On-the-Road Lifestyle: The Things Every Driver Should Know

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated January 16, 2024

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Every working stiff is familiar with the fantasy: You quit your job, cut all ties, get behind the wheel. You let go of your past and turn toward the open road to see what it has to offer. But come on, could you really do something so drastic? How would you go about that? Where would you go? What would you drive? Can you even earn money on the road? Does this on-the-road lifestyle leave room for your friends, family, or pets? What about your broadband access?

Well, odds are you aren’t really ready to set out just yet. Most of us are only dipping our toes into the great wide open. We drive across the country for business or pleasure, broadening horizons little by little every day. But the lure of going all the way is always present, isn’t it?

You meet full-timers on the road, people who gave up the traditional lifestyle and now live out of their motorhomes. Some encourage you to try it out for yourself, others offer words of warning instead. But somehow, they all make it sound so damn enticing!

Here’s some of the advice gathered from these veterans of the road. Their strategies, guidelines, tips, and tricks might be of use to any type of driver. Who knows, they might even change your mind if you let them.

Preparation: The Baby Steps You Need to Take

Before you cast off, it’s best to have things clearly laid out. Yes, you’ll need to stay on your toes and improvise, but that’s easier if you start with a solid structure. Here’s what drivers should keep in mind while preparing.

Sketch Out Your Route

The decision to hit the road is often impulsive, but it should never be careless. Whether leaving your old life behind forever or just taking a road trip, it pays to plan ahead. So plot your course and choose the spots to visit en route. Decide how long you’ll be staying at each stopover. Figure out roughly how much money you’ll need to get to each destination. Think about the weather to expect, about the terrain and road quality, about what the amenities might be like.

No one’s forcing you to stick to this plan, of course, but a rough outline can be invaluable. If you just start driving, hoping to figure things out along the way… it’s unlikely you’ll get very far. People give up the lifestyle for a variety of reasons, but poor planning is often one of them.

Pick the Right Rig for the Job

This one should really go without saying – you need a vehicle suitable for the journey you’re about to make. Common sense rules apply: get something reliable, with decent gas mileage. Make sure it’s able to handle the type of terrain and the weather you’ll be facing. Most importantly, it should be a type of vehicle that you’re familiar with. You need to feel comfortable driving it, and it won’t hurt if you’re also able to perform basic repairs.

If you’re living on the road full-time, your options are somewhat limited in this regard. In the end, you’ll almost certainly go with a motor home of some kind. Approximately 9 million households in North America own an RV, though few owners actually live out of theirs.

Contrary to popular belief, living in an RV is not all that expensive. Sure, they cost more than your average car, and the bigger ones guzzle gas like nobody’s business. But just compare these expenses to the cost of your regular accommodation (rent, mortgage, bills, etc.) In most cases, you’ll find that the difference is smaller than you think.

Budgeting and Sustainability

This is a big one – we’ll cover the topic in greater detail in the section below. For now, suffice it to say that you absolutely need to manage your budget. Don’t just assume that you’ll have enough on hand to last you until something comes along. Improper budgeting is a common cause of aborted adventures.

Downsize Your Life

The hardest thing to accept about living on the road is giving up the luxuries of your stationary lifestyle. On a certain level, we all know that things will need to be left behind. Still, it catches us by surprise when something we’ve been taking for granted suddenly becomes unavailable.

Say that you’ve sold your house and bought a motor home, even a spacious one. Making that decision, you’ve probably decided to willingly give up some amount of privacy and comfort. It’s the end of indoor plumbing as you know it! But did you really take everything into account? Did you consider the reduction in clean clothes availability? How about the sudden need to ration your use of electricity?

All these small sacrifices can be made, but you should prepare for them well in advance. Knowing what to expect will make it easier for you to trim the fat when the time comes. In time, you’ll realize that the benefits of living on the road greatly outweigh the costs. All you need is some readiness to soften that initial blow of losing those little luxuries.

Finances: How to Earn Money on the Road

“How do you guys make a living out there?” It’s a question that on-the-road lifestyle practitioners get all the time. The truth is, while living on the road does involve some belt-tightening, there’s plenty of money-making opportunities. And no, you probably won’t be able to match your regular 9-to-5 income, but that doesn’t really matter. Your cost of living drops as well – you’ll be fine once you get the hang of things.

The thing to keep in mind about earning while traveling is that there’s no such thing as a steady job. The gig economy dominates even the traditional lifestyle – moving around won’t help you avoid it. So, why not try to embrace it instead? Accept the transient nature of employment, just as you’ve accepted your own transient lifestyle. Let’s look at some options for landing a gig while on the road.

Remote Freelancing

In the modern world, telecommuting is a fact of life. For people who live online, working from home is rapidly becoming the default option. Maybe you’re a web developer, a blogger, a software engineer or a brand ambassador? If you can do that job from home, you can do it from the road too.

Your number one priority on this type of job is internet access. Before hitting the road, get an unlimited data plan with your mobile carrier. Verizon or T-Mobile are probably your best bet for coverage, but this varies by area. Tether your other devices to your phone, allowing it to act as a portable hotspot, then type away.

Once you’re set up, working from your car will be as comfortable as working from your bedroom. If anything, there are fewer distractions on those long stretches of empty road. You can look for a job on Working Nomads, Upwork, and other sites of that nature. Just make sure you’re not up against a deadline before driving into a “no service” area.

Online Shipping Jobs

Of course, you don’t have to keep doing the same kind of work that you used to do back when you were a homebody. You might want to switch things up and take advantage of this dynamic new lifestyle of yours. And what better way to do that then by entering the online shipping marketplace

On websites such as Citizen Shipper or Shipping Made EZ, you’ll find people who need their stuff moved around. As luck would have it, you’re now a mobile entrepreneur willing to work in transport! Sign up, browse the jobs posted, bid on some, and get paid just to keep driving. It really can be as simple as that.

If you deliver shipments on time and without any issues, you get positive reviews which boost your profile. Shippers are more likely to pick drivers with high review scores, and that means more earning opportunities for you. Best of all, living on the road makes you uniquely suitable for this type of job. You can be your own boss and keep doing what you’re doing while making money on the side.

Home Rental

As mentioned before, not every RV owner actually lives out of one full-time. Maybe you’re on the road just for a part of the year, and staying home the rest of the time. If that’s the case, you should probably consider renting or leasing to augment your income.

If looking to lease your place short-term while on the road, there’s plenty of services at your disposal. Airbnb is the most popular choice, but you could also go with something like HomeAway, or perhaps FlipKey. The income you can generate varies widely, depending on the relative value of the property and its location.

On the other side of the equation, you might just want to rent your RV or camper instead. When you’re not using the motorhome, why not have it make money for you? Sites such as Outdoorsy, RV Share, and many others offer this type of service. There’s usually a sense of communal recognition among people who rent rigs to each other. It’s the on-the-road lifestyle that brings together the owners and the renters, building mutual trust between them.

Odd Jobs

There are countless other ways of earning money on the road, too. Not all of them are very well paid, but every little bit helps. Let’s outline a few of these potential job opportunities, to get you a rough sense of what’s out there.

  • Manual Labor. With experience in construction or repairs, you can find work at RV campsites or via Workamper. Even unskilled workers can provide maintenance or physical labor.
  • Vlogger. Travelogues and related video content are pretty popular online. Like other YouTubers, you could earn a little extra cash just by recording and sharing your experience.
  • Traveling Salesman. Figure out what your fellow nomads need, and try to bring it to them. This could be literally anything, from water filtration systems to cell phone signal boosters.
  • Seasonal Worker. Moving around, you can usually find work in tourist areas. Agriculture is also an option if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, and even Amazon is hiring.

Problem-Solving: How to Stay a Happy Camper

Now, don’t get the wrong idea: we’re not saying living on the road is all sunshine and rainbows. There are always issues to address, just as there would’ve been if you were still living at home. There will also be unforeseen circumstances for you to navigate. To prepare for dealing with these snags, it’s imperative that you develop strong problem-solving skills. The better prepared you are, the less stress you’ll experience.

We’ve laid out these “survival strategies” in three broad categories for you to consider.

Communication and Compromise

If there’s one aspect of living on the road you shouldn’t overlook, it’s your fellow nomads. Some of us are born with interpersonal skills, others develop them later in life. In either case, you’ll need to start relying on others while traveling and being useful to them in turn.

Consider who you want to bring along on this adventure. Some people travel with their family, others choose to go it alone. But we mostly see pairs out there: boyfriends and girlfriends, relatives or retirees. Whoever you’ve got riding shotgun, make sure that they’re on the same page as you. When stuck in close proximity for an extended period of time, even a mild disagreement can turn into a row. Get used to invading each other’s personal space, and tolerating each other’s annoying little quirks. Be open and honest about it, though – don’t feel obligated to enjoy the other person’s company at all times. When you stop for the day, giving each other some space might help smooth things out in the long run.

Along the way, you’ll cross paths with all sorts of people – other travelers or local residents. Some of them you’ll get along with famously, but others you’ll detest. You might need to rely on the latter, or even help them out when they’re in trouble. Keep in mind that you can’t afford to be too picky when living on the road. You exist in a state of flux now, so keep an open mind. Experienced drivers know this, but rookies sometimes hold on to sedentary sectarian thinking. Whenever possible, try to be tolerant and show compassion instead of judgment.

Learning to Improvise

People who start living on the road don’t always realize how often their plans might fail to pan out. There are so many variables involved, so many annoying little details – from a flat tire to a sudden weather shift. It’s rarely possible to maintain full control over your experience. But the solution is simple: don’t stick too closely to your plans!

Did the roads get shut down in the worst possible place, and now you’re running late and might lose your job? That’s a shame, but don’t panic. Maybe there’s another route for you to take. Maybe your employer will be reasonable. Maybe there are better jobs for you out there?

Did you fail to account for all the refueling that you’re making, so now your budget is running tight and you can’t afford the side-treks you’ve planned? Well, it is what it is. Learn from your mistakes and plan a new, shorter route the next time around.

Did you buy a fuel-efficient diesel-powered rig, but now the costs of maintenance are ruining you? Yeah, that sucks, but it’s no reason to give up. Maybe you could trade it in for a gas-powered one within the same class or higher?

Remember that this on-the-road lifestyle is supposed to be about freedom, not following preset routines. Do not let obstacles discourage you! There’s a knack to thinking on your feet and taking things in stride. It just takes a while to figure it out.

Safety and Self-Care

Even more important than your comfort or enjoyment, safety must be regarded as a key concern. Here’s a couple of helpful tips on how to keep the risks of living on the road manageable.

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  • Vehicle Insurance. Make sure that you’re fully covered, and double-check to see if your insurance includes roadside assistance.
  • Careful Boondocking. While it’s generally safe to boondock, apply some common sense. Choose camping locations carefully, keep everything locked down, and have a phone handy.
  • Secure Wiring. Avoid fires through regular maintenance of the electrical systems. Never overload through excessive appliance use.
  • Road Conditions. Check in advance for road closures and construction work.
  • Weather Warnings. Be aware of inclement weather, especially storms and frost.
  • Stay Connected. No matter where you are, emergencies are salvageable if you stay connected. Make sure your cell phone is charged and your data plan up to date.

In addition to preventing accidents, there’s also long-term health and safety to consider. Living on the road full-time involves crossing state borders frequently, and often self-employment too. These factors complicate healthcare insurance coverage – as if it weren’t tricky enough already. Many have opted for unique plans such as those offered at rverinsurance.com. Since healthcare in America is an ongoing social issue, we can only recommend keeping an eye on the situation as it develops.

Finally, in addition to physical health, you need to find ways to deal with mental health issues too. Keep yourself balanced and stress-free as much as possible. Drivers under stress are prone to making mistakes, endangering themselves and others. Fortunately, living on the road can be an incredibly calming activity. Many turn to this lifestyle specifically because it soothes their nerves. Enjoy the freedom that it brings and become a healthier, happier driver.