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Sensi Magazine

Digital Gypsy

Jan 10, 2019 08:07PM ● By Robyn Lawrence

I’m joining the nearly half-million people in the United States who live full-time in their rigs, and I’ll be one of a record-breaking 10 million RVers hitting the road as #vanlife explodes, driven largely by experience-hungry millennials and Instagrammers. The $19.7 billion RV industry has seen sales grow 200 percent over the past eight years, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, and RV shipments are at their highest level ever. Sales at Thor Industries (which owns Airstream) grew 57 percent to $2.02 billion in 2017, and Winnebago sales skyrocketed 75.1 percent in the last quarter of that year to $476.4 billion.

The industry is changing, responding to the needs and desires of the new RVer, whose average age is 48 not the stereotypical snowbird traditionally associated with RVers (though plenty of boomers are still on the road). According to CARHUB.COM, about one-third of new RVers are under 35, and that makes RV resort hot tubs a lot more fun.

Before we head to Baja, Dennis and I have a spot reserved for a month at the Chula Vista RV Resort, a beautiful too-good-to-be-true park on San Diego Bay that shares space with a marina (and sailors are also pretty great for hot tub fun) where I spent last winter. On February 1, everyone has to clear out so the resort and marina can be bulldozed for a billion-dollar convention center and waterfront development. A lot of folks have wintered in Chula Vista for decades. It should be a hell of a month.

Then Dennis will travel with me through Baja just in time to celebrate legal cannabis in Mexico, maybe? That’s where my plan ends, but the whole idea is to be OK with that.

It’s amazing how much planning and organization it’s taken to get here.

Freedom Isn’t Free
The first thing I never considered was what I couldn’t do without a permanent address. I can’t vote, get health insurance, have a bank account, pay taxes, get a driver’s license, or register my vehicles, to start. And, of course, I can’t get mail. Or I thought I wouldn’t be able to. Then I found professional services that receive, sort, scan, forward, and shred mail like Escapees Mail Forwarding from a big clearinghouse in Texas that helps people set up mailing addresses in that state. There are a lot of these services in Texas and South Dakota, the friendliest states for nomadic travelers to establish residency, but I’m not ready for that yet. I’ve lived in Colorado as it has turned from red to blue, and I like having my vote count.

I’ve already digitized most transactions that used to rely on snail mail, so my best option is to keep my Colorado address and have any important mail that might trickle in forwarded to me wherever I’m staying. Who knew you could get mail sent to you care of General Delivery to any town and pick it up at the main post office?

Then there’s health insurance, a hellish mess even when you’re staying in one place. The marketplace options barely cover me when I’m out of network, which is where I plan to spend the year. I made an appointment with Portia at RVERINSURANCE.COM to help me sort out my options. I also learned about an app I wish I’d known about years ago called GoodRx (GOODRX.COM) that lets me download coupons for super cheap prescriptions at pharmacies near me wherever that may be.

And finally, there’s connectivity that crucial element for working on the road that’s notoriously scarce in RV resorts, where the “Free Wi-Fi” is always painfully weak and slow. (Internet connectivity consistently ranks as one of the worst things about full-time RV living.) I had to invest in a Jetpack and an unlimited data plan, and I’ll still be data-starved because “unlimited” data slows down after I’ve used 15 gigs. I also had to buy a we Boost cell booster, which adds a bar or two in weak areas and could make the difference between a work day and a non-work day. I have nothing against non-work days, but I’d rather plan them than have them forced on me.

It costs a lot, it seems, to be free. I’ve also spent a small fortune on gadgets for better Airstream living, everything from a sewer hose support to refrigerator organizer bins, a laundry backpack and bag with door hooks to a collapsible laundry basket for trash and recycling. I bought silicon molds for oversized ice cubes because they melt more slowly, and they’re great for freezing stocks and juices and cocktail hour’s a pretty big thing at RV resorts.

Dennis was a little alarmed when the big Amazon box full of these on the road necessities arrived, especially because he’s been watching me get rid of the trappings of my house life for a good two years. I explained that the nonslip glow-in-the-dark tape for the front steps and the motion sensor LED emergency flashlight that will be mounted by the front door are for our safety and the three-USB, three-outlet desktop charging station is for our sanity as we both try to use all our devices while sharing one outlet.

I’ve worked my whole life to embark on this journey to an unknown end. It’s amazing how much planning and organization it’s taken to get this far.

The two of us sharing an 8-by-27-foot space for four months might be the craziest part of my non-plan. We get along fabulously in his 3,500-square-foot house where I have my own room and an Airstream, and we’ve done well on two and three-week excursions. We’re not married, and we have our own cell phone plans, so we don’t have much to fight about except closet space and clutter. My Amazon binge was a lame attempt to wrest control through retail therapy.

I’ve never been here before, about to embark on a journey to an unknown end, and I’ve worked my whole life to get here. I can be military-level meticulous and download every app available to help me navigate roads, campgrounds, and relationships, but I can’t control what’s about to happen. The funny part is that I ever thought I could.

Here’s to partying in Chula Vista like it’s 1999.