I spent my last blog reminiscing about the many things I miss about being on the road (and I do miss it). It seems like more and more families are moving towards full-time travel these days. So If you read the last post and decided it was time to buy an RV, this one will highlight some of the harsh realities of road-life that you might also want to consider. Like anything else, road-life is not all sunshine and roses! So here are 8 things that I DO NOT miss about traveling full-time:
When you are constantly driving, vehicle breakdowns are inevitable. Especially when you’re traveling in an RV or bus with so many moving parts. I could probably dedicate an entire blog to the myriad of breakdowns we experienced in our twelve years on the road. Popped tires, engine overheating, air conditioning units damaged in a hailstorm, collisions, you name it. If you can think of it, it probably happened to us (with the exception of severe bodily injury, thank heavens)! I remember a number of times being stranded on the side of the road with engine trouble and only a couple of hours to figure out how to get to our gig that night. Talk about stressful! Our first RV was a never ending list of issues. It had a gigantic slide that ran down one side of the RV and the mechanics stopped working, so if we wanted the extra space, my dad had to crank it out by hand while we pushed from the inside. We always dreaded traveling through Wyoming because the wind was so bad. I’m pretty sure something flew off of the RV every time we crossed the state. Once it was an A/C unit and another time the whole awning flew off. We never did get a replacement for it either lol
2. Fuel Prices
Fuel is an obvious non-negotiable on the road and it is not cheap. RV and bus gas mileage doesn’t make that pill any easier to swallow either. Our bus and trailer combination got about 6-7 miles to the gallon. A fill-up at the truck stop could be around $400 a pop. Youch! Of course, fuel prices aren’t consistent from state to state either, so you’ll see the numbers fluctuate up and down as you drive back and forth across the country. If you’re traveling on the East Coast, you can also add the price of toll-roads on top of that. The way that fuel prices are going up everywhere these days makes staying home look a whole lot more appealing.
3. The Shower Situation
So, we had a shower in the RV, until the glass door randomly exploded all over the place as we were driving down the interstate (why would you put a glass door on an RV shower???). There was no shower in the bus, but honestly, I think I would opt for the extra space and stick to showering elsewhere if you’re traveling with more than two people. There’s only so much water storage space in an RV and you go through a lot of it when you take a shower, so that just means more time at dump stations dumping smelly gray water and filling up the tank, which takes for-ev-er. So what are the alternatives? Well, you can shower at the campground you park at. This is great if it’s a nice (i.e. expensive) campground. They probably clean the showers regularly and you’re not likely to find spiders. However, if you stay at a state campground, the showers are most likely poorly insulated, rarely cleaned concrete boxes. So depending on the time of year, they’ll be too cold or too hot and you should definitely check for any 8-legged occupants before entering. Another option is truck stop showers. When you fuel up at a Flying J or Love’s consistently, you rack up rewards over time. A certain number of points and you get a free shower. An indoor shower is so nice after staying at a campground and they’ll provide towels so you don’t have wet towels hanging all over the RV, but you do wonder what hairy trucker dude was in there before you…
4. Lacking A Real Community
We traveled as a family and made friends all over the country, which I loved, but we were never in the same place for very long. Even when we had a home-base, we were on the road up to 10 months out of the year. So when we would come home, it always felt like we were the new people at church or in the neighborhood. We had friends, but traveling full time makes it difficult to really nurture those relationships. I appreciated the people that would occasionally call or text to check up on us while we were touring, so that I didn’t feel entirely forgotten back home. I missed being able to serve in church and develop friendships with people that I could get together with on a regular basis. There is something to be said for being a part of a community. It’s nice to know that you have a tribe nearby that you can call on when you need something and it feels good to be involved in making your community better.
5. Lack of Structure
I know I mentioned in the last blog that I thrive in a more spontaneous environment, and I do, but a little bit of consistent structure can make it easier to accomplish more every day. It can be challenging to workout consistently when your environment is constantly changing. I mostly ran and did yoga on the road. Since we were always in a new place and I was never sure how safe an area was, I always made sure to have a running buddy or I just didn’t go. Then there were lots of days where we had a time constraint and had to travel all day. Try doing yoga in a moving RV without getting stepped on or falling over! As I had more kids, the need for structure increased. The majority of our shows were in the evening and the kids would usually wait up for us, so by the time I finished visiting with people and got back to put kids to bed, it was around 10 or 11. I often didn’t get to sleep myself until after midnight. When you add time zone changes to that, you get a seriously messed up sleep schedule. I’ve totally changed up my schedule since being home. We generally try to put our kids to bed between 7:30 and 8 during the weeknights and I get up super early in the morning most days, but it’s taken us over a year to get to that point!
6. Tight Spaces
On the road, the whole world is your playground, but you go home to a maximum of 45 feet at night, depending on the size of your rig. We first started traveling when I was 17 and while I wanted to experience this with my family, I was also hungry for independence, as I think most kids are at that age. I used to set up a tent outside the RV so that I could have my own space. I still love tenting it :). The space issue gets a whole lot trickier though, when you add kids and in-laws to the mix. There’s not really room for a crib or playpen, so where do you put the baby when you’re barreling down the road at 70MPH? Or how about when boyfriends would come on the road for a few days and, with limited sleeping space, would end up sleeping next to their future father-in-law. And I think we all walked in on someone showering or changing at least once. You get to know your traveling companions better than you ever wanted to!
Oh, laundromats…our second home on the road, next to Walmart. Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful for laundromats, but it is super convenient to be able to throw a load in the wash at any time. Considering how often my boys wet their beds at night, laundry is a constant thing around here! On the road, we didn’t have the luxury of stopping to do a load every day or two most of the time. We would usually hit up a laundromat when our laundry bags were bursting at the seams and we were running out of things to wear. I remember washing up to 11 loads in one evening. Living in one place, it’s so nice to be able to clean up messes as they happen and to not have that extra cost either. All those quarters add up!
This point is pretty specific to my experience and definitely wouldn’t apply to every traveling situation, but as lead singer of a full-time traveling band, I dealt with some serious mom-guilt. This wasn’t an issue in the beginning, as it was just my parents and all of us kids. However, as I got married and had kids, I yearned to pull back even a little bit from road-life so that I could be more directly involved in their upbringing. Being in a successful touring band is a full-time job. A show day is so much more than an hour and a half or two hours on stage. Upon arrival at a venue, the first order of business is setup and soundcheck. After that, it’s off to find a mirror to do hair and makeup and hopefully grab a quick bite to eat. Depending on the venue, there may be a meet-n-greet before the show and then mingling with the audience afterwards to sign merch and take pictures. Then take-down and off to the next gig. On off days (and often on show days) there are radio and newspaper interviews, over the phone and in person, as well as regular rehearsals to work up new music and tighten up old material. Not to mention the time that goes into recording new material and shooting music videos. I don’t say any of this to complain. I love every part of the process and feel so lucky to have had this amazing opportunity, but there was little time left to just be mom. I recall my 4-year-old saying to me on more than one occasion, “I don’t want you to sing. I want you to stay with me!” This broke my heart. I miss performing and would love to be able to do it again in some capacity, but I’d like to find a better balance between motherhood and musician.
If you’ve traveled full-time, what has your experience been? Would you agree with my list of cons or did you love everything about it? Maybe there was something else about it that was hard? I’m curious to know what your experiences have been! Make sure you check out my blog about the things I love about the road too. There are definitely a lot of pros. But sometimes when my wanderlust gets out of control, I have to remind myself that there were times on the road that I really wanted what I have right now. Thanks for reading 🙂