Good afternoon from Castaic Lake State Recreation Area, Castaic, California. We're here for a few days before we travel to Pasadena, California so Melanie can worship at All Saints Episcopal Church and meet with fellow EPF members there.
The question that is the title of this post was posed by a friend as a comment to an Instagram post of mine. Probably posed because our Instagram posts are the window dressing of travel. Surely there must be some downside not pictured. Right?
The question is one Melanie and I talk casually about periodically, but not one for which we have ready answers because, so far, at least for us anyway, full-time travel has been almost without exception, great. We're just getting started on this great adventure even after over a year's time.
Whenever Melanie and I try to discuss any downsides or drawbacks of what we're doing, Melanie's first answer is she misses having a cat around. Sure, because of her part-time job, we are able to sometimes interact with the pets of those we meet, but, for her at least, it's not the same as having one of our own to care for and pet and love on. I like animals, but have not missed our cats as much as she has, maybe because I still see them on a regular basis via social media and know they're well cared for. And no cat box or cat yak to clean up in a while has not been a bad thing.
I think the answer to the are there any drawbacks question has to be, almost by definition, answered individually. The answers involve personal preferences in living. What are you willing to compromise so this kind of travel is possible? What is your comfort level with uncertainty? Do you enjoy logistics? How much of a financial buffer will you have for unexpected emergencies? Is it possible for you to work from the road?
Many before us have tried to generally answer the question and you can find their answers online, one reason I've avoided trying to give any list of pros and cons from the Missing Persons' perspective. I think you'll find their answers mostly expressing personal preferences about their own travel issues. Some of the people I followed as we prepared to travel are listed on our resource page and perusing their sites is a good exercise.
Here are some of my random thoughts this afternoon that may help provide you with your own answers.
Have you, during your life, camped out? Backpacked? What are your memories of the experience? Were you intimately involved in the preparations when you went camping or did your parents or a significant other do the prep work and then you got to experience a wonderful time and venue without any worries about what was needed to make it happen? Do you enjoy time outside?
Do you like to drive or travel in general? Do you enjoy the journey or do you really just wanna jump on a plane and pay someone to get you there? Someone who just bought a van told me yesterday she couldn't believe she turned 66, had agreed to stop flying from place to place so she could travel in a camper van. She was joking. Sort of. She and her husband were days into their travels and I believe she was enjoying it, but she was still a bit skeptical. And they aren't going to be living full-time in their van.
While the state of the art for our 25' Leisure Travel Van is pretty amazing and we enjoy many of the comforts of a brick and mortar home, we are camping. I choose options to make our life as easy as possible, but, like living in a bricks and mortar home, there are things that must be done regularly. Some of those things are just a bit different than when you're stationary. I don't miss yard work nor my small kitchen garden.
I have to regularly empty the black and grey water tanks in the van and replenise fresh water. Emptying the black and grey tanks is sometimes a bit smelly, but the tanks fill up and must be emptied. The black tank has to be flushed periodically too. It's not an onerous task, but must be done for the system to function properly.
Do you think you can be comfortable living in a small space with your significant other? People jokingly point out Melanie and I haven't killed each other yet, so things must be going well. It's hard enough to live with someone in a home with several thousand square feet, what about 100 square feet? We like spending time with each other, we enjoy each others company but not everyone is like that. Knowing how to disagree and come to closure is paramount.
The kitchen area in our van is small. There's a two-burner stove top and a microwave/convection oven. There's a nice size refrigerator (that must be defrosted). I believed initially I might adapt the space and prepare great meals for us, but, honestly between the space being small and washing dishes by hand afterwards in a small space, we've opted for now to not cook as much. We have a small grill and I have an InstaPot I use occasionally.
We buy prepared foods when they look good and supplement with fresh fruits and vegetables. We eat out a fair amount too. Since in the past we have enjoyed sampling the local cuisine of places to which we've traveled, that hasn't really been a drawback. But mostly, food is not the point.
Will you miss the social network you've developed in your hometown? Social media has made it possible to soften the distance you will create with travel, but doesn't replace face to face socializing. We're fortunate that Melanie has a part-time job that offers us opportunities for making new friends and meet interesting people who are passionate about the issues for which travel in support.
We're also fortunate the Leisure Travel Van we drive is a sexy house car (a four year old recently dubbed Miranda our "house car"). I can't tell you how many times people have approached me on the street to ask about Miranda. You can meet interesting people who sometimes become friends.
What about your children? We are fortunate ours had, or were about to, finish university. There are no grandchildren on the way. At any rate our boys had been away from home for a while and it was not likely we'd have seen them much even if we'd stayed in Birmingham. FaceTime is a great way to catch up and offers the opportunity to actually see them once a week. What other person to person ties might make full-time travel difficult?
Before we began travel, I was walking about 4-8 miles a day and worked out in our apartment gym about three times a week. I've fallen away from the walking and haven't done strength training in about a year now. That's about to change, but it's harder to maintain good habits when you travel. Not impossible, just more difficult. We do have great bicycles we use regularly and that has kept us moving too.
I think as long as you don't deceive yourself or glamorize what full-time travel is or should look like, and make sure you do your due diligence in preparation, then it can provide an over the top experience. But. It's camping. Even if it is at the Ritz, so to speak. 😎
Steven and Melanie