Reassessing Transitioning to an RV Lifestyle

My new 2004 Popular 170 Roadtrek


Occasionally our dreams and goals change. Sometimes in a 360-degree trajectory.

That is what happened with me. Several years before the pandemic, I wanted to transition into a tiny house. Not because of cost, I own a lovely home and thoroughly enjoy my lovely gardens. I just want to simplify my life; I no longer need all the sssstuff I have accumulated over the years. Nor do I have anyone to pass it on to.

I researched the tiny house movement (small houses between 65 and 887 square feet, which can also be on wheels for mobility) and that kind of lifestyle resonated with me. After retirement, I would reassess this and find beachfront property to place or build my tiny house.

Two years later a friend was planning to visit former co-workers who reside in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island (PEI) in Canada; we live in Ontario, Canada. I invited myself to go on this journey. Then the pandemic hit. The borders were still open at that time. I realized traveling in an RV would be both comfortable and dependable.

My experience with RVs stemmed from traveling to Florida with my family as a kid. In 1972, my parents purchased a truck camper that went on top of our pickup truck. Back then, you could ride in the back of the camper while driving. And of course, there were no seatbelts.

My brother and I thoroughly enjoyed fighting and playing on the queen size bed located over the cab, while our parents navigated their way to our destinations.

Aside from seeing Disney World, we travelled to numerous locations throughout Ontario like Manitoulin Island, the Thousand Islands and Sudbury to see the Big Nickel. However, we never ventured to other provinces. I used to be on the look out for the yellow KOA signs. I liked sweeping out our tiny cottage on wheels when we went camping. Even disassembling the table to make the bed was not considered a chore. I am sure my mother, who made most of our meals did not feel the same way. We thoroughly enjoyed our vacations with our camper trailer.

There are several types of recreational vehicles and numerous manufactures. Towable recreational vehicles include fifth wheels, travel trailers, truck campers, pop-up campers, tear drops and toy haulers.

Motorized RVs include Class A motorhomes, bus conversions, Class B motorhomes (also known as conversion vans), camper vans; and Class C motorhomes.

I explored the tear drop first, as it was small enough for my SUV to tow. Although cute, I was not keen that the kitchen was outside. Residing in Canada, inclement weather can occur not only in the winter. Furthermore, I was not crazy about having to tow a trailer. I do not have a good sense of perception, not to mention a poor sense of direction, so I do not enjoy backing up my SUV let alone a trailer that will go one way while my vehicle goes another.

Another reason I do not care for the tear drop was there was no bathroom. Despite watching numerous YouTube videos on van and RV living stating bathrooms are overrated, I strongly disagree. I need and want this luxury item. My backcountry camping expedition in Algonquin Provincial Park in August only confirmed this. (That is another story.)

I found that a Class B recreational motorhome would be my best option. Class B RVs are the size of vans ranging from 17 feet to 24 feet and 9 to 12 feet tall, are equipped with all the amenities of other motorhomes with sleeping arrangements, kitchen, and a bathroom.

What I like most about the Class B motorhome is its size. It is easier to park in small spaces at campgrounds, can be used as daily commuter for exploring, trips into town, and ferry costs may be lower than for the larger rigs. However, the most advantageous point for me is not having to tow and back up a trailer.

Furthermore, once parked, one just needs to turn around and you are already in your unit instead of having to exit the vehicle to gain access to your travel trailer. Not fun especially during inclement weather. I also love that to use the bathroom, nothing has to be inflated. Nor do you have to open a slider. Just open the bathroom door and voila, you’re in business to do your business.

These types of RVs are great for one or two people but can also be suited for small families. Seating ranges from five to eight people and can sleep from three to six people. The pricing of Class B motorhomes is widely varied. Some can be inexpensive while other models can cost as much as a Class A motorhome between $85,000 and $150,000. But their resale value is better than most of the other RVs. Also, Class B vans are the safest RVs due to their stability control.

It did not take long to realize that a Class B RV could be my tiny home on wheels. I could travel throughout my beautiful country of Canada to explore all ten provinces and three territories. However, with all borders closed, the trip to Newfoundland and Labrador was cancelled.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, RV shows were also cancelled. I was most looking forward in checking out the various rigs at the Toronto RV Show in January 2021 and one in Kitchener in March. I would employ the various new skills and techniques I had learned to evaluate an RV. Like bringing a mirror along to check what is hidden inside a cabinet.

There is a debate on whether to purchase a used or new RV. Research suggests that buying a used RV especially during the first two years is a better option. And it was highly noted that it was essential to rent an RV prior to purchasing one.

A year later, I decided to take my retirement earlier than expected, and left work at the end of March 2021. I wanted to spend more time with my father, then residing in a nursing home. Traveling to other provinces was not an option but Ontario is a huge province. I decided to invite myself to visit a friend who resides in Sudbury, Ontario — a five-hour road trip — and to rent an RV to test the waters.

In finding RV renting sites, there are two major ones in Canada: Outdoorsy and RVezy who also state that one can rent out RVs on Airbnb. Who knew? Fortunately, I found a trailer site that rented motorized RVs in Toronto, a two-hour drive. Since Class B RVs are hard to rent, I was going to book a Class C. Research indicates that renting RVs is vital before purchasing one as well as trying several types of rigs.

Since my goal was to live in an RV, I thought trying a bigger model would allow me to make a comparison. I informed the person that I just wanted to drive the rig to get experience not use it for camping. Nevertheless, I was going to be charged the same price, which was expensive. However, doing a Google search on this company, I became leery of the negative reviews and cancelled my request. Luckily, I happened upon another site a few days before my trip, where I was offered an exceptionally good deal close to where I lived, and so booked a Class C RV.

On a beautiful warm day in June, I drove to Kitchener, Ontario to pick up my rental. I arrived early to find a beast of a rig.

a class C RV, the Sunseeker
2016 24-foot Forest River Sunseeker Class C RV

A 2016 Forest River Sunseeker Class C RV, at 24-foot, seemed very intimidating, and I wondered what I had gotten myself into. The owner of the rental reassured me that a Class C was no different than driving a large van. He accompanied me to get gas for the RV. I did feel comfortable driving to the gas station which was not far but noticed he backed the rig up to the pump, and to put in more propane. (Hindsight, I probably should not have filled the propane tank since I would not be using it hence, more weight.) After providing me with some tips, like ensuring there is sufficient room at a gas station to fill and being cognitive of the height, I was on my way home.

Despite being late, I decided to drop by a friend’s place to show off my beastly rental. My friend Marg was impressed and could not believe the size. Thank goodness she did share her worry of me managing this large RV. Since it was late when I arrived home, I just threw everything in the back of the unit as if I were going on a trip. The following morning, I left early to make my journey to Sudbury. By the time I reached the highway, I felt there was a lot of sway that I had not noticed the evening before.

As a result, I became anxious and stayed in the slow lane and kept the speed less than one hundred kilometers per hour. On the 400 series highway, one might be able to maintain such speed with three and four lanes of traffic. However, the road eventually petered out to only one lane. My anxiousness increased. With the threat of rain, I never stopped to eat and kept driving to reach my destination.

To my great dismay, the run-off lanes, a second lane to pass slow drivers like myself, were all blocked due to construction. Again, my anxiousness increased. I stopped at a bridge to allow traffic to pass in the other direction. The RV swayed a great deal even when small vehicles passed. I had hoped people seeing this would understand why I had to drive so slowly.

Seven hours later I finally reached my destination. I was exhausted, tensed and vigorously hugged my friends, glad that I had finally arrived in one piece. The seven-hour journey should have taken five hours. Traumatized by my experience, over the four days of my visit, I did not even sleep in the RV.

However, time spent with great company, being pampered, and enjoying the beautiful scenery, which I fell in love with, I totally de-stressed. Watching a tranquil lake with a pair of beavers swimming to one shoreline in the morning and then returning at the end of the day will do that. I was transfixed with the peace, quiet and close to nature that my friends’ waterfront property on a gorgeous lake provided. This is the lifestyle I love and could imagine myself living.

After three days of this bliss, I was ready to embark on my journey back home. I decided to take the back roads, which in RV lingo are called “blue highways.” Aside from getting lost in Guelph, my journey home was uneventful and much less stressful. I was so ecstatic when I arrived at the rental site, I almost kissed the ground.

I decided then and there that living in an RV may not be for me. I am not a fan of driving the 400-series highways; I have no sense of direction; and never want to experience the sway of a rig ever again. Being enthralled with the landscape I visited however, my plan to get a tiny home on beachfront become prominent.

Nevertheless, a year later, my quest to find and purchase a Class B RV has been fulfilled. Someone in my neighborhood recently asked if I was interested in purchasing his 2004 Roadtrek Popular 170 Anniversary Edition before he listed it on Autotrader. I jumped on this opportunity; one I could not walk away from with a 17-foot rig. I can not believe my lucky stars.

My new 2004 Popular 170 Roadtrek
My new 2004 Popular 170 Roadtrek

Despite my friend and I flying to Halifax and PEI in July, I might consider traveling to Newfoundland in my new RV in August. Who knows, maybe traveling throughout Canada, I might love being in an RV and could reconsider transitioning into the RV lifestyle.