In recent years, full-time RV living has taken the world by storm. All it takes is a few scrolls on Instagram or TikTok before you see a post of someone living this lifestyle. Most of the time, people rave about living in an RV and seem incredibly content in their choice to downsize and live in a tiny home on wheels.
Oscar and I decided early in our travel nursing journey that RV living was the right move for us, but we have learned a lot along the way. Most of these things we wish we knew before we got started. Hopefully, this article can shed some light on what it is really like living in an RV and what you should definitely know before jumping into becoming a full-time RVer.
It isn’t cheap
A big reason Oscar and I chose to live this lifestyle was because we thought that it would be cheaper in the long run. For the most part, we were right; however…we were also very wrong. RV living, like most things, can be as luxurious or as basic as you want. To get started, you will need to have or invest in a great towing vehicle. We started out with Oscar’s relatively new Chevrolet Silverado because we weren’t ready to invest in a bigger and more powerful vehicle at the time.
Our Silverado gave us a good 6-8 months before it finally gave out on us. We learned from that point forward that diesel trucks really are the best way to go if you want something that is going to last and get the towing job done well. These vehicles do NOT come cheap, though and we sort of begrudgingly went through with the purchase because we knew we would be living in the RV for years to come, and to us, it was more than worth the investment.
Choose your RV
Next up, of course, you will need to choose your RV. Again, you can go as basic or luxurious as you want, so this is up to your preference. However, be prepared to spend a decent amount. After all, this is going to be your home, and you don’t want to get something you end up hating. For this reason, make sure you look at RVs in person! This gives you the opportunity to walk around the inside and get a good feel for the size of the RV. Trust me; this is a step you do not want to miss! Pictures only do a trailer so much justice. I would recommend using a website like rvtrader.com to compare the different costs of the RV model you like in different states (our exact RV model costs double in Virginia than it did in Texas!).
Let’s talk accessories.
Boy, you can really go all out with this part. However, there are some basics you will certainly need, and that’ll cost you a few hundred dollars. Some RV shops include these items with the purchase of your RV, which is a major plus, but not always. These basics include two sewer hoses (in case one isn’t long enough to reach the sewer connection at the RV park), plastic sewer hose support (this is where your sewer hose will sit when it’s connected), 3 water hoses (a heated one – you can find these on amazon – hopefully we will have a store up soon where we can link these items!, a spare water hose, and one to flush out black water tank – make sure you NEVER use the black water tank hose for your regular drinking water!), water pressure regulator (controls the water pressure coming into the RV), and power chord for electricity and surge protector.
It would also be a good idea to have an adapter for 30/50 amp service (these come in handy when you park at an RV site that only has 30 amp service and your setup is 30 or 50 amp). 50 amp service is better because it allows you to run multiple electronics/ACs at once without tripping the breaker, but not all RV parks have this service.
Another great basic to have is a water filter that you will connect to your heated water hose/freshwater drinking hose. Some other basic things you should have on hand are an extra extension cord, tools such as a power drill and toolkit that comes with screwdrivers/ratchets, and level/leveling blocks to ensure your RV is not tilting to one side.
Lastly, let’s talk about the cost of an RV spot.
This is going to depend highly on where you are and at which time of the year. For example, RV parks in Florida during the month of December will cost a lot more than an RV spot in a colder place during the winter. The same applies for summertime and spots up north (think Washington, Idaho, etc.). RV parks can charge up to $3,000 monthly for a spot in these desirable locations. However, keep in mind that furnished places can cost just about as much, so you aren’t really losing too much money there. Plus, you don’t have to worry about moving in and out of your RV – you’re already moved in!
Spots can be hard to find
Speaking of RV parks, let’s talk about finding one. Due to the recent increase in people purchasing RVs and wanting to live this lifestyle, RV parks have been filling up faster than ever. This poses a unique challenge to travel nurses, especially because this can make or break whether you take an assignment in a certain place.
For our summer assignment last year in Eastern Washington, I must’ve called 15-20 RV parks multiple times in hopes of finding a spot. It wasn’t until the 3rd time I called a specific RV park that I was able to secure us a spot. Even still, the RV park was ~30 min away from the hospital, but we were even willing to drive further just to have a spot. Be prepared for long commutes to and from work in certain areas if RV parks are hard to come by.
I’m not sure why we didn’t think this would be an issue before we decided to embark on our RV adventure, but I am here to tell you that it has been stressful at times finding us spots on the road and while on assignment. This may mean you need to look at the types of places you want to work and perhaps consider working there during a shoulder season (aka not a tourist season!) in order to easily find a spot. You can also search Facebook groups for private listings as well if you get really desperate.
Learning curves galore
Thankfully, Oscar has taken on much of the learning curves that we have experienced since living in our RV full time, but I am here to tell you that there has been A LOT of learning.
Some of the learning includes:
- learning how to prep the inside and outside for long travels
- how to get the RV hooked up and secured before towing
- how to drive and park the trailer (this is a huge one and one I have yet to partake in!)
- how to perform the required maintenance
- figuring out how often to dump your black and gray tanks
- understanding what blank and gray tanks even are
- having the right tools/accessories to keep our RV functioning appropriately
- troubleshooting when things go wrong
- and the list goes on and on.
There are tons of resources available to help you on this new journey (YouTube, for instance), but really the best way to learn is to just get on the road and start doing it yourself! An important thing to remember is to be patient with yourself and allow yourself the time to learn these new skills. You aren’t going to understand it all in one day so take as much time as you need!
Another important tip: RVs are not always made very well. This is an unfortunate truth, but something good to know regardless. It doesn’t always matter what type or brand of trailer you get; sometimes, they are just not made well. Therefore, it’s not a matter of if things will break, but when! Don’t get discouraged when this happens, but learn to roll with the punches. This is the only way you are going to survive RV life!
You will need to downsize… A LOT
This should come as no surprise to most of you, but it is still something that I am reminded of almost daily. You really don’t realize how much you have until you are forced to live out of small closets and storage bins! Luckily for us, the RV we chose has a great amount of storage, so that has helped. However, it still can only handle one season’s wardrobe at a time – our home back in Texas serves as our major “storage unit” where we keep all off-season clothing, but not everyone has this option.
If RV living is something you are serious about, I invite you to go through all your things now and donate what you don’t use on a daily/weekly basis. In doing so, you are setting yourself up for success when you do finally move into your RV. It’s been incredibly nice to live a more minimalistic lifestyle, but we are still guilty of filling our RV up more than we should from time to time. We are still learning!
It isn’t as scary as we thought.
Finally, I wish we knew just how much we love living this way before getting started. Like everything, there are pros and cons to full-time RV living, but for us, the pros heavily outweigh the cons. We have learned so much about ourselves, about each other, how to problem solve, how to not sweat the small things, and how to enjoy the moment so much more.
We have realized we don’t need a lot to live a happy, fulfilled lifestyle. There is something special about knowing you have your home with you wherever you go, and it brings a sense of comfort and consistency to a travel nurse’s ever-changing and sometimes chaotic life. I can honestly say that after a year of living this way, I can’t imagine our travel nurse experience any other way. This lifestyle is certainly not for everyone, but one thing is for sure: it is definitely for us!
Our job board is a great place to search for your next travel nurse assignment. We have you covered with our housing page if housing is an issue. You can search for what you are looking for.