Our Top 10 Travel Challenges from Six Years RVing the USA as a Family

A family of 4 crammed into an RV. With teens. For 6 years. What could happen?

Mostly, as it turns out, an adventure. Make sure you read our top 20 adventures from 6 years on the road.

But, stuff happens.

Things break.

People are people.

And - make no mistake. Ditching the suburbs is entirely changing everything about how you live day to day. There’s excitement in that. But also stress.

In no particular order, here are our top 10 challenges from our 6 years on the road in an RV as a family of 4.

1. Passengers not Travelers

We left West Michigan with three travelers and one passenger. Miranda didn’t want to go. We called her “the black hole of anger in the back seat”.

She came around. We had all travelers for a few years.

Then our son Harrison declared he was “done traveling”. He was 17. We agreed to keep traveling together for another year, then we’d work to launch him off on his own.

Suburban Sheep Shirt

Suburban Sheep Shirt If you have the same slightly sarcastic sense of humor as we do this may be the shirt for you. This design is both a commentary on suburban living and a declaration of your intent to leave it.

Styles available: t-Shirts,and hoodies.
Colors available: black, royal blue, navy blue.

That was just over a year ago. He’s doing well. And yes, traveling some - but on his own terms.

2. Turning Homeschooling into Roadschooling

MsBoyink - like most homeschooling parents - has always been concerned that she’s “doing it right”. She’s written about the various programs and curricula we’ve used.

The year before we hit the road she finally felt like she had done it right. She had planned the school year with structure and order. Then I pulled the rug out from under her. She had some angst about changing our approach to learning.

We adapted and became more like “unschoolers”. We learned to let the road provide most of the teachable moments. Then we fill in a bit here and there with traditional book-based curriculum.

3. Meeting People

There are fellow suburbia-ditchers that we “know” from the internet, but whom we’ve never met. It’s hard to arrange meetups between two moving targets.

It’s not any easier with stationary friends. Our travels will take us right through someone’s home town, but between our schedule and theirs we just can’t find a time to connect.

We’ve learned to “purpose to meet” others by adapting our plans. And we’ve learned that we need to get over our “inner introvert” if we’re feeling lonely.

4. Income

When we launched I had a much more stable income than I do now. The demand for the type of web development and training I was doing dropped off.

We’ve adapted. We changed our business focus. We cut our expenses by taking camphosting jobs. We’re finding “non-slimy” ways to monetize this site. I’m actively working on the book that will be the cornerstone of that effort.

We’re not yet financially where I’d like us to be, but we have a direction.

Photo proof that I have been able to run a 5K while traveling fulltime.

Photo proof that I have been able to run a 5K while traveling fulltime.

The downside of gorgeous remote spots like this is often loneliness.

The downside of gorgeous remote spots like this is often loneliness.

Being stranded on the side of the road is just a matter of time for fulltime RVers.

Being stranded on the side of the road is just a matter of time for fulltime RVers.

Getting all the teen cousins together is a challenge - so we try to make it happen each summer.

Getting all the teen cousins together is a challenge - so we try to make it happen each summer.

It took us five years to finally meet the suburbia-ditching Lundy family.

It took us five years to finally meet the suburbia-ditching Lundy family.

We're going to focus more on making these kind of moments happen. You don't get to vaccinate pigs staying in a campground.

We're going to focus more on making these kind of moments happen. You don't get to vaccinate pigs staying in a campground.

Dropping our trailer on our truck was a definite challenge!

Dropping our trailer on our truck was a definite challenge!

5. RV Bubble

Mountains. Rivers. Lakes. Woods. Deserts. Oceans. We’ve parked our RV with views of all of these. Views we never would have been able to afford otherwise. It’s been an awesome way to live.

But.

There is a “cultural bubble” around the RV lifestyle.

Frankly? It’s a white middle/upper class thing.

One of our goals for getting out of the suburbs was to experience a different culture than the one we lived in. Turns out that’s hard to do as a white middle-class RVer. RV parks and campgrounds are largely filled with the same type of people.

So we’re going to do more WWOOFing gigs. This will get us out of campgrounds, out of the RV bubble, and immerse us in the lives of other people. We hope to truly get to know them over weeks and months of working side by side. Not just casual campground conversations.

6. Insect Invasions

Our first few years on the road were blissfully invasion-free.

Oh - there were bugs. But outside, where they should be.

That didn’t last.

We’ve dealt with:

  • Ants
    We picked these up in Mobile, AL. I found an army supply line from the grass, over the cement pad, up the trailer leg and down the frame rail. We moved all the food out to the truck and bought every type of ant trap on the market. It took days to get rid of them.
  • Asian beetles
    Minnesota gifted us Asian beetles and we had them with us the rest of the way down the Mississippi. I kept a cup of soapy water handy to knock them into. I’d fill that cup up at least once a day.
  • Fruit flies
    We love buying fresh produce at farmers’ markets but it often brings the fruit flies in. Fruit flies are the ninjas of insects - easily able to avoid any effort to swat them.
  • Stinkbugs
    This is our current guest. We’re finding stinkbugs in every nook, cranny and drawer. We have to shake out the bedding before crawling in for the night.

7. Staying Fit

We weren’t hardcore athletes when we lived in the suburbs. RV life hasn’t made that any easier. Between:

  • Poor weather
  • RV parks without safe places to walk, run or bike
  • Allergies & other health issues
  • Elevations
  • Lack of routine

Getting any kind of consistency with exercise is a challenge.

I’ve started the “Couch to 5K” running program. Again.

MsBoyink is trying to walk more.

We’re hoping that our choice to do more WWOOFing gigs also helps us get out of our chairs and off screens more each day (without killing us in the process).

8. Extended Family Involvement

We’ve missed out on parts of nephews and nieces lives:

  • Colorguard competitions
  • Musicals
  • Dance recitals
  • Archery shoots
  • Gymnastic competitions

Our kids grew up fast. These kids are as well. We catch what we can when we are back in Michigan, but most of these events happen during the school year when we are gone.

9. Truck Repairs

Yea, I know. You can’t live on the road and not expect repairs on the vehicle.

Expecting is one thing. Planning is another. Getting a vehicle repaired while traveling fulltime is a dance of last-minute scheduling.

Overall our truck has been awesome. I even put together an ode to our truck. But - poor thing - since being on the road our truck has:

While each of those incidents was stressful, we’ve generally had a good experience recovering from them.

Either we could flex our schedule or the shop could flex theirs. Too-busy shops have referred us elsewhere. RV parks worked with us so that we didn’t have to jump sites while the truck was gone. The shops have provided loaner cars or were within walking distance. Insurance covered the big costs.

10. Trailer Repairs

Overall we’ve had good luck with our RVs.

The first was a used 31’ Rockwood fifth wheel. Our current RV is a 34’ Wildcat we bought new.

But you can’t live in these things and not expect repairs.

The first fifth wheel ended up needing a new roof.

Our current trailer just came back from a paint shop. The gelcoat on the nose faded and the factory covered the cost of repainting it.

Those two incidents are the only times we’ve had to move out of our “house”. In one case we rented a cabin at an RV park. The other we booked a local AirBnB room.

For other repairs we’ve either had a mobile RV Service business come out to our campsite or I’ve just handled the fix myself (see the tools I carry for this purpose).

Any Regrets?

You might read this list and think - that’s a lot of challenges. Maybe it’s not worth ditching the suburbs after all?

Scan back through the list above.

Income. Fitness. Friends.

We would have had many of these challenges even if we had stayed in our suburban house. There might have been challenges there that we haven’t even thought of while traveling.

I can also look back through these challenges and see how God revealed himself to us in them.

So no, no regrets. Well, one, actually.

How About You?

What challenges have you found on the road?

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11 Comments Our Top 10 Travel Challenges from Six Years RVing the USA as a Family

  1. Picture of SusanneSusanneSeptember 27, 2016

    1. Income is an issue. It would be less of an issue if we didn’t have school loan debt. Grumble, grumble. Working on it!

    2. Fruit flies. Oh yes. They love us (and our bananas).

    3. The biggest issue for me right now (I think Trent would say something different) is that I miss having a community. Don’t get me wrong: I know I have a virtual/digital community that totally gets what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and the challenges we face. But I miss actual, everyday, face-to-face community, and for me, it’s this that makes me wonder if I want to RV long term.

  2. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael BoyinkSeptember 27, 2016

    You could always find another family to park next to..:)  We don’t need community every day - we do tend to be introverts and need that alone/recharge time, but periodically, yes. It’s been a while since we were around our peeps..and I can sense that we’re hungering to be around some folks again.

  3. Picture of KevinKevinSeptember 28, 2016

    t’s interesting to read the “Bottom 10 List”.  It seems to me that everyone has these issues in some way or another.  But to be forced to deal with these things along with the rest of nomadic life really should put into perspective a couple of things:
    1) these things never ended the adventure or pursuit of a freedom lifestyle,
    2) the skills, wisdom, and courage you have gained from all of these things on the road is immeasurable, yet, so much more than had you stuck it out in a “normal” life.

  4. Picture of David LatilDavid LatilSeptember 29, 2016

    I wrote a blog post on this a while back:

    http://blog.latil.net/2013/08/15/in-retrospect-the-good-and-bad-of-fulltime-traveling/

    It is honest and full of my opinions, so take it for what it is worth.

  5. Picture of Richard JohnsonRichard JohnsonOctober 02, 2016

    Hi Michael,

    Long time reader, first time commenter. Thanks for always sharing detailed info and pics of your adventures. Very entertaining and always enlightening.

    Rich

  6. Picture of DonDonOctober 03, 2016

    Thanks for being so transparent. I couldn’t help but notice you wrote about your Top 20 Adventures and Top 10 Challenges. So can I infer from that that the good times outnumber the bad by 2:1? :-)

  7. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael BoyinkOctober 03, 2016

    Not sure what the actual experience ratio is….but the numbers represent how we want to communicate..:)

  8. Picture of DonDonOctober 03, 2016

    Not sure what the actual experience ratio would be in a non-nomad life, either. But I do know it has a lot to do with how you look at it and what you expect from it.

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