Xscapers RV Club designed for ‘Next Generation of RVers’



Editor's note: The following article is one I wrote for my employer, RVBusiness magazine.

The Escapees RV Club, an RV owners group founded in 1978, has announced the formation of Xscapers, a club designed to appeal to the next generation of RVers. The club made its public debut at the 55th Annual Escapade, the Escapees’ annual rally March 8-13 in Tucson, Ariz.

Development of the Xscapers began at the 54th Annual Escapade in Goshen, Ind., last April. There, Travis Carr – the grandson of Escapees founders Kay and Joe Peterson – and his wife Melanie had dinner with Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard. The Carrs are active in the management of the Escapees while Dunphy and Ve Ard have been full-time RVers since 2006 while overseeing “Technomadia,” a popular blog that touches on their life on the road as well as technology, which is their area of expertise.

The four discussed the perception of the Escapees as an RV club for retired persons, and what they might do to change that.

“We talked for hours that night about the sort of benefits and features that might attract a new audience – and we got more and more excited the more we brainstormed,” Dunphy and Ve Ard wrote in a post announcing the Xscapers on their website.

“We talked about mail scanning for their mail service, a more modern and interactive website, adventure caravans to more ‘younger’ things, domicile support in more states, and resources for issues that impact those not yet of traditional retirement age – homeschooling, working on the road, finding healthcare, and living an active mobile lifestyle being tops of the list,” they said.

From left, Cherie Ve Ard and Chris Dunphy of Technomadia,
and Kay Peterson, Melanie Carr and Travis Carr of the
Escapees RV Club. Ve Ard, Dunphy and the Carrs were
the brains behind the formation of Xscapers.
The four decided they were onto something and, after further development, the Xscapers came into being.

Realizing many Escapees members were happy with the club as it is, it was decided Xscapers would be a “club within a club.” For the same $29.95 annual membership fee, members will be able to opt in to Escapees content, Xscapers content, or both by marking their interests in their profile.

In addition, Xscapers can participate in the Escapade and other Escapees activities. But the new group will also host more casual and spread out “convergences” where there’s time for community, learning and everyday life.

Dunphy and Ve Ard said Xscapers membership is not defined by age, but rather “mindset and needed resources. We expect a lot of Boomers in particular will feel called to being involved with both – even if they are retired.”

They are “excited for the vision of what Xscapers can be in the future,” they said, adding the “concept spoke to our hearts and souls, and incorporates everything we’ve learned during our last nine years on the road interacting with our ‘new generation’ of RVing peers. We view our contributions as part of our legacy to help our peers achieve success in this location independent lifestyle we love.”

According to a message from club officials, Xscapers brings full circle the story of the Escapees. Founders Joe and Kay Peterson were just 43 years old and working on the road when they started full-time RVing. When they formed the Escapees in 1978, 40% of the members were 50 or younger, the majority was still working at least part-time, and nine of the first 100 member-families were traveling full-time with their kids.

Fast forward to now when 85% of its members are retired and 65 or older. Worse, the statistics seemed to support a perception the Escapees was an RV club for retired RVers.
When younger RVers were asked whether they’d heard of Escapees, officials said the response was too often the same: “Escapees doesn’t provide the kinds of resources I would use; it’s a club for full-time RVers.”

“There are two problems with this answer,” club officials said. “First, we are not meeting the needs of this segment of RVing lifestyle, and second, we are perceived as a club for retired full-timers. It dawned on us that we were no longer living up to our mission statement, which specifically states that we are ‘A support network for ALL RVers.’ Something had to be done, and the concept of Xscapers was born.”