So you’re…considering…living in an RV park? Maybe you’re traveling in an RV or travel trailer, and you want to know what it’s like in extended stay parks. Maybe you’re downsizing, and you want a cheap place to live, full-time. Maybe you’re moving, and you need a temporary place to stay (like me) for a couple of months.
Here is a list of 10 coping skills and character traits you’ll need:
1. You don’t mind living outside.
One of the downsides of living in your tiny-home is that it’s tiny. You won’t like spending every second in an 8X10 space, trust me. You’ll have to learn to love the great outdoors, be it dining al fresco on a picnic table, or putting your feet up in your outdoor living room. There are ways to help bring the comforts of a home outside. Consider a rug, an awning, some outdoor furniture, some string lights, or even a portable fireplace (Unless you’re in California. Then no fires.) !
2. You don’t mind your neighbors being close. I mean CLOSE.
Another downside to living in a trailer park is that usually, there ain’t much space between you and that fifth-wheel next door. Most trailer parks try to orient the spaces so your trailer has 8 or 10 feet on the “door” side (the passenger side) and negligible space on the utilities side. If you’re lucky, you get 10 feet on either side, but keep in mind your back-door neighbor usually has the rights to their own “door side” space. This means if you have noisy neighbors, you’ll hear them. I have been very lucky not to have very many of these. However, when I do come across them, I keep a pair of nice headphones around to drown them out.
3. You don’t mind gravel and asphalt.
Trailer parks try to keep maintenance low by graveling everything. Some very FANCY parks have grass and trees, but I’ve found that those are few and far between, unless you live in the forest somewhere. I carry rugs with me to put outside my door, so I don’t track in sand and gravel every time I come inside. However, especially in the desert, my socks were usually full of sand by the end of the day.
4. You like trains, planes, and automobiles.
Parks take up space that nobody else wants. Usually, they’re near an airport or a railroad or a highway. This is good for them and you, because it keeps rent cheap and you can get your bulky trailer there without navigating tight, congested streets. This is bad if you mind a little daytime transportation noise. One park I stayed in was directly below the flightpath of an airfield. I actually enjoyed watching jets, fighter planes, and carriers pass over all the time. If this isn’t your thing, choose a park waaaay out in the country, and it will be much quieter.
5. You don’t mind poor, white people.
Notice I did NOT say ‘white trash.’ That we as humans should call anyone trash is pretty offensive to me. Also, ‘white trash’ to me denotes someone with a substance abuse problem. I have NOT found that to be prevalent in the parks I have stayed in, but then again, I have tried to steer towards parks that cater to tourists. I am sure that those types of trailer parks exist, but I think they are rarer than you think. The clientele for trailer parks is mostly caucasian, yes. And some are poor or middle class, yes. People who live full-time in parks sometimes have jobs, sometimes not. I’d say 75% are retired and over 50. Some are on disability. Some are probably on welfare. Some are big, dirty, sweaty men with no shirts who work on their trucks in the heat of the noonday sun and drink beer and smoke cigarettes as their main hobbies. Some are little old ladies with no teeth who have nothing better to do than sit in front of their rig and chat about American Idol. A few of the trailers are run down and a little rusty, haven’t moved in years, and have accumulated a moat of junk around their base. This is the culture, okay? But everyone I’ve met has been pleasant, friendly and at the very least interesting to talk to because they’ve lived a different life than I have. Many have been traveling nurses, run their own businesses, work full-time jobs in town, or are artists or writers like me. Many are not even poor. Trust me, if they can afford a $100,000 RV bus, they’re far from it. If poor people make you uncomfortable, then there are certainly “upscale” parks, but you’ll pay dearly for them, and I say they’re not worth it.
6. You don’t mind sharing a laundry and a shower with dozens of people.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have your own bathroom in your rig, but for people like me, you’ll have to go to the bathhouse. Sometimes, it’s a house. Sometimes, it’s a shack. A lot of the time it’s a mobile-unit. I will say this: 90% of the trailer park showers I have used had hot water and were clean. The benefit of this, of course, is that you never have to clean your bathroom, because the management does it for you. Wear shower shoes, though. Wouldn’t risk it.
7. You don’t mind the smell of stale cigarettes.
Self explanatory. Not always the case.
8. You don’t mind slow internet.
Pretty much all parks have free wifi now, but everyone in the park uses it. During the day and early in the morning, it’s bearable. But come after-work-primetime, you’ll be lucky to get the Google homepage to load. There are ways around this, but none of them are as good as a hardline like you’d get in an apartment.
9. You don’t mind the social stigma.
The media is not kind to trailer parks. Conventional knowledge suggests to people when you say you live in a trailer park that you are lazy, uneducated and ill-mannered. You know that you are not, and that it is a valid lifestyle choice. Have a sense of humor about it and know that people who judge you are simply afraid of what they are unable to understand. The fact that you’re considering living full-time in an RV says you’re a bit of a loner anyway, so I’m sure you’ll be fine with a few people looking down their noses at you. If anything, residents in the park will make up for this loss of social connection because you’re now part of a wide-spread, modern-gypsy community, which is surprisingly welcoming.
10. You like being able to pick up and go whenever you want.
Trailer parks, even ones that cater to long-term tenants, charge on a per night, per week, or per month basis. You pay ahead of time. There is no contract (occasionally there is an agreement to sign for monthly tenants, but that is to protect the park, and not you) and no deposit. This is a good thing, because if you’re interested in a temporary place, you can leave whenever you like. Your house is on wheels, after all! This is a bad thing because it means you have to be a considerate tenant who follows the rules, or the park can kick you out whenever they like. And since you’re living your life half-outside, you’ll see the management (In their golf carts. Yes, that’s not a stereotype.) around all the time. Of course, you’re a nice person who pays on time and follows the rules, so you don’t have to worry. Also, if your neighbor is not such a good person, he’ll be kicked out by the month’s end. There is definitely a culture of a transient nature, so you have to like change. Most people are on their way to somewhere or back from somewhere. I like this. I enjoy talking with people about where they’ve been and where they’re going. It’s like being a modern gypsy.
So there are 10 things you’ll have to get used to if you want to live in a trailer park. A few side notes when choosing a good park:
Choose one with full hookups if you’re planning a long term stay. This means water, electric and sewer. There is nothing more irritating then having to hook up your rig to dump your waste only to return it to the same spot.
Choose one that is AAA or Goodsam rated. These are ‘tourist friendly’ parks. You’ll pay a little more, but they have nicer amenities. If it is not rated by these companies, make sure it at least has a website, looks well maintained, and is in a good neighborhood.
Be careful about ‘seasonal’ parks. There are some parks that exist only as ‘seasonal’ getaways for people who leave their trailers in place and only return during warm months. Most of these are run down, and some close during the winter. I would avoid them, unless the management is very good.
Be careful about parks that charge extra for electricity. This is bogus. Only a few long-term stay parks do this. You can find one that will give you a flat-rate very easily. Trailers do not use that much electricity, and besides, what are you paying for if not the hookups? A patch of dirt? A communal shower house?
If you don’t need a whole month, most short term parks cap the stay length at 14 consecutive days.
And some final trailer park life tips:
Wash your car and your trailer. Keep a clean home. This will help you feel “rich” even though you live someplace rich people would never set foot.
Say hello to your neighbors and wave. This lets them know who you are, and which trailer you belong to. Like any neighborhood, your neighbors can look out for your and your home. Plus, they can tell you interesting road stories.
Lending libraries. Trailer parks have some of the MOST INTERESTING lending libraries, and almost every park has one.
Throw pillows. Buy lots and lots of throw pillows. They will make you feel comfortable when you have to spend long amounts of time inside because of rain or snow.
Living in a trailer park is not altogether different than living in an apartment complex. There are some drawbacks, but many have amenities you wouldn’t otherwise get in a more traditional living place. (Some trailer parks have pools and hot tubs!) Plus, unlike an apartment, your home is YOURS and you can move it whenever you like. If you own an RV and don’t mind the above quirks, I would highly recommend visiting an interesting location and trying it out for a month or two.