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What is your why?

Ben & Kaitlin Armstrong

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.

  1. The build quality was far superior to other units we looked at. Both in finishes and in the materials used to make such a solid home for us.
  2. The smell. When we walked in, had a hint of a new car, or the leather and flooring, but was nowhere near the same off-gassing we had experienced in other units, a much cleaner environment.
  3. The size was perfect for our plans. We tour, we can park it on a street in any city, I am parked in Victoria as I write his. It drives like a car and is plenty roomy inside for us two people to live in full time.
  4. They are Canadian made. This makes me happy, not that I would want to take away from USA made brands or European brands, but I am Canadian and it makes sense for me to live in a Canadian built structure.

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!

Ben & Kaitlin Armstrong

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