10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Fulltime RVing

Lorraine and I met quite a few couples at the RV SuperShow last week in Tampa, many of them looking to buy their first coach to hit the road full-time in retirement.

Our first coach is closing in on the four-year mark and we have been full-timing for almost two years now. Here are a few things I wish I had known before making the transition to full-time RVing.

Don’t buy a new coach. Buy a gently used coach.

There is a significant depreciation cost in the first few years of ownership, easily into the hundreds of thousands if you buy into a mid-level or higher model of diesel pusher. We have met a surprisingly large number of people that decide the lifestyle is not for them after only a short period of time, often less than a year, and they sell their lightly used coach at a steep discount. We should have purchased one of their coaches and avoided the steep depreciation expense.

Bigger is better.

We constantly fight with our basement bays. We have a 40-foot diesel pusher. The bays are not as tall as the larger coaches and the storage space is more limited. I am generally going in and out of the basement bays on a daily basis. The bays are difficult to access and I am constantly playing Tetris with the things that we carry in our bay. The extra 4 to 5 feet of length of a bigger coach may not seem like much, but it is significant.

Canada is not like the United States.

It is far more difficult to full-time in a motorcoach in Canada. The weather makes it challenging to find a decent spot to park the coach in the shoulder months (April and November). There isn’t a single Class A Motorcoach resort in Canada. Most RV parks fall into the rustic category, not much more than a dirt field.

The lifestyle is expensive.

We spend more on the RV lifestyle in our coach than we did in our sticks and bricks house. When we factor in all of the various costs (fuel, insurance, maintenance, site fees) it is more expensive than we first thought. We spend at a level that we can afford but it is not any cheaper than how we were living beforehand.

There is always something going wrong.

We knew that the RV lifestyle would bring its own set of challenges. What we did not fully appreciate is just how many things do go wrong with a coach. Most of our issues have fallen into the minor category but the ownership experience is quite different from that of owning a house or a car. You have to learn as much as you can about the various systems and you need to be mechanically inclined. Either that or be prepared to spend a lot of money on RV repairs.

Dealers are not great at servicing.

If we were to buy new again, we would not worry about where we bought the coach. We would bid the configuration out to a number of dealers, get the best price and ensure that we included the factory delivery option. We would take our coach to the factory and/or to the chassis manufacturer for service. We would only use dealer servicing as a last resort.

The RV community is amazing.

We were initially a bit concerned about community. Would we make new friends? Would we have a sense of feeling at home? Would we tire of moving around? So far it has been a wonderful experience. We have experienced tremendous community and we have connected with so many terrific people in our travels.

Minimalism is rewarding.

We have everything we need inside our coach. We do not miss the house or the pile of stuff that we had collected over the past 40 years of marriage. It is hard to describe, but there is something liberating about not carrying around so much stuff.

No need to rush.

If nothing else, I wish I had known to take my time before we started out on the road. I have always been so driven in my career that I seemed to be in a constant state of rushing to achieve something in life. There are slow days in retirement and I have to remind myself that it is okay to spend time just chatting with friends or enjoying a long walk with Lorraine and Tabby (our golden retriever) or sitting outside enjoying the sun and reading a book. In fact, it is okay to take two weeks to drive down to Florida from Ontario. Or a month. Or two.

Life in our coach is so much better than I expected.

Decades of being an executive in large corporations taught me to live in a state of constant worry. To always be thinking about what might go wrong and how to plan accordingly. I carried that worry with me into this lifestyle. It has turned out to be so much better than I expected. Lorraine and Tabby have been patiently teaching me how to be content with life. And that is perhaps the best thing to know before going out on the road. You bring yourself into any context or situation. As we age, we need to be in the moment and we need to be optimistic. There will always be challenges in life. Being able to spend this time together in our beautiful coach enjoying wonderful friendships and experiences is such a blessing.

New Year’s Resolutions for RVers

It is time. Time to make those New Year’s resolutions. According to Time Magazine, these are the 10 most common New Year’s resolutions:

  • Lose Weight and Get Fit
  • Quit Smoking
  • Learn Something New
  • Eat Healthier and Diet
  • Get Out of Debt and Save Money
  • Spend More Time with Family
  • Travel to New Places
  • Be Less Stressed
  • Volunteer
  • Drink Less

There are numerous lists of New Year’s Resolutions for RVers, like this one from KOA:

  • Slow Down
  • Meet New People
  • Allow Room for Spontaneity
  • Buy That New RV You’ve Been Eyeing
  • Stay in Shape While RVing
  • Travel in the Off-Season
  • Make Your RV Travel Stress Free
  • Start a Travel Journal
  • Introduce a Friend to RVing
  • Take a Staycation
  • Expand Your Cooking Skills

I have a few to toss out there. Keep in mind that this comes from a retired guy. Fewer days ahead of me than those that have passed behind me.

Enjoy the Journey

It is such a blessing to be able to move freely about the country in a coach. I should enjoy every moment that I am behind the wheel driving our coach but I can get easily stressed with poor traffic conditions, bad weather and bad roads. I have to learn to let all of that go. It is part of the journey. I resolve to enjoy the journey even when the road gets bumpy. And I resolve to enjoy this journey of life.

Be Thankful 

If you come into this lifestyle, you know that it comes with its own set of issues and challenges. And it is not hard to let the issues overwhelm you. Especially if you have expectations that your coach is built to automotive quality levels (it isn’t) and that your ownership experience should be problem free (it won’t be). I resolve to start each day thankful.

Learn As Much As You Can

This includes learning as much as I can about our coach but also learning as much as I can about the world around me. We live in an age where we can dramatically increase our knowledge and understanding simply by searching the web and learning from the experiences of other people. Newton quoted this way back in 1675: If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. I resolve to learn as much as I can from the wisdom of others.

Face Challenges With Optimism

When issues emerge, particularly issues with our coach, my initial reaction is usually quite negative. Another problem? Really? The issue gets under my skin and I just want to get it resolved immediately. I may not be a doctor, but I know when I am losing my patience — I know, I know, a really bad pun. Issues often cause me to lose my patience. And yet, I find satisfaction in resolving issues. Invariably I learn more about the underlying system or technology, which is a benefit, and problem-solving is often a creative act. I resolve to face challenges and issues in a positive light and not let them get under my skin.

Give Something Back

One of the outstanding aspects of the RV lifestyle is the RV community. We have made many wonderful friendships in our travels. But it is too easy to take these friendships for granted and not spend the time developing our friendships. I can give something back through small tokens of appreciation, offering a helping hand, staying in touch and sharing knowledge and insight. I resolve to be a better friend to my friends.

The start of a new year and a new decade can be a time to reflect on exciting new opportunities for personal growth and development.

Happy New Year!

Back in Canada

Returned to Canada last Friday to play guitar for a few events. Between the travel, rehearsals, personal practice, and very late evenings, the past four days have been an absolute blur.

I am totally exhausted at this point. But with some amazing memories.

The highlight was last night’s event with Paul Baloche.

Paul is one of the top singer-songwriters in the Christian music community. His songs have been used extensively in the church including “Open the Eyes of My Heart”, “Hosanna”, “Your Name”, “Today Is the Day”, and “Above All”.

He was touring in Canada for a few days and I had the opportunity to fly up from Florida to join him and support him on electric guitar.

Here we are in the green room just before last night’s event.

And here is a group shot with the band:

I’m not able to post the production video and songs on this website but someone did pass along a clip of the last part of one tune where I had an extended guitar solo. The smartphone angle is from the opposite side of the stage so you won’t see me clearly but I suspect you will hear the guitar.

Still rockin’ at 62. Never too old!

I fly back to Florida tomorrow and I am playing again this weekend in the States. Too tired to work through the next set of tunes today. That will happen Thursday and Friday.

Someone told me that you must retire to something as opposed to from something. So thankful that I can still play and serve.

The weather in Canada has been dreadfully cold with some pretty severe snowstorms. So thankful to be able to spend winters down south with the sun and warmth.

One RV and Home Free

Another keynote done. My friends at the Hitch House had me back again to speak at their fall event on Saturday. Six hours of driving for the two-hour segment. And probably close to three days of prep work. But I do enjoy the process of creating and delivering a presentation.

I’ve pulled a few of the slides from the deck (I had 76 slides in total).

Always start a presentation with a catchy image and title as it will set a great tone for your story. This was the title slide.

An audience wants to connect with the speaker at a personal level. I like to share a few personal details to let the audience know that we are all in this together — trying to live life as best we can.

Spoke at length about our decision to sell our home and to travel full-time in our motorcoach. This was our house. We lived in the country on 7 acres. We had about 5,200 square feet of living space and almost 2,000 square feet between the two garages. We went from all that space to about 450 square feet in our coach. Quite the change.

This was the senior executive team from my corporate life. I’m the guy in the suit on the far right. I held senior technology roles in several of Canada’s largest financial services company over the past 35 years. I spent the last ten years of my career as the Chief Information Officer for this company. And I started to sense that it was time to consider retirement.

It was this book, Younger Next Year, that made me think about retirement. Coincidently, I had just turned sixty.

I took this shot in the Great Smoky Mountains. Sink Falls. A waterfall with someone going over the edge. That sound, the sound of the waterfall, the sound of mortality, was far more present in my life back when I was working. It still is today.

Inspiration to retire came from a variety of sources including Nikki and Jason Wynne. This was their advice to me.

We had started looking at coaches way back. In 2006. I still have the brochure on the Newmar Dutch Star from that year. It took ten years before we finally got one. This was definitely a process for us and it did not happen overnight.

To get to one RV we had a decision framework with a few major considerations.

Money

How much were we prepared to spend on this lifestyle? Not just the initial purchase but for life on the road.

Lifestyle

Weekender? Vacationer? Part-time (extended)? Full-time? What lifestyle would we take on? That lifestyle will have an influence on what type of RV we might consider.

Type

Based on budget and desired lifestyle, the type of RV is another decision factor. We always wanted a Class A although I’ve often debated about jumping into a Prevost conversion.

Brand

Which brand should we buy? The RV industry is highly consolidated with three companies holding almost 90 percent of the market (Thor, Forest River and Winnebago). All of them build their products using parts from a small number of suppliers. There is not as much differentiation between the brands if buying new as some might argue. All RVs will have issues. It comes with the lifestyle.

I did point out that there has been quite a drop in inventory. The RV industry shipped 487,893 units in 2018. The forecast is for 344,790 units in 2019. That is a drop of over 140,000 units.

New or Used

We bought new. If we were to do this again, we would buy gently used but here are the pros and cons.

 

Floorplan

What floorplan will work for us during this stage of our retirement? We had a few non-negotiable items for our coach: Class A at least 40-feet in length and equipped with two washrooms and a king-size bed. This is the floorpan of our current coach.

There was a lot more content shared in the session. Lots of audience interaction and I really enjoyed the time. I closed with another quote from Younger Next Year. The rest of our life can be great. We think it is awesome right now!

 

In a couple of weeks we arrive to our site in Florida. Good friends, sun, warmth and palm trees. Life doesn’t get much better than this. I shared this item with the audience. Lorraine and Tabby enjoying an amazing sunset view from the front of our coach.

And, after a couple of hours, the session was done. I slept well that night.

No Hut

Two years without a hut. We still get puzzled looks from some people when we let them know that we are currently home free. Home ownership is so deeply embedded in the Canadian culture that it almost goes without saying that, in Canada, a house is a wonderful investment. We always looked at housing as a place to live. Whenever I took the time to include all of the costs associated with owning a house, we never experienced a compelling return. Our houses did appreciate but overall there wasn’t much of a profit to be had when selling. Especially when moving on to the next house.

As we debated our plans for retirement, we knew that owning a house in the country was not what we wanted. What we did know is that we wanted to be south during the harsh Canadian winters. We did not want to own two houses, one in Canada and one in the southern United States. We wanted the freedom to move around.

That was part of our reason to buy a coach. We could have a wonderful condo on wheels for our travels stateside and downsize into a smaller property somewhere in Canada.

But then we asked ourselves why would we buy a house in Canada in our early retirement years if we were only going to live in it for, at best, 2 or 3 months of the year? Could we live out of our coach year round?

The short answer is yes, we can and yes, we did.

We do not miss owning a house. We currently rent an apartment. Our youngest son lives in it. And, after whatever period of time, when we decide to come off the road, we will find someplace nice for the latter part of our retirement.

We do not know what that looks like just yet. We will tackle that transition whenever it comes along.

Two years and I haven’t thought much about the house we sold. A distant memory from a different time.

I did take a look back on some of our photos of the house when I was prepping this post.

It was a nice place. We used it for a period of time and then the house went on to someone else. Eventually every house, like the many other things that we buy in life, will go to someone else.

Except my guitar collection.

Those guitars I will take with me when I leave for heaven.