Think Fulltime RVing Will Bring Meaning To Your Life? You’ll Be Disappointed.

The blog OpenRoadRVNomads.com recently posted an article that makes a claim and asks a question:

Americans Are Trying to Escape. But, From What?

In the post the (unnamed) author provides statistics about life in America and how little time we actually get for ourselves. After the statistics, the post provides an answer to the intial question:

Sadly, for many of us we’re trying to get away from our lives.

Get Away, Or Move To?

Yes, I know.

You’d think we’d agree.

You are, after all,  reading a website literally called “Ditching Suburbia”. Those two words conjure up visions of families scrambling to escape their suburban lives.

It’s a fun catchy phrase. It leads to a cool logo.

But largely?

It’s not true.

Ditching Suburbia Logo Shirt

Ditching Suburbia Logo Shirt Proclaim your intentions to the world with a shirt or hoodie featuring our well-loved rocket logo.

Styles available: t-Shirts, tank tops, and hoodies.
Colors available: black, navy, gray.

Suburbia-ditchers don’t look at what they are doing as “escaping”.

At least, not based on the dozens of interviews we’ve done for our book and podcast. Many of the people we’ve talked to speak of a good life in the suburbs. They had friends. Were members of churches. Coordinated play groups. Had great homeschooling support. Knew their neighbors.

So why leave that life for something else?

Means, Motive, Opportunity

Do you read mystery stories? There are always three things police detectives look for when trying to figure out “whodunit”:

  • Means
  • Motive
  • Opportunity

Ditched families aren’t criminals (that we know about anyway), but they had the same three factors leading to their decision to ditch.

Means

They either had or found a source of income that was location independent.

Motive

Their motives?

We heard:

  • We want our kids to learn less from books and more from being there.
  • We want more time together as a family.
  • We want more time enjoying life rather than working to buy and maintain stuff we never use.
  • We want to have memorable stories to share as a family

What we didn’t hear was “because the suburbs suck”.

The same ideas were expressed so often in our interviews that we boiled them down to a manifesto with four tenets:

  • Simpler living
  • Closer family
  • Richer education
  • Uncommon adventures

(Note: If our manifesto resonates with you, download a graphic version or buy it on t-shirt).

Means and motive aren’t enough, however.

Opportunity

An opportunity lights the fire under the means and motive.

For some it’s an unexpected offer on their home. For others it’s an employer suddenly open to remote work.

Other families create their own opportunity through long-term planning. Years in some cases. They retrained for a location independent job. Or they built a house to flip and finance a few years of travel. They might pull kids from public school a year early to start homeschooling.

Reaching for More

Sure, in our interviews and conversations we’ve heard regrets for spending so much time and money on a suburban life. Many felt like the American Dream narrative was really just crass consumerism wrapped in the American Flag.

But overall?

Suburbia ditchers don’t talk about “escaping”. They talk about reaching for more. And teaching their kids not to settle for a life that doesn’t suit you.

Travel was the answer for many of them.

But not all.

Others bought tiny houses. Some started self-sufficient homesteads. Some found more intentional communities that design living environments that depend on sharing and teamwork.

RVing = Meaning?

The OpenRoadRVNomads.com blog post goes on to suggest:

RV life, a method of nomadism, gives the act of living significant meaning.

Whoa, Nelly.

If you think jumping into an RV is suddenly going to bring meaning to an otherwise meaningless life, you are going to be disappointed.

It might work. For a while.

Or at least the newness of learning to live on the move in an RV will distract you from worrying about having a meaningful life.

But RVing for the sake of RVing?

That’s nothing more than entertainment. And it might be more fun and more memorable than watching a movie or scrolling through your social media feeds.

But eventually, like all entertainment, it will become passé.

The RV parks will start to look the same. That next National Park? Just another pile of rocks to look at, take a photo of, then move on. Another visitor center. Another scenic lookout.

Means To An End

You’ll need a reason for your travels that’s about more than just seeing the next sight.

You might use your newfound mobility to:

  • Provide disaster recovery.
  • Help friends and family.
  • To spread awareness of a cause.
  • To minister to those in need.
  • To provide your kids an education.

Fulltime RVing is a means to an end. Not the end.

A life of quiet desperation is as easily lived in an RV as a suburban home.

Nomadic life isn’t a cure-all. It’s not a long-term solution for depression. It won’t magically solve relationship issues.

Quite the opposite - it will reveal challenges that a suburban life smoothes over with conveniences.

Not Clear

I don’t know who is behind OpenRoadRVNomads.com or the related movie effort - they’ve taken deliberate steps to remain anonymous. It’s not clear what their actual experience with fulltime RVing or fulltime RVers is.

All I can say is that based on our years on the road and interacting with other current or potential ditchers of suburbia, this group isn’t nervously checking the rearview mirror as they drive away from a life they aren’t happy with.

They are too busy pointing at something on the horizon. Pressing the gas pedal to get there. And using travel as a way to learn, volunteer, build relationships or educate their children.

What Say You?

If you are nomadic sort, do you think of yourself as “escaping”? How have you found meaning in your travels?

Curious About the Costs?

Join our newsletter and get our budget numbers.A family of 3. Traveling fulltime in an RV. What's that cost? Join our weekly newsletter and we'll show you our 2016 budget.


No spam ever, pinky-promise.

3 Comments Think Fulltime RVing Will Bring Meaning To Your Life? You’ll Be Disappointed.

  1. Picture of Perry HughesPerry HughesOctober 05, 2017

    Yes!  Big Mike!  Excellent perspective sir.  My wife, 4 kids and I live a wonderful life.  A life that many of my peers look at and are envious of.  However we long for more.  More adventure.  More time as a family.  Simpler living.  Better education.  Your four mantras hit the nail on the head! Our dreams of ditching revolve around raising the bar for our life not running away from what we have already built for ourselves.  Praying for your speedy recovery. 
    -Perry

  2. Picture of KevinKevinOctober 05, 2017

    Hope you’re feeling better soon. I just got sick 2 days ago…frazzled week and too little sleep.

    The points you make are true. But I do think too often the RV world looks like an escape, but the truth is, it’s only a temporary escape, as you alluded too.

    We found that the stress of being in small space (25% of our old house) did make us closer - some days closer to fighting.

    While we LOVED time in the RV, we also found that it was much more stressful - at least for us. We found each others short comings quickly because there wasn’t a lot of room to be by yourself, or take time apart.

    But we also began to deal with some issues because of it. I don’t know that we did it as well as we could. But we’ve been out of the RV for almost a year, with plans to travel again and also find a new home base.

    Life for us in an RV was a lot of fun, a lot of stress, a mixed bag.  But we didn’t escape much, except the boredom of being in the same spot every day.

    What we can say for sure, was that everyone we left was still right where we left them when we came back a year+ later.  It was eye opening how much we get caught in the whirlwind of life, expectations, appointments, things to do, people needing your time and work.

    But as you said, for us, it really was a means to an end. We discovered that we could take risks as a family, explore scary unknown roads and places, and survive and thrive as a family. 

    We got sick, had to go to doctors, deal with problems, pay bills, fought over little and big things, and yet at the end of the day spent nearly every moment as a family together and grew.

    Today, we live in a house, but we’re planning a move, more travel, more exploring, more risk taking.  RVing wasn’t a cure-all.  But it did awaken us to realize that life could and should be more.  We live with less, still spend time together, changed the way we work, take more risks as a family, have learned to be more flexible, more social, more relaxed.

    I can’t tell you how many people I talk to regularly that dream of RVing full-time.  I get to tell them, it’s a bit scary, but it’s worth it. Life is worth spending time - being deliberate with your time, exploring, free-ing yourself of status-quos, and living with less.

    I get to tell people that work is for living, not the other way around.

    RVing really helped us learn to live better, but we’ll never escape who we are. We just learn to change a bit and be more comfortable in our skin and surroundings.

    Thanks for the great reminder!

  3. Picture of KristenKristenOctober 05, 2017

    I hope you feel better soon!

    How vital to realize there is no Utopia, but the meaningfulness we generate from the inside, and how we use it to contribute to something good on the outside.

    I am grateful that RVing full-time was the best time of our lives, growing up.  Our family was truly at its best, out on the road.  We found meaning in exploring everything…visiting any historical site possible and really learning from them.

    People thought we were crazy, being deprived or neglected…that my parent’s were making very bad decisions, by not living as everyone else was living during that time.

    As an adult myself, after attaining all kinds of things that we are taught to attain,  I began to tune into what I was feeling.  Claustrophobic.  Every time I drove into a suburban neighborhood.  Every time I went where everyone else was going, doing what everyone else was doing, seeing what everyone else was seeing, living like everyone else was living, accumulating what everyone else was accumulating.

    I think I tend to run from what I don’t like, while heading toward what I do like.

    Of course, no matter where we go, there are challenges.  No matter where or how we live.

    We’re spending a year now on the sailboat, in Airbnb’s, and housesitting, to see what we want/need for full-time flexibility, before deciding whether to build a Sprinter-type van.  And we will love it, if so, as a tool that helps us generate what we want.  But we will also have to fight ants and rodents, which make my skin crawl and could, quite literally, ruin RVing for me at any given time.

    But yes, we definitely realize, however one lives, the meaningfulness is what we generate from the inside, and how we use it to contribute to something good on the outside.

    Thanks again for great reminders!  =)

Leave a Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *