My first RV trip: Rova editor Gemma Peckham

In 2005, I embarked upon my first ever RV adventure. Did I go away for the weekend? A quick vacation? A music festival? No. My boyfriend (now husband) and I drove from Vancouver to New York, via Las Vegas and New Orleans, in a run-down, mold-ridden Class C motorhome (see image). It took us three weeks.

I can imagine you exchanging wary glances with one another and murmuring, ‘Do you think she’s crazy?’ Yes, I am, but I implore you to read the story before you pass further judgment. (After you’ve read it, judge away!)

We were at the beginning of a year-round world tour. We’d been away from our home country (Australia) for only a week or so, and we’d landed in San Francisco. We knew we wanted to drive across the country, finishing in New York. After some enquiries, a small RV rental company got in touch and generously offered (or so we thought) for us to take a van from SF to Vancouver, where we could pick up an RV that needed to get to New York, and have it for free in exchange for transporting it. What luck! What excitement! What… the hell?

When we arrived in Vancouver, it became evident that the van had been left out in the elements in the Canadian winter and had sprung a leak, and most of the non-water-resistant furnishings and upholstery had been colonized by mold.

But we were young, strapped for cash, starting the adventure of a lifetime, and pretty dumb at times. So we agreed to take the RV. We drove to a strip mall, pulled off all the upholstery and threw it in the washers at the laundromat, bought about a million gallons of heavy-duty carpet cleaner, surface cleaner and disinfectant, and scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed.

This isn’t a Cinderella story – we cleaned all the mold up, but our three weeks were spent in a damp-smelling RV with no heating (in March), and a bedroom that was unusable. We slept on the bed above the cab, which had somehow escaped water damage.

But this story is not about the van; it’s about the trip itself. The trip was the most amazing, delightful thing I’d ever done. There is no sarcasm here, no bitterness, no bad memories. The things I remember are the south rim of the Grand Canyon after it snowed; the stretches of swamp in the deep south; the amazing sweeping desertscapes of Arizona; the hospitality that we encountered most places we stopped; finally driving that icon of road trip nostalgia, Route 66; and the staggering beauty of this country. I rarely give any thought to the state of the van, because honestly, it just didn’t seem that important.

Since then, I’ve taken many driving trips in many countries around the world, but this first trip has a huge place in my heart for so many reasons. It’s the reason I’m so excited about this magazine, because I truly believe that there’s nothing better than driving around the country, your destiny in your own hands, experiencing more than you could have possibly imagined before you set out. That’s living!