Living in an RV with Pets: Things I Learned
By Molly Barnes
Traveling in an RV around the U.S. has thrown my boyfriend Jacob and me plenty of curveballs, but this health crisis is one challenge we didn’t see coming.
Much like the experiences of everyone else the world over, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned life upside down.
Living on the road during a pandemic has definitely put a crimp in our travel style. We’re used to immersing ourselves in the various cities and towns we visit, and we enjoy socializing with the locals — but the coronavirus has changed all that.
For the time being, Jacob and I are self-isolating in our RV with our pets to keep us company as we travel.
This time with them has provided us some interesting insights, as our pets have taught us quite a few lessons since the pandemic set in.
Relaxation makes life better
Being on the road most of the time while juggling our work isn’t always conducive to rest. Sure, we sleep in sometimes and take some lazy weekends, but there’s a lot to juggle, and our life is generally pretty active. Observing our pets has made us recognize the importance of resting, though.
For instance, Rachel, our cat, likes to ride on the dashboard to soak up the sun during long drives. I never cease to be amazed by her commitment to sleep. Casey, our dog, also is dedicated to his naps. While he can’t fit on the dash, he curls up on the bed or finds a comfy place behind our seats. Both of our furballs are pretty happy after a long relaxing nap.
Too much clutter interferes with life
Downsizing into an RV took a lot of work. We gave away a lot of our stuff, left our sentimental belongings in storage, and sold, donated or dumped everything else we didn’t want to bring.
However, living in the RV for the past year and a half or so, we find we’ve still accumulated a lot of “things.”
Like many dogs, Casey will fit himself into practically any spot near us, but Rachel chooses to knock things off shelves and tables to claim her space. Watching how these two stretch out has made us think it’s time to prune and purge again.
If we accumulate much more, we fear it’ll affect our enjoyment of our limited living space (or prevent us from buying that cool souvenir once everything opens back up).
Social distancing is much easier in an RV
Living in a Winnebago definitely has its advantages and drawbacks, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made us extra grateful for this lifestyle. Practicing good social distancing is easier while in a self-contained vehicle like an RV, but it still gives us the freedom to experience new scenery when we need it.
Freedom is becoming a harder balance, though. Casey is one friendly mutt, but since lockdown, we’ve had to teach him to stay with us until other people make it clear whether they’re receptive. Many people understandably don’t want to get too close right now, so we have to be careful when we open the door so he doesn’t run up and give someone a big, sloppy kiss.
I was thinking the other day it must be hard for people who are limited to seeing the same four walls every day. We still social distance, but we’re not in total isolation.
Pets put a priority on hygiene — and so should we
During this pandemic, there are some days we just stay put and focus on work if we’re in an area where excursion opportunities are slim to none. On these occasions, it’s easy to forget what day it is or whether or not I washed my hair the day before. Jacob and I are both pretty laid back, but sometimes one of us realizes enough is enough and it’s time for a shower.
Watching our furballs constantly groom themselves is a good reminder not to get so engrossed in work or pastimes that we forget to practice good hygiene. There have been times we’ve found ourselves camping without a water hookup, so now we make sure we always have plenty of sanitizer on hand. It has always been important, but never more so than now.
Never underestimate the value of exercise
Fortunately, exercise isn’t hard to come by on the road. There are plenty of areas in the U.S. where we can easily get outside the RV and explore our surroundings with a hike. In fact, part of the beauty of RV travel is that we can take a walk in a new, beautiful place almost every day!
Casey, of course, loves these walks and is very happy to sniff his way into convincing us to explore new paths. Sometimes we let him lead the way, and it ends up being a good workout. Of course, we have to be careful about social distancing on the trail — so sometimes these remote paths present an opportunity for us to get a little cardio workout, too.
Clearing the mind is important
Jacob and I are very happy with our chosen path, but during this pandemic, we’ve definitely had our moments of cabin fever. Our home-away-from-home has its square footage limits, which sometimes requires us to find ways of staying placid.
We’ve noticed that Rachel is especially good at doing nothing. Her activity (or rather, lack thereof!) has inspired me to start meditating. Long distances and close quarters require a level of calmness, and meditation helps me keep my cool when I can’t have the open space I crave.
More Road Trips Please
We’re definitely looking forward to cities reopening so we can get back to our usual types of road trips. It’ll be nice to start socializing with people again.
While we’re staying in remote areas in places where there are no other vehicles, we’ve been taking turns driving the RV barefoot, just for fun. (Yes, we made sure it’s legal first — the last thing we need is a traffic ticket!)
We’re looking forward to the day we can put on our shoes and go visit a museum again. But in the meantime, we’re enjoying this quality time with Casey and Rachel and each other and looking forward to what else the animals will teach us while we’re all cooped up together.
Molly Barnes is a full-time digital nomad, exploring and working remotely in different cities in the US. She and her boyfriend Jacob created the website Digital Nomad Life to share their journey and help others to pursue a nomadic lifestyle.