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Portrait of a Full-timer
 by Ron
Full-time RVers, by our definition, are those who live and travel full time in their recreational vehicle. There is no other home. We are no different than other seniors. We visit family, they visit us, we visit friends, they visit us, we go to church, we go shopping, and we do household chores. There are several things we don’t do. We don’t cut grass or shovel snow. Our full-timing definition could also conclude that it is an affordable, mobile lifestyle providing comfort able quarters in a complete and efficient compact house. All of these characteristics can be considered assets to the lifestyle. It really does seem that, “everyone is doing it.” 

Part of this book is about change as it affects the full-timing lifestyle, and change is particularly evident in the number and type of people who have elected to hit the road. To begin with, the number of people full-timing is staggering. In 1988, the network show 20/20 did a feature on full-timing and estimated that there were about 250,000 of us who lived this nomadic lifestyle. The show was well done and featured happy retirees who were very positive about the lifestyle. Recent university and RV organization studies have put that figure at more than a million. These are not snowbirds or seasonal RVers; they are people who live every day of the year in their RV. It's even more amazing to consider that this figure exceeds the population of many states. 

You can spot them by the decals on their RV that identify many RVing memberships. In addition, there may be a sign that says, “John & Mary Smith, Anywhere, USA.” The lifestyle is flexible and can easily accommodate personal choices. Some may seldom move their house; others will move often. RV houses are different and people are different. One thing that doesn't change, however, is the desire to full-time as long as they are physically able. 

Not only are the numbers changing, but the diversity of full-timers is fascinating. It's true that if we were all gathered together into a small state, our average age would have a senior flavor. But the similarity ends there, and that is what makes the lifestyle so interesting. Unlike communities stratified by income, the full-timer blends into an environment where position and worldly goods are not important. None of our houses are big (even the expensive ones), and companionship as well as recreational interests have a high priority in our lives. Whether it be square dancing, bingo, cards, tennis, golf, walking, or just sitting and chatting on the patio, we never lack for company. Since we are all mobile, it's fun to swap stories about places we have visited or plan to visit. There will be a difference in types and costs of our RVs, but the common denominator is that we are campground neighbors enjoying each other’s company. The expensive bus-type motorhome may be parked next to a modest travel trailer where neighbors gather for coffee or an evening campfire. 

Variety does add spice. During our former life, it was natural to associate with work, neighborhood, or church acquaintances. In our own circle, we met many accountants and engineers, but we never got to know an iron worker, shrimp boat captain, or a sail maker. The list of full-timers is never ending, and just a sampling includes retired ministers, chief executive officers, assembly line workers, professors, mechanics, air line pilots, nuclear physicists, self-employed entrepreneurs, logging truck drivers, geologists, and every occupation imaginable. Our common interest is living an adventur ous and unique lifestyle. 

Full-timing is not new. Years ago, and even today, construction workers and engineers found it convenient and economical to move from job site to job site with an RV. Some of the job locations were remote, and housing was non-existent or very expensive. Many took their families with them, and it became a way of life. Joe and Kay Peterson, the founders of the Escapee Organization, started out this way. Joe worked in construction, and Kay was a nurse. That's a great combination of skills that is still in demand today. Construction workers, engineers, and oil field workers still take their house and family with them. Their mobility makes them valuable to the companies that employ them. 

That brings us to the point that not all full-timers are retired seniors living and traveling in an RV on a comfortable pension or savings. There has been a pronounced increase of work campers. Many new full-timers are not of retirement age (Baby Boomers), and some who are retired need to have additional income. 

There is a natural fear associated with the change of becoming a full-timer. All of our lives we have been taught to seek material possessions. Everyone strives for the perfect house, an impressive car, large boats---the list is endless. Then the time comes when we realize that these things take second place to things intangible. We ask, “Are we in a rut?” or “Do I really want to be on the association board?” or “Do we really want to do the same things every week?” On the positive side, the self examination might be about service to others. “Can I help a little child to read?” “Where can I volunteer to help preserve our natural resources?” “Do you think I could help those who build houses for the less fortunate?” Although it requires reprogramming, full-timers with these kinds of questions quickly find them answered as they are welcomed with open arms. It’s not unusual to find a full-timer tutoring a child in the Rio Grand Valley one winter and then shifting their volunteering focus to a northern national park in the summer. 

Some people feel very comfortable with a life of routines, but after child rearing and job responsibilities end, many are seeking a different way of life. We think that full-time RVing meets that need, especially when you consider that it will fit into all budgets. Chapter 10, dealing with finances, gives insight as to how the lifestyle costs are controllable. There are very few on retirement income who can afford to maintain a house and travel as much as they want. The scenario changes when that house is on wheels. 

Probably the biggest single reason for not full-timing is family. We feel that family can be a part of the full-timing adventure. It's true that aged parents, children, and grandchildren have a special priority in our life. And for those with special considerations, full-timing may not be possible. Someone once said, “I lived the first third of my life for my parents, the second third for my children, and the last third will be for me.” Selfish? We don't think so;  just ask our grandchildren after they have had their turn traveling with grandpa and grandma for two to three weeks in the summer. 

Many full-timers are not couples. There are single full-timers enjoying the lifestyle, and they have support groups and organizations that meet their needs. Often widowed spouses continue traveling after their mate dies. They wouldn't think of changing their full-timing lifestyle. They are always with friends. We both agree that if death separated us, the surviving spouse would increase his or her national park volunteering. Keeping busy in a beautiful setting and meeting wonderful people are good cures for loneliness. 

You would think that more than a million full-timers (plus all of the part-time RV users) would place a strain on existing facilities. When discussing campground availability as well as sites for large RVs, Barb (a true capitalist) always says, “The supply will meet the demand.” She is right. Modern spacious resorts are being built with wonderful facilities, making them a retirement mecca. Some communities are actively soliciting investors to develop RV resorts, especially in the Sunbelt where they compete for the snowbird dollar. The financial impact of RVers on a community is rewarding, with very little demand for city services. But there is no stereotyping the full-timer, and some may shun the luxury resort for dry camping in the desert or on the beach. 

Supply also meets the full-timing demand in terms of support services. Mail forwarding services, competitive telephone calling cards, answering services, automated teller machines, companies that specialize in full-timer insurance, and repair facilities that understand full-timing are all part of the network that enhances our lifestyle. (Read more about choosing these services in chapter13.) We admire those who started out years ago without all the support services we have today. They had to be adventurous and travel with a measure of self-confidence. Thanks for paving the way. The stereotype wasn't always kind either. Some considered them transients or nomads without a home. That has changed, and the RV is recognized as a home. You might say that full-timing is becoming not only socially acceptable, but even enviable. After all, your best friends may just be planning such an adventure. 

RVs have changed, too. There should be a name other than recreational vehicles to describe them. Pop-up campers and small travel trailers fit this category better. This old retired accountant would not want to invest heavily in a big, modern, self sufficient RV for recreational use only on weekends and/or vacation. Financial resources and priorities become an issue. Whether for six months or full-time, the RV is built for living, and, as a result, may represent a considerable investment. As the demand increases, manufacturers are upgrading with every option imaginable. It's not unusual to find as standard equipment a washer/dryer, ice maker, compact disk players, Corian® counter tops, convection ovens, and dozens of other goodies. Our motorhome has two television sets, two furnaces, two air conditioners, two computers, and two telephones. Some houses on a foundation don't even have that. With slide-outs now on motorhomes and triple slide-outs on fifth wheels, the RV has become like a small apartment with ample living area. Some say it's not camping anymore, and they are right---it's a lifestyle—and the RV is accommodating that lifestyle. The demand is there. 

We have always urged potential full-timers to become self sufficient when it comes to mail forwarding and banking. We lead a completely independent life. We would not have family handle our mail or finances if we moved from one city to another. It's a psychological thing. If our children were to handle these everyday things for us, they might consider our lifestyle as only temporary. They might say, “As soon as Mom and Dad get this out of their system, they will be back home.” On the contrary, we are always home (very independent) and plan to continue this lifestyle as long as we are able. Those grey-haired seniors taking their daily walks in the campground know all about change, and they are not afraid of it. Most have witnessed mind boggling technical changes in their lifetime. A beautiful house on wheels with all the amenities is attractive to these people. And they don't really need the room and maintenance of a big stationary house, because they aren't into accumulating “things” anymore. 

We haven't dropped out of society or family relationships and recognize that there will be times when our help or presence is needed. Full-timers can go where they are needed, and they won't need to sleep in the spare room. They take their beds with them. An aged parent may need some temporary assistance, and if a driveway isn't available, there's usually a campground nearby. We have known several who have used their house-building skills to help a son or daughter while parked somewhere on the property. 

Full-timers are not running away and don’t expect to enter a trouble-free land of enchantment. They may escape their troublesome brother-in-law, but everyday life still has the concerns, troubles, and nuisances that existed before hitting the road. True, the surroundings will be new, and the problems may even be different, but there will be problems. In other words, the full-timing lifestyle is not an escape. We take our hang-ups, abilities, habits, likes, dislikes, prejudices, and opinions with us. And you had better consider your spouse or travel partner as your best friend. It is extremely important that you enjoy each other’s company and enjoy doing things together. There is no retreating into a workshop or sewing room, and the RV can be close quarters, especially in inclement weather. That doesn’t mean that everything must be done together, and certainly it can be arranged to have time apart. 

Whether living in a house on a foundation or in a recreational vehicle, there comes a time when it's physically difficult to manage without assistance. We feel that the transition to assisted living is less difficult for the full-timer. The large house with all the “things” was taken care of long ago. The RV is easily sold if that becomes necessary. And many different options exist. The RV may still be comfortable and only needs to be moved twice a year in order to follow the sun. Family can usually do that, and if not, the task can be contracted for. When given the option, full-timers often prefer to stay in their own home (the RV). If necessary, it can be moved near a caregiver or to an environment that is comfortable and secure. The Escapee organization has established a care facility in Livingston, Texas, where RVers secure a lot for a monthly fee that entitles them to different selected levels of care. A nursing facility is available on the premises if living in the RV becomes unmanageable. Some of our friends and other adventurous full-timers will be there, and we can swap stories about what we have seen and experienced as full-timers. 

So, what is a full-timer? They may be someone just like you or your next-door-neighbor--- except their house is on wheels. Is this lifestyle for you? Explore with us the ins and outs of full-timing; after which, you may decide to join us. 

A few letters from Movin’ On—1996-1997

Sat still too long

...It feels good to be on the road again. We sat in Golden [Colorado] for nine weeks. Good grief! That’s the longest we’ve sat still since we entered this new chapter of our lives. Seeing family and friends has been fun, but we agree a little stressful. We are ready to do this form of socializing in smaller doses now. Being with our new extended RV family never seems to have the same effect.Is it that we’re all living the same lifestyle and therefore there’s not a sense of having to “entertain and be entertained” all the time? Returning “home” compresses all fun and visiting into such a short time.... 

Maryellen & Gary Mencimer 
Full-timers from Denver, Colorado 

What a great lifestyle!

What a privilege it has been for us to get to meet you in person on several occasions this year---although we already felt somewhat acquainted through Movin’ On. We are in Alaska now and getting the hang of movin’ on more and more. What a great lifestyle! I caught my first red salmon the other day. We cooked it on the grill and shared it with a couple we met in Washington. We have been traveling together for a while. Just today they joined Escapees. 

PS note from Nan: Some people plan for months and years to make this Alaskan trip, but when we got as far northwest as we could in Washington state and began meeting folks who were headed this way, we thought, “why not?” We’ll never be closer! So, we rush ordered a plexiglass shield for the tow car, which we wanted to get anyway, dolled up the front of the motorhome with a home-made shield of fiberglass screening and bungee cords and headed out. Our kids and friends couldn’t believe it. 

Tom had a bad spell with his back...I ended up driving the next one thousand miles...I was very glad that I had taken the wheel on a couple of other occasions since we have had the coach.... 

Tom & Nan Hanna 
Full-timers from Palm City, Florida 

Progress report

...Sold my business, the truck, inventory, and even had the phone number transferred on Thursday. Got our Texas license plates last week. The house is on the market. On Sunday, Claudia and I drive to Tampa to fetch the MH that has been there for four weeks. Had our first small yard sale last weekend. I plan to be out of my storage facility this week. We will take whatever time we need to feel comfort able with the Tradition in quiet, off-season Florida and then meander back to Rhode Island, put the beast on our driveway, and commence receiving visitors, tire kickers, gawkers, and the sundry curious. For better or worse we are the vehicle for one of the true phenomenons to reach this somewhat sleepy spot of swamp yankeedom. I have serious concerns about the wear and tear on the Tradition before we depart in August/September. 

Claudia still refuses to allow me to charge the following fees: tours---two bucks; five bucks to hear its various engines run; ten bucks gets you on the short group tour; longer tours to be negotiated; don’t even ask if you can drive. I’ll keep working on her. 

The most interesting question I have had thrown at me these last couple of weeks as people learn of my selling the business is: “What are you going to do between the time you return from Florida (mid June) to the time you leave (September)?” I find it curious that so many people cannot conceive of anyone not running the treadmill of what ---productivity/wage earning? Cheese Louise, they just don’t get it. I’ll have plenty to do. Like the third phase of our life... 

Dante Russillo & Claudia Beach 
Wakefield, Rhode Island 

Enjoying her volunteer job at the LBJ Ranch

... Here at LBJ I’m in the back forty in Johnson City. Two days a week I work in the visitor center and give tours of the boyhood home---have met some really nice people. My other two days are spent helping tend the grounds and flower bed, which I enjoy. I like the physical activity and being outside to see and hear the birds and, of course, smell the flowers. Yesterday, I planted 108 new plants... The big news, though, is the fantastic wildflower display this year---all those rains paid off in a rainbow of jewel colors. Enjoying my days off exploring the back roads of the counties, some very wonderful little towns and great little places to indulge oneself for lunch. Good thing I’m working outside two days a week..... 

Katherine Cullen 
Single full-timer from Rochester, Michigan 

Do not have one regret

...We’ve been dreaming about full-timing since 1987. It was a little overwhelming at first getting rid of all our furniture and stuff and getting used to our trailer. We do not have one regret. We would do it again in a heartbeat. We love our little home. The electric lift on our trailer is great. My little dog, Suzie, thinks it’s hers. She walks out on it waiting for me and my walker to join her. We get on my electric scooter, and off we go. Being handicapped does not deter this lifestyle.  We bought a used Suburban and had a lift put in it for my scooter, so we’re all set.... 

Joan & Everett Syphus 
New full-timers from California

On the road and can finally rest

Well, it’s our first full day of full-timing on the road. Boy, what a relief. We moved out of our “former” home Friday, October 25, and into our new home on wheels. We hooked up on the lot behind my parent’s home to sort out our storage building and finish up our last- minute business.... I don’t believe I was prepared for how traumatic this final break would be. My daughter and Mom were quite upset at the last minute, and that made it tougher on me. However, we are sitting in our new home overlooking Lake Hartwell, South Carolina, in the state park, and it is so peaceful and restful. I can probably rest for a while now.... By the 17th of November we will be at Thousand Trails, Orlando. We are looking forward to driving over to Lazy Days the first Saturday in December to hear your seminar. I can’t believe we will finally get to see you.... We had difficulty getting people to understand our address was Texas, but we would be in Florida for a few months. It’s funny how you expect everyone to understand your new lifestyle and mail-forwarding, beepers, phone messages, etc. We are trying a nation-wide beeper for emergency messages. We’ll let you know how it works. 

Betty & Reid Poovey 
Full-timers from North Carolina 

Looking at things differently

I just finished your book and wanted to drop you a line to tell you how much I enjoyed it. Once I started it, I could hardly put it down. It was just full of information that I had questions about and couldn’t find the answers to. 

My husband wants to retire in a couple of years, and it has always been his dream to full-time it. We have a nice house, and I have been skeptical of giving it all up for the uncertainties of going on the road. We travel a lot, about sixty nights a year. We have just returned from a three-week trip. Usually when we return I am glad to come home and have a place a little bigger than a trailer to stretch out in (thirty-foot fifth-wheel). 

This time I am looking at things a little differently. I have just finished mowing the lawn (one acre). I still have vegetables to bring in out of the garden and freeze. I am now taking out all the things from the fifth-wheel, because it is supposed to be in the twenties the next few nights. We have just returned from Virginia Beach, and, oh, how I long to be back there. Thanks to your book, I feel more able to think of living my husband’s dream with him. I still have some reservations but am feeling more confident now about it.... 

Barbara & John Heavers 
Averill Park, New York 

We’re attached to possessions

...We were/are very attached to our possessions. We had tons of sewing and crafts supplies, etc., on hand, plus treasures from our eight Swedish exchange students.... It took several months to psyche myself into letting go... and numerous teary-eyed garage sales to significantly reduce to a possibly acceptable level. Fortunately, our daughter will take the Swedish items. Our son will take the china, crystal and some furniture.... opted against rental storage due to the long-range cost and possible damage to the goods--- more than they are worth.... 

We were never fond of the color of Bounders, so never looked at them. Then I was told that our list of needs sounded like we should see the Bounder 36S.... I found one and liked it.... I drove it home ...backed [it] up our rock-flanked, two-hundred-foot winding, sloped, drive five times before Jerry ever did.... I no longer have any qualms about unloading the rest of the stuff now. I know I don’t want a place and stuff to clean up when we return to it. We can always visit friends and relatives first class and sleep in our own bed! 

We’ve come to realize that people (we’ll meet) are far more important, and seeing this beautiful continent God has given us, will bring much greater happiness than stuff ever could.... 

Marlene & Jerry Deitrick 
Ramona, California 

Transition time made easier

...We have both read, and read, and read your book (it’s becoming a bit tattered). It’s the best book we’ve found on the full-timing life. After reading everything we can get our hands on... we’ve found your book to be the only one that seems to fit our lifestyle. As fellow “bean counters” (banking), we can relate to your experiences. In reading about Ron’s holding tank repair/adventure, we recognized a kindred spirit. 

Thirty years behind a desk does not prepare one to masterfully move a thirty-foot trailer backwards into a narrow slot between two trees. During our “trial runs” at various Midwestern campgrounds, we have provided delightful entertainment for the lawn chair “machismos” as we lurch backward and forward struggling to remember which way to turn the steering wheel. No problem---we understand that every societal segment deserves a little comic relief, and we’re happy to provide it. After so many years in the unnecessarily uptight world of the Pompous For No Apparent Reason group, it’s fun to be buffoons and laugh at ourselves. 

We are using your filing system for “Places to Go and Things to See---State by State.” (This alone is worth the price of the book).... Your living standards seem to equate with ours; at this point we’re not ready for primitive living (maybe later, who can tell?). The biking trail information is also very important to us. We love biking---not hot dogging ---just duffing along feeling the breeze and enjoying the landscape. Hiking sounds interesting, too. We haven’t done much of it (Guadalupe Peak might as well be Everest at our level of stamina), but reading about it is exciting and makes us feel that we’ll be missing something if we don’t work toward it. 

Our “transition time” has been made a great deal easier by reading about your decision making process and difficult choices. You’ve been such a great source of information and encouragement....We want to hear more---about your travels: the places, the interesting people you meet, even the “fix-it” situations (atta boy, Ron).... We can’t wait. 

Hopefully we’ll see you “on the road” sometime. 

Linda & Al Otto 
Merrillville, Indiana 

Keep busy hiking and volunteering

...It was two years ago this month that we sold our house in Mt Vernon, Washington, and began full-timing in our thirty-foot Alumalite motorhome.... 

I retired in September 1993 from the State of Washington Department of Natural Resources, and Carol resigned from her position as parish assistant at First Lutheran Church... She didn't really want to quit and was not sure how she would like this lifestyle. She now enjoys it very much, and both of us like the warm dry winters in Arizona. 

We both keep busy by hiking and volunteering. In Yuma, in ‘94-‘95 Carol worked at a Lutheran church, and I worked for AARP preparing tax returns. This last winter we work camped for two months and were temporary assistant managers at Saguaro Co Op in Benson, Arizona [Escaspee Park]. 

We have put almost exactly five-thousand miles on the motorhome per year. We like to drive to a location we have picked and then spend a week or two there, except we do stay in one place in Arizona during the winter for four to six months. And we have to stay in Mt. Vernon for two or three months a year, and that pretty well uses up a year. We both like it, though. We couldn't afford to move every day, and it also would be very tiring..... 

Duane & Carol Thompson 
Full-timers from Mt. Vernon, Washington