I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is nothing real about reality TV. Despite our best efforts to believe what we're being shown, the truth of the matter is, all reality TV is being manipulated in one form or another. Vanessa and I became blatantly aware of that when we were asked to film an episode of Big Time RV for the Travel Channel.
It started with a harmless entry to our website about speaking with a producer for the show. Basically, they loved what we stood for, loved our energy and website, wanted to help promote our message of inspiring younger generations to travel, and wanted us to be a part of the show. After a few emails, we decided to take a phone call with the producer to get more information. I remember vividly, sitting on the side of the road in Arizona, afraid that the phone connection would cut off and leave us without service like many times before. During the call, the producer asked us if we were looking for a new RV. We told them no, we weren't. We spent the better part of a year creating our home within Maude, and that maybe down the road we would shop around, but we loved our small home on wheels and would not part with her anytime soon. The producer said, "not to worry, we can make it clear that you are shopping for a potential future purchase." Good, that was squared away.
After a Skype screen test, a few more emails and texts, Vanessa and I were set to film in Tuscon, Arizona at the end of March. They set us up in a KOA for a few days so that we could film at the adjacent lot next door, at Lazy Days. The KOA was beautiful—a clean, refreshing pool, fruit growing in abundance on trees. I swear, we walked away with what felt like hundreds of pieces of sweet smelling citrus.
The filming went smoothly. We had a gentleman escort us to and from the lot. The team was pleasant to work with. Everything felt right.
Except that it wasn't. It wasn't until after we signed "contracts" that things became more contrived. They had chosen two RVs for us to "tour'' on the show, that were nothing like we told them we would want. We told them we wanted to stay under 26-feet, and they had chosen two gargantuan rigs, that we would never have wanted. However, when we were touring the rigs, we were genuine in providing our opinions. Dark wood is a no-go. Big refrigerator is helpful. Counter space is a MUST. But we were wondering, why didn't we get any Airstreams to tour? Why didn't we get any small RVs to fit our minimal lifestyle? Vanessa and I concluded quickly, these were the RVs on the lot that Lazy Days wanted, or needed, to sell and we were just walking advertisements.
Unfortunately, things only got worse. We ended up feeling manipulated and cheated, stressing to the producers that we didn't want to be told what to say, but wanted to be the most authentic, genuine representations of ourselves. This all came to a head when the director told us "Okay, this is the shot where you choose which RV you're going to purchase. So, pick whichever you liked best."
Vanessa and I stared at each other blankly. Purchase? Wait a second, that wasn't the deal. I piped up.
"When we spoke to (producer), he told us we didn't have to fake purchase anything. He told us we could say something along the lines of 'well, in the future when we're ready to buy, we would probably choose something more like ____'.
The director maintained his composure, but didn't back down. "I'll be honest with you guys, no matter what you decide to say, the Travel Channel will edit it however they see fit. So, they'll make it look like a purchase anyway."
It was at this point, we ultimately felt duped. They tricked us. They got us to sign the contracts and then did whatever they wanted to do, sacrificing our integrity and wants along the way. Mind you, this was already after they filmed enough to create a show anyway, even if we walked off set right then and there.
So, we did it. We pretended to buy an RV. Afraid to be in breach of contract, we shook hands on a new RV, when we were never even able to drive it around the parking lot.
Vanessa and I even called the original producer in New York to express our concern with the "ending" and he ASSURED us he would never misrepresent us, nor would he create a false ending. He said he would personally make sure the ending reflected the truth, and that we really were just touring rigs for potential future consideration.
Well, guess what....again, we were duped. This is why we wanted to write this today. To clear the air, but also to let some of you know that it wasn't our intention to be a false representation of the travel community. Oh, and mind you, the Travel Channel miraculously came up with a BUDGET for us (never were we asked what our budget would be) of $100,000. Let me tell you, if Vanessa and I had $100,000 floating around to spend on a brand new rig, we wouldn't be working so hard to make ends meet on the road.
The truth is, there is nothing real about reality TV. What we thought would be a fun experience, a chance to put our message out there and continue to inspire, turned out to be nothing short of a disaster. So, to all of those people who have reached out to us and said "Congratulations on your new Thor ACE!" we are truly sorry. We love Maude because she completely feels like home. We started this journey over a year ago now, and have no plans to replace her anytime soon. We hope that you continue to follow our adventures, because it's something we're proud of, and we promise you that each and every post on our blog, each and every Instagram photo, is as genuine and truthful as possible, even the nitty-gritty breakdown of our RV expenses. This lifestyle is not something we take for granted, nor something that we feel should be exploited. We're proud of everything we've accomplished on the road and hope we can only continue to inspire from this point forward.
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Marisa & Vanessa have a whole "About Us" blurb that they are dying for you to check out.