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6 Ways the Pandemic Changed Our View of Full-time RVing

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My husband and I have fielded more questions about RVing this year than ever before. We’ve been full-time RVers for well over three and a half years, and I’m actually a second-generation full-timer — my parents hit the road a few years before we did.

And while the coronavirus pandemic has many people considering buying an RV or renting an RV to take a road trip, it has changed our feelings about full-time RV living as well.

Like many people, we’ve spent a portion of 2020 examining our life choices.

While we’ve been lucky enough that the primary impact of the coronavirus on us has been limited to social distancing (which we pretty much did already), the way the world is changing is also helping shape our choices moving forward.

Here are the six ways the pandemic changed our view of full-time RVing.

1. We started buying our own land to camp on

Like many full-timers, we’ve always been kind of loners to begin with.

While we’ve done both, we’ve preferred boondocking in the wide open spaces of free public lands as opposed to staying in RV parks.

We had originally planned to spend 2020 hopping around the country on government land. But coronavirus made that quickly impossible. 

In order to escape the RV park where we had found a temporary safe haven, we decided to get into real estate investing and camp on our own land.

Doing this takes a lot of research into county zoning because it’s not actually legal to live in an RV on your own land in most of the U.S., but if you put in the time, you can find some amazingly affordable land — especially out west.

As of mid-2020, we own land in multiple states and know we have safe spaces of our own that we can actually enjoy — and we don’t have to worry about any external factors affecting our stays.

Now that we’ve had the experience of having our own acreage to stay on as long as we want, going back to limited-time stays on public land or in expensive, crowded parks is an option we know we’ll never return to.

2. Proximity to family is more important

When we first hit the road in our RV years ago, we did a lot of driving. We would stay places only a couple days at a time and drive thousands of miles in a season.

Our first year travels ranged from North Idaho to South Dakota to Texas to Arizona.

But our circle of travel has naturally shrunk with each year of being full-timers. Even though we were still exploring new places, we were putting in fewer miles. 

But even as our travel habits have changed, the one place we’ve always come back to is where my parents are located. Coronavirus has made it even more important for us to be closer to family.

The pandemic has made it clear that we want to be there to support our loved ones if they need it, and we also just want to enjoy the time we have with them.

3. We consider our impact in different ways

My husband and I love to travel to rural areas, and we especially love small towns. We’ve made a practice of intentionally going shopping and eating at restaurants to spend money and support the local economies.

But the pandemic has messed with our view of travel a bit. I find myself wondering now if traveling less or at a slower pace might be safer.

Traveling less could keep us from harming a community by unknowingly bringing the coronavirus (or some future virus) to the area. 

But at the same time I feel bad not supporting small towns with my tourist dollars when I know they rely on that money. This one isn’t a dilemma I’ve solved yet, but it’s something the pandemic has brought to the forefront for me.

4.  We’re even more grateful to have a self-contained life

One of the main things we’ve loved about full-time RV living is that we have our whole life with us no matter where we go. This setup has been reassuring during the pandemic.

Pickup truck and RV camping on their own land
The author camping on her own land

I’ve always had a month of food packed in our RV for us, and we’ve always had our solar electric system to keep us powered — our life didn’t have to change for us to stay safe at home.

Knowing we have what we need, and that we can just up and move to somewhere else if we need to, has been a good feeling.

While some of my RV friends have craved a sticks-and-bricks place to run home to, we’ve found the liberation of full-time RVing to feel like safety.

5. We’ve realized how fragile full-time RV life is

A lot of our friends assumed we wouldn’t be impacted by the pandemic since we do live a pretty self-contained life, whether we’re camping in the woods or staying at RV parks, but the pandemic made it clear to us how unstable RV life can be.

Not only did many RV parks shut down across the nation, but public lands closed down too. 

Some of our full-time friends ended up stranded places or living in other people’s driveways because they were kicked out of parks and campgrounds.

The way the parks were shut down made us realize the world doesn’t really get this lifestyle and how many people are doing it. 

We realized we can’t depend on RV park infrastructure to be there for us when we need a safe place, and this again is why we started buying our own pieces of raw land instead.

6. We’ve decided to not be full-time RVers anymore

Yes, I just said it. While we’ll still be living in our RV full-time, we won’t be full-time travelers anymore.

We’re settling down on the pieces of property we own and will be part-time travelers once again. 

The RV and all the utility systems we’ve built over the last few years are essential in us being able to do this, and the self-reflection that the coronavirus pandemic prompted for us has made us realize we’re ready for this new “adventure” of not moving around.

Bottom line

RV living has changed our view of life in general in so many ways over the years. It’s helped us manage our personal finances and pay off debt. It’s helped us learn so much about the U.S. and meet amazing people all over this nation. 

Even though my full-time years are over, I’m genuinely excited that the pandemic has had the positive impact of encouraging so many new people to give RVing a try.

While there are some definite drawbacks of full-time RV life, even traveling part-time or on weekends in an RV is still an amazing experience. And who knows what realizations your travels will bring to you about the life you truly want to lead.

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9 thoughts on “6 Ways the Pandemic Changed Our View of Full-time RVing”

  1. I don’t live in an RV but I found your article fascinating. I’ve been very curious about how Covid has affected alternative housing. If you don’t mind sharing, what resources did you use to locate land you could live on? And was it an expensive undertaking?

    Reply
    • Hi Mary – Thanks for reading and for your comment! I wish there was an easy answer to locating land for RVers. You can start on places like LandWatch.com and LandsofAmerica.com and set your region and price point. I would never believe a listing though – you just can’t rely on the seller to have all the latest official info. So once we find a place we like, we start calling the local zoning offices. Typically you’ll need to talk to someone on the county level since most legal RV places will be rural and not in towns. It doesn’t have to be expensive though – it just depends on what you want to be around. Land in proximity to more things to do will be more expensive, just like with houses! LOL Hope that helps!

      Reply
  2. Becca, your article is fascinating and enlightening how you overcame the 2020 obstacles in RVing. I have dreamed of traveling in a minimalistic van unit and was disappointed in news of over crowding and closures. But you brought new hope for me and problem solving with your fresh ideas. If all my ducks are aligned I will set sail in summer of 2021. Thank you for sharing your insite of problems I ll face. Contact me with more of your experiences, it keeps my dream alive

    Reply
    • You’re very welcome, Mary! Thanks so much for reading and I am so glad to hear this has helped you in keeping your dream alive. I am sending you good vibes for a great launch to your adventure in 2021!

      Reply
  3. Great article! Yes, everyone seems to have their own journey that the pandemic has unleashed! You touched on it in another comment, but can you give any additional detail about where to find the local county zoning regs. My wife and I want to buy a piece of land for a 5th wheel in summer months in upstate NY, but your comment about checking local zoning first rang true that we have not done that, nor had we considered that we need to! Any insights you have would be helpful!

    Reply
    • Hi Craig – Thanks for reading! Depending on if you’re in a rural area or a town, you’ll need to check with different levels of government. Zoning is typically a county level thing, unless the particular town has stricter zoning set in place. So, for example, a county might say that you can live in your RV for 6 months a year without a septic system, but in the more urban town area, you aren’t allowed to live in your RV at all. So I would say start at a county level and then hone it down from there depending on whether or not the piece of land you’re looking at falls under any smaller municipal jurisdiction. Different places will call their departments different things, but basically you want to get a hold of somebody in the zoning department. Sometimes towns and counties will have very helpful websites that have all the rules online, so you can check there first. But sometimes, depending on where you’re looking, the websites won’t be as developed. Often even if you find the info online, it can be written in a confusing way, so putting in a phone call is typically a good idea no matter what. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  4. We haven’t been in our RV for a year because of the pandemic. A family discussion helped us decide to stay in our permanent residence during the pandemic due to my husband’s risk if he contracts it.
    My question is how did you go about finding your land to buy so you could legally camp in your RV?
    Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Hi Zina – Thank you for reading! We’ve spent a lot of time on Landwatch.com and Craigslist checking listings out. If you are looking for land out west, check out Nevada and Arizona in particular. Each of them has counties that are more RV friendly. New Mexico has a lot of friendly counties as well. I have heard there are areas of Florida that allow extended RV living as well, but I haven’t personally researched that area at all. Once you find a listing in an area you’re interested in, then go to the county website or call the county zoning office and find out if you’d be allowed to live in your RV. Ask them how long you can be there and if you need a septic installed. If there are limitations, they are usually time-based and/or require you to install a septic system. There are exceptions, like Coconino County in Arizona, where you are actually allowed to dump grey water on your property in some circumstances, but that is very rare.

      Reply
  5. What type of properties did you buy, and how many? Empty lots? Acreages? Was there services like water, sewer or septic, power? I know you mentioned proximity to family, are all the properties near various friends, family or favorite geographical areas? Thanks.

    Reply

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