Far too often we get into the habit of glamorizing the “good old days” and reject the present times like we’re witnessing the apocalypse itself. It’s easy to think like this. In a world of overrun RV parks and the disparaging of public lands, I often find myself wishing that I could have experienced RV life back before it became a social media hashtag.
While I’ll never get to experience the sheer openness that came with road-tripping in a time before we all became digitally connected, I can’t help but look around and think, “Damn! We’ve got it good!”
Here’s why I think we’re in the golden years of RVing.
1. Navigation apps
Undoubtedly, the internet will get most of the credit in this article. The explosion in technology we’ve experienced in the last decade alone has made RVing easier than ever. Gone are the days of etching out a route on a map as big as your dashboard. You can simply plug in where you want to go, and more times than not your smartphone is going to get you there without a single hiccup.
2. Boondocking resources
Whether you’re using iOverlander, Campendium, or the classic freecampsites.net, finding that picturesque remote campsite out in the boonies is a breeze. I often wonder how some of the original RVers used to do it (and I’d love to hear from you in the comments).
I imagine that finding a free campsite before the era of apps meant scouring BLM and Forest Service roads for hours, just hoping that you’d eventually find a suitable pullout for camp. It must have been intimidating to go into an area with no plan on where you’d sleep for the night, holding on to nothing more than the confidence that it would work out.
Nowadays, you can drive to an area and have information about where you can camp available right at your fingertips. While it’s always best to plan out some spots ahead of time, sometimes you can’t avoid uncertainty. iOverlander has helped me out in a pinch more times than I can count.
3. Millions have done it before us
This is one of the most underrated reasons why RVing has never been easier. Millions of other people have traveled the same proverbial roads before us, and there’s a significant “roadmap” that we can now follow. With a community that’s larger than it has ever been, countless RV forum posts, and thousands of YouTube guides on every aspect of RV life, your work has been done for you and someone is always there to lend advice.
4. Remote and digital work
Consistent income has always been one of the most challenging parts of living full-time on the road, and it’s something that many RVers take time to figure out. There’s always been seasonal work and work camping jobs, but before the internet, these were all by word of mouth. The internet has made these types of jobs readily available for all RVers.
Even more astounding is the new phenomenon of remote work. RVers no longer have to remain in a location for a temporary job, allowing them to truly travel uninhibited. So long as you’ve got reliable internet service, you can comfortably fund your livelihood immersed in the beauty of the outdoors.
5. It’s normalized
Above all else, the social perceptions surrounding RVing have never been more positive than they are today. You no longer risk the stigma of “living in a van down by the river.” (But who really cared about that anyway?) When you tell someone you live full-time in your RV, chances are they’ve heard it before and have a rough understanding of your lifestyle. This certainly wasn’t always the case, and I think it shows just how far the lifestyle and industry have come.
Do you agree this is the RVing golden age?
Even with all the advantages that come with RVing in the modern world, there have certainly been sacrifices made to get to where we are now. There’s something innately freeing about hitting the road with nothing more than a map and a loose itinerary, and this is an experience you can no longer easily obtain.
Is RVing as good as it ever has been, or is the lifestyle missing something that it used to have? You tell me.
I agree. But it is also the available online banking, bill paying, etc that allows us to be on the road for months at a time and still stay out of trouble. Zoom and facetime to keep in touch with family and friends. Unlimited cell data plans that allow us to actually use these connections. We have been camping since the 70s, and it has never been easier.
Sorry, but no. Because now you can’t take a pic without an RV or tent in the pic. It’s way too crowded. And way too expensive with campsites tripling and quadrupling in price. Plus now, having to make a reservation everywhere you go which forces you to leave an area that you really liked because of the reservation you made at another campground months ago. Not to mention new RVs are being made crappier so they break down, or start falling apart in no time.
Sorry but it’s just a sign of the times.
Yep, I love paying 3rd party campground app producers extra on top of severely rising campground fees instead of just calling and talking to the mom & pop campground owner to book a reservation.
For our recent trip almost every site we booked gave no alternative but to pay extra and book through a 3rd party app. Fees ranged from $2 (reasonable) to $17.70 (absolutely outrageous!)
Two campgrounds still did it the old fashioned way…call the office and get personal service…OMG…service at no added cost…how horrible! 🙂
I don’t know how we did it. We just decided if we wanted to go North, South, East or West. We had Rand McNally, and would pick up state and local maps at gas stations along the way and many had local attraction maps as well. We would have to find a phone booth and a quarter if we wanted to call head, so did not. We never knew where we would land for the night, but never had a problem finding a State or National Park or a mom n pop campground for the night. There weren’t even any Walmarts then. Young, dumb, and fun. Not young, but still dumb and fun. Now we estimate our destination for the night and refer to a paper campground guide, but have never called for reservations and have still found a place to land for the night. Dumb and fun still works for us, I guess. (opposite from my dad who planned every mile and every minute).
We got our first TT five years ago, have both retired since then and now own a Class C. We are snowbirds, not full timers. The apps are incredibly helpful for all the things you mention. Plus, now we have HipCamp, Boondockers Welcome, Harvest Hosts and the like to add to this list. It’s made RV’ing, and getting off the beaten path, pretty easy. We have nothing to compare it to as we were tent campers up until 5 years ago and it was easier to go bouncing down a Forest Service road to find a camping spot.
We’ve been full-time for 5 years (in a large Class A Winnebago towing) and I’ve often said that I can’t imagine doing this before GPS!
My answer is I’m not sure. Before the internet (and even a little after) we sometimes used Woodall’s.- A thick paper back book that had most campgrounds listed. We just called and made reservations….and you got to actually talk to a campground employee. It was the personal touch that I sometimes miss. One thing that surprises me is that it seems many people don’t even want to talk to people to make reservations anymore. The place we go to frequently just made on line reservations possible. We’re seeing many more different faces here than before. That’s not a bad thing but it happened pretty much at the same time. I know we’re not going to see the old days anymore but I miss them in many ways.
Don’t be so sad about this. I like personal communication too, but in reality, if I’m trying to line up a campsite, I don’t want to leave a voicemail, then get no response, or a response hours later when I am driving in traffic; because I needed to get a ‘yes or no’ to go on to my next choice. MANY campground owners now roam around doing landscaping work all day and ‘let the machine get it’. The absentee type owners are even worse and think you are interested in playing phone tag with them til they get off their real job and feel like calling you at 5 or 6 in the evening.
Meanwhile I can have used reservations.gov to secure something, and see what site I will get, and be done with it. Let’s face it, Dr. Welby is not down at the clinic, and Aunt Bee is not running the campground. It’s fun when you occasionally run into great hospitable hosts who love to talk with you and assign you the perfect campsite, but it doesn’t happen too often.
In a different context, I read an article about “Pioneers and Settlers”. There are two very different kinds of people around. The pioneers love the unknown where nobody has gone, rising to the challenges and revelling in the self-sufficiency and resourcefulness required. The settlers love the fact that others have paved the way. Your article shows that, for RVing at least, you are more of a settler. BTW we can be both, at different times. I’m a pioneer at my career (doing lots of R&D) but am definitely a settler when I RV.
And online reservations. Previewing the campsite before selecting. Reserving months in advance. Real time campground reviews. Texting the campground office to let them know when you’ll show up (predicted time of arrival based on the GPS). Using fuel discount apps to plan fuel stops. We still get the state maps at the welcome centers but I can’t remember when I actually opened one up to look for an alternative route. The RV specific GPS (mostly) routes us where our RV is safe to drive avoiding non-big rig routes given the weight and dimensions of our RV.
Totally agree with all of your points. We’ve been fulltime for over 13 years & have travelled over 200K miles to every state at least once & Alaska twice. We can’t imagine living any other lifestyle, & plan to continue wandering until health forces us off the road.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Great positive article pointing out all of the good things about rving and how fortunate we are to be able to travel so freely in our beautiful country! Nothing like it.
Good job. You are absolutely correct. Thanks for the positive reminder.