While many other RVers have already booked the best National Park campgrounds for the summer and have their entire routes outlined, we’re just over here trying to decide where we will go tomorrow. But, don’t worry, that’s all part of our plan.
Establishing Travel Goals
Although some are stationary or travel wherever their jobs take them, many people begin RVing for the travel opportunities and have specific places in mind with detailed plans to get there. While this works well for most RVers, it is not a one-size-fits-all situation. And our travel plans are much more general.
In the year prior to getting our RV, we did a lot of traveling. Each time on the plane ride or drive home, we’d be sick that we couldn’t stay longer. We have this tendency to fall in love with places. And if you’ve ever been in love, you know that feeling of wanting to know everything about each other. You want to spend every second soaking up each other’s presence. That is how new places make us feel.
One of the reasons RVing is appealing to us is that it allows us to travel constantly and, even more importantly, take our time. We can find a place that inspires us and really explore it – not just the highlights in the guidebook. And if we want to stay for months, we can.
Driving through White Sands National Monument.
Since we don’t have an end date for our epic RV adventure, we are able to fully embrace this idea of slow travel. Both of us want to see the fall leaves in New England, scuba dive off the Florida Keys and visit Alaska. We are making our way toward those places, but there is no rush. It may take years.
We decided early on that we wouldn’t schedule anything too far in advance. Knowing we aren’t locked into plans allows us to completely change our minds if we want to. And we really love that option for spontaneity.
As funny as it sounds, we actually spent a lot of time planning this unscheduled route. We talked excessively about our life as RVers – not so much where we would go, but how we wanted to feel. We want to be inspired, happy, adventurous and free. We want to avoid feeling rushed, obligated or stressed.
Allowing ourselves to follow our curiosity is key. That may mean going down a strange road to an unexpectedly beautiful view, chatting with a unique stranger for hours or seeking solitude far off the beaten path. Not knowing where we are going is our favorite part of life on the road.
Enjoying the views at an RV Park we decided on last minute.
A Few Considerations
Although having an RV and being self-employed is a combination for unlimited flexibility, there are a few things we have to keep in mind. The biggest determinant being weather.
We are traveling with our cat, so we can’t be anywhere with severe heat or cold. Therefore, whatever little planning we do is based on weather. If we do end up in an area with severe temperatures, we must budget for hookups so that we are all comfortable and safe. This isn’t ideal for sticking to a small budget, so we are trying to avoid that when possible. But not having any reservations does allow us to make a detour to better weather, which is another bonus!
Something else that informs our travel decisions is where our family and friends live. One of the main reasons we decided to head east this summer was so we could see our family along the way. Plus, we’ve never explored that part of the country and are excited to see it!
However, we do remind the people closest to us that we can’t make any promises too far ahead of time. We may have to change plans due to bad weather, a job opportunity or multiple other unexpected situations.
Our awesome BLM site in middle-of-nowhere New Mexico.
In order to have the flexibility we crave, we knew some major life adjustments would be necessary. Gone are the days where we order pizza or go for a late-night food run when we have nothing to eat. Many of the places we end up stopping are in the middle-of-nowhere. And we may not be in the vicinity-of-somewhere for days. So, we keep our fridge and pantry stocked by filling up any time we are near a store.
We also don’t let our tank get under half before filling up with diesel. And we always travel with multiple gallons of water and fill up our fresh water tank whenever we can. We love to wander aimlessly, but not getting stranded on our spontaneous adventures is an important goal of ours.
Another factor that was important to us early on is the ability to boondock. Luckily, we have a solar panel and strong determination to make our water supply last as long as possible. This allows us to have way more options for where we park overnight.
Parking at a winery in New Mexico with our Harvest Hosts Pass.
Testing Our Resolve
Our second month of RVing was equal parts experimentation and vacation. After a month of staying at RV parks while we got settled in and organized, we were ready to hit the road. And we were really interested if our plan of just winging it would work out.
We set off to New Mexico from San Antonio, TX, with no schedule in mind. The only factors that were affecting our travels were weather and needing to be back in Texas in one month for our nephew’s graduation. We had no route, no reservations and no plan. But we learned A LOT!
Right away, we realized driving more than three hours a day was something we wanted to avoid when possible. It is surprisingly difficult to stay in one place when the entire world seems to be around the next turn. So, we learned the necessity of forced breaks – even when the kids within us were eager to drive into the never-ending horizon. We had to have regular time-outs and they turned out to be our favorite moments.
We also learned that more research would be necessary. After a few seemingly-great camping options didn’t pan out (due to not really existing, having a sketchy road or being in a dangerous area of town), we started picking a back-up or two. By using a combination of our Harvest Hosts membership, Allstays app, Campendium.com, Freecamping.net and general internet searches, we were able to find multiple overnight spots and felt way less panicked if the first one was a dud.
As the month went on, we went from being extremely stressed about where we would sleep to being relaxed and confident. Eventually we were seeking out the most remote places we could find and getting really creative. A few highlights were BLM land in the middle-of-nowhere and an unused rodeo area. Not only did it get easier, it was a fun challenge!
Sunset at our BLM site, all alone in the desert.
Finding Our Rhythm
Our time in New Mexico felt like a honeymoon. We were able to really get to know our RV and just have fun. Taking a month to test out our plan (or lack of one) was also important. We learned what worked and what didn’t. And we were able to find our travel rhythm.
Now, once we decide where we are headed, that’s when we look at overnight parking options, hiking trails and unique activities nearby. But we don’t hold ourselves to seeing every interesting thing that pops up on our search. We would rather see a few places really well then all of them. And we always have a back-up for our overnight option – sometimes two if we are arriving after dark.
Not having a schedule felt like a huge mistake at first. But, once we worked out the kinks, it was obvious we made the right decision for us. And this way of travel allowed us to avoid inclement weather, stay longer because we loved our scenery or neighbors, and make huge detours because someone gave us a great tip for a must-see spot.
We left New Mexico optimistic and brave. Now when people ask us the inevitable “Where are you headed next?” question I won’t feel self-conscious about our seemingly-naïve plan. I can reply with pride and a smile: “We really aren’t sure.”