Carolina: Cruising Past 70: The One Real Secret to Traveling Light, RVing or Not

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The One Real Secret to Traveling Light, RVing or Not

By definition, you cannot travel light in an RV! How can you travel light when you are, in fact, taking your whole home or hotel room with you? But I would like to tackle this subject because I think it will lead us to the one real secret to traveling light. Our RV was about 350 square feet of living space. We tried not to add much to its 20,000-pound weight. Living in our moving home for eight years taught us how to keep our every day needs to the barest minimum because fuel is expensive!


When I came to America, I had completely downsized to just two suitcases and a Balikbayan (returning resident) Box. Initially, I lived in a room at my daughter Trisha’s home in Seattle. Soon I was teaching at three institutions of higher learning and I bought my own condo. I continued my minimalist lifestyle which I had actually followed in Manila. At about the same time, Bill’s second marriage ended and he also had downsized to a single’s condo about twenty miles from me.

When we got married, Bill moved into my condo. Soon after, he sold his business and we both retired. We sold most of our stuff on Craigslist and three-yard sales and then packed all that we needed in our 24-ft. Class C motorhome. We left some boxes in two storage locations: Trisha’s garage and the storage unit of the condo we shared. When we bought our 37.5 Class A motorhome and the Thousand Trails membership, we transferred all that we owned to the big rig and gave away small items to our children! That brought us down to the bare necessities of living in an RV.

Clothes can be a creeping culprit. Bill always said ‘I’ve got too many shirts’ every time I saw one hanging on a rack that looked like it would be great for him. When I found out that tight pressure and extreme temperature, whether hot or cold, caused a flare-up of hives, I changed my dress size to Large! I donated to Goodwill most of my stuff before I could buy any new ones. Recently, I have changed back to Medium and Goodwill got lots of clothes again.

Paper can also add a lot of pounds.  So, as much as possible, we gave up physical books and magazines and limited ourselves to e-books and e-zines on Kindle instead. Most of our files were converted to electronic format. We kept only those original documents that need to be presented like passports, birth and marriage certificates, divorce/annulment papers, etc.  Our health records were all already electronically held in e-patient systems. Even my recipes were kept on two electronic folders. And photos were scanned.

Food areas can be the heaviest facilities. So we limited our silver and dinnerware to a service for four and no more. When we had more guests (the RV seats 10 inside plus unlimited outside!) we used plastic ware. Wine glasses came in glass-like plastic. Saucepans were.just in 3 sizes small: medium, and large; frying pans just 2, small and medium. But we did have a slow cooker and a microwaveable rice cooker, small ones. Bill made do with a French Press since a coffee machine would have had such a large footprint on our tiny counter. The small pantry also carried only the bare necessities. And the refrigerator held only a week’s worth of food. The microwave and convection oven were both in one switchable unit. Mugs tended to collect, however, and my spices drawer was always too full!

However, I was not as good with our burden from the bathroom.  My cabinet had grown to several years’ supply of soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc. I really had to stop collecting those things from motels, hotels, and condotels we stayed in. But now I have put those into good use: as part of a ziplock bag where I have added a small toothbrush, a small toothpaste, a pack of crackers, a can of Vienna sausages, and a small tissue packet which we distribute to the homeless. Bill kept his toiletries to the minimum. Linens and towels were good for only four people: Bill and I and two guests! 

Now for the rest of the stuff.  On storage bins under the RV, we kept a small portable fire pit (for sitting out even on cold nights), a small barbeque grill, an outdoor table and four chairs, 2 suitcases and 2 carry-alls for trips elsewhere, Bill’s fishing gear, and a ladder.  Inside the RV, we carried a DVD player, a small microchip-based Ziller karaoke system, 32-inch and 15-inch TVs, a satellite dish, iPod player, a laptop, and a Tablet.  We also had a small space heater, a small electric fan, and a small vacuum cleaner. Our bed was Queen size and we also had a small washer/dryer combo!

We learned so well that we only needed 1,200 sq. ft. for a home to settle in after our RVing days were over. As a matter of fact, our cabinets and storage spaces are not even full yet, two years after! The lessons have trickled into traveling light. Now, we pack only one carry-on for a trip of several days, a carry-on each for a week or two, and a checked-in bag and two carry-ons for three weeks or more. So what is the one real secret to traveling light? It is this: living light. If you only need the barest of minimums for everyday living, you probably will also travel light!

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