If you ask my mom, there is a lot to be afraid of as a full-time RVer. “Who is parked next to you at the campground? What if you get lost on a hike and no one knows where you are? What if you blow a tire on the highway? Is it safe to sleep in that area of town? What if there is a gas leak?”
I get it. Moms worry. But, although those questions have crossed my mind, I have a much bigger fear when it comes to full-time RVing. I’m afraid of wasting this opportunity.
Last fall, we went whitewater rafting over the tallest commercially-raftable waterfall in the continental U.S. I was ecstatic when we booked the trip and couldn’t wait to go to Washington to plummet over Husum Falls. However, as it neared, I got a little nervous. And, when I was sitting in the raft, getting splashed by the ice-cold water of the White Salmon River, I was terrified.
Before going over the 14-foot drop, the guide explained how not to drowned in case we flipped or one of us fell out. My inner voice was screaming: “Why are you doing this?” And, my fear must have showed on my face, because Buddy leaned over to ask if I was sick. But, I was too busy praying over and over that we wouldn’t die doing this ridiculous thing I signed us up for to even answer.
When we finally reached the tipping point and braced for the fall, I shut my eyes. I closed them as hard as I could until I realized we had resurfaced, and I had indeed lived. The rush was indescribable and it is still one of my favorite memories. But, I prevented myself from fully experiencing it. I let my fear of the unknown keep me from enjoying that amazing moment completely. I shut it out. And I still wonder what it looked like inside that massive waterfall.
But life as a full-time RVer is one big unknown. I can’t predict or control 99% of our life. And, although I’ve worried about what could go wrong, my biggest fear is not making the most of this amazing life we have created. I never want to look back and regret not fully experiencing it – the good, the bad and the scary.
Leaving My Comfort Zone
So, I’ve tried my best to go outside of my comfort zone – not knowing where we will end up most nights, sleeping in the middle-of-nowhere, going on the extra-challenging hikes, and chatting with people I wouldn’t normally.
Going exploring with no idea of where it will lead us is exciting, but for control-freaks like me, it is anxiety-inducing. However, the freedom to live without a plan is one of the greatest joys of this lifestyle. If I hold on to the habits that make me feel safe, I’ll never grow as a person. Surprisingly, the more we venture off with no destination in mind, the easier it becomes. And, believe me, starting to let go of my need to control everything is an amazing feeling!
Sleeping in Strange Places
Boondocking is another part of our RV life that I had to adjust to. There are RV parks and campgrounds everywhere, with hook-ups, amenities and maybe even a gate to keep you extra secure. But even if we had the budget to pay for camping every night, for us it takes away from the excitement. And we are doing this for the adventure – so, to the silent, lonely places we go.
Learning to Push Myself
The ability to get outside often was one of the main reasons we were drawn to RV life. And, although we love to go on outdoor adventures, I have a tendency to take the easy route. I was never very athletic before and have a hard time pushing myself when it comes to physical activities. As soon as my legs are sore, I want to quit. But doing so would mean missing out on some spectacular views. So, I push myself to go further, climb higher and silence the voice that tells me I can’t. We recently hiked Gros Morne Mountain in Newfoundland and it was the longest, hardest hike I’ve ever done. And although I was miserable for most of it, that feeling of accomplishment is hard to beat. You can’t know your strength until you’ve tested it!
Seeing Strangers as Friends
The most important decision I’ve made is to give up all pre-conceived notions of people. It is easy to be afraid of strangers (they even teach you to be as a kid)! There are some horrible individuals out there who are willing to hurt others to get what they want. But most people aren’t like that. And if you guard yourself against everyone you meet because they might be a bad person, you miss out on so much good.
On our first month on the road, we went on a bike ride in the middle-of-nowhere, New Mexico. On the way back, there was a big, dirty truck with a large, scary man standing in front of it, blocking the trail. I felt my entire body tense up as I became instantly terrified of him. Then a kid jumped out from the passenger seat. Turns out, he was taking his son out mudding on the back roads and got stuck. He told us all sorts of great places to bike nearby and was the nicest guy ever. I’m so thankful to have learned such an important lesson early on in our journey. And it has allowed me to have some of the best conversations in my life.
Moving Forward, Braver
Of course, it is important to use common sense. It is ridiculous to purposefully put yourself in a dangerous situation. And it never hurts to take precautions, like locking your door while you sleep. But most of us have unrealistic fears that keep us from fully enjoying some of the best experiences life has to offer. And those are the ones I’m fighting against.
Some days I really struggle, but the life I’m building and person I’m becoming is completely worth it. I want to embrace the fear and allow it to change me, to make me stronger and bring me to places I’d never imagine. I don’t want to play it safe and miss out on amazing experiences and people.
I want to keep my eyes wide open.