Lessons Learned : Our First Month of Fulltiming

From Alabama to California, we officially have one month under our belts. We’ve learned as much in the first month of “fulltiming” as we had in a year of planning and preparation; the sort of lessons that can only come from experience. Most importantly, what was once our “project” camper has become our cozy home.

We’ll break it down into sections and discuss the good, the bad, and the smelly.

Living Space:

In this 16′ home-on-wheels, space is a hot commodity. There are basically three sections, the kitchen, the bathroom, and the rest area. Our rest area is either a king size bed or a U-shaped dinette. We’ve learned that the king size bed formation gives us the most space to lounge. All three of us can stretch out without feeling crowded. However, when the dinette is set up we feel more productive and less like bums.

The kitchen is a one person area. When we’re both in the space, it turns into an awkward shuffle (add the dog, and well, you might call that a “cluster”). We have found that we brought more cookware than we would ever need. Our most valued pieces being a non-stick ceramic pan, a pot and a french press. The rest may end up at goodwill.

Even our clothes are mostly superfluous. We find ourselves using and wearing the same few things over and over. It becomes obvious what’s practical and what’s not.

The bathroom is a one person space at best. For example, we brush our teeth in the kitchen.


Composting Toilet:

Once we watched the “Gone With the Wynn’s” review of the Nature’s Head composting toilet, we knew we needed one. The unit wasn’t cheap, but we’re convinced it was a great addition. It truly has no foul odor. We can use it for a month before dumping it and we don’t have the hassle of emptying a black water tank. The only downside is emptying the urine reservoir. The holding container removes easily and empties into a standard toilet without much effort, but the smell during this process is awful.
Boondocking (Dry Camping):

During our first 30 days we “dry camped” for eleven and “boondocked” for three. We consider dry camping to be camping with no hook-ups, and boondocking to be camping for free (almost always with no hook-ups). Our solar power will allow us to camp, while running the fridge, for four days. Our fresh water tanks will last about six days. The gray water tank is small, but with caution it will last six days as well. Our goal for November is to boondock for seven days.

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Money:

We lived like vacationing tourist for much of October. Once we looked at our bank accounts, we realized it was time to create a budget. We averaged our monthly Etsy income and created a plan around that. In theory, we’d break even every month and not dip into our savings. We’ll have a detailed post about this at the end of November.

Running our Etsy store from the road has been pretty easy, even the smallest towns have a Post Office.


Pets:

Traveling with a dog has had its share of challenges. Many National Parks limit the hiking trails that you can walk with your dog. We found that boarding our pup is inexpensive, but she doesn’t much care for the experience. One of our prized possessions is the Gentle Leader, a soft harness that goes around River’s snout and helps her walk well on the leash. She is a great snuggle buddy in the cold mornings and by far one of our favorite additions.


Internet:

We’ve connected to the internet many ways this month. Our main connection is with our cellular plan via AT&T towers. We also use a T-Mobile hotspot with a 9GB data plan. If need be, we’ll hunt down a wifi signal from a local business. Overall, we like having internet, but not too much internet. If we have a strong connection we’ll get lost in Netflix, Facebook, or Instagram. If we have no connection, we’ll stress about being stranded in an emergency situation. Our patience was really tested at The Grand Canyon – the only access was free wifi at the grocery store, but it was the slowest we’ve used since 1997.

Towing:

The smallest adjustment can make a huge difference. During the first 1,000 miles of towing we experienced trailer sway regularly. It was scary and made driving an anxious endeavor. I lowered the ball & hitch 2 inches, putting the trailer at a slight downhill angle. This adjustment gave me so much towing control that it can be pulled with ease at 65mph.

I also learned the importance of studying a map. More specifically, noting all the summits that will have to be crossed. Towing our home up a mountain takes some serious horsepower, and descending the summit takes a lot of strategy. I’m thrilled we installed new trailer brakes before we began this adventure.

Overall:

We traveled fast the first month and squeezed in as many National Parks as possible; trying to experience their beauty before the snow crept in. This month we’re going to move much slower.

We camped with full hookups more nights than we found was nessecary. The scenery and the price is better camping outside of RV Parks.

Lastly, we realized how rewarding this life style can be. It’s liberating and calming. We’re allowed to nurture a soulful connection with nature and each other. Society becomes a room we can chose to enter, rather than being forced into.

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Help support our mission – to live freely and deliberately – by checking out our Etsy store or treating us to a virtual latte!

bn

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19 thoughts on “Lessons Learned : Our First Month of Fulltiming

  1. Jeff of bikes and maps

    Thanks for the update. Does it seem like your solar system doesn’t quite keep up with your electrical needs–are the batteries discharged after dry-camping for 4 days? Have you measured your load vs. what your panels create? Take care and good luck.

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  2. Debbie

    Great post!!! Leaves me wanting more… I don’t know if I’ll ever get my husband into this lifestyle but I dream about it every day… I’m hoping for early retirement with some work camping maybe? Stay safe and stay in touch!

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  3. Greg

    You might want to consider a LP refrigerator. I got into a discussion with a worker at an Amish refrigerator business, he advised against a residential [electric] refrigerator, stating that a LP refrigerator can be run for ahhh, two months [?], on a 20 pound lp bottle, which is a bunch cheaper than an electric refrigerator.
    Naturally he ‘leaned’ towards a lp reefer as that was their business, but his logic was irrefutable. It has been said that lp doesn’t cool as good as an electric one, but IMHO you just have to give it time. And lp is considerable cheaper that electricity when talking about refrigeration. Probably be easier to boondock with lp, Just my two cents worth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the advice! We would really prefer a propane one or propane/electric combination but the electric one came with our camper (from previous owner) and we really had no idea at the time what an inconvenience it would be. Perhaps down the road we can buy a secondhand one or possibly make a trade.

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  4. lindale

    We have a fiber stream too and have work camped and traveled in ours a lot. 16 of the last 18 months with cruising the other two. Our fridge and hot water heater are both electric and gas. Glad to see another FS still on the road.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. After using a ARB brand Fridge/Freezer over the summer….in the 100°F + temps of the USA desert southwest I recommend looking into one. Mine draws around 1 amp. Since it only runs half the time that is only about 0.5amps per hour. Mine is the 82qt model (big) I have no connection with the ARB company but am very impressed with the product. With it and my solar I can boondock perpetually even with refrigeration . http://toponautic.blogspot.com/2015/04/arb-fridgefreezer-82qt-gear-review.html

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  6. Shannon

    Just read this post and your budget post. My husband and I are just about right where you are in the process, sharing so many of the same goals and experiences. We spent the month of August in Michigan and the upper peninsula in our ’65 Arrow, our project turned “home”. My revelation was that I was a tourist who was not on vacation. It was very hard not to want to eat at all the great restaurants, etc. Our budget is very similar to yours, with the exception that we joined Coast to Coast so our camping fees were paid up front but we camped for “free”. Limits our options, but overall we found it to work for us. With no bathroom in our camper, we are always assured a bathhouse with Coast to Coast. Basically, the more we camp, the cheaper it gets! Then in September, we headed west and were gone for 7 weeks. We are home now , (home is Anniston, Alabama) getting our house ready to put on the market. We plan to leave in the spring and not return until sometime in the fall. Anyway, I will follow your posts with great interest, as we are striving to do much the same as the 2 of you! And, we definitely need an Etsy store.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Barb L

    Noticed your very neat rig here at KOFA. Enjoying your blog. Hope you’ll be able to stick around for a while. There’s not a regular jam here, but I bet the office could point you in the right direction to set one up. Yuma and Ajo have winter Fiddlers contests. Not so much our style of music but we go for the parking lot boondock jams.
    Big meet and greets this week : 5pm Wed soup potluck and 6pm Sunday icecream social. Always crafters (that’s us) and pool players hanging out afternoons 1-3pm. Looking forward to saying hi!
    Barb and Dan
    #43, Tardis ‘ll

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