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Old 05-03-2018, 09:24 AM   #1
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RV Anthropology

As a relatively new (1 year) RV'er, I was curious about the types and lifestyles of fellow travelers I see at parks. I looked for a book that might answer my questions. All I found was

Over the Next Hill: An Ethnography of RVing Seniors in North America
https://amzn.to/2IeUFTS
by two Canadian anthropologists.
Living either full or part time in a recreational vehicle has been an alternative lifestyle in North America since the 1920s. By the 1930s, Wally Byam's Airstream company could not keep up with the demand for his self-contained "house trailers." And today, "RVing" has become so widespread that, for perhaps two million retired North Americans, home is a recreational vehicle. In this book, anthropologists Dorothy and David Counts tell the story of their research living the life of RVing seniors in trailer parks, "boondocking" sites on government land, laundromats, and other meeting places across the continent.
This book was interesting, if a bit redundant in its writing. Are there any other good studies out there?
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Old 05-03-2018, 05:11 PM   #2
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I've read several contemporary books about the generalities of Airstream life, and while they left me with a few useful practical tips, I don't really consider them to be penetrating studies of Airstream culture. For anything close to an anthropological perspective, I would have to go back to John Steinbeck's Travels with Charlie, which is not about Airstreams, and is a little dated. However, it is about the people he met on the road, which is what John Steinbeck did best, and no matter how dated, will never be boring. A well-written contemporary book about life in an Airstream is The Longest Road, by Philip Caputo. Sorry, I’ve never read a scholarly work on the subject, so can't help you there.
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Old 05-04-2018, 07:49 AM   #3
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I also loved Travels with Charlie. Especially his essay on Texas.
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Old 05-29-2018, 08:59 AM   #4
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Old 05-29-2018, 09:29 AM   #5
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Now I'm feeling really old.
I've reached that age where anthropologists study me!
Soon it will be archaeologists .
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Old 05-30-2018, 07:03 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Mollysdad View Post
Now I'm feeling really old.
I've reached that age where anthropologists study me!
Soon it will be archaeologists .
And after that, the paleontologists.
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Old 05-30-2018, 09:04 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TayaraTravel View Post
As a relatively new (1 year) RV'er, I was curious about the types and lifestyles of fellow travelers I see at parks. I looked for a book that might answer my questions. << snip<<
I don't think you will find a book that has the answers. You will learn more useful information by observing those you encounter.

I've been camping a long time, ~ 60 years, trailer camping since the early 70's and tent camping before that. I've found there's as much variation in RV people's lifestyles as there is in the general population. Too many to list in a single book. I see some who do not know where their next meal will come from or where they will stay the night. I see some who are very successful and wealthy. And there are those that are every level in between.

One thing I've notice when visiting privately owned travel parks; there seems to be an increase in 'stayers' (semi permanent RVers, not 'travelers'), many more than there used to be.

I've become more of a 'stayer' since retirement . We travel during warm seasons, and stay in the south when it's cold up north. I'd guess hundreds of thousands of RVers, if not millions, make the snowbird trek each year. We live in our trailers as much as, or more than, our house.
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Old 05-30-2018, 09:51 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by TayaraTravel View Post
I also loved Travels with Charlie. Especially his essay on Texas.
This great quote has appeared here many times.

"A trip takes us."

Yes!




John Steinbeck -- Travels with Charley: In Search Of America
“Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip. Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the glass bum relax and go along with it. Only then do the frustrations fall away. In this a journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” [emphasis added]
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Old 05-31-2018, 06:48 AM   #9
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I found the book useful because it is based on in-depth interviews and observations over several years by two trained observers. Way more than I will encounter. It presents a spectrum of RVers, with major focus on long-term and full-time people, especially the "Escapees". I hadn't know about Escapees prior to reading, and have since joined that club.

Our personal travel style means we don't interact much with our fellow travelers. This may change in time, but for now we tend to stay on the move, usually just 1-2 nights in a place. So reading has greatly improved my understanding of the the people I see.

You mention more "stayers". One surprising thing I learned from the book is that private RV parks have a lifecycle. In the beginning, they attract mainly overnighters like us and short-term customers. As time goes by, people return to the park (if they like it) and get to know friends who also return. The park starts catering to longer-term residents. A community develops. Residents put down permanent or semi-permanent installations (skirts, fences, gardens etc). The park evolves into something more like a mobile home park. I've seen these differences, and had no idea I was seeing a cross-sectional view of a longitudinal process.

Another fascinating sub-culture comprises the people who stay in no RV park at all. Those who live nearly full time in the public BLM LTVAs or the "Slabs".

Quote:
Originally Posted by A W Warn View Post
I don't think you will find a book that has the answers. You will learn more useful information by observing those you encounter.

I've been camping a long time, ~ 60 years, trailer camping since the early 70's and tent camping before that. I've found there's as much variation in RV people's lifestyles as there is in the general population. Too many to list in a single book. I see some who do not know where their next meal will come from or where they will stay the night. I see some who are very successful and wealthy. And there are those that are every level in between.

One thing I've notice when visiting privately owned travel parks; there seems to be an increase in 'stayers' (semi permanent RVers, not 'travelers'), many more than there used to be.

I've become more of a 'stayer' since retirement . We travel during warm seasons, and stay in the south when it's cold up north. I'd guess hundreds of thousands of RVers, if not millions, make the snowbird trek each year. We live in our trailers as much as, or more than, our house.
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Old 05-31-2018, 07:12 AM   #10
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Different personality types have different approaches. In contrast to Steinbeck, I "take the trip" and don't like the trip to take me. I am my own tourmaster and am frustrated and uncomfortable without a specific plan. This has worked well for me in travels over many years and countries. Sometimes plans have needed to be changed (mechanical breakdowns, coup in Bolivia, etc). But I find in general that a good plan lets me use my time and resources better.

To each his own and I enjoy my trips; but I am not likely to have the kind of experiences that lead to a Nobel in literature.


Quote:
Originally Posted by OTRA15 View Post
This great quote has appeared here many times.

"A trip takes us."

Yes!




John Steinbeck -- Travels with Charley: In Search Of America
“Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip. Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the glass bum relax and go along with it. Only then do the frustrations fall away. In this a journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” [emphasis added]
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