"Hitting the highway and enjoying nature are among the chief attractions for those who enjoy the RV lifestyle"
The Long and Winding Road, King of the Road, Life Is A Highway… all could be the background music for the RVer’s journey.
Whether they choose to travel in a luxurious 40-plus foot movable mansion or a pop-up camper, those who choose to take their homes with them when they go love it and wouldn’t choose any other way of spending their vacation time. Though many start young, camping with their parents, others choose to spend the extra time associated with retirement or semi-retirement on the road exploring North America.
Kirk Thomson, owner of Can-Am RV, says that domestic travel is up since the early 2000s, adding that many are taking to the RV lifestyle because “it’s like cottaging without the maintenance.”
He’s been camping in an Airstream since he was four years old and much prefers it to staying in a hotel. Most of those who enjoy the RV lifestyle agree.
“I find camping very relaxing. It’s nice to be away from home where there is nothing to do and your biggest concern is what you will have for your next meal. Everything is stress free. It takes an hour to make a pot of coffee or heat up water to wash dishes, so our pace slows down immediately. We all like to be outside and sit around the campfire after dark,” says Andrea Arts (46), mother of two teenagers. She and husband Ron (48) have been camping with Jason (17) and Ryan (15) since the boys were toddlers. They try to get away in the pop-up camper twice a summer.
"from smaller, compact tag-alongs to fifth wheels and luxury Airstreams"
Arts values time spent with the kids and other family members. One highlight she described was playing a game they invented called ‘Man Hunt’ (she describes as hide-n-seek in the dark with parents versus children) with a large group of family and friends all camping together.
Beth Schiks echoes these sentiments. She and husband John – both now in their late 50s – are retired and enjoy travelling in their Aliner to the East Coast and northern Ontario. “It’s great for families but it’s also great for couples; it can really strengthen your relationship. At home, one person is watching TV in one room and another is watching TV or on the computer somewhere else. When camping, you have conversation around the fire, you laugh about a lot of things, you make your own entertainment and that doesn’t happen much in the modern world.”
They camped in tents with their sons as they grew up, but decided to move up to a camper 10 years ago. “It’s easy to lie down and sleep on an air mattress, but it’s hard to get up in the morning,” she laughs. The concept of having one’s own bed and belongings along for a trip is echoed by many who pursue the RV and camping lifestyle. Wayne and Dianne Moser – both 62 – travel in a 45-foot Mirage Prevost.
Many RVs have luxury amenities like marble counters, leather couches and large-screen televisions, making them feel more like hotels on wheels than simple places to sleep.
“I like having my own bed, sofa, TV, refrigerator and all those things like home,” says Wayne.
The couple now primarily uses the big RV for snow-birding in Florida, driving it down in the fall and back home in the spring, but spent several years exploring North America. “We’ve seen about 90 per cent of the U.S.,” says Dianne.
Besides having all the comforts of home, Dianne emphasizes that travelling by RV allows them to see and enjoy the beauty of the land. “You have to realize what you’re flying over is what you’re missing. Road travel allows you to enjoy the amazing beauty around every turn wherever you are at different times.”
She gives this example: “We were going through the Bighorn Mountains. I was working on my computer and I lifted my head and saw the beauty of the mountains. If we’d flown to Yellowstone (National Park), we would have missed the beauty of the mountains.”
Exploring an area isn’t limited to time on the road. “When we stop someplace and look at the travel book, we say, ‘Let’s go see what there is to experience here,’” says Dianne. “We’ve lived among a lot of people who RV and there’s a common thread: they like to adventure and discover.”
"Like cottaging without the maintenance"
There’s a social aspect to RVing as well. “When we were camping through Newfoundland, we travelled the same route as many others. We’d run into them at the parks night after night and get to compare notes. And you also meet people coming from the other direction and they tell you things too. For instance, we heard over and over about a huge iceberg close to Port Anthony, so we got to go watch National Geographic photograph it,” says Beth Schiks.
After their many years of RVing, the Mosers have a wide acquaintance among road warriors and have built lifelong friendships. But the social aspect of the camping life isn’t limited to adults.
Tom and Stephanie Davis purchased a 23-foot trailer last year and are excited about enjoying their second year of camping and trailer travel. The freedom their kids enjoy and the friendships that Aidan (7) and Liam (9) have built is an integral part of the experience, the parents say.
“Last year we met a family from London when camping at Fanshawe Conservation Area and the (two sets of) kids haven’t stopped talking about each other,” says Stephanie (41).
Tom (54) grew up camping with his park ranger dad and wanted the same experience for his boys.
“I like the fact that my kids don’t tell me 100 times a day that they are bored like they do at home. They are at the playground or fishing, biking, taking canoe rides, so they are always busy when we are camping,” says Stephanie.
Tom adds, “At camp, the traffic is restricted so they can use their bikes. The kids have more freedom. It’s building their independence and they can travel more freely like we did when we were kids.”
Bernie Kelders, of Kelders Trailer Sales, agrees. “Young families enjoy the camping experience in the relative safety of the park.”
"No matter the size of your camper, travelling the country with your home on wheels offers plenty of opportunities for exploration, relaxation and quality time with family and friends."
He adds that the feeling of getting back to nature is important to many who adopt the RV lifestyle. “Many retired people are buying park models to use six months of the year.”
According to Wayne Hiemstra, of Hiemstra Trailer and RV Sales, one way that helps younger families – who are struggling with finding reasonable ways to vacation that are cost effective – to afford camping is to rent a pop-up camper.
Though renters make up only five per cent of his business, Hiemstra says those who rent like that they avoid the cost of insurance, maintenance and storage by renting campers instead of buying.
Others use it as a ‘try before you buy’ approach and receive a discount on the purchase price when they decide to purchase after getting their feet wet by renting.
The RV lifestyle isn’t without its challenges. According to Wayne Moser, “You should be somewhat mechanically inclined because there are so many things that can go wrong. You could be stuck somewhere or have to pay someone whenever small things go wrong with the chassis or interior.”
He adds that a love for the road is an important personality trait to have before one considers getting an RV. “You have to be a person who enjoys driving if you want to RV.”
Size is also a factor; though you have all the comforts of home with you, they are scaled down and you must be judicious in what you choose to take with you on that road trip.
If Life is a Highway for you, the RV lifestyle might suit perfectly.