How RV Life Cured My Perfectionism

Imagine this: You just achieved your dream of buying your RV, sold 90% of your belongings, and moved into your new adventure on wheels with goals of seeing the world. You thoughtfully plan a route, start making a spreadsheet with all your reservations, and paid deposits paid for the next 6 months. You even look at mobile coverage maps in each area you will be staying so you know you can still work remotely. It’s perfect. You can now set off into the great unknown without fear, knowing you just planned every last detail into submission.

Then, a heatwave hits the southwest, where multiple stops are on your route. We’re talking 110+ degrees every single day. In the shade. In New Mexico, one of your A/C’s starts making a terrible squealing noise in the middle of the night and just stops suddenly. You get it working and move on. All is well with your plans. In AZ, you reserved a month at a great place near Sedona. Right off a major freeway, that you didn’t notice when you looked at the map. And you discover that your well-thought-out mobile data maps are not nearly as accurate as you thought. In Vegas, the heat is so bad, the park’s power grid keeps going off, causing the breakers in your RV to trip. No power. No AC. Oh, did I mention you’re also traveling with two dogs and a cat?

But you still forge ahead. Sure, spirits are a little low, but your perky sense of optimism keeps you going. I mean, you’re still living your dream of RV life, right? Not so fast. Breaking news: Utah is on fire! Bryce and Zion are evacuating residents, which is exactly the next two stops, on your perfectly planned route. You call the RV park and learn they have a 30-day cancellation policy and don’t care that the place is on fire. They aren’t going to give you back your reservation fees, which in this case, was payment in full for a whole month. (Flashback: “Won’t a month in Zion be amazing?”)

Now, you start to think: “Why universe? Why are you punishing me? I had this all planned out perfectly and yet, everything is going wrong.” And you have a pity fest. You cry. You’re rude to the RV park folks. You’re rude to the cell companies whose data maps clearly are lying to you. You’re panicking that you still have three more months of “perfect” reservations that now all need to change because your route must be completely modified.


It’s then when you have an epiphany. “I can either let all these challenges break my dream of travel and RV life and be angry at everything that doesn’t go my way. OR… I can learn to be more fluid and go with the flow and re-evaluate my definition of perfect.”


This was my first 3 months of RV life. And honestly, the idea of the latter terrified me. How could I live this lifestyle constantly feeling like I was out of control of my destiny? Talk about an RV existential crisis.


But I’m all about pushing myself outside of my comfort zones. So with a deep breath, prayers, meditations, and (let’s just be honest) lots of wine, I make the decision to swing the opposite way. I begin by making reservations one at a time (instead of 6 months ahead). I identify our priorities with mobile data coverage being a must since we have to work. Temperture being a very close second.


And I actually begin to find the humor in the unexpected. Like trains barrelling through our campground Every. Single. Hour. Or that weird odor coming from the “beautiful lake” talked about on the campground website. I start to coin the phrase “RV life and the art of surrender” which for me, is all about living this lifestyle with grace and ease vs rigidity and fear.


I say fear because that’s where I was truly coming from, if I’m being completely honest. I was so afraid of “getting it wrong” and “making a mistake” that I drove myself a little loony trying to perfectly plan every last detail. Down to the minute. Not even kidding. I also realized my fear came from a lack of confidence that we’d know how to get outselves out of a jam.


Into my 3rd year of full-time RV living now, I’ve surrendered my need to for things to be perfect and accepted that things are going to be outside of my control. Heck, that’s all life, not just RV life, right? But when it happens in RV life, the anxiety can feel a little more acute. But so can the bliss and sense of magic this life can bring. Learning to see the perfection in the imperfection is where I find that magic.

 Like the time we found a last-minute boondocking site in Glacier that was far from perfect.  Reviews on Campendium named it “the field of despair.” But it had great mobile data and was only 15 mins from the national park. After settling in, we spontaneously connected up with other Instagram RV friends and ended up staying a week longer than we originally planned and had the time of our lives.  

There’s also the time we decided to change our Yosemite plans (again, fires) and head the opposite direction to South Dakota, which wasn’t even on our radar. A quick week stop turned into over a month, as we fell in love with the Black Hills, Bear Butte, the Badlands, and immersed ourselves in the indigenous culture, and making life-long friendships along the way.

 And currently, we’re in Texas, awaiting the birth of my best friend’s baby! A very happy and unexpected event in all our lives. Not feeling the pressure or obligations to be somewhere else allows me to take in the beauty of moments in the present.

 Bottom line, there are still challenges for us. I think that my resistance to them is what has changed. My perfectionist tendencies will always exist, but this new guiding sense of “surrender” to what is, helps keep me sane. Oh, and wine, which I keep on hand, by the box.


Written by John Fairfax

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