By Shawn Loring, on behalf of the Escapees Board of Directors
This first appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of Escapees magazine.
On July Fourth we began our 42nd year as a club. Normally, at this time of year, we dedicate time to celebrating this truly wonderful lifestyle—full of travel and adventure. Unfortunately, as we author this installment, we are still in the throes of the Covid-19 crisis. Our core message for over four decades has been to enthusiastically encourage you to take to the open road. So, it is with heavy hearts that we are forced to recommend the opposite: hunker down and shelter-in-place.
As we struggle to make sense of this crisis, we can find some clarity about the effect it has had, and is having, on the RVing community in an ancient Eastern curse: May you find what you are looking for!
May You Find What You Are Looking For
How can such a lovely sentiment be a curse? Who among us doesn’t want to achieve their goals and have their wants and needs met? These words become a curse because of an implicit corollary—wishes come true, not free. You may be among the many other RVers who adopted the nomadic life of an RVer for the freedom it provides. The lifestyle has a hidden promise that you can come and go and that you will be a welcomed benefit to the communities you visit and explore.
Unfortunately, in the midst of this crisis as various governments issued shelter-in-place orders, the approximately one million full-time families were forgotten. Shelter-in-place assumes that you have a place to which you can retreat. At the same time, RV parks were deemed nonessential under the auspice that they are for recreational activities. However, to our community of full-time RVers, RV parks are essential. Moreover, some campgrounds that could have remained open opted to close out of fear that RVers would bring Covid-19 to their communities. At one point during this crisis, approximately 50 percent of all campgrounds, public and private, closed. These sweeping closures created a nationwide game of musical chairs as full-time RVers scrambled to find available full-hookup sites.
We joined a caucus of industry leaders, and, at times, stood alone, who tried to encourage and compel governments, and even private campgrounds, to enable campgrounds to remain open. As we often say of our advocacy efforts, we cannot promise results; we can only promise action. We struggled to protect your ability to find a place to hunker down. During this crisis, we suffered as many defeats as we had successes.
Additionally heart-wrenching were the aspersions cast upon RVers. Over more than four decades, we worked, and continue to work, hard to combat the impression some have that we only live this lifestyle because we have no other options. In reality, most of us choose this lifestyle. It is our expression of the American (or Canadian) Dream. However, in moments like this, you may have found yourself unwelcome in cities and towns, even in places you call home. Sadly, as a community, we are lessened by the stigma that we are pariahs that carry with us contagions. We sincerely hope that this moment in time will not create lasting negative impressions about RVers.
Many people who do not understand the RV lifestyle overlook the fact that RVs are perfect social-distancing/quarantine vehicles. Additionally, it is lost on many that RVers can come to a community, observe recommended safety procedures and create a great economic boon to that area—at a time during which that community may be experiencing economic hardships.
The essence of this curse is that your pursuit of freedom and travel for which you are looking will bring with it a measure of struggle and strife—in this regard, your freedom and mobility marks you as something to be feared.
However, these same words—may you find what you are looking for—are also a blessing. When viewed as a positive it is a wish that your wants and needs are met. In the same moment that we are beset on all sides by confusion and fear (some directed at us), we have each other. You are not alone. Together we are strong. We lift each other.
We know that our low moments create unsung heroes. Sing their praises. We mention this often, but it seems particularly fitting, now more than ever. If a fellow Escapee paid you a kindness that you wish you could repay, let us honor them with a Peterson Spirit Award. You can find more information about the Peterson Spirit Award and the application in the Community menu of escapees.com.
When we write that you are not alone, that sentiment extends beyond your fellow members. Know that, as a club, we have the most dedicated, talented and hardworking staff. If you get a chance, thank them. They have put themselves in harm’s way to keep your mail forwarding and our parks operating. And they have gone to great lengths to keep you entertained and connected to your fellow RVers through virtual events and through resources such as our magazine, blogs, and social media groups. Moreover, we have not been ideal. Behind the scenes, we are working diligently to bring you a host of new benefits, which we will launch when the time is right.
As we look back on 42 years of history, we can point to other terrible moments where we have had to come together to find the strength to soldier on. We must do now as we had to do then; we remain hopeful. Know that together our future is still bright and full of promise.
We offer you the following blessing. May you find what you are looking for: your community, your Escapees family.
Please note, while we focus on the impact this crisis is having on our community, we are deeply sympathetic to the immeasurable human suffering and economic devastation many experienced or are experiencing. And we sincerely hope that you and your families remain safe, healthy and unaffected by the sorrow and loss with which so many are now forced to cope.