It can be easy to fall into the trap of over romanticizing bus life, or any other form of full-time travel for that matter. While the general tone of our blog is positive, we don’t want to give a false impression that our life is one never-ending vacation. There’s a lot about living and traveling on a bus that is genuinely exciting and wonderful, but this lifestyle certainly has its trade-offs. There are times when it’s not great or glamorous. With that in mind, we’d like to talk about some of the challenges that come with full-time travel.
Lack Of A Fixed Address
This is undoubtedly the most obvious challenge when living on the road. Yes, we do have a permanent address in Texas that we call our home base, but the reality is that we’re not there for the majority of the year. When you don’t have a fixed address, coordinating some of the basic things that can be taken for granted in a stationary life (like ordering parts, supplies, or anything else from an online retailer or finding in-network health care) instead require intentional planning and coordination.
Uncertainty Is The Norm
When we lived stationary lives, we had routines that almost never changed. We knew we’d each be at work from 9am to 5pm every day of the week. We’d plan time off work or vacations often months in advance. The details of our daily lives were predictable and dependable. Living on the road isn’t like that. When you’re constantly on the move, you can’t anticipate or predict everything that’s going to happen in a new place. We’ve woken up on our share of days not knowing where we’d sleep that night. At first this was stressful, even a bit overwhelming, but as time passed we relaxed and got used to it. Maintaining constants on the road is possible and we’ve learned to adapt, but the truth is that traveling full-time means learning to live with a greater degree of uncertainty.
Things Break Down
When you’re driving your house around the country, something will inevitably break. Ask anyone who’s traveled long-term with a RV, van, trailer, motorcycle, etc. I’d be willing to bet money they have a story about something breaking. Probably at just the wrong moment too. For us, having an engine that is almost as old as I am means that things break down or need replacing more often than we’d like. Two extreme examples we’ve dealt with were having a brake-line failure on the highway in Vermont and an engine mount crack while in the middle of the national forest in North Carolina. As a side effect of Murphy’s Law, we’ve learned that the best thing to do is to be prepared for things occasionally going wrong. Performing regular maintenance on both the engine and the interior of our bus is serious business and a regular practice. The up-shot of all of this is the list of things we know we can handle has greatly expanded. We’re more resilient, resourceful, and better able to tell real problems from minor inconveniences.
You Still Have To Do Chores
Yes, it’s true. Even when on the road, there is no escaping the mundanity of chores. Living in a small space means that our bus can go from totally clean to crazy-messy in under 10 minutes. Keeping our bus comfortable and livable requires daily effort. Laundry is still a fact of life when we’re parked somewhere beautiful.
There’s Less Privacy
Traveling long-term as a couple means Ryan and I spend a lot of time together. We each have much less privacy than we did when living together in Austin, TX. And I don’t just mean in the obvious physical ways, but in every sense. We’re more exposed to others and to each other than before. If we’re staying in a crowded campground, chances are we can hear exactly what’s going on in the campsite next door, and vice versa. (There’s a reason we prefer to boondock…) Morning walks with the dog mean a host of strangers get to see just how charming and disheveled I am before slurping down my first cup of coffee. We’re also privy to each other’s worlds in new ways and there’s no escaping each other’s moods or emotions. We’ve learned to adapt by redefining how we think of personal space and by each making time for independent activities. Also, wearing head phones is a universal symbol for, “I just need to do my own thing for a while”.
Traveling Can Be Lonely (Sometimes)
Though we enjoy each other’s company, we sometimes find that being away from close friends and family can make traveling feel lonely. Traveling is a great way to connect with new people, but for us, it isn’t a non-stop party. While we do meet interesting and cool people on the road, there are also plenty of times when we don’t. Depending on the time of year and whether we’re boondocking or staying in a formal campground, social opportunities can vary considerably.
We’re Not On Vacation
While we wish we could say that we both retired early, that just isn’t the case. We still have bills to pay every month, and many of the same financial concerns we had in our stationary lives. In order to sustain our travels, Ryan and I both work remotely from the road. Though we both put in fewer hours than we did in our former jobs, we do still log a lot of time behind computer screens. To stay afloat, we’ve both had to learn how to balance the challenges and thrills of travel with being productive professionals.