Homeless Trailer Trash – The Unspoken Class System In RV Living

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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16 Responses to Homeless Trailer Trash – The Unspoken Class System In RV Living





  3. Diana says:

    It all sound great to me I am planning on moving in to our Rv and hitting the road soon, I am retired disabled and before my time is up I want a chance to see what I have been missing in our wonderful country.

    • Cheap RV Living says:

      Thanks for your comment – every day is a gift, no matter what our age! The time to start living is today, because none of us knows what the future holds. So happy you are going to be able to travel and see all of the beauty…safe travels to you!

  4. Ken says:

    I put you folks alongside Glenn Morissette in my favorits list. Sometime in the next 8 months I’ll be on the road to nowhere. Like an old retired guy I talked to the other day, he said “I wake up every day with nothing to do and when I go to bed I’m only half finished”.

    Here is a note I sent Glenn today. Keep on keeping on.

    Ken here from southern Oregon. Just wanted to drop you a note to let you know how much I enjoy reading of your exploits. I’ve been following your blog since Yahoo gave you the big splash.
    A little about me: I’ll be 70 in April 2013 and plan to be on the road on my birthday if not sooner. I bought a motor home (used) yesterday width the proceeds from the sale of all my wood shop equipment. It didn’t net much but it was enough. I’m single and like it that way. I wasn’t very good in choosing the women in my past.
    I’ve had the pleasure of traveling all over the world, thanks to the good’ol U.S. Air Force, but never had the chance to see our own country. That’s going to change over the course of the next 8 months when I pull out the chalks and fulfill my wonder lust.
    After losing 60% of my retirement in this downturn in the economy I realized that I could be poor anywhere. So I’m going to jump in this “home on Wheels” and be poor in other parts of this great country of ours. So Katie bar the door, here I come.
    Best wishes to ya.

    • Cheap RV Living says:

      Ken…you are an inspiration!

      You are absolutely right -we can be poor anywhere…we felt “poor” with good jobs and tons of bills, in a nice home, too…..let us know when you are on the road – it will be here sooner than you know it!

  5. “An air about them.” LOL! So true! We’ve seen people ask questions on forums where the responses were “just buy a newer model class A and you won’t have those problems.” It makes me think no wonder the rich don’t understand us, the middle-class doesn’t even get it!

    I love our wealthier friends, but I’m drawn to our friends who figure out how to fix things by watching YouTube and getting greasy.

    I wonder if the boondocking community is a little more savvy in general. Most of us are drawn to this lifestyle by the call of silence and natural beauty, and the frugality of it doesn’t hurt a bit. We could never live this lifestyle if we had to stay in crowded, overpriced parks. We probably wouldn’t be allowed in many “resorts.”

    We’ve been enjoying a National Forest for a while, hopscotching our way up and north as the summer progresses, and we see the same folks come and go. I feel an unspoken camaraderie with them. It’s obvious they’re living “the life” too, for whatever reason.

    • Laas says:

      We are doing the same thing right now!! Just selling-hope to be sold by July with rig peckid out by then. Need to find something with bunks. Have 3 children. I too want to adopt but now will be harder with no ‘stick house’. Going to start the process anyway:-). We also home/unschool. Nice to meet you!

  6. Rob says:

    We are in the process of selling our stuff and buying an RV. I have a pension, the kids are gone, I can still walk & remember not own my name but wife wife’s name too! $4 a gallon for gas? That may be cheap compared with the cost in 5 years! Now is the time to do it.

    This is going to be a on a budget, not the type of budget some of the people on the different RV lists are used to either. When I ask for generic advice & they start talking about $50k RVs being a good deal I KNOW we are not on the same page & I am embarrassed to say what our whole RV budget is.
    A class system? Sure, that’s how it is in the world but I can live with it. My life has always been a bit different, or so it looked to me.

    See ya on the road or maybe in the desert at Quartzsite next January?

    • Cheap RV Living says:


      Thanks for your comments! You are so right…now is the time to do it. Living in the moment instead of the future can do wonders, making you feel truly alive once more. Please keep us posted on your progress and travels – it inspires others who are thinking about doing it, to see it actually can be done. Take care – Jim and Robin

    • Rob, so true. I remember the “controversy” when Glenn Morissette revealed that he spent something less than $12K/ year. The very IDEA that someone would live so frugally enraged people. I couldn’t help mentioning that we have vandwelling friends who spend ~$300 a month, and that’s mostly on groceries.

      I love it when people stand up to the high-priced assumptions and tell the truth about their lives.

    • I was just thinking that, if you don’t already know about them, you would enjoy the Vandwellers’ group: http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/VanDwellers/

      You don’t have to live in a van to join. It’s more of a mindset than a vehicle.


      • Cheap RV Living says:

        Thanks for the link…will definitely check them out!

        • Yasmin says:

          It’s contagious! Happy to have found your blog. Our house is on the merakt and we’re searching for our road-home right now. Oh, what an exciting adventure! Maybe we’ll see you. :)www.clanofparents.comwww.werhumansbeing.com

          • Cheap RV Living says:

            We love those sites you posted…now we are distracted by yet MORE great rv sites…thanks for posting!