Motorhome Columns | Family Motor Coaching
Planning is key to a successful transition from an RV to a stationary home.
By Janet Groene, F47166
The jolt of hitting the road as a full-timer is much like the culture shock of visiting a foreign country. Everything is new. In time, though, you work through all the personal, financial, and social speed bumps of the happily “homeless.”
But another culture quake awaits when it’s time to give up full-timing and return to the “real world.” It might not mean the end of your RVing life; you perhaps can enjoy being a part-timer again. If you keep the coach and continue to travel, however, the addition of real estate increases the workload, costs, and anxiety level. And for those who hang up the keys unwillingly, stresses may be tied to health problems or pressure from a spouse who wants a stationary home again.
Whether you’re moving eagerly into this next stage of life or you are forced to settle down for reasons beyond your control, “going home again” can bring physical, emotional, financial, and social challenges, as well as new opportunities and goals. So, how will you handle them? We sought the advice of professional lifestyle coaches, authors, and advisers.
“I want my happiness rolled in reality and deep-fat-fried in funny,” said Britt Reints, a “happiness coach” and speaker who blogs at www.inpursuitofhappiness.net and is the author of An Amateur’s Guide To The Pursuit Of Happiness. Humor got her and her family through tough times when they gave up their big house in the suburbs so they could travel together in an RV. Their aim was to go RVing for a year, then make a fresh start in another city.
She admits that they had to short-sell their “McMansion,” and they also sold most of their possessions “for pennies on the dollar.” But the transition into and out of RV life gave them time to regroup and strengthen. Now as renters in a new city, the family can’t yet afford to own another house. “We’re actually good with that,” she said. It’s all about a positive attitude and the happiness factor.
“The idea (with the RV) was to travel long-term and have more control over our day-to-day activities,” Ms. Reints explained. “We went with the RV because it was going to be the least expensive lifestyle and let us hold on to a little more of our personal belongings.” Family members soon found themselves harvesting all the best of the full-timer lifestyle. “The kids got to see a lot of the country, and we experienced a lot of cool stuff together, like hiking the Grand Canyon. The biggest reward is that it solidified our relationship as a family. We built a lifetime of family stories in that year together, and we improved our communication skills with each other, something I’m super grateful for now that we’re back in the ‘real world.’
“We also got a unique opportunity to step back and rethink exactly how we wanted to live in the real world,” Ms. Reints added. “We got to be intentional instead of just continuing to go where life, work, and family was taking us. Initially I thought we’d become permanently nomadic, but we realized eventually that there were some things about a traditional home that we missed: being part of a community, having neighborhoods, and being able to build relationships with friends.”
Today the family puts less value on “stuff.” “The biggest difference,” she said, “is that our family is at the center of our lives now, and we put spending time with each other first.”
Clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula (www.doctor-ramani.com) reminds her clients to add the long view to their plans when making a big life change. “Your change can easily be another person’s threat,” she observed. “When people are beginning a big transition, they don’t think about what will happen far down the road. (Then they’re) shocked when it actually happens.” As the old cliché goes, “Be careful what you wish for.”
Author Marion Licchiello also advises looking ahead: “Create a vision of the home you want to live in, the environment, the neighborhood. Write it down; truly visualize what the next life will be.” Be honest with yourself that it won’t be perfect. When making a lifestyle change, she noted that it’s important to “set goals, have affirmations, and hold yourself accountable.” She writes about them in her book Anyone Can! Live A Happier Life.
Ms. Licchiello suggests making specific plans for dealing with financial stresses. Money is a major sticking point in many relationships, including life on the go. When returning to a stay-put home, extra money will be needed, and decisions will have to be made about who pays the bills, and how. While you’re still full-timing, hash it out with everyone involved, including financial professionals. Cut back on spending, and establish a financial cushion in order to avoid shocks later. Discuss positives and negatives with a spouse or partner, especially one who is reluctant to make this lifestyle change.
Even those who must leave full-timing unwillingly can maintain a positive outlook, says Tiffany Mason of Mason Coaching and Consulting (www.tiffanymason.com). “This transition is never easy, but with the right strategies and mind-set, any phase in a person’s life can (bring) adventure, lessons learned, and wisdom gained.
“Ask yourself how this change can work for you instead of against you,” Ms. Mason said. She advises jotting down thoughts and concerns. Then focus on what you want in all aspects of your life: health, finances, fitness, relationships, and so on. Envision what you want, and refer back to your notes when the going gets tough.
Pacing yourself works wonders, notes Andrea Berkman Donlon, founder of The Constant Professional (www.theconstantprofessional.com). She left an advertising company in New York City to establish a small business with a focus on job readiness and personal brand development. Like any major lifestyle shift, it wasn’t easy. When starting any new venture, she says, it isn’t about money but about the people you reach and the message you send.
Timeless clichés still make sense when the time comes to end your full-timing life. Don’t burn your bridges, and make your words sweet, because you may have to eat them later. Finally, the best is yet to come. No matter where you are now, it’s never too early to think about an exit strategy.
In Case of Emergency
An emergency fund is important for anyone, and it’s especially crucial for full-timers who might be sideswiped by an unexpected traffic fine, co-pay, or a death in the family that requires the purchase of an expensive airline ticket. Some experts recommend having enough savings in reserve to last six months, but your situation may be different. Please share, anonymously if you wish, your thoughts on how much reserve a full-timer should have and in what form (cash, credit, food, gold coins). If you have a story to tell about how savings came to your rescue during an emergency, please share that, too, using the contact info above.