Becoming a full-time RVer is overwhelming. Getting rid of all of your stuff, understanding how an address affects your health care and residency in different provinces, living in a home that will eventually leak, and trying to figure out how to make it all work are some of the things that we wondered about before setting off.
Sitting in our little house in New Brunswick in July 2015, knowing that we were about to venture into a fairly uncommon way of living in Canada, we would have loved to have had some advice from fellow full-time RVers.
The one thing I want you to know is that if we can do it you can too. You just have to change your way of thinking about everyday life and what you have been taught your entire life about the normalcies of society.
While Adam and I are not the first ones to full-time RV in Canada, we know it can be tough to find information out there on how to live in your RV full-time.
Here is some advice and the honest truth about living full-time in your RV.
1- Let Go Of What Society Expects of You
Get married. Buy a home. Have children. Save for retirement. Retire. That’s the road map that most of us have been told our adult lives are supposed to follow. But why does it have to be that way? Here’s the thing we’ve learned. You don’t have to follow societal norms. Don’t be afraid to break out of the comforts of society and lead your own journey.
I started full-time RVing at the age of 41, right in the middle of when I should be saving for retirement and continue working my career for another 20+ years.
Instead, I’ve now been full-time RVing for almost 4 years while travelling across our beautiful country and enjoying so much more freedom. I also now run Tofino Food Tours with Adam and have a wonderful job at Crystal Cove Beach Resort in Tofino, BC. That is a lot of change for someone who had 20 years of radio broadcasting under their belt.
You can do it though. Whether you are becoming a snowbird and retiring, or you are in your 20s and want to travel and work across Canada while living in your RV, or you are like me, approaching middle age and couldn’t stand doing the same thing as everyone else. It can work for you if you have an open mind and are willing to let go of what society expects your life to be.
2 – Be Prepared for Cold Weather
Here’s a good thing to know about RVs before you buy one – they have very little insulation. So what does this mean? Essentially, in the summer it can get really hot and in the winter it can get really cold.
One of the reasons we chose to live in Tofino is for its weather. While it rains a lot it doesn’t get much warmer than 20 degrees in the summer and it usually stays above the freezing mark during the winter. That being said we’ve had to deal with almost a month of temperatures at night dropping to -5 degrees. This obviously isn’t very cold compared to most places in Canada but when you’re living in an RV it can be very cold if you’re not prepared for it.
One big piece of advice we wish we knew before buying an RV is to look for a 4-season RV. Brands like Arctic Fox have much more insulation in them and will keep you cooler in the summer and do a much better job of keeping you warm in the winter.
If you wish to full-time RV in some of the colder regions of Canada there are plenty of modifications you can also make to your RV. Aside from wrapping our windows to keep drafts out, we really haven’t done many ourselves but the Facebook group Winter RVing is a great resource for ideas and tips on how to stay warm in your RV throughout the winter.
3 – It Takes A While To Get Used To Living in an RV but You Will Learn
Adam and I are not mechanically minded people by nature and having an RV has resulted in learning a lot. You will learn too so don’t be afraid to hop into the deep end. Can it be overwhelming? Yes, but it’s a challenge worth taking on.
Our first year of full-time RVing was quite the learning process. We were as green as can be when it came to RVing. We had to learn absolutely everything on our own with the help of the odd Facebook group or RVing forum.
Learning to pull a 30+ foot fifth-wheel across the country was quite the experience. As is backing your trailer into everywhere you camp. *Hint- try to find pull-through campsites* Then there is all of the maintenance and learning how certain things in the RV work. It takes time but it all comes together slowly but surely.
You will learn too. Don’t get dragged down thinking it is too much. You will figure it out.
4 – Be Prepared – Your RV is Probably Going To Leak or Already Has
This is likely to be the one consistent you’ll read about when it comes to RVs – they leak.
Short of building a whole new roof on top of your RV that also covers your slides, your RV will likely eventually leak. Ours did and we got it fixed for a cool $8000. It’s awful to think but I suspect it will likely leak again sometime in the future. It’s the nature of the beast when you live in a cheaply manufactured home. We even did somethings to safeguard ourselves against a leak and it still happened, although, we’re rather certain our RV leaked before we bought it.
Slides are the biggest issue when it comes to leaks in RVs. If you don’t mind sacrificing some extra space, go for an RV without slides and then take good care of your roof and you’ll be much more protected. Also, make sure to check your seals along your sidewalls and reseal them. The more you travel with your RV the more often you will have to redo your seals. This is probably Adam’s least favourite RV maintenance task.
Something to keep in mind as well is that your RV insurance or warranty likely will not cover the cost of these repairs due to a leak so have a little extra money saved up for that rainy day.
5 – Slow Down and Take A Look Around
Ferris Bueller may not be known as one of the great philosophers but he did leave us with this quote to reflect on…
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
It’s great advice and it’s something everyone should remember.
When we drove across Canada we took about 36 days while travelling from PEI to BC. I wish now we would have taken a lot more time and explored more of Alberta and BC. Our country is vast and expansive with so much to see. Slow down. It’s a great thing to do when travelling. There is lots to explore out there so enjoy it.
6 – You Still Need an Address
We get a lot of questions about full-time RVing with most of them surrounding having an address and health insurance. These are two things that you absolutely need to have.
The one thing we Canadians love is our free health care. To keep your provincial health care, though, you do need to have a physical address.
Currently, our address is the campground that we live at which is an easy solution. If you’re staying at campgrounds longer-term this is likely your best option. If you’re travelling freely, you will need to figure out a solution. A lot of full-time RVers will use the address of a family member or a friend. This is where you will also get your mail delivered. Keep in mind that whatever province this physical address is in is the province you have to legally live in for 6-months a year in order to be eligible for that province’s health care system. There are some legal variations to this so it’s best to do your homework on what your province allows.
7 – Staying Online Can Be A Challenge
It may be sad but definitely true…a lot of us can not live without the internet. Whether it’s for checking email, staying connected with friends and family or even just watching adorable cat videos, the internet is something we’re all used to having whether it’s on your phone or computer.
When you’re travelling, staying connected can be a challenge and sometimes frustrating. You’re likely going to experience most RV parks have weak WiFi, although a lot of them are getting better every year. The larger the park, usually, the worse the signal as more RVs are pulling from the same signals.
Here in Canada our cell phone plans are not cheap and are very limited in terms of data so you can’t really use this is an option either when travelling as it will only take you so far.
What we did when we first set up our RV in PEI was to get a WiFi Ranger unit which actually helps boost the signals of available WiFi connections in the area. This definitely strengthened weaker signals for us and allowed us to continue to blog and do basic internet tasks.
We’d recommend setting your expectations for having no internet when travelling and being pleasantly surprised when it turns out to actually be good. Definitely don’t expect to roll into every park and be able to stream Netflix without interruptions. Maybe one day but that day isn’t here yet.
8 – Full-Time RVing May Not Be For You
You’re probably thinking that we built you up throughout this article to think that you can full-time RV. It’s true you can and a lot of people do and absolutely love the lifestyle change. However, that’s not the case for everyone.
I will tell you the truth. Full-time RVing is not for everyone. You already read about RVs leaking and dealing with cold temperatures. You should also check out our blog about 6 Reasons Living Full Time in Your RV Sucks. There are so many things that we love about full-time RVing but then there a few small things that we don’t like. But the good outweighs the bad in our case. That may not be the case for you.
We’ve read many stories about full-time RVers who gave up after a year and returned to living in a brick and mortar home. For some those comforts can be hard to give up and you may struggle without them. You may not like having to physically empty your toilet. You may hate having to make sure your trailer is level every time you park it. The one thing we will say is to give it time. It may not be for you right away and all of the new challenges can be overwhelming and stressful but once you adapt to your new way of life you will likely find life is actually a lot easier than it was before.