Sep 3, 2012 - Musings, Personal    22 Comments

Four Years As a Full-Time Canadian RVer

Having finished a marathon transcription weekend this evening, I find myself with time now to reflect on my four years as a full-time RVer.

I have reached this anniversary a little weary and jaded, but after analysing my feelings, I am relieved to realise that I still very much love RVIng and it is still the right lifestyle for me. It is the context in which I live my life that has grown tiresome. In short, after four years of full-time RVing in Canada, I can say without reserve that I have had enough of full-time RVing in Canada. And let me say that having seen as much of it as I have, having done everything I could to twist myself dream to fit the legislation, and having spent so much time and energy trying to understand my country, I have earned the right to say that I am sick of it!

When I started RVing, there were no resources for young Canadians starting out on the road. And so, I left with an American vision that is not sustainable in Canada. Our legislation unequivocally denounces the transient lifestyle and makes it impossible to legally have health coverage, insurance, a driver’s license, and a duly registered vehicle.

And let’s not get into the vast different of philosophy about the management of public lands, with the Americans offering all the free long-term spots a boondocker could want while Canada charges upwards of $40 or $50 a night to dry camp on a concrete slab in a national park.

The Canadian climate means that unless you are willing to endure six months of grey dampness in the most expensive regions of our country, you will have to take a chance at an international border crossing. You will have to take several days (and spend hundreds of dollars in fuel) to out race snow to a warm locale in the fall and back north in the spring because, at best, you can only have six months south of the border and our winters are longer than that with their shoulder seasons.

If I was an American, I would be living a very different life on the road. Two of my four Canadian winters literally bled me dry financially and I have not been able to recover from them. The biggest mistake I made on the road was the first major one I encountered: where to spend my first winter. I should have gone south right then. But I thought I’d be able to work through the winter. Ha.

That’s another mistake I made, thinking I could support myself American-style through camphosting and other jobs that target RVers. No. There is no such industry in Canada. The only way to make a self-sustaining living on the road in Canada is to be self-employed. That’s the second mistake I made. I should have focused on building a business right from the start instead of slaving away at jobs that paid minimum wage or slightly better.

I know I sound terribly negative about my life, but it’s not so. In my old age, I will look back on my first Klondike Summer, the friendships I have made, the incredible Canadian scenery that made me weep with awe, and the satisfaction that all I have experienced enabled me to write an important ebook. These memories will make the bitter memories fade away like frost under the first spring sun. I will only remember that I made choices that set me free, opened up my horizons, and left me feeling profoundly satisfied.

I like where I am right now on the eve of my fourth anniversary of full-time RVing. My rig is in great shape, my business is finally taking off, I have a couple of successful border crossings under my belt, and I really think this will be the winter where I will sit on a beach by the Gulf of Mexico and drink wonderful rum-based drinks out of coconuts. Really, this is it!

So the negative things I’ve enumerated above only serve to drive me to make changes in how I approach my life on the road and to shape my future in the way I want it to be, not the way the Canadian government says it must be. I am not one of those bloggers who likes to lay out her maybes for commenters to pick apart, but rather one who prefers to present faits accomplis, things that are done. I will just say that the wheels are churning and the last four years have given me the courage to face a new challenge. The only hint I will give is that when you are as sick of your country as I am of mine, maybe it’s time to see how other people live so you can gain a little perspective.

It may be too soon for this radical change in direction or exactly the right time. I won’t know until I get south of the border this fall. But the research and planning and discussions are making me come back to life again the way I did emerging from my first winter as I headed north on the Alaska Highway.

Sometimes you don’t know when you’re taking the first step through a door until you’re already inside. Ann Voskamp

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  • Well, I just spent my first summer as a camp host, and it paid $0.05/hour more than minimum wage. I’m not sure it really makes economic sense to do that, many of my exsonses went up. (30 miles to the reasonable priced grocery store, gas for the generator since my solar pannels didn’t get enought sun, …)

  • Wow, that’s a little spooky, I was just searching for answers to some of my questions and suddenly you post this, which pretty much explains everything I had been looking for, and had come to suspect in my past hour of searches. I am still in the planning stages of my full time rving adventure and already it looks like it will not be full time! I cannot afford not to work while traveling and I had really looked forward to exploring much of the U.S. but there are so many restrictions it seems my adventure is going to be severely limited. Thanks for the very well timed (for me) post! You’ve given me lots to think about.

  • Blars, while your current setup sounds less than ideal, I have heard of workampers getting a free site, free propane, a stipend, and possibly even more goodies. You can really shop around for camphosting opportunities in the US and you are more likely to find one where it is understood that the camphost is not meant to be a slave.

    Dog Cookies, if you can establish a business that you can do from your RV before you get into your RV, half the challenge will be done. Then if you can figure out where to spend the winter outside of Canada, you can move in your rig full-time even if you don’t travel all the time (basically what I do). But if you are planning to be in Canada 100% of the time, then yeah, I wouldn’t recommend full-timing as a logical lifestyle choice. πŸ™

  • Have you ever thought of wintering at Slab City near Niland California ?
    Free camping, hot weather. You have to haul in your water and haul out your waste but a lot of folks hole up there for months so they can get financially able and continue on. Not the best but you can do some trips into Mexico from there. Just my 2Β’

  • Hi Rae,
    Come on down… πŸ™‚
    We’d be glad to have you in the good ol’ U S of A… and stay awhile too.

    Slab City is in the middle of the desert… just my 2Β’ too… beware 😐

    Are you not able to work in the states?
    Can you get dual citizenship?
    Are you able to only stay down here for 6 months? Or is it you have to go back to your country every so often?

    Sorry, I totally don’t know about this subject.

    Good luck, you’ll figure it out, you always do.


  • Lucie: Yes, I have thought about it, but it’s always the problem of getting there (mostly because of the border being a crapshoot), plus I have to be somewhere I can have internet so I can work.

    Vicki: It is VERY difficult to get permission to work in the US unless you work in some high tech fields. Forget dual citizenship unless I were to marry an American. The longest time you can enter the US for as a visitor is six months, and that’s if you they allow you the six months. The first time I came in with the rig, I asked for three months and was only given two.

  • wow…You can’t even stay as long as you want in the US? This completely shocks me! How the heck are all those Canadians getting to Mexico then? I don’t understand the process…

    You can marry an American.. for freedom to travel..but they probably would want your Canadian health insurance more!

  • Gina, every country has a rule for how long visitors can stay without a visa and then for how visas are doled out.

    Canadians exit the US to go to Mexico. πŸ™‚

    As for health insurance, it’s not a given and mine is perpetually at risk.

  • So glad you are finally headed south for a winter. I suspect it won’t be the last time. πŸ™‚

  • Linda, so much is going on right now that I’m not ready to blog about regarding the ‘south.’ πŸ™‚

  • Googled Candian crossing problems, boy did I read some hum dinger stories!
    Wow, some control freaks working the borders on both sides!

    We have crossed by car twice and flown once into Canada, I always come back to the us with less than when I started, something always gets confiscated. In July coming back from Alberta the US guys confiscated our walking sticks. Worried about wood insects of some type. Loss of $2.00, we are still hurting from that one…LOL
    Flying back home from Vancouver, my applesauce was confiscated, a risk to everyone’s safety I am sure. LOL

    In the back of my mind, I was worried about the crossing into Canada, they have the power to ruin your vacation for you.. NOT a good feeling.
    But we didn’t have any problems going in, thank goodness!!

  • Thanks for sharing this Rae,I also didn’t know how difficult it is to be a full time RVer in Canada. Why? What difference does it make really? There are a huge number of Baby Boomers who would like to do it, maybe if enough people pursue challenging these archaic rules things can change.

  • Geri, folks up here who RV tend to be retired and are OK with having to stay six months of the year in a spot that establishes their residency OR they’re like me but too chicken to rock the boat. I don’t feel like working to change things for people who won’t help themselves.

  • Congrats!!! We are still interested in becoming Canadian fulltimers in a few years and we’ll always be thankful to your comments and adventures. So I guess we should avoid staying in the coldest parts of the country during our 1st year πŸ™‚
    I need to set up my freelancing business asap in order to have reliable sources of income while on the road, it’s a shame to see that our government doesn’t help this type of nomadic lifestyle, I hope it’ll get better. Always a pleasure to follow your blog though, keep it up!

  • Thanks for popping in, Thierry.

    Not just the first year, every year! πŸ˜€

    I, too, wish things would get better for us, but more of us have to come out of the woodwork first. πŸ™

  • I have to agree with most of what you say about RVing in Canada. It is too expensive and I think a lot of the local campgrounds charge way too much for what they supply. Provincial parks are less expensive but are catching up. Here in BC if you want to reserve a spot in a Provincial campground it costs an additional $6 a night. bringing the cost to $28. For an extra $8 or so I can get full hookups. Did you ever come to Vancouver Island? It’s expensive to cross on the ferry but worth it.

  • Chris, thanks for your comment. Canada really needs more free boondocking and dry camping opportunities, like BLM land, Corps of Engineer sites and even casinos.

    I spent six wonderful and wet months in Campbell River! I visited the Island from tip to tip and coast to coast, with trips to Port Hardee, Tofino and Ucluelet, and Victoria (and points in between!). The ferry cost me about $450 round trip, but I had free lodging all winter (watching Croft and Norma Randle‘s place), so it made for a cheap winter anyway.

  • Hey, hello from Slab City…there are lots of Canadians that come down here and work it out. Go to SlabCity on FB and post and ask for a Slabber Canadian to contact you.

    It is wonderful during the winter since we are in a desert, Starting about April/May you might want to start heading back traveling through the states.

    Good luck and congrats on your full time RV living and challenges. I just started doing this about 2 years ago…I sort of got stuck living in Slab City the whole year. Yes it is blistering HOT, but I wanted the challenge. Will probably travel to northern states (Or at least northern California later this summer.) Gas is much cheaper thr further you travel from any coastlines (like a state or two in from each coast.), not sure what you pay for gas up there, but maybe it would be worth a try to travel down.

  • Robi, thanks for chiming in.

    Gas is definitely cheaper down in the States by about a third. I just spent my first full winter down south and my cost of living plummeted.

  • I read that you do transcription work while rving. This is what I am planning to do. I currently work as a medical transcriptionist and my husband and I would like to try full time rving starting next year. I am looking for a way to earn income on the road. How difficult is it to do this while travelling? I am worried about having sufficient internet connection. Any tips would be appreciated.

  • Monica, the only way to run a business on the road is to have your own internet connection through a cellular provided. There are various ways of doing this, like tethering your cell phone to your computer, using a phone that has the wifi hotspot option, or using a dedicated device like a Mifi/Jetpack or USB modem. Cellular service is just about everywhere except way out in the boonies, and a booster like a Wilson Sleek cradle can extend the range of service.

    Check out this post:

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