There are many ways to discover the world. You can book the traditional organized trip, duly follow the prearranged route and travel from one hotel to the next. Transfers are usually by coach, and a tourist guide will provide information about local places of interest. Americans like organized trips through Europe and usually visit ten countries in as many days, to finally fly back home exhausted... Hence the saying : "This is Thursday, it must be Belgium"...
Organized trips present the advantage that the travel agency takes care of everything, but there are some drawbacks. You have no control over your time and only see what the guide wants you to see, and you have hardly any contact with the local population. You move from one hotel to the next and live out of your suitcase, you eat whatever is being served and have no control whatsoever over your diet.
Another way of traveling is by mapping out your own route. You choose the hotels along the way and use rental cars for transport. This method requires some preparation and planning, but allows much more personal input and local contact.
In the USA and Canada there is a third way, even though it is less well known in Europe. Full-Timing with a Recreational Vehicle is a modern and very comfortable way of "camping". This modern form of travel and exploration is hardly comparable with the traditional style of camping with a tent, a "caravan", or a camping car. However, the equipment and investment are far more extensive.
The United States offers every imaginable tourist aspect. It contains every aspect that you could find in several European countries : sun, sea, beaches, mountains, lakes, snow, dunes, deserts, mega-cities and mini-villages. You'll find every possible sport, recreational activity and incredibly beautiful natural parks !
The USA presents a well developed tourist infrastructure, with all kinds of things to see : theme parks, museums, animal parks, music, casinos, guided tours, and an unlimited possibility to have fun. But there are also very interesting historical facts and places to discover.
The American community stands technologically at the very top, and it offers every possible amenity. There is an irreproachable legal network and security, and emergency help is shouldered by an extensive police force and medical service all over both nations. There is no more crime than in every other large city in the world, but with a minimum of precautions and common sense no problems will be encountered.
In the whole of North America and a large part of Canada the English language is prevalent. In east-Canada an archaic but understandable form of French is spoken. The general cost of living is most acceptable, and even more so if one considers the actual euro / dollar exchange rate.
Most major interstates, highways and roads are in excellent condition, and connections and communications are impeccable, as are telecommunications by phone, computer and e-mail. There are reliable banks everywhere, and the major credit cards constitute a safe and comfortable method of payment. An incredible number of malls, shopping centers, shops and boutiques offer an extremely extensive range of products.
There are more than 150.000 campgrounds in the USA, Canada and Mexico ! They come in every category, size, price and comfort, and several excellent "Camping Directories" help you make your choice. Practically all of these campgrounds are guarded, and during the day there is always someone available. Every campground offers electricity, water and a phone, and often even dedicated phone lines, WiFi and TV-connections.
Next to the US, Canada and Mexico are also part of the North American continent, so that there are virtually limitless possibilities for exploration ! Mind you, visiting Mexico in a camper or RV requires some additional precautions and careful planning.
The definition of Fulltiming is actually living full time in a mobile home, instead of in a house or an apartment. The idea is to move one's Recreational Vehicle (RV) from one campground to the next, and use the RV as a base for exploration. As with most things, there are advantages and inconveniences to fulltiming.
The most important advantage of Fulltiming is that you live in your own "house" and interior, you can come and go as you please, every activity can take place in your own good time, you can prepare your own food (or eat out), and there is an exceptionally good contact with the local population.
The inconveniences are a rather large initial investment, the maintenance of your "house", the fact that you "have to" prepare your own food (or eat out), and that you have to appreciate the social life in a campground. There is also a bit more administration involved. However, most of these points are not really an inconvenience, nor are they much different from living in a conventional home.
When they retire, many people come to the conclusion that their house has become far too large for them. The children are gone, and the cost of maintenance, upkeep, heating and air condition of a large home comes to quite a bit more than what is reasonable for just two people. The alternative is to move into a smaller home.
Many Fulltimers have sold their large house and bought a Recreational Vehicle instead. This way, they can satisfy their unfulfilled need for travel and exploration, and enjoy a few adventurous years before they finally settle down.
Cooking your own pot is not necessarily an inconvenience either. When we get older, our digestive system functions less efficiently. Eating out is always fun, but if we need to start controlling what we eat, Grandma's Cooking is simply unbeatable... Every RV'er always takes the time to shop and cook ; shopping is always enjoyable, and cooking can be an interesting culinary experiment !
Life in a campground is far more social than life in an anonymous apartment building, and at every moment there is an immediate contact with the neighbors. These usually have all the time in the world for a nice chat, or for any immediate help you would require. Making contact with even perfect strangers is extremely easy in the USA, and you'll notice hardly any difference in "standing", according to the size of the RV...
** Continue reading with part 2 **