For Women's History Month, I caught up with three women who live and travel full time in recreational vehicles on their own, and by extension, on their own terms.
No, I didn't actually follow them on the road and wave at them to pull over. I simply harnessed the power of personal connections, social media, and e-mail to learn more about these women, and why they chose this nomadic lifestyle.
Janet is a Heartland owner who tows a 2015 Cyclone 4114, with three canine travel companions (Abby, Boomer, and Freddie). She is a retired police officer who has been full-timing since February of 2016.
Kelly, of www.rvchickadee.com, pulls a 24' travel trailer, under close supervision of "the girls," doggies Trixie and Gizmo. She has been on the road since May of 2015, working as a digital nomad, and is currently creating an RV review web site.
Each of these women took time off the road to respond to a few of my most burning questions. Their answers have been edited for length and clarity.
So... why an RV?
Janet had an epiphany after a family tragedy. "About 2 ½ years ago," she said, "my middle younger brother passed away from a heart attack. It occurred to me at his memorial that no one in our family, Mom or Dad's side, has lived past 66." That, plus an untenable situation at work then caused Janet to realize that maybe waiting until 65 to retire wasn't such a good plan for her. "I decided I did not need to be tortured for 7 more years to die a year later. I spent a year researching RV's and the lifestyle, and decided it would work for me! Took another 6 months to find the right RV, then 5 months to prepare and sell the house. Escrow closed, and I was on the road!
Kelly, in keeping with her minimalist approach to living, went with the most direct response. "Because I can!" Boondocking (self-contained camping, without power, water, or sewer hook-ups) is a key part of her travel strategy. "There's no better or cheaper way to live nomadically," she said. "I only boondock, so I get to live rent-free. Also, I love to wake up and only have to take about 5 steps to get all the way across my house to open the blinds! It's awesome. I am not sure I could ever live permanently in a house again."
Viktoria is originally from Hungary, but has lived in four states since moving to America 16 years ago, eventually ending up in California. "I always loved road trips, and I've been to most of the states by car," she said. "RVs are very popular in California, and I really wanted one, but it seemed so inaccessible and expensive." After a romantic relationship broke up, Viktoria knew she couldn't "live the normal everyday life anymore," and decided to buy an RV she'd found on Craigslist. "It was a big purchase, and I was so excited, but everything went smoothly."
What is your favorite resource for RV information?
Janet: The Heartland Owners' Forum has been a lifesaver for me, as I had never RV'ed before and have had questions on everything!
Kelly: I would have to say Campendium.com. It's the resource I use the most to look for my next stop.
Describe your most triumphant RV moment
Janet: Accomplishing things "experts" told me I could not do. Best feeling was re-designing the living room of my RV. I love how it is now!
Kelly: I have two. The first was boondocking all by myself in the middle of nowhere with no other RVs or lights in sight. My only company was my girls. It gave me the heebie-jeebies, but I wasn't scared of people — it was the boogeyman! The other triumphant moment was when I had a mouse in my trailer. I didn't want to kill it, so guess what? I simply let it out.
Viktoria: When I first started going on weekend trips, and I learned how to handle my RV, it was pretty much a great feeling that I can do this.
How about your most embarrassing RV moment?
Janet: It was my very first trip, pulling into the RV park, at night, having 4 spotters I did not know and, while focusing on them and trying to interpret what they were signaling me to do, unknowingly cutting the corner of the roadway and sliding the driver's side of my RV along a light pole and knocking it catty-wampus! Fortunately, they were able to straighten it with someone else's truck.
Kelly: This would have to be the time I crossed Snoqualmie Pass in a blizzard with a friend. I was totally positive my truck had front wheel drive, so we put the chains on the front tires. All went well in the blizzard until the incline got a little steeper — and my truck's butt end started sliding. That's when my error hit me. We had to stop in the middle of the interstate and put them on the back tires with traffic whizzing by us at about 35 mph. Totally embarrassing!
Viktoria: I guess I don't have a very embarrassing RV moment. I don't like it when things are moving around in the RV, and sometimes I leave doors open by accident. Once my 2-gallon water pitcher fell and broke while I was driving on the highway, and water was all over the place. That was not my favorite moment.
What do you see as your legacy for other women seeking an independent and/or adventurous lifestyle?
Janet: My legacy is just being part of this group of women who demonstrate you can do it on your own successfully, even though I think we have a harder time dealing with both sales and service at RV dealerships. That being said, I am also ever grateful for all the RV'ers who have been there to help me when I needed it. They will be proud to know I have been able to pay that forward as I learn.
Kelly: Well, I certainly don't see myself as a leader or a trailblazer. However, I am aware that I am in the minority as not many women do this solo. If you are a woman looking to do this, just know that it will likely be the best decision you've ever made. You only regret the things you don't do in life!
Viktoria: Legacy? I just want more working age people out there. I want them to see how free life can be. Even if you are solo, it is fun. If you have a wandering soul, don't be afraid to try it. You will never know how it is without trying it.
"Well-behaved women seldom make history."
~ Laurel Thatcher Ulrich