“On the Road Again” – those who choose to live in and travel with their RV know those words only too well. Each trip provides new opportunities and the possibility of adventure. With all of the moving around, however, how do full-time RVers ensure that they are remaining socially active? Is remaining socially active even important?
There have been many studies indicating that maintaining a social network — or a close-knit group of family and friends — is necessary to ensure one’s physical and mental health. Fortunately, with a bit of planning and effort, it can quickly become a regular part of your daily life, wherever you are. With the following tips, you can easily strengthen and increase your existing social network to promote a healthier and happier lifestyle.
Reasons to Stay Social
Whether it is sharing advice and encouragement or sharing joys and sorrows, it is human nature to periodically crave company. People who maintain their connection with others often improve their safety, their health, and their happiness.
Increase Your Support System
“United we stand, divided we fall., Patrick Henry famously said. In other words, there is safety in numbers. When you have a neighbor you can depend upon, you have someone who can help you troubleshoot vehicular or motorhome problems. You have someone who keeps an eye out to protect your belongings or even watch your children while you are away.
When you develop a good relationship with those around you, it provides a naturally occurring community with an “I’ll scratch your back; you scratch mine” philosophy attached.
Decrease Your Chance of Depression
One of the hazards of frequent traveling is a sense of isolation. When you don’t live in one neighborhood — or even state — it makes it difficult to remain socially active. This isolation can lead to loneliness and depression.
Symptoms of depression include decreased energy or increased tiredness, insomnia, trouble thinking, feeling helpless or hopeless, and irritability. Sufferers often experience physical aches or pains and anxiety or apathy. Changes in appetite and loss of interest in activities that they typically enjoy also occur.
Unfortunately, this usually results in the person further isolating himself or herself, which exacerbates the situation. Fortunately, however, this can be eliminated in most people — and reduced in those who occasionally experience depression anyway — by increasing or maintaining a social life.
Research has shown that those with the largest network of strong social ties have the longest life-expectancy (with all other aspects being equal). Additionally, countries with the greatest number of centenarians typically live in areas that focus on strong family attachments.
People with an active social life tend to take better care of themselves. They are more likely to remain physically active, eat healthier, and get regular check-ups or seek medical attention when necessary. Basically, when a person feels cared about, he or she is more likely to care about and take care of himself or herself.
How to Stay Social With Your Friends and Family
When you don’t reside in one place, it can be difficult to stay social. You don’t see friends as often, making it more difficult to stay in touch. It is important to put in the time and effort to maintain these relationships. Choose a level of frequency — once a day, once a week, etc. — and make it a priority to follow through. There are several easy ways to do this.
Email and Social Media
Many RV parks offer free Wi-Fi, which makes staying in touch with your family and friends easy. Post pictures of your travels on social media sites like Facebook so others can follow your adventures. Email letters and holiday greetings to your besties and colleagues. This reminds others that you are thinking about them; plus, they’ll be more likely to reciprocate.
Don’t Forget About Physical Mail
Although some have never received an actual letter or card in the mail, it is almost always appreciated. Sending and acquiring holiday cards and birthday cards is a great way to maintain relationships. By setting up a mail forwarding service, you can easily receive mail, as well.
A couple of popular services include
Travelingmailbox.com, Escapees RV Club, and MyRVMail.com, among others. Some of these require memberships or yearly fees. By shopping around, you can pick the one that works best for you.
Make Regular Phone Calls or Video Calls
Sending text messages has become so prevalent that some people rarely make phone calls. When you are traveling and want to keep and strengthen your relationships, having a real-time conversation is imperative. Hearing the voice of a family member or friend is much more intimate than reading a message from them.
With close relationships, schedule weekly calls or Skype sessions. Plan to rotate through your list of friends on other days, so you communicate with different people a few times a week.
Schedule Periodic Visits With Friends
There is nothing that equals enjoying a face-to-face visit with those in your social network. One of the great things about living in a motorhome is that you can travel and visit friends throughout the country. You can even visit those you have never met in person, but only over social media sites. Since you have your home on wheels with you, there is no need to beg a spare bed or otherwise inconvenience them.
How to Stay Social by Making New Friends
When you frequently travel, making new friends may not be as easy as it would be otherwise. Another great thing about traveling, though, is the opportunity to see new places, experiencing new things, and meet new people. There are several ways that you can convert the people you meet into new friends and add them to your social network.
Stay at Parks With Active Communities
Many campgrounds provide an environment of community. Some have activity directors and scheduled events, such as weekly breakfasts, and golf tournaments, which are often posted at the clubhouse or community building.
Park clubhouses often offer opportunities to socialize with other campers. Attending monthly get-togethers, workout classes in the camp fitness center, and game nights is a great way to get to know your neighbors, especially if you stay for a month, a season, or longer.
When you arrive at a park, consider throwing a “mixer” to get to know your neighbors. When you organize parties or get-togethers, it puts you in control of the situation. Rather than waiting for others to invite you, you choose the venue (inside or outside, at your rig or in a clubhouse). You choose the theme, the food and drinks, the date, and the time. Once you become known as the host, you will likely have little trouble making friends with other campers. After all, with a similar lifestyle, you do have a few things in common.
Active people tend to be more social than sedentary individuals. If you stay for a season or longer in one area, consider looking for local “meet-ups” in a venue or subject that you enjoy. Many places have meetup groups that hike, jog, discuss literature, or raise funds for worthwhile causes. If you appreciate attending church, look into congregations within your preferred denomination.
Another option is to join a fitness club that features exercise classes, such as Planet Fitness or the YMCA. These have locations throughout the country and — if you have a membership — you can utilize the services anywhere, which allows you to socialize with like-minded individuals.
Don’t hide out in your motorhome. Although this can be easy to do, it quickly becomes a slippery slope. Go for walks around the campground. Work on your laptop outside.
Other ways to encourage conversation is to have a pet or to decorate the exterior of your RV and campsite. Pets naturally draw attention from animal-lovers who initiate communication with their “humans”. Likewise, by personalizing your space, you demonstrate a bit about yourself, making you seem more approachable.
As you see, the opportunities to maintain and increase your social group are many. Utilize social media, phone calls, and frequent visits to keep in touch with your friends and family. Check out local meet-ups and campground clubhouses to expand your network. Keep your mind open for opportunities to meet new people. Staying socially engaged decreases loneliness and promotes a healthy lifestyle. Not only does it make you physically healthier, but mentally healthier, as well.