Living in an RV or Trailer as a Lifestyle

The RV life (or caravan as they are called in some countries) is an interesting one. I’d like to say there is a line between RVing and living in a trailer park but it’s a fine line. When you live in your RV you are called a Full timer. There are also Overnighters and weekenders but we’ll get to that later. This article is written from a full timers perspective but it will contain good information if you are an overnighter or weekender also.

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I was unsettled in my youth and after leaving a successful construction trade business I had the urge to travel. Counting on my skills to support me, and not knowing where I was heading, I attached an old camper to the bed of my pickup and left the Deep South of the US with my dog as my companion. One good thing for dog owners is most all the trailer parks and campgrounds are dog friendly.

I drove around the country for a month or so, pausing occasionally to work for a couple weeks to get some more gas money. Finding it too cold in the Pacific North West I drove south through California. Late at night I found myself in a trailer park in the Bay Area. I only planned on stopping in for a week but ended up staying there off and on for almost twelve years. Occasionally I would move to the Pacific North West in the summer or to Florida in the winter.

I had that old camper for eighteen monthes then got an old trailer. From there I upgraded to a used Airstream. After a failed attempt to purchase a house in the Southern US I picked up another trailer and had that for five years. I once did a trip around the US and Canada that took me a year.

Types of RVers

When you are living in your rig full time, your neighbors and your space become very important. This is a distinction lost upon what we call the overnighters and the weekenders.

Overnighters

An overnighter is someone on the road who just stays in places overnight. They are usually some one on holidays. They generally park somewhere and enjoy the area, or just stay overnight and carry on next day. They could also be a full time RVer travelling from one location to the next, or a drifter. If you are a full timer you generally are picky about your location in a trailer park. You might look to avoid kids, dives next door, proximity for walking a dog, or expensive rigs, all depending upon your preferences. Being next to an open space means you will likely have overnighters moving their rigs in and out every day or two, and you don’t know your neighbour. Having established full timers around you is good as everyone looks out for each other and in a trailer park there is always some one at one of the trailers to keep an eye out for what’s going on.

So rule #1 if you are RVing is to place yourself amongst the full timers.

Weekenders

If you are a full timer and have observed Rule #1 you will probably not encounter the weekenders very much. A weekender is some one who works all week and lives in suburbia with neighbors all around. On the weekend they pack up the RV and go to a fancy campground and set up for a couple days surrounded by other weekenders. They like being surrounded by strangers and this is not written to put them down, but if you are a full timer you will want a stable environment. Generally the full timers and the weekenders frequent different types of parks so don’t interact that often.

Weekenders like a fancy park that is often a bit pricier, with a swimming pool, club facilities, and play grounds. Full timers generally prefer some where that is more affordable and are not as interested in the amenities as they are their privacy. That is why they don’t often cross pathes. If a full timer went into a weekenders park they would find it too hectic, and should a weekender go into a full timers park they would not like the lack of amenities and the established look of the rigs with plants and ornaments.

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Full Timers

The greatest thing about being a full timer is the sense of community in a good trailer park. Everyone is respectful of others space, there’s usually not much noise, and you feel safe. It’s also affordable. You can usually arrange a few potted plants and birdfeeders around, and settle in. When you are on the road or moving parks these are the things to look for – they indicate a community of people with pride in where they live. If you go some where and it’s dumpy looking, you have entered Trailer Park Trashville and just keep on going.

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A full timers home space.

Trailer Park Trash

Some parks are worse than others. Some you go in and you are immediately repulsed. And some have a selection of characters, and even though the park might be not the prettiest, it could have long term potential. The author's favorite park in California had a variety of people – those temporarily working in the area wanting a convenient location, those working full time, elderly people on a fixed income, and those who don’t want to or can’t work for one reason or the other.

So the bottom line is if you are certain you don’t like the park, don’t stay. But if it’s semi alright, give it a shot for a week or two.

Essential Gear

There are two setups for RVing. One is towing a trailer with a large truck or van, and the other is living in a moterhome and towing a small car. It comes down to preferences and budget to find out what works for you.

Whatever you choose you will need good tires and spare tires. A jack and an orange pylon should you require a change of tires or get stuck on the side of the road is helpful. Another consideration when you are buying a trailer is to look for a double axle trailer if you will be towing much. If a tire blows you still have one more on that side to limp along on. If you will be mostly staying in one place, that’s not as much of a consideration. If you will be staying in one place having a large rig with lots of space would be a priority.

You will need food grade hoses to connect to water, and a sewage line to connect to sewer. Jacks, if not built into the trailer, will be required to stabilize it when parked. You’ll need a doorstep.

Other gear not as easily thought of includes propane gas bottles, a good 12 volt battery (or two), flashlights, emergency lanterns, and a sanitizing fluid (bleach will work) for your grey and black water.

Black water is waste from your toilet. Grey water is waste from your sinks. In RV’s these have two different tanks and both will need emptying periodically, such as one a week. You might also want rubber gloves.

A spare tarp is handy in case the rains come and you find a new leak. Also silicone caulk, spare rags, nuts, screws, and bolts along with a tool kit is pretty much essential.

You’ll need a broom, a mop, and a dustpan. To clean the outside of the RV you’ll need a five gallon bucket and a long handled stiff bristle broom (the brooms used for tile and brick cleaning work great).

A raincoat, umbrella, and rubber boots will certainly be required at some point or other.

Storage

This would seem to be a logical conclusion to having a limited space. But quite often you may have tools you need for work, furniture or other items needing storing, etc.

One option is to rent a storage locker. To find the best place (generally the cheapest and most convenient location) ask your neighbors.

The other option if you are going to stay put for awhile is to buy a shed. Sheds are desirable items in trailer parks and often by asking around, you can acquire one cheap, or sell it cheap when you are finished with it.

There are people who hoard living in trailers but it’s not nice to step into their place. There’s little room and lost of mess. You have to be brutal to live simply in an RV. I used to look at everything I had once a year and only keep what I used often or had sentimental value. Anything unused of value that hadn’t been used in a year, I would sell on Craigslist or eBay. Living simple is good and ridding yourself of accumulated junk is therapeutic.

  • Tip

A trick I learned from a friend was to take a photo of anything you were selling but had attached feelings or memories for. Looking at the photo would trigger the memories the same as having the item, but your life was cleaned up of clutter. Try it – it works.

Heating and Cooling

When it’s hot if you are able to be in shade, this will aid greatly in keeping your trailer liveable – especially important if you are working and leaving your dog in the trailer all day.

Air conditioners are great but they can break down, run up electricity costs, and if you have a dog, you wouldn’t want your dog in a closed trailer with a broken air conditioner.

You can put an awning down, but you have to exercise caution. If you are in a windy area, the wind could rip it off. I’ve seen many awnings destroyed. Being under a shady tree is ideal.

Keeping your roof vents open is a good idea. I have found that installing a temperature controlled fan in your roof vent, along with an open window on the shady side of your RV, will go far towards keeping your rig cool.

Heating in cold weather can be more problematic. Most Rv’s have a gas furnace and they work well, but propane can get expensive and you always run out when in the middle of the night.

A small electric heater works well, assuming you have it placed in a safe location and exercise caution.

But don’t forget to eliminate drafts. You can winterize your trailer to a degree. Most RV’s have single pane glass windows. Consider taping clear plastic over them in the winter. The same with the roof vents – fill them with some insulation. Find the drafts and seal or insulate them – your electricity bills will be lower and you’ll feel snugger in the cold weather.

Privacy

As discussed earlier privacy is important if you are a full timer. Blinds or curtains allow you the option of opening or closing your view. I prefer blinds as they can be set at an angle and you can see out, but no one can see in. They require more cleaning though. The problem with blinds is that after dark people can see in. Having a curtain over your blinds ensures you retain your privacy.

Define your area outside. This can be as simple as placing a few potted plants around your perimeter, or the location of a shed. Sometimes you will get a new neighbour who will encroach upon your space by placing their junk on the boundaries of your space. Sometimes you have to talk openly with them to ensure they respect your space.

Community

This is the best part of living in a trailer park and something I have missed since I moved out. Everyone knows everyone in a trailer park. Things you don’t think have been seen will be gossip. There can occasionally be tempers or grievances amongst the community, but if an outsider comes in the community will come together like one.

A good trailer park is a safe place. People look out for each other. There is always some one around to help out with a big task when needed. And on holidays like Christmas, there are always a few people that ensure everyone has a good meal.

Should you go this lifestyle route, you will form friends and have memories that will last you a lifetime.

References


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