Flexibility: A Double Edge Sword

rving-flexibility1Ahh flexibility. One of the most adored aspects of full-time RVing. Without a house or apartment to worry about paying bills for, or a long term job that expects you to work 50 out of 52 weeks a year, you are free. Free to go where you want, when you want, and stay as long as you want, and do what you enjoy… so long as you have the money to cover it.

I believe everyone I’ve spoken to who thinks full-timing is an attractive way to live likes this about RVing, the idea of greater flexibility. However the uncertainty that comes with it can also be a scary proposition, especially for those of us who still need to bring in money while we travel.

Stationary living with a steady job may be constricting, but it’s also deemed safer by the masses.

This doesn’t really mean that it’s safer, you could still get in an accident or fall ill, lose your job through no fault of your own, or have a natural disaster strike your home – granted the chances of these things happening might not be high. What they mean is, living like this is more predictable. As long as you get up each day and go to work, you can count on your paycheck being there on a regular schedule. You know how much money you’ll have coming in, you’ll know how much money you have going out, and can reasonably calculate how much you’ll have left over to spend. You’ll know how much vacation time you have coming and you’ll have plenty of time to plan out what you’re going to do with it.

rving-flexibility2Now look at full-timing. That greater degree of flexibility means that your living situation is going to be much less predictable. While not knowing where in this great country you’ll be a month from now can be a thrilling sensation, not knowing how much money you’ll have coming in and going out of your bank account at that time is less so. The ability to meet up with friends and relatives states away can bring comfort, but trying to pin down a fixed date and time for the meeting with their stricter schedule can be stressful. Crossing historic sites or natural wonders off of your to-visit list: great fun. Arranging for places to stay that have the cell service you need earn your living near enough to those locations, or continually interviewing for seasonal jobs as you travel to earn your way: less fun.

What all of this boils down to is that full-time RVing, at least before retirement, isn’t about absolute freedom to do what you want when you want. It’s about having more choicesThat’s what flexibility really means. You’ll need to strike a balance between work and play, planning and just winging it, travel time and stationary time. Truth be told, even those who are independently wealthy and don’t need to work will often find that something feels like it’s missing from their lives if they aren’t contributing in some way.

rving-flexibility3This balance is going to look different for everyone. It’s very likely going to be different for you during different phases of full-timing. But I’ll let you know what has worked for me this past year and a half. Some tips for making the flexibility of the lifestyle work in your favor.

  • Get out of the vacation mode mindset. If you treat full-timing like a perpetual vacation, you’re going to go broke and have to go crawling back to a “real” job for a while, what torture!
  • The first few months of full-timing are the hardest and most uncertain. Do more planning and less winging it during this time period to avoid failing before you really get a chance to start.
  • Friends and family members (and even strangers) who are living stationary aren’t necessarily going to get what you’re doing. You’ll likely need to explain to them that that visiting dates are set in jello. It’s also likely you’ll have a hard time keeping up with some of your old friends. Make the effort to make new friends as you travel to fill the hole left by the absence of your old social circle.
  • Whatever your income source is, never lose sight of it. No matter how many pretty and awesomet things will try to distract you. I learned this the hard way my first winter.
  • Since there is no manual for full-timing, don’t be afraid to experiment. Especially once you’re past the roller coaster phase where you’re not quite sure if it’s going to work out or not. Which brings me to:
  • Likely, at least once during those first six months you will seriously consider getting off the road. It’s up to you to decide if that’s just resistance you’re encountering that should be pushed through or a legitimate change of heart that should be heeded.

rving-flexibility4Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions that I’ve covered in previous posts, and I think the reason is that a lot of my older useful stuff is so buried now that it’s hard to find. I’m hoping today’s writing will alleviate some of that (this is the 199th post I’ve published, go me!). All links are to previous articles I have written. There are a lot of them I’ll admit, so follow the ones that are calling to you and ignore those that aren’t. A new page is in the works to list the different categories IO covers and then the most helpful posts under each one to make it easier to find what you’re looking for.

Also being the start of a new month, March’s earnings for my Amazon affiliate link are in. The total was $250.34, this extra money helps me out a lot, so thank you! Also a big thanks to everyone who reads and comments on my posts, and to those who spread the word of IO to others they think would benefit from it. I am eternally grateful for having the best blog readers ever. Have a good rest of your week, and as always questions and comments are welcome.

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24 Responses to Flexibility: A Double Edge Sword

  1. Curtis Teichert April 3, 2014 at 7:31 am #

    Keep up the good work

    • Becky April 3, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

      Glad you’re enjoying it Curtis.

  2. Jodee Gravel April 3, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    So many good points to review! As we prepare to launch next year there is excitement and a bit of trepidation. More about the rig and how we’ll handle it in all those unknown situations, but also about the lifestyle. We are fortunate to have a steady – albeit smaller – income to live on as long as we are smart. Because smart will be redefined we will have to pay attention to your points on avoiding vacation mode and giving it time to settle in. Thanks and travel safe.

    • Becky April 3, 2014 at 7:47 pm #

      So glad to hear that this stuff is helping you Jodee! And congrats on your impending departure, such a whirlwind period but so worth it! Do you have your RV yet? If so I’d love to hear a little about it. 🙂

      Just from this it sounds like you’ll be ready to me. As long as you put a little thought into it and use your common sense you’ll be fine. Safe travels and happy trails.

  3. amy kaplan April 3, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    Becky, your point-of-view is just plain good for living a realized life. Mahalo!
    amy kaplan recently posted..Time there, then.My Profile

    • Becky April 3, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

      Thank you Amy, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I poked at that link, nice poetry!

  4. Sherry Levasseur April 3, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    I really enjoy your posts, Becky — and great photographs accompanying it! You strike me as a very wise person, despite your youth, and I particularly enjoy your more philosophical posts. Congratulations on being able to do at your age what it took me 30 additional years to do!

    • Becky April 3, 2014 at 7:54 pm #

      Thank you Sherry and I’m glad that you’re finding my posts enjoyable. I’ve heard it said before that a lot of introverts are often called wise or old souls even at a young age, because we tend to look inward more than extroverts do. I’m not sure how well that applies to the masses, but it applies to me.

      I’m glad that there are people out there who enjoy the more philosophical stuff that I write. It wasn’t until someone pointed this stuff out to me through a blog post that I started thinking about it myself and what I wanted to do with my life. Less than four years after I first started thinking about it and I’m pretty much living the life of my dreams. I hope to inspire other younger folk to think about giving an unconventional life a try, it’s so worth it!

  5. Reine April 3, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    Flexibility is a good thing to have whether you’re full timing or just on a trip. I like to plan our trips but over the years I’ve learned that sometimes planning too much can lead to disappointment if weather, illness, or something changes our plans. On our recent trip we went to a rally in Alabama and then to the Smokies, planning to go on to the Cumberland Gap area on the Kentucky/Tennessee border and then wander back to Texas. However as we finished what we wanted to do in the Smokies a check of the weather forecast showed us that the Cumberland Gap area needed to be a future trip – camping in freezing temps with snow and potentially dangerous driving conditions isn’t our idea of fun so we headed south through Georgia. We had fun, saw some neat state parks and didn’t freeze. We had planned a four week trip but decided to come home early and don’t regret it one bit.

    Sometimes, plan as you go and stay as long as you like can be the most fun.

    • Becky April 3, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

      Yep, that’s very true Reine. I definitely relate to not being afraid to cut out on something early if it’s no longer enjoyable. That’s what RV trips are all about after all, relaxing and having fun. I still shake my head at those tourists who would come through the Badlands on their whirlwind tours all strung out from trying to fit in everything in their two weeks and go home more exhausted than they started.

      During the travel weeks between jobs I like to visit state parks, but I rarely make reservations ahead of time because I never know which one will be calling to me most and which I’ll end up liking so much that I want to stay longer at.

  6. Roger April 3, 2014 at 6:12 pm #

    Hi Becky,

    You amaze me, I get so much good information from your blog. I went back and read the 2 parter on working in a National Park. I took the drug test to work at Sequoia National park today, of course now I got a possible offer from a position in Oregon, since i already took the position in Sequoia I will stick with that. Besides it is closer to Fernley, however I told Amazon that I could start Sept.1st, now this summer job wants me to stay til the end of Sept. any suggestions? I’m hoping Amazon will be flexible and let me start at least a couple of weeks later.

    Thanks for all your great advice.

    • Becky April 3, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

      Heya Roger,

      Glad that you’re finding it helpful! Sequoia National Park looks so beautiful in the pictures I’ve seen, can’t wait to see it with my own eyes.

      As for the timing, that’s tricky. I always arrange things so that I have hard end and start dates for the job I line up first, and then the job I take before or after that I just tell them those dates up from early in the interview process. Last year for instance I set up the Badlands first, they told me they wanted me until October 15th, so when I applied at Amazon I said I couldn’t start until October 21st to avoid those kind of complications. This year I set up Amazon first and told them October 1st, so my job between the ren fest and Amazon will just have to deal with me getting out in September.

      If you want to stay at Sequoia the full length of time, I’d call or e-mail Amazon ASAP and tell them about the date change.

      • Roger April 5, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

        Thanks Becky, next time I’ll line up a summer job before I contact Amazon. Guess I was anxious to get on with Amazon.


        • Becky April 7, 2014 at 10:19 pm #

          Hope the timing works out! Good luck.

  7. Curious by Nature April 4, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

    “Stationary living with a steady job may be constricting, but it’s also deemed safer by the masses.”

    The concept of this idea is widely accepted, but, is it true?

    The worker has a daily commute of some sort, usually in heavy traffic, often for long distances. While driving, often they are mentally already at work, going over what needs to be done, he said, she said, office politics and drama. Driving on automatic, not really attentive to what’s going on the road around them. Sounds stressful and dangerous! Then drive home, tired and grouchy, and then do it again tomorrow.

    The full timer can choose when and how far to drive, or even not to.

    I could go on and on. If you did a risk assessment on everything a “normal” person does, you would find that most of our beliefs are untrue, and a great deal of them are actually harmful.

    I believe you have some of the best of both worlds. You know when your job will end which reduces the interpersonal strain, you have the excitement of learning a new job several times a year. Your monetarily modest lifestyle gets you a lot more mileage out of your money, and gives you a luxury many envy, time to think and be.

    Keep up on your adventures, I really enjoy what you are doing vicariously!

    • Becky April 7, 2014 at 10:25 pm #

      I agree that while the masses consider stationary living safer, I don’t. But then, I can’t really put a value to how safe my kind of traveling is either. It’s hard to put an objective value on “safer” to really compare the two, so I don’t make a serious attempt. To each their own.

      But ooooh yeah. More fun and less stress than the 9-5 life? Check. More time to enjoy what money I do make? Check. More flexibility to alter my habits based on how much money I’m bringing in? Check. More freedom to work when it works for me, and take time off when I desire? Check. For me it’s really no contest – full-timing is the clear winner.

      While I’m happy to hear that you’re enjoying living vicariously through my adventures, I also hope you are or will be getting to have some of your own some day. Safe travels and happy trails.

      • Curious by Nature April 8, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

        That’s a work in progress. House paid off, tow vehicle ordered, trailer paid off, charge cards at zero. A large mound of parts in the basement, just waiting for spring to progress enough so that I can get to the trailer at our seasonal site. I have about a year and a half until I retire, so we’re socking away money for “stuff happens”.

        • Becky April 9, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

          Sounds like you’re making good progress! I hope spring arrives there soon, good luck!

  8. Allen April 5, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    Well done Becky, another enjoyable and informative read. Your followers comments look like you are becoming an influential blogger of the full time lifestyle for a whole new segment of the RV community.

    • Becky April 7, 2014 at 10:27 pm #

      I’m glad you enjoyed this Allen. 🙂 If I can help even one person’s transition to a lifestyle that suits them better a bit easier, then I feel like I’m doing some good.

  9. Pleinguy April 5, 2014 at 11:33 pm #

    You’ve covered the topic quite well (as usual). But, I have to tell you; I’ve been full-timing for 10 months now and have never once consider getting off the road. This vagabond lifestyle seems to fit me perfectly.
    Pleinguy recently posted..Artesia WalkMy Profile

    • Becky April 7, 2014 at 10:31 pm #

      Glad you took to it so easily Plein. The hardest part for me was 4-6 months in, that first winter when I failed to find a job and was struggling with the differences in how to have a social life. There are a lot of things a person can do to prepare to go full-timing, but some things just need to be figured out as they come. I’m sharing my experience for those who like me discover stumbling blocks once they get on the road and aren’t sure how to handle them.

  10. Sherry April 6, 2014 at 10:24 am #

    Excellent Post Becky! Even if you do not have to work on the road, flexability is a two edged sword. I would really love to just follow my heart and stop whenever I want to or stay as long as I want to but with more and more RVers on the road I find that I’m having to make reservations long in advance to be in the state and national parks I went on the road to see. It definitely takes the spontaneity out of this life. I actually get sad about that. I feel like I’m always making reservations or worrying that we will get stuck somewhere without any free camp spots. I’m not a big walmart fan and in some areas they don’t allow over nights. So that’s another call you have to make. Life is not as free and easy as I had thought and hoped. That’s the fact but I still wouldn’t go back to stix and brix.

    • Becky April 7, 2014 at 10:36 pm #

      There’s definitely some give and take involved Sherry. You’re right, there is no such thing as a free lunch and complete freedom to do what you want when you want, even if you do have the money.

      I know several full-timers who get around making reservations by staying out West and boondocking on BLM land during the more popular times of the year, hitting the popular destinations in the shoulder seasons when there are less crowds. But desert and mountain boondocking isn’t for everyone. In the end you need to choose what makes you most happy after all of the pros and cons are weighed.

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