainties. Let’s take money for example. A retirement fund and Social Security benefits can go a long ways to paying for your travels. But I’m guessing that you know people that don’t have enough saved up even in retirement to go RVing. Social Security checks by themselves aren’t a whole lot of money, and the future of Social Security for younger generations seems quite iffy right now. Plus, the chances may be slim, but emergencies and natural disasters do happen, and I know I wouldn’t want to be the unfortunate soul who’s nest egg got wiped out before I had a chance to do what I’ve always wanted to go do.

So on the flip side, if you choose to be ‘unrealistic’ by normal standards, how do you afford to live on the road pre-retirement? The short answer is save up some money ahead of time, and then work on the road. There are almost as many ways to earn money while traveling as there are people out there doing it, chances are you can find an arrangement that works for you. Yes, you won’t be able to treat your life in the RV like a vacation, at least not all the time. On the plus side, you’ll likely have much greater control over where you work, and how long and often compared to a standard 9–5 job. Also, for me I know the joy and adventure of getting to travel will help make the having to still work part less tedious, if it keeps me on the road that much longer I’ll gladly do it.

Another commonly seen benefit of waiting until retirement for full-time RVing is health insurance. Medicare can indeed cover a good portion of your medical bills once you’re over 65, or even younger than that if you meet certain other criteria. But it’s also true that the older you get, the more likely you’ll be to develop a health issue that could prevent you from being able to RV, whether the bills are paid for or not. Since we can’t look into the future, who’s to say how much time we’ll have once retired to go RVing before poor health became a problem.

Health insurance while RVing is a bit more of a personal issue, and depends on your current health status and means. Some people may be able to work for the same employer they had before hitting the road, just in a location-independent capacity in which case they’re set for health insurance. If you currently have health issues that would make getting an independent policy impossible or very expensive, you’ll likely want to look for work on the road that offers health insurance. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some people forgo health insurance entirely. Personally, I don’t like tempting chance like that, and I’ll be getting a high deductible plan that will cover emergencies, and will set some money aside to pay smaller fees out of pocket as they come up.

A third reason to wait to go RVing is children, and since I don’t have any myself I can’t offer much insight on this one. I know there are families out there who pull it off, but I don’t know any personally. Adam and Courtney Baker of ManVs.Debt took their 2 year old daughter RVing for 6 months earlier this year (http://manvsdebt.com/an-adventure-begins/), and I’ve heard of families with older children who full-time, with one or both parents home-schooling. Basically, if your truly passionate about RVing, don’t automatically assume that you can’t do it just because you have children. After all, a big reason why Adam and Courtney went RVing with their daughter was actually for her benefit: because they wanted to give her the wide range of experiences that travel offers.

I hope that this gives you some food for thought when it comes to deciding whether to wait until retirement to go RVing or not. Most of the obstacles remain the same either way, and the few things that waiting might help with still aren’t guarantees. Life is meant to be enjoyed, not to be wasted away in preparation of enjoying it.

What about you, are there any other issues that make you want to wait until retirement to go RVing? If you’re thinking of coming along with me and taking the plunge, do you have a planned escape date? Also, if you know of other full-timing families, feel free to share.

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16 Responses to RVing: Now vs. at Retirement

  1. Redwoodguy November 24, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    Modern society is biased towards formal employment as a virtue. Unless one is gainfully employed and working full-time, one is considered a laggard or unambitious, or slothful. To this end, the floor has been raised to a substantial height. The floor is defined as the minimum it takes to live. A house, a car, bank accounts, insurances, and more. The society doesn’t want people trying to make it under the floor. That’s the bias we live with.

    To decide early to follow some other path, such as full-time RVing, is to really push the counter-cultural buttons. It is frowned upon. It is a perfectly valid choice for any individual, and especially those who value a certain life now over a very uncertain future.

  2. Becky November 24, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

    Well said Redwoodguy. I’ve dealt with a few different reactions when I tell people of my plans. Some are excited right along with me, and even ask a couple questions in a well-meaning way. Some people say “Well, that’s nice…” but they obviously don’t it’s wise, or don’t think I’ll be able to pull it off. And then there are the people who ‘obviously know better’, and do their best to shoot me down – the gate keepers and naysayers who believe in upholding the status quo at all costs. Those kinds of people I just do my best to ignore.

  3. Carolyn December 23, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    Words worth pondering.

  4. ponderingperson August 15, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    I know this article’s a bit old… nearly two years now, in fact… but lately I’ve been having kind of similar thoughts.
    By society’s normal measures, I’m going pretty well — steady job that pays well, full benefits & retirement plan, and people that I really do enjoy working with…

    But I’ve been researching RVs in their various flavors for a little while now, and there’s a part of me that desperately wants to just pick up and start travelling. And after all, what if I’m not able come retirement?

    I’m fortunate enough that, as long as I’m reasonably conservative, I would be perfectly able from a financial standpoint. The decision would be a lot easier if I hadn’t landed a job that (at least in my opinion) is so nice. But I do have a *lot* of respect for those such as yourself that do this, not knowing what the future may hold.

    Not sure I’m brave enough to take the plunge. Besides giving up a lot, it would definitely change my standing in the eyes of my family and pretty much everyone else. On the other hand, I like the idea of really getting out and seeing places, meeting people, and everything else… and the thought of maybe being too old (If I even make it to old age – A surprising number of people don’t) and having missed my chance is also kind of scary.


    • Becky August 15, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

      Hello Pondering,

      First of all, I reply to comments on /all/ of my posts, even the older ones. So if you (or anyone else reading this!) feels like starting a conversation on a older post please do, I feel they’re still relevant even though it’s been over a year since I wrote them.

      Secondly, usually I can tell which people are going to take the ‘leap’ based on how desperate they sound about their current situation. From your post, it sounds like you’re not at that edge yet. If /you/ are still enjoying your job and your current life (and I don’t mean that society thinks it’s a good job to have, I mean you specifically taking a hard look and deciding that yes, you like what you’re doing, or feel like you make a difference by doing it, etc.) then yeah, it’s probably not worth the potential risk right now, because there are some risks involved with jumping off the bandwagon and striking off on your own in a RV.

      There’s nothing wrong with not being ready yet, and that doesn’t mean that things won’t change down the road. If financially you’re in a good spot right now, could you possibly get a smaller, less expensive RV and take weekends and vacations to go traveling in it to fulfill your need for travel without abandoning a stationary life you still enjoy? Could you negotiate with your boss for perhaps more than the standard vacation time to take a sort of sabbatical in a RV? Something else for you to think about.

      As for what your family and friends would think, I’m a big believer in doing what you want to do, and who cares what the rest of the world thinks. I’ve written a post about that topic somewhere, if you haven’t gotten to it yet you will. 😉 It covers how to help family and friends understand what you’re trying to do and why it’s so important, and also how to deal with those people who refuse to see any way but the conventional way as correct.

  5. ponderingperson August 16, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    > and I don’t mean that society thinks it’s a good job to have, I mean you specifically taking a hard look and deciding that yes, you like what you’re doing, or feel like you make a difference by doing it

    Well…. no. I do like the people I work with, but I wouldn’t say that I feel ‘fulfilled’ overall. On the flipside, yes, it’s a nice amount of security and definitely not a job I just can’t stand.

    But… to explain a little about why I suddenly slammed on the mental brakes and said to myself, “Wait wait wait, is this /really/ the road you want to be on?” (And eventually find this site^^) Right now I have no debt. No student loans, no mortgage, no car loan, not even a balance on a credit card. And… I like that.

    But, just going through the usual motions I have been up till now (good grades in highschool, then on to a university, then job) and continuing, I’m headed away from that and towards being more tied down, both to job and locale. I mean for example, my company has partnerships with several auto companies… if I wanted to, I could simply buy a new auto for %1 below invoice or similar deals that, I admit, are extremely good. If I wanted to buy new anyway. (My current is a ’95 and I don’t think I could bring myself to buy a new car). But that’s what a lot of my coworkers certainly do, and if I wanted to, I could definitely get the house, the car, and start filling the former with nice stuff. And a tidy pile of debt, though nothing I’d drown in. Just…tied down.

    The first post I read when I stumbled on your site said that you’re doing this because you value experiences more than possessions. And, as I take that hard look… no, I don’t think those possessions are what would really make me happy. (Better to admit that now than realize after I’ve signed on the dotted line?)

    Of course, I know RVing full time is anything but a vacation full of nature wonderlands, and there are other ways to live more minimally (though where I live is fairly pricey even on the low end), or to travel. RVing appeals to me because of the relative freedom, I think…

    (And, yeah, I know a lot of people would love to have my problems and I’ve been very lucky to have what I have, so there’s that)

    Well, even if I decide to take a more radical turn, I’ll be waiting at least a year or so before I do. Anyway, I’ve been enjoying the posts here and will keep catching up — thanks for taking the time to write them, and reply and offer advice.

    • ponderingperson August 16, 2013 at 10:48 am #

      And whatever I do… at the very least, I can safely say I don’t want to wait until retirement. If I even make it that far.

      • Becky August 17, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

        Yay for not having any debt! I’ve lived my life without debt too, and it goes a long ways towards a happier bottom line – both financially and emotionally because you’re right, debt ties you down and reduces your options.

        Again, glad to have you aboard, and if you have more questions down the road just let me know. 🙂

  6. Grove RV & Leisure June 16, 2014 at 2:03 am #

    Many thanks! That was wonderful 🙂
    Grove RV & Leisure recently posted..Grove RV & LeisureMy Profile

    • Becky June 16, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

      Glad you liked it.

  7. LKM October 1, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    I like this post because this is one of the many reasons I want to take on this lifestyle.

    I want to be able to do it before I get too old! Or before I’m not able.

    The older I get, the phrase ” Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did…” Keeps resonating more and more.
    LKM recently posted..I Want to Share A Little Dream I Have…..My Profile

    • Becky October 1, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

      Yeah, variations of that quote have stuck with me over the years LKM. And I have no regrets, I feel much happier and more fulfilled since I quit the safety of a 9-5 and started living life on my own terms.

  8. Diane Livingston March 28, 2015 at 10:36 am #

    Becky, great site!! This post is so true!! I got laid off from my job in 2003. My husband and I had already done a bit of RV’ing and knew we loved to travel. We also said “some day” we would retire and travel in an RV. We bought a Winnebago, moved back to Florida and moved into a home my Mom owned. I had planned on going back to work (I wasn’t old enough to retire and get Social Security). For the first 5 years we “part timed” and traveled 8 months each year. When my Mom passed away in 2008 we had to sell her home and decided to go full time. People thought we were nuts! We have been full timers for almost 7 years and have never looked back. In January my husband had triple bypass heart surgery and is now recovering. He is doing well. I am so glad we didn’t listen to others and not go full timing. We did it while we were still young enough to enjoy it and now with his heart bypass we are so glad we did it then and not wait until we were 65. Our only regret is that we didn’t do it when we were younger!! I’m going to read every word on your blog. Happy travels. We are not done traveling. In June, we’ll leave Florida again and hit the road even if I have to drive the RV!! Hope to see you on the road! Lonny & Diane Livingston Tampa FL

    • Becky March 28, 2015 at 6:00 pm #

      Hello Diane, glad you’re enjoying IO!

      I have never regretted my decision to go full-timing as early as I did, I’m glad you haven’t either. I don’t have as much money this way, but I have so many more great experiences, and I value those more. 🙂 I never feel wanting for anything, and I’m putting some money aside so that when the time comes that I can no longer travel and work-camp, I’ll be able to retire. Hopefully a long, long time away.

      Hope your husband recovers quickly and you can get back on the road before long. Funny that you live in Tampa, that’s where I bought my Casita actually. See you on the road sometime!

  9. Yvonne July 7, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

    Hi, Becky. Love your blog!! I stumbled across it and, like others who have commented, I’m backtracking and starting at the beginning.

    I would love to start full-time RV’g right now, while we are in our 50’s, but……
    1. I have to stay put to let my kids finish high school and then college. (Know your thoughts on the college portion from other posts, but since neither child has a ‘burning desire’ to do any one thing, college will hopefully help expose them to options). In order to offset the cost of college, we have to work full time.
    2. My mother-in-law has health issues that we must stay here and address. She no longer drives, so I drive her to the many doctor appts she has, the grocery, etc. I have to set up her medications each week. We are her only family and are responsible for her. She is getting ready to turn 81 this August.
    3. We don’t have the funds saved to purchase an RV…..[yet! :”) ]
    4. My husband isn’t interested in RV’g, but with him, I have seen good results with the ‘water plan’. A single, gentle drop of water can’t do much to a block of stone, but if you keep repeating the gentle drops of water over a long time, those drops will eventually drill a hole right through the stone! It is already working. When I first mentioned my dream of full-time RV’g (we will have to work like you are doing to be able to afford it), he initially said ‘I have no interest in that, don’t mention it again!’. Well, I just started my slow gentle ‘drip, drip, drip’. Now, 6 months later, he doesn’t react negatively anymore and even asks questions sometimes when I tell him a story that I’ve read about someone who is on the road.

    THEREFORE, I do have a 10 year plan written down!! 🙂

    It pains me to wait that long, because my husband just had a health scare this year, but with the kids and my mother-in-law, I just don’t see any other way to do it.

    I worry about being healthy enough in 10 years to actually activate my plan. WHICH, by the way, has now lit a fire in me to eat better and get more exercise NOW, so that we can go full-time RV’g LATER!!

    In the meantime, I will live vicariously through you and your blog!! (Just read the recent wolf entry and have put that on my ‘Bucket List’!!)

    Thanks for this blog. Really LOVE it. If you are ever in Virginia (near DC), I’d love to meet you.

    Happy Travels,

    • Becky July 7, 2015 at 9:58 pm #

      Hello Yvonne and welcome to IO. 🙂

      Glad you’re finding my blog helpful and entertaining. Your bullet points all make good sense to me as reasons to wait to go full-timing, but I’m glad to hear you have a set plan in mind and aren’t just pushing it off until “later”, that’s a key step to success!

      Best of luck with turning your husband around to the idea, I can’t say from personal experience but I know a lot of couples where one had the thought originally and the other warmed up to it in time. I hope your kids do well in school and your mother-in-law’s health holds. In the meantime, maybe you’ll get the chance to take smaller traveling adventures until your big 10 year plan comes to fruition. I’m happy to be able to provide an escape of sorts while you wait for your big day.

      Safe travels and happy trails,

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