Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What I learned from a tri-state RV trip

A post on Owning pink

The Idea
My husband had an idea a few months ago…let’s go on an RV trip! I didn’t think he was serious, so I mumbled something under my breath and we didn’t mention it again. I knew his idea wasn’t going away when I saw him showing my three and five year-olds pictures of RV rentals online. “Come on, it will be fun…we can even bring our dog!” The three of them seemed so excited about the possibility, I couldn’t refuse them. I swallowed hard and gave two thumbs up.
The Planning
My husband is the events planner, social organizer and travel advisor in our home. I don’t know if he just likes these activities that much or I am just that bad at them so he has had to take over. He rented the RV online, planned each trip to the day and started making a list on what to bring. We were headed to New Jersey near Long Beach Island, then to Maryland to see the wild horses on Assateque Island, and would finish in Pennsylvania so we could take the kids to Dutch Wonderland. As the trip became more defined, I began to panic.
The Doubt
I need my space. The idea of being crammed in an RV with my husband, two small children and a 75-pound dog for seven days straight was not my idea of fun. If you have ever traveled with small children, you know how difficult it can be… especially the sleeping in strange places part. My Siberian Husky was in full fledge shed season and by the shedding pattern thus far, looked as if she could possibly go bald this month. I had been reading about the takeover of biting bugs on Assategue Island and feared we might be eaten alive. And did I mention my husband snores? Not cute little rumbles, but I’m talking freight train proportions. How were any of us going to sleep? I need sleep!!! Panic Panic Panic…Why did I agree to this???
Meeting the RV
When my husband pulled up to our house in the RV, I burst out laughing. It was a moving billboard for the company. Their logo, number and website were all over the vehicle. While loading for our trip, every neighbor on our street came out to see what this beast was all about. We met neighbors we didn’t even know existed. They all wanted to see the inside of the RV, hear about our adventure or tell a tale of their own. The energy was contagious and excitement crept in.
But as I was putting sheets on the “beds” in the RV, I pulled up the mattress to hook a corner of the sheet. I couldn’t believe my eyes!  Under the mattress were about 3,000 ants and 10,000 ant eggs! There were so many it looked like a moving carpet! I froze. I didn’t know whether I was going to vomit or throw a tantrum. I was so disgusted. I called the company who told me they had not other units and they were sorry, these things happen in RVs. Why did I agree to this???
Suck it up and go
At this point my husband was getting annoyed with me. He said I was being negative and I needed to lighten up, this was supposed to be fun. Quite honestly I was annoyed with myself. What the hell had happened to me? Pre-children I would strap on a backpack, hike 15 miles and tent camp in the middle of nowhere. Why was this kind of “roughing it” making me so uncomfortable? 
We took care of the ants and took off.
Lessons from an RV trip
I learned many things about myself and about RV living on this trip. So, for those of you planning a late-summer adventure or a mobile family vacation in your near future, here are some tips to help along the way:
  • Never take a 75-pound dog that is in shed season on an RV trip (should have trusted my instincts on that one). Especially if the dog doesn’t like moving vehicles and is prone to running away. Our stress level was through the roof trying to keep the kids from opening the door. And our dog did manage to run away once -- in the middle of a severe thunderstorm, not good!
  • When you go to visit friends you haven’t seen in ten years, make sure your aforementioned ill-behaved dog doesn’t kill a bird in their yard, in front of the kids.
  • Always check the weather forecast before inviting friends to your campsite for a cookout. The one night we had company, the sky boomed, lightening struck and the floodgates opened. In a matter of seconds our fire was out, the campsite was drenched, and we had four adults, two children and a wet dog in the RV (after my husband caught the dog).
  • Never open the refrigerator when the RV is moving, but if you have to (because the kids are screaming in hunger or your husband thinks it is a fun idea for you to make him a sandwich while he is driving), put on a hart had and steel tipped shoes because you will get hurt by the flying bottles and condiments.
  • If you feel a urinary tract infection coming on before your trip, don’t say you’re too busy to get it taken care of. Having a UTI while camping is dreadful and it's very difficult to get a prescription called in to a random pharmacy.
  • RV tap water is not a good substitute for saline solution, ouch! (I forgot mine.)
  • Always look under every mattress and cushion before pulling out of the RV lot. You never know what is lurking under there until it is too late. We found more than ants...
  • When you pull up to your campsite and it is located directly across the street from the dumpsite, ask for a new site no matter how tired you are from the day's adventure. Campsite dumps in 95-degree weather smell like poop.
  • I was amazed at how fast my underarm and leg hair grew in a week. I had no time to shave as if you took more then a 30 second shower, it would flood the RV due to a drain clog.
  • Beware of the green-headed flies. They are mean, they are nasty, they defy every bug repellent and will bite you 30 times in a row right through your jeans.
  • Become friends with the black flies because at any given time you will have about 17 of these unwanted guests in your RV. If you bring your dog against my better advice (see first bullet), this will entertain her as she will chase and try to catch them in her mouth... all night long.
  • Listen to yourself. I really do need a lot of space and alone time. At the end of the week I felt a little insane and very itchy (although that could have been because of my 62 bug bites).
The Best Part
After reading this, you're probably thinking there is no way in hell I would ever take an RV trip!  But I have to say, I would do it again. I learned a lot about myself. I was happy to see that despite the bugs, plumbing problems, smells, lack of space, poor sleeping and general discomfort for seven days… I managed to lighten up, have a sense of humor and actually have fun! My biggest accomplishment is that I managed to disconnect from the rest of the world and be perfectly present with my family. Maintaining lightness and being fully present with my children are two of my biggest struggles. I came back from the trip with my values and priorities back in order after being off balance for months. For these reasons alone, this trip was a fantastic success!
What about you? Do you have any funny vacation memories to share? Any memories of traveling when you learned a little something about yourself?
Heather Sobieralski
Life Coach for Moms


  1. Great to read, ouch on the bugs and fir and all that! My husband has been making noises for many many months about buying one of those contraptions and making it a roving home for at least a year, wandering from friend to friend all over North America and doing odd jobs for them. Riiiiight. My comments about where to store tools and what we'll eat or how we'll pay for gas/repairs aren't met with very reasonable answers. Until they are answered satisfactorily, I think I'm safe?! I hope!

  2. It is a fun fantasy to have :) Friends of ours own and RV (but don't live in it). They use it almost every weekend and don't have the issues I experienced. To each her own!!!!!!!

    Keep asking those difficult questions and you shall remain safe my friend!