So, part I of Dream Planning was the easy part. Think about what you want to do, save the money, and decide on the timing. But let me tell you, for a dream to become the ultimate experience it takes a LOT of RESEARCH, EDUCATION and PLANNING so you can avoid (or be prepared for) many of the things that can and will go wrong.
While my dream of becoming an RV owner started in my early teens, I didn’t start getting serious about this until I took our family on our first RV vacation to Bryce, Zion, and Grand Canyon National Parks back in 2013. Having only been a passenger in the past, I had a lot to learn. For our first experience I decided to go through a RV touring company and they coordinated everything from our itinerary, to campground reservations, to selecting our RV rental. It was surprising how simple they made renting our first RV sound. A quick run through of how things worked and then they handed us the keys. No test drive required. Just go to the nearest Walmart and go shopping! We were shocked by how many signs had been flattened in that Walmart parking lot– likely by other novice RV drivers who had no clue about navigating with such a large vehicle!
Our maiden voyage was a huge success. Our teenage son, who had no cell service, actually interacted with all of us and became a lot closer to his younger sister. We hiked tons of trails, floated down streams, rode horses and mules, and took in some majestic scenery that we will never forget. No TV, just family time in the great outdoors. One thing that we did miss, was having a car that we could use for side trips vs. having to pack up the whole RV just to go to the grocery store. It is not always fun trying to find a parking space for a 30-foot vehicle!
This is why I highly recommend REHEARSING and PRACTICING before fully committing to what you THINK is your dream. We could have taken our first RV trip and the kids could have hated it. Worse yet, Becky and I could have hated it! We also took advantage of available resources, getting help from a company who had a history of coordinating successful trips. This certainly helped ensure our positive experience.
Then life got in the way again, and our kids were going every different direction. We didn’t make the time for another RV experience for the whole family, but it was still in the back of my mind. So, in 2019 I did two things. First, I purchased a new Jeep Wrangler so I would have the appropriate vehicle to tow behind an RV in the future. Second, we decided to plan our next RV rental experience with a trip across Alaska in the summer of 2020 with our daughter, Kelly, to see as many National Parks up there as we could. This time, I did more of my own itinerary planning and coordinated my own RV rental. We decided on a class C (engine up front, similar looking to a U-Haul Truck) vs. the class A (bus style) that we had for our first trip. We wanted to explore in a different way, but as you know from my first blog, this trip to Alaska never happened and instead we came up with an impromptu class C RV rental for our trip to the Smokies.
I quickly learned that having the engine up front was NOT something I enjoyed. There was so much noise that we could barely carry on a conversation. But this trip did reinforce that we loved the idea of having our own house on wheels. We are in control. No airport delays or cancellations. I can pack once and know that my space is clean and sanitary.
When we got back, we decided NOW is the time to pull the trigger. I continued to do a LOT of online research to determine which RV would be best for us. I also conversed with many current RV owners, including a fellow Raymond James colleague, Darrell Wright from Ohio, and some of our clients who had already been enjoying the RV life. I then watched TONS of YouTube videos and RV shows. I couldn’t believe how much there was to learn! I watched instructional videos on RV maintenance, driving skills, best items to purchase for your RV, RV set-up and tear-down checklists, getting the best cell reception and Wi-Fi, RV Do’s and Don’tsJ
Once we decided on the make and model, we finalized our order and went with a dealer down in Mississippi who had a great reputation for a client centric experience at a reasonable cost. About nine months later in April of this year (yup, just like a baby), we were driving to Sherman, MS to pick up our new girl, Jolene!
Like any new “parents”, we have had a bit of a learning curve in how to handle and live in our new girl, but that is for future blogs. Overall, we’ve been thrilled with our experience and would be happy to talk to anyone who is considering an RV purchase down the road!
In closing, the biggest learnings I’ve had from realizing this huge dream is the value of RESEARCH, EDUCATION and PLANNING. Before investing a large amount of money to go all in on a dream, I strongly recommend that folks also PRACTICE and REHEARSE. This applies not only to a motor home, but to physical homes too! Test things out and be sure to lean into your resources to learn as much as you can. We want your dream to become an ULTIMATE EXPERIENCE!