Posted by at 7:04 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 122010

I received an e-mail yesterday from a couple who are investigating the fulltime RV lifestyle. They will both be retiring within the next eighteen months, and though they have never owned an RV, they camped in tents when their kids were little, and they said they love traveling. They are looking at different types of RVs, and are favoring a diesel pusher in the 40 foot range. Their question was, how many fulltime RVers jumped right into the lifestyle with both feet, never having owned an RV before?

We know fulltimers who have done just that, and we know others whose evolution into fulltiming was a long process, starting with tents or tent campers, and moving up through the ranks with small Class C motorhomes or travel trailers, and up to larger Class A motorhomes or fifth wheel trailers. We all seem to have taken our own path on the journey to fulltiming.

In our case, I started out with a sleeping bag thrown into a bare bones camper shell mounted on the back of a pickup truck, moved up to a larger pickup camper, then a small Class C motorhome, and a conversion van somewhere along the way. These were all during my working and child raising years, when money and time were both hard to come by. They were used just for weekend outings and a couple of short trips lasting a week or so.

When Miss Terry’s kids were tiny, she took them camping a few times, and owned a Volkswagen camper van for a while. Her folks own a Class A motorhome and fulltimed for several years, but Terry never traveled with them in it.

We started fulltiming in a Class A gas motorhome, then built our own MCI bus conversion, and last year we upgraded to a Winnebago Ultimate Advantage diesel pusher.

Our friends Orv and Nancy Hazelton started out tent camping on their honeymoon, and then had a small Class C motorhome for years. They are currently fulltiming in an Allegro Class A motorhome, and have a brand new Tiffin diesel pusher on order.

Dennis and Carol Hill, from the RV Driving School, have owned everything from pull behinds to motorhomes, in just about every configuration you can imagine. They currently live and travel in a Tiffin Phaeton diesel pusher.

Greg and Jan White, on the other hand, had never traveled in an RV before they rented a Class C for a three week trip in early 2007 that included attending Life on Wheels in Tucson, Arizona. A few months later they purchased an American Eagle diesel pusher and hit the road.

As you can see, there is no one right way to start out. My advice to these folks was to attend the RV Lifestyle, Education and Safety Conference in Bowling Green Kentucky June 3-6, our Eastern Gypsy Gathering Rally in Elkhart, Indiana August 30 to September 3, and the Escapees Boot Camp for new and wannabe RVers, followed by the Escapade Rally September 12-17. Between all of the seminars offered at these events, and the opportunity to interact with both new and veteran RVers,  they will come away with a darned good foundation upon which to build their new fulltiming life.

So, how about you? Was your evolution into fulltime RVing or extended RV traveling a slow process, as you worked your way through a series of RVs, or did you jump right in with both feet, buying a rig and hitting the road?

Thought For The Day –  Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life.

Click Here To Register For Our Eastern Gypsy Gathering Rally! 

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  23 Responses to “Evolution”

  1. Hi Nick,

    As a child, I had never camped. As an adult, I had never camped until about 9 years ago. I was a travel agent and my husband said, “Let’s rent a motorhome for vacation.” I loved the perks of my job but fell in love with camping more. We came home from that trip and bought a pop-up. Then six months later I wanted a unit with a bathroom so we traded in for a hybrid “pop-out” trailer. A year later I wanted four hard sides so we upgraded once again to a 27 ft trailer which we had to keep at a campground because he couldn’t upgrade the cars fast enough. Three years after that I wanted to travel more so we traded in for a 95 Coachman Class C Santara. We love it and can’t get enough. We plan on being full time within the next three years. We take out motorhome everywhere on weekends, vacations, everywhere. It is our sanity. Lenny’s getting nervous because this is the longest we’ve gone without “trading up” and I’m starting to get the itch. Our dream is to own a bus. We’ll see what happens. Until then we love being able to pack up and hit the road whenever we can or want. If we had more time off from work (ugly four letter word), we would attend your Eastern Gypsy Journal Rally but we still have that ball and chain to contend with.

  2. Hi Nick,

    Over the past 30+ years, we’ve progressed from tents to pop-ups to van conversions to fifth wheel to Class C, Class A, and back to a fifth wheel, in which we are now fulltiming. All these different types of RVs helped us decide what we liked, didn’t like so when we went shopping for our fulltiming rig, we had a better idea of our needs and wants, what bells and whistles to look for. For us, the ‘evolution’ process worked – we’ve had it for almost 8 years now and are still happy with it.
    Lu and Larry

  3. Before I got married my 3 week vacation was spent on the seat of a bicycle ( Stan Midgley style). Since then we’ve had a few pop ups an old beat up class C and a small trailer but for the last 10 years we’ve been happy full timing in a 25 foot Class C.

  4. We are not “full timers”, but “extended travelers”. Right now we are approaching four months straight in the fiver, having left home December 26th.

    We fell into RVing by accident. We are NASCAR fans and started going to the races in Bristol, TN in the early ninties. There are very limited accommodations in the area and most fans camp. We rented a 17′ TT for our first forays into camping (we already had a pick-up for towing the race car). We quickly found that was WAY to small and after a year or so we bought a used 25′ fifth wheel. This showed us that we enjoyed RV travel and we started planning for extended travel when we retired.

    While shopping for the “right” fiver we determined that we would need a larger truck and ended up purchasing a Volvo HDT. Then we found the Newmar that was perfect for us and here we are!

  5. Hey Nick:

    I myself had lived in a 5er back in the 80’s for 9 months, my wife Marcia on the other hand had only spent two nights in a 22′ class C parked in my aunts driveway before I ask her to sell everything and buy a MH to travel around in. Her comment was, “CHASING THE 70’S”.
    That was in Jan of 07, and May the 8th we pulled the mattress out of the house and put it in the MH we had bought in March.
    Our first shakedown was a LOW in Bowling Green KY where we met you and Miss Terry, (you broke my awning trying to show us how to close it) and Walt and Donna, among others.
    We do have one regret about selling everything and going FT, and that is “that we didn’t do sooner.”

  6. I hate to be the one to break the news, but full timing is not that new or novel. I began full-timing in about 1944. My dad was a driller, and as such was exempt from the draft as his work was considered vital to the war effort. We moved every six weeks or so for the most part. Part of the moving was to find a place to rent, often in a town that did not know how to deal with transient workers, especially “those roughnecks”. During the early days of the oilfield, new fields or wildcats were being developed in areas that had no foreknowledge of the oil business. Often, furnished housing was difficult or nearly impossible to find (or fit for habitation). We learned to adapt and accept.

    Mom grew tired of, as she put it, cleaning up somebody else’s mess. I remember a couple of times we slept in the car with our belongings until mom could clean up the house enough to live in.

    Upshot of that was to buy a twenty (20) foot Columbia trailer house. A single axle, masonite sided and roofed, wood framed new house. Mother was overjoyed. No more living in somebody else’s dirt. Dad was concerned about making the payments. I think it cost in the neighborhood of $1200.00. An astronomical sum for a wage earner making less than a dollar an hour. Remember, I said it was in 1944. Thank goodness dad was a driller, not a roughneck. He was one of the higher paid employees.

    We pulled it with the car mom and dad owned at the time. A 1942 Mercury 4 door sedan with the mighty 80 horsepower flathead V 8. Believe me, that can make one appreciate the new turbo charged diesel pickups. Struggling up Raton Pass at 10 to 15 miles an hour puts a new face on towing.

    As I remember, the cookstove was kerosene, as was the furnace. There were no holding tanks. Tanks were not required, since there was no toilet or shower. We did have a kitchen sink. Connection to the sewer was accomplished using a length of four inch stove pipe with the seam on top. Water was furnished through a rubber garden hose. Using that will remind you how nice the potable water grade hoses are today. No rubber smell or taste. I think we heated dishwater on the stove, because I cannot recall a water heater anywhere.

    Sleeping arrangements put me on the jackknife couch. I can’t recall where my younger sister bedded down.

    Bath facilities were in the “trailer park”, and sometimes the stroll in winter was a little bit brisk, depending on the relative location of our home to the bathhouse.

    All in all, fulltiming has changed just a bit. We tend to complain about all the things that click our button. Narrow sites, too far to the shower house, unpaved sites, narrow access roads, wind too high to put out the awning and other things we concern ourselves with. For one, I am perfectly happy with our rig with triple slides, 35 feet long and a turbo-charged diesel to pull it down the road. Nostalgia only takes you so far.

    Mother used to say, everyone looks back to the “good old days” and want to return. Not me. I like my roughing it in comfort with king size bed and two air conditioners.

  7. I was a “jumper”! With the exception of an RV rental for a weekend trip to a music festival (with 5 other women jammed into the RV, that turned out not to be the best experience — it is amazing that we still speak to each other), I had never had or lived in an RV. When I saw retirement looming, I decided that this was the last time in my life for a grand adventure.

    I did some research, got a 24-foot fifth wheel and a diesel pickup (never had that before, either — had to learn all about ULSD), put a very few items in storage, and set off. I kept telling myself that I could always go back to a house if I found I didn’t like the lifestyle. I also realized that the one thing I didn’t want to do was to find myself in my 90s, wondering what would have happened if I had done this and regretting that I no longer had the opportunity.

    So I just did it, and I was a solo. I thought for a while that I would be one of only a very few solo women, but I found out there were a LOT out there.

    Am I happy I did it? You bet. One of the best decisions of my life.

  8. We first tent camped, then because we rode off road motorcycles we got a Chinook (a Toyota frame and engine with a fiberglass small class C style body). After we stopped riding motorcycles we worked, no time for “camping.” Then we started thinking about retiring. We didn’t want a static retirement place (people in Florida have a cabin in the mountains of NC). The last year before we retired we bought an older gas Class A 32ft for a good price and practiced RVing. We first took the pets and spent the night in the back yard, then a night in a campground then a weekend at a local campground then the SE FMCA which just happened to be at TICO airport very near us. We went to seminars at the SE FMCA and learned a lot about weight, tires, etc. We determined that a Class A is for us not a fifth wheel or trailer. We also decided we wanted a diesel engine not a gas engine. We didn’t jump into selling the house right away and putting $100,000s of dollar into a RV which we might not like in a few months. We searched and found the perfect coach for us. We are now on our 14th year in our Class A Beaver 36foot diesel pusher and tow a car behind.
    My advice is to go to classes on RVing whether FMCA, Gypsy Journal, Escapees, etc. Learn what retirement lifestyle you want. If you want to stay in one place for weeks on end while traveling you might want a trailer or 5th wheel. We move frequently and feel a Class A is better for this style of living. We didn’t sell the house right away and are glad of that. We did later sell the house and 2 acres to downsize to a chalet, RV port garage home in an RV resort. We need a place to keep our stuff which we don’t want to get rid of. We also want a winter place we can move into while we get the coach checked up and worked on.
    We left Florida this year Dec 9 and have spent the winter in the SW so we could see how the SW is during the winter. We are presently at Canyon de Shelly, AZ and will work our way north, the east to Newfoundland, then back to Florida for the winter. We consider ourselves mostly fulltimers with the largest storage unit possible (our stick house in the RV resort in FL).
    Our RV is our home just as much as our stick house in Florida is another home we own. We don’t camp, we live in our RV most of the year and we live the rest of the time in the stick house. We don’t like the word camping. We are not camping. We are living in our RV.
    So the advice is to learn what you individually want to do. Learn about the lifestyle. Talk to others who are doing the lifestyle. After lots of information, make decisions. You are more likely then to make decisions which are right for you. We all know the story of the couple who sold everything, bought an expensive new rig and one or both hated it in the first few months. By the end of the first year they had sold the rig and were back where they started, poorer and wiser. So be sure this is what works for you before you jump in with both feet. We were sure when we got the Beaver and sure when we sold the big house and 2 acres. There are no regrets and now “Laissez Les Bon Temps Roules” (Let the Good Times Roll).

  9. We can’t remember how we learned about full time RVing but we jumped right in. We had only tented before. We joined Escapees lifetime membership two years before we retired! Larry does his research and joined ConsumerRV.com He designed our New Horizons 31-foot fifth wheel, ordered it, sold our house and hit the road 8 1/2 years ago. We’ve loved it and never regretted selling the house.
    Joyce Space

  10. It was an easy conversion to full-timing for us. We had both tent camped as children, I in the Boy Scouts and Kay with her parents. Of course 36 years in the Infantry gave me an appreciation for an RV vs a tent! We purchased our first RV in the 1960s and have had one almost every year since. When I retired from the Army in 1990 we purchased a new towable and pickup w/canopy thinking we needed this to haul “our stuff”. We made a mistake, like many, as we were still in the “vacation mode” and not the “retired mode”. You use an RV more often in the “retired mode” so we really needed a larger RV than the 26 ft towable. The first year of retirement (we had purchased a stick built home to retire in as well) we RV’d for 3 months (something we had not planned on) and over the next six years it expanded to 6 months in a year. We tried it for 12 months, found we enjoyed the life-style, sold the house, purchased a 36 ft fiver and have never looked back. In 2001 we purchased a new Dutch Star Diesel pusher and it is now getting close to 100K miles. We have RV’d in 49 states, all the provinces of Canada, and 17 states in the country of Mexico. Many places yet to visit as you can’t do it all! Your advice to the couple inquiring about full-timing is right on! Talk to others, we all love to talk about our RVs!

  11. We also ran the gamet of starting with tenting when the kids were still with us, graduated to a pop-up which we hated, then since I wanted a bathroom that I did not have to stumble to in the dark we got a trailer. This was nice but we knew we wanted to travel once we were able to both retire. We were just looking mind you at motor homes and ended up buying a 35 ft Winnebago Adventure. We used it for about a year on the weekends just traveling around. We both had the oppurtunity to retire in 2004. We had no problems putting the house up for sale, in fact we had a slight problem since the house sold before I was able to retire, it was fun trying to get the motor home ready and get rid of all our stuff, our oldest son loved us since he got all the furniture. July 1, 2005 we said good by to our neighbors and hit the road. We have not looked back since. We have been on the road now for almost six years and have not regretted one minute of it. I agree with everyone that mentioned attend the classes, learn all you can about the life stile and then go for it. One important thing for us and that is to have your own space somewhere in the rig, everyone needs a little privacy or just a place that you can relax, no matter how well you get along you need your own space at times.

  12. I had tent camped through the years, mostly riding a motorcycle. About 20 years ago, I was single and started dating a lady who had never camped. We both loved to travel and spent most travel nights in B&B’s. Then I asked her to come tent camping with me in Sequoia NP. It rained the entire weekend. That was her only camping experience. We married about 15 years ago and about 6 years ago, I started researching RV’s for our retirement years. After 2 1/2 years of research, we had decided on a diesel pusher and in August of 2006, we ordered a Monaco Exec with everything we thought we would need or want. We asked for a factory delivery, sold the house and December 4, 2006, we moved into our new home on wheels. We do not camp. We live in a mobile home and the view out our front window changes as we decide. We have lived and slept in all Canadian provences and territories except Nunavut (no roads to there from anywhere), spending some time in Inuvik, some 220 miles above the Arctic Circle as well as living and sleeping in 28 Mexican states. While in the Yucatan Peninsula, we took a day trip into Belize. We have lived and slept in 46 of the United States and will do the same for the remaining 3 this spring. We can’t drive to Hawaii from anywhere either. We enjoy visiting the small towns and traveling off the interstates whenever possible. Small town festivals and celebrations, local farmers markets and out of the way museums are great to visit. We love RV rallies, RV tours and just plain traveling and exploring this beautiful continent. We have on regrets other then waiting so long to begin.

  13. Nick, we did what your contact was asking about. Sold everything and bought our first RV 3 years ago, one of our better decisions! If you want give them our email…..bahnmiller@hotmail.com Greg

  14. Stu & I had very different backgrounds. He camped as a kid, his parents became full-timers after they retired, he camped with his kids (tents, pop-ups), then moved into travel trailers eventually followed by full-timing for years while still working (alternating between a deeded lot and his step-daughter’s yard). After retirement he and his late wife bought their full-time road rig….the one we are now traveling in.

    I never camped as a kid…did one stint in a sleeping bag in a camper shell when I was about 22 or 23. Then my late husband and I bought a 38′ Class A and full-timed for two years while we traveled for work. We loved it, just wished we could have traveled more…but we were limited by our work assignments.

    Fast forward to 2 years after my husband passed…I sold my home, bought a used Class C and hit the road full-time. I’ve never looked back. Now remarried and still loving the full-time lifestyle.

    You DO need to know that you can be together 24×7 in a small very confined space. If you aren’t positive about that, then definitely would recommend renting and trying it out for a bit. Or keep a backup plan in mind…what happens if it isn’t for you. Keep in mind, you can be part-timers or extended travelers. Nothing is written in concrete…that’s one of the best things about this lifestlye!

  15. I’m a “jumper.” Got to be 62, getting social security. One night, out loud, I said to myself, “You could just sell everything and go RV-ing.” Thought it was a passing idea but it stuck. So I bought a 19ft Toyota Class C (1985) in primo condition and set out in early 2008. I’ve been a solo workamper ever since. I joined RVW and Escapades. I haven’t quite got the rhythm down yet, but I’m enjoying myself.

    Had done minimal camping when young, mostly Girl Scouts. Did some truck camper stuff with a boyfriend. But had never been a camper, and still aren’t — I’m an RV-er. My great-grandfather built himself a travel trailer, complete with pull-out tub, which I have a picture of (probably in the 1930s) and will dig it out one of these days.

  16. We started camping in 1964 with 5 children ages 9-1/2 to 9 mos. in a travel trailer
    belonging to my stepfather. He sold it so we rented pop ups for 2 yrs (added one
    more child) and eventually had 2 more pop ups, 3 travel trailers from 18ft to 30ft.
    Then when retired we bought a used 5th wheel and used that for a couple years.
    We went to Florida for a few weeks for 1st 2 years then we were forced to stay home
    for the winter to take care of my mother for 5 yrs. . We eventually bought a 2002 5th wheel and were able to take weekend trips during that time.
    Now that my mother is no longer with us we do go away for 3 mos. after Christmas.
    We enjoy spending the holidays with our family . We don’t intend to full time but we
    do go out once a month with our trailer club and have campouts with family. If we
    were 10 yrs. younger maybe we could consider it. So, whatever your choice, enjoy!

  17. Hey Connie, did you see a big blue bus at Canyon De Chelly? That was us, we just left there this morning and are in Price Utah now. I believe i noticed your coach in the campground.

  18. My husband and I had very different backgrounds when it comes to camping and all. He never really did growing up because his parents didn’t camp at all. I grew up tent camping all the time as a kid. I grew up and then became a park ranger and continued the tenting it and got into backpacking and everything. My parents full-timed for 13 years before they had to come off of the road and then we picked up the family reins and sold everything, bought our 38′ fifth-wheel and hit the road three years ago. Neither one of us ever owned an RV before or even rented one. We have never regretted our decision for a minute! It is a great lifestyle!

  19. Okay, you made me think. Neither of us camped us kids, but we tent-camped when we were first married (51 years ago!); we bought an small Aristocrat trailer in the ’60s that we pulled with an International Travelall. We took our two (at-that-time) kids and traveled for six weeks straight with an Aristocrat caravan to the Mexico-Guatemala border and back to Washington state (Our son became potty-trained on that trip because he was never out of our sight!). Later, with three kids, we bought a Winnie Indian that went to parades, stock shows, vacations, etc. and even served as a home for a daughter working on her Masters.
    As we started thinking retirement, Forry started going to LOW in Lewiston. He went by himself for two years until I retired then we went together for three years. Along the way we bought a 40 foot Alpine diesel pusher that only got to travel weekends until I retired. Sold our one hundred year old house in Spokane, gave the kids all the furniture and gave away lots of “stuff!” We travled in “AL” for about a year, then traded for a 37 foot 2007 Alpine coach named “Auntie Violet.” (Western RV went out of business the week we picked her up…) We’ve been full-timing for almost four years now (have enjoyed two Western Gypsy Rallies); spending time rebuilding houses for Mennonite Disaster Service in both Louisiana and southern California; wintering this year in Arizona and very much enjoying life in our HOME.

  20. Chris and I both come from traveling families. Dad was in the Navy. Before I was out of diapers, they pulled a TT from MD to CA and then to Key West. Chris traveled from FL to AK, camping. Her first RV trip was from Anchorage to Guatamala and back in a truck camper.
    Chris has stories of camping in a modified VW bug with 2 big dogs and boyfriend. I had a ’62 VW van camper, Ford F150 with cap modified for camping cross country and a Ford Econoline home conversion van.
    We rented Class Cs for holidays a few times. Bought our 30′ C Safari on eBay in ’03 and sold the house.
    We tour the country now teaching computer fun stuff. We are Geeks On Tour!

  21. Hey Nick, think you’ve got the content here for a GJ article! LOL!! Great reading…

  22. We married in 1960. Jim had never been camping, having grown up in the city with ‘older parents’. I had camped all my life. With my Dad with a tarp tucked into the doors of the Ford car and trips to Glacier Park and also camped with the Girl Scouts.
    So we started out with a pup tent to an umbrella tent, tent trailer, a pickup camper, 2 pull trailers, a fifth wheel, 2 class A’s and now fulltime in a Class C and have loved every minute of it!

  23. ED, Yes, that was us in the Beaver. We saw you on the other side of the CG. Small world. Now in Page. Just went to Antelope Canyon 11:30am trip. Awesome. So was Canyon de Shelly. What a beautiful world we live in.

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