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As I have posted before, when you decide to make the move from a stick-house to a recreational vehicle, there are many things to consider. Prices vary on RVs, but most are very affordable with the majority being much, much cheaper than a stick-house.

After price, the next thing to consider is how comfortable you are with driving. Are you okay with driving/towing? Can you back up? If not, you may consider contacting your local RV dealership and see if they recommend a driving school (or perhaps they offer lessons) for a newbie RVer. If that isn’t an issue, than you need to consider other driving issues such as a tow vehicle. If you decide on a fifth-wheel or travel trailer (and, of course, a truck-camper) then you will need a good pickup truck to tow your RV. If you decide on a motorhome (Class A, Class C or a van) then you may require a vehicle to tow behind (either on a trailer or tow dolly). And consider very carefully if you choose not to have a tow vehicle – especially if you decide on a larger motorhome. Every time you require groceries or supplies, you’d have to pack up everything and drive your “home” into town. Unless you have other options – motorcycle, bicycle, hiking – to get to a nearby town, you should consider having a “vehicle”. Another driving factor to consider is that your family can drive it. If something happens to you, could your spouse or travel companions drive it?

What size of RV do you need? It depends on if you are going to be Full-Timers or Seasonals, as well as how many people are living in it. If you are going to go Full-Time, then everything you own will be inside. That means you need storage, as well as enough room to function. Smaller rigs may seem to small for you, but don’t forget, the more slides you have, the larger the rig becomes. And driving-wise, how big of rig can you handle with where you plan to travel? Quite honestly, some roadways (especially in the mountains) are just not made for larger RVs. So keep in mind that although bigger is roomier, it is a lot more to handle on the road and even inside smaller campgrounds.

And let’s mention storage again. Like size, this depends on if you are going Full-Time. If everything you own is in the RV, then you need storage. And I don’t mean sticking your frying pans in an outside compartment. I mean real, functional storage space. There are extra things that will eat your storage space before you even get it home. Do you really need a washer and dryer? What about that dinette booth versus a regular table? Sure, dinette tables look nice in RVs, yet booths allow under-seat storage that you may need.

RV slides are probably the best RV-addition and the more you have, the more room adds on to your rig. Yet they have major downfalls. Number one is that most campgrounds (even those that advertise Big Rig Friendly) aren’t slide-friendly. You may find that your slide(s) can’t go out because of trees, utility posts, cement barriers and other campground obstacles. This can be quite frustrating, especially if you have wide and/or large slides like we do. Another thing to consider with slides is that they aren’t as heavily insulated as the rest of your camper. So if you are going to a colder region, you need to keep in mind that you may need to leave your slides in to stay warm. Do your slides have electrical outlets or furnace/air-condition ducts? Keep this in mind if you are in a hot-cold region. Slides can also be a pain if you can’t put them out. If you are traveling down the road and need to use the bathroom, can you even get to your bathroom? Some slides block off areas of your rig and you can’t use them. So keep in mind what your rig would look like with the slides in – could you get to your bathroom? Bedroom? Stove? Refrigerator? If you were boondocking (or dry camping) a few days with the slides in, could you still live in your camper? These are things to keep in mind when RV shopping.

How far do you plan to travel in your rig? Will you drive it across the country or will you just drive it a few states away? Make sure you can handle it and that your routes (like mountains) are something your rig can handle. We’ve driven down roads that have brought our curtains down and broke the jar of dill pickles in the refrigerator. If you are going to take your rig down the road make sure the cabinets and refrigerator have good locks, that sliding doors have snaps, etc… Also, if you travel to a colder region (or even if it gets colder in a warmer region) that your rig is well-insulated and that you have the means or the “extras” as far as it goes to protecting your pipes/hoses from freezing. Many RVs have “polar packages” that you can upgrade and get tank heaters, etc… Well worth the extra money.

Most salespeople will push whatever they have on the RV lot, but if they know you are interested in a new one (especially custom-built) they will push the extra features. You don’t need most of them, yet there are a few that you should consider. A generator is a must in my opinion – especially a propane one. It will cost extra money, but you’ll find it money well spent during your first major outage. No smelly gas tanks to drag around – just regular propane which you’ll use in your RV anyway! And make sure you get a switch to turn the generator on from inside your RV. Those stormy or cold nights you are without power, all you have to do is crawl out of bed, flip the switch and your generator is on. No fuss and anyone can do it! Another extra is the polar package (if you are traveling far or in colder regions). Flip a switch and your water tank will be heated! No wrapping hoses or dripping faucets.

Now, that being said, let’s get serious. What happens if you or one of your family members becomes ill or disabled even for just a short time? Could they be able to navigate the RV with a cane, walker or small wheelchair if they needed to? When considering our custom-built fifth-wheel the only thing that we considered might be a problem someday were the three steps leading upstairs to the bathroom and master bedroom. Just three little steps. Well, today I currently find myself dealing with cancer treatment and those three little steps might as well lead to the first base camp at Everest. Luckily, an added rail-guard has helped alleviate that big trek up the stairs. A fold-able walker allows me easy movement upstairs, while a small wheelchair allows me movement downstairs. But we never planned this – who does? Fortunately our RV had the room to accommodate me during this time. So plan ahead – consider you or a family member navigating your RV while ill or disabled. It will require some adjustments, but at least give you the peace of mind that you are together in your home.

And don’t forget to think of  everyday things you’d like to have in your perfect RV. Do you like TV and movies and want to sit and watch them from a sofa or a recliner? Do you like plants? They have optional greenhouse windows in RVs… Entertain? They have wine racks and mini-bars… Think about what you NEED and what you would LIKE to have and write them down. Make a check-list for each RV you visit, that way you see how close it comes to your perfect RV.

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Severe weather shouldn’t be taken lightly in a recreational vehicle. If placed in a situation to evacuate your RV – either from a weather alert warning or a mandatory evacuation order – there are a few basic things to keep in a central location where they can be accessed quickly.

  • Personal identification
  • Emergency and contact information
  • All monies
  • Medicines needed
  • Eyeglasses or hearing aids
  • Insurance papers
  • Camera
  • Cell phone, charger and spare batteries
  • Flash/thumb drives with important files or photos
  • Computer with wireless access (notebook, tablet)
  • Two days clothing
  • First aid and toiletry kits
  • Flashlights
  • Battery operated radio
  • Spare batteries
  • Bottled water
  • Energy bars or snacks
  • Canned meat/fruit
  • Pet food
  • Pet medication

If you know you are going into an area that has a history of hurricanes, tornadoes or other severe weather, you should consider putting some emergency items in a plastic tote ahead of time – like flashlights and batteries. Make up a list (laminate and tape inside one of your RV cabinets) of items to grab in the event of an emergency evacuation. Have some canvas bags or backpacks handy for each family member to quickly place additional or last moment evacuation items in.

If you are asked by authorities to evacuate – do it! They know more about the current situation or conditions than you do.

WIND STORMS

Wind storms are not to be taken lightly in a RV. The damage from a storm can leave your area isolated for long periods, especially since most campground locations are outside main power grids. Preparation should be taken as soon as weather advisories go into effect.

  • Monitor weather alerts
  • Contact campground personal and other Campers so that everyone is advised
  • Discuss emergency shelter locations
  • Speak to other Campers about leaving as a group for the shelter if the storm worsens before hitting your area
  • Tie down any furniture or obstacles that could damage other campers
  • Put your awning up and secure it with cable snap ties, do not rely on standard awning latches
  • Consider putting your slides in, especially if you have double slides in the back
  • Fill all your propane and extra fuel tanks
  • Test your generator for several minutes
  • Purchase extra batteries for all your equipment
  • Check the condition of your camper battery, obtain a backup if needed
  • Empty your holding tanks
  • Gather appropriate items and a shelter bag if you do need to evacuate
  • Prepare non-perishable foods that can be fixed quickly and not waste propane when the power goes out
  • Contact family outside the area and let them know you may be without communication for a few days

If you decide to ride out the storm, keep your battery-operated radio handy. After the storm has passed and it is clear to go outside, check on your fellow Campers.  Remember only to call 911 if there is a life threatening emergency, as local lines will be busy.

TORNADOES AND HURRICANES

If your area is under a severe thunderstorm warning then conditions are favorable for tornadoes and you should prepare to seek shelter. If your area is under any tornado alert, then you must seek shelter quickly. In the unfortunate circumstance that your area is under a hurricane watch or warning, then you need to prepare to evacuate. Areas under hurricane watch still receive storm bands possible of generating tornadoes. Hurricanes alerts give you several days warning. As soon as the advisories go into effect, start preparing!

  • Monitor weather alerts
  • Contact campground personal and other Campers
  • Discuss emergency shelter locations and evacuation routes
  • Speak to other Campers about leaving as a group for the local shelter
  • Obtain cash from the local ATM or bank as they will be shut down well before the hurricane hits
  • Purchase non-perishable foods that can be eaten from a can or pouch
  • Put your awning up and secure it with cable snap ties, do not rely on standard awning latches
  • Put your slides in
  • Anchor down any obstacles that could damage other campers
  • Cover up anything outside that may get damaged from the rain and winds with new tarps (not used ones, they will shred quickly)
  • Tape a “X” with masking tape on all your windows as debris from the hurricane-force winds can shatter windows
  • Fill all your propane and extra fuel tanks (do not forget to label them with your name or campsite number)
  • Test your generator for several minutes
  • Check the condition of your camper battery, obtain a backup if needed
  • Empty your holding tanks and fill your water tank
  • Contact family outside the area and let them know you will be evacuating and the name of the local shelter(s)
  • Gather appropriate items for your shelter stay

When the time comes, seek shelter! Material items can be replaced, lives cannot. After the storm is over and officials allow you to return, then begin to survey your damage. Many people do not realize that when there is a major power outage, gas and propane stations cannot pump without electricity. Cash is also a necessity as many stores will be cash-only until power is restored. Living in storm aftermath can be a very stressful time. Just be thankful for what you have and try to move forward.

FLOODS AND FIRES

If conditions in your area are favorable for flooding or wild fires, then you will possibly have to seek shelter quickly.  Make sure you take the appropriate precautions and locate the nearest evacuation route if you are able to leave with your RV. If officials ask you to gather a few items and leave your RV, then do it. Grab your evacuation kit and follow their instructions. Do not risk your life over your RV or vehicle. Sadly, we know of Campers who have tried and lost.

SEEKING SHELTER

Spending several days in a shelter is not easy and the conditions are not always favorable. As a visitor to the area you should be respectful. It is a horrifying experience for the locals – they are worried about losing their houses and livelihoods. When the storm is over, you can move on. Please do not rely on charitable organizations for food or other items. These organizations need to focus on those who have lost everything or those who have no means to obtain food or clothing. Take responsibility for your own family and allow the organizations to help those truly in need. Most shelters do not provide you with cots, blankets or food. Be respectful and do not drag in all your camping toys. Just take basic items you need, such as a modest camping chair, sleeping bag, non-perishable food and your evacuation kit. If you go with other Campers, make arrangements to share some items to ease the burden.

My family and I have weathered hurricanes, wind storms, tornado alerts, a winter storm and the threat of wild fires in our RV. We have spent days at a shelter and lived weeks in storm aftermath. It is not always easy, yet with the proper preparation you can live to tell your own storm tales!

A funeral party on campsite #1 ~ Yes, really!

A funeral party on campsite #1 ~ Yes, really!

After I explain that I am a Full-Time RVer and what that means, the second round of questioning usually involves how boring it must be to live in a campground.

Honestly, I am surprised that Hollywood hasn’t picked up on the idea of a campground as a site for a reality TV show. I’ve seen more action, drama and comedy from our RV kitchen window than Hollywood can dish out!

I think one of the most amazing things I ever witnessed at a campground goes back to when I was a teenager. My family had a Coachmen motorhome at the time and we were vacationing (not Full-Timers yet!) at a campground on Lake Okeechobee (Florida). Our campsite was on the canal and we had our own boat dock. I was fishing from the dock while my parents were soaking up the Florida sun in their lawn chairs when we heard shouting coming from the boat ramp area. A friend of ours who was camped a few sites down ran over and told us that we didn’t want to miss the excitement. Curious, we headed down to the boat ramp area only to see a new boat (still attached to the trailer) and pickup truck slowly sink in the canal. The young man had “borrowed” his father’s new pickup and boat to go fishing. The ramp was slippery (I remember how scary it was for us to back our boat down with the motorhome) and he didn’t bother to engage the parking brake. The poor boat, still strapped to the trailer, didn’t have a chance! To this day I get a chuckle at the memory of that young man shaking his head saying, “I’m so grounded.”

One of the funniest things was to see a RV sink. Not just any RV – an American Eagle Motor Coach! It was actually my first year as a Full-Timer (and I was living alone in a RV resort in South Florida). I was preparing dinner and heard a commotion outside. I saw the motor coach backing into the empty site on the opposite corner. Immediately after backing into the site, the rear tires of the RV sank into the soft sand. His wife was yelling at him to pull forward, unfortunately, this buried it even deeper. By the time he got out of the motor coach, half of the back section was buried in sand.  It didn’t take long for a crowd to gather and offer help. The man started shoveling, trying to dig out the tires, while others found items to try to drive up on. After digging out the tires, the man started up the RV and tried to drive forward. Of course, this made it worse and once again, he was digging not only sand, but the boards that got broken during the attempt. When he made the second attempt, he took a tow chain that a fellow Camper offered and he had his wife get in their tow vehicle (which had been dropped prior to the backing) and start it up. She began backing their vehicle while he drove forward in the RV. Needless to say, the language was rather colorful after that attempt! Another Camper offered to use his 3/4 ton Chevy truck to pull the RV forwarded and that did work. Once he had the motor coach back in the street, he ordered his wife to walk every campsite first. It was hilarious watching her walk nearby available sites, stomping the ground madly, as if that would prove the ground wouldn’t sink their RV. Unfortunately during all this, I didn’t think about getting it on video. I’m pretty sure that would have gotten me $10,000 quite easily!

One day while living at a Florida RV resort we saw a brand-new motorhome drive by. We could hear Campers already going over to see if the new arrivals needed assistance and we continued eating. Suddenly we heard the motorhome backing up and then a load crash. We bolted from the picnic table only to see a group gather around the back end of the motorhome. The man hit a palm tree and the RV “bounced” forward. While a crowd gathered around to help, they really didn’t – as they were too busy talking to the man’s wife commenting on how beautiful their new motorhome was! No one was even watching him back-up! Fortunately the palm tree was spared. 😉

I could literally write a book (or a soap opera) on campground living, but the one thing I never, ever thought I would witness in a campground is a funeral. Not only that, but one right outside our living room! We were staying in Washington at the time and our campground was on the edge of a historic cemetery. The very first site of the campground actually overlooked the cemetery. We were camped two sites away from it, but joked that we had “dead quite” neighbors. As it turned out, during our last week there, a member of one of the local tribes passed away and was buried in the cemetery. They held his funeral party on the first campsite. Since it was a chilly day, they even started a campfire. (That’s our rig in the photo above.)

From seeing pot-bellied pigs in tutus (with their own tents I might add) to watching a man wrestle a wayward gator, I would never consider living in a campground boring!

You can't take it all with you!

You cannot take it all!

No matter what anyone tells you, you can’t take it all with you. If we could, you’d see a line of U-Hauls at the cemetery during every funeral service!

If you have a stick-house, it’s no problem, you just keep shoving the stuff in the attic, garage, basement and spare closets. When you run out of room, you buy a bigger house or find a storage unit to rent.

Of course, most people only keep important stuff right? Like my friends who moved into a bigger stick-house 4 years ago… who still haven’t unpacked half of their boxes. I’m sure this stuff they “just had” to keep was very important, so important they have left it packed for their next move to an even bigger house. 😉

Face it, we are a society of pack rats! I have mentioned before that downsizing is not that difficult once you reach that “letting-go plateau”.

One thing Full-Time RVers learn very quickly is that you can’t take it all with you. Most smaller motorhomes and travel trailers have very limited storage space. Larger motorhomes and fifth-wheels usually do have adequate storage, but extra items (such as a washer and dryer) take away from this valuable space.

You can’t live in a RV and own 40 pairs of shoes. Oh you could, but you wouldn’t be taking any food or supplies with you! Full-Time RVers have found the delicate balance of living with the basic needs of life and their personal wants.

We learn to simplify our needs and reduce our wants. You may need a skillet to cook your eggs in the morning, but do you need 6 different sizes? Only if you are a traveling chef! Full-Timers think about items that will be used the most often or items that offer multiple uses. If we don’t use it, we don’t need it!

Reducing your wants is a little more difficult for some folks and RVers are no exception. Temptation is all around us – buy this, buy that. We can’t help ourselves. Fortunately for RVers, “home” keeps us a little more grounded. We can only buy what will fit in our RV!

And we also have to live by the unwritten law of “In-Out-In”. If we want to bring more items in our RV, we must eventually move some out  to allow room for more to come in.

Most campgrounds and RV resorts have yard sale days or trader shelves (usually books, games, puzzles, maps, craft supplies) where we can unload some of the extra stuff we have picked up. Many of the Full-Timers I know donate their items to local charity thrift shops or use services such as Freecycle, BookCrossing and BookMooch.

After you simplify your life it just makes sense – this is how life should be. I think back at the days we when had all this stuff (see photo) and shake my head in disbelief. Don’t let material items weigh you down. Lighten your life and allow yourself more time to simply live.

There is a long definition of what makes someone a workamper, but it basically states that if you live in a RV and work, you are a workamper.

You do not need to travel vast distances to work – your RV can be sitting on a pad in a campground somewhere indefinately – and if you get up in the morning to do some sort of work (for pay or trade) or a have a volunteer job, you are a workamper. So if your grandma in South Florida lives in a travel trailer at a 55+ park and works at the local fabric store part-time, she’s a workamper!

Although most Full-Time RVers are retirees with pensions and/or Social Security, there are many who are not. In fact, this number is on the rise. Singles (or “solos”), young couples and families are discovering that you can not only make a living from this lifestyle, but you can also have more free time.

Work-campers are a varied bunch – from twenty-somethings to ninety year olds; from those with GEDs to those with PhDs. Each work-camper offers diversity to the workplace or their community. Work-campers are usually very flexible. And they offer something that folks stuck with a house does not – mobility.

There are countless seasonal jobs in this country – from working NASCAR races and amusement parks to campgrounds and resorts to casinos and ranches to Christmas tree lots and fruit and vegetable harvests. Seasons vary as well as the duration of each position. NASCAR races maybe just two-three days a week for a number of weeks, but a resort position may be year-round. Salary benefits vary depending on the position. Some of these jobs pay incredible wages, in addition to full or partial benefits. And, surprisingly, there are even government, corporate and sales positions available to work-campers.

The first thing you need to do is research what types of jobs are available. If you are a “Wannabe” (what Full-Timers call those folks who want to try this lifestyle, yet are not ready) then you have time to discover what is available when and where and for how much.

Most books on Full-Time RVing contain a section on finding work or at the very least, Camp Hosting. There is one book devoted to the subject that I recommend and that is Support Your RV Lifestyle by Jaimie Hall. This book cites many places to seek additional information and it is a great reference book to keep (even after you have secured a position and think you know what you are doing).

The next step is to subscribe to a work-camper-related publication, such as The Workamper News or The Caretaker Gazette. Read all the listings, learn the terminology and see where the work is, when it is and the benefits that come with it. Some jobs only provide a free campsite with utilities, other may include a long list of benefits (as well as salary) such as laundry, propane, store or cafe discounts, Cable or SAT TV, WiFi, phone service, golf cart usage, etc… It may not seem like much, but if you start adding up your site costs and the extras, you may find that you are saving several hundred to over a thousand dollars a month from your own pocket! And longer term positions even offer medical and health benefits to their work-camp employees.

When it is time to pull-up stakes and make that transition to a Full-Timer you will have a better understanding of what is available. Begin applying for the upcoming season at least three months prior and do not limit yourself to one position! If you want to stay in a region for a period of time, then apply to all those that interest you and you believe you are qualified for in that region. If you wait on just one place to call, you may find yourself waiting a long time!

If you know when you will be available, advertise yourself. Many work-camper employers do not place ads. They either rely on repeat work-campers or “position wanted” ads. Many places online offer free ads, as well as subscribers for various publications, including The Workamper News.

And once you secure a position – especially if it is only a couple months – start seeking another one. The more you work-camp, you find this actually becomes much easier. And many work-campers prefer to work the same regions or even positions, season-after-season. They like the familiarity of the work and area and return each season.

If you are one of those already on the road or in a RV and find that your monthly income is not stretching as far as it was before the economy went South for the winter, then there are some things you can do immediately to start searching for a job.

The first one is to put yourself online. Advertise, advertise, advertise! There are several websites where you can post information.

If you just cannot get that money to stretch as far and the campground fees are eating your pension, then consider contacting your state’s website for information on being a Camp Host (usually termed “Campground Host program”). Other places to seek this type of work are from the National Park Service, National Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Corp of Engineers. You can conveniently find their opportunities at http://www.usafreedomcorps.gov/ under the “Volunteer Opportunities” section (by state and job). Some of these Camp Host positions may offer a small daily or monthly stipend.

Rangers and park officials will call you if they have an opening, as well as you being able to call them to see if they need hosts for whatever period of time you are interested in. These are wonderful programs to get involved in, especially if you have no or very limited hosting experience. Several states even have yearly rallies for their Camp Hosts.

Another option is that many smaller campgrounds cannot afford an on-site manager or large staff and rely on work-campers to volunteer – a “work for site” deal. The campground you are staying in right now may need your help.

Camp Hosts live free, most often with full-hookups and perks, for a minimum number of hours each week or day. Hosting positions can vary from one month to six months and possibly more. This can help you save money immediately.

And as previously stated, you do not have to even move your RV. If you want to find a position in the local community and work a regular 9-to-5 job, you can! That is another perk of the work-camp lifestyle.

Every day thousands of people go to work and return “home” to their RV. The only difference for a work-camper is where home is parked!

Many campgrounds are close-quarters for RVs

Many campgrounds are close-quarters for RVs

Although many campgrounds today are advertising they are “Big Rig Friendly”, most campgrounds are not. Many campground were designed decades ago when RVs were smaller and did not have slides. For those RVers who have larger rigs or multiple slides, these older campgrounds can make arrival and departure a very frustrating time.

If you find yourself in a tight situation (such as these folks in the photo who came within inches of hitting a truck parked on its own campsite, while backing into their assigned camp site), there are several things you can do to make the situation a little better.

At check-in, be honest about your rig length. Yes, some campgrounds still charge for larger rigs – but there is a reason for that. Bigger rigs get bigger sites! Don’t say you are 30 feet in length when your rig is 35 feet! A few feet can make a major difference.

If you have any slides that are problematic (deep, long or perhaps double-sided) ask the reservationist if there are trees, high electric boxes, lamp posts or other obstacles on your site. If they are uncertain or do not know, ask to view the site first.

Pull-thrus are the preferred sites for Full-Timers because often you do not need to unhook your rig and these sites are usually close to the entrance. However, they are often bordered by smaller trees (“awning eaters” is what I call them!) or lamp posts for late-night arrivals.

When you are assigned a camp site (or if you are allowed to find one on your own) get out and walk it. Look for your hookups. Make sure the electrical box contains enough amps (especially if you paid a higher price for 50 amp service) and that – if applicable – it has Cable or Sat TV hookup. Locate your water and sewer hookups.

We have noticed that some older campgrounds still have shared water hookups. To temporarily correct this, they have placed a Y-connect on it. Make sure that if your water is shared it has such a connection and if it does not, contact the campground office before you get set-up. If you have your own Y-connect, you can use that, but keep in mind that if campers are (or will be) beside you, you will have to turn off their water and disconnect their hose to get your Y-connect back when you leave.

If there are any movable obstacles in your way, such as a picnic table, make sure you drag them out of your way.

The next step is to discuss the site with your spouse and/or family. If it is a back-in site, make sure that your spouse or family members help you. They need to remain in your mirrors and also in the back corner of the rig to watch for any problems. Some RVers use radios to communicate. This is okay, but often hard on the driver trying to maneuver the rig and maintain contact. Larger rigs sometimes have back-up cameras. This is good, yet someone watching outside is still recommended.

Maintain communication with your helpers! Discuss the terminology you will use. Does “HOLD IT!” mean you are going to hit something or you should just stop? What does “straight” mean? Should the driver try to straighten the rig or do you really mean he should “follow” the rig and it will be straight? This may seem trivial but to a driver this is crucial information. And remember to maintain mirror contact at all times. If they can’t see you behind the rig, they cannot hear you!

If you are arriving at a campground at night you will find yourself having more difficulty getting in a campsite. Why? You’re tired from a long day and everyone is cranky. Plus, it is dark and you cannot see everything. Do not let that add to your frustration. Make sure everyone has flashlights and walk the site as you would during daylight hours. Move obstacles, locate hookups and potential problems. See where you want to put your rig and have your family stand on both sides of the back corner of the rig (yet in your mirrors) with flashlights. Use the light as a guide where to center the back of your rig. If you are traveling alone or with just a spouse, place two flashlights on the ground where you want to have your rig.

A great set of flashlights to get are Craftsman rechargables. They stand-up and when the batteries are weak, you can recharge them. We have helped people back-in after midnight, in blinding rain, during wind storms and heavy snowfall with these flashlights. They are very heavy-duty and well worth the cost. They can save you quite a bit of frustration during late-night arrivals!

Once you are in your campsite and level, walk around and verify if your slides will clear any identified obstacles, especially electric boxes. If you cannot judge or if it appears close, carry a small tape measure with you and measure out the width of your slide from the RV. We have a slide 40 inches deep. May not seem like much, but since the slide is over 10 feet long, that can make all the difference in the world with a tall electric box! So if anything appears close, measure before putting your slides out. Do not let a damaged slide ruin your trip.

Most often when you arrive at a campground you will find a few folks who will flock around you and “try” to help you get into you campsite. If this makes you nervous, all you have to do is let them know their offer of help is appreciated, but you and your family have a system.  Most are very understanding and will return to their own site or stand aside so you can get into yours.

If you do arrive at a campsite that is too narrow or not long enough, let the campground office know immediately. Do not try to damage your rig or cause yourself a lot of grief trying to fit in a site that is too small. Most are very understanding of RVers needs. And if you find another vehicle or RV on or encroaching on your assigned campsite, ask the office before you do anything. Occasionally some Campers will spread out more than they should. Although most are apologetic and will move, some will not. Try not to put yourself in a bad situation with your new neighbors. Ask the campground office about what should be done in this situation, as this is something they need to be aware of. You may try to handle it yourself, but if your neighbors have extra vehicles on your site, they may not have paid for extra vehicles (or extra people) and the campground office may not be aware. Some campgrounds restrict the number of vehicles and/or people allowed per campsite.

Fitting in a campsite does not have to be a hassle each stop of the journey. Ask for a large enough site to accommodate your rig and walk over the site before pulling or backing-in. Locate your hookups and any obstacles. Have your companions help you and communicate with each other. If you have a system or plan at each stop and you will soon find “fitting in” less of a hassle.

I don't sleep on a bench, but I am homeless.

I do not sleep on a bench, but I am homeless.

I had the most interesting conversation recently. I was asked how long I had lived in the area and I explained that I wasn’t from the area, that I was just passing through. I then went on to explain that I was a full-time RVer.

“So, you’re homeless?” she questioned.

I explained a little more about the RV lifestyle in hopes that she would have a better understanding of Full-Timing.

When I arrived “home” to the RV, I found myself curious as to the definition of “homeless”.  Because we do not have a stick-house (what Full-Timers call a wood house), I always considered us “houseless”, but not “homeless”, as we do have a place to call home (which just happens to have wheels). Naturally I went online to see what I could find on the subject.

According to Wikipedia, homelessness is:

Homelessness is the condition and social category of people who lack housing, because they cannot afford, or are otherwise unable to maintain, regular, safe, and adequate shelter…. A small number of people choose to be homeless nomads…. www.wikipedia.org (Homelessness)

I also found various nomadic subcultures of interest and began to widen my search. Those who practice the nomadic lifestyle are undergoing “planned mobility rather than forced mobility” [www.wikipedia.org (Homelessness, “Voluntary homelessness in nomadic cultures”)]. Unlike those who have financial troubles (eviction, disaster…) or other problems (illness) and cannot have or maintain shelter, nomadic cultures have reasons to be homeless. They move seasonally to where there is food and/or to work or trade.

In a sense, those of us who are full-time RVers have our own subculture – we truly are “modern nomads”! Yet we are not homeless by financial means, we are homeless by a lifestyle choice. And most move seasonally for work or trade opportunities in other areas.

And apparently, when I said I was a RVer, she was thinking of the classic stereotype.

There is a stereotype that people who live in RVs full-time do so because they are poor and cannot afford more conventional housing. However, an increasing number of people are opting to sell their homes and live in their RVs, which can cost as much as their home did. www.wikipedia.org (Recreational Vehicles, “Features”)

So yes, according to what I have read, I am homeless. I am not homeless by financial means, I am homeless by a lifestyle choice.

I am nomad.

I am a modern nomad!

After a winter storm, the beach was littered with debris and driftwood. (WA)

The wonderful thing about RVs is that they are self-contained. Unfortunately, it takes a disaster to remind us that we need to be self-reliant as well.

            When we think of disasters, many think of natural ones. Yet most of us are just as likely to encounter some sort of major traffic or chemical incident. If placed in a situation to evacuate our RVs within minutes there are a few basic things to keep in a central location where they can be accessed quickly.

  • Personal identification
  • Emergency and contact information
  • All monies
  • Medicines needed
  • Eyeglasses or hearing aids
  • Insurance papers
  • Camera
  • Cell phone, charger and spare batteries
  • Jump drives with important files or photos
  • Laptop computer
  • Two days clothing
  • Toiletry kit
  • Flashlights
  • Battery operated radio
  • Spare batteries

            If you are asked by authorities to evacuate – do it! They know more about the current situation or conditions than you do.

WIND AND WINTER STORMS

            Wind and winter storms are not to be taken lightly in a RV. The damage from a storm can leave your area isolated for long periods, especially since most campground locations are outside main power grids.

            Preparation should be taken as soon as weather advisories go into effect.

  • Monitor weather alerts
  • Contact campground personal and other campers so that everyone is advised
  • Discuss emergency shelter locations
  • Speak to other campers about leaving as a group for the shelter if the storm worsens before hitting your area
  • Plug in ceramic heater(s) to save propane in anticipation that the electricity will be going out
  • Help hold your inside temperature by banking heat (closes blinds, cover windows and, if necessary, pull in slides)
  • Tie down any furniture or obstacles that could damage other campers
  • Put your awning up and secure it with cable snap ties, do not rely on standard awning latches
  • Fill all your propane and extra fuel tanks
  • Test your generator for several minutes
  • Purchase extra batteries for all your equipment
  • Check the condition of your camper battery, obtain a backup if needed
  • Empty your holding tanks and insulate your water tank and hoses if needed
  • Gather appropriate items and a shelter bag if you do need to evacuate
  • Prepare non-perishable foods that can be fixed quickly and not waste propane when the power goes out
  • Contact family outside the area and let them know you may be without communication for a few days

            If you decide to ride out the storm, begin layering your clothing and turn down your heat.  Keep your battery-operated radio handy.

            After the storm has passed and it is clear to go outside, check on your fellow campers.  Remember only to call 911 if there is a life threatening emergency, as local lines will be busy.

TORNADOES AND HURRICANES

             If your area is under a severe thunderstorm warning then conditions are favorable for tornadoes and you should prepare to seek shelter. If your area is under any tornado alert, then you must seek shelter quickly. In the unfortunate circumstance that your area is under a hurricane watch or warning, then you need to prepare to evacuate. Areas under hurricane watch still receive storm bands possible of generating tornadoes.

            As soon as the advisories go into effect, start preparing!

  • Monitor weather alerts
  • Contact campground personal and other campers
  • Discuss emergency shelter locations and evacuation routes
  • Speak to other campers about leaving as a group for the local shelter
  • Obtain cash from the local ATM or bank as they will be shut down well before the hurricane hits
  • Purchase non-perishable foods that can be eaten from a can or pouch
  • Put your awning up and secure it with cable snap ties, do not rely on standard awning latches
  • Anchor down any obstacles that could damage other campers
  • Cover up anything outside that may get damaged from the rain and winds with new tarps (not used ones, they will shred quickly)
  • Tape a “X” with masking tape on all your windows as debris from the hurricane-force winds can shatter windows
  • Fill all your propane and extra fuel tanks (do not forget to label them with your name or campsite number)
  • Test your generator for several minutes
  • Check the condition of your camper battery, obtain a backup if needed
  • Empty your holding tanks and fill your water tank
  • Contact family outside the area and let them know you will be evacuating and the name of the local shelter(s)
  • Gather appropriate items for your shelter stay

            When the time comes, seek shelter! Material items can be replaced, lives cannot. After the storm is over and officials allow you to return, then begin to survey your damage.

            Many people do not realize that when there is a major power outage, gas and propane stations cannot pump without electricity. Cash is also a necessity as many stores will be cash-only until power is restored.

            Living in storm aftermath can be a very stressful time. Just be thankful for what you have and try to move forward.

FLOODS AND FIRES

            If conditions in your area are favorable for flooding or wild fires, then you will possibly have to seek shelter quickly.

            Make sure you take the appropriate precautions and locate the nearest evacuation route if you are able to leave with your RV. If officials ask you to gather a few items and leave your RV, then do it. Grab your evacuation kit and follow their instructions.

 SEEKING SHELTER

            Spending several days in a shelter is not easy and the conditions are not always favorable. As a visitor to the area you should be respectful. It is a horrifying experience for the locals – they are worried about losing their houses and livelihoods. When the storm is over, you can move on!

            Most shelters do not provide you with cots, blankets or food. Be respectful and do not drag in all your camping toys. Just take basic items you need, such as a modest camping chair, sleeping bag, non-perishable food and your evacuation kit. If you go with other campers, make arrangements to share some items to ease the burden.

            Please do not rely on charitable organizations for food or other items. These organizations need to focus on those who have lost everything or those who have no means to obtain food or clothing. Take responsibility for your own family and allow the organizations to help those truly in need.

            The road to disaster does not always have to be a rough one. My family and I have weathered three hurricanes, wind storms, a winter storm and the threat of wild fires in our RV. We have spent days at a shelter and lived weeks in storm aftermath. It is not always easy, yet with the proper preparation you can make that road to disaster a lot smoother.

One thing that concerns Full-Time RVers is communication from family and friends. With modern technology, it is so much easier to know where everyone is and how they are doing.

If you have a cell phone with a great long distance plan and no concerns with roaming, you are all set! If you don’t and are locked into a contract where you can’t change or upgrade, there are other options for you. The first is a pre-paid cell phone such as a TracFone. This service is actually on the rise and you’ll be surprised to find these “throw away” phones have more features than yours!  Prices for pre-paid phones start as low as $10 and go up to $50 if you want a camera phone and texting ability. The phones do last a very long time (I know one person who has had one for two years) if you keep them properly charged. The only thing is to remember to “reload” (purchase more minutes) before it gets too low or you get too close to your end date. This is displayed on your phone and you will have plenty of reminders long before that date comes. You have pre-paid for your minutes and can call anytime and anywhere you wish. You can even make international calls. The secret to pre-paid phones is registering them or reloading them when they have specials. Usually these are advertised at their website. You can often double your minutes just by taking advantage of a special. And the cell signal reception in an area will be the same as a contracted cell phone!

Another option to consider is getting a calling program through your personal computer, such as Skype. Most programs are free to download with a minimal charge for the calls. A nice pair of headphones with mic can usually be purchased for under $10. Some instant messaging programs (IMing) even offer free voice and webcam connections through their software program.

A Full-Timer who wants to stay on top of the news, weather and travel information should have a laptop computer.  If you don’t have a notebook or netbook computer, then you should consider getting one. Getting online is just as easy today thanks to more businesses, campgrounds, truck stops, cafes and libraries offering free or cheap WiFi access. Being online allows you quick access to family and friends via email, instant messaging  and calling.

If you do have a computer and haven’t a clue how to enable WiFi (or even if you have it) – run down to your local computer shop and ask them. If you don’t WiFi capability, as them what it would cost to upgrade. Once you have WiFi enabled, it is very easy to log in to the local access.

Relying on campgrounds with free (or cheap) WiFi access is a good way to stay in touch, but not all campgrounds have the greatest WiFi service. Some have limited range and if you aren’t camped in particular sections you may have no signal at all. There are antennas that can be purchased to help amplify your signal. Those can be found advertised in RV magazines and websites, as well as RV dealers.

However, there are still places on the planet with no WiFi or phone signal  (believe me – I know!) and having another means of net access is necessary. Most Full-Timers are purchasing AirCards through their cell phone provider. If you don’t have a cell phone provider, don’t worry! Companies like Verizon will set you up with an AirCard, although you may pay a little more a month since you have no other service (ie. cell phone) with them.  The nice thing about having your own means to connect to the internet is that you don’t have to drive all over town in your RV looking for places that offer WiFi.

Mail service is another concern for the Full-Timer. Most people now pay everything electronically, which saves on getting monthly bills received or sent out via regular postal mail. However, not everything is that way. In every RV magazine (ie. Trailer Life, Motorhome Life, etc…) you will find a section in the back devoted to companies that offer Full-Timers mail service. These companies do have a fee (which varies on the “plan” you get) but are good ways to keep the mail coming. Plans can vary from letters-only to limited packages to unlimited packages. Many RV clubs, like the Escapees, will offer a reduced mail service for members. A new feature to mail services is electronic mail, and I mean that literally. They will scan your postal mail and email it to you. You can choose what types of mail they send to you this way. Some services will even look out for certain pieces of mail and call you when it arrives!

If you are a Seasonal RVer, chances are you have a stick-house or place to call “home” for part of the year and your RV to call home the remainder. In this case, you have a physical address to get mail for part of the year. When you are in your RV, you can get mail either temporarily forwarded to the campground you are staying at or a local PO Box.

Many larger campgrounds and RV resorts have mailboxes (free, unless they offer private boxes for a fee) available for extended-stays. The only drawback to this is you have to wait until the campground staff sorts your mail. On a busy day in a busy campground, you may wait several hours. In addition, if it is a generic mailbox arranged alphabetically, you have to wade through a stack of campground mail until you find all of yours. And there is the issue of privacy. We have seen folks look over everyone’s mail, curious to see what they are getting. If it is around a holiday and you have a package from the Swiss Colony, believe me – every Camper within 100 campsites will know before you do! It’s annoying and time-consuming, but is a free service most campgrounds offer.

So there really is no reason not to stay in touch while you are on the road. Let your family and friends know you wish they were there (or not)! 😉

If you are in the market for a used RV and have decided to look at a private seller’s camper, you may come across a “homemade” or conversion camper. A conversion is usually a rebuilt or redesigned bus.

There are many pros and cons when considering a conversion.

School Bus Conversion "Camper"

School Bus Conversion Camper

This photo is of an actual school bus conversion camper that was allowed in one of the campgrounds we recently stayed in.

From the photo, you can see why some RVers (especially the Campers these folks parked right on top of ) are not always happy to have conversions as camp neighbors and why many campgrounds will not allow conversions in their parks. And even if it is not mentioned in their park rules, a glance out the entrance office window toward your conversion may cause the “no vacancy” sign to go up as all campgrounds have the right to refuse service to anyone.

In this particular case, these folks didn’t even change the original bus colors (which is against the law in most states). If that isn’t enough, just seeing the standard home window air-condition sticking out the back should be a clue that the folks who “converted” this school bus had no idea of the laws or safety issues involved in recreational vehicles. This conversion could possibly be a hazard with electric or propane issues. Imagine a fire or explosion in the confines of a campground! That is why many campgrounds prefer vehicles that have been inspected at a factory and manufactured by known companies.

Yet there are conversion campers that are skillfully designed and have had professional repairs and installations made. These conversions are usually very expensive (usually the same price, if not more than the cost of a new RV) and it shows. They are the ones that make television specials and articles in DIY magazines. When they pull in a campground that allows conversions, other RVers often flock around it in awe hinting for tours!

If you are seriously considering a conversion, you should first be aware of the laws within your state. Contact the appropriate local government agencies and get the information you need about what is legal and what is not. This will save you a great deal of heartbreak later on if you find yourself with a traffic ticket-bound conversion.

When you find something that does comply with state laws, make sure you get the full history of the conversion. Find out if anything is under warranty and if the manuals for all items are included. Unlike a new RV (or even a used one from a dealer who offers limited-warranties on purchases), you will find yourself paying for any and all repairs that are needed. If you can’t make those repairs yourself, you will be forced to go to a RV dealership. Since your conversion is not standard, you may find yourself waiting for parts and paying heavily for repairs.

If the conversion has had professional work on it, get all the information you can on what they did and who to contact if you have a problem. This will save you a great deal of hassle is there is a major problem later on down the road.

Insurance companies may treat this a bit differently than a recreational vehicle, since it is a converted commercial vehicle. You should contact your insurance company and ask them about how conversion campers are handled and get an estimate on how much it would cost you for insurance.

If after searching for a conversion you find that you would rather build your own, than you have to do a great deal of homework! Talk to people who have lived and designed their own conversions and ask them to tell you the pros and cons they have discovered. Read all the books and articles you can on the subject before you even start to look for something to transform into a “camper”.

There are many pros and cons to a conversion and only after you do some research will you know if it is a good idea for you. This is a type of decision you can’t jump into. If you do, you may find yourself with a costly, never-ending project.

Double Rainbow in Florida

A double rainbow appears after a storm in Florida.

One thing that does concern Full-Time RVers is severe weather. RVs are self-contained and can withstand reasonably cold temperatures and moderate winds. Yet it is foolish to intentionally weather any type of severe storm in a RV.

The first thing every RVer should invest in is a NOAA weather radio and/or weather alert radio. In case a weather Watch or Warning is issued, you will have the latest information. This information can not only save your lives, but those around you.

If you are staying in an area prone to severe weather, especially hurricanes and tornadoes, then you should find out where the local shelters are. Make a trip, finding the route.  Ask the campground staff if they notify their campers about severe weather alerts and what they advise campers to do in stormy situations.

Many campgrounds do have recreational buildings or concrete block buildings, but if they are not designated shelter areas, the manager will probably not allow you to stay (insurance reasons). If there isn’t time – such as a tornado – by all means, evacuate your RV and head to the closest secure structure you can – even if it is the campground restroom. But if you have time and know that severe weather will effect your area, make sure you seek an official shelter.

We have RV’d through all sorts of weather, including hurricanes. Fortunately each time our RV only had minimal damage, but we have seen horrible things happen to them. They flip over, they are crushed by trees or large debris, they blow-up (not literally, but it appears that way) and they disappear! Do not ride out a strong storm or a hurricane. RVs can be replaced, people cannot.

There are preparations you can do to help protect your investment if you have the time. Many RV books devote sections to storm and winter/storage preparation.

If you are told to evacuate, you must. If it is a volunteer evacuation or if you want to leave on your own accord with your RV, make sure you have: Fuel (and extra cans if possible), Cash (ATMs do run out of money prior to disasters), Canned Foods, Water, Flashlights, Batteries, Weather Radio, Personal Information (insurance papers, contact information, etc…), Cell Phone (don’t forget extra batteries and the charger), Camera, Medicines Needed (and prescription information if they need refilled while you are away), Laptop Computer and an Overnight Bag (with clothing and toiletries). The overnight bag may be needed if you find yourself stranded and are suddenly forced to leave your RV.

In addition you will want to make sure your tank is filled with water, holding tanks emptied, propane tanks filled and RV and tow batteries charged. You cannot plan on arriving to your evacuation destination. We know too many RVers who have evacuated only to find themselves stuck only two or three hours from where they left. And most times, especially if it is a hurricane, you find yourself in a worse situation! So be prepared, even if you are fleeing from disaster. Do not take Mother Nature for granted.

If you decide to stay and go to a shelter closer to the impending storm, then you still should prepare your RV for emergency living after the storm. Living in storm aftermath is not fun. It is chaotic and frustrating. Most likely you will not have electricity for at least a week (we have went three weeks without after hurricanes), propane and gas stations will not be able to pump without electricity (which means no refrigerator, stove, hot water, heat and/or generator fuel for you), lift stations (if your campground has one) will not be able to pump sewage and water will usually be by boil-order for days after the storm.

And you will be forced to stay at or near your campground, as the roads will be filled with debris or not drivable. Officials will close roads to non-residents and some roads will be dangerous without traffic lights and signals. This may sound silly, but people cannot drive without STOP signs or signal lights – they run intersections without stopping or yielding in the storm aftermath. In a storm aftermath situation, each intersection (without signs or working signal) becomes a 4-way STOP. We have seem many accidents caused, especially living in hurricane aftermath because of folks not following the traffic law.

Storms bring out the best and the worst in people. After the second hurricane we were in (as Full-Timers), we witnessed things we didn’t think possible. Scavengers were driving through the RV resort looking for aluminum scraps (especially off older trailers and venting). For those who weren’t able to return or were Seasonals away for the summer, belongings that were scattered were targets for scavengers to steal.

But again, storms also bring out the best in people. Many of us gathered folks belongings and secured it back on their property. We also shared food and supplies with other campers in need. We helped cleaned up debris (as much as we could until the professionals arrived) and offered generator usage time for those who didn’t have generators.

If you find yourself on the road to disaster, I have more information at: https://hscooper.wordpress.com/articles/on-the-road-to-disaster/

A popular place to boondock is Quartzsite, Arizona.

Last month before the winter “snowbirds” began to arrive, we made a trip to Quartzsite to see exactly what the area looked like and what it had to offer.

It pretty much looks like this for about one hundred miles. Quartzsite does have some small businesses and several campgrounds (that do offer full-hookups and some amenities).  The closest Walmart is in Yuma, which is about 90 miles (one-way) south of Quartzsite. Lake Havasu which is just north of Quartzsite does have many chains and franchises, as well as Blythe (California) directly to the west.Off the road in Quartzsite, Arizona.

Boondocking is an option that many regular RVers try (even for a short while). It is affordable and it is a great way to test your independence. There are many books and articles written on the topic and if you are interested, you should do your research. If you know someone who has had experience boondocking, you should also pick their brain on tips and advice on this type of living.

One of the biggest concerns when contemplating the Full-Time RVers lifestyle is – how do I make a living? For those with an already stretched pension or Social Security check, campgrounds and resorts can eat up a great deal of money. $300 to $1200 a month for full hookups and extras. And for those who are relying on a part-time or even full-time job – what do you do to make ends meet?

If you live in a RV and work or volunteer from it – you are a work-camper. It does not just apply to those working in campgrounds, RV parks or resorts. If you work as a florist and live in a RV – you are a work-camper. If you are a volunteer at the local library and live in a RV – you are a work-camper. If you work 12 hours a week at a campground to pay for your campsite and you live in your RV – you are a work-camper. If you sell on eBay and live in a RV – you are a work-camper.

Work-campers should not be stereotyped (although I know some readers will still be thinking of old trailers and shady characters in a trailer park). Work-campers are a varied bunch – from singles to couples to families with children; from twenty-somethings to ninety year olds; from those with GEDs to those with PhDs. Each work-camper offers diversity to the workplace or their community.

If you have some income and just want to live free, consider volunteering at a local state or national park. Camp Hosts live free, most often with full-hookups and perks, for a minimum number of hours each week or day. Hosting positions can vary from one month to six months and possibly more. This would mean hundreds to thousands of dollars being saved for you with free site and utilities! Most states have Campground Host programs – Google the state you are interested in to sign up for their program. Rangers and park officials will call you if they have an opening, as well as you being able to call them to see if they need hosts for whatever period of time you are interested in.  Many smaller campgrounds that cannot afford an on-site manager or large staff also look for volunteer hosts and work-campers.

If you do not have an income, you can easily find outdoor hospitality jobs that would include full hookups (Although some Southern states where the temperatures require constant air-conditioning, often make you pay metered electric. Some campgrounds do offer electric “allowances” for their work-campers to reduce their monthly bill.) In addition, you would want one that paid to make your monthly expenses. Remember, some areas are only seasonal – so if you require a steady paycheck, you need to find something reliable.

If you are Full-Timing with a spouse or travel companion, one of you could work/volunteer just for your campsite, while the other found a regular job nearby. This would guarantee free living, while generating another income. Most volunteer or “work for site” situations do not require many hours (usually under 20 if you are getting full hookups and perhaps a Cable or SAT TV service) and the extra person could work a paying job if needed.

If you find a volunteer or “work for site” job that requires more than 20 hours, you should get some additional perks, such as free laundry, propane allowance, store discount (if they have a camp or general store) and any other services they offer such as free WiFi and Cable TV. If not, you should get a breakdown of the hours and site costs. Some campgrounds have been known to take advantage of “work for site” folks. I know of one campground owner in Arizona that actually has the nerve to take a $500 deposit from it’s “workers” in case they leave suddenly. This is not right as you are working weekly for your site and should be working in accordance to your stay.

The best thing you can do when you find a position, even if it is as a Camp Host, is to ask for a Work-camper Agreement or some sort of contract that states what your arrival and departure dates are, what you receive (full hookups, etc…) and what the hours and job duties involve. If you are told you only need to work 10 hours a week for your site handing out camp brochures, then that is what the contract should read. Some places will try to take advantage of work-campers as they “have them” and most people will not be able to just pack up and leave. So protect yourself with some sort of contract.

There are many places to look online for a job, especially Full-Timers. The most popular is Workamper News. The have a daily job hotline emailed to you and a bimonthly magazine. However, there are many other publications, such as The Caretaker’s Gazette,  where employers seek out work-campers. You can also place an ad offering your own skills and have employers seek you out. Several websites offer free ads (maximum word count) or free ads with a subscription to their site or publication.

Word-of-mouth or recommendations from other work-campers works just as well. If you are interested in working outdoor hospitality, you should try to work a Camp Host position first, to give you an idea if this is for you. Working with the public can be…well, it can be a pain in the behind! So if you are able to volunteer for a month or so as a Host, that would be ideal. That way you won’t find yourself locked in a position at a campground or RV resort for 6 months and hating it.

There are many options out there and the more you do your homework and speak to other Full-Timers, the better off you will be. You will be surprised to find how varied work-camper positions are! From working NASCAR races and Amazon.com to casinos and ranches to amusement parks and apple harvest pickers!

Another growing area for work-campers is security or caretaking properties. Not much (or any) experience required, yet you are provide with a free place to stay and life for a minimum number of hours.

Some of these jobs pay incredible wages, in addition to full or partial benefits. And, surprisingly, there are even government jobs available to work-campers. There are a number of businesses who specifically want work-campers because these folks offer a diverse workforce and are often very flexible. Being a modern nomad is a good thing!

If you don’t need an additional income and don’t want to volunteer, then you may consider boondocking. Although this is something you should really discuss with other Full-Timers, especially those who have boondocking experience. Boondocking is just that – living in the  middle of nowhere (usually!) with no or partial hook-ups. You must live independently with your own batteries, generators, propane, solar and whatever else you can. You’ll require regular visits from a honey wagon (pumps your holding tanks) or must have your own tote tank and nearby sewer dump station to do it yourself.

We recently visited Quartzsite, Arizona which is the boondockers hangout in Western Arizona, about 90 miles north of Yuma. You can get a space in the desert  with a cheap permit from the BLM. The drawback to this type of lifestyle is most areas that are open to regular boondockers are very far from modern amenities. So if you only shopped at Walmart and it was a 90 mile drive (one-way, as in the case of Quartzsite), you may find yourself limiting your trips or suffering from the isolation. Yet again, it’s free (practically) living.

There are websites online that tell you places you can camp or stay free as well. Most are short-term, but it’s money saved! So you can live free, or close to it by either work-camping or boondocking.

If you have decided to give up the stick-house and become a Full-Timer, the first thing you may experience is a mix of relief and doubt. Do not worry! The stress that comes with a house is gone. You are indeed houseless – but you aren’t homeless! Your RV is now home and home will always be where you park it!

And just because your home is on wheels does not mean you must constantly move it. Many campgrounds, RV parks and resorts accept “residents” – folks who live there either seasonally (usually six months) or yearly. Many Full-Timers start out this way to get used to the RV lifestyle and get a better understanding of the RV community.

If you decide after a period of time you cannot live without a stick-house,  newer RV-Home communities have townhouses or duplexes that have RV garages beside them for those who travel regularly or seasonally and want a stick-house for the remainder of the year.  Many RV parks and storage facilities have areas where they store RVs. If the RV lifestyle is agreeable and you decide to just be Seasonal RVers you may find that a RV park with annual rates is ideal for you. Annual rates usually (each RV park has different rules) include six months of living in the RV (in the RV park with full-hookups) and six months of closed storage (no utilities). You do not move your RV, it stays on the same site. The only thing you do is close it up for six months. This is an option for those who like the same area and intend to go back without the hassle of having to take the RV.

If you have a larger motorhome, fifth-wheel or travel trailer, having a secure RV park to “store” it in is ideal if you do not want to drive it far or enjoy a particular area. It will allow you to maintain your tow vehicle and in the case of a motorhome, have a tow vehicle.

It is a big step to give up your stick-house, yet it can be emotionally and financially rewarding. In today’s society, having a stick-house is not the investment it was years ago. Having a home-on-wheels provides you the essentials and an opportunity to experience other “neighborhoods”.

Once you start looking at recreational vehicles you will feel overwhelmed. There are way too many choices out there! And the prices are just as varied as the RVs.

If you are going to become a Full-Time RVer and give up the stick-house, then price may not be a concern. But if you owe a great deal on your home or rent, you may not have the money to put into your new home-on-wheels. Payments on used RVs are much lower than newer ones.

Used recreational vehicles are good starters. Most RVers live by the “trading up” rule – always hoping to upgrade to something bigger and better in a few years. Although, with recent fuel increases and more people (even us homeless nomads!) trying to downsize, many RVers are discussing downsizing their Big Rigs for something smaller – even truck campers and pop-ups!

With a used RV, you can get quite a discount, especially on a really nice Class A or motorcoach. The only problem with this is, you’ll have a great investment, yet some campgrounds are really starting to buckle down on the rig-age. By that I mean, many “RV resorts” consider rigs 10-15 years old “old”. They want modern rigs, not quite frankly, those funky-looking 60s trailers. Nothing wrong with older rigs, many (esp. GMCs!) are in really great condition and most have been rebuilt and remodeled by their current owners. It is just that certain parks want to maintain that “new” image. Another thing to consider is that parks that do not mention this in their Park Rules, may still have a “we have to right to refuse any guest” policy. A quick look out the window toward your older RV may cause the “no vacancy” sign to go up.

Discrimination? Well, I say the same thing when we pass a 55+ Park! If they are private campgrounds or parks they are allowed to have their own rules – even silly ones. If they don’t want older RVs and you have one, you wouldn’t want to be there anyway, right? It would just be a miserably place to live as the people are hung-up about age!

But don’t let an older used RV discourage you. The majority of campgrounds don’t care what age your RV is. Age isn’t always a factor though. Many campgrounds will not allow “homemade” campers. Now you’re scratching your head at this… ever see a school-bus turned into a camper? They don’t want stuff like that. Some of those homemade campers are really neat, but under the circumstances, I wouldn’t want to be camped by one either as too much can go wrong. I would feel safer with a camper that had been under inspection at a factory and manufactured by people who knew what they were doing. A homemade camper make look great – but I don’t know that the thing won’t catch on fire or blow up! So you can’t blame campgrounds for not wanting homemades or “conversions” as they are sometimes called. So keep this in mind when you are shopping for a used RV.

Another thing to keep in mind is the overall structure. If it is a private seller – why are they selling? Has there been damage? Was it in an accident? How has it been stored? Like stick-houses, moisture and mildew can be nightmares in a RV. Find out what the reasons for selling are. Are there blemishes or blistering in the outside finish? Any noticeable dents or scratches? Don’t be afraid to climb the ladder rack and look at the roof. Roof damage is not something you want! Check the flooring in all the outside compartments. Has the thing been flooded? You joke – but if you’ve ever had a water pipe break in a camper (I did!) and have it flood (3 inches!), you’ll understand that your carpeting is slowly rotting away even if you got it dried-out quickly!

And don’t be afraid to drive a RV dealer nuts with questions as well! Make them earn their commission and seek out the answers you want. Also let them know that you aren’t afraid to open cabinets or compartments. Shop around as this is a “home” purchase!

Another thing to ask is how far has the camper traveled? Does it have a lot of mileage (if a motorhome)? If it has had engine repair, who work on it? When? What was the problem? Do they have paperwork on it? If you don’t know anything about engines and you are looking at a motorhome, motorcoach or van – definitely seek out your trusted mechanic or a friend who knows about these things. When your home is on wheels and it is the main “wheels”, if it requires repairs in a shop – you have to live in a hotel or some other accommodations while it is being fixed! So if it starts up and a puff of smoke comes out – don’t reach for your wallet just yet! Repair bills on larger motorhomes can be major wallet drainers. And don’t forget the tires, brakes and other essentials.

The refrigerator is another major expense. If not properly stored a closed refrigerator can smell for decades! So check it and if dealing with a private seller, ask to come back when the refrigerator and freezer is plugged in. You can usually tell by the shelving and drawers whether it has had much use. Same with the stove, oven and microwave. Many recreational campers (1-2 weeks a year) never use their camper oven. It’s a shame really as there is nothing better than a little turkey or even a birthday cake from a camper oven! You’ll be able to see signs of use. The microwave will undoubtedly be the most used item. If it is a combo oven/microwave, make sure this works as they can be expensive to replace.

Look around every faucet, vent and “hole” (where pipes and wires come through) for signs of water or other damage. Sometimes you can see repair work you wouldn’t have noticed if you didn’t look for the signs.

Hot water heaters can be fixed, but can set you back some money, especially if you are on the road when you realize it doesn’t work. Make sure they demonstrate everything for you. If they won’t – find another dealer or seller.

The air-condition unit and furnace are other costly repair items. Again, make sure these things work. If they can’t demonstrate the furnace (or stove/oven) because they have no propane – then tell them you’ll come back when they get some!

If the camper has an awning, make sure you see it pulled down. Notice if it is difficult putting up or down and if there is too much slack when they put it up. Also note if there are any holes in it as new awnings generally run $1000 and up.

Where is the fuse box? Is it easy to get to our do you have to crawl in a closet? What about the holding tanks? Do the tank sensors work? If the camper has been in storage and there is sewer odor… well, I guess I don’t need to tell you about that!

Older RVs, especially ones in storage, may not have the newer propane valves… stations won’t service older tanks! New tanks range from $40 on up depending on the size. So see if the propane tanks meet current standards. Most RVs have two propane tanks. If there is only one, question that!

I am not trying to stop you from buying a used RV, I just want you to be aware that you’ll rarely find one that was “only driven on Sundays by a sweet old grandma”. Some RVs get a lot of wear and are wore out well before you come along. If this is going to be your home, even for a short-while, don’t cheat yourself with never-ending repair bills or part replacements.

If you are dealing with a private seller and you don’t have the proper tow equipment for a fifth-wheel or travel trailer then you will have to figure how much extra you will end up paying elsewhere. Fifth-wheels and travel trailers require special hitches and brake controllers and in the case of trailers, sway bars. If the private seller doesn’t have these to include in the deal, that’s more money out of your pocket. And you will have to have the fifth-wheel hitch installed by a professional – as well as the brake controller, unless your pickup truck has a built-in tow-package.

If you purchase used through a RV dealer, they will often throw in the hitches (and even brake controller) free just to get a sale. If not, at least try to get a discount or package deal out of them on these items.

If you are a non-smoker and looking at a smokers (or just plain smelly) RV, there are ways to take care of that, but it will cost you unless you do all the work yourself. But it is possible to get that new-camper-smell again.

Notice the coloring of the seat cushions, carpet and drapes. Has the camper been opened up to the sun? Is there discoloration? Is the fabric on the stages of rotting? Are the seat cushions so wore they will need re-upholstered? Cause if you plan to leave in it full-time, you will have to have it replaced or purchase some sort of covering for it.

Dealers who offer warranties on used RVs are ones you should keep in mind. Things go wrong with RVs – new and used. As I have mentioned before – no matter what a dealer tells you – they are not made to live in year-round. So be prepared to have some issue – whether it be blowing out a fuse cause you didn’t understand the whole 30-amp speech the dealer gave you or your TV antenna crank breaks in your hand. Something will happen – just like it does in a stick-house.

A used RV can be a good thing, especially for the money involved. But be aware that cheap is not always a good thing. If it looks too good to be true, it most likely is!

When you decide to make the move from a stick-house to a recreational vehicle, there are many things to consider. Prices vary on RVs, but most are very affordable with the majority being much, much cheaper than stick-house! If you buy used, chances are you can have low payments (or even pay for it in full). The only problem with used is that you have to be very careful and look for things you’d take for granted with a new one. But I’ll get into that later if you decide on used. For now, lets consider things that should help you narrow down that perfect home-on-wheels.

1) Driving – Are you okay with driving/towing? Can you back up? If not, you may consider contacting your local RV dealership and see if they recommend a driving school (or perhaps they offer lessons) for a newbie RVer. If that isn’t an issue, than you need to consider other driving issues such as a tow vehicle. If you decide on a fifth-wheel or travel trailer (and, of course, a truck-camper) then you will need a good pickup truck to tow your RV. If you decide on a motorhome (Class A, Class C or a van) then you may require a vehicle to tow behind (either on a trailer or tow dolly). And consider very carefully if you choose not to have a tow vehicle – especially if you decide on a larger motorhome. Everytime you require groceries or supplies, you’d have to pack up everything and drive your “home” into town. Unless you have other options – motorcycle, bicycle, hiking – to get to a nearby town, you should consider having a “vehicle”. Another driving factor to consider is that your family can drive it. If something happens to you, could your spouse or travel companions drive it?

2) Size – What size of RV do you need? It depends on if you are going to be Full-Timers or Seasonals, as well as how many people are living in it. If you are going to go full-time, then everything you own will be inside. That means you need storage, as well as enough room to function. We have a two-bedroom fifth-wheel. Everyone has their own “space” – no crowding, no struggling to store things. Smaller rigs may seem to small for you, but don’t forget, the more slides you have, the larger the rig becomes. And driving-wise, how big of rig can you handle? Quite honestly, some roadways (especially in the mountains) are just not made for larger RVs. We recently towed our rig (about 53′ in length with the long-bed pickup) through Death Valley National Park and you talk about having a death-grip on the steering wheel! So keep in mind that although bigger is roomier, it is a lot more to handle on the road and even inside smaller campgrounds.

3) Price – Can you afford new? New is a better option for those who can’t handle any repairs that may come their way. Face it, RVs weren’t made to live in yearround (no matter what the dealer tells you). If the refrigerator goes out – you just can’t walk into Sears and buy one. No, it needs repaired at a dealership. Minor things do happen to new RVs. Rarely do I hear anyone not having a few problems within the first year. Like a stick-house, RVs require maintainance. The other good thing about new is that you can get one ordered as you like (colors, extra features) for either no extra money or just the “extras” you add to it. So if you love blue and want it blue – you can have it that way. Just talk to your local dealer about it. Used are a great way to get into Full-Timing and often you can get a rig that would cost a great deal of money for less. A great example is a Rexall which can cost $200,000. You can get used ones for around $40-50,000. Sounds like a lot, right? Walk into one and then you won’t bulk at the price. 😉 The only drawback from used RVs is that you just don’t know what is going to happen and what the previous owners did. If you have a mechanic or friend who knows about RVs, you may ask them to help inspect any used one you are considering buying.

4) Storage – Like size, this depends on if you are going Full-Time. If everything you own is in the RV, then you need storage. And I don’t mean sticking your frying pans in an outside compartment. I mean real, functional storage space. There are extra things that will eat your storage space before you even get it home. Washer and dryers are the worst. Yes, there is some benefit to having a washer and dryer if you don’t mind shutting down everything to run them AND the noise doesn’t drive you out of your rig. Moisture is another issue with them… but it’s things like this you should consider. Washer and dryers are placed in a storage closet – if you add them – you’ve lost valuable closet space. The majority of campgrounds have laundries (that work much faster and more quiet than yours would) so don’t feel pressured to get a washer and dryer in your rig. Dinette booths versus tables is another space saver. Sure, dinette tables look nice in RVs, yet booths allow under-seat storage! I could spend all day on storage; however, I think this is enough information to make you realize you need to be aware of storage areas.

5) Slides – Slides are probably the second-best invention of my time (spray butter being number one!) and the more you have, the more room adds on to your rig. Yet they have major downfalls. Number one is that most campgrounds (even those that advertise Big Rig Friendly) aren’t slide-friendly. You may find that your slide(s) can’t go out because of trees, utility posts, cement barriers and other campground obstacles. This can be quite frustrating, especially if you have wide and/or large slides like we do. Another thing to consider with slides is that they aren’t as heavily insulated as the rest of your camper. So if you are going to a colder region, you need to keep in mind that you may need to leave your slides in to stay warm. Which reminds me – slides don’t have electrical outlets or furnace/air-condition ducts. Keep this in mind if you are in a hot-cold region. Slides can also be a pain if you can’t put them out. If you are traveling down the road and need to use the bathroom, can you even get to your bathroom? Some slides block off areas of your rig and you can’t use them. So keep in mind what your rig would look like with the slides in – could you get to your bathroom? Bedroom? Stove? Refrigerator? If you were boondocking (or dry camping) a few days with the slides in, could you still live in your camper? These are things to keep in mind when RV shopping.

6) Travel – How far are you going in your rig? Will you drive it across the country or will you just drive it a few states away? Make sure you can handle it and that your routes (like mountains) are something your rig can handle. We’ve driven down roads that have brought our curtains down and broke the jar of dill pickles. If you are going to take your rig down the road make sure the cabinets and refrigerator has good locks, that sliding doors have snaps, etc… Also, if you travel to a colder region (or even if it gets colder in a warmer region) that your rig is well-insulated and that you have the means or the “extras” as far as it goes to protecting your pipes/hoses from freezing. Many RVs have “polar packages” that you can upgrade and get tank heaters, etc… Well worth the extra money.

7) Extras – Most salespeople will push whatever they have on the lot, but if they know you are interested in a new one (especially custom-built) they will push the extra features. You don’t need most of them, yet there are a few that you should consider. A generator is a must in my opinion – especially a propane one. It will cost extra money, but you’ll find it money well spent during your first major outage. No smelly gas tanks to drag around – just regular propane which you’ll use in your RV anyway! And make sure you get a switch to turn the generator on from inside your RV. Those stormy or cold nights you are without power, all you have to do is crawl out of bed, flip the switch and your generator is on. No fuss and anyone can do it! Another extra is the polar package (if you are traveling far or in colder regions). Flip a switch and your water tank will be heated! No wrapping hoses or dripping faucets. The central vacuum feature sounds silly, but believe it or not, it’s actually quite handy. I am amazed at how much cleaner our carpets stay. It is noisy running it, but that’s only for a few minutes at a time.

That’s some of the things you should consider when looking for a RV. As I mentioned, if you are considering used, there are some additional things to look for and I’ll get to that a bit later.

Meanwhile, think of things you’d like to have in your perfect RV. Do you like TV and movies and want to sit and watch them from a sofa or a recliner? Do you like plants? They have optional greenhouse windows in RVs… Entertain? They have wine racks and mini-bars… Think about what you NEED and what you would LIKE to have and write them down. Make a check-list for each RV you visit that way you see how close it comes to your perfect RV.

Slides can be an issue

Slides can be an issue

They next step of living the life of a Full-Timer requires some thought as to how you will earn an income. Actually, this isn’t as difficult as it may seem! Many places are in need of temporary help and some of these jobs pay a great deal of money or a modest amount with a bonus (if you stay until your commitment date). If you don’t mind moving on every couple weeks or months then this might be an option for you. If you need a job where you have benefits, no problem! There are many places (even KOA) that will have additional benefits like health coverage and insurance if you stay for an extended period. Some places, especially theme parks, have their own health clinic that work-campers qualify for the first day they start. And these are just seasonal positions. There are steady positions (even government jobs) out there that require at least a year stay and offer full-benefits.

How much do you need? What skills do you bring to the table? What do you be willing to do? What would you not be willing to do?  These are things you need to ask yourself. The very minimum you should seek at a work-camp-type position is full-hookups. That is your “free living”. Additional perks to ask for include Cable TV or SAT TV, WiFi, propane discount (or allowance) and laundry allowance (if not free). Many businesses that hire work-campers already understand this and most often will have these extras listed with the compensation package.  Seasonal bonuses or even mileage allowance is another great way to add money to the kitty.

If you work for a campground or RV park, most often they will have you work so many hours to “pay” for your site. In a way, this is a barter of sorts. If the business wants to consider your site “pay” (for tax purposes), then you need to find another place to work for. You want campgrounds or businesses that give you a note stating you were required to furnish your own housing (RV) and were required to live on site. That way you don’t have any crazy tax issues. If you don’t mind complicated taxes, then by all means, keep those other options open.

Even if you have a nice pension and/or social security coming in, you can’t rely on that to stretch far in today’s economy. So many folks with outside incomes RVers work as Camp Hosts or work at campgrounds and RV resorts for their campsite and utility fees. Many places, especially state and county parks are in need of Hosts. Some even offer a daily or monthly stipend. Time commitments vary by location, but most involve a month to three months with extensions available. Hosting is pretty simple and requires little, if any, training. Usually the biggest requirement is to be able to deal with the public. People skills are definitely a must.

Can’t believe there are jobs for people in RVs? Face it, our economy isn’t at its best right now. The job market is changing and people stuck with stick homes are in a position where they can’t get to these jobs. This is creating a shortage of workers in areas that need them – folks can’t sell their house to move to areas that need help and they certainly can’t afford to drive long distances regularly with current fuel prices. But we can! And once the position is over… hookup and head out!

Now there is more than just campground work – and actually we have a better term for this if you are thinking “Oh no, I’m not putting campground work on my resume!” – it’s called “Outdoor Hospitality”. Sound better? This covers campgrounds, RV parks and all types of resorts. And please don’t think of campgrounds as some trashy place (although there are those!) to live. Some travel resorts we have been to have more amenities than fancy housing communities – Cable TV, phone hookups, golf course, pools, jacuzzi s, spas, clubs (from bowling to computer), classes (crafts, French, yoga, etc…), fishing lakes and ponds, cabin rentals, villa rentals, restaurants, cafes, expresso bars, ice cream parlors, churches (non-dom), tennis courts, horseshoe pits, volleyball courts, basketball courts, shuffleboard, Petanque (Boules) courts, video rentals, ATMs, postal stations, grocery stores, camping stores, Bingo or Rec halls, game rooms, libraries and the list goes on. Many bigger ones have seasonal activity directors that even organize day trips to nearby attractions and casinos. So they aren’t all like what you’ve seen on the movie RV or NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION.

Many other places require work-campers such as theme parks, auto sport events, festivals (Ren Faires, the New Mexico Balloon Festival, etc…), hotels, ranches, casinos, wildlife sanctuaries and more. You can find work anywhere – it’s there! From picking apples in Washington to directing sugar beet trucks in South Dakota to working in shipping at Amazon.com (in Nebraska) to selling pumpkins or Christmas trees in California. There are jobs for all skills or no-skills. There are jobs that are easy and jobs that will leave you sore for a week.  Many pay good wages, some pay incredible wages and some offer bonuses or commission packages.

You can live free or next to it! All you have to do is think things through. There are several places online that you can start searching for work-camp jobs – people who specifically target Full-Timers. The biggest one around (that most everyone uses) is The Workamper News . If you are seriously considering this, order a trial issue. Read every ad – you’ll be amazed! And very surprised at the different jobs available and the benefits they offer. A few don’t even require a RV – they will put you up in their own cabin, cottage or villa. A great way to get your foot in the door and try it before you commit to buying a RV.

If you do want pursue this lifestyle and have no experience with RVs – I recommend you rent one for awhile and see how you like it. You don’t need to go far – find a campground a few hours from you – far enough that you can’t force yourself to drive home for something every hour. See how you like it!

If you have experience with RVing, but not for extended periods – then you need to re-learn RVing… Why? Well, there’s a difference in short trips versus living in one! I’ll tell you some things to look for when searching for a Full-Timer’s RV (or “Rig” as we all call our home-on-wheels).

As you begin to downsize, you have to do some serious thinking. Here are some of the main questions you need to honestly discuss with your spouse and/or family.

1) If you become a Full-Timer (or even Seasonal) can you deal without being around your other family and friends for long periods of time?

2) Can you deal with your own spouse and/or family in a RV 24/7? Just because RVers appear to always be on vacation – we aren’t. It takes a close, understanding family to live in a small area day-in-day-out. You will need to create “zones” or “spaces” for everyone to hangout when they want some privacy or some alone time.

3) Do you have what it takes to be independent? You don’t have to know everything about RVs, but basic repair, set-up, maintenance, towing and/or driving are things you need to know before you head out on that highway. You will have to do your homework if you are inexperienced in RVs. However, there are many wonderful books, videos, online forums and even “schools” (ask your local RV dealer) on RVs and related topics. And, if you have never even been in one and are considering this lifestyle, I seriously recommend you rent one for a week or two! See if you can handle it.

4) How will you earn an income? Even if you have a nice pension and/or social security coming in, you can’t rely on that to stretch far in today’s economy. So you need some sort of income. If you have an internet or computer-related “business” – then you are free to work anywhere you want. If you do not have another source of income or feel you need more to supplement yours, than you can work while on the road. Work-campers are folks who work or volunteer while living in a RV. With so many areas short of workers, we can go wherever help is needed and move on when the work is finished. For now just think about how you are going to pay for your RV (if you haven’t paid it off), insurance, fuel, food, propane and camping fees while you are on the road.

5) Are you going to keep your house? If so, you have a great deal of things to ask yourself – such as who will manage things like yard work and utility bills while you are away? Are you still paying a mortgage on your house? Will you be paying one on the RV as well? There is a lot to think about if you are going to keep your stick home (That’s what us homeless RVers call “houses”).

6) Although RVs have modern amenities – washer/dryer, microwave, ceiling fans, SAT TV, Cable TV, regular TV antennas, air-condition, central heat, generators (propane and gas), ice makers, etc… Sometimes you may have to do without. Not every campground you pull into will have Cable TV hookup or maybe even enough amps to run everything. There may be times when you won’t have water, electric or sewer hook-up. You may have to dry camp or boondock. If you have to have A/C all the time or other special needs, then you will have to make sure you find only campgrounds or travel resorts that can accommodate you. Sometimes that means you have to stick closer to the highway – which often means missing those hidden gems along the back-roads.

7) Where do you want to go? Are you a comfortable driver? Can you manage a long-distance drive in a RV? Or do you just want to go from point A to point B every couple months? Do you want a home base or “camp” – one that you go to every year for a certain period of time? Pulling open the map and heading out is great, but the uncertainty of it can be stressful to some people.

8 ) If you do this, you will need to find a RV and that is not something you take lightly if you decide to go long-distance or go Full-Time. You have many things to consider – things that you probably won’t think of until after you are on the road with it and grumbling that you should have bought something else. Such as storage! Many people forget that if everything you own is in the RV, than you need storage space – but not just any old storage space – you need smart storage space. It’s not smart to go outside to get your frying pan or to have your bath towels under the dinette table. And that’s just one factor to consider. I will go into detail later about what you should look for in a RV – things that dealers don’t know because they don’t live in them!

9) And back to the spouse and/or family issue! This lifestyle requires an understanding on everyone’s part. Even though typically one person does the outside stuff (ie. hookups, jacks, awnings) and one does the inside stuff (ie. slides, setup) – you all need to know the basics. In case of an emergency, you all need to know how to break camp, hookup and head out. So your family needs to be a “team” when it comes to RV know-how. I’ve seen too many people end up having their RV towed because a family member was ill (or worse) and they remaining member(s) didn’t even know how to crank down the TV antenna!

These questions are crucial – you have to seriously think these things through with your spouse and/or family. Everyone has to be honest or you may make the wrong decision.

If you think you have what it takes to be a Full-Timer, the next step is looking at your future income on the road.

UPDATED: February 13, 2012

I may need that someday!

I may need that someday!

Too much stuff! That is the problem that most people face in today’s world. People work 40+ hours a week to pay for stuff they have, yet rarely use. Extra costly “toys” like boats or jet skis, only get used a few days or weeks out of the year. Yet you work your fingers to the bone weekly to pay for these items.

The road to freedom begins with prioritizing. Is that $20,000 boat that you use one weekend a year worth it? What about its insurance, storage and upkeep? Start off by listing your extra toys and see just how much they are costing you and your overworked fingers. You may find yourself surprised – it’s just not worth it!

Then get your finances in order. Try to pay off those credit cards and any outstanding bills you have. How? Start selling stuff off. Host a garage sale, go to your local flea market, advertise on a radio/internet swap listing, advertise in a free or cheap newspaper classified or sell it online through eBay or another seller website.

This is the biggest and hardest of them all. Yet if you overcome this hurdle, it’s all downhill after that! What’s so hard? Downsizing! For some reason, modern humans need to acquire massive amounts of credit card debt and collect or gather mounds of “stuff”. You have to stop it and you have to do it cold turkey.

If you make purchases on a credit card regularly and only pay the minimum monthly payment – do you know now much that pack of gum is going to end up costing you at the end of the year? So stop buying anything you don’t need. And do what our ancestors did – if you don’t have the money (cash) to buy it, then you don’t really need it. Do with what you’ve got, as my Mom says.

Start going through that stuff and get rid of it! Yes, you may need that special size screwdriver in two or three years, but it’s certainly not doing you any good now. No sane person needs more than one toaster. Unfortunately, when my family started downsizing, we came across five of them in our storage!

Yet that’s the easy stuff. The hardest is dealing with those items that have a history or some sort of mental hold over you. Deceased Uncle Bob willed you that mounted Marlin – you just can’t part with it! Actually, you can. Get over it – it’s a stuffed fish for Pete’s (well, Uncle Bob’s) sake. The only reason he left it to you cause Goodwill wouldn’t take it and the lawyer was charging him for a Will anyways, so he might as well leave it to you. Ask other relatives if they want some family-handed items. Take photos for your records (if you just can’t let go) and attach a little story of who gave it to you and why it was so gosh darn important you have it hold down your attic for the past ten years.

Then go through some of your things that you considered passing on. In all honesty, will your relatives want those broken picture frames or old suitcases in your attic? Or those incomplete China patterns shoved on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard? Probably not. They are more likely to have an auction company come in and sell off what they can (since you didn’t leave them any money because you spent your lifesaving’s calling QVC each week) or they will find a cheap dumpster company to come and haul it all to the local landfill.

Tell your relatives you are downsizing. Ask them if they want certain items and take a photo of the item. Tell them the history behind it or better yet, write it down for them. Anything they don’t want, find other good homes. Have a family crib but no new babies to put it in? Find a family in need who can use it. History is wonderful, but if it isn’t passed on its worthless. So pass it on!

See that three-story dollhouse in the photo above? My dad made that for me when I was nine years old. I had it for over twenty years. There was a lot of memories, but I have no need for a dollhouse. It went to a little girl who could provide it a good home and pass it on to another when she was ready to let it go. I have photos of it, I have the memories of it and I have the knowledge that it is being loved by another.

If you find that some of your items are just not worth the effort (or money) to try to sell, then consider donating them to charity. Many charities and non-profit organizations have wish lists and your old desk might just be the thing they need! Most will offer a tax receipt for your donation and many charities will even pickup your larger items.

Unfortunately, because of storage space and other issues smaller charities might not be able to take certain items, such as clothes, holiday decorations or electronics. If this is the case, contact your local FreeCycle group and post a free ad for your free item(s). And sometimes it’s as simple as placing a FREE sign on it and toting it to your front yard.

This is where you need to start before you can even think of opening that road map. It’s hard, again, once you get over that initial “letting go” stage, it’s easier! You’ll find that extra stuff wasn’t as important as you thought it was – if you even remember it!

I reached that “letting go plateau” and now when I open my closet or a drawer I say, “Why do I have this?” Everything I currently own could be placed in a normal-sized shopping cart, yet every time we find a new place to call “home”, I manage to find a bag or two of items to donate to the local charities. Material things aren’t a priority to me anymore.

I can’t even envision hoarding (yes, that’s what it is, there, I’ve said it!) stuff again. Just look at the picture above. This was just some of the stuff we had. Shoved away in a storage facility, where we paid monthly bills (and insurance) to keep these precious items. Ha! Precious! I forgot I had half of it and when I opened the boxes I was wondering why I had kept all that junk!

But this isn’t the secret, no this is just the beginning. Get your pens out and start formulating your downsizing plan, then you’ll move closer to how can find freedom on the open road!

UPDATED: February 13, 2013

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

— Walt Whitman (1819-1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900

 

Many have seen a recreational vehicle sometime in their life – either holding up traffic on the highway or perhaps jacked-up in their neighbor’s yard. You probably recall laughing at Lucille Ball in the classic movie THE LONG LONG TRAILER or Robin Williams in the recent hit titled RV. A few people probably think it’s an interesting way to live, while the rest think it’s just plain crazy.

Living in a recreational vehicle (RV) is not just for those crazy folks in need of a few good laughs, nor is it just for retirees with a pension and regular Social Security check. While the number of full-time RVers (or Full-Timers as we RV-Folk say) has increased in the past several years, the average age has decreased. You will find many more families and younger couples making the decision to become Full-Timers.

I have been Full-Timing for several years, yet only the past two have been on the road.  During that time I have spoken to many people about Full-Timing and the steps involved in making that decision to lead a nomadic lifestyle. Many insist that I write a blog or book on the topic as they would need directions on how to travel down this road.

Well, it certainly isn’t any easy path to travel, but once you are headed in that direction it gets a lot easier. So I have decided to share the secret that most Full-Timers know…the secret that can get you started down the open road…

IN MY SITES: A Campground Mystery (Book #4)

In My Sites
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By HS Cooper
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DYING TO WORK CAMP (Book #3)

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A Campground Mystery
By HS Cooper
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THE PROPANE GAME (Book #2)

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