On the Road as an RV Gypsy
by Gene and Deanne Townsend
It was a beautiful day in September 1987. The California sun was warm, and though the blue sky was tinged with smog, we were happy.
Our day had come! All the children were grown, married, and had left home. We had just sold our house and everything in it, and invested our money. We had a 36-foot Coachman motorhome with all of our best things in place. We were on the road toward our exciting new life.
Now, several years later, we have learned much about living in an RV full-time. Like any other kind of life, it has its challenges. But America is full of sights that we may never have gotten to see had we not struck out on our own.
If you're wondering whether this life is for you, as a full-timer or for an extended vacation, the following information should help to make your transition to life on the road a bit smoother.
Membership Campgrounds-Are They Worth the Cost?
With all our campground memberships added together, we have access to more than 700 campgrounds across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The value has been well worth the original cost to us. However, for some, membership campgrounds are not necessary. For instance, the people who work in campgrounds for their income also generally earn their monthly camping fee. Those who only travel several months a year can earn enough money in their "stationary" months to pay the $10 to $40 dollars a night to stay in public campgrounds. People who love boondocking (staying in the desert, mountains, or somewhere beside a beautiful stream) may not be interested in being part of a membership organization.
We say: Good for them! The name of the game is: Do what you want to do. For us, membership campgrounds are a necessity be-cause we have to have the power hookup for our computer at least part of the time. We live in the system, and the free stay, or one to two dollars per night charge, greatly offsets the yearly dues that we would spend in a few weeks if we had to pay per night. Following are some pros and cons of membership:
- Membership campgrounds are usually cleaner than public ones, and their security systems are, for the most part, good.
- You rarely have problems getting into a membership campground without reservations. Exceptions to this are on holidays, Friday night or Saturday check-in, or when using the more popular parks.
- Belonging to membership campgrounds has other benefits beyond using their camping facilities. Tour packages, cruises, group life insurance, airplane and rental car rate discounts, rallies, and so on, are worthwhile advantages when you are on the road.
- A recent development has been the resale organizations which make available greatly discounted memberships on most of the parks around the U.S. People, who, for various reasons, must sell their membership, put them on consignment with these organizations.
- You may find campground memberships listed for sale by individuals at greatly reduced prices in the Classified sections of most RV magazines and news publications.
RV and Travel Clubs
- Bankruptcies (or Chapter 11's) of a membership campground are definitely fears that have been realized over the years. Nothing is absolute, but through good research you should be confident of the probability of your organization's staying-power.
- An unclean or sloppily-run park is subject to ousting from its membership organization. Be sure to investigate the park yourself. If that organization ever withdraws your home park from their system for any breach of contract, your membership in RPI, Coast-to-Coast, etc., may go with it.
Camping "clubs" such as Good Sam, Escapees (SKP's), Family Motor Coach Association, and various clubs formed for individual brand-name RV owners are all worth looking into. They offer benefits such as cruises, tours, rallies, and discounts, as well as friendships with groups of others like us who are here to help each other. Their yearly dues are usually very reasonable, and they can give you the stability you may miss when you leave your stationary home.
Trades Amenable to Travel
If we had only one piece of advice to give you about earning a serious income while you travel, it would be this: Be creative! It is now possible for you to do many types of work that you could never have considered before.
We began by thinking of all the things we've ever wanted to do. There were no limits, because we still may never do them‹but we listed them anyway.
Search out the vocations available for your type of life. Ask your librarian to help you find books that list your special kind of work and its related fields; for instance, jobs that require you to work outside, jobs in the glamour field, or jobs that require travel or staying at a specific site for several months.
A good resource is also Workamper News (210 Hiram Rd., HCR 34-Box 125, Heber Springs, AR 72543; 501-362-2637), a bimonthly newsletter that advertises jobs specifically for people like us. They also have a resumé referral service, which boasts of a 90%-plus referral record. You can also list work that you may be specifically seeking under their "Situations Wanted" column, which is free for the first 50 words.
To aid you further, see the sidebar for a partial list of vocations you might consider which are amenable to travel. It is only a sample. Use it to work outward into possibilities for you. Keep in mind that some of these jobs may require that you remain in one area for a while. If constant travel is your dream, you will have to take that into account.