Top 10 Things to Know Before Committing to Life in an Airstream
Living in an Airstream — as with most things in life — comes with lots of things you learn by trial and error. Even though we’re still relative newbies at this, the past few months have taught us many invaluable lessons. And because we would’ve loved it if someone had warned us about some of them, we figured we’d share the knowledge with you. So, without further ado, here are the top 10 things we wish someone would’ve told us before we became full-time RV residents.
1. It’s a Lot Scarier In Your Own Mind Than in Real Life
One of the things that made Daniel the most anxious was the thought of towing our home across the country. After all, our Airstream is 30 feet long and weighs 10,000 lbs, which can be quite intimidating. But, despite worrying about changing lanes and making wide turns, once you actually get used to it, it’s really not that bad — especially when you turn on your back-up camera while driving on the road.
2. Backing Up Gets Easier — And Other Campers Will Help
Just as the thought of towing a gargantuan motorhome was giving us mild anxiety, imagining backing up into our campsites — especially at the beginning — was enough to make us start hyperventilating. However, despite our embarrassed giggles during our first few attempts, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that fellow campers are extremely helpful. We also have walkie-talkies to communicate with each other, which comes in handy when we’re in locations with poor cell phone reception. 10-4!
3. You Don’t Need a Long-Term Travel Plan
Yes, you can start out by looking at a map of the entire country if you want to. But if there’s something 2020 taught us, it’s that you can plan all you want and life will still happen the way it’s meant to. Cold fronts, wildfires, detours and a whole host of other things can make you abandon what was on your schedule. It’s a good way to learn to just go with the flow. As long as you have access to Google Maps, boondocking sites, or Harvest Host locations to find a place to park your RV for the night, you’ll be fine. One caveat: avoid booking on Fridays and Sundays, since those are the busiest days at campsites.
4. Don’t Try to Boondock Immediately
Boondocking means staying off the grid, somewhere with no power or water hookups, and no WiFi. While your RV provides you with a comfortable bed and a water tank — making this type of camping more comfortable than going out there with a tent — there’s still a lot you need to learn prior to doing so successfully. This includes getting to know the camper like the back of your hand, how to conserve water, and how to plan for meals, among other things.
5. Internet Isn’t Always Easy to Come By
We knew going in that internet access wouldn’t be as reliable as when living in a home or working from an office. However, it turns out that it can sometimes be more difficult than you’d have originally thought. Most of the time, campground WiFi just plain sucks. It’s a good idea to have at least two carriers if you’re planning on working remotely from your Airstream — that way, you have a better chance of receiving good reception from at least one of them. Other options include renting space in co-working locations, or using the facilities at a hotel.
6. Emptying the Poop Tank Isn’t That Scary
Alright, y’all. It’s poop. An entire tank full of it. Of course it sounds like the most disgusting thing in the world — and the thought of having to empty it is probably enough to dissuade lots of people from trying RV life. But honestly, it’s not that bad. You get everything done by hooking up hoses to the tanks (the poop tank is called the black tank). As long as you remember that you’re supposed to empty that one before the rest of the used water tanks, you’ll be solid. This is because the water from, say, shower water or used dishwater, will wash the inside of the poop tank hose right after. PS: Don’t buy ultra mega strong toilet paper, unless you want to unclog the hose later.
7. Laundry Is a Breeze at Campgrounds
Laundry is such a simple chore at campgrounds — all you have to do is go to the local laundromat. Just make sure to bring your own laundry detergent and fabric softener. Also, you’ll need cash to do your laundry. Don’t worry too much if you don’t have quarters, since the front office at most campgrounds will break a few bucks for you to wash your clothes.
8. It Takes Time To Get Used to Tiny Living
We bumped our heads so many times during our early days in our Airstream — against the cabinets while doing dishes, wiggling past one another, walking by overhead storage… But two months in, we feel like we have too much space. We could probably even downsize to a smaller Airstream. We wouldn’t actually go any smaller because our camper has lots of useful technology (such as controlling features from our smartphones), but size-wise, we’re totally used to the tiny spaces.
9. You Can Still Get Mail While Living in an RV
If you have a family member who’s willing to serve as your home base, you’re halfway there. Have all your packages delivered to their home, then let them know the address of your next campground location. The front office will receive them for you — you just have to give them a heads up that you’re coming. We’ve done this several times, and it’s worked just fine. Some campgrounds even have assigned mailboxes for campers.
10. You Won’t Be as Clean Living in an RV
Showering is great. It’s also necessary. However, living in campgrounds means that you’ll be tracking dirt all over the camper. Also, while you can shower in your RV, there are certain things that are different from showering at home. Number one, the hot water will never get as hot as you want it to be — especially if you’re in a cold location. Two, if you’re boondocking, you’ll run out of water really fast even if you take really short showers — so you’ll have to turn the water on and off as you soap up and rinse down.
One more thing. You’re probably going to suck at RV living at the beginning — and that’s okay! If you want to feel better about yourself, pull up a camping chair, open a beer, and watch everyone else do their camping thing. There will always be a newbie, and you will be more than happy to show them what other wonderful campers have taught you.
Lauren Davenport is the CEO of The Symphony Agency, a healthcare communications firm providing technology and marketing solutions to help healthcare practices grow fast and efficiently. She’s been featured in Forbes and local magazines, showcasing her experiences as a small business owner. Daniel Fernandez is the Chief Experience Officer at the Symphony Agency and host of The Healthcare CEO podcast.