We get caught up with the numbers too much. Especially because we keep track of the places we stay, total amount we pay for campgrounds/RV parks, when and if we plug in, how often we shower, etc. We have certain numbers that we are really proud of:
- How much we’ve spent on campsites/RV parks: $74.11 total this year
- How many days we’ve been plugged in: 0 this year
- How many continuous days we haven’t plugged in: since November 16, 2015; 300 days and counting
When those numbers look that good, it’s hard to want them change. And we’re in control of whether or not they change.
Is it bad to be proud? Sometimes yes, but I think there are lots of things people should be proud about: when they overcome a challenge, when they achieve something that others thought wasn’t possible, when they’ve done a fine job, when a milestone is reached, etc. So I don’t feel bad when I say I’m damn proud of what Jerud and I have done and how we are living. When we first came up with this idea of living in an RV that was totally powered by solar panels, we really didn’t know if it would work or not. That’s why we initially left our propane RV stove in. It was a safety net. But we’ve proven to ourselves (and to others) that it’s possible to live in an all-solar rig. It’s not always easy. But it’s also not always difficult.
We’ve had some difficult moments – the past two weeks have been hard on the Toaster and us because it’s been very overcast and rained all those days except for maybe 3. Our batteries have been hovering around 70 – 85%, and only reached a full charge once in the last 14 days.(Keep in mind that batteries must be kept above 50% charge and fully recharged about once a week to prevent damage.)
We wouldn’t be worried if we knew it was going to be one or two days of rain before it got sunny again, but the weather forecast called for rain in all the places we were going as we head back to the States. We also wouldn’t be worried if it was just overcast - we’ve gotten our batteries charged to 100% on cloudy days. But these were super overcast, rainy days. We talked about shortening our stay in Canada and heading straight for Washington where the weather was good. But there were things we wanted to do in British Columbia and we didn’t want to give them up.
Besides, if worse to comes to worst, it wasn’t like the Toaster would totally die. We would just need to go to an RV park to plug the Toaster in and charge up. But that would wreck our 300-day streak. So this is where getting caught up with the numbers is bad.
When the weather is that bad for that many continuous days, it means we have to be very conscious of how we’re using electricity. We went into conservation mode: we cooked over a campfire more, didn’t turn on our hot water heaters, and the ceramic space heater didn’t get turned on when it was cold. Yes, we could have made it a lot easier on ourselves by just going to an RV park but c’mon, we haven’t plugged in yet this year. It wasn’t like we couldn’t use any electricity, either: the fridge ran, we still cooked the majority of our meals on our induction cooktop, lights were on, laptops were used and charged, we heated water using the electric tea kettle, and the water pump worked. So we weren’t exactly roughing it.
So how does keeping track of our numbers hurt us? We become so focused on the numbers that we sometimes limit ourselves where we go. For example: we’re planning to head to Seattle when we return to the States and stay for a month. Free boondocking in the Seattle area is next to impossible to find and RV parks near the city is expensive. Plus we’ll rarely even be in the Toaster, since we’re visiting family and friends. Last time we visited we were lucky and found a long-term parking spot, but this time we can’t find anything for more than a few nights. So we could say screw visiting Seattle because we want to keep our paid campsite cost low, but that’s just ridiculous. We have many great reasons to go, even if it means our paid-camping numbers will go up.
That’s also the case with where we want to spend our winter. Right now Jerud and I are leaning towards somewhere with snow. But we know that means we have to be plugged in because the Toaster isn’t set up for long-term winter conditions like that. Are we so set on being able to say that we didn’t plug in for an entire year that we don’t go where we want and plug in for the winter?
Numbers are just numbers. No one really looks at them except for us. We’ve recently added the numbers to our Currently page, have included them in our road anniversary blog post, and sometimes share them on social media. But do those numbers mean much to other people besides us? We hope it means something and encourages other people to strive to be more sustainable. But we know that for the most part they don’t get much attention aside from us. Besides, at this point we know we’re able to live in the Toaster for an entire year (and more) without plugging in at free boondocking sites.