Living in a motorhome is different in many ways than camping in a motorhome. There is no more loading and unloading now that everything stays in our “camper house”. Everything we have is with us, so there’s no wondering “did we bring this or that”, or forgetting something we needed. We have gotten so good at breaking camp, or setting up camp-we can do either in about 15 minutes; another few minutes to hook up the Jeep behind. If we stay somewhere for only a night, we try to get a pull thru site and don’t unhook the Jeep; that makes for a fast getaway. Unless we are going to stay a week or longer, we don’t get any outdoor decorations out. We use a small rug outside and take off our shoes when we go inside.
Our meals are simple, and we buy groceries every few days, as we don’t have much room in our small fridge. It works out better than we expected. We go to Farmers Markets, whole food stores, or co-ops whenever we can; so we are spending a little more on our food but it is better food. We eat meals out sometimes when we are on the go; other times we pack a lunch and we always take beverages with us. We have cut down on meals out as we were spending too much at first. It was fun not having to cook, but so many groceries have a deli and sometimes after a long day we pick something up to take home which is cheaper than eating out.
We can go about a week between trips to the laundromat; and if we stay in a private campground most have laundry facilities. It is costing us more that we thought it would to do our laundry. Anywhere from a low of $7 to $12 or more at some laundromats.
We find that our motorhome is cozy, and comfortable. The only time we feel cramped is if we stay indoors for a whole day or longer; but we do have the Jeep and can go somewhere if we need to. We buy books at Goodwills, and both of us will read if we stay inside. We don’t always have TV reception, especially when in the state parks, but when we do, will watch TV. If we don’t have TV reception, we can watch a DVD, read books, or just go outside if the weather is nice. We don’t actually spend all that much time inside, until it gets dark out.
It can be a real challenge to find reasonable campgrounds, especially now that some campgrounds are closed; it was easier before October 1st. We have found that joining Passport America (50% off campground club) was a good choice; only $44 a year and they have numerous campgrounds all over the US, Canada, and Mexico. They usually are near the more popular destinations; whereas the state, county, CORPS parks, or National Parks are often out of the way. We are averaging about $20 a night (which includes the private parks) so we are well within our budget for camping. Now that we are setup for two months in Arizona, we will be spending slightly less than that for November and December. Most parks will give a better rate for monthly or longer stays.
The biggest surprise for us was how expensive many areas are compared to living in Iowa. We have managed to stay on budget for the most part by taking advantage of free or low cost attractions; that way we can splurge occasionally and spend money on something we really want to do-like pay $24 for the two of us to drive to the summit at Pike’s Peak in Colorado. It is amazing how many attractions are free; or only a few dollars. Where we are staying now, we will likely spend even less because activities are included with our monthly rent. So far, we have found expenses in Apache Junction to be very similar to those in Iowa; although some items are cheaper. There are many farm markets here, so produce is much lower in price.
When you live in a camper, you are outside more, exposed to weather and insects and other inconveniences; there will be breakdowns, parts will fail, things go wrong. You have to be able to tolerate setbacks, deal with a certain amount of discomfort, and learn to go with the flow. It is very important to listen to the weather, to be prepared for changes in temperature, to know what the road conditions are, to anticipate problems, etc. We also have learned several valuable lessons; make sure the propane tank is kept at least half full (we almost ran out of propane a few weeks ago in cold weather), keep a close eye on how much gas is in the motorhome and how far it is to the next station, don’t pay too far ahead at a campground until you are sure you want to stay there, always take a jacket with you even if the weather is warm because the temperature can drop quickly in desert/mountain areas. And always have beverages and snacks with you when taking scenic byways or day trips, because it can be long distances between towns.
It has worked very well for us as far as getting around each area we visit. Our motorhome is our base of operations; the Jeep is our major form of transportation. We don’t drive the motorhome very far as it gulps the gas. We try not to travel more than 100 miles in a day; we took plenty of time to slowly make our way south. We are still working on making the transition from vacation travel and living to full time RV living. At first, we crammed too much into each day; we are learning to slow our pace. We still manage to get lost frequently when trying to find our way around in a strange town but the sense of urgency isn’t there as it would be if we were on “vacation” or had other time limitations.
When you are traveling, it can be a little intimidating to be surrounded by strangers most of the time. We are both still adjusting to living like gypsies, waking up each day to different scenery and a new way of life. While traveling south, staying a night or a few nights in each place we sometimes felt out of place. It was when we talked to the other campers, and took the time to learn something about them that we discovered how much we had in common. Almost everyone who enjoys camping, and particularly the fulltime or part time RVers has a common bond. We love this lifestyle, and once we sit around a campfire together we are no longer strangers. We have found it is more fun to travel in an RV than it is to travel by car and stay in motels. We become immersed in whatever area we are traveling. We take time to get to know the people, the history, and learn about the culture. It is never boring, and we are broadening our minds as well as our horizons.
For the most part we are enjoying our new life. Our motorhome feels like home to us now; it is so relaxing to get “home” after a day of sightseeing. Smoke is always so glad to see us; he is very good when we are gone. Although we have enjoyed each area we stay in, it was rather exciting to hit the road again as we traveled to our next destination. We have had a few setbacks; snowy and cold weather, some repairs we needed on the Jeep (luckily we got right in and it was nothing major), a bad fan motor on the front air conditioner (which will need to be repaired before summer), an electrical outage a couple of days ago which was caused by a faulty GFCI receptacle which we were able to install ourselves, and various loose screws and some weatherstripping that needed to be replaced.
Living for two months in Apache Junction will be another change of pace for us. We expect to get into “retirement mode” very quickly here. First of all, we will be surrounded by snowbirds; here in Meridian Park and also in this area. Secondly, we will have plenty of time to enjoy exploring this area, and won’t have to rush around. And lastly, we have already made several new friends and have been socializing with many of our neighbors who are happily retired. We are sure they will have a good influence on us.