Choosing to Surrender Freedom

In public and private comments since the post RV’ers No More the one undertone that has been implicit has been:

How can you give up the freedom that goes with RV’ing?

I’d like to take a moment to chat about that a little bit.

  • Freedom isn’t always a good thing
    For the person who has been stuck behind a desk for their work life, or stuck in a job they hate, or a house they never liked the idea of full time RV’ing can appear to be utopia.  Go where you want, when you want, and do what you want.  And yes, to a degree that’s true. You can do all those things.  But conversely, if you live that way you also have no attachments.  You gradually weaken links to family, to places, to things you thought all your life were important.  Giving an employee the freedom to work at home can be a boon to employer and employee — but at home you can’t monitor your employee and sometimes you won’t get your money’s worth because they won’t be working.  RV’ing freedom can be the same.  The idea that you are free to travel means that you don’t have relationships with local suppliers;  when you break down you’re Johnny-come-lately, you’re not Ed the guy who lives next door.  The same old networking friendships you might fall back on when you are a local resident don’t exist.
  • Too much freedom can be dangerous
    In a society where there is no order chaos reigns.  You have to have a sense for where you are going, and what you’re going to do when you get there.  You have to have a sense of mutual purpose if you are RV’ing as a couple or a family.  Just wandering aimlessly around the world isn’t a productive life, and I think on some level all of us want to continue having purpose as we get older.  We don’t want to be just a piece of flotsam floating on the surface of society never attached and never contributing to anything.
    Husbands and wives don’t alway agree on where they want to travel in their RV — One partner is having a ball, the other is in hell.  In some marriages/partnerships the roles never reverse — the choices can be all one party’s choices and the other party is just there to service the first.  That’s no fun.  And it becomes evident quickly.  Some husbands and some wives really don’t LIKE the lifestyle and you risk ruining a good relationship if you can’t recognize the signs along the way.
  • There’s a time and a place for everything
    Aging is inevitable.  Aging is mandatory.  None of us goes into the grave healthy.
    When our responses slow down we aren’t safe drivers any more.  We can fool ourselves and deny our infirmity but we only risk harm to ourselves and others if we ignore it too long.
    When our bodies start to fall apart there are parts of the RV lifestyle we simply cannot do any longer.  It might be steps, it might be lifting, it might be depth perception,  it could be a million things but nature and God have ways of telling us:  You need to change what you are doing.  Again, ignoring those clues, postponing our reaction to them risks our own safety and the safety of others.  Perhaps we can put them off for years — but too often the guy in the RV who dies of a heart attack while driving his motorhome is the guy who crosses the median strip and wipes out a family of 6 in an oncoming car.  Pride can be a terrible thing.
    Say you’re one of those who likes to overnight at Walmart — remember that you ought not to be putting out your slides and dropping your jacks — you’re there are their convenience, not your own.  If you abuse a temporary privilege you risk ruining the opportunity for others — and there are more and more Walmarts that restrict RV parking because others have not remembered that there is a time and a place for everything.  Walmart isn’t all things to all people. 🙂
  • RV’ing isn’t as “Free” as you think — you have chores
    The one thing about RV’ing that I never hear anyone really addressing head on is that lack of normalcy.  What do I mean? I mean that you have to think — consciously — about almost every aspect of life.  You aren’t continuously hooked up to water, and you aren’t continuously hooked up to sewer.  There are things you always have to deal with.  You aren’t continuously hooked up to electricity, and even when you are it’s not the SAME electricity.  Wires can be crossed, power supply can be limited, erratic, unreliable. You won’t know that until you arrive and you’ll have to deal with it when something happens — then, usually by yourself.
    You’ll have planning to do, you can’t just hop behind the wheel and take any old road – there are clearances and restrictions to learn about.  You can’t turn on a dime, so missed turned are circuitous mistakes that can take you on unplanned and unwanted detours through unfamiliar countryside — or cityscape.
    You can’t assume there will be a place to park overnight, or for a week, or for a month.  Reservations are more and more important.  And just in case you think you can always bop over to the nearest Walmart for an overnight remember that you can’t boondock on every Walmart, there are cities where it’s illegal to park overnight, and not everyone wants to be understanding about how tired you are at the end of the day.
    I think if I had to list the biggest surprises I experienced while RV’ing it was this fact that you have to think about almost everything you do.  There’s a right way to hook up your tow.  There’s a right way to extend and retract your slides.  You can violate any of the “Right Ways” at your own peril — but doing so always risks a roadside service call from an expensive technician — if you can even find one.  In a conventional house your appliances and plumbing don’t bounce along down the road — in an RV they do.  There are failures and repairs that happen just because your “house” moves.  You have to think about these things, you have to be prepared to deal with them — when they happen — even when that is midway to your next reserved overnight.
    When you aren’t doing chores or planning you might be dreaming about how to change the inside or outside of your “home.”  RV’ers seem as determined to make over the inside of their RV as homeowner makeover their living rooms and such.  Except modification aren’t as easy.  You have to plan for safety in ways you never thought of before.  You have to plan for shock and what would happen if you ever overturn — you don’t want stuff falling out of cabinets and killing you, now do you?
    In a conventional house you can go years without seeing a service man, and when you do he/she will be a technician for one system — electric or plumbing, etc..  If something goes wrong with your RV you’ll be looking for someone who is a technician in virtually all the home systems and the automotive systems because you really can’t guarantee that when the water doesn’t flow that it might not be an electrical problem or when the engine doesn’t start you might not be suck alongside the road in 100º temps with no air conditioner. RV’s are complicated contraptions and they deserve due respect and care.
  • RV’ing isn’t as “Free” as you think — you still have expenses
    It’s easy to think of RV’ing as a cheaper way to live, but let me assure you that you can make it whatever you accidentally turn it into.  What that might be depends on your sense of “need” and “comfort”.
    You can purchase an RV for a little or a lot.  Spending a lot is no guarantee that everything will be in good working order;  we have met people 6 months after taking delivery of a brand new $200,000 RV who were still parked on the dealerships lot — never having left — because of manufacturing and other problems.  Conversely we have met people who both an RV for a song, spent a few hundred bucks fixing it and lived virtually trouble free for years — but that is NOT the norm.
    We know folks who spend 4 or 5 months boondocking for virtually nothing (the Federal fee for places like Quartzite is ridiculously low), and we know others who will pay $1000 or more for a month at a posh RV resort — it’s all about what you need to make you happy.
    But say you find a happy medium that is reasonably economical for overnight stays.  You won’t be exempt from repairs and you’re going to find that hourly rates at RV shops are going to be $125.00/hour and up and up and up.  When something goes wrong, and it will, it’s gonna cost to get it fixed.  And that’s only right.  That’s the american way.

My point in all of this is quite simple.  The “idea” of freedom can be a far more elusive goal than freedom itself.

I loved the time we spend as full time RV’ers.  But I don’t see it as any great loss that we had to give it up.  Our joy in life comes from living it, not just from being full time RV’ers.  If you need to escape your life to find freedom, then there’s a serious flaw in the way you’re living your life right now — better to figure out what you need to make you happy first, and live THAT for a while before plunking down a bunch of money in pursuit of happiness only to find that RV’ing wasn’t the thing you needed at all — it was a different way of living inside your head.

I could have written much more, could have pointed out a gazillion other high and low points but I’m not here to write an exhaustive review of RV’ing as a senior adult.  All I hoped to do with today’s post is get people to think about what it is that they really want — because I have seen in the lives of friends that sometimes it’s NOT going RV’ing.

Have a great day.  I know I will.



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