Full-time RVing has really taken off in the last few years. Traditionally, the full-time RV life has belonged almost exclusively to retirees.
Traveling the country at a leisurely pace has historically been seen as a reward for having lived a productive life. Now, however, there is an ever-increasing number of full-timing folks who do not match that particular demographic, and whose motivations are somewhat different.
While it is still more likely that you will run into people 65+ who are indefinitely on the road, the number of full-time middle-age couples and singles is on the rise. There is even a newly-emerging demographic of young families in their 20s and early 30s who have joined the ranks. So why the sudden shift?
The exact answer you get depends on who you ask, as life shapes each of us differently. However, there are some consistent reasons that full-timers state as their impetus for transitioning to life on the road long before retirement.
Not having the usual responsibilities
Make no mistake about it, full-time RVing has plenty of responsibilities—they just happen to be a little different than the responsibilities of life in the suburbs. Full-time RVing is a change of pace: there is no lawn to mow, and there is no commute to work. There are no more of the exhausting and repetitive tasks in keeping a 2,500 square foot house that leaves no time to relax and enjoy life.
The time you would have spent mowing your lawn or vacuuming is instead spent taking a walk near the headwaters of the Mississippi or viewing gigantic waves smashing against the rocks on the Oregon coastline.
Relief from monotony
Wake up at 5:30 AM. Shower. Wake the kids at 6:00. Feed them at 6:30. Put them on the bus just after 7:00. Fight rush hour traffic to and from work. Take kids to soccer and ballet practice. Cook dinner and have it on the table by 7:00. Ensure baths are complete by 8:30. Put kids to bed by 9:00. Fall in bed by 10:00 PM. Rinse and repeat—5 days a week, every week, for years.
No one likes that schedule, but it is pretty typical for most US families. The only time the family has time to get together to do something is on holidays, and for many people, those often seem pre-programmed. Every year it is the same trip to the sister-in-law’s house for the Fourth of July where they eat the same food and everyone tells the same jokes.
Some younger people have deemed this never-ending pattern unacceptable. They want more from life than repeating the same schedule day after day until they retire. They’ve dared to ask themselves the question, “Why should I have to wait until I’m retired to do cool stuff every day?”
Escaping materialism and debt
Most people who find themselves as full-time RVers have gotten rid of most of the things that once filled their 3 bedroom houses in the suburbs. While they still tend to own nice computers and phones to keep in touch with friends and relatives or work remotely, the items that they feel they need are far fewer than that of the typical American.
These are the folks that have managed to escape the notion that buying more things brings more happiness. They are off in search of rewarding experiences, not rewarding expenses. A common theme seen with the younger generations of full-time RVers is that they don’t want a 30-year mortgage hanging over their heads—or tons of credit card debt, either.
To appreciate the smaller things in life
The pre-retirement full-time RV crowd comes from a world obsessed with instant gratification, action movies, and all things flashy and showy, but these things do not suit them. They realize that it is easy to have your attention shifted away from the things in life that truly matter towards things that are more entertaining, and they strive to keep a healthy balance of the two.
By detaching from a traditional lifestyle, full-time RVers are surrounded by nature, fellow RVer friends, and activities that they enjoy. There is less time spent being digital zombies on their phones, in front of the TV, or hunched over a computer, and more time spent hiking, visiting museums, and interacting with others.
These non-traditional RVers are seeking happiness that is difficult to find in a hectic world that doesn’t let you stop long enough to smell the roses.
Wanting to participate in life, not just be an observer
Pre-retirement full-time RVers want to see things in person rather than on a travel show. They want their kids to learn from experience rather than just from words in textbooks that seem to have no relevance to their lives. They want to take charge of how life unfolds for them, rather than waiting around to see if something new and exciting will happen.
These are people who are willing to take risks to live that life. Selling a home and belongings, ditching a good-paying 9-5 job, and taking off for the great unknown is not an undertaking for the faint of heart. To these folks, however, the potential rewards outweigh the risks.
Escaping the chaos
Breaking out of the chaotic rat race takes a vision and a leap of faith that everything will be ok once outside of the maze. It’s a bit scary before you make the transition, and it scares most people too much to even take seriously the idea of RVing full-time before retirement—but that doesn’t apply to everyone.
For those that take the plunge, they manage to find a different world that was there all along—one that is easy-going and without chaos. A parallel world filled with beauty and endless possibility. After the initial adjustment to life on the road, they wonder how they ever could have questioned the idea.