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2018 Fulltime Questionnaire

Thank you to all who participated in the questionnaire! If you participated in completing the survey and provided an email address, we'll share the results with you in the first quarter of 2019.


Inyan South Dakota Rally

The Fulltimer Effect:

Strengthening Our Story

By Jeannine Patané
6 January 2018

Scattered on my trailer’s desk are newspaper articles from various sources published in the past few weeks. Headlines read, “For The First Time In 7 Years, There Are More Homeless In The US”, “High Rent Is Taking Toll On Poorest Americans”, and “Home Prices Surge, Outpacing Wage Growth”. These articles focus on the West Coast where the US has seen a recent spike of fulltimers—especially in vans—in response to the growing problem.

Unaffordable housing might be one of the contributing factors to why there is a current boom of fulltimers who choose to take to the road, but it is certainly not the only factor to consider. For many people opting to fulltime in their RV it may have not been a consideration at all. If not housing, then what catalysts are generating a growing nomadic movement?

Blogs and personal videos are ever increasing as more fulltimers come out of the woodwork with the ease of technology and a story to tell. Eric Jacobs of “Nomadic Fanatic” has posted 845 YouTube videos on boondocking, urban camping and RV living.

#Vanlife is an Instagram movement heavily geared toward DYI conversions, with over 2.4 million lifestyle postings and growing daily. A multitude of couples and single people are taking to social media representing their nomadic lifestyle in nearly every type of RV.

Documentaries are climbing in numbers too. A few to mention are the BBC documentary, American Nomads which holds almost 2 million views since it was published on YouTube in 2012, and Without Bound - Perspectives on Mobile Living, produced by Michael Tubbs and Aaron Harlan in 2014.

Westfalia Digital Nomads was the latest to release a documentary featuring an international cast, Vanlifers: Portrait of an Alternative Lifestyle, in November 2017.

The largest fulltiming project, RV Nomads, is currently in production and this feature-length documentary film is scheduled for its premiere in October 2018. The parent production company, Square House Creative, houses Open Road Today, a collaborative network of nomad related content projects owned and operated by fulltimers. Their network will also include a TV channel, live events, trading post and a publishing segment.

It’s not just the media that displays the nomadic movement. Long-established clubs are making internal changes to incorporate additional demographic groups. Escapees RV Club put emphasis on the younger generation of RV enthusiasts by making a subsidiary club, Xscapers. They are branded as “A New Generation of RVers”.

The fulltime nomadic lifestyle is exponentially growing and the Millennials and Generation Xers are most visibly taking the lead. Yet, as I roam around with my travel trailer, I meet ample retired and semi-retired people filling up campgrounds and proud to share that they fulltime. FMCA is one of the largest RV clubs in America and their numbers are robust with fulltimers, many of the Baby Boomer generation. This creates a curiosity to how many of us are permanently mobile and how are we all rolling? My daily in-the-trenches observation along with hardwired gypsy intuition tells me there are a few million more fulltimers than are recognized.

The problem to finding a solid figure starts when people attempt to define what a fulltimer is. There are different definitions for different people. If the definition is arguable, then the number will always be elusive. If we can’t start with an accurate estimate, then how can we keep track of a growing movement to help ourselves?

Attempts at finding the fulltime RVer number have only been gauged by separate RV market segments at best. Insurance agents crunch numbers and come up with roughly 1.3 million, based on RV policies and those who have fulltimer coverage. I used to have a fulltimer insurance policy on my trailer, but the rates jumped so high in one year, I canceled my trailer insurance altogether. That makes me unaccounted for.

RVIA and Go RVing are only tracking wholesale delivery numbers; they have no studies on how RVs are being used once units roll out the door, nor do they care. They just want to know what it will take for you to buy one. This year they are digging deeper with their “Path to Purchase” Study. The study will attempt to look into the psychological aspects consumers go through and their steps taken toward a RV purchase. I bought my used trailer, lacking a safety-prescribed RVIA sticker, from a private seller/owner. Again, I am unaccounted for.

Private campgrounds can only capture people who use campgrounds, but boondockers and Wal-Mart nomads stay off their radar. Surveys are limited to certain campgrounds such as KOA. I never took a survey at a campground. Not accounted for.

RV Clubs and forums can only grab the numbers of their members. Keep in mind that these RV niches are just that. Niches. They don’t represent all RVers, and in fact, many are selective on who is allowed in. Being a fulltimer in a tiny trailer, which is not self-contained, I am already snubbed from joining half the RV clubs that I’m aware of. Even if I were accepted, membership dues outweigh all the “benefits” received. I’m not a joiner—nope, not accounted for.

There isn't a solid number for fulltimers and that can be to our detriment. That is millions of nomads with a story—with influence. Although many of us purposely choose to go under the radar, we could be denying our disenfranchised community a stronger voice for our self-determination. What if we discover that the nomadic movement has revolutionary numbers? It could potentially give us incredible leverage to lead our free-spirited RV subculture and that effect could work better for our lifestyle in several realms.

To help discover what has sparked the appeared growth of this movement and what our number can potentially be, RV Compass is embarking on an independent year-long study to hear from as many fulltimers as possible. An online questionnaire is accompanied with an opportunity for fulltimers to submit their story in their own words. The goal is to discover as many unique nomads as possible in the course of 2018, and this is the most expansively known study for the nomadic culture.

Whether you’re a rodeo cowboy that lives out of your horse trailer, or you and a partner live with three dogs in a modified utility trailer, we want to hear from you. If you are retired snowbirds living out of your class A motorcoach, or you’re a single person that moves job site to job site with your fifth wheel, your nomadic input is needed.

If someone believes they are living the fulltime lifestyle and they have the capability to get on the Internet, RV Compass wants them to participate.

We can’t give fulltiming an absolute definition, however, these stories can shape the idea of how this lifestyle is perceived. We want to hear every fulltimer’s story and how they roll. If you fulltime, please tell us about it. If you know any fulltimers, please help us by telling them about the Fulltimer Effect at RV Compass.