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Defining "full-timing"

Last week at the big Airstream rally I was approached by many people and asked about the full-timing life. It seems more and more people are looking at this lifestyle as an alternative to a sedentary retirement. Far from being a refuge of the borderline-homeless and hillbillies, living in a travel trailer is now a cool thing to do, almost chic.

I was pleased to see the sorts of people asking me about full-timing. They were successful, intelligent, thoughtful people who have come to realize that there are huge advantages to mobile living. Most of them were approaching retirement and viewing their Airstream as a literal "retirement vehicle", but others were still working and trying to figure out how to carry some semblance of a career forward using mobile technology.

For a lot of people, full-timing is a way to travel and live cheap. But many people who approached me last week had no intention of selling their homes. To my way of thinking, that's reasonable. It's not as affordable to keep your home (compared to selling it), but it does have the advantage of giving you a ready base in the event of an unexpected event that prevents you from continuing in the travel trailer.

This reminds me that full-timing doesn't really have a definition. I know people who consider themselves full-timers but sit absolutely stationary for months at a time. Others only consider it true full-timing when you are on the move regularly. Some people have homes they return to periodically, while others (like us) go for years with the RV as their only shelter.

If you spend six months each year in your RV, and six months back at home base, are you a full-timer? Perhaps you're a part-time full-timer.

The definition is flexible, but I believe there's a mental orientation that we all share. Full-timing is more about your travel philosophy than your exact circumstances. Here are a few commonalities to full-timers that I've noticed:

Full-timers like to explore. They live in travel trailers for the convenience, but they'd do the same thing in a boat if they felt like exploring the seas. In fact, many full-timers I've met were formerly "live-aboards" (the equivalent term for boaters).

Full-timers like to travel more slowly than the average person. They tend to reject fixed schedules, and celebrate the opportunity to be flexible.

Full-timers are often stubbornly independent and march to their own tune. They will go where their family members wish they wouldn't, whether that's Alaska, Mexico, or the mosh pit. They have chosen to trade traditional "stability" for freedom, and they don't take it lightly.

Full-timers will stretch a buck ten feet if it means they can stay on the road a little bit longer. They'll work almost any job, no matter how menial, if it keeps them where they want to be. I met a wealthy professional working the gift shop at Grand Canyon just so he could stay all season (otherwise your stay is limited). He could have afforded a nice hotel room a few miles down the road. I met a retired lawyer cutting hair and parking RV's just so he could stay all summer in a beautiful Idaho park and visit his grandchildren.

Full-timers tend to be unafraid. They don't stay home because someone else had a bad experience, or because someone told them there were snakes. The only things full-timers fear are high gas prices and bad health.

Full-timers know how to make their own fun. I've never met a bored full-timer. (I suppose anyone who did get bored would quit traveling pretty quickly.) Full-timers learn the trick of finding something to do anywhere, and they enjoy location-independent pursuits like reading, writing, photography, quilting, and cooking.

Most full-timers are gregarious. They love to meet new people and socialize. It's hard to travel around and be a hermit at the same time. Making friends is part of the package.

So overall, full-timing is a mindset. If you get a great feeling of freedom and lightness when you travel on business or vacation, you may be a full-timer who just hasn't launched yet. And if you've been a full-timer (like we have) and are now contemplating "settling down", just keep in mind that owning a house means nothing. You can still pack up and go out again ...


Thank you for this great definition of full-timing.
"If you get a great feeling of freedom and lightness when you travel on business or vacation, you may be a full-timer who just hasn't launched yet." This is probably exactly where I am at the moment since I'm "only" 34, married, with a 1-year-old. I'm posting from Germany, maybe you didn't even know that you have a faithful reader here that enjoys your site and blog tremendously... Take care and keep up the good work! Thorsten
P.S.: Airstreams are coming to Europe soon! We are excited and started saving already... :-)

Although we don't have our Airstream yet (we're waiting for hubby's next out of town contract), we plan on part-time full-timing.

We're in our 40-50's, empty-nesters and love to travel.

We are SO looking forward to it!

I think that I could fulltime easier than living in a fixed dwelling. Although a house (shop) is nice too. I think it must come from moving so much as a child growing up as my father moved up the corporate ladder. It seems perfectly natural. I suggest that Airstream Life have a monthly article devoted to fulltiming.

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