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  • Sarah Tucker

AFTER YOU BUY: 9 Things Nobody Tells You About RV Life

-by Valerie + Jessi Smith

We often talk about all the many joys of living on the road. From the beautiful scenery, to the feeling of freedom, but there are still many ups and downs living on the road.  We focus mostly on the positive because 90% of the time it’s been wonderful. However, there are bad things about this lifestyle too. Today, we’ll keep it real and share with you the 9 things nobody tells you about RV life.


A free nights stay seems like a really great deal, right? Well, it is, mostly.  But one night we had a terrible time in New Jersey.  After a long day’s drive, we finally arrived at our selected Walmart.As we walked back to the car after grabbing supplies in the store, we see three cars: lined up next to each other near the back of the parking lot with their lights on, blaring the creepy whistle song from American Horror Story.  So we pile into our camper, and shut the doors and windows, a little creeped out. Then a man outside starts screaming, top of his lungs, as if he’s being kidnapped or tortured.  Suddenly we realize we are in middle of no where, trapped in a camper, with no ability to see what is going on. Naturally we ran out, jumped in the car, and sped away as fast as we could while also calling the police.

It could have been a “prank,” but holy hell it was one of the scariest nights of our lives.


In the last 6 months, we’ve lost three grandparents. Friends have also had babies, bought houses, and moved cities. If you’re planning to hit the road and expecting the rest of the world to stop, you will be greatly disappointed. This is life and life can be messy, disorganized, chaotic, and you can loose the ones you love. But the good thing about being mobile, is we were able to change a few plans around and spend extra weeks with family. 

So much better than a few days that our previous lives would have allowed for. Sometimes sad things happen. While traveling may mean missing important events, it also means living with no regrets.


Even with tons of planning, when you’re traveling to a place you’ve never been before, you have to take the good with the bad…and sometimes there’s a lot of bad! From staying in creepy Walmart parking lots, to that one time we accidentally stayed in a brothel,you will have weird experiences. Not every town is equally awesome and not every campground is as good as the reviews state.


For example, your camper window may break on a long road trip while it’s raining, and you still have 10 states to pass through until your next destination. Or one time our refrigerator went out for two days while staying in the hot Florida Keys. Or there was another time that our bathroom smelled so bad for two weeks only to find out it wasn’t the toilet, it was because we weren’t using the shower. Turns out all we needed to do was run water through the drain every so often (the more you know!) All to say, things break when you are living on the road. Key to success is to be flexible, try to maintain things the best you can, and accept the good with the bad along the way.


Everyone knows tornados and trailers don’t mix well. So every thunderstorm can be a bit nerve racking. One night while camping in Texas, a violently windy thunderstorm blew in, which lasted for hours. We checked the weather to learn that there was a tornado watch over the entire stretch between Austin and San Antonio and here we were in the middle of it all. Once you’re in it, it’s hard to leave with 60mph gusting through, so now a days we check the weather more often. But even then, tornados can pop up unexpectedly.


Ok, so this is by far the worst thing we’ve experienced (in Valerie’s opinion) so far. We were in South Carolina and enjoying the warm, summer-like evening only to realize we started to see spiders. Yellow spiders. Crawling out of our bed. Like, nightmare style…the first one we saw came from the pillows. Then, after it got away from our murderous attempts, we saw the daddy of all yellow spiders, possibly the size of a quarter, more realistically the size of a small cow. One after another, for three nights, spiders kept crawling up the walls from under our bed. We eventually got a bug bomb only to come home to…a yellow spider crawling on the wall. Haha, well, we tried.

James Island State Park in Charleston South Carolina has the most beautiful campground and park we’ve ever seen, with fishing ponds, a doggy park island, and bike trails galore. Our campsite was next to a pond and was simply gorgeous but one morning we spotted 9 water snakes slithering across the pond. Gross. And so many bugs. From stink bugs, to stick bugs, to bugs we are convinced are from Space Odyssey. You will encounter bugs, snakes and spiders when you camp. This is new news, we know.


We’re not going to lie to you–we weren’t exactly the poster children for a super clean house in our “old lives.” Sometimes dishes went unwashed for a few days, dog hair collected under the couch for a while, and we sometimes ate nachos and ice cream in bed while binge watching Game Of Thrones. YOUR CLEAN STANDARDS WILL CHANGE

On the other hand, part of camping full time means accepting a bit more dirt…like actual dirt…in our lives.  When we camp on beaches, sand will be flowing through our house.  In our old life, Jessi was adamant about not allowing the dogs on the bed. Now, our entire house is basically just a bed and a kitchenette, so every time the dogs jump on the bed, they bring the garden on their paws.

Showering is also less frequent nowadays. Depending on the campground, sometimes the showers are lukewarm or muddy, which makes you feel less clean after you leave.  Plus, we don’t have a mirror inside our camper. This can be incredibly freeing, but it also means we often invest a little less time in our appearance than we used to.

All in all, our standard of mess has changed a lot.  Acceptance is key.  It doesn’t bother us that much, but for the ultra-clean folk, camping may not be for you.


Living in a small space also means bumping your head a lot…on the ceiling, on the cupboards, on the air conditioner…every corner of the camper is a liability. Camping and hiking means there are just more chance to trip, or get hurt in various ways. Being outside a lot just means you’ll have a few extra scratches to show you’re badass.


Are we happier? Yes. Is every day some sort of fairy tale? Well, no, of course not. There are days we fight, a lot. There are days when we have arrived in a new cool town, eager to explore, but instead spent the entire day inside because we were too tired. Not every day is equal and this is just the case in life. As humans, we often want a perfect life but what we really should be seeking is if the good is outweighing the bad. Once that scale tips towards bad, it’s time for a change. So far, our scale of suck has barely scratched the surface compared to the amazing experiences we’ve had.

With that said, we’ve had some down right awful days. For example, when we were driving from Los Vegas to California, it was suppose to be a simple 6 hour drive. That day we ended up hitting hours of traffic in addition to a head wind. Never making it over 45mph, with our pedal fully to the ground, we barely made it to the halfway mark 10 hours later.  The next day was Thanksgiving so we woke up early to finish the drive to make it to our families house. We arrived for only a few moments when Maxwell went running around the yard and broke his knee. These few days simply sucked. But that’s ok.


Let’s end on a positive note shall we? Yes, some days suck. Yes, life still happens. And yes, spiders are still nasty critters, but we STILL say daily how grateful we are for this life. We couldn’t be happier with our decision to live on the road and we can’t wait to share with you the many things we learn along the way!

Happy and safe travels everyone!


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