Written by: Robin
I have been driving now for 29 years, so I have some experience. About once a month I speak publicly for 8 hours in front of 40 strangers, so I am not a coward. So, I am not sure why I have been such a chicken when it comes to pulling our 5th wheel travel trailer. Last week I had no choice but to jump in and do it. I cannot remember the last time I felt as nervous as I did the first time I pulled away with the trailer attached. However, I have logged about 7 hours so far, and made my way through downtown Kansas City in the process!
I am lucky to have a very good mentor in my husband. Not only has he let me ease in to it by doing only what I am comfortable with, he has given me all kinds of tips and advice, and most important when I am behind the wheel he trusts me completely. More than I trust myself. In my mind, I was letting the physical difference between me and this giant rig get the best of me. He reminded me that it is no different than conquering anything…let go of the fear. I had to approach it the same way that I approach anything that is scary (skydiving, scuba diving, public speaking, etc..). I had to convince myself that it is really no big deal and that as long as I believe that I can do it, breathe deeply and most of all…allow myself to be a novice, everything will be just fine.
When I work with teachers, I am constantly reminding them what research has taught us about becoming an expert. Expertise comes slowly (some researchers say it takes 10 years) and only then with constant practice and reflection. I used to think the opposite of “expert” was “dummy”…now I know that it is “novice”. To get better at something, you have to practice…a lot. Then, you have to reflect on your mistakes and figure out a way to avoid them before you practice again. It helps if you can discuss them with someone else who is learning to do the same thing, as two heads are better than one. I am lucky that my peer is about six months ahead of me and can help me avoid some of the rookie mistakes.
Which brings me back to breathing deeply. You can’t practice something if you are too afraid to try it. I found myself many times in those first seven hours having to loosen my grip on the wheel (as my knuckles were turning white), slow down and take three very deep breaths. That always did the trick to help me stay centered and stop freaking out because that semi came too close, or there is a super skinny construction zone for the next five miles. The more uptight I got, the more the trailer would sway; as I loosened up (both mentally and physically) it would settle back down. Tight but loose. The tight part is about paying attention; to the many gauges which tell me if my engine is doing ok, to who/what is going on in the lanes around me, to the directions that I need to be following, to the clearance marked on bridges and overpasses, etc… so things do need to be monitored tightly. The loose needs to be my state of mind, specifically my anxiety. If all of the evidence that I am monitoring says everything is OK…then I need to trust in that…and relax. I might go slightly over the line on the shoulder, I am noticing everyone else does occasionally too. I might be driving too slowly for some, but maybe I am giving them a chance to practice their patience. (haha)
RV Lesson #3: My advice for those new to towing an RV is to slow down, breathe, let go of your fear and prepare yourself to not be perfect…yes it’s a huge piece of machinery you are operating, but the power of the mind is much more powerful!