A Different Way to Enjoy National Parks: Volunteer!

national park volunteer

It seems every RVer’s goal is to see as many of our country’s National Parks as they can. It’s not hard to fall in love with them; each one is unique and has different views and activities to offer. Every time we visit one, we leave with a greater appreciation, along with photos and memories we’ll cherish forever. But volunteering in National Parks offers an even deeper experience.

We had the opportunity to volunteer in Acadia National Park last fall and it changed our whole perspective. It was such a memorable experience and inspired us to continue seeking out ways to do more than just explore when visiting the parks.

Our experience volunteering in Acadia National Park

When planning our trip to Acadia National Park, we came across an organization called Friends of Acadia. We were touched to see a group of individuals come together and dedicate so much time, energy, and research into protecting such a special place so that people like us can enjoy it for years to come. Then, we were thrilled to see that they offered drop-in volunteer days. One of the struggles we’ve found on the road, is finding ways to volunteer without needing a long-term commitment or making arrangements far in advance.

Friends of Acadia is a non-profit organization that organizes volunteer efforts and private philanthropy for the benefit and preservation of Acadia National Park. They offer drop-in volunteering three days a week. We showed up on a Saturday morning, were provided with the equipment we needed, and given options of what jobs we felt comfortable doing. That day, we helped restore one of the trails in the park.

national park volunteer

Dan was on the “rock crew” and was hitting large boulders with a sledge hammer to break them into small rocks to lay on top of the dirt trail. I tried that job, but was exhausted after two swings! So, I moved to the “harvesting crew” and pulled up moss from down below the trail and replanted it along the sides of the trail. That day, we helped finish the trail restoration that they had been working weeks on and it was so rewarding to see the final product.

It was a lot of hard work, but was just a few hours in the morning, great exercise, and it truly felt amazing to give back. It was also a fun way to meet locals who regularly commit their time to volunteering with Friends of Acadia. They gave us great recommendations for things to do in the area, too. Now, every time we’re hiking along the trails in National Parks, we think about the people, the hands and hard work that went into making it possible for us to explore such magnificent places.

maine rv destinations

How you can volunteer in the National Parks

We’ve found that many people don’t know about the volunteer events that are offered at the National Parks. Volunteering can range from a variety of projects, such as trail maintenance, habitat restoration, invasive plant removal, etc.

For example, Redwoods National Park needed volunteers last summer to walk around the parking lots and talk to visitors before they started on the trail. They had brochures to pass out and wanted to spread the word about the increase in baby elk on the trails during the early summer months. Mother elk can be extremely aggressive and protective, so hikers needed to be extra cautious. So not every volunteer project is physically demanding and there is truly a job for everyone!

Volunteering in the parks can also be an educational experience, which allows you to give back while learning about the land. What a fun activity for families or large groups to do together! You can view the one-day volunteer events the NPS offers here. They also offer a variety of volunteer opportunities for people with specific skills and expertise that require varying time commitments. You can get more information on those opportunities here.

national park volunteer

Another simple way to find volunteer work in the parks is by doing a Google search. You may come across organizations separate from the NPS that you can get involved with. Also, simply asking a ranger when you arrive at the park about the ways you can volunteer can be helpful too. There’s always something you can do and if we all did even one small task to help, we could make a huge difference.

We definitely plan to do more National Park volunteering during our summer travels and we sure hope you do, too! We believe it’s everyone’s responsibility to help protect our nation’s incredible parks and we hope we’ve inspired you to get involved. It makes your visit more meaningful and allows you to leave a part of yourself at each park, other than just your footprints!

We recently celebrated our one-year anniversary of full-time RVing. So, it felt like a perfect time to reflect on some of our favorite destinations that we’ve visited the past year. Whenever we are asked what our favorite spots are, these five places always make the cut. And because we love to hike and spend time outside, there is a clear theme of being close to nature. But, what RVer doesn’t want epic views, great trails and proximity to wildlife while camping? We hope these destinations get added to your RV travel bucket list, if they aren’t already on there!

1. Columbia Falls, Montana

Columbia Falls is most known for being right outside Glacier National Park, but we enjoyed exploring the quaint city itself. They have a fun farmer’s market on Thursday nights and several locally owned restaurants and shops. We really enjoyed the beer and food at Backslope Brewing and had a great sandwich for lunch at Laurie’s Deli.

montana rv destinations

Columbia Falls is also only 10 miles from the popular and beautiful resort town of Whitefish, MT. While it’s known for skiing, it also boasts the beautiful Whitefish Lake, which offers fun water activities in the summer. But if you still need more convincing to visit, you’ve also got the South Fork Flathead River with awesome opportunities for fishing.

But yes, Glacier National Park steals the show and is the number one reason to visit Columbia Falls, Montana. It’s hard to put into words how majestic the mountain views are, but the photos definitely help. The park is also home to several beautiful alpine lakes and of course, wildlife.

montana rv destinationsGrinnell Lake.

Just a drive along Going to the Sun Road will make your entire trip worthwhile. But, don’t limit yourself to just the views from your car window. We highly recommend at least one of the following hikes: Hidden Lake, Avalanche Lake or Grinnell Lake. A stop at Lake MacDonald as you’re driving along Going to the Sun Road is also a must.

montana rv destinationsHidden Lake Hike.

Keep in mind that it can take over two hours to drive from one side of the park to the other! We chose to stay in Babb, Montana, which is right outside the eastern side of Glacier National Park, for our final two days. This allowed us to explore Grinnell Lake without having to drive five hours round trip, which would have been the case if we stayed in Columbia Falls. Another good tip is to always have your bear spray on you when you’re out exploring in this area!

montana rv destinations

2. Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor truly has it all! With a mixture of mountain and ocean scenery, one of the most beautiful national parks in the country, and a charming downtown, there’s something for everyone. Whether you love hiking, taking cruises, eating seafood, or shopping, you’ll be a happy camper!

maine rv destinations

We truly believe that if our dogs could talk, they would say that Bar Harbor was their favorite destination they’ve ever been. This is because of how pet-friendly the entire area is. Dogs are allowed in Acadia National Park (which is rare), on cruises, and in many shops and restaurants. They are even allowed on the city bus, which is completely free, by the way!

maine rv destinationsGorham Mountain hike.

There are plenty of wonderful RV parks to choose from, some are even right on the water! You can hop on the city bus right from Narrows Too Campground and go almost anywhere you need to go. We took the bus downtown a few times for some delicious “lobstah” and enjoyed a sunset cruise on “The Schooner Margaret Todd,” which is the first Four-Masted Schooner to work New England waters in over half a century.

maine rv destination

What really makes this area so unique and special though, is the way that Acadia National Park is weaved throughout Mt. Desert Island. It’s hard to know where the park begins and ends! But, you could spend weeks, or even months, exploring the park! There are several great walking trails that go around beautiful lakes and ponds, as well as hikes of all levels and distances that take you both through mountains and right along the coast.

We enjoyed strolling along and soaking in the beauty of Ship Harbor Trail and Eagle Lake Trail, but Gorham Mountain was one of our favorite hikes we’ve ever done. The landscape is unlike anywhere we’ve ever been! A visit to Bar Harbor isn’t complete, though, without the opportunity to be among the first to witness the sunrise in North America from Cadillac Mountain.

maine rv destinations

3. Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park makes you feel like you’re in a whole different world. It’s a completely different experience than any other national park we’ve been to. Maybe it’s the long drive through the middle of nowhere to get there, the wide open spaces, or the fact that you are without any cell phone service for your entire visit. But, this park requires you to unplug, be present, and just enjoy the variety of activities it offers.

big bend rv destination

A drive through Big Bend National Park feels like a dream. At times, it can feel as if you’re the only one for miles and miles. Just watch the road for javalinas (similar to wild boars), deer, coyotes, and road runners! The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive is considered the most beautiful drive in Texas, and we definitely agreed.

big bend rv destination

Some of our favorite activities in Big Bend were soaking in the hot springs during sunrise, crossing the border and riding donkeys in Boquillas, Mexico, and, of course, the scenic hiking trails. The Lost Mine Trail has stunning views, the Window Trail is perfect at sunset, and the Santa Elena Canyon Trail allows you to stand in the Rio Grande with one foot in Mexico and the other in the U.S. Every night, you’ll fall asleep under the most beautiful star filled sky, and you’re likely to hear coyotes howling early in the morning.

big bend rv destinationLost Mine Trail.

4. Fort De Soto Park, Florida

During our time in Florida, we went coast to coast and jumped from state park to state park. Each park had something unique to offer, but there was just something extra special about Fort De Soto.

florida rv destination

The park consists of five interconnected islands (keys), so you’re surrounded by water, making it easy to get a waterfront site at the campground! The park has a boat ramp, two fishing piers, a ferry service, nature trails, and even a dog beach!

Fort De Soto Park’s location is one of the best reasons to visit. Being in beautiful St. Petersburg, also puts you in close proximity to Clearwater Beach, Madeira Beach, and Treasure Island. This area has arguably the most beautiful beaches in America. We’ve never seen such white sand or such crystal blue waters! We loved walking along the boardwalks and spent every evening enjoying the beautiful sunsets right on the beach.

florida rv destinationJohn’s Pass Village and Boardwalk.

5. Malibu, California

Most people don’t think of Malibu as being a great RV destination, and we were very surprised ourselves. We spent a few months driving north along the Pacific Coast Highway and stopped at nearly every popular beach town along the way. Malibu stole our hearts, though.

california rv destinations

The thing you notice first about Malibu is how close the PCH is to the water and how accessible the beach is. You can literally pull right off the highway in your RV and step onto the beach. There’s something about Malibu that feels less crowded and more serene than the rest of the coast.

Our favorite part about our time in Malibu was our ocean view spot at Malibu Beach RV Park. The park sits upon a cliff right off the PCH, which made it possible to watch dolphins and whales right from our RV window! While it was hard not to just sit there and stare at the ocean all day, we also enjoyed many nearby activities.

florida rv destination

Would you believe us if we said most of our activities in Malibu were free? The words Malibu and free don’t seem to go together, we know, but we spent our entire week enjoying the beautiful and abundant nature. We hiked Solstice Canyon and Escondido Falls, enjoyed watching seals on Leo Carillo beach, walked along the Malibu pier, and could hardly believe the beauty of the sunset views at Point Dume. However, we do recommend splurging for some beverages and lunch at the Malibu Cafe and the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe, too.

Paradise Cove Beach Cafe.

The U.S. is filled with beautiful destinations waiting to be explored. Our first year of full-time RVing has only left us wanting to see and do more! But we can’t recommend a visit to these five destinations enough. We know they’ll be just as memorable for you!

There’s not many beaches in America that let you drive right up on the beach in your RV and stay several nights. But, they do exist and having the ocean in your “front yard” is RV life at its finest! While you’ll be sweeping up sand for weeks afterwards, and you won’t have the convenience of full hook ups, boondocking on the beach is a really cool experience.

We’ve had the opportunity to boondock on the beach twice in the past year. If this is on your RV bucket list, we’re sharing our top tips for having an enjoyable (and safe!) experience. Plus, the best beach spots we’ve found so far!

beach-boondocking-winnebago

General beach boondocking tips

Beach boondocking can be such a memorable experience. However, you want to make it memorable for the right reasons. Getting stuck in the sand or water can ruin your stay. Here are some general tips to keep in mind.

  • Detach your tow vehicle before driving on the sand.
  • Walk around or drive your tow vehicle, if you have one, to scope out the area before driving your RV on the sand to ensure you won’t get stuck.
  • Park far back from the water (two words: high tide).
  • Be careful on windy days! The wind can blow sand under your RV and tires, making it difficult to get out.
  • Avoid driving in areas with loose sand. Drive closer to the water, where the sand is wet and compact.
  • Carrying extra water can also be helpful if you need to pour water in your driving path in order to get through certain areas.

beach-boondocking-winnebago

Favorite beach boondocking spots

Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, Oceano, CA

Just south of Pismo Beach, this is the only area in California where you can drive vehicles on the beach. For only $10/night you can boondock steps from the ocean and enjoy both relaxation and adventure right from your front door! However, this isn’t your typical California beach and it is called a State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) for a reason.

beach-boondocking-winnebago

On the weekends, people aren’t just relaxing on the beach all day, they bring their ATVs, dirt bikes, and dune buggies to explore the unique sand dunes directly behind the beach. You can find peace and quiet during the weekdays.

However, once Saturday rolls around, you’ll have neighbors piled in all around you and you’ll hear the buzzing of motors in to the wee hours of the morning. It’s quite an experience and can get pretty rowdy. You may even get trapped in by tents and other RVs, so be prepared to stay the whole weekend!

Recommendations

  • Make a reservation ahead of time, especially during the summer and on holiday weekends. Oceano Dunes SVRA limits the number of vehicles allowed on the beach. You’ll have to call the number on the Oceano Dunes SVRA website to make a reservation.
  • Air down ALL of the tires on your vehicles before driving on the beach. They recommend that you take every tire down to 20 psi. While this takes some time to do, you’ll have a much easier time getting through the sand. We saw tons of people who didn’t air down (even large 4WD vehicles) get stuck, so don’t chance it. There is a station with multiple air hoses that you can pay to use as you are leaving the beach. For $1 per tire, you can get air back in your tires and on your way pretty quickly!
  • Stock up on food, water, and other essentials before parking. You won’t want to air your tires up and down in order to come and go. With the crowds, you may not even be able to leave!
  • Rent an ATV right on the beach and join in on the fun!
  • There’s a nearby dump station located on Le Sage Drive.

beach-boondocking-winnebago

Bolivar Flats, Port Bolivar, TX

Texas has a few beaches that allow RV camping, including Magnolia Beach in Port Lavaca, North and South Beach on Padre Island, and Mustang Island State Park in Corpus Christi. We haven’t been to them all, but we sure did love Bolivar Flats, which is just across the bay from Galveston on the Bolivar Peninsula.

Beach boondocking is allowed anywhere along the 27 miles of beaches of the peninsula, which is accessible by taking the ferry or by driving along Highway 87. However, the “Bolivar flats” are on the far west end of the peninsula and are better for RVs because the beach is wide and the sand is compact. The east end of the peninsula is Crystal Beach, which can get a bit more crowded with the rows of houses lining the beach.

beach-boondocking-winnebagoPhoto by Bob Orchard (@thewebnomads on Instagram).

To boondock on Bolivar Flats, you are required to purchase a Bolivar Beach Parking Sticker for each of your vehicles, which costs $10. After this one-time fee, you are free to park on the beach until Dec. 31st of that same year! You can access the flats from Rettilon Road and don’t have to drive far on the sand to find a good spot to park.

During our stay, we had plenty of space to ourselves and our dogs could run and play in the water. It was such a peaceful and relaxing spot (although this might not be the case during the summer). It is also very popular for bird watching! We would leave the blinds open when we went to bed at night so we could wake up to the sunrise each morning. It was a tough spot to leave!

beach-boondocking-winnebago

Recommendations

  • Purchase your parking pass at The Big Store, next to Ace Hardware.
  • Bring insect repellent! The mosquitos come out in full force at dusk!
  • There are several RV parks along Highway 87 that will allow you to dump and fill up water for a fee.
  • Keep off the sand dunes! There’s supposedly venemous snakes lurking in there! Yikes!
  • Clean up trash as you walk on the beach. We were saddened to see so much litter along the sand dunes!
  • Keep a close eye on the weather, as strong winds and storms can elevate tides and create hazardous conditions.

We hope this guide to beach boondocking inspires you to take your own beach adventures in your RV. You’ll love falling asleep to the sound of the ocean and having million-dollar views out your window for a very low cost!

This might blow your mind, but did you know that social media can be used for more than looking at photos of babies and cats or funny GIFS and memes? In fact, Instagram has shockingly become one of our favorite “tools” for RV life. It’s much more than just an app that our thumbs hit automatically each morning and mindlessly scroll through photos of our friends’ kids or what they ate for dinner.

We’ve been surprised by how much Instagram has helped us with full-time RVing. So, whether you’re a social media addicted millennial like us or not, we’ll tell you all the great ways it can help.

Travel Inspiration

Instagram is a great place to help you choose which destinations to visit. We all have bucket-list spots that we can’t wait to visit, but sometimes it’s the unique places you’ve never even heard of that end up being the best. However, it has been known to cause FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) from looking at photos of incredible locations fellow travelers are in!

Added Grand Teton National Park to our travel route this year after seeing this awesome shot from our friends and fellow GoLife bloggers, Jon and Nadia (@roamingremodelers) from RoamingRemodelers.com.

We aren’t always brave enough to go off the beaten path to find the less touristy, remote locations. That’s why we let others do that work for us, then copy them later! Many traveling Instagrammers will tag their photos in the locations they were taken in. At the top of the photo, you’ll see the location and if you click on it, you can see where it is on a map, as well as other photos taken from that same location.

Finding Spots to Park

There are tons of great resources out there for finding the best places to park your RV. When we first hit the road full-time we mainly relied on sites like Campendium and apps like AllStays. While we still use those tools, we’ve added Instagram to our repertoire and have found some of our favorite boondocking spots and campgrounds.

Finding great spots to park your rig using Instagram is similar to finding locations to visit. It can happen organically as you scroll through and look at the photos of other RVers you follow. When you see their RV parked in a great waterfront or mountain view site, you can see if they tagged the location or not. If not, comment on the photo or private message them and ask!

instatgram as a tool for rvingHere’s an example of how we tagged Tiger Run RV Resort in a photo of our beautiful RV site.

Another way we use Instagram to find RV spots though, is by searching hashtags. For example, you can type #californiacamping into the search bar and get thousands of photos taken from various camping spots in California.

Or, let’s say you found a campground or RV park on Campendium, AllStays, or Google, but want to see more photos. Search for that park’s Instagram handle and see what photos they have or photos people have tagged them in.

Not all parks will have an Instagram account, but sometimes it comes in handy to get an extra peek at what the park looks like before showing up.

instagram as a tool for rvingLook at these awesome RV parks’ Instagram accounts! Their photos make you want to stay there, right? Lake George Cabins & RV Park wasn’t even listed on Campendium! But, look how beautiful it is! And, we’ve actually stayed at Camp Coeur d’Alene – the managers are always out taking photos of the park and campers for their social media accounts!

Making and Meeting Up with Friends

Social media is absolutely the best way we’ve been able to meet new friends on the road. Since travelers are always tagging their locations, it’s easy to see who is in the same place as you. We send and receive messages all the time from RVers who want to grab coffee and hang out! It’s also fun to keep track of where your friends are at and sometimes we’ve changed our route in order to cross paths with them!

instagram as a tool for rvingThe message thread… which led to the in-person meetup.

Knowing What to Do When We Arrive

We also love when we get messages from people when we are in their favorite locations or their hometown. We get awesome restaurant, hiking, and activity suggestions all over the place without having to do any research. If we see people in Colorado or any other places we are really familiar with, we will offer up the same suggestions.

instagram as a tool for rvingThey recommended… we listened!

So next time you start to feel guilty for spending too much time scrolling through Instagram on your phone, just consider it research for your next awesome home base. It suddenly feels more productive that way. Plus, it’s worth the “wasted time” when you arrive in beautiful locations, pull up to a scenic site, and get to connect with amazing people. Sometimes, though, it’s perfectly okay to keep some spots to yourself, disconnect for a bit, and relax in nature. After all, that is the best benefit of RVing.

Don’t forget to follow @WinnebagoRVs on Instagram for more travel inspiration and tips. And use #winnebagolife for a chance to have your photos featured!

Winter camping can be just as fun, but also presents unique challenges that you don’t have to deal with during the summer. We recently took our first winter camping trip to Breckenridge, CO, and discovered we weren’t ready for all those challenges. We had a great time, but we ran into our fair share of RV issues that made the experience, shall we say, even more memorable.

Over the last six weeks, we have spent nearly every night in the RV with freezing temperatures, and in that time, we’ve learned the ins-and-outs of cold weather camping the hard way. Since no one told us what to do, we’re going to tell you what NOT to do. We hope this will help you to avoid some of the mistakes we made!

winter rving tips

DON’T leave your regular fresh water hose connected.

To seasoned RVers, this is probably the most obvious (and avoidable) mistake you can make – but we made it nonetheless. We showed up and saw other people hooked up so we assumed that we could hook up too. In the morning, we woke up to a frozen hose! That’s not the way you want to start your day!

Solution: Use a heated hose or rely on your freshwater tank.

If you want to hook up to a water supply while camping in freezing temperatures, you’ll need a heated fresh water hose to prevent the water in the hose from freezing. You may also need to protect or insulate the box/pipe at the water’s source. This likely will depend on how common freezing temperatures are at the park you’re staying in. Campgrounds and RV parks located in destinations where freezing temperatures are common, will likely have found a way to mitigate the risk of freezing pipes.

Another option is to simply fill your fresh water tank and rely on that to provide water during your stay. This is what we’ve decided to do during our winter adventures. Since our water tank is located in the slide, as long as the RV is heated, the water in the tank will not freeze.

DON’T assume that your water lines won’t freeze if the RV is being heated.

When we purchased our RV, we specifically discussed winter camping since we’re from Colorado. The dealer assured us that we would have nothing to worry about because the plumbing is inside the coach. We were told that as long as the coach is heated, the water lines will not freeze. So, it was a rude 3:00 am awakening in Breckenridge when Dan went to use the restroom and discovered we had frozen water lines. What we found out in the morning was that the dealer forgot to mention the exposed water lines that run behind the un-insulated water tank fill-up compartment. In extremely cold temperatures, this exposed portion of the lines can freeze even when the RV is heated.

winter rving tips

Solution: Put a heat lamp in the water compartment.

After doing some research, we found a great solution to prevent the exposed water lines in the fill-up compartment from freezing. Putting a 150W heat lamp in the water compartment will provide enough heat to keep it from freezing, without melting any of the plastic in the enclosed compartment. On really cold nights, we turn that lamp on and let it run through the night. Since setting up the heat lamp, we haven’t had a single issue with our water lines freezing.

DON’T underestimate the power of a hair dryer.

If you experience freezing of any kind, hopefully just thawing out will resolve your problem. But, a heat gun is a great tool to quickly unthaw freezes in small areas. We didn’t have a heat gun, but we did have a hair dryer. Ten to fifteen minutes of concentrated heat on the pipes and we were back in business! Depending on your rig’s height, outdoor propane heaters can also be great to thaw out larger areas (especially for trailers that have water lines running under the subfloor).

DON’T forget that waste tanks can freeze too.

Through a real “crappy” situation, we learned that tank heaters are not always enough. Although they did a great job of keeping the actual tanks from freezing, the pipe extending from the tank, although very short, along with the valves, can easily freeze. To remedy this, we purchased a few boards of insulation and skirted just the back end of our RV. We placed a heater inside the insulated enclosure to thaw out the valves and keep them from freezing up again so we could dump.

winter rving tips

DON’T forget to read your manual.

This was one thing we actually did right. In reading our Navion’s manual, we discovered that the water heater is only rated to operate down to -4 degrees. This required us to drain/winterize the water heater on extra cold nights. We also learned that you should turn the water heater off while driving, which meant we also had to drain the water heater before we hit the road on travel days with below freezing temperatures.

DON’T let the cold winter temperatures keep you from RVing.

We’ve enjoyed less crowded RV parks and campgrounds, being parked near ski slopes and sledding hills, and snuggling up inside our cozy home on wheels to stay warm at night.

winter rving tips

And now you know what NOT to do to ensure you’re prepared for freezing temperatures in your RV. Stay warm out there…we’re headed to Florida now!

Eleven months ago, we embarked on our journey as full-time RVers. It was a challenging leap, but we quickly realized that the lifestyle was exactly what we were looking for. However, after towing a 12-year-old fifth wheel over 11,000 miles in only seven months, it became time to find a new RV. Our “starter RV” had reached its limit.

Deciding on a Class C

We spent the next four months visiting RV dealerships, test driving, talking to current RV owners, and spending more time than we’d like to admit on RVTrader. And on most days, this process left us feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, and tired.

Then, just like that, the entire search came to an end. We walked into a Navion “just to see what it looked like inside” and a week later we were the proud owners of Wanda, our 2018 Navion 24D. (Watch our pick-up day video).

The funny thing was, we never thought we would buy a class C. We loved our fifth-wheel and when we first made the decision to get a new RV, we immediately wanted to purchase the Grand Design Reflection. But after further thought, we decided we wanted a motorhome instead.

We wanted easier travel days because we travel often, and we were tired of the extra steps involved with setting up our home base when we arrived in new places. So, for those reasons and several others, we then set our hearts on a Class A gas. The Vista LX 27N and Vista LX 30T were our top choices.

Another twist was that we absolutely did not want to buy brand new. Nearly every RVer we spoke with advised against it. The depreciation, the issues that new models can have in the first two years, etc. etc…we heard it all.

I think you get the point…the 2018 Winnebago Navion 24D was everything we thought we didn’t want. We had been in several other similar models and would immediately walk out while saying “there’s no way we could live in that!” But our reaction when stepping in the 24D was completely different.

Here are the features that stole our hearts:

The Kitchen

The 24D has an unbelievable kitchen. There is so much counter space for a small coach that you have to see it to believe it. In fact, we have more counter space than we had in our 30-ft , and more than we would have had in the LX 30T. Also, the kitchen comes with an actual pantry with sliding drawers! This is a wonderful, and often overlooked feature. Our last RV had a decent-sized pantry, but we’d use a flashlight and a step stool to look for things that were in the far back. We never thought we could love a pantry so much!

The Murphy Bed

The 24D features an automatic murphy bed, allowing you to have both a queen size bed and a couch. When the bed is up, the coach feels very spacious and provides plenty of places for people to sit down! Then at night, the space transforms into a cozy bedroom with the touch of a button. There is space to walk around all sides of the bed, and even night stands and overhead storage!

Another benefit of the murphy bed is that there is enough space behind the mattress for your pillows and blankets. Therefore, you don’t have to strip your bed each day. You simply pull the covers up, retract it. and everything will be ready for you when you want to bring the bed back down. The mattress is fairly comfortable too, so we don’t feel like we are making a sacrifice to have a bed like this.

The Maneuverability

When we had our fifth wheel, we were so envious of other RVers who could pull off the road at any point to look at views and park nearly anywhere they wanted to go. Now, we’re those people! We are continually blown away by the Navion’s maneuverability.

Since we purchased the RV a couple weeks ago, we have “moochdocked” in a family members driveway, parked on the street while visiting someone in the hospital, navigated rush hour traffic (without our knuckles turning white), made a U-turn in a busy intersection, and have yet to find a grocery store or parking lot where we can’t fit easily. The Navion is so easy to drive and gives us much more flexibility than we had with our fifth wheel!

The Sprinter Chassis

We loved that the Navion is powered by the Mercedes Sprinter Chassis. The 3.00 L turbo-diesel engine provides plenty of power and should run for many, many years to come. So, while we didn’t want to buy brand new, we felt it was a much better investment than most other RVs.

The MPGs

When we towed our fifth wheel with our ¾ ton pickup truck, we’d be lucky if we averaged 8 MPGs. We’ve already put over 600 miles on the Navion and we have averaged 14.9 MPG! We haven’t towed anything yet, so we’re not sure if that will make a big difference or not. But so far, the Navion gets as good (if not better) gas mileage than our truck did when we weren’t towing. It’s amazing to be able to drive your home down the road and get that type of fuel economy!

Quality of Furniture

We both work full time from our RV and were really nervous about the dinette being our office space. We could tell that the dinette cushions were well made and comfortable, but we weren’t sure how we would feel after sitting there and working for eight hours. You really can’t determine that until you’ve given it a try, so that was a risk we took.

We are so happy to report that the cushions remain comfortable, even after a long work day! It’s actually a really nice space to work as you can look out the window and there is plenty of space on the table for all of our computer and work equipment. Not only that, there are multiple workstations with the 24D. With the detachable table that can fit in front of the couch or between the driver and passenger seat, we’ve enjoyed working from those areas as well.

Travel Days

As we mentioned, the main reason we switched to a motorhome from a fifth wheel was to simplify our travel days. With the Navion, travel days are SO much better. We simply pull in the slide, put away the hoses, start the engine and we’re off! The best part is that one of us can work while we travel, get a snack, or use the restroom. The dogs can even sleep or move around comfortably instead of being cramped in the back of the truck.

The Navion is also really easy to drive. It feels no different than driving a large SUV or truck. Compared to towing the 30-ft fifth wheel, driving the Navion is a walk in the park!

Sleeping Capacity

Although we downsized to 26 feet, our Navion can sleep more people than our fifth wheel could. With the loft, dinette that makes into a bed, and the murphy bed, the Navion easily sleeps six people, whereas our fifth wheel only slept three! Having the ability to sleep more people will allow us to take our nieces and nephews on camping trips or have family members visit us on the road!

We couldn’t be happier with our decision to buy the Navion. A motorhome is a much better fit for our lifestyle. Even though it’s a much smaller living space for us, the benefits outweigh the sacrifices. The maneuverability, convenience in travel days, and comfortability is unbeatable.

It’s clear that the Navion 24D was designed with RVers like us in mind. We chose the lifestyle for the freedom, flexibility, and travel and the Navion supports that in every way. We don’t miss the space we had in our fifth wheel because the floorplan of the Navion was designed in a way that provides maximum livability.

Well, there you have it. That’s the love story between us and “Wanda the Winnebago”. We are so excited to continue to “Wanda” around the country with her and feed our “Wanda-lust”. We’ve all heard the phrase, “not all who wander are lost”, but now, we say, “not all who Wanda are lost” because we’re so glad Wanda found us!

You can read more from Lindsay & Dan on their blog, FollowYourDetour.com.

Learn More about the Winnebago Navion

We had just arrived in Maine after driving over 2,200 miles in two weeks and we were so excited to chase the fall leaves down the east coast. As we were following directions to the RV park in Bar Harbor, that we had made a month reservation at, we received the call.

It seemed like time had stopped. We pulled over to take it all in. Dan’s mother called to share that she had just been diagnosed with the dreaded c word…cancer.

Our small, quick taste of fall in Bar Harbor, Maine.

All our excitement turned into what seemed like a million different emotions. First, we were in shock and total sadness. During the next week as we received more details about the diagnosis, we would go back and forth between feeling hopeful to fearful. We also felt disappointment and anger. We knew we were going to need to return home and that crushed us, too. That led to feeling selfish and guilty for even caring about our travel plans being ruined at a time like this.

We made the long trek back home to Colorado Springs that following week. The moment we walked in the door and hugged Dan’s mom, we knew we had made the right decision. We will never regret the decision to come home and be by her side. In fact, we realized how fortunate we are to have the ability to be here during this time.

Full-time RVing has allowed us to create a flexible lifestyle. We knew we wanted a lifestyle that made full-time travel and working from the road possible. But, we didn’t know the other benefits that would also come along. We realized that the ability to be there for family at any time and however long we need to be, topped that list of full-time RV life benefits. If we were still living and working in Raleigh, NC, like we were last year, it would not have been possible for us to be home when our family needs us the most.

Our nephews were sure happy to see us!

We know we aren’t the only ones who face family matters while on the road. The decision to return home is not easy. While we now know it was the right choice, it felt like we were giving up our life. But, we’ve found ways to make returning home for a family emergency not only manageable, but enjoyable.

Here are some tips, in case you’re ever faced with a similar situation:

Be Prepared.

Nobody likes to think about or plan for unfortunate situations that may arise, but it’s absolutely necessary. Just because you’ve chosen the freedom of a home on wheels, doesn’t mean you are free from life’s unexpected turns. Have a plan for yourself and/or your family. What if the emergency is very sudden and you need to be home quickly? Will you fly home? Where will you leave your RV? What about your pets? It’s important to think through these things.

Another way couples need to be prepared is ensuring that both people know how to fully operate and tow the RV. If something happened that required one person to fly home in a rush, the other person needs to be able to handle the RV. You might choose to store the RV or drive it home, to allow for an extended stay and the ability to bring your pets. Either way, you can’t risk getting into a situation where your options of getting home are limited due to one person’s inability to operate the RV.

Don’t stay with family.

You may or may not have a family member with a house that has ample parking space for your rig. Either way, we suggest not parking your RV there or in storage and crashing in the guest bedroom of your relatives. This may be difficult for your family to understand, but do it anyway. Your RV, despite other’s perspectives, is your home. Why should you have to move out of your home? You purposely chose the lifestyle to always be home, yet also to never be home, as complicated as that sounds.

We made this mistake our first visit “home” after hitting the road full-time. We quickly realized that next time we returned, we would stay at the nearest RV park instead of storing our RV and staying with family. Although it depends on how long your stay is, we felt as though we moved out of our RV then moved back in. It was not convenient having belongings in multiple places and going back and forth to storage for items we left in the RV.

Staying with family makes it feel as though your life in the RV is not sustainable. It also appears that way to your family members, who may already have varying opinions of your lifestyle. We’ve also found that staying in your RV instead of with family also prevents the feelings that your life’s “on hold” while you’re home for family matters. You can keep your usual routines, which helps tremendously while going through a difficult time.

Continue to find adventure.

One of the reasons nearly everybody chooses to RV full-time is to travel and explore. Many people would agree that RVing has led them to develop a deeper love for adventure and the outdoors. So, just because you’ve had to temporarily take a break from the road to tend to your family, doesn’t mean you should give up the adventure too.

We both lived in Colorado for more than 30 years before we became full-time RVers. However, we’ve made it a point to still enjoy the beauty that our hometown has to offer, regardless of how many times we’ve seen it and taken it for granted. Almost every day, we are finding new hikes and activities, or enjoying old ones. This has helped us tremendously in dealing with the fact that we are going to be stationary for a bit.

As for Dan’s mom, she couldn’t be happier that we are able to be by her side. But what makes her even happier is that her situation hasn’t completely derailed our life. Although cancer impacts the entire family, we’ve been able to keep our life stable and that has been comforting for both us and the family. It’s one less thing for everyone to worry about. It is so important to try to keep doing the things in life that make you happy. That will always be Dan’s mother’s greatest wish for us.

We hope that these tips will help you if you are ever faced with unexpected and unfortunate family news that requires you to head home and/or postpone your travel plans. It’s never easy to face such circumstances, but it can be especially challenging when living and traveling full-time in an RV. However, the flexibility of RV life enables you to be wherever you need to be for however long. When it comes to being there for family, that is priceless!

Articles like this one from CNBC about how millennials are changing the RV industry have been buzzing around lately. Hashtags, such as #vanlife, #rvlife and #homeiswhereyouparkit are all the rage on social media. No matter what platform you use, you’ve likely seen a flood of photos of RVers in some of America’s most popular camping spots. Epic shots of RVs under the Milky Way, or parked in places that look as if there’s no one else in sight for miles and miles. Even the New Yorker featured this story, calling van life a “social media movement.” Only time will tell if this trend will continue, or if full-time RVing is just the latest “fad”.

As a young couple in our early 30s traveling full-time in our fifth-wheel, we’re a part of the statistics. Despite the rise of younger RVers, it can be challenging fitting into the RV community. We’ve heard everything from “you’re too young” and “you’re not retired yet, how are you full-timers?” to “how long are you on this trip.” While RV life started out as an escape or an exciting adventure for us, it has quickly become so much more. RVing has truly become a way of life that is much more than just a cool Instagram feed or alternative lifestyle. It has completely transformed the direction of our life. Much like an RV symbolizes freedom, it has allowed us the freedom to explore new passions that we may have never pursued otherwise.

Here’s our millennial perspective on why we’ve chosen a life on the road.

Suburbia wasn’t for us.

We purchased our first home in a suburb of Denver, CO. During this time, the market was on the rise and we couldn’t afford to buy anything remotely close to the city. But, it was the perfect starter home and we pictured ourselves raising a family and building beautiful memories. However, we quickly found ourselves questioning why this was the so-called “American dream.”

Many of our weekends were spent doing dreaded yard work and various household chores. We were far from any of our favorite restaurants, many of our friends, and local events and activities. We felt constrained by our mortgage and were struggling to afford the travel lifestyle we once had as renters. In fact, we started spending money accumulating material things to fill the house that we discovered was more space than we even needed. Yet, we were working hard at our jobs day in and day out to pay for this life that wasn’t bringing us the happiness we expected.

Financially smart.

Like many millennials, we were buried in student loan debt. So, piling on a mortgage felt debilitating. When we sold our house in the suburbs and discovered we could pay off the remaining balance of our student loans with the profit, we were ecstatic. Come to find out though, renting isn’t much less expensive than a mortgage and it’s not exactly the greatest investment either. So, purchasing an RV as our home in cash and being nearly debt free made perfect sense to us. It was the best financial decision we could’ve made and in fact, allowed Lindsay to leave a career she was unhappy in and pursue new business ventures.

In addition to eliminating debt, we’ve been able to lower our cost of living entirely. RV life can be as expensive or inexpensive as you want it to be. With free places to park all around the country, the ability to stay in places for weeks at a time to avoid the cost of gas, and the opportunity to do more free activities in nature, it’s much easier to save money. To top it all off, we’re doing even more of what we love … traveling! It’s a win-win.

Living to the fullest.

Without sounding too cliché and using yet another millennial term like ‘YOLO’ (short for “You Only Live Once”), we’ll just say that RVing full-time has helped us determine what we want out of life. It’s allowed us to get out of the bubble that societal pressures have placed us in. RVing has eliminated the meaningless clutter in our lives and freed up more of our time for more meaningful activities. It has brought us so much joy along with a greater appreciation and healthy perspective towards our country. We’ve gained so much from this lifestyle that we are now committed to giving back. We’ve began to volunteer in the places we’re visiting now, making the lifestyle that much more rewarding.

As you can see, the decision to sell nearly all of our belongings, learn everything about RVs the hard way, leave behind our close-knit families, and take the leap of faith into full-time RV living, was much more than just a “fad” to us. Sure, we participate 100% in the social media and digital craze, after all we are millennials. But, we’re confident that our “entitled,” “lazy” generation is actually on to something. Behind all those YouTube videos and Facebook posts, are people who are going back to basics. The new American dream is full of experiences over wealth, location independence over stability, and living tiny to achieve big dreams and an RV allows just that. For those reasons, we’re definitely in for the long haul.

Read more from Lindsay & Dan McKenzie on their blog, Follow Your Detour.

Learn More about the Winnebago Fifth Wheel

We recently made our first visit back home to Colorado after transitioning to full-time RVers. We had been on the road in our fifth wheel for 3 months, but knew very early on in the journey that we loved RV life. In fact, it was a no-brainer for us to take the leap into the lifestyle. We knew that traveling full-time while still having the comforts of home, and our 2 dogs, would be a dream for us. What we didn’t expect were the surprising benefits that come along with full-time RVing.

The funny thing is, we weren’t even aware of these benefits until we spent the past three weeks away from our RV while staying with family. We fully anticipated missing our life on the road, but were surprised that some of the things we miss the most, have nothing to do with traveling and exploring our beautiful country (although, we of course miss that too). We’ve fallen even more in love with our RV life now that we’ve had time to truly reflect on how it has impacted us.

After only 3 months, we are fully committed to sustaining our life on the road for as long as possible and here are five reasons why.

1. The social community we’ve gained.

One of our biggest concerns when we chose RV life was that we would get lonely. We both come from big families and are social people. However, we’ve been blown away by the RV community both through social media and right inside the campgrounds and RV parks we’ve visited. We’ve enjoyed several campfire chats with people from all over the world, double-dates with other RV couples, and many friendly neighbors who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

However, the community that has really surprised us lies in the digital world. Yes, we know this sounds crazy, but it’s true. We receive so much support, RVing tips, and inspiration through Facebook and Instagram. Whether it’s in a Facebook group or through Instagram comments and photos, we’ve connected with so many awesome people. The best part is that these people share the same mindset as us, which is important when you’ve chosen to live an “alternative lifestyle.” Having a community of people who truly understand why we chose the lifestyle and all that it entails, is extremely valuable.

2. Our ambition, creativity, and motivation have flourished.

For a long time, RVing full-time was just a dream of ours. Something we thought we would do “someday.” Once we finally took the steps necessary to achieve this dream, it made us feel so much more ambitious to explore other dreams. It’s amazing how once you get past your fears and uncertainties to achieve one dream, you feel fearless and confident to chase other dreams.

We are so determined to sustain RV life that we’ve developed an entrepreneurial spirit inside of us. Working from the RV surrounded by beauty gets our creative juices flowing and because we have more time to ourselves, we are much more productive. Dan is much more efficient in his full-time job too. He’s determined to stay focused and finish his work so he can have plenty of time to explore later. Since being back in our hometown and out of the RV for a bit, we’ve noticed a dramatic difference in this area. We are itching to get back on the road and back in our rhythm.

3. Our overall mental health and well-being has greatly improved.

Think about a time you were on vacation watching the sunset from the beach, or enjoying a peaceful hike to an incredible overlook. Did you feel relaxed? Did you feel like you had escaped away from the daily challenges that typically stress you out? Did you feel more alive? Now, imagine feeling this way on a daily or weekly basis, rather than a few times a year. Imagine being able to feel all those wonderful things by simply stepping outside your home and walking right into it.

While you can’t escape life and there will always be challenges to face, the simplicity of the RV lifestyle combined with being closer to nature, makes your troubles seem smaller and much more manageable. Or maybe it’s that your perspective on life changes. Or the fact that you have less household and yard work duties, no commute and no negative office environment, less junk and more once-in-a-lifetime experiences. RV life has brought us so much authentic happiness and peace.

4. We’ve strengthened our marriage.

We’ve always found that traveling brings us closer together. We weren’t sure if that would still be the case if we were traveling full-time. We also worried that we would actually get sick of each other being confined to a much smaller space. It’s been the opposite for us.

Being just the two of us, outside of our comfort zone, away from distractions has been the best thing for us. The happiness and contentment that RVing has brought us has allowed us to be the best versions of ourselves. This allows us to be a better, more supportive, compassionate, and overall loving partner to one another.

We love the memories we are making together and the time we share disconnected from technology and connected to nature instead. Being in new environments and having to learn new things, has allowed us to grow tremendously as individuals and as a couple. RV life has also brought us new challenges that have required us to rely on each other in different ways.

5. Our RV has truly become our home.

Prior to our full-time RV lifestyle, we had sold our first house and were looking for a new one. So, our “wish list” changed dramatically when we went from shopping for a 1,500-square-foot renovated downtown bungalow to a 30-foot fifth wheel. We just assumed that having a “real home” was a sacrifice we’d have to make in order to enjoy the freedom and experiences of RVing.

We couldn’t have been more wrong. In fact, in many ways, this has been one of our favorite homes that we’ve lived in. All those cliché sayings, “home is wherever I’m with you”, “home is where the heart is”, “home is where we park it”, are actually true! Our definition of home has completely changed and no longer has anything to do with the size, items inside, or location. Home, in our opinion, is just a place where you can feel safe, loved, and comfortable to be yourself and experience relaxation and happiness. An RV, therefore, is the perfect home for us!

We are so grateful for the time we’ve had to spend with our loved ones and reflect on our transition to full-time RV living. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to pack up and bring your home anywhere. We look forward to always being home, while still being in our home, for holidays and special events. But for now, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover and a lot of livin’ to do!

Read more about Lindsay & Dan McKenzie on their blog, Follow Your Detour.