How to Survive a Long-Term RV Trip: Travel Advice from Dakota and Chelsea

by jdroth on 05 March 2015 · 4 comments

As part of preparing for our year-long RV trip, Kim and I have been talking to as many people as possible about what life is like on the road. It’s fun to hear everyone’s ideas and advice. Each person has a different perspective on what to do and how to do it.

In mid-February, for instance, I had lunch with Dakota and Chelsea from Traipsing About. These two Portlanders spent three months customizing a Mercedes Sprinter van before hitting the road on 01 November 2013. They traveled around the western United States for eight months before parking the van near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, after which they biked 4000 miles across the country to Portland, Maine. Their adventures continued in New York City, Maine, and Mexico before they eventually returned to Portland in January of this year.

Dakota and Chelsea had FUN on their trip.
As you can see, Dakota and Chelsea had FUN on their trip…

Kim and I will spend a lot of time together in close quarters during the next year. While I think this will work well for the most part, I’m still concerned that we both get the space and time we need for personal rejuvenation. Dakota and Chelsea spent even more time together (and in closer quarters) during their trip, so I asked for their advice.

“Usually, one person will be more reluctant than the other,” Dakota said. “That’s not to say they don’t want to be there, but that it’s tougher for them to make the trip. In our case, Chelsea was the reluctant partner.”

Chelsea smiled. “I was never a reluctant partner,” she said, “but I am a much more sensitive traveler. I’m often the weakest link in the chain. When I get uncomfortable, we both get uncomfortable, if you know what I mean. So, I think the key to long-term travel together is to keep in mind the needs of the most sensitive partner.”

“For instance, we didn’t drive more than four hours per day,” Dakota said. “We tried to limit our time on the road. Otherwise, we’d just get miserable.”

Chelsea nodded. “Similarly, we tried not to change locations very often. Every time you move, there’s overhead in taking down and setting up camp. Usually it’s best to park it. Find a place you like and stay put for days or weeks.”

“We also came up with our ‘sick rule’,” Chelsea said. “If one of us got sick, they had the option to get a hotel room. No questions asked. Being sick is bad enough, but being sick on the road can really be rough.”

“Be sure to give each other space,” Dakota said. “This actually isn’t as difficult as you might think. Sure, you’re together all the time, but when you’re that close to nature, it’s easy to spend time apart. One person goes for a hike while the other stays in camp. Or maybe one of you walks down to sit by a stream. Just be sure to build in alone time.”

“We also made it a rule to always accept invitations from people,” Chelsea said. “Friends or strangers, it didn’t matter. Building community as you go helps with what Stevie from Sprinter Life calls ‘vertigo of the spirit’, that feeling of disorientation you get when you constantly move from place to place. Even if you’re an introvert, connecting with other people is important. And it helped me and Dakota with our own relationship too!”

“That reminds me: Tune up the romance,” Dakota said. “Don’t let that go. Be romantic. Surprise each other with special treats, like favorite meals or nights in hotels.”

Chelsea thought for a moment. “I guess the bottom line is to be easy-going and adaptable,” she said. “When you’re nomadic, you’re open to serendipity. It permeates your whole life. You find yourself saying ‘yes’ a lot more. It’s a very ‘yes’ experience.”

“Part of being easy-going and adaptable is trying not to overplan,” Dakota said. “When we booked stuff ahead, it was definitely a stressor — especially when we stacked things up one after the other.”

“At the same time, you need balance,” Chelsea said. “If you’re seeing family and friends, you need to give them as much notice as possible. At least two weeks, if you can, and more is better. So, you need to find a balance between not overplanning yet still having some sort of schedule so you can see people.”

“It’s important to note that these weren’t hard and fast rules,” Dakota said. “Sometimes we had to drive more than four hours a day. Sometimes we had to change locations more often than we would have liked. These are guidelines. These are standards. There will always be exceptions.”

“Here’s one last thing,” Chelsea said. “Listen. Really listen to your partner’s concerns. If you know there’s an issue, keep coming back to it to make sure it’s being addressed or resolved.”

“That’s a great point,” I said. “Kim has trouble with sleep. She’s a cave sleeper. She needs silence and darkness and undisturbed rest. At home, it’s easy to create a ‘cave’ so she sleeps well. That’ll be more difficult on the road. I’ll need to check in often to be sure she’s getting the sleep she needs.”

“Exactly,” Chelsea said.

Dakota and Chelsea gave me tons more advice, info on how to take care of mail, how to eat well while on the road, how to maintain a minimalist wardrobe without getting bored of the same old clothes. In all, we spent nearly two hours talking about travel. It was great.

With each conversation like this, I feel one step closer to leaving. Every piece of information helps. And so does every moment we spend in the RV. This week, our motorhome has been parked at my ex-wife’s house so that we have it nearby. We’ve been stocking it to get ready for our second test run this weekend. It’s going to be a beautiful weekend on the Oregon Coast! We’ll be back next week with photos and stories of the outing. Until then, be well.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kelly in Oregon 06 March 2015 at 07:27

If Kim needs dark to sleep, having one of these (if you don’t already) will make a WORLD of difference. Bonus, it helps insulate the RV as well.


2 kimmie 13 March 2015 at 10:09

The Rv came with one of those Kelly and it is genius!! I guess I’m a “cave sleeper”


3 Donna Freedman 06 March 2015 at 20:35

I think the “sick rule” is genius. Especially if it’s a CONTAGIOUS illness….


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