Barry and Eileen Anderson have been travelers since they started camping in 1973. They began their journey with a tent that year but quickly graduated to a 16 foot Aloha Travel Trailer in 1974. They have explored all of Canada, the United States, and Mexico in various RVs throughout their lives. They give some valuable advice to fellow RVers who wish to go RVing part-time or to those RVers who want to graduate into full-time RVing. The freedom that RVing has given them as well as broadening their perspective on how others live in three countries has all been worth it. RVing has allowed them to understand people and life in the process of traveling over a vast terrain. Additionally, the economic value of RVing with respect to the cost of travel has been unmatched. Enjoy this exclusive interview with Barry and Eileen Anderson.
When did you start RVing and what year did you decide to become full-time RVers and why?
We started camping about 1973 with a 9 x 9 tent. In 1974 we bought a 16 foot Aloha Travel Trailer as our first RV. We decided to become full-time RVers around 1995 because we liked the lifestyle and had planned when we retired and the children moved out that this is what we wanted to do.
What type of RV did you start with? Are you happy with your current RV features and are there any improvements you would suggest? Is there another RV in your future instead of the one you currently own?
We started with our Aloha 16 foot trailer with no bathroom. After experiencing a campground where the bathrooms and showers were shut down, we purchased a 20 ft. Prowler with a complete bath. We used a Class C Motorhome for a few years. Then we decided to buy a 32 foot Bounder and after using this one, we upgraded to a 35 foot Bounder. We are now driving a 34 ft. 2011 Mirada Coachman. We like the space the slides give you and the 34 inch TV being in the middle of the unit.
Improvements we suggest would be when they are building the units that they do not put the electrical in the front all on one circuit. Also, they could put in more shelves in the cupboards. You do not need a house microwave in a unit when a smaller convection oven would be better. The other thing that would be nice is a full size oven.
Our next RV would be another Bounder Class A Motorhome because of the service we got from our last one.
Where have you been as full-time RVers and what advice would you give to those retirees or other couples who want to go RVing full-time? What are some of the cautions you would give to full-time RVers?
As full-time RVers, we have been in all of Canada, the Northwest Territories, all of the United States and Mexico. Take short trips before going full-time, if it works for both of you – your short trips will become longer if you enjoy traveling. One of the cautions is that if you are parked at a rest area or a Walmart and someone knocks on your door – talk to them out of the window to see what they want and do not open the door.
Have you ever had a breakdown on the road or in a wilderness area? How did you handle the situation? Does your cell phone work in most regions?
Yes we have had a couple of breakdowns and with being Good Sam members we belong to the (ERS) Emergency Road Service within Good Sam. One call to ERS and everything was handled for us. We have not had a breakdown, so far, where we have not had cell phone service but if our US cell phone would not work, we can always switch on our Canadian cell phone with no problem.
How much do you need per month as full-time RVers to comfortably survive? How do you deal with gas costs as a full-time RVer? Do you have any financial advice for full-time Rvers?
Finances differ for every couple, so instead of giving an amount per month – it is best to say “live within your means” and you will find some months you spend less than others. It definitely depends upon your lifestyle. Gas costs and cost of living can change your way of living. For instance, our Bounder Motorhome (1998) got 10 mpg. Our Coachman Motorhome (2011) only gets 7 mpg. We had to adjust.
You can be a full-timer regardless of gas costs if you drive at a slower speed and not go 70 miles an hour. We find that as the cost of living increases we just find ways to stretch our spending. There is no reason to be buying magazines and books as you can pay a nominal sum and go to the library and borrow them or go to garage sales etc. and purchase books.
As for any financial advice just be careful what you do and make sure you have clean charge cards so that if you have a problem such as a hospital visit and they won’t take your travel insurance you can use the charge card and get reimbursed later from the insurance company.
What are three funny stories that occurred to you while RVing throughout North America?
One funny story occurred when we were to meet friends in Nova Scotia. We had emailed them and never got an answer. We were travelling on Highway 2, having entered Nova Scotia from our USA route, and they were travelling on Highway 1 in Canada, both of us heading for Newfoundland. We pulled in right behind them where the two highways meet and became one. We could not believe it and neither could they!
The second story occurred when we parked our Motorhome in a park in New York and then drove to a town in Connecticut to surprise our nephew who was playing hockey for a college there. When we arrived at the arena, we asked one of the players to send him out to the lobby as there was someone there to see him. He said no way but came out anyway and got the surprise of his life – no one in the family had come to see him play there. After the game, he was on the phone to his dad in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan to tell him his aunt and uncle had just watched his game. It was a long drive back to our RV but well worth it.
The third story occurred when we were on a caravan of 17 units in Mexico. It was almost lunch time and we had to pass through a fruit inspection station from one province to another. The inspectors came into each unit and took something from each unit. In our unit I had two small bags of chicken wings thawing out in the sink and when he saw them he said no no no chicken – BUT that’s our supper – so he only took one bag and left one bag. After we all got thru the inspection station, we found out they took different things from each unit (enough goodies to make a good lunch for about 6 inspectors). Out of some of the other units they took 6 beers, an avocado, etc. The only units that had nothing taken out of them were the ones that had dogs in them and they would not go in them. We all had a good laugh when we compared notes as to what they took.
How has RVing changed over the years? Do you think that in the future, the rising price of gas and diesel will affect how RVers travel or if they will travel at all?
RVing has changed by the fact that people are buying larger RVs and a lot of the campgrounds are having larger sites. The disadvantage of this is that some of the parks and smaller campgrounds cannot fit you in. The rising prices of fuel have already affected RVers – some take shorter trips away from home as a result. RVers will always travel regardless.
What is Workamping? Have you had experience with this new phenomenon for RVers? Have your RVing adventures led to any new remote hobbies that make you money? What are some of the jobs that bring in extra money while you are on the road?
We have had no experience with Workamping although we had thought about it and then decided we did not want to be tied down working and not being able to go where and when we wanted to. It is available for those that need to supplement their income or just want something to do. We do not have income from other jobs.
Have you encountered many people who have gone from part-time RVers to full-time RVers and do they respect the level of freedom they have now?
Most of the people we have met in our travels enjoy the freedom they have while some part-time RVers say they like travelling but like the security of having a house to return to.
What do you like the most about RVing? Do you research areas before travelling to them or are you more spontaneous about travel?
Does it make a difference to plan? We like the freedom of being able to go where we want and to see what we want. Sometimes we do research before travelling but we have found that if we make a reservation somewhere we do not have the freedom to pull over to see something along the way as the reservation puts you on a timetable – YOU HAVE TO BE THERE.
What would you attribute the increased purchase of RVs to and the popularity of RVing since you started your RV journeys in the 1970s?
We see young families with RVs that are able to go on a family vacation – which they may not do if they had to fly somewhere and stay in hotels for a week.
What are the best features of a great RV Park or campsite? What is your favorite campsite and why? In your opinion, what is a poor campsite and why?
When you pull into an RV Park and it is clean – that makes it easy to camp and maybe even return for another outing another time. Personally, I (Barry) enjoyed the campsites throughout the Yukon; Eileen enjoyed the campsites on PEI. As we do not have pets we also appreciate campgrounds that have designated no pet sites or have rules governing people’s pets and actually enforce the rules.
One of our favorite campsites is a small RV park outside of Alamagordo, New Mexico. It is a small place and family owned and they make you feel like you are one of the family. It is also close to a lot of places in New Mexico that you can do a lot of day tours. A poor campsite can be a broken electrical box, water faucets that do not work, an unlevel site where you park or too many trees at the site that have not been pruned and fall on your RV or tow a vehicle during a storm (which has happened to us).
Do your family and friends admire you for having the courage to go RVing full-time and experience life in this way?
Our family understands and backs us completely. Most of our friends cannot believe how we can be in such close quarters and still get along so well, but they look at us and say go for it, it looks like you are enjoying yourselves.
Have you kept a blog of your work and do you keep it online? If not, do you plan on publishing it at some time in the future?
No we do not keep a blog online. We do keep a diary that we write in about our experiences but do not plan on publishing it.
How has connecting to nature on a consistent basis changed your perception of life and urban living you once were a part of?
The easiest way to explain this question is: when we travel in our RV, we drive on the secondary highways; we try not to go into big cities. We will find a campsite near one and take our Jeep into the city. In Boston, for example, we drove around the park twice – second time around we got a parking stall right across from Cheers and so we went to Cheers for lunch. When we were in Pennsylvania we parked in a campsite and drove the Jeep up to Niagara Falls Ont. since we had not been there for 43 years.
What has RVing taught you about life, love and the pursuit of happiness? How has a trade-off of having the luxury of a nice home, in exchange for the RV lifestyle altered your view of life?
We feel it has broadened our view of people and places and we have seen how different people live in a different way from us. We both love the RV lifestyle and hope to continue for a long time yet.
We have not really been bothered by not having a house as we had more expenses maintaining the house and the RV lifestyle has a lot less expenses. We thoroughly enjoy the freedom we have now. With a home, you just can’t pack up and leave when you feel like it. With the RV, we just pull out of a campsite and go when and where we feel like it.