What is it Like Living in an RV?


It can be hard to imagine what it might be like to live in a home that is smaller than many people’s living rooms. Many people, particularly in American culture, associate smaller with worse, somehow. There is an assumption that living in an RV would be harder than living in a normal home, or at least less convenient.

I would love to come out and just dispell this as complete myth, however, I can’t. Like most things in life, there are pluses and minuses to living in a home sweet recreational vehicle. Having less space is both a burden at times as well as a blessing, more often. I thought I’d share a few tidbits about what it’s like to live this way for anyone who might be considering it, or is perhaps simply curious.

Is There Really Enough Space?

This was one of our biggest concerns going into this lifestyle. On one hand (my own), I wanted a vehicle that was realistic to drive and wouldn’t increase my current rate of hair loss trying to squeeze it between parked cars in city streets.

When Tristan and I first left my 9-5 job in Erie for Pittsburgh, we moved into a small apartment and it was very close quarters. Though we had three rooms, and the place was three times the size of our RV, we were constantly on top of one another, and it was at times incredibly aggravating for all of us. We were on the top floor of a three story complex and Tristan was too young to just go outside and play on his own. In the RV, however, we’re all basically living in one room, but we’ve learned that having instant access to the outdoors is a necessity for not feeling hemmed in. If one of us feels like the other two are getting to be too much, it’s just a few steps out the door to all of the space we could use.

Let’s also look at a few facts about American lifestyles. The average US family these days is made up of 2.6 people. The average house is 2300 square feet. That’s 885 square feet per person. We have about 40 square feet each, yet we’re much happier than when we were living in the afore mentioned small apartment and I suspect the answer has something to do with the fact that we are forced to spend more time together and so we become accustomed to one another, used to being in each other’s company. That and, again, our ability to simple step away from it all and get outside in a moment.

Well, At Least You Don’t Have to Clean as Much

That’s a great point, though one thing to consider with living in a small space is that there are less “cleaning days” and more just keeping picked up after yourself. It’s very important for us that we put the stuff that we use away immediately after we use it, because what might be a small pile of clutter in your living room is a large obstruction when your home is a hallway. In that way, it’s likely teaching Tristan a good lesson about how to keep cleaned up after himself as well, and a thing or two about preventing procrastination.

Using the Bathroom Though, Is there Any Privacy?

This is one of the big boys, the major things that you’ll realize changes about your life. Long gone are the days of sitting around on the toilet creating a toxic hotbox while you catch up on the latest issue of Victoria Secret. Taking long hot showers and just letting the water wash your hangover away are left to the corners of my mind dedicated to memory.

As the eldest and stinkiest male in the house, I can testify that, unless you’re a bachelor or your companions suffer from anosmia (“blindness” of the nose), you’d be cruel to use the open toilet in your RV when others are around. So get used to the idea of dropping your bombs in grotty RV campground toilets and, if you want a hot shower that lasts for more than 10 minutes, get yourself a pair of rubber flip flops and get used to the idea of strange and moldy shower curtains. Cleanliness is for the rich, anyway, long live Pigpen.

Do You Have Enough Cupboard Space? Or Do You Go Out to Eat More Often?

When we lived in our last apartment we would go out for lunch or dinner at least once a day, so my perspective here is a little skewed, but we definitely eat out less often now than we did in our sedentary lifestyle. At first I thought this was due to the pleasure of cooking over an open fire, nothing makes a vegetarian’s food more worthwhile than slow cooking it yourself over an open flame. But since we’ve been in Austin, with half a dozen restaurants on our block and no fire pit in our lot space, we still eat at home for nearly every meal. Again, since Tristan doesn’t go off to school every day and I don’t in turn go off to work at the local coffee shop as much, we spend a lot more time together. We eat all three meals together nearly every day, and it’s one of the best parts about this whole RVing lifestyle. I suspect that’s a large reason why we haven’t been going out to eat as much. (Also, someone mentioned we’re in some type of recession, or so I think I may have heard once or twice on the radio.)

As for storing our food, there is actually plenty of space to do so right in the RV. The biggest difference is that instead of going to the grocery store and stocking up once a week, we do smaller shops every few days. I suspect this is better for us anyway, as it allows us to keep fresh ingredients in the house rather than packing our cupboards full of boxed and frozen goods.

What About Private Time for the Lovers on Board?

Luckily Tristan is either young enough to not catch on to our adultly antics or wise enough to never mention that he’s caught on to what’s happening when a man loves a woman, but for the most part, just like I’d mentioned above, if one portion of our family needs a little space, the other portion can easily acquiesce by simply stepping outside and getting a few laps around the park in on his bike.

All in all, I think it’s more about the personality of a family as to whether or not they would be comfortable living in a smaller space. The very nature of having a home built around mobility makes it difficult to get board with your surroundings. Tired of looking down into the Grand Canyon? Move your house into the Sequoia National Forest.

I think a few personality traits that might make it easy for you to enjoy this type of lifestyle would be that you aren’t all that concerned with owning things, that you’d rather have experiences than possessions, and that you can be comfortable finding your “alone time” outside of your home. Pack rats and those obsessed with filling their homes with antiques and lavishness might want to give it a test run before diving in. After all, if you’re an Olympic swimmer, sitting in a tub might not exactly be your thing.