Some of my friends and family think I’m crazy. A lot of strangers think I’m crazy. Why would you give up a big, beautiful, paid-for house and move into a 5th wheel? And, why on earth would you make a change like this when you live with chronic illness? I promise that decision didn’t come lightly, even if seemingly came overnight.
I’ve dreamed of living in an RV and travelling the country for probably 15 years. I just always thought that if it happened, it would be at retirement, when I’m older.
After all, that’s not something people do in their thirties or forties, right? It’s certainly not something someone younger can afford to do. And, definitely not something someone with unpredictable health would attempt.
All that changed in 2017, when I realized that the life I was living was anything but the life I wanted. I was in a marriage that didn’t make me happy and living in a house that I hated. I felt I was constantly living for tomorrow. I’d go to bed early just to make the day end.
I wanted to so much more from my life. I love to travel and wanted to do so much more of it but I felt like everything in my life was holding me back rather than setting me free.
And, just like that, I decided it was time for a change. It was time to live a life that I was happy about. I was tired of just being complacent, of living my life waiting for tomorrow to come. I needed to start living enjoying today, enjoying every moment.
I kept the house in the divorce. I didn’t really want the house, but I needed a place to stay for the time being. And, I needed safety and security. The house gave me both of those. It was paid off, so living my dreams became a matter of selling my house.
Less Stuff Means Sess Stress
It was when I began preparing to sell my house that I realized just how much stuff I had. And, with each item I sold, donated, or trashed, I felt just a little freer. It was then that I realized just how much all the things I was holding onto were holding me back.
What I also realized is that every extra item in my life added stress. Stress is a major factor in my illness. It is one of the main things that will aggravate my symptoms, making me feel worse.
As each item departed from my house, my burden lightened and my stress level declined. I felt freer, and with that freedom, I felt healthier.
There was a snowball effect. With each item that I released, I wanted to get rid of more and more. I tried to keep only the things that had a purpose, that could fit into an RV lifestyle, or that had meaning. I did keep several large pieces of heirloom furniture with the knowledge that if all went as planned, they’d just end up in storage.
Finding a Travel Buddy
It was during this time that I met Brandon. He didn’t think my dream was crazy. He’d thought about living in a tiny home. So, the idea of a tiny home on wheels wasn’t so different. We decided we’d do this thing together.
This removed another layer of stress. I was fully prepared to figure out how to make this RV travel life work solo. I know others do it, so I could too. But, it was still a scary prospect taking on something so completely foreign to anything I’d known and doing it alone.
When I sold my house, I moved in with Brandon until we could find the right RV.
Less Space Means Less to Clean
After selling my house and moving in with Brandon, only to be surrounded by all our things, all the stress I’d released by getting rid of things returned. Once again, I was in a house full of things that weren’t really being used. A house that was too big even for the two of us.
I don’t love to clean. It’s not my thing. I’d go so far as to say that I hate to clean, especially floors. And, 1800 sf is a lot of floors to clean (seemingly just as much as 2200 sf). It’s a lot to clean even for a healthy person but with my limited energy, it was impossible. I could clean maybe one room at a time before I ran out of energy. By the time the whole house was cleaned, it was just time to start over again.
Cleaning that house just made me hate living in sticks and bricks even more.
I didn’t want to spend my life cleaning the house. I wanted to spend my life enjoying my space, or even better, getting out beyond my space.
In the 5th wheel I can clean the whole house (floors and everything) in the time it used to take me to do just the kitchen and dining room floors in either of our houses. And, now that I’m not spending all my energy cleaning my home, I have the energy (and time) to get out and do more.
Less Space Indoors Means More Time Outdoors
I wanted a home where I could get outside and easily get exercise by walking in nature. We lived on the corner of two busy roads, so we mostly stayed inside.
For years, I’d said that my next home needed to be somewhere where I could easily access walking trails. With a 5th wheel, I could make that happen and I have. Whether we are camped at a state park, adjacent to a golf course, or even on the beach.
Getting outside and enjoying nature has become a part of my daily life. I spend as much time as possible outdoors now, and I feel that has greatly improved my health. Simply breathing fresh air and surrounding myself with nature brings me the positive energy I need to help me feel better.
Even on days when I don’t feel like doing anything, I can simply open my windows and be surrounded by nature instead of feeling stifled in a house.
More Freedom to Roam
I have always loved to travel. However, since I became ill travelling has become difficult. Dealing with airports or even driving long distances wears me out to the point that when I arrive all I want to do is climb into bed. It can take me a full day to recover sometimes, longer if that bed isn’t comfortable.
Chronic illness also means I need to bring a lot more with me when I travel, and being on a specific diet makes eating out more difficult.
Living in an RV means I never have to leave the comfort of my home to do it. I can take my comfortable bed, my comfortable pillows, my kitchen, and even my bathroom with me. I don’t have to worry about what I’ve forgotten, because it’s all right here.
And, I can take it anywhere I choose. My goal is to follow the weather, to chase the perfect temperatures (somewhere between 70-75 degrees) and avoid the cold. Major shifts in weather can aggravate the chronic pain and fatigue that I live with.
So, staying in a comfortable climate is ideal for me. Living in an RV makes that easier.
To many people, it may seem like I’ve given up a lot. But I feel I’ve gained so much more than I could possibly lose. I could have waited around till retirement and continued hoping that maybe one day I could live my dream.
The truth is that in life – with or without chronic illness – we don’t know if “one day” will come. All we can do is take advantage of today. There’s nothing holding me back from living my dream today – not even chronic illness. So, that’s what I’m doing.
I no longer go to sleep early hoping tomorrow will be better. I enjoy every day and stay up late because I don’t want the day to end. I look forward to tomorrow only because I know it will bring me more of what I enjoyed today.
About the Author: Julie Ryan is a blogger and freelance writer. For the last decade, she has blogged about her life with chronic illness at CountingMySpoons.com. In 2019, she made a major shift, sold her house, and moved into a 41ft 5th wheel. Her new blog, RVwith.US, she and her boyfriend, Brandon, share their journey into full-time RV life. They travel with Sir Ollie the RV Cat.