Internet Connectivity For RVers
By Brandon Engel
We don’t typically recognize how technology-dependent we’ve become as a society until there’s a power outage, or drastically worse, a natural disaster. It’s hard to comprehend how large of a role things like electricity or the Internet play in your life until they’re taken away from you, for any length of time. There are certain security measures you should take to ensure that, no matter where you are or what’s happening, you have access to communication channels. Connectivity is crucial — even for RVers, especially those who telecommute, however eager they may be to break away from the distractions and frivolities of the modern world.
I was reminded of this in November of 2005 while in Louisiana, contributing my part to the Katrina clean-up effort. I was staying in a tent city just outside of New Orleans and would commute daily to various sites that had been ravaged by the hurricane. One day we’d be in Chalmette, standing knee-deep in stagnant floodwater in someone’s living room. We spent a good deal of time in St. Bernard’s Parish, where I found poisonous snakes burrowing in muck-saturated carpets.
Beyond property damage, most of the houses we worked on were in neighborhoods that had lost power — and there was even uncertainty over whether or not power and other crucial services would ever be restored to certain neighborhoods that were geologically vulnerable to another natural disaster.
It was heart-breaking to help homeowners discard their damaged belongings — soiled family albums and shards of porcelain statue collections…It was even more heartbreaking to think that certain people were displaced from their homes indefinitely, and many people were left without plumbing or power — forget about the Internet.
My experience in Louisiana was an intense one, to say the very least, and on the whole, I’d say that it all enriched my life. The best part was meeting so many interesting people from all over the world. There were retirees from the midwest who would come down for a weekend or so, and folks from various southern towns who would come out with their relatives to volunteer for as long as their work schedules permitted. There was an old farming couple from Nebraska. There was even one Lutheran preacher from Africa who had flown to the states to help out.
I was so thankful to have met all of them, but the two people who ultimately made the most significant impact on my life were Paul and Verna, a retired couple from South Dakota. Paul was a retired banker, and Verna was a retired elementary school teacher. They were RV full-timers. They had been staying at the campsite for a few months by the time I arrived, and they ultimately stayed at the site for several months after I left.
They would show me pictures of the trips they had taken prior to volunteering in Louisiana. They had spent a good chunk of 2005 in Arizona, traveling through Sedona, Tucson, and the small mining town of Bisbee. They had spent time in Texas and showed me pictures of them posed near the Alamo. They had spent a large amount of time in the heartland of America, going through rural areas in Montana and Wyoming.
Paul and Verna were really inspiring to me. They were generous beyond measure and had wished to do as much good in the world as possible. It seemed like having an RV in their retirement allowed them to have the noblest sort of lifestyle you could hope to have: they had full mobility, and were living life to the fullest. They were doing precisely what they wanted to do when they wanted to do it, but they still managed to stay connected to their ideological roots, and were living principled lives, donating large portions of their time to volunteer work.
I would ride along with them on most of our assignments. Their RV was spacious, fully equipped with what you would need for your day-to-day operations, but not many frills. They were utilitarian and pragmatic. But there are technological safeguards that are perfectly legitimate to have, especially if you are on the road for most of the year.
Another major consideration for them, obviously, is being able to stay connected to the Internet in geologically treacherous areas while performing volunteer work for disaster relief teams. But beyond merely that, it’s obviously also been useful for the two to stay in touch with their children and grandchildren — especially with recent advancements like video chatting platforms and social media channels which Paul and Verna get from Hughesnet. Verna said that “satellite Internet really is a blessing for people who spend most of the year traveling in an RV in remote areas because it is the only option when there is no cellular service.” For people who prefer to be in rural surroundings, and who want as much personal autonomy as possible, an RV equipped with satellite Internet could provide for the perfect level of connectivity.
Having access to mass media during a natural disaster is critical, and if the power is down, a battery-operated radio is the best way to go. Even in a worst-case scenario disaster, you are basically guaranteed that someone will be making informative radio broadcasts. Although every local station in your area may not stay active 24/7, it’s likely that at least one will. The battery-operated radios themselves are generally inexpensive and compact. You should be able to purchase an AM/FM radio from virtually any drug store or chain of department stores, and they commonly run on cheap AA batteries. And in some parts of the country, especially along the east coast, there are independently maintained clubs of amateur radio enthusiasts who are prepared to provide help over the airways if commercial cell towers fail during a disaster.
Certain precautions, like having all of the items listed above, and keeping thorough checklists are crucial to ensuring your safety on the road. There is nothing better than having agency over one’s life, and in the digital age, you can live in a more rural community, or even on the road for the whole year, and still have access to the Internet, which allows you to face time with friends and relatives, and access to news and e-mails. With certain provisions for your RV, you can have your cake, and eat it too.