6 Tips To Survive Being Together 24/7 In An RV
Pre-Post Note/ I’m still out on vacay, so this is a pre-written post. We’ll get back to regular programming right after this. Enjoy!
A few months ago I got asked a question by a blog reader, and it went something like this…
“You guys always seem so relaxed together. Do you ever go crazy living in such a small space? How do you survive?”
It was a really good question and it’s one we’ve been asked many times before. An RV is a really small space and you WILL be close to your partner (and kids, and pets etc.). So how do you adapt? How do you survive the switch? How do you not go crazy and kill each other? For some folks this is a big enough worry that it may even be the #1 issue they’re concerned about when they’re considering this lifestyle.
So, that’s the question I decided to try and tackle in today’s blog post. It’s turned out to be a LONG response (get ready!), and there are quite a bit of caveats to my answer, so let’s dig right in…
Admittedly We’re Not The Best People To Ask
We may be an unusual couple in that we’ve never had ANY issues with spending 24/7 together.
We met each other at work and moved in together within weeks of starting to date. From then onwards we lived, commuted and worked together (in the same company, in the same group, and sometimes even in the same cubicle!) for over 12 years.
Our biggest time apart was the year I worked in Taiwan and Paul worked in Hong Kong. I had to fly to Taiwan every week and we only got to see each other on the week-ends. We hated it, and it was the only period in our relationship that was really difficult. Once we quit our mainstream jobs and reverted back to spending 24/7 together we were happy again, and now that we’ve lived like this for over 20 years we really can’t imagine it any other way.
So when we moved into the RV there was zero adjustment in our relationship. Literally no difficulties, no problems, no issues at all. It was a totally natural progression and it never even occurred to us that folks might have relationship issues moving into a space like this. Kinda crazy, right?
So, how can I even begin to tackle a topic like this???
We Do Have SOME Knowledge To Share
Despite our lack of personal difficulties, we do have SOME experience of what works and I think it relates back to our very individual, very independent personalities.
Call it my Danish heritage, but I’m the sort of gal who’s never wanted to completely depend on anyone else, and although I love being in a committed relationship, that independent streak is a core part of my personality that will never change. So, I’ve always had my own work and hobbies, I’ll often go on solo outings (when I feel like it) and I’ve I never felt I had to do everything together with my partner. Thankfully Paul is exactly that same way, and I think that’s part of what makes our relationship work so seamlessly.
In addition we’ve met TONS of folks on the road who have very different kinds of relationships. Some couples are very tight whereas others seem more individual, and yet they all make it work in their own way. I’m always curious about people and I love to figure out what makes them tick, so that means I’ve picked up a few extra tips along the way. The results of that “road research” are exactly what I’ve used to compile this post.
With that said, let me go through 2 basic items first…
Basic Item #1 = You DO Have To Like Spending Time With Your Partner
No matter what anyone might say, if you move into a very small space together you DO have to like being together with your partner. In this post I’m going to give you 5 survival tips for creating “individual space”, but these tips can only go so far. The fact of the matter is that in an RV you will be spending quite a bit of time together, and you won’t have many places to hide.
Simply put, if you cannot see yourself spending a lot of time with your partner, then fulltime RVing most likely will not work out for you.
We have friends who absolutely would NOT be suited for fulltime RVing. It’s not that their relationships don’t work, it’s simply that they lead very individual lives and are not willing to give that flexibility up. Their friends, jobs/hobbies, workout routines, interests all lie locally and although they’re quite happy with their partners they’d likely kill each other if they were suddenly forced to spend 24/7 together.
On the other hand we’ve also known friends who were able to adapt to fulltime RVing despite leading quite individual lives. They had a transition period (perhaps a rocky one) but were happy enough spending time together that, with some key adjustments, they were able to live on the road.
Basic Item #2 = But You Don’t Have To Do EVERYthing Together
Even though RV’s are a small space and you travel together you don’t have to do EVERYthing together, and I think this is the #1 point to understand for anyone who is struggling with the transition to fulltime RVing.
Many folks fall into the trap of thinking that once they’re traveling together they have to do everything together. That’s simply not the case at all, and creating new routines where you actually incorporate alone-time can be the key to “saving” your relationship on the road!
So, you might have separate hobbies, or you might go see friends/family separately, or you might go sightseeing separately. And it’s critical to understand that there is nothing wrong with this!! In fact whether you’re traveling in a couple or with kids, you SHOULD plan for this separation and make it part of the transition process. I think it’s essential for long-term RV success.
And now, the years of research come together. Here are my specific survival tips to help create “individual space” in the confines of an RV….
Survival Tip #1 = Get A Bigger RV
Those of you that know us and have been reading the blog for a while may find this first tip a little strange.
We personally wish we’d gotten a somewhat smaller RV and I’ve mentioned it many times before on the blog. I mean “the beast” is fabulous and we love her luxury, and her big engine and how spacious she is inside, but we sometimes feel we don’t use all that space, and we often wish we were smaller so that we could fit into more remote campsites. You’ll never hear me talking about a personal need for a bigger RV.
BUT, if you’re a couple (or family) that really craves individual space, getting a “beastly” RV might actually be perfect for you!
The NICE thing about bigger RVs (either Class As or 5th Wheels) is that they often have individual rooms which can be closed off for alone space. So, for example our RV has a front living room area and a back bedroom, which can be closed off with a door. Some of the newer RVs have outdoor entertainment areas (complete with TVs) which are completely separate from the indoor areas. Also in bigger RV’s it’s quite easy to build or set-up an office or activities space which is separate from the other living areas in the rig.
For some folks having a separate physical space that you can retreat to when needed is just the ticket. And it may well outweigh any of the benefits (e.g. cost, nimbleness etc.) of a smaller RV. So, if you really crave that, you might want to pass on that snazzy-looking van and look at bigger rigs instead.
Survival Tip #2 = Get A Hobby (And Spend Some Time Doing It Alone)
I think any successful life includes hobbies, and a successful retirement certainly does. Having hobbies that truly interest you can pass the time and give you an occupation on the road. Plus it can create exactly the sort of individual “me-time” you might need. And there are NO end of options:
- Like to photograph and write? How about starting a blog? Or joining an online photography sharing site? Or writing a book?
- Like history? How about planning your RV trips around historical locations (e.g. Civil War locations, Lighthouses, dinosaurs & archaeological sites, Native American sites etc.), or researching your family history (ancestry), or traveling down historical trails (e.g. the Lewis & Clark trail)?
- Like sewing or crafts? How about bringing a weaving loom with you (like Miss Terry from Gypsy Journal) or quilting (like our friend Janna, and boater Louise) or creating a business around embroidery (like our friend Amanda), or creating jewelry, craft or art?
- Like off-beat stuff? How about RVing the Extraterrestrial Highway (like we did), or tracking down unusual sightseeing locations (Roadside America is great for this), or traveling along iconic routes (e.g. Route 66)?
- Like rocks? Go rock-hunting, or join a RV group that does. Travel to gem shows. Learn about gem locations.
- Like music? Create music on the road, play on the road or plan your RV travel around music festivals.
That’s not even mentioning Geocaching, hiking, or food, or any other of thousands of potential hobbies out there. Plus the beauty of this is that your hobby does not have to be the same as your partner’s hobby. Of course it’s great if some of your hobbies match, but not all of them have to and in fact it’s those individual hobbies that will give you space and time to spend on something that unique to you.
I think having individual hobbies is healthy and useful in every relationship, and as long as you are not afraid to do your hobby alone it can give you positive periods of separation that keep your together-time in balance.
Survival Tip # 3 = Workamp Or Volunteer (Or Work Online)
Another great way to stay occupied in an RV is to work either through regular workamping (work and camping), volunteering, or by working online. Not only does it provide a sense of purpose (which many folks often miss on the road), but sometimes a few hours of “doing your own work thing” is all your relationship needs to stay sane.
There are lots of places who hire mobile workers from campgrounds to museums, State Parks to Animal Rescues, National Parks to Wildlife Refuges, seasonal places like Amazon Camperforce or the Beet Harvest, and even regular companies looking for remote workers. Some are paying jobs whereas others are volunteer only (no pay), but they all provide a sense of purpose, and they can all provide some “relationship relief” too.
In some jobs you work directly with your partner (e.g. if you’re working together as museum docents, for example), but others require individual contribution (e.g. as campground hosts, one person might work at the front desk, while the other works outside in the grounds) and that arrangement can be perfect for folks that are looking for the same kind of daily separation they had back when one (or both) of you went to work in regular jobs.
Then there’s the possibility of volunteering or workamping solo too. Many places don’t care if only one person works as long as the job gets done, and as long as you’re honest about this up-front (i.e. you apply for the job as a solo) it’s not an issue, even if you travel as a couple or with kids. This works especially well if one partner is more extroverted or needs to be doing something all the time, whereas the other is introverted or just prefers to be a homebody (I can’t tell you how many many State Parks we’ve been to where we saw a camphost putzing around alone on his/her golf cart all day, only to find out they had a partner back in the RV after we’d talked to them!). It works equally well in families where one partner prefers to work outside the home while the other prefers to take care of the kids
And lastly workamping can simply mean setting up a business or working online for yourself in the RV! There are lots of younger RVers (especially) who are doing this today and there are literally no end of potential possibilities. We’ve met people who design websites, code, edit magazines, craft, write, graphic design, do remote jobs, consult, create video, invest, do customer support, represent companies, do medical billing, insurance, or just about any other thing you can think of. These days a “9-to-5” job doesn’t have to happen in a fixed location, and the internet makes that possible for everyone.
We’ve met many couples who workamp in some form or fashion all year long either for sense of purpose or money, but also because it creates the same kind of separation they had when they were living in a stix & brix. It’s like “regular life”, just on the road!
Survival Tip #4 = Find & Travel With Your Tribe
Many folks going into fulltime RVing worry they will lose their community and friends, and sometimes that strain (losing your community) can create a massive strain in their relationship too. You can’t expect your partner to replace your friends and you certainly can’t expect them to be interested in everything your friends were interested in when you lived in a stix and brix. So how do you overcome that?
The easy way is to find a NEW community on the road, and the GREAT thing about RVing is that this is super, duper easy to do. In fact, in today’s day and age finding your “RV tribe” has never been easier and you can literally be meeting and traveling with folks of like mind within days of starting on your journey. Seriously, this is not a problem at all!
To start with there are ALL KINDS of online RV travel groups that you can join, from Xscapers/Escapees, to FMCA & Good Sams, to RV Facebook Groups. There are even solo-specific groups such as WIN’s (if you’re traveling by yourself) and sites specifically set-up to connect RVers on the road such as RVilllage.
Plus every rig type has it’s own travel group too (there’s a great list of groups HERE) , so if you’re an Airstream-couple you can join-up with and Airstream group, or if you’re a Casita-couple you can join that group, or if you own a Holiday Rambler you can join that group.
Then there are RV learning groups, like RV Dreams and Escapees Boot Camp. Not only do all these groups offer education, rallies and convergences, but there all hold get-togethers for specific events (e.g Xscapers Balloon Fiesta, Quartzite gatherings), and even organize travel caravans to specific locations too (e.g. Escapees organizes a caravan to Mexico every year). So, if you’re looking to make friends, why not join a group and make your very fist RV trip a group trip?
Lastly you can easily find folks of like mind too, no matter what your interests. If you’re a family with kids, perhaps you’d like to meet and travel with other families? In that case Fulltime Families and Families On The Road are great places to get those contacts. Or perhaps you’re more the alternative type and you’re looking for other RVers who are into alternative stuff (e.g. Cosplay, nudism, Burning Man etc.) in which case NuRVers or some of the alternative Escapees BOF groups might be more of your vibe.
The bottom line is that for some folks, just traveling with others provides enough outside-your-relationship interaction to keep things in balance and it is so VERY easy to do. If you’re worried about being alone on the road, you really needn’t be.
Survival Tip #5 = Part-Time RV or Part-Time Solo RV
Another great way to balance your RV time together is either to part-time RV or go solo RVing.
Part-timing is easy and may be exactly right for the couple that like to travel together occasionally, but really feels a strong need to come “home” to a piece of land and their local community. And there’s literally nothing wrong with this! Fulltime RVing is in no way “better” or more prestigious than part-time RVing and may not be right for everyone. The key is just to get out there and enjoy traveling in a way that suits you both. For some couples part-time travel can be the perfect compromise.
What about part-time solo RVing? I know this may sound radical, but I actually know couples who do this and it works! They do it simply because one person loves to RV and the other person doesn’t (or doesn’t want to, or for whatever reason can’t), and so it’s a compromise that works for both. There is absolutely nothing wrong with spending a few months apart every year if that’s what it takes for both of you to feel happy and fulfilled. So, if one of you is crazy with the idea of RVing but the other one just hates it, maybe this would be a solution?
Survival Tip #6 = Go Back To The Same RV Park or Place On A Seasonal Basis
The last tip is one we’ve seen work for many folks who enjoy traveling with the weather, but also want/require a regular community of folks they know. The arrangement works for all types of RVers, but I think it’s especially attractive for folks who require lots of individual “space”.
Many RV parks cater to “seasonals” = folks who come in every year for a particular time of year (e.g. summer or winter) and spend the whole season in the same place. These parks are often in locations where the weather is really good for that season (e.g. South Florida, South Texas, Southern CA in winter) and have monthly rates which attract folks staying for a longer time. They also often have extensive amenities (e.g. gym, pool, tennis courts etc.) and hold regular social activities (e.g. pot lucks, dances, crafting etc.) for their residents. So RVers end up coming back year after year to the exact same spot, and a fixed community is created which is solid and repeatable.
This means on-going friendships are formed, you have friends to play sports and go shopping with, you know folks to have dinner parties with, you have people to do specific activities with etc. It also means one partner can hang with their particular friends, while the other can hang with a different set of friends. Plus you’re both in a place where you already know and love and have plenty of activities to keep you busy. It’s basically like living in a fixed location, except it’s just for the season.
This same phenomenon can happen in boondocking locations too, especially at the LTVAs (Long Term Visitor Areas) in CA and and AZ which cater specifically to boondockers that want to stay for the entire winter season. At these spots many folks will choose to come back to the exact same boondocking location every year, and although they don’t have the the kinds of fixed amenities (e.g. pool/gym) that an RV park would, they do get a very repeatable community of friends.
Honestly we know people that LOVE this arrangement, and it can create a ton of individual space for those that need it. In fact we’ve met seasonal RVers who spend so much time outside of their RV (doing their own thing with their particular group of friends) that they barely ever see each other. We even met one guy in Miami last year who claimed he hadn’t seen his wife for 3 days, and he was fully content with that arrangement. Hey, if it works for you, more power to you!
PHEW!! I told you this was a long post!! Have any questions? Or perhaps some tips on how YOU’VE stayed sane on the road? I’d love to hear about it, so feel free to comment and share below!!!
Related Blog Posts: