Finding Our Ideal Effort-To-Fun Ratio
Shortly after Jill and I met in 2013, she re-introduced me to skiing. The last time I had been on a mountain with skis strapped to my feet was twenty years earlier when I was an overconfident teenager who ended up cartwheeling down the hillside like a lifeless crash test dummy after attempting a run that was far beyond my capabilities. Fellow skiers hovering in the lifts above mocked me with applause when by the grace of god I finally stopped tumbling. I huffed my way back up the mountain in shame in order to retrieve my poles and skis while snowfall slapped my face. “F*** skiing!” I declared. It’s amazing that the only thing I injured was my ego. Two decades later—no longer driven to “go big or go home”—I finally got back on the horse and discovered that I actually loved skiing. Like, looooooved it.
Jill also looooooved skiing, so naturally it became one of our favorite shared hobbies. I think we would have skied every weekend, holiday, and “sick” day possible if we lived anywhere near a ski slope. The fact that we lived smack in the middle of Texas definitely inhibited our fanaticism—but not as much as you might think. Once, we traveled the 1,000 miles to Vail, Colorado just for the weekend. Not a long, three or four day weekend. Only Saturday and Sunday. If that doesn’t immediately strike you as insane, allow me to paint a picture.
After working a normal day at the office on Friday, we spent the evening cramming all our ski equipment and accessories into an array of backpacks and suitcases. We almost certainly went to sleep quite late, then arose again at 3:00 a.m. the following morning in order to catch a flight that departed at 5:30. We arrived in Denver a little after 6:30 local time, waited anxiously for our checked luggage to materialize, then raced to the shuttle that would deliver us to the car rental office several miles away. Once we were blessed with the keys to the rental car, we sped off toward Vail—another two to three hours away, depending on traffic and weather. Upon arrival at the hotel, we parked in the snowy outdoor lot, checked in, hauled our luggage to our room, changed into our ski clothes like a couple of play actors preparing for a new scene, then ran over to a nearby ski rental store. With skis and boots in our possession, we jaunted over to the lifts which, thankfully, were only a five minute walk away. Finally, we could reap the rewards achieved through all this madness. It may have been as early as 11:00 a.m. With the exception of a short lunch break at a mountaintop cafe, we skied non-stop until the lifts closed at 3:00 p.m. We then imbibed a few drinks, ate dinner, and lumbered back to our hotel room, collapsing into bed. I’d like to say we were in line when the lifts started running again the next morning, but I’m quite certain exhaustion and altitude dialed our enthusiasm back a notch or two. Most likely, we were on a lift by 9:00 a.m and skied until early afternoon at which point we had to return our rented equipment, check out of our hotel, load the car, drive back to Denver, return the car, hop on the shuttle, get back to the Airport, board the flight, arrive in Austin, obtain our luggage, and then drive the thirty minutes home.
I can sum up that weekend in two words. Never. Again. We hadn’t even arrived back in Denver before agreeing that, in this case, the effort-to-fun ratio had exceeded justifiable proportions.
With that story in mind, let me tell you about our summer this year. Between June 1st and August 31st—a time period representing 91 days—we spent 64 nights in our Airstream. That’s about 70%. Only one week of that was vacation. The rest were ‘normal’ workdays as we bounced between the mountains of Northern New Mexico and the beachy air of Southern California. We drove roughly 3,600 miles during that time over only nine days, averaging 400 miles per travel day. It was awesome. It was also exhausting. Exhilarating, yet taxing. By the time we got back into a physical house, we were ready for a break.
Our summer didn’t quite push us into “never again” territory but, like our whirlwind trip to Vail, the experience helped us identify our upper limits when it comes to working from the road. Unlike practically ever other RV blogger and YouTuber out there who lives the lifestyle on a full time basis, we’re content to remain merely “hardcore” part timers. Even if our full time jobs centered around writing for this blog and creating YouTube videos, we’re still convinced we’d crave periodic respites in a normal house.
But why? Don’t you love RVing?? Why wouldn’t you do it as much as you can? Why? WHY?
Do you like cake? Yeah, we do too.
Would you eat cake with every meal, every day, forever? Yeah, neither would we.
It’s like that. Too much of a good thing is still too much.
Since we’re fresh out of the Airstream, we figured now would be a great time to elaborate on our TOP FIVE reasons why we’ll always rock the hardcore part time segment of RV living. 🤘 🎸
5. Modern Appliances
Our very own private washing machine and dryer, neither of which requires coins to operate.
A full-sized, dual-basin kitchen sink with a garbage disposal!
A conventional oven, large enough to fit our favorite frozen pizza.
Truly, these are the luxuries of kings and emperors. When we’re on vacation, temporarily living without these standard household appliances isn’t so bad. With an extra 40+ hours at our disposal each week, the accumulated time spent washing dishes by hand and traveling to the laundromat doesn’t feel terribly burdensome. However, as a couple of traveling worker bees, most of our time in the Airstream isn’t spent vacationing. After enough time passes, the lack of appliances whittles away our treasured free time to the point where we start to suffer from Appliance Deprivation Fatigue Syndrome. (ADFS. It’s a real thing. Look it up. Seriously.)
(You didn’t really fall for that did you?)
When we return home after an extended period living in the RV, we’re like a couple of kids at Chuck E Cheese for the very first time. “WEEEEEEEEEEEEE! WE’RE DOING LAUNDRY IN OUR OWN HOUSE! AND PUTTING DIRTY DISHES IN THE MAGIC DISH CLEANING BOX! NEXT I’M GONNA FEED MR. HUNGRY A SNACK!” (Mr. Hungry is the garbage disposal.) Laundry once again becomes a spontaneous activity, no longer encumbered by the need for coins or competition for machines at the laundromat. Dishwashing becomes a breeze and cooking in general is made easier simply due the wider availability of countertop space. Of course, your milage in this arena may vary. If you, like us, often work while living in your RV, my guess is that you’ll pine for your appliances just like we do. But if you only use your RV for vacationing it may not matter so much.
4. S p a c e
Do you like quinoa, feta cheese, cilantro, blueberries, avocados, and corn?
We do too, which is why this salad recipe is one of our all-time absolute favorite dishes. But don’t be deceived by the claim that it only takes 15 minutes to prep and another 15 to cook. Lies! The minutes fly by like your long lost youth as you gather all the ingredients and then slice, blend, pour, and mix them together into a delectable fusion of culinary wonder. In the end, the salad might be ready, but your kitchen looks like a couple of rogue raccoons broke in and had a party. In our house, this is manageable because we have so much counter space. But when I made this once—once—in the Airstream, that’s the moment we realized some recipes aren’t what you’d call “RV friendly”. Every available surface in the Airstream was covered in the byproducts of our foolhardy attempt at producing this mouthwatering masterpiece. Cleaning up took for-ev-ver. We savored every delectable bite of that salad while in total agreement that we ought not ever make it in the Airstream again.
With that in mind, let me tell you something else. As I write this post, I’m staring at a 35 inch ultra-wide curved monitor. I have more real estate on this thing than Vail Resorts. When we’re on the road, however, I’m limited to the 16 inch monitor included with my MacBook Pro. Now, I love that MacBook. Love it. But laptops are geared toward portability, not productivity, and I when I go from Vail Resorts to, say, Vail the town in terms of my monitor’s surface area, the difference is palpable. (The town is teeny.) There’s also an ergonomic penalty for hunching over a laptop eight or more hours a day whereas at home I can stare straight ahead like I’m cruising down the freeway.
On the other hand! When I’m working from the Airstream and flit my eyes slightly to the left or to the right, my gaze is generally met with beautiful landscapes. Tall pine trees. Epic mountains. Herds of deer. Once, while I was sitting underneath our awning, a large jackrabbit darted twenty feet in front of me and stopped. He sat perfectly still for several seconds staring into my eyes like he had just spotted Elvis Freaking Presley. Then, in a blink, he was gone again.
My surroundings as I write this post are a bit more mundane. A red cabinet. A wall clock. Filing cabinets. A turn of the century Dell desktop computer that has been sitting fallow in the corner for too many years. But, oh man, I do appreciate this monitor.
This is why we like hitting the road. And then, after a while, we’ll look forward coming back home again. In the Airstream, we gladly sacrifice all the space a real house provides in order to visit new places and immerse ourselves in beautiful vistas. When we return to a real house, the extra space can feel like a breath of fresh air.
3. Predictable Exercise Opportunities
Many RV parks—especially the ones best suited for overnight stops—lack access to the sort of public sidewalks, trails, or streets that lend themselves to a safe, hearty walk or run. Sometimes the only available road has a high speed limit, too much traffic, or both. Other places are so overridden with barely contained dogs that it’s impossible to traverse public walkways without risking an attack. More than once we’ve gone for a walk in the neighborhood adjacent to an RV park and had to return because literally dozens and dozens of unruly dogs restrained only by flimsy fences and rickety gates would lose their freaking minds as we went about our way. Lest you think we frequently stay at sketchy parks in bad areas, even some of our absolute favorite parks like Blue Spruce RV Park near Durango, Colorado have had some of these limitations. There’s ONE road that leads into Blue Spruce and its shoulders range in width from narrow to nonexistent. Luckily, it was lightly trafficked, but playing chicken with oncoming vehicles is never fun.
We’re to the point where easy access to exercise opportunities—running and walking at a minimum—is a hard requirement for any future RV trips. All too often our exercise plans have been an afterthought. The consequences have been entirely predictable: irritability, reduced sleep quality, and—inexplicably—all our pants shrunk. (I know, wtf, right?)
At home, we can walk out our front door and run for miles, unencumbered by heavy traffic. There are scenic trails and a public swimming pool only a few miles away. Jill’s cherished Peloton stationary bike is always available no matter how hot or cold it is outside. Since traveling is inherently disruptive to normal routines, we’re starting to learn that a dedicated exercise schedule is necessary when we travel in order to preserve our waistlines and maintain our ordinarily sanguine dispositions. It’s definitely not as easy on the road as it is at home!
2. Reliable Internet Access
One of the first things we do when we arrive at a new work destination is run an internet speed test. I’m not a religious man, but this is one time when I always say a brief prayer.
Oh Cellular Internet Gods, hallowed be thy name. Your bandwidth come. Your will be done, in the trailer as it is at home. Give us this day our daily speeds. And forgive us our network excesses, as we have forgiven others. And do not bring us severe latency, but rescue us from any packet loss. Amen.
If our download speeds, upload speeds, and average latency all meet our minimum criteria I will exclaim Praise God! and breathe a sigh of relief. If not, I will mount our external antenna, pray once again, and run another speed test. At that point, I’ve pulled all the stops. What we’ve got is all we’re getting. In all our travels so far, our internet connection has never been so bad that it’s unusable, but there have been a few times when it was close. Video calls might be reduced to audio only. Coworkers might complain that our voices were cutting out or garbled. It can be quite stressful feeling like we’re naughty employees, unable to completely fulfill all our work obligations. There have been places where, for example, AT&T worked wonderfully on one trip, but was slower than an RV service department when we returned only a few months later. Thankfully, we have both T-Mobile and AT&T for redundancy! We often think about adding Verizon as a third backup, just in case.
At home, we open our laptops and go to work.
The internet always works. It’s always fast enough. The latency is always low enough. The packet loss is always zero. We can stream endlessly, whatever we want, without counting gigabytes each day to ensure we don’t exceed our quota.
If internet in the Airstream is like going on a crazy strict diet, at home it’s the biggest, baddest buffet you’ve ever seen. ENDLESS FOOD AND YOU NEVER GAIN WEIGHT.
1. Multiple Bathrooms
Really, need I say more?? 😅 💩 😆
Sorry, there’s no way around it. It’s SUUUUUPER convenient having more than one bathroom. More than one toilet. More than one bathroom sink. More than one shower. In the Airstream, we have to perform all our bodily maintenance sequentially. At home, we can do it in parallel.
In the Airstream: “Hey, do you have to go? No? K, can I go first?”
At home: “WEEEEE! WE’RE SHOWING SEPARATELY BUT AT THE SAME TIME!”
I started writing this post shortly after we arrived back home. I haven’t been able to wrap it up until now partly because there was a lot of housework vying for our attention after being away all summer and partially because we got hammered by a hailstorm less than two weeks later. By the time this post is published, we’ll have been homebound for at least six weeks and I’m already starting to experience RV withdrawal symptoms. It’s honestly been pretty great being home. It’ll be great when we get back out on the road too. Neither of us can fathom a future when we forgo the real house in exchange for full time travel.
That said, thank god for all the full-time RV YouTubers out there. Without them, Jill and I would have nothing to watch during dinner every night!