Lessons from Our First 4 Months as Digital Nomads

No matter how well you prepare, leaving familiar surroundings and doing something new always involves surprises and curveballs. Overall, living in an RV and traveling across the U.S. has been great. It’s really freeing to take charge of your life in a whole new way. Over the course of our first four months, we’ve already had some incredible experiences and made some amazing memories. We’ve also learned a few things.

1. You don’t need to take it with you

We don’t miss our stuff. Our RV is pretty small, as far as RVs go. We chose a 22-foot Winnebago Minnie that would be easier to maneuver and wouldn’t guzzle quite as much gas. We’ve maximized every nook and cranny and used a gazillion Command hooks. But we had no choice but to downsize. We sold, gave away, and donated things we didn’t need or that held no sentimental value. The rest we put into a storage unit near my Dad’s house in Florida. While downsizing was a little difficult and we struggled when parting with some of our prized possessions, it turns out that we really don’t need much. We don’t feel like we’re doing without. Quite the opposite, it’s really liberating and exhilarating. We could probably downsize even further. Sometimes less really is more.

2. Life without a car has its challenges

Unless you’re towing a car behind you, life without one is pretty … um … eye-opening. We’ve learned that while the RV is a great road warrior, it’s not always the most convenient method of travel for local errands and such. For instance, parking can be pretty challenging in tight spots or when a parking lot is full. We found a good solution in our bikes, using them to pick up groceries or run other errands. If we really need to stock up or the errand is too far, we just take an Uber. But it’s really important to consider when we run errands and avoid prime time.

3. You learn to go with the flow

Life on the road is anything but predictable. While “traveling in our house” gives a sense of stability, for the most part, each day brings new adventures. You don’t know if you’ll hit traffic, have sewer hose problems, get a flat tire, or run into bad weather. Basically, you just have to power through. Expect the unexpected, and smile as you work through the rough stuff. And believe good things will be around the corner!

4. Resources are finite

Living in a traditional home, we take things like water access, trash pickup, and electricity for granted. As a nomad, the reality is that living in an RV has limits. For example, we’ve learned you have to really watch how much electricity you’re drawing, so you don’t blow a fuse. We also use a lot more water than we thought, so it’s important to monitor our usage and conserve where we can. Then there’s trash — WOW! Who knew we could produce so much each day? These are things you can’t really conceive of until you live with limited resources, day in and day out.

5. Motivation can be hard

Maintaining a steady income while living on an RV-lifestyle budget means you gotta work. Nomadic life is rooted in flexibility, so it’s easy to fall out of usual “life patterns.” Working outside of a traditional office or workspace can be a difficult transition; it’s much easier when your employer hands you daily tasks and pays you at the end of the week. But it’s such a different scenario when you have to carve out time to work and generate your own paycheck. There are times when you need to draw a hard line between work and play. Although you’re out RVing for the freedom and the experience, it’s also necessary to create some stability that will support your freelance work habits. Set up a dedicated workspace and keep to a routine schedule. You’ll need it to keep yourself motivated and productive.  

7. Planning for internet access is a priority

It used to be that we didn’t give connectivity a second thought. But life on the road? Takes serious thought. Since our livelihood depends upon being connected, we’ve realized how necessary planning is to guarantee ourselves access to this amenity (that we used to take for granted). Be sure to factor in internet reliability before you hit the road.

8. The RV should feel like home …

We’ve learned how to love the nomad life, living without excess possessions, and enjoying the flexibility to change direction (literally!) in our life as often or as seldom as we please. To help make our pre-owned Winnebago our own, we made it homey by adding our own touches. For instance, we painted the cabinets and recovered all the upholstery according to our own tastes. If you’re going to be spending so much time in a small space, you may as well enjoy the few walls you’re looking at. Lesson here: Don’t worry about resale values. Your RV’s value, like a car’s, is going to drop, anyway. Instead, focus on making your RV feel like home now, and don’t worry about what someone else may want in the future.

9. … But taking occasional breaks is necessary

Yes, RV living is awesome, but the limitations can be draining after a while. Occasionally, we yearn for an ample water supply and crave the room to just really stretch out  To combat RV burnout, we stay in Airbnb’s from time to time; it helps give us a sanity break. And since the RV’s shower is super small, we like to shower at campgrounds whenever possible. Doing small things like these gives us a break, helps us normalize a little, and refreshes us for our next adventure.

10. People are awesome

Our society is built upon the assumption of “stranger danger” — and that’s not a bad thing because all it takes is one person to do something terrible and life-altering. However, in our travels, we’ve gained a new and different perspective. So many fellow RVers, travelers, and other strangers have demonstrated how kind and helpful humanity really is at the core. Yes, there are some bad apples, but in general? People are awesome.

Making the transition to RV life definitely comes with surprises, but you’ll learn a lot along the way. So many lessons learned are life-changing and help us shape new perspectives.

However, if we had to list just one singular, most important lesson, it would be to simply slow down: Take things as they come, and enjoy the journey.