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It’s a beautiful Sunday in Texas and we thought we would sit outside in our lawn chairs and read. A few of our fellow Full-Timers came over and started up a conversation that went from books to favorite flavors of ICEEs. Just a relaxing Sunday…so we thought.

We had been talking a few minutes when a woman walked up to the group and said, “How long are you folks staying?” We all replied a few more weeks. The woman said mumbled something about it must be nice to be on vacation that long, when one of the group members explained we were Full-Timers.

Now, imagine our surprise when she said, “Oh, well you’re trash from where I come from.” Then she walked away with disgust.

We were absolutely shocked. We all watched her walk away. No one said a thing. In fact, the only thing you could hear at the time was our jaws dropping.

Personally I thought that it was a joke. I looked around for cameras – surely someone was filming a hidden-camera show and we were the next skit? No, no cameras. The woman was for real.

She knew nothing about any of us, yet she blatantly called us trash. No, excuse me, she said we were trash.

I’m not a confrontational person, but this was rather upsetting to me that someone would make such a bold judgment and not even allow a response. I was curious and decided to see where this woman was from.

I saw her several sites down by a fifth-wheel – she was sitting on a lawn chair and drinking a can of soda. I never said anything to her but glanced at the pickup truck beside the rig and saw it had Texas license plates and several Austin stickers on the tailgate.

The group was still gathered near our site and several other Full-Timers had emerged to listen to the tale of the hit-and-run trash-talker.

I mentioned what I saw and one person said, “Oh, well, if they’re from Austin, that explains it.”

Well, I don’t quite understand what that means and find myself not really caring. I mean, why should I fall into the stereotype trap as this trash-talker?

As a Full-Timer I feel that we are a benefit to society. We bring money to local communities. From buying local produce and eating at local restaurants to visiting local attractions and attending local events – Full-timers are adding revenue to each area they visit.

They also help promote communities – they either tell other travelers or share their photos and stories online about the areas attractions and help increase tourism.

When staying in an area for an extended stay, many Full-Timers contribute to the community by volunteering their time or donating money or goods to local charities. I personally have over 350 hours of volunteer time – from the State of Florida to the State of Washington.

We are big on community. People in stick-houses go years (or decades) without knowing their neighbors. Full-Timers know their neighbors, be it for a day, a week or a year. We are there for our neighbors – we don’t ask for anything out of it. It’s just something we do to help our fellow RVers.

Full-Timers may not have stick-houses, but we do pay taxes. From Federal taxes to local sales taxes to toll road fees, we are paying our share to help keep the country running.

You will find that most Full-Timers are in support of parks and environmental-related causes. We help maintain our national and state parks by purchasing annual park passes and volunteering at them.  We contribute to eco-charities and causes and encourage others to do the same. Many of us pay fees or buy permits to hike, camp or fish areas – with the money going back into preserving these areas.

We have much smaller carbon footprints than those in stick-homes. Yes, we may put more mileage on, but we also take better care of our vehicles. Most Full-Timers are aware of their vehicles needs and constantly make sure they run as efficiently as possible. Those of us who need trucks to tow our fifth-wheels and travel trailers have newer diesels that run on bio-fuels. Those who have tow vehicles (“toads”) for their motorhomes or motorcoaches have hybrids or vehicles with a better gas mileage than standard vehicles.

Full-Timers live by the code – recycle, reduce, reuse. We recycle everything we can because if we can’t recycle it back into society it’s trash. We don’t like trash! Rarely will you see a Full-Timer with more than a tiny bag of trash. Reducing is automatic for us. Needless packaging and extra “stuff” is just a waste of space and energy to us. And we reuse like you wouldn’t believe! If we can’t reuse it ourselves, we’ll find a good home for it (often sharing it with other RVers or passing it on to a local charity).

Chevy Silverado

Chevy Silverado

We also buy American-made RVs and vehicles. Drive through any campground and you’ll see the overwhelming majority of fifth-wheels and travel trailers are being towed by GMCs, Chevys and Ford trucks. Toads vary, but favorites include Saturns, Jeeps and hybrids. We take great pride in our rigs and you can usually spot a Full-Timer by the blinding glare of polish on their RV. (Currently ours has 3 coats!)

And then there are those Full-Timers who rebuild or renovate RVs. These conversions are the ultimate in recycling, reducing and reusing! These folks use their know-how to take an older RV or bus and convert into something amazing. They buy local products and use local services to achieve their custom dream.

This is just a few of the many ways Full-Timers benefit American society. You can talk-trash me, but I really don’t care. I’m proud to be a Full-Time RVer!

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.

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