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    Home Away from Home

    A guide to RV Travel for mobile professionals


    Recreational vehicles: They're big and small, elegant and basic. Great for camping trips or quick weekend getaways. But for a growing number of people, including healthcare travelers, RVs are simply home.

    Back to nature...in style At first, these campers were basic structures that provided shelter from the weather and a place to sleep. Over time, however, manufacturers began offering such luxuries as stovetop burners, small refrigerators, and even showers, all contained within units that could be driven or towed. Today's RVs have come a long way since then. In fact, they can be as plain or as extravagant as you wish, with some featuring washers and dryers, satellite or cable television, and extensive security systems.

    And they aren't just for camping any more. The idea of paring down lifestyles to fit into the confines of a 20-foot, 36-foot, or even larger motor home and heading out to explore the country is fast becoming chic. During the past 20 years, motor home ownership has increased by at least 42 percent, according to a 2001 survey conducted by the University of Michigan and commissioned by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). That study also revealed nearly seven million households owned RVs, a figure projected to jump to eight million by 2010.

    Who's doing it? Not just for retired couples, this lifestyle is popular with people of all ages and occupations. On average, those who purchase motor homes are 49 years of age and married. In fact, the majority of RVers-as well as the fastest-growing group of owners-are baby boomers (35- to 54-year-olds). Empty nesters, whose children are grown and living on their own, comprise a large percentage of this demographic. In fact, it is this population that really takes the RV lifestyle to heart-moving to warmer climates during the winter or making RVs their permanent homes.

    Take, for example, Berry Bell, MSW, and Gus Bell, BSN, RN, CEN. "We are full-time RVers," says Gus, an emergency room nurse traveling with Procare USA, based in Farmington, Connecticut. "It started out as a convenient way to visit family. Then, we began crisscrossing the country checking out national parks. Now it's just a part of our lives."

    Although the majority of mobile practitioners choose to stay in company-provided housing, an increasing number prefer to live in recreational vehicles while on assignment. Interestingly, many of them fit the same profile as the general RVing population-in other words, empty nesters. "Less than 10 percent of our nurses have RVs, but those who do are married and more mature," says Donna Dickson, a recruiter for Travel Nurse Across America, in Little Rock, Arkansas. "Still, there are some younger practitioners expressing an interest in RVing. We even have families with children traveling this way."

    No place like home Why choose an RV over other accommodations, which probably have more room? Enthusiasts offer this explanation: The motor home is your personal space, no matter where you are. "When I started traveling three years ago, I lived mostly in hotel rooms," says Bonnie Hanes, (R)TT, a radiation therapist with CompHealth, a staffing firm located in Salt Lake City, Utah. "But I got tired of that. The RV feels more like home. It is our place." For now, Bonnie and her husband have parked their fifth-wheel in Columbus, Ohio, where she is assigned to Grant Medical Center.

    Veteran travelers note that when you sign up for this career alternative, you accept the fact that you will be changing surroundings frequently. Living in an RV, however, can provide the best of both worlds-all the benefits of a mobile career and the luxury of returning home at the end of each shift. "Travelers who live in their RVs do not have to pack and unpack their belongings every few months," says Ms. Dickson. "They just leave one campsite and drive off to another."

    "Whenever you travel, you have to worry about what to pack, what you might leave behind, what the accommodations will be like, and what your surroundings might include," adds Gus, whose RV is a fifth-wheel. Currently working at Midcoast Hospital in Brunswick, Maine, he explains, "This way, we take our home with us and we are more in control."

    Getting the green light Driving your home everywhere is also convenient when traveling with pets. While it is common for clinicians to bring animals along on assignments, it can sometimes complicate housing arrangements. "We have one nurse who travels in her RV with three birds and a cat," says Ms. Dickson. "Normally, it would be very difficult to find housing for her. This way, she is able to take her pets wherever she wishes to go.

    "There are more and more restrictions being placed on travelers with pets due to liability issues," she continues. "Also, some property management organizations restrict the breeds that they will allow."

    Of course, some RV parks prohibit pets, but there are still plenty that do allow them. For the Bells, this was important. Notes Berry, "We have two 60-pound dogs, so we always find out in advance if pets are welcome."


    Anne Baye Ericksen
    Anne Baye Ericksen is a freelance writer based in Simi Valley, California.