Chuck Woodbury: Technology’s Imprint on RVing
Editor’s Note: The following is a column by RVtravel.com Editor Chuck Woodbury offering a first-hand look at the changes in the RVing industry, and RVers, influenced by technology.
The way I travel with my RV today is far different from when I began. Change has come ever-so-slowly in one way, but so very fast in another. It’s like the “tick, tick” of the clock where we don’t see the time actually moving but one day we realize that it has, and that much has changed.
Our RVs are nicer now. They are made better. They look better. And I think for those of us with motorhomes, they perform better with more dependable engines. But our habits have changed, in large part because of technology. When I began, there were no cell phones. Instead, if I was lucky, there was a phone booth close enough to walk to from my campground. Half the time, I could not even get a TV signal. Sometimes even getting radio was iffy.
I stayed mostly in public campgrounds back then, which cost a few dollars a night but were often free. I usually chose campgrounds in beautiful places — in a forest, by a stream, along a lake shore, or in an expanse of beautiful desert. Today, if my cell phone doesn’t work or my air card for Internet access does not work, I will usually move on.
My needs, granted, are different from most RVers. For decades I have earned my living as a roving writer with my RV serving as my home and office. The fact that I could stay in beautiful places and “camp” was a bonus. At first, I wrote on a manual typewriter — no electricity needed, and certainly no Internet access (it was yet to be invented). I simply needed a quiet place. And camping in a gorgeous location was inspiring.
Fast forward to the summer of 2012, when I traveled across country in my motorhome. I often stayed in RV parks, where I had all the comforts, which usually included Wi-Fi access and sometimes even cable TV. I remember one evening on that trip, when I was beginning my search for a place to settle in, coming upon a beautiful U.S. Forest Service campground near a mountain pass, probably in the Rockies. It was the kind of campground I love most — one that in the old days where I would have stayed for two or three days, savoring the place’s beauty, its smell, its quiet, and its sounds of nature — the songs of birds, the wind blowing through the trees.
But this time, it was different. Actually, I was different. “I wonder if my cell phone will work here?” I thought. Which is directly related to “I wonder if I can get Internet access?” I checked my phone. Zero bars. “No service.” That also meant no Internet.
So what did I do? I moved on. But to be honest with you, I was disgusted with myself. What had happened to me? Why could I not just stay and go without my phone and the Internet for 15 hours? Why couldn’t I stop and enjoy peace and quiet and beauty? It was at that moment that I realized I had changed. I realized I was addicted to my technology — of being in touch “24/7.”
The cell phone and, more importantly, the Internet have enabled me to have a business like RVtravel.com. They allow me to manage it from anywhere in the world with cell service or access to the Web. For that I am thankful. The cell phone and the Internet are wonderful things. But, to me, they are also a curse. They have robbed me of my time with nature — and most importantly, of savoring it. I believe, one day, when I am done with running a business, that I will return to those beautiful public campgrounds, and once again enjoy being there and being at peace.
I bet there are plenty of you who have found your own habits changed in recent times because of the lure of technology.