Fear of Not Sleeping on the Road

Roxanne Darling
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One of my fears in starting the RV life with my partner, Shane, was about sleep. I’m a very sensitive sleeper, having finally conquered decades of world class-level insomnia. At home, we have the luxury of sleeping in separate bedrooms from time to time. Though our Unity FX is sumptuous, what about the close quarters, the different locations and sounds at night, or the opposite – the often extreme quiet at night? How would I make peace with these ever changing night time taunts so as to be rested enough to enjoy our daytime RV adventures?

Being able to sleep (and having a place to work on our laptops) were the two main reasons we selected the UnityFX configuration. At 5’6”, the rear lounge seating area is large enough to make an escape bed for me. Knowing I had some place to go if I were restless, served as an important mental insurance factor, aka mind game.

Our first night in the Leisure Travel Van was in Minnesota, at a rest area on I-94. We made a classic newbie mistake of planning too much driving on the same day as picking up our new van, after receiving our orientation (awesome experience!) and departing Winkler to pass through U.S. Customs. Oh, and finding dinner, too. At 11 pm, common sense prevailed and we pulled into the Lake Latoka Rest Area on I-94 () eastbound to create our first home on the road.

I imagine the insomniacs reading this are now thinking: jeez, I bet you didn’t get any sleep that night, parked next to idling semis and the steady stream of interstate traffic!

To which I happily reply, not true. Perhaps it was exhaustion combined with frayed nerves – they are powerful sleep inducers for sure. So I’m not sure if it’s more accurately described as “falling asleep” or “passing out,” but nonetheless we entered into that “smooth, dark wave” of sleep, as poet Margaret Atwood describes.

It’s odd, but I felt like this was the perfect first night. “If I can sleep here, I can sleep anywhere!” became irrefutable logic to me. It was the first data I collected on the road, and since I liked it, I decided to give it as much force of reality as possible. (Caveat: I’m a veteran optimist. I seek data to confirm my desired outcomes and world view.)

Over the next several weeks on the road, we moved locations on average every 3-5 nights. Our lodging landing pads included:

  • A few summer-crowded campgrounds in Minnesota with neighboring partiers of all ages
  • The high school football field in Shelby, Iowa, where we were entertained by the most dramatic lightning storm either of us had ever seen
  • The expansive cliff edge space at Lake Pueblo, Colorado, with 50+ mile views in every direction.

Over the two summer months, on and off the road, I learned more about RV sleeping. Mostly I learned that the RV life presents an altogether alternate universe. Comparing my habits at home with my habits on the road was an apples to reindeer situation. So many things are different; it makes no sense to try to set up one to be like the other.

The most positive experience was being close to nature every day. Even at the interstate rest area, we walked outside to the main building to use the facilities. (Saving our water!) Mostly we aimed for parks with hikes, lakes, and scenery and each delivered in its own personal ways. Looking out at the vistas from our LTV kitchen, dining under the awning, doing yoga on a pad next to the RV, starting each day with a walk or swim or both – how does it get any better than this? We continue to find out!

Being in nature is a hot topic these days for promoting mental and physical health; lucky for us scientists have studied the physiological and psychological reactions to both greenery as well as natural environments. Many are familiar with that exhilarating form of exhaustion that comes from spending a day outside, as if all that extra breathing has both invigorated us and also washed away unnecessary crap we keep rehashing in our minds. I’ll add that our almost king-sized bed and cozy down comforter are a sleeper’s best friends!

My favorite photos from our first summer in the LTV are these ones taken at sunrise at Lake Pueblo, Colorado. Credit goes to my partner, Shane Robinson, though. He was the one who crawled out of bed with his camera to capture this extraordinary color and drama!

As he did so, I was resting peacefully, while sleep’s “smooth, dark wave” washed over me.

Roxanne Darling

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