By Michele Herrmann, Jessie on a Journey Contributor
Could you imagine downsizing your life, packing up your belongings and traveling full-time by RV?
That’s exactly what Marc and Julie Bennett did, documenting their journey on their blog RVLove, as well as their entertaining and informative YouTube channel. Since 2014 the Bennetts have traveled to all of the lower 48 states plus Hawaii — with Alaska on the horizon — driven over 50,000 miles and visited more than half of the 59 national parks.
And it’s not only US travel by RV, either. They’ve walked across the border into Mexico and explored Australia. Next up: Europe in 2017.
Jessie on a Journey spoke with the couple about RVing, particularly how they ensure a safe and smooth ride. Read on to get inspired. Note: Answers are jointly shared by Marc and Julie.
1. Why made you choose to RV as a lifestyle?
Each year, we make a point of sitting down and taking the time to focus on what we want to create for our lives in the years ahead. Then we start putting steps in place to make our dreams and goals happen.
When discussing what was most important to us, it became very clear that travel was dominating the conversation. We both had a deep desire to travel more, but we had our eight-year-old labradoodle, Coda, to consider — we don’t have kids, so she was our baby. While overseas travel appealed to us, we knew it wasn’t practical with a dog, so we decided to focus on U.S. travel instead.
In October 2013, we started talking seriously about buying and moving into an RV, traveling the country while we worked.
2. How did you choose an RV?
We remembered having an inspiring encounter with a Floridian full-time RV couple in the summer of 2011. From there, the idea of living in an RV quickly transpired into an ideal solution for us to combine work, travel and quality time together. We chose a used 2012 Class A motorhome — like a bus. It’s 36 feet long and has four slide outs, which makes it pretty roomy inside when we are parked. Almost three years later, our choice of RV continues to be ideal for our needs.
3. How does traveling by and living in an RV shape your travels?
Because RVs aren’t insulated at the same level as a stick and brick house, our travels are almost always determined by the weather. Like most RVers, we head north in the summer and south in the winter. We also like visiting places at their optimal time of year weather-wise, and prefer to visit popular places during off-season when crowds are fewer and campground fees are often lower. The beauty is we have wheels, so we can go where we like, whenever we like!
Part of all life – not just traveling by RV life – is about finding ways to deal with challenges and obstacles. As an RVer you have to learn pretty quickly to be flexible and go with the flow. Stuff is going to happen so you may as well embrace it as part of the adventure.
Instead on focusing on the problem, we try to find a solution. Having a positive, optimistic, troubleshooting attitude is a great advantage. When you live in a small space like in an RV with a partner, you’re only going to succeed by being a team. You really have to pull together to work through challenges.
4. Do you ever feel the need to stay put in a certain area?
We try to stay in one location for two-to-three weeks at a time. This way we can properly explore the area while also having downtime for ourselves.
That being said, sometimes we move at a faster pace and stay only a few days or a week. While this can be fun and you see a lot, it also gets pretty tiring, especially as we’re still working full-time. In 2016, we only had a couple of three-week stints in one location, and we loved being able to stay still for a while and catch our breath.
During winter, we will stay in an area for longer periods. For example, we spent last winter in Florida, and this winter we’re in the desert southwest — mainly Arizona and southern California; but, we do move from place to place every couple of weeks in the general area.
5. Do you ever take breaks from traveling by RV?
In 2016, we had taken a few breaks from the road. In March, we flew to Australia for a month. We also took a “forced break” when our RV went in for repair for five days. During this time we flew to Colorado to visit family over Thanksgiving.
In December we flew to Maui, Hawaii — our 49th state visited — for nine days for an actual vacation. We stayed in hotels and rented a car to explore the island. It was great to really get away and have a very different experience. But by its end, we were also glad to get back to our RV life, our own beds and comforts of home. We love that we can truly have the best of both worlds whenever we choose.
6. What misconceptions do you find the public has about traveling by RV?
I think many people don’t realize just how homey, modern and spacious many RVs really are! I’m sure many people imagine we are roughing it – crammed into a box on wheels – when we actually have a really lovely, livable home. Most people are surprised when they walk inside our RV. The first comment is usually “Oh, it’s so spacious!” They soon realize how livable it really is.
7. While traveling by RV is known in the USA, do you find it overseas as well?
The RVing community is huge in the USA; probably much bigger than most folks would ever imagine. It was certainly an eye-opener for us. We have excellent roads here and so many incredible places to see with national parks and state parks galore. There are also thousands of campgrounds and many remote dry camping locations where you can park your RV and stay for free.
While we haven’t RVed in Australia, New Zealand or Europe yet, RVing — caravanning/camping as it’s called down under — is also popular, though not on the scale as it is here in the States. Roads are much narrower in Australia, New Zealand, and Europe too — which limits the size and options for RVs. We are very lucky here for sure, as the American RVing community is very well catered to in terms of RVs, roads, and campgrounds.
We do eventually plan to expand our RV life internationally and look forward to sharing more about that experience when we do.
8. How are you able to maintain an income while traveling by RV?
Marc is unusual in that he has a full-time, 40-hour-per-week job for a company based out of Texas. More than half of their employees work remotely, so it was an easy transition for Marc, who gets a regular salary, benefits, and paid vacation time.
Julie is self-employed so her schedule is more flexible. She produces all of the written, photographic and video content for our RVLove website and YouTube channel. Additionally she’s working on a book and does lifestyle coaching for a handful of clients.
All of this combined brings us a few smaller streams of income, which we hope to see grow over the coming years.
9. How do you handle issues that come up when traveling by RV?
With a combination of flexibility, patience and planning! Some things we can plan for – like grocery shopping, laundry and refueling the RV. It’s easy enough to find local supermarkets and supplies, plus we use Amazon a lot. Their two-day Amazon Prime service is a must for RVers, and we can receive deliveries at most campgrounds. We do laundry every couple of weeks in the campground laundry and can usually do three-four loads at a time, which is really efficient. We aim to fill our RV mostly at truck stops which are better equipped to handle larger, taller vehicles. You definitely have to think and plan ahead, that’s for sure!
We’ve never had an issue with safety or felt at risk, but we are mindful and use common sense. Plus Marc is a former police officer, so he’s got a real sense for any potentially unsafe or dubious situations. Breakdowns are something we can’t usually plan for, but that’s where we just need to get resourceful and stay focused on problem-solving. We have roadside assistance as well, which is a must. The few times we’ve needed to leave the coach in a shop for repair for more than a day, we will usually stay in a hotel or with friends/family if there are any nearby.
10. What’s your best piece of advice for someone wanting to get into RVing?
Take the time to do your homework and research at least six months — though ideally a year — in advance. There is so much to consider, learn and do in preparation of traveling by RV. There’s no rush and if you plan properly and “get it right” early on, you can save yourself a lot of headaches and money. Start online, read plenty of blogs and watch YouTube videos to see what does (and doesn’t) work from other RVers out there doing it.
There are countless ways to thrive in the RV lifestyle; but you’ll get off to a stronger start with more confidence if you have a plan. You’ll want to have budgeted and mapped out the key elements in advance. That frees up time, energy and money so you can kick back and really enjoy the journey and, of course, start heading to those amazing destinations!
Have you ever tried traveling by RV? Please share your experiences in the comments below!
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