5 Years - Exploring Modes

This is the third in a series of posts about our lifestyle as we near the 5 year mark, and some thoughts we're having about making changes as we move into the future.

On Exploring Modes
Those who live in RVs for extended periods of time fall into certain patterns or modes of existence. For some, the RV seems to become a purpose unto itself, and life becomes a series of rituals about the machinery, the systems, maximizing the comfort of living in a small space, and socializing with like-minded neighbors for extended periods of time. For others, the RV is just a tool that allows them to travel and explore... to go to and experience places on their own schedule... for any period of time they choose.

To set the tone of this post, allow me to state a few things first. Our definition of exploring is: to travel for the purpose of discovery. This could include experiencing new places, historic sites, museums, or unique geographies such as those offered by National or State Parks, National Monuments, etc;  and recreational activities like hiking, biking, climbing, kayaking, sailing, etc; or even experiencing big cities and what they can offer. As long as you're outside your RV and seeking new things to discover, to learn about, to experience... you're exploring.

Second, about a year ago we identified two styles, or modes, of exploration that are used by RVers we've observed. One we've come to call "linear exploration mode", which is where you and your rig... together, are moving from place to place and exploring as you travel. The alternative is "hub and spoke exploration mode", which is where you park your RV at a point (the hub), and use another smaller vehicle to explore in large loops or "spokes"... out and back to the RV each day. I'm sure there are permutations of these two broad modes, but for the most part it's an either/or thing.

The exploring mode used is determined by personal preference, camping or parking location, as well as the capabilities of your RV. We've found it hard to really explore in linear mode with the bus-house as it's often just too big, too cumbersome, for where we'd like to go. We're usually towing our car when we travel and unless we know, in advance, or have a strong suspicion, that we'll be able to successfully get in, get parked, and get out again... we don't make the attempt. The common hazards, for us, include low hanging branches or low clearance objects, small narrow tight roads and parking areas, and dips or inflections in the road that can cause long low-hanging vehicles like the bus-house to drag it's rear overhang or high-center the whole vehicle. And, often the road is just not appropriate for a 40 foot long 16 ton vehicle with a car in tow.

And so, over the past 5 years, we've generally used the hub and spoke system of exploring. But the more we do it the more critical we are of it. Why?

The way we explore it's hard to really plan a day. The tendency is to pack more in than can be reasonably be accomplished. Because you're exploring you really don't know everything there is to see and do... and unexpected things pop up all the time. This isn't such a big issue if you're exploring a few short miles from camp... it's easy to come back the next day and continue. But if you're exploring 40 or 50 miles or more from camp, you'll have to commute back to camp and then back out again another day to accomplish your objective.

For example, let's say we plan to stop and see or do three different things during the course of a day, with the furthest being 50 miles away. Along the way we discover some new and unexpected things that cry out to be explored... and three stops turn into four or five. We alter our plans, do one of the unexpected things, and, as time passes during the day we find ourselves pushed by the clock, running out of time... bumping up against closing times, maybe even darkness. And then, to top off the day, we're faced with that 50+ mile drive back to camp... while tired and when what we really crave is a little relaxation and solitude to absorb and let the discoveries of the day flow over us.

On the other hand, in linear exploring mode you can be more spontaneous and flexible in your explorations. Having your "home" with you while exploring has other benefits. If you find the perfect spot to stop and have lunch... on a beach... a cliff-side park... a wayside along a swiftly flowing river... you can, since your home and your food supply is right there with you. In linear exploring mode the clock is secondary... doesn't have to matter at all. If you want to stop someplace for an hour or two... or all afternoon... or even overnight... you can. If you don't get as far as you expected that day, just find a place to overnight (much easier with a small rig) and continue on the next day. You can be much more relaxed and spontaneous... exploring while wandering with your home.

The most enjoyment we get from living fulltime in our RV is being able to travel, explore, and experience North America. In the future, we'd like to optimize those aspects of our life on wheels.

<< Part Two <<

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