Your RV will get you from here to there. Just don’t expect to return the same
It’s a big, big number. According to the RV Industry Association (RVIA), eleven million Americans now own a recreational vehicle—and an astonishing number of people are joining their ranks. More than eleven industry experts project that around 600,000 new RVs will hit the road this year alone. Truth be told, the RVIA could provide you with stats by the thousands on the growth of camper culture all across this fruited plain. A movement centered upon movement itself, the RV lifestyle is sweeping up younger and more senior generations alike.
Empty nesters and Millennials are pulling in side-by-side to campgrounds everywhere. Which begs the question: What is driving them to RV life? Instinct tells us that every RVer has their reason. Adventure. Education. Romance, even. RVIA research and insights, backed by surveys, support that hunch. And, as part of those surveys, they’ve identified six distinct categories of ownership out of that eleven million. But whatever differences drive them, they share one thing: Each one of them will complete their journey differently than when they started.
It gives us the best of both worlds
BUT IF YOU TRULY WANT TO get to the heart of what pulls each type into their lifestyle, the best way to learn is conversation. Want to know about escapists—the group looking to get away from the hustle and bustle? Talk with Heather Mooney. She’s one of them. “Buying our RV forced us to slow down. To unplug. To sit around a campfire and talk. To make homemade meals, allow the kids to run around, ride ATVs, take walks.” Heather shares. “But then, at the end of the day, we still go inside and sleep in the air conditioning.” Like many families, the Mooneys were introduced to camping by a set of grandparents. Heather’s in-laws bought a 2016 Grand Design Momentum six years ago.
Overnight, the Mooneys were an RV family. But while they might have been attracted to the escapism, they stayed with it for so much more. “Even if we drive hours away from home, we get in it. And it’s still as relaxing as being home,” says Heather, describing her family’s approach to the RV life. “With a fifth wheel, we unhitch when we arrive and still have a vehicle to [explore the area]. It gives us the best of both worlds—adventure and the comforts of home.” You’ve likely heard people refer to RV ownership as a lifestyle. That’s because no matter how you use your RV, there’s something more to it than recreation or where you go on the weekends. For many, it becomes a part of who you are.
Our 3 Favorite Reasons to Join the RV Movement
People who camp are good people
Facebook page says, “It’s a special group of people who camp. I’ve never met a camper who wasn’t nice. [And it’s] great fun to see the kids running around in a safe place, outside with no gaming or TV.” Buying an RV gives you immediate common ground with millions of people just like you who value living life on the road less traveled.
Your RV is more flexible than a hotel
For many, like Mercedes Genei, it’s also a more flexible way to travel. “We bought our RV when our autistic son could no longer stay in hotels or with family members—his behaviors made it impossible. Today, our son loves the RV and helps out with maintenance and care throughout the year.” RVs, let you decide where, when, and how you’ll stay.
It’s the best way to see the land that you love
Jamie Goncharoff from Pennsylvania had a goal for his kids: to see the 48 contiguous states before leaving high school. “Every Fourth of July we’d celebrate freedom in another part of the country. Finally, we let them off on top of the Hoover Dam, which blocks the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada, and they raced each other across the top, running from their 47th into their 48th state … All in an effort to have them love and appreciate the beauties and freedom of America.
You will have issues But you can deal with them
MIKE BOYINK AND HIS WIFE had been talking about hitting the road in their RV full-time for so long that they’d started calling it their pipe dream, even creating a folder on their computer to hold their unrealized plans. He recalls sitting one day on his futon with his wife and realizing that with a crashed housing market they’d never be able to sell their house. He says, “I remember telling her, ‘We’re going to die here.’ ” Instead, they decided on a one-year test drive. In 2010, they bought a used 30-foot Rockwood bunkhouse fifth wheel. They bought a truck to haul it. They arranged for a friend of the family to house-sit their house. And they hit the road.
“We actually recorded that moment,” Mike says. “All the preparation, all the buying. I remember recording this message, just saying, ‘It’s finally happening,’ on video. Then, 20 minutes down the road, our truck check engine light comes on. Stuff happens is a theme you’ll hear when talking to an RVer. The Boyinks were learning that lesson just 20 minutes into their drive. And soon they’d discover it was just an innocent check engine warning. “It turned out that it was no big deal,” says Boyink. “We stayed that night with my in-laws and found a mechanic who told us it was nothing to worry about.” They didn’t stop driving for another eight years. At that time, Mike says they had amazing luck.
Or, as they would say, someone upstairs was looking out for them. Over those eight years, they put 120,000 miles on their truck. They went through three RVs, finishing up in a Class A diesel pusher. They homeschooled on the road, and Mike says he walked away from those eight years with something priceless: gratitude. “We didn’t make it through without skid marks,” he confesses. When he tells his story, Mike makes a point to be a realist, recognizing that no life spent in close quarters with two teenage children is going to be perfect. “You will have issues. But you can deal with them. You can be flexible.” That flexibility is one of the undeniably beautiful things about RV life.
Unlike a hotel stay (where cancellations mean fees) or family visits (where early departures can lead to hurt feelings), the RV life gives you supreme versatility. It gives you the option to pick up and leave whenever inspiration strikes. And it gives you the choice to put life in the park in critical moments. A few years into their odyssey, that’s exactly what happened with the Boyink family. Mike admits, “When we started out, one of my fears was somebody being concerned about the welfare of our children.” This was before the days of RV influencers. Today, the idea of full-time RV living is more accepted, if not embraced. But in 2010, people still looked funny at anyone who wanted to choose a different path. “People already thought it was weird that we were homeschoolers. This was likely to be even worse.” About five years into their travels, the worst-case scenario struck. “We had teenagers, and we had some family growing pains, and all that bubbled up. So we bought a season of camping at one campground, and we worked through the issues.
“It’s been 35 years of bliss
JEAN AND BOB GAGNON have been RVing since before it was cool— practically before it was even a thing. Go on a trip down memory lane with them and you will gather a lifetime of delightful travel tidbits. “We were in Maine at this campground [called Narrows Too],” says Jean, “And there was a seafood place a little drive-in joint that had the best haddock you’ve ever had in your life, and I couldn’t get enough of it.” There’s the story about the time Jean found herself hiking in Acadia, where she thought she wasn’t going to make it back from a particularly physical hike. “I did [make it back eventually,] and it was with a lot of support from Bob. He supported me even when he knew it was above my level.” They didn’t spend all 35 years chasing adventure. They spent it chasing new ways to enjoy each other. “Sometimes we would just think, ‘We’ve never been here. Let’s go see what it has to offer.’
Talk to Bob and Jean long enough, and you can’t miss it: All of their stories point to who they shared life with. “We did the Rockies and Mount Rushmore,” says Bob, “And we were on the road for 12 weeks. After it was over, we had a little cabin in North Carolina, and I said to Jean, ‘You know after all the places we’ve been, after all the parks we’ve been to, this is still the best campground, right here at home.” Together, they put tens of thousands of miles over three decades. They started out in a used motorhome, a 25-footer that Bob had bought from his brother-in-law. They bought a 32-foot Georgia Boy in 1999, which they hauled for 12 years. Then they traded up to a 38-foot Class A diesel pusher in 2007. They put 66,000 miles on it over 12 years. Just don’t ask Bob to choose his favorite rig. “Well, what’s your favorite child?”
The Vehicle of Change
FOR SOME, LIKE THE MOONEYS, the RV is a great way to spend a weekend. It’s a hauler, of toys, loved ones, and whatever another little bit of home you want with you on a weekend trip. Their love for it was even contagious. After watching Heather’s family have all the fun for years, her sister and brother-in-law bought a Palomino Puma 30-foot travel trailer in 2020. The Boyinks decided to stay on the road for eight years. For their family, the RV was a life-changing vehicle.
To see new sights? Sure. But more importantly, to use those sights to gain a broader view of the world. It was a tool for teaching, about mountains and nature and farming and God and family and ditching the world’s ideas of what your life should look like. And how sometimes in life you need to pause and invest in your people. It was never a home away from home. It was home itself. Wherever they took it, their whole heart was there. Bob and Jean’s story is perhaps the best model of where we’re all heading—if we’re lucky. It’s a picture of enlightenment, where we realize that using an RV to transport you to your best life is less about where we drive it, and more about who we pack it with.