Galt, the 2018 Thor ACE 29.3
I've been living full time in my RV with Buster for four months now. Perhaps the biggest surprise of this entire journey is how quickly Galt has felt like home for both of us.
I fought against the decision to quit my job and travel for almost a year before taking the plunge. In 2017, I started meditating and writing in a Daily Greatness Journal (I'm not getting paid for this... I only have like 3 followers on this blog). I realized that despite all of my meditation, exercise, eating well, and practicing gratitude for what I had, something needed to change. My HUGE dream was to quit work for a year to travel. Having spent a lot of time in other countries, I realized that the United States' version of two week vacations was not sufficient to lead a full and content life for years on end. I was debt-free, had plenty of savings, and had just broken up with my long term boyfriend. But instead of following this path, an opportunity to take on a new role came up at my company and I couldn't resist. It wasn't necessarily the pay increase that got me, it was the idea that perhaps if I changed roles I could get to a better work-life balance that allowed me to have it all: the comfort of a high income AND time to explore my passions and develop new relationships. With this new role I decided to set myself up for as much success toward contentment as possible. I leased an apartment in a brand new luxury building in downtown Seattle with waterfront views, just a two minute walk from work. I bought new furniture from Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn. I stopped resisting services such as house keeping and grocery delivery. I decided to go all in on the high income urban lifestyle.
The problem was, my brand new fancy pants apartment never felt like home. All of this money was going to a place that I didn't even enjoy leaving work to get to. I'm not sure I called it "home" the entire 13 months that I lived there. At first I thought that maybe I should have sprung for the even nicer, bigger place, with better views. But after more meditation, journaling, and a life changing trip to Nepal, I realized that I had simply taken the wrong path a year ago. It was time to course correct.
I could not be happier with where I landed. Galt the RV has had its share of initial aches and pains, but it has felt like home to Buster and me from the minute that we moved our stuff into it. I love making food for friends and family in the small kitchen, playing games in the dinette, and waking up with a big cup of black coffee while I journal in bed, with Buster by my side. All of that expensive Pottery Barn furniture is now in storage, with only the living necessities and my climbing gear here in the RV. However, I'd be lying if I said that living in Galt was just the same as living in a high rise apartment building.
Here are some of the biggest differences I've encountered in my first few months as a full timer:
Water is not some unending resource. I understand this on a cognitive level, having read about water shortages in Africa and having lived through droughts where we weren't supposed to water our yards (poor us). But when all of your fresh water gets stored in a 50 gallon tank, and you have a black water tank capacity of 26 gallons, you really start to pay attention to how much water you are consuming, and putting back into the grey and black tanks. As a result, my habits have completely changed. I don't just wash dishes one by one with the water flowing; I fill up the sink with soapy water, wash the dishes, then repeat with clean water to rinse. If I am at an RV park with free showers, I use theirs; if I am boondocking and need to rely on my shower, I only shower every 2-3 days or after vigorous exercise. I wash my hair way less often. These habits have become so normalized that I found myself secretly judging my parents in Puyallup for watering their lush green yard and having too many potted plants that needed daily watering, even though Puyallup is not experiencing a drought and water is relatively cheap there. I do think that we'll start to experience more severe water shortages throughout the Pacific Northwest sometime in the next few decades, so I'm happy to be trending toward less water consumption early and will try to keep my water-usage judgments of others in my head. In return, I hope that my more clean friends keep their judgments of my dirty hair in their heads.
Speaking of water, cleaning the black and grey tanks is gross, but not as gross or time consuming as I had expected. I keep the grey and black tank valves closed even when I am at a full hookup RV site and do not empty them until the black tank is 3/4 full. The entire process only takes about 10 minutes. The angles of my pipes are set such that I did have some leaking the first few times that I emptied the tanks, and I have to admit that I did gag while cleaning up shit from the undercarriage, but I have sense purchased a clear elbow that fixed the pipe-angle issue and allows me to watch for when the tank is truly flushed, and I haven't had any problems. I thought that RV maintenance was going to be significantly more time consuming than home maintenance, but it really isn't; it's just different.
Buster really likes living in the RV. It is his home and he is clearly comfortable in it. I judge Buster's comfort by how frequently he lays on his back with his belly exposed. In the RV, it is almost all the time. His favorite place is the bed, but when I'm driving he lays down under the captain's chair so I can reach down and pet him while stopped in traffic. This was hugely important to me; could you imagine what would have happened if I dropped so much of my savings on an RV and then the cat ended up getting so much anxiety that he couldn't stay in it? I would have had to sell the RV and come up with a different plan!
Speaking of driving, it feels so natural and easy. I didn't take an RV driving course; I simply drove cautiously and on back roads until I was comfortable with it. I have now driven it in all types of traffic and have not had any issues at all. My car hooks up to the back of the RV in 3-4 minutes. I can back into any campsite without help. It takes practice, but it is not something that should impede anyone from considering RV living. The negatives of driving are the cost of gas (my RV averages 10-12 mpg while towing the car) and that it takes me about 1.5 times as long to go anywhere. I can get up to 65-70 mph on freeways, but the acceleration/deceleration time is longer, and I'll often stay in the slow lane in traffic, even when the passing lanes are whizzing by me. I have become a much more courteous and defensive driver as a result.
Figuring out the power has been touch and go. Galt has a residential refrigerator, meaning it runs 100% off 110v power and not propane. RV refrigerators can use both, making them better for boondocking. This was a fact that I simply overlooked when purchasing the RV. I tried to ask the right questions to the salesman, including how long I could go without power, but he's a salesman and answered them incorrectly. The true answer was that with the setup they sold me (a residential refrigerator and two 12 volt batteries), I could make it about eight hours without power or running the generator. That was simply not sufficient for my lifestyle. Unfortunately it is very difficult to replace the residential refrigerator with an RV refrigerator, so I had to purchase additional power. In July I upgraded to four 6 volt batteries and solar power, which should allow me to run the residential refrigerator off grid for six days before needing to plug in to power or run the generator. Six days is about the maximum I can go without emptying my black and grey water tanks, so it should work out perfectly.
I'm sure I'll encounter other surprises on the road. I hope they continue to be more positive than negative, and that I continue to feel at home wherever Galt takes me.