Robin would tell you that I pouted when I had to give up my magazines, when we began this rv lifestyle – I think I would rather have given up food. But I still view them online from time to time. Anyway, a new article in Rolling Stone magazine about the demise of the middle class got me to thinking. The article focused on different people and the changes in their lives that took them from being regular middle-class folks with jobs, cars, homes and debt, to being homeless. One of the subjects of the article was a man with children who lived for a while in an RV in a safe parking lot in Santa Barbara, California. It was described as an old Winnebago that he bought for $700, and he was very fond of it because it provided him and his children with some shelter until he could get a job and Section 8 housing.
It made me wonder if it is possible that there is a class system in this whole full-time RV lifestyle that we may not be aware of, or are only subconsciously aware of. I have felt at times when we meet someone who isn’t an RVer and tell them our situation, that we were looked down upon, almost as homeless people. Our motor home isn’t shiny, new and huge, so we certainly could be seen as poor folk. We drive a disposable car rather than pull a shiny new small toad behind us. We live – or try to live – in a frugal way and conserve our resources as much as possible. But we don’t consider ourselves homeless, of course, because Joey is our home on wheels.
But according to the standard middle-class values that currently rule in America, we really are homeless – we have no permanent dwelling to go to when our mobile life is over. But are other RVers who are clearly more financially secure seen as homeless as well? Online, there is a clear division between these upper and middle class RVers and us lower class people. There are web sites that we instantly feel attracted to because the people behind them are very similar to us – non-retired fulltimers, people who live this way by choice, make a living in many different ways, and who like what they do. But other rv sites have an air about them.
I’ve gone to some apparently upper class rv forums for maintenance and repair questions in the past, and I get answers such as “just replace the whole circuit board” or “you’re gonna need a whole new this or that but the investment is worth it.” If they saw my bank account or knew I had no credit card, they probably wouldn’t have wasted their time answering. But most troubling is why did I feel ashamed, in an rv forum, to tell them their suggestions were thousands of dollars off the mark?
We remember an RV park owner that we were talking to once about a summer stay who used the term “gypsies” in a derogatory way. He was describing RVers who had stayed at the park and used emergency medical services in the area during their stay. When they left, they gave no forwarding address – obviously in order to avoid the bills that he assumed they were getting. Maybe he thinks anyone who stays in his park is a gypsy, but I doubt it – it seemed to be a word used to describe a lower class of vagabonds, as it always has been used.
The point is that America is supposed to be classless, but it really isn’t. There is a wealthy upper class, a middle class that is rapidly disappearing, and at least one lower class. There may be more – the working poor, the poor on public assistance , and the homeless. In the fulltime RV world, we don’t believe we are better or worse than anyone else, and we always hope that everyone we meet feels the same – but we know better. We gypsies have to stick together.
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