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March 30, 2015 | 43 Comments

woman and dog jumping on a beach in the rain and wind

I’ve been living in an RV with my husband, 12 year-old daughter, and two not-small dogs for 17 days.

The idea of buying a travel trailer came up last summer after cramming the five of us and our old bones into a three-person tent. One thing led to chats about possibly hitting the road full-time, and here we are in the middle of testing out the idea with a month-long trip down the coast.

And if you’ve been relying on our Instagram feeds to gauge our levels of contentment, you’d think we struck good times gold. And, in a way, we have. But chicken nuggets the good times come with a shit ton of stress. I don’t exactly know how to Instagram hair-pulling and tears without weirding out the internet, so smiling faces and bounding dogs on west coast beaches it is.

Our first couple days brought on a cluster of surprises that, alone, would barely register as annoying. A spitball to the head. Like, say, bad wifi delaying client meetings, an oven fan that doesn’t work, condensation forming pools in window wells, drawers and doors that won’t stay shut during travel, a broken set of plates, and mesh pockets that unglued themselves from the wall.

No bigs, right? Wrong, dear reader. Wrong. The spitballs piled up and became increasingly trickier to shrug off.

And let’s not forget our dog with car anxiety. We’ll call him “Neville.”

When your daily travel consists of a ten-minute ride to the dog park—whatevs! Less whatevs when you’re talking multiple seven-hour stretches towing over 6000 pounds through mountain passes. Regardless of our proactive measures—including anxiety meds, a compression jacket, a pheromone collar, a harness, a tether, and sedatives—Neville still manages a constant state of batshit crazy. This comes in the form of pacing, whining, pigeon coos, high-pitched barks at random intervals, and spastic attempts to climb the back seat—getting himself tangled, and our daughter flustered, in the process.

But surely he settles after an hour or so? Surely he can’t manage that level of intensity the entire drive? Wrong again, dear reader. The force is strong with this one.

The upside? Neville stresses out his canine sister enough that by the time we arrive, they’re both exhausted and settle easily.

Let’s move on to day five’s sewage smell that crept in from the vicinity of our back bunks. With some collaborative nose work, we discovered its source: the AC vent above the top bunk. And why would sewage fumes leak through an AC vent, you ask? Hells if we know.

The collecting spitballs and the piles of not knowing became an un-ignorable heap in the corner of our psyches and almost sent us into a stress coma. We became so tightly wound that our daughter—whose warm childhood memories and adventure quota were the source of inspiration for all of this—was having zero fun.

We seriously considered heading back home. We crawled into bed with heavy hearts and twisted stomachs.

Sleep helped. Sleep always helps. The morning brought fresh resolve. We apologized to our kid and followed the highway south.

I can’t tell you that we RVed happily ever after. We’ve since had to learn to unclog an RV toilet, reattach a trailer brake that popped off en route (thank Moses we were only going 5 miles an hour), and get an empty black tank to actually read as empty.

Just tonight we had a whopper of a fight that ended in tears and cooling-off walks. But it was one of those fights that probably needed to happen. It dislodged some unspoken truths and made way for doing better.

So. Could we actually take this on full time? I really can’t answer that. We still have 11 tester days to go. We’ve definitely learned what works (shorter driving days and setting up Anxi-o Dog in the back seat with access to kid cuddles) and what doesn’t (many travel days in a row and too much toilet paper), but I’m not sure we have enough data to decide if this is our jam.

I do know that despite white-knuckling my way through these last 17 days, I’m happy to be trying. I’m proud of us for not sitting at home wondering. We’re out here, elbows-deep in the finding out. And that’s something.

(Thanks to Sara Wachter Boettcher for the clever title.)

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