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Alex Kurm and his wife and kids, who have been RVing full time across Canada and America for the past four years.Handout

Alex Kurm and his family had a good life: They lived in a big suburban house with a wide front lawn and a pool in the backyard where Alex, Wendy and their three kids would spend lazy summer days. Wendy stayed home and looked after the children. Alex had a well-paying job at a bank in Toronto.

But after years of living that life, Alex and Wendy realized they wanted something else.

“We just sort of realized that the most incredible moments we’ve had as a family was when we travel,” Mr. Kurm says.

The couple decided to sell their house, buy an RV and tour around North America. Wendy would home-school their daughter, Shyla, and two sons, Lennon and Madden. Alex would quit his job at the bank and work from the road as a consultant. They would do it for eight months. The fact neither had driven an RV before wasn’t a deterrent.

The kids were excited. “When are we leaving?” they’d ask almost every day for the year before they left.

After selling the house, Wendy’s minivan and Alex’s SUV, and buying a 31-foot long RV and a truck to haul it, they pulled out of the driveway on a snowy day in January.

The family's truck and RV.Handout

“It was super stressful,” Mr. Kurm says. “I’d never hauled anything in my life.”

That was almost four years ago. They’ve been on the road full-time ever since.

“So far it’s been just epic,” Mr. Kurm says.

Everything happening in the world this year hasn’t made their life on the road easier, but the pandemic has reaffirmed their decision to be a family of full-time RVers.

“At the end of the day, life is so friggin’ short,” Mr. Kurm says. “You have to be more purposeful and go after what you want to do.”

RVing enjoyed a surge of popularity after COVID-19 hit. For many Canadians it was the ideal way to travel, allowing them to vacation without having to come in to contact with other people.

Some dealers reported sales 300 per cent higher than last year, although hard data has yet to be collected, says Chris Mahony, president of Go RVing Canada, a non-profit industry association that has seen an 82-per-cent increase in trips planned on its site compared with last year.

More than 67 per cent of RVers are under the age of 55, and many of them are white-collar workers who are able to do their jobs remotely, Mr. Mahony says. “Nomadic entrepreneurs, as I would call them.”

While there are approximately two million RVs in Canada, full-timers such as the Kurms are rare.Handout

While there are approximately two million RVs in Canada, half of which are permanently parked at trailer parks and other sites, full-timers such as the Kurms are rare.

Mr. Kurm is the first to acknowledge that it’s not a life for everyone. It’s not always easy, and the kids miss their friends some days. Wendy’s parents were skeptical at first. Alex’s mom is still “totally against” it, he says. “She’s always asking, ‘Are you done yet?’ ”

Occasionally the whole family bickers and fights and they think about packing it in and moving back to the suburbs.

“Sometimes we second guess ourselves when you’ve had a bad day,” Mr. Kurm says.

Other times, he is reminded of just how different the RV life is. One day this fall, Mr. Kurm was reading to his youngest son, Madden, who was only two years old when they first hit the road. The story mentioned a bathtub.

“He was like, ‘Daddy, what’s a bathtub?’ ” Mr. Kurm says, laughing.

The family can get stir crazy, but they spend most of their time outdoors, hiking, riding bikes – visiting museums and other local attractions prior to the pandemic – and exploring the beach if there’s one nearby.

The Kurms spend most of their time outdoors, hiking, riding bikes and exploring the beach if there’s one nearby.Handout

The good days far outnumber the bad days, Mr. Kurm says.

They rarely spend more than two weeks in the same place. They’ve been to more than 30 U.S. National Parks and more than 100 state and provincial parks. Sometimes there is a plan, and sometimes there isn’t. Last winter they were hunkered down in south California and it was cold and raining so much the whole family couldn’t take it anymore.

“Where is the warmest place we can go?,” Mr. Kurm wondered. “It’s Death Valley. We’re going to Death Valley.”

They made a beeline.

Other highlights include Zion National Park, in Utah, and a redwood forest in California. That road where Forrest Gump decides to quit running? That was spectacular, Mr. Kurm says.

The family rarely spends more than two weeks in the same place.Handout

There have been a few minor disasters along the way. Getting stuck in a flash flood in Joshua Tree, Calif. Driving on a freeway when one of their tires blew out, although thankfully a good Samaritan helped change it. Or the time Mr. Kurm got food poisoning in rural Texas and had to be hospitalized.

But such low points are few and far between.

Most days start with a few hours of homeschooling. Mr. Kurm, a process management and improvement consultant, works while the children are studying.

Every so often, Mr. Kurm will have to get on a plane to meet with clients. He once had to leave Wendy and the kids in Las Vegas for two weeks for in-person meetings.

At first, the pandemic gutted his business.

“When COVID hit I lost about every client within a week,” he says.

Many of them have since come back.

The Kurms have been to more than 30 U.S. National Parks and more than 100 state and provincial parks.Handout

He doesn’t make nearly as much as when he worked for the bank, but he also doesn’t work nearly the hours he did then.

That life paid well, but it didn’t give him the time he wanted with his kids while they are still kids.

“I would get up at 6, I’d be on the train by 6:45. I’d get home by 6:45 in the evening and then have a few hours with the kids and go to bed. I didn’t enjoy that.”

Shyla, who is 11, is the artistic one of the family. She likes to paint and play the piano (a keyboard that’s stored in the trailer).

Lennon, 9, builds a fort out of sticks and fallen branches whenever there are woods near the RV campsites they stop at. Madden, who is now 6, loves the outdoors. They love to play Minecraft, the popular videogame, as well, and are never without internet access thanks to a signal booster that hangs off the back of the RV (it also allows Mr. Kurm to watch Leafs games from wherever they happen to be).

The Kurms do their best to see family whenever they can.Handout

The Kurms do their best to see family whenever they can. They frequently visit the vacation home Wendy’s parents have in Florida.

This summer, Wendy’s brother and his family hung out with them for a week, driving to Wawa, Ont., from Sault Ste. Marie. And one of Shyla’s friends from her old school joined them in Tobermory, Ont., for a few days.

RVing full-time might sound lonely, but it is remarkably easy to make friends on the road, says Anthony Nalli, executive producer of The RVers, a Canadian-made documentary television show about the lifestyle.

“It is the most friendly community of people. If you need a part, they’ll take it off their RV and give it to you.”

People share tips on where to go next, swap stories of favourite places and often become familiar faces to one another the more they move around the continent.

“We’ve met so many people who do this full time,” Mr. Kurm says. “It doesn’t matter where we are, there are always families that we’ve met elsewhere.”

As the four-year anniversary of life on the road approaches, the Kurms, currently parked in Sedona, Ariz., have no plans to stop.Handout

As the four-year anniversary of life on the road approaches, the Kurms, currently parked in Sedona, Ariz., have no plans to stop.

“If we want that life we can always go back,” Mr. Kurm says. Perhaps in a few years when the kids are older, they might.

But for now they have a long list of places they still want to visit, including Newfoundland, Washington, the northeast coast and back to the Grand Canyon.

The pandemic has made it harder to travel, but has highlighted how important it is to savour time together as a family, Mr. Kurm says.

“You have to be more purposeful and go after what you want to do. Life’s so short, man. You never know what’s around the corner.”


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