Our family of 9 lives fulltime in an RV in a country grappling with coronavirus infections. We sold our house in the suburbs in late 2018 to move into our 5th wheel and travel fulltime to see the country.
Great right … but what about that coronavirus? How can/does a World Health Organization defined “pandemic” affect the fulltime traveler? What does COVID-19 have to do with an RVer?
According to itravelft.com, there are over 6.3 million full-time travelers in the US with 1 million living in RVs. I would put the math at 1 million +7 kids because I’ll bet they didn’t count the size of my clan. There are so many people living in RVs with limited space - how are we supposed to stockpile toilet paper like those in the suburbs who are freaking out and clearing shelves?
First off, as I write this, my family doesn’t have the virus. Furthermore, we aren’t the demographic that has to be particularly worried about the more newsworthy effects of the virus if we contract it. We are young, have never smoked, and are healthy. This is not the case for many in the RV community. A large percentage of RVers are of the retired demographic and we’ve encountered plenty of them that smoke. From the standpoint of vulnerability (omitting factors of traveling through hot spots), the RV community doesn’t seem any more vulnerable than suburbanites outside of our high percentage of old people. We should just wash our hands like everyone else.
How are we different and what could really affect us?
What do we need as RVers? Place to park, a place to dump sewage, fresh water, food, a place to throw garbage away (especially if things get low on the TP and we start having to use note paper), fuel to either move or to go buy needed essentials.
Lets talk about parks.
With the United States stopping inbound air travel of Europeans and with cruise lines like Carnival Princess temporarily ceasing operations, some RVers are concerned about the impacts of any potential future infrastructure shutdowns.
What could impact us?
Limited Housing Options
Keep in mind, we don’t have a “home” to go back to. We sold it. Most fulltime RVers are in the same boat. We keep an address for various incidentals, but our true place of residence is always moving. Sometimes we are at an established RV park, sometimes parked in a driveway, but plenty of times we are utilizing government parks be it National, State, or local.
We are concerned about park closures. Though they are rare, when there are park closures it effectively limits where we can park our home. Read that like – we get a little more homeless. When the National Parks closed during the last Federal Government Shutdown, any fulltime traveler utilizing them had to move out and couldn’t go into another one (so they couldn’t check out of Zion and then check into Joshua Tree a few hours drive down the road).
What about state parks? If the States were to deem their parks as superfluous during a pandemic time of crisis, our fear is that they could shut them down and thereby dramatically limit our housing options. We love state parks and there are LOTS of them throughout the country.
This hasn’t happened, ••(Update: We just read from another fulltime RVer who experienced this. This morning 3-14-2020, New Mexico closed ALL New Mexico State Parks for camping. With 35 State Parks this is a huge blow to fulltime RVers)•• but what has begun happening is that a State Park in Georgia has begun reclassifying portions of the park as a quarantine zone. If that becomes a trend nationwide, then that again takes away housing options from those who travel fulltime.
Travel Restriction Concerns
The European air travel closures have brought up a worry about the potential closures of other infrastructure, especially with the White House saying they could impose domestic travel restrictions if areas get “too hot”. If quarantines happen in certain areas, RVers could get stuck and won’t be able to get to their “backup plan” locations if they have one. That’s great for preventing the spread of disease, but it makes it tough for the RVer who doesn’t have room in their RV for extra food and supplies and just wants to quickly get near family that does. In our case, we have lots of food storage … in the basement of family, several states away from where we are right now. We grapple with decisions on if we should adjust our current travel plan for our entire year. Should we travel multiple states just to go be closer to our food storage, “just in case”, for an amount of time that could be short - or will it be long? What if we move to our food storage state … and that state becomes a hot bed for the virus when we were in a safe spot before? These are decisions we are working though right now.
I don’t want to fear monger, but well – here it goes. I have a good imagination and if I play the, “what if” game it can get really scary really fast. What if they shut down the bridges over the Mississippi? If that happens, what side of the river do I want to be on? Years ago, I read Ted Koppel’s book, Lights Out (I highly recommend - there's even an audio book on Amazon) and it thoroughly freaked me out how fragile our infrastructure is. A fragile infrastructure, a pandemic, and over a million fulltime RVers might make for a good screenplay someday – but not one I want to live through. By the way, I call dibs on that screenplay right now. My point here isn’t to say good or bad about the decisions of the government’s handling things, only to mention the impacts on the RV community as they differ from those living in sticks and bricks (traditional homes).
People in all sectors can easily be affected economically by a months long public health scare. I am not saying RVers have it any worse in this way, but I want to mention that some RVers make their living supporting or running events that have to be shut down for crowd control reasons. We are aware of traveling musicians and traveling vendors that might take a hit.
Some RVers live in one location, but commute by air to their work location on a weeks-on weeks-off schedule. If their work or home is in a domestic hot spot, they could be isolated from their work or from their family. Remember, the Berlin Wall went up overnight separating families for over 40 years. That’s admittedly an over exaggerated fear-based parallel, but the reality is that people could get separated … for an undetermined amount of time. We heard from a park employee where we are now that he knows someone who was quarantined in a cruise ship that had to attend a parent’s funeral via online video stream because they were quarantined on the ship.
Other economic impacts are those who are running an entrepreneur business such as Heath and Alyssa who felt it best to cancel/postpone/redesign their RVE Summit due to the current concerns of coronavirus. We also know of traveling photographers who shoot events that are also set to lose work.
Then there’s the fuel prices. After the Europe travel announcement, we heard from traveling friends who are in Europe of price for airline flights out of Europe skyrocketing over 16 times. If that happens with fuel, diesel could go from teetering around $3 a gallon to $50 a gallon. That makes moving to wait out the pandemic scare at a location that’s more “home” a lot more expensive for every mile you have to drive to get there.
I do hope something good comes of all this. I hope this gives companies that could have remote employees more leniency to do so. That would be great for the fulltime travel community (not limiting it to just RVs). A real help to those wishing to homeschool their kids and ditch suburbia. I used to work for a big tech company and though I could work from home, my boss wouldn’t typically allow it and even was calling me 3 days after major foot surgery to find out when my butt would be in my seat even though I had received permission to work from home while on doctor’s ordered bedrest. If this coronavirus moment in history can tamp down the “your butt has to be in your seat at the office” mentality, and open up the totally technologically possible reality of a major boost in a 100% fulltime remote workforce, that would be a good thing. A good thing for travelers and non-travelers alike.
So We Should Just Hunker Down, Right?
That sounds good. Hunker down and wait this out. But with the ability to drive anywhere, there is always a looming question about where is the best place to hunker down. We can move our house - where should we move it? Do we trust that we won’t get quarantined where we are? Will quarantine mean we can't go buy groceries to fill our tiny RV shelves? What if we are at a Federal, State, County or City park that gets shut down and we are being, more or less, evicted? Where do we go then? Go camp on BLM land? What about fresh water? What about power for air conditioners, and dehumidifiers? If you have a generator, what if they quarantine you and you can’t go refill your gas can to feed your generator? There are lots of what ifs – but everyone has to make their own decision - and that's what we are doing now.
I hate that I just wrote up this doom and gloom piece. I’d prefer something happy. So – I’m going to end this with a great photo of my daughter picking wildflowers at a Corp of Engineer park in Georgia, above the Florida panhandle. We took this photo with our phone … not some fancy camera. The moment came and went very quickly. She looked down, saw a bunch of wildflowers and decided on the spot to make a small bouquet. Without her knowing, Tabitha and I stood next to each other enjoying the moment and framing the photo. This embodies what life should be. Simple. Happy. Full of wonder. May we all take a moment in the midst of some very adult conversations regarding this “pandemic” and look at the beauty around us. Notice the wonder in your childrens' eyes. Get a photo of it. Remember it and seer it into your soul.
We love comments - but don't leave political comments on this (my blog, my rules - I'll delete them if you do). This is about RVing, Traveling, Ditching Suburbia, and COVID-19. Leave a comment about the topic of the impacts of the situation (even if you don't travel at all), not your political feelings about it all.
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