Jennifer and I want to announce a big change for us: We have removed ourselves as on-the-road ambassadors for Roadtrek and have arranged the return of the van they provided us.
We want to explain why we have taken this step and to stress that although Roadtrek and it's corporate owner are going through some very challenging and uncertain times right now, our decision to leave their sponsorship reflects a personal decision about our own image and the public and sometimes industry perception that our reporting and video community was only about Roadtreks instead of the much broader RV Lifestyle.
It all had to do with the name we chose for our blog when we first began this adventure almost seven years ago. Back then, I had just “retired” from daily journalism – a career I have practiced for more than 40 years. We bought a used Class B RV and when we started a blog to share our travels with friends and family, we came up with the name “Roadtreking.” After all, the used van we bought was a Roadtrek (a 2006 RS Adventurous at the time) and it just seemed to fit. But from the start, the blog was never meant to be about the brand of the van we drove, it was all about the RV Lifestyle.
Well, the blog took off. It was followed by a podcast. Then a YouTube Channel and then a newsletter. Sponsors came on board, including Roadtrek, which provided us vans to use. They got exposure of their products to our audience and we had use of a vehicle, something that is fairly common in the industry. We helped test two of their prototype vehicles, both heavily outfitted with lithium batteries and solar panels. I guess they figured if I could operate them (I am notorious for being UNmechanically-inclined), then anyone could use them.
Our reporting took us all across North America. We did photo shoots and videos and podcasts on the people and places we encountered and all the time, in social media and in our reports, podcasts and videos, we kept stressing that we were all about the RV Lifestyle.
But the perception was that since the blog was called “Roadtreking,” our reports must be primarily about the Roadtrek.
It came to a head for me when we were attending the Overland East show in North Carolina in the fall of 2017 when Winnebago was introducing its very popular Revel Class B van, an innovative design aimed at the active lifestyle and RVers who love to camp off the grid. I was very impressed with the Revel and was in the midst of shooting a video about it when one of the Winnebago marketing types interrupted the shoot and asked us to stop. He said the company didn't want us to do the video because they thought it would be biased.
Why?, I asked, dumbfounded. “Because of your name… ‘Roadtreking',” replied the sheepish marketing exec, who said he had been told by telephone from his supervisor to not allow us to continue .
I asked a couple of friends in the industry for advice. They candidly said the same thing, that the name we were branded under created an impression that offset our efforts to be inclusive of all rigs and focus on the lifestyle. “Everyone thinks you're primarily about Roadtrek,” one well respected industry insider told me.
Clearly, we needed to change something in our own branding.
So, about a year ago, I bought from an Internet domain broker the domain name RVLifestyle.com. It cost me way, way more money than I could afford but slowly we started using that name in our branding. Over several months, we changed our logos, our social media groups and finally, just the other day, the URL of his blog… from Roadtreking.com to RVLifestyle.com. We had planned to complete the process in November 2019 when our sponsorship agreement expired with Roadtrek.
The most recent news reports swirling around Hymer and Roadtrek have allowed us to make a clean break now. In response to the financial downturn Hymer of North America has announced, the company has begun a strict cost-cutting program that changed some of the terms of our old sponsorship agreement. While they asked us to sign a new agreement two weeks ago, we chose to take the ultimate step in completing our branding change by removing ourselves as Roadtrek's on-the-road ambassadors and returning the latest vehicle they provided.
I want to stress that this was all done in good faith, on good terms and that we remain good friends with the wonderful people at Roadtrek. We wish them nothing but the best as they work through the present challenges.
So… now that we are “officially” RVLifestyle and all about the small RV experience and van life, what will we be driving and camping in?
We're not sure. We're shopping. We've considered getting a unit from a rental fleet to use for awhile. Maybe we'll buy another used RV. Maybe we can even find a way to, gulp, purchase a new one. Or maybe we'll become brand ambassadors for another company. We both have some really specific features we want to have in our new van: Off-grid capacity, comfortable beds and a dedicated work space for me to use as a studio for video editing and our podcasts. I'm also a big-time geek and I want lots of technology for Internet connectivity and for controlling and monitoring the various systems on the van. It would be nice to have some suspension improvements and maybe some enhanced four season capabilities, because we are big fans of cold weather camping.
We may not find everything we want in one van, but we're looking for the best fit. And we need to decide fairly soon as we have an aggressive spring travel schedule planned and don't want to miss any of the gatherings, events and travel commitments we have made.
We want you to clearly understand that our reporting will review and showcase lots of different brands. Just look at our recent video on the Tampa RV Supershow. We show and tour models from Coachmen, Leisure Travel Vans, Pleasure-Way, Winnebago, Airstream, Regency, American Traveler, Roadtrek, Hymer and even Lance Truck Campers.
Last week, we visited the factory of one of the most luxurious (and expensive) Class B upfitters in the world. We'll have a video of that on Thursday. The following week, we'll have a video tour of another RV factory. The following week we'll have a video on two Do-It-Yourself Class B vans.
The point is, no matter what brand vehicle we choose, our reporting will be about the entire RV Lifestyle experience and when we visit RV shows we will freely and enthusiastically continue to report about all of the different brands out there.
Jennifer has always said “the brand is just the vehicle we use to have adventures.” In fact, she calls RVs “Adventuremobiles.”
Before ending, let me say a word about sponsors.
We need them. This all has evolved into much more than what I thought would be a retirement hobby seven years ago. It is a fulltime job. A real business, on many different platforms, with lots of expenses. I spend about 60-65 hours a week doing all this. I love every minute of it, but it takes a lot of time and effort and help from a growing number of people we pay for things like graphics and production and web hosting, design and maintenance. We are on the road half to three-quarters of the time. So we need sponsors to help with all that. But we are very selective in the ones we accept. We vet each one as best as we can. We don't accept any sponsors whose products we would not personally use or recommend to a friend, nor do sponsors direct or control the stories and content we publish. And we try to limit the number of sponsors we take on. At least once a week, we turn down a sponsorship request from a company that we don't think would be a good fit.
Sorry for all the words and the personal content of this post. But this is a big step for Jennifer and me (and Bo) and we wanted you to understand where we are and where we're headed.
This is all about the RV Lifestyle and I promise, that is what we will continue to be focused on.
We'll see you out there.