Peter Hawkins is living large. A photographer by trade, Peter and his wife, Debbie, spend summers at their home in Minnesota, and winters at their home in sunny Arizona. Both homes are in gated golf communities, have large swimming pools, luxuriant spas and resort atmospheres.
Except that Peter doesn’t really have two homes, but one. And it’s less than 400 square feet in size.
The Hawkins are among an estimated 250,000 people who live full time in an RV, or Recreational Vehicle. And the trend is increasing among the Baby Boomer generation as more retired couples find themselves with good health, circumstances that allow them to move as they wish, and the desire to pursue a more active lifestyle.
“Traditional homes no longer offer the financial security they once did,” explains Hawkins. “So with housing values in a state of flux, we had to rethink our retirement plan. An RV seemed like the logical choice, and we couldn’t be happier.” And for the past seven years, their motor home has been their only home.
Once you get used to the idea that you can take your home with you wherever you go, the nomadic lifestyle does open up possibilities that the ‘ground-bound’ don’t have. For one, RVers can change locations when the weather turns bad. The Hawkins, for example, are usually headed southbound from Duluth before the first frost, but return north in the spring to escape the 120-degree Arizona summers.
“You could be up north in winter, trapped inside your home by three feet of snow,” adds Steven Pendergast, manager of Rio Bend RV & Golf Resort in El Centro, CA, “or you could be here enjoying fresh air, sunshine, pleasant temperatures, golf and outdoor activities. There’s no question which is the more active, healthy and beneficial lifestyle.”
In fact, ‘snowbirds’ fill up RV parks and resorts throughout the southern U.S. for most of the winter. Many return to the same winter home each year, but the more adventurous are always in search of new and exciting (or relaxing) places to visit.
Which brings us to the real draw for most full-time RVers – the freedom of being able to pull up stakes at a moment’s notice, travel and follow their heart. “I think the freedom to be able to move whenever you like, or want a change of scenery, has a great deal to do with loving the lifestyle,” says Kjell Johnsen, who has spent the past 20 years RVing with his wife, Luanne. Yes, it’s that relaxed, almost Bohemian lifestyle that is drawing more retirees – and even younger families – to RVing.
But, wait – aren’t we talking about camping? Roughing it in primitive location