As the last of winter descends on us, Canadians from coast to coast to coast are getting cabin fever. Some adventurous Canucks have already abandoned us and are enjoying warmer southern climes on the open road.

Tempted to join them, but feeling encumbered by a house full of stuff?

Canadians John and Peggi McDonald retired from military careers, sold their home, put their stuff in storage and hit the open road in a recreational vehicle (RV). (That's "recreation vehicle" in the US.) Seventeen years later, the McDonalds are committed RVers and show no sign of settling down again.

"We keep talking about it," said Peggi, who admits that what began as a two year adventure is now a way of life and a website – www.rvliving.net. "John will be 64 this March and we must reorganize our investments. We keep thinking about real estate, but I don't want two homes. We have a home, we have it all – office, washer/dryer, 2 TVs, microwave convection oven, satellite...We have everything in our home that we had in our house, just less space. We want for nothing! The only thing that changes in our lives is our backyard."

The McDonalds recommend the move to RV living as a "great way to downsize." They suggest letting go completely is best, not just putting your furniture in storage and paying storage bills for years.

"Keep the good stuff and give it to the kids to use, and sell the rest," said Peggi, who admits to still keeping a 10 foot by 10 foot storage hut at a relative's home. "Nine years of storage later, we did not get a fraction of the worth of our furniture. Lend it to your kids. Then, if you need something later, it's a great way to get new furniture."

Here's their advice for getting started:

  • Take your time and shop around.
  • Visit RV dealers, attend RV shows, read RVing books, take seminars and ask questions of everyone you can.
  • Decide which type of unit best suits your lifestyle and budget.
  • If your RV will only be used for short getaways rather than as a full-time home, you may not need all the bells and whistles available.
  • When you take an RV for a test drive, make sure that it's a real drive not just a ride around the dealer's lot or down the dealer's road.
  • If you're not sure, rent for a weekend, a week or even longer.
  • RVs like cottages should be mortgaged.

    Peggi says many seasoned RVers mortgage their RVs the same way buyers mortgage a cottage or seasonal home to make it more affordable. "These RVers leave their money invested and pay the bank a monthly fee for the privilege of driving a unit. In Canada, RV dealers usually offer a low interest Conditional Sales Agreement to their customers---interest rates may be lower than the rate available from many banks. In the USA, several of the large RV Clubs offer a member benefit of low interest financing. It pays to shop around."

    If you want more on the ins and outs of making the transition to RV living, their site offers free e-books, links galore, resources, club details and a Q and A opportunity.

    Peggi, author of "Spirit of the Open Road," insists, "As you discover this wonderful camping lifestyle, you'll find that your wants will change. Your first RV will not likely be your last RV!"

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