Life Lessons from The Road: What I Learned While Driving Across the Country

Guest post from Molly Barnes of Digital Nomad Life

“Life is a highway,” or so the song goes, and there’s something to that. You learn a lot of things about traveling when you drive across the country, and you learn plenty about life, too. 

RV travel is my life, and it has been for the past several years, so learning about one thing kind of means learning about the other. You figure out how it applies, you implement it, and then you move on — because that’s what you do in an RV: you move on.

Here’s a sampling of what I’ve learned on this road trip called “life.”

Keep your head in the game 

One great thing about going from one place to another all the time is it keeps your mind engaged. You have to stay focused on the road and follow the map that’s in front of you, or you’ll lose your way and wind up somewhere you didn’t want to be. Worse, you’ll get that dreaded “highway hypnosis.” 

I keep my energy and focus up by drinking coffee in the morning (and sometimes in the afternoon, too). It not only gets me going quickly, but it also can reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s in the long term. Since I needed a brewing solution that I could take with me on the go, I picked up a camping-ready, travel French press from BruTrek

Besides, I don’t want to miss anything. On the road, you’re always seeing something new, which means you never stop paying attention. Whether you’re exploring the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Monument Valley or the Blue Ridge Parkway – in the immortal words of Aerosmith – you don’t want to miss a thing. 

photo of basecamp 32 oz french press
Basecamp 32 oz French press

Keep your body in shape 

The same goes whether you’re talking about the human body or your auto body. It’s a temple, right? And you’ll put a lot of miles on it, hopefully, before it’s ready for the scrap heap. So your job is to get as much mileage out of it as you can, and see and do as much cool stuff as you can along the way. At least, that’s how I look at it.

Physically, I like to walk every day. If you’re cooped up most of the time in a pretty small space, like an RV, you need to stretch your legs — so I do. It keeps my body in tune. By the same token, I keep my RV in tune with servicing, which keeps it from breaking down. 

Just like I get regular physical checkups, I give my car regular checkups, too. I want to make sure my car has enough oil, antifreeze and brake fluid, and ensure the tires aren’t bulging or going bald. The last thing I need is for the engine to burn out or to blow a tire on the highway.   

photo of truck towing camper in desert
Photo by Benjamin Zanatta on Unsplash


Keep your finances healthy 

On the road, money matters. One thing I learned as a young person with minimal personal finance knowledge is the value of good credit. Did you know most rental car companies require a credit card as security when you go to rent, to guard against the possibility that you’ll damage their vehicle?

Good credit doesn’t happen overnight. You have to earn it. I learned that lesson the hard way when I realized I didn’t qualify for a loan. Being a self-employed freelancer with an income that fluctuates from month to month isn’t the best gateway to getting credit. 

Fortunately, though, I found out about opening a secured credit account: depositing a fixed amount in exchange for a credit line on a credit card. Having one meant I could build credit easily and consistently (and not have my funds frozen for days or weeks after using my debit card for things like hotel incidentals.)

photo of foreign currency
Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash

Keep your next goal in mind 

After all this time, I’ve created a solid morning routine that keeps me focused on my goals. Once I have some caffeine in me, I look at my map app (hey, that rhymes!) and scope out where I want to go next. Sometimes, I fly by the seat of my pants, but mostly I plan days or weeks in advance. Knowing where you want to go is important because then you can prepare for what you’ll need.

If you’re headed for inclement weather, you’ll need to have a weatherproof jacket, umbrella, and rain boots near at hand. You’ll also have to know how good the roads are, what the traffic’s like, and how much gas costs (it changes from place to place, and RVs eat a lot of gas). 

There are a lot of things to consider, but the process of looking ahead helps you enjoy your trip all the more. You’ll know where you’re going, you can anticipate it, and you’ll be able to appreciate it once you’re there. It’s that way with life in general, too, so there’s a lot to learn, even if RVing isn’t your cup of tea — or coffee, if you prefer!


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