We are coming up on a year of owning our Serenity (Toots), we have covered 30,000km and have had some of the best adventures I have had in my life. When we set out on the journey to purchase a motorhome, we had no real idea of what we wanted or what we were looking for.
As we looked online and visited dealerships, we got a clearer picture of what we were going for and why. The why seems to have been the biggest thing we used as a guiding principle in the search. We had to become honest with why we wanted one in the first place.
We spent a long time trying our best to break the “keeping up with the Jones” attitude so many people in our society hold. I had watched people struggle to make ends meet while owning a $50,000 boat, snowmobiles, ATVs and about $100,000 in vehicles. They had the latest everything, but if they didn’t work overtime and stay away from their families as much as possible, they could not afford to eat. There was a disconnect there, so Kaitlin and I actively remind each other of WHY we want to purchase something and if it’s a need, want or nice to have.
We took this mentality into our RV buying experience. When we would stop in at a dealership, we would silently run through WHY we wanted an RV and if it fits into this scheme for us.
The first thing on our list was freedom. We are avid believers in the word freedom and all its meaning. Freedom can different for everyone, but to us, it means we are setting up our life in a way where we are truly in charge. We have been actively working our butts off to build careers which allow us to be free and move around as we see fit. (*inbalanceforlife.com is our online yoga wellness video platform, meditations, yoga classes, educational and fun as can be, please check it out and help support some amazing causes!*) After quitting my electrician job and chasing this videographer thing, I felt compelled to bring that feeling of freedom into the rest of my life. An RV lent itself nicely, obviously, but WHICH RV?
This freedom and being able to move where and when we see fit is massive for us. Once we started looking, we knew not just any RV would do, we needed mobility and the ability to be a bit stealthy at times. We didn’t want to be kept out of any parks; some National Parks don’t allow units over 26-feet long. We wanted something Kaitlin would not mind driving into a city, and something I felt confident driving on at least a smooth, dirt road.
We wanted a space large enough for all our things; work computers, bikes, surfboards, dog (we have a big dog named Teagan, see picture below). Yet small enough to get into a mall parking lot if needed. A Class B+ RV seemed really the only option at this point, and there are lots out there once you start to look intentionally.
Next thing was a safe place to sleep. I don’t mean where we park it, or which campsite we may stay in. I mean the environment in which we spend our sleeping hours, the actual physical makeup of the space we would be living in. Something I noticed all my life, but never really put too much thought into, was that when you walked into an RV, most of them have a very distinct smell. Kind of like the new car smell, but for RVs. Do you know what that smell is? That is the materials inside off-gassing not so pleasant gasses.
The seat cushions, the flooring, the cupboards and countertops seem to be stinking up the joint. Kaitlin took her masters in Natural Health, which brought us down the road of learning the environmental influences on our health. Meaning, the things you choose to wear, sleep in, cover your floors with, or build anything out of really can play a huge role in your overall long-term health.
Think about it. How many things in your immediate environment right now are made of plastic? I bet your clothes are even made of polyester. These are oil derived products. Oil! The same thing you fill your car with. Using this oil derivative example, I think you know that the materials used in an RV can be pretty toxic. You wouldn’t really want to rub gasoline on your skin or sleep with a bowl of it next to your bed, would you? Though this is a bit of an exaggeration, there is no way around the fact that plastics are not really good for you. You know how a shirt wears out? That is it breaking down, the polyester material has been losing mass and leaving bits of itself all over the place. Most of it in your dryer, but lots of it on your skin, your biggest organ. Not cool.
When we actually take in our environments, we will see so many examples like the shirt. Oil based products being just one toxin we are surrounded with every day, there is no real way out of it except to live in a wood cabin, off the grid in the Adirondacks. So why not try our best to lessen the impact these things are having on our bodies?
When Kaitlin was learning about the chemicals in carpets, flooring, household paints, bedding and furniture it was a bit scary. A lot scary. I had grown up with all these toxins all around me and no one told me? My health had no doubt been affected, whether it has presented itself in a physical way or not. When our bodies need to be constantly defending itself from foreign dangers, the stress will undoubtedly take a toll, albeit not the same in every person.
We had been trying to have kids for a while, so we spent a fair penny changing the way our house was decorated. If a baby were to show up, we, like any parent, would want to lessen the stress on that new little human’s system. We bought a new bed and repainted. We ripped up carpets and put in bamboo eco-friendly (better, but not perfect) flooring.
So skip forward 5 years, that remodelled house exploded and burned to the ground during the fires in Fort McMurray, we have yet to be blessed with a child (we have been working through the International Adoption process for 6 years now) and we are ready to buy a little toxin-free as possible RV to live in. Our health is part of our WHY. Maybe one of the biggest parts.
Being the little hippies we are, we also knew that longevity and little waste as possible was a big picture WHY in our lives. We try to purchase clothing which will last as long as possible, made from the most natural fibres we can get. Try is key there, we still get sucked in by a deal, but it usually backfires and the jacket rips or the jeans get too worn too quickly. For me, the piece I knew I wanted to include in the GIANT purchasing decision was that things inside the unit would essentially not break prematurely and need to be thrown out and replaced. Finding finishings as closely related to a house, and a finely built house at that was extremely important.
I didn’t want to deal with broken door hinges or small appliances failing and needing to be just tossed out into a landfill somewhere. We live in a disposable world, we live day to day generating a fairly large amount of waste. Some more than others, but for a Westerners to live waste free these days, it’s almost impossible. It’s not an easy task to even minimize the waste we create, but I feel a great place to start is the consumer decisions I make. No more throwaway purchases (trying my best).
The next piece of this hunt was to support places and things we believe in. We are from Canada, we love the freedom and safety we are awarded in this magical country. I have seen a lot of places in the world and I can honestly say that Canada is one of the most beautiful; both environmentally and socially. I love it here and I am proud to have grown up in this country. In order to support a country and the people in it is to make purchases as local as possible. Again, not an easy task in this world we are in. Worldwide trade has taken over our buying experience, mass production in foreign countries seems to be the status quo. We are lucky to have access to what we do. I mean avocados?! Yes, please! The electronics I use to make a living require the economic system we currently have set up in order to be affordable enough and accessible enough to enable me to even write this blog post. It’s amazing, truly it is.
With that all said, I think we can all agree that how we mass produce things in other countries, just to ship it here, get used, break and send it back to that same country as waste, is not the best situation for our planet. When the planet suffers, we suffer. So I feel that if my buying power is directed more often to local businesses, that perhaps the large-scale use and abuse system will slow slightly. If I could get all my groceries from Vancouver Island I would. Good probiotics from local soil for my guts aside, I want to support this amazing place. If we could have bought an RV built in Victoria BC I would have in a heartbeat, if it met the other important rules we have that is.
So where did this leave us? I think you know the answer here, but I will run it through regardless. We bought a Leisure Travel Van. This thing ticked so many boxes during our hunt it was almost a no-brainer. When people ask us why we picked a Leisure over others, I kind of run them through a shorter version of the list above;
Ever want to get away? Sometimes it’s closer than you think. From Victoria BC to Jordan River BC, is not far, but it’s a world apart, thanks Toots for the Freedom.
One more thing people ask me a lot is about price. What I always say is that we had a budget vs. WHY plan to stick to. There seemed to be a big jump in quality with Leisure without the same big jump in pricing, and to live in an authentic and meaningful way, to live my values sometimes requires money. Money to support the Canadian market I am part of and money to truly appreciate the time, energy and resources which go into these long-lasting, top-notch products. I know we made the right decision and I couldn’t be happier with our Serenity. Plus, it is a fine looking piece of equipment which I feel so proud and confident to call home.
Thanks for reading!
Monday, May 8, 2017, was the beginning of our new adventure. It began in Las Vegas, NV when we arrived at Wagon Trail RV to pick up our new Unity Leisure Travel Van. We were eager, nervous and excited to finally take possession of our long-awaited dream.
She was beautiful, and we fell into like immediately. We went through every nook and cranny, taking notes and absorbing as much information as we could. After 5 days at the Las Vegas Oasis RV park, learning and experiencing our new life, we were ready to begin our quest to catch a native fish on a fly in all 50 states, to visit as many National Parks and Monuments as possible and meet wonderful people.
Our first destination was Colorado, to see a daughter and her husband In Westminster. St. George, UT was on our route and the first stop for fuel. It went better than anticipated.
We stopped at our first excursion RV Park in Green River Utah, called “Shady Acres” which was an o.k. park, good for one night. The second RV park was in Wheat Ridge, CO, at the Applewood Village Estates area. It was an interesting experience backing the Unity for the first time. It was amusing to discover that we both had different ideas as to which way was which when giving directions for turning the wheels as the RV was backed up, yet we soon worked it out. We were there for a few days when our son-in-law let us know that they were expecting snow the next day. It is not unusual to have snow in Colorado in May. Sure enough, the next morning, the 18th of May we woke up to snow!
We decided that it was time to leave, so we said “Good-bye” and left for South Dakota where we registered our Unity. We stayed several days in Rapid City as we worked on different projects for the RV and the Porta Boat that we’d bought.
Cindy had a niece getting married in Cardston, Canada, so we headed to Lethbridge Canada where we stopped to attend the Star Wars/John Deer Tractor themed wedding. The weather was fair and the scenery great. I’m sure the Unity felt at home, being back in Canada.
At this time, we take a pause in our narrative to explain something about how our vehicles received their names. Our CRV’s first CA license looked like this:
If you notice the letters: MGU0, we thought it sounded a lot like “Magoo”, so thus we have “Mr. Magoo!” When we got the Unity Leisure Travel Van, we racked our brains for a name. Miss Magoo didn’t sound elegant enough for such a beautiful vehicle. After many weeks and a lot of thought and discussion, Cindy came up with “Miss M”. The name stuck and our RV from this point on will be called “Miss M”.
Back to our adventure. After Lethbridge, we headed to Iowa to fish with Cindy’s Aunt Nancy and Uncle Phil. We checked off our first state on our quest with a nice sized bluegill in Iowa.
We then travelled to Ohio to see Rusty’s mom while she was visiting her older sister in Columbus, Ohio. We travelled to Illinois to visit friends from our Document Preservation Mission, then back to Rapid City, South Dakota for the 4th of July and Doctor appointments. This is also the time that we put Miss M to the real test when we camped at the Dutchman National Forest Campground which had no services, our first Dry Camping experience. Here we took the opportunity to visit a wonderful national Monument-Mount Rushmore. It was amazing to see the ingenuity it took to sculpt this fantastic monument. We enjoyed it so much, we vowed to return at a later date.
Now it was off to Colorado and to Utah.
We caught a Greenback Cutthroat trout in Colorado at Zimmerman Lake and a Bonneville Cutthroat in a nice little stream in Utah. We spent several days at Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal, UT. This was an amazing experience, yet we decided that it would have been better in the fall or spring. It became rather warm here.
Next, we visited eastern Idaho where we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary, then on to Wyoming where we spent 2 1\2 weeks waiting for the Full Eclipse, which happened on August 21, 2017. (See our “Eclipse” Blog for more.) While waiting for the eclipse, Rusty caught the mountain whitefish for the Wyoming fish. Many fishing guides were not very happy with this fish, as it was not a sought-after species. We would remedy that later.
After this momentous occasion, we headed to Kalispell, MT for some maintenance on Miss M. Since we weren’t too far from Glacier National Park, we decided to head there to see what we could see even though there was a lot of smoke from forest fires. We saw some of the parks even though it was smoky, then ended up leaving early when the fires and smoke became too close for us. So, we headed for Eastern Idaho and Island Park before heading to Yellowstone National Park. On our second day, we had another Leisure Unity park right next to our Unity. We thought that was so fun to see! In Yellowstone, Cindy caught her first fish on a fly, a Yellowstone cutthroat. (See her article for more.) This was a bonus, tribute fish for Wyoming.
We left Yellowstone on the day of the first snowfall of the season and made our way back to South
Dakota for some doctor appointments. On the way, we stopped at Devils Tower in Wyoming and took this spectacular picture of Miss M with the Tower as a backdrop.
After we finished our appointments in South Dakota, we left for Northern Idaho, stopping at Cardwell, MT on the way. Here we camped at a “Famous” Campground due to Lewis and Clark’s camping there!
After a trip down Memory Lane in Coeur d’ Alene, ID for Cindy, we arrived in Washougal, WA just in time to surprise Cindy’s younger sister and niece for another wedding.
We spent 3 months at Cindy’s Mom while Cindy had her knee operation and recovery. While there we helped Cincy’s mom with needed home maintenance.
Rusty fished the Washougal river several times trying to catch Coho Salmon or Steelhead. The Coho run was very small, and the Steelhead run was late. Between high, unfishable water conditions and a few fish in the river he was not successful.
After the first of the year, we went to Southern California to meet Rusty’s mom who was flying to San Diego to visit her twin sister. We found out at the last minute that she had Pneumonia and could not come. We parked in Cindy’s niece in Escondido for about a week. We took Miss M to Dixon Lake Campground, which looked out over the City of Escondido. It was a spectacular sight at night. Rusty tried fishing in Dixon Lake for fun and even brought Cindy’s 3-year-old great niece fishing, but no luck. Rusty tried surf fishing and fishing Mission Bay without success. We are learning that new types of fishing have a steep learning curve. We will plan for more time to be successful.
We visited Joshua Tree National Park for a day then went to Tonopah, Arizona to visit our friends, the Ashes whom we’d met in Colorado.
Rusty also had the wrist he injured in California x-rayed and fortunately had no broken bones. We are presently staying with friends in Green Valley Arizona, hiding from the cold and planning when, where and how to get fish in Arizona and New Mexico.
Thus far, we have had a few ups and downs, mostly ups. We’ve enjoyed our adventure so far and found that Miss M has been the perfect vehicle for our many stops and starts on this pleasant and exciting journey.
Disclaimer: Boondocking, or the art of finding free places to park an RV without hookups, can be addictive. You have been warned!
When we bought our RV, we had dreams of being parked in the wilderness with no one around and waking to spectacular sunrises with no other sound but singing birds and the coffee brewing. After a couple of years and many months on the road, we realized this dream was possible. We got hooked on the boondocking lifestyle. Some may call it “Off the grid”, “Dry camping”, “Dispersed Camping” or “Wild Camping” but the idea is the same…it is about heading out there in the wild and having fun camping… for free.
There is something liberating about finding a place to park for the night or even for a few days for free, especially if you find a spot like this!
So the question is how do we find these places? Travelers like to share their stories and if we are lucky, some will disclose their secret locations with us only if we promise not to tell anyone! Who wants to return to their favorite location only to find it is full of fellow RVers? Maybe we won’t be that lucky so where can we get that precious information?
To us, the real question is: Where can we park safely overnight for free? Safety is the number one issue for Joanne and I. Although we feel relatively safe in a Wal-Mart parking lot (convenient but this is the last resort choice) we would not feel comfortable parking on a city street or in a city park without feeling safe about it. We would be on the lookout for either a police or security presence or other RVs parked there as well. Otherwise, we would choose another location.
Harvest Hosts has been a very useful resource for us. This is a membership-based service where you can stay overnight (for one night) at host locations such as wineries, farms, and museums. You must call ahead to make arrangements (and arrive during business hours) and it is normal etiquette to thank the host by making a purchase at their place of business. There are hundreds of hosts scattered in the US and Canada and you are likely to find one on your itinerary. We have made wonderful discoveries this way. Furthermore, we have always felt safe at every place we stayed.
Boondockerswelcome is another membership-based service, but this time you are staying on a fellow RVer’s property. In this case, a little more planning is required because you must contact the potential host through a secure messaging system, which sends an email to the potential host. We have found that it is best to contact hosts a few days or even a week ahead of time to get a response. Many hosts are travelers like us and may not have access to emails. This has been more difficult to manage because we are often the type to decide on a destination as we go. But once we got a positive response back, it has always been a memorable experience. We enjoy visiting cities and like to be parked near the action, and this has been an excellent option, assuming there were hosts in the area. You may consider leaving a small token gift to your host, especially if a full hookup was offered. Have a look at the “resources” tab on the website for other very useful links. The next tip happens to be on that resources page.
Frugal-RV-Travel is a sister site to the “boondockerswelcome” website. We have saved hundreds of dollars in camping costs by using their guides to boondocking locations. If you are traveling to Arizona, Southern Utah, Southern Texas, New Mexico, or California (2 guides), you will find (very) detailed directions to some spectacular locations such as this:
Free and low-cost campgrounds is a guidebook to free or under $12 campgrounds. Although we have had less success with this guide, we often use it as a reference and it has provided us with directions to nice free sites. We have found some of the information in our 2014 edition to be out of date. Some GPS coordinates took us down a long dirt road at a private residence, not at all what we expected, or in another case, the coordinates were for the middle of a lake! Also, some campsites were closed for business. Now we cross-reference the information from the guide with Allstays, an indispensable camping app for mobile devices. If you do not have this application, get it now.
Bureau of Land Management also known as BLMs manage public land mostly in the western US states. There are some campgrounds managed by the BLM that are fee based ($10-$15 usually) but there are many dispersed camping sites that are free of cost. Those can be discovered by visiting a BLM office, the BLM website, and some visitor centers offer information. In addition, the “Allstays” app can display BLM sites, and other online sources too. In many cases you will need a permit to stay at a dispersed campsite, which is available at BLM offices. The permit is free, but you will need to list names of the people in your party, vehicle information, the area where you will be parking and the length of your stay.
Some other useful apps like Campendium and Ultimate Campgrounds are regularly updated with free locations. Another useful resource is the community-driven freecampsites.net.
When in a bind, we sometimes have to resort to parking on asphalt, most often at a store or other business that usually allows for this practice. Make sure you ask for permission because some cities have bylaws that restrict overnight parking. By calling the non-emergency police line at the local town, you will know whether it is legal or not. You may even get some tips on where to park legally and safely for the night.
Here are few of the spots popular with travelers (again – if in doubt, ask for permission):
Have you ever gone camping in the wild? This is what we love to do and it gets better if you also have friends with you. For us, it is the ultimate thing in camping not only because of the money we save, but because it fulfills the inner explorers in both of us.
Do you have other ways to discover boondocking sites? Let us know in the comments below.