So we’ve made it through our first month of full-time Airstream living. It’s been interesting to say the least. Has it all been rainbows and butterflies? That’s a big no. Honestly, we’ve had some of our best times and some of our worst times so far on this adventure. We’ve had moments of wanting to undo what we’ve done. We’ve also felt the freest we’ve ever been which brings us right back to loving this way of living. Some of our obstacles we expected and some of it we didn’t. We did a lot of research before embarking down this unknown road in our life. But we never really got a good idea of what it’s actually like. Our daily rhythms and habits have been completely turned upside down. Here’s our mid-30’s-no-kids-yet take on this way of living.
Pro: All expenses in one monthly bill
Con: It’s only as good as your neighbors make it
We are currently a little over one month into our three month stay at our very first campground in Southport, North Carolina. We weren’t able to pick out of parking spot before we got here. The campground we selected was near capacity and a few days before we rolled up, we were assigned one of the very last spots. So we weren’t able to scope out the neighbors and get any sort of vibe beforehand. For the most part, we lucked out. Everyone around us has been very friendly and yet quiet and keep to themselves. When people walk past, I’ve rarely even seen anyone glace into our windows when they’re all open. Unlike me — I’m a creeper and find it hard to not try to look inside on the way by to see people’s set ups. 😀 It’s been so simple in that we only have one monthly bill here. Campground rent includes the parking space, water, sewer, trash and electric. Our internet comes from our phones — we have an unlimited 4g hotspot on one of our T-Mobile phones which has been working out wonderfully. Our internet is as speedy as it was at home on regular wireless internet. There’s been one downside to campground living. We’ve found that it’s only as good as your neighbors make it. Everyone around us is as neat as pin and quiet as mice. Except for one. Right next door. They’re a little noisy, a little messy and on occasion park less than a foot from our trailer. Other than that, we’ve been really happy here. And campground living definitely isn’t the end goal. We’d like our own land somewhere in the near future. If you have the opportunity to select or view your campground space in advance, I would highly recommend it. Take that chance to meet your neighbors!
Finding a Work Balance
Pro: Jason and I are both working remotely.
Con: Jason and I are both working remotely.
It has really been great spending a lot of good time together. We’ve always spent a lot of time together. We dated for 10 years and have been married for the past 6. We’ve known each other our whole adult lives and have been stuck like glue since we met. We are the best of friends. But a normal married couple go their separate ways to work each morning and then reunite every evening. That’s how most do it, anyway. Now we wake up every morning and go three feet in each direction to work. The first couple weeks were difficult. We got on each other’s nerves a lot. Listening to each other typing, talking on the phone and just shuffling around in general. But then we learned a noise machine positioned in the center of the trailer between us both was our new best friend. We also learned to just be quiet and keep our heads down during the day. And take our calls on a solo walk. When we want to get away, we’ve been taking turns working at the local coffee shop or outside on nice days. But on days we are both in the Airstream, Jason works up front in the converted desk area and I work in the back on a lap desk. My other gripe with working remotely is the fact that I goofed on not making enough desk space in the Airstream. I have been drawing up plans for a bedroom remodel to add space for another work/living area. My idea is to ditch the dual twin bed setup, leave one twin bed that will convert to a full sized bed and make the other side another work/living area.
Small Space = Less Crap
Pros: Cozy, no clutter, everything has a purpose
Con: A couple of remodel choices weren’t so good
The first couple weeks were challenging living in 200 square feet. We bumped our heads on everything in sight. We stepped on our dog. We stepped on each other. But honestly, at no point did we think living in this tiny space was a deal breaker based on size alone. There’s something really satisfying about having fewer things and less space. To know we built a fully functional house for a third of the price of each of our cars. And it actually has everything we need and is surprisingly comfortable. Everything we have in here serves a purpose and has a specific place it belongs. There’s no excess, multiples of things or things we don’t use. It’s refreshing, actually. We’ve also found that there is a surprising amount of storage in here. We left almost all of the original cabinetry with the exception of the bathroom and kitchen. We have plenty of room for everything. We keep our clothes in our respective bins over each bed. We also share the wardrobe closet for things we want to hang. The bins under the bed house extra shoes, our laptops, bags, etc. I even have an empty bin under my bed. There are a couple of things I would have done differently. One is the desk space I mentioned above. The other is the sofa. I want to extend the sofa to an L-shape. There just isn’t enough space for us both to comfortably sit and watch TV. We don’t watch a lot of TV but when we do, one of us sits on the sofa and the other in that blue chair. So a sofa modification is in the works as well. Everything else has been great.
One regret: the Inverter
When we got our trailer, we didn’t know the first thing about camping trailers in general. No one in our family had ever had one and neither of us had ever even stepped foot inside one. When we did the remodel, we learned everything as we went.
We upgraded the water heater to an all electric Bosch 4 gallon unit that has a direct 110 line to the campground pole. It is a high draw unit (almost 15 amps) so we thought it’d be best for it to not draw from our precious 30 amps. That was a good decision and so was the water heater selection itself. We can each get a good 10 minute hot shower out of it and it takes a mere 30 minutes to heat back up.
In the kitchen, we removed the propane oven and cooktop. We also have no regrets here. We don’t cook a lot of our food and mostly use a Vitamix. When we do cook, 99% of the time we just use a skillet. I bought a portable induction cooktop that easily stows away in the cabinet when not in use. It’s been awesome and actually works as good or better than our gas stove top at home. We also have a toaster oven but really haven’t used it much.
So we royally messed up here. I’m a little embarrassed to say we just figured out how to turn on the inverter when we got to the campground a month ago. So needless to say, we definitely didn’t get it replaced. There were so many things to do during our remodel that this big piece of the puzzle slipped right by us. Now we have a 42 year-old inverter boxed in underneath the cabinet in the bathroom. It works! However, we have already gone through two batteries. Apparently new inverters tell you how much battery power you have left and it throttles the inverter to not run at 100% all of the time. Old inverters, like ours, do not do that. They just constantly charge the battery when on and you have to switch it off when you think the battery is charged. If it’s left on too long, it fries the battery. If it doesn’t run long enough and your battery gets too low, the battery is a paperweight. Regretfully, one day we will have to tear apart part of the bathroom to install a new inverter. Until then, we have bought a battery meter to hard wire underneath the kitchen sink to monitor the battery level.
Tiny Living with a Dog
Pro: More time with our best friend!
Cons: Fear of leaving him alone, not having ample exercise space
Riley, our 10 year old dog, has adjusted wonderfully. Wherever we are, he wants to be. And vice versa for that matter. 🙂 He has gotten into a rhythm here just like we have. He now sees us pulling into the RV park and starts hooting and hollering just like he used to do when we’d pull into our neighborhood. He definitely considers the Airstream his home. He’s got his perch on the back of the sofa and loves to peep out the front window and take in all of the sights. He used to get a lot of exercise by running laps in our house (as well as regular walks too!). But here he definitely doesn’t have the space. To solve that he gets more walks and more park time than ever before. I don’t think Riley would consider that a con!
I also have an intense fear of leaving him alone in here. We have a WiFi camera at our house that we use to check in on him when we’d leave. But here in the Airstream, that isn’t possible as we only have hotspots on our phones. We found a wonderful app that connects both of our phones and uses one as a monitor and the other as the viewing device. It’s called Dog Monitor and costs $5.99. We had to pay for it on each device but it’s definitely been worth every penny. We can check in, see what he’s up to and even talk to him through the phone. It’ll even tell you when the last noise was heard so you can tell if he’s been resting or barking. So far we’ve only left him alone when it’s been a nice day. I’m nervous about leaving him alone when it’s hot or cold out. I worry about the AC or heat shutting off or some other impending disaster. I’m still researching a reliable way to remotely monitor temperature that reports to our cell phone. I will update when I find a solution!
Simply put: There’s more of it.
Overall, the best part of this experience so far has been more time. We don’t have the long commutes to work anymore. We don’t sit in traffic to go out to dinner. We don’t watch TV, go to movies or out to Target to kill time when we’re bored. We left congested suburban Atlanta for the opposite setting — a quiet, slow-paced, quaint little town at the mouth of the Cape Fear River in Southport, NC. We take more walks and exercise more. We drive no more than two miles in any direction for the grocery store, post office, restaurants and the waterfront. If we are really feeling wild, we drive five miles to the ocean. When we’re bored, we metal detect, walk the beach, feed the birds or rent kayaks. Or just sit on a bench and mindlessly stare out into the water. This whole experience has been eye opening. As a society, it seems we are sort of pre-programmed on a course to get married, climb the corporate ladder, get a big house, drive a fancy car and the list goes on and on. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and have co-owned an e-commerce website for the past 15 years. With that, I get the freedom to make my own hours and more recently, the privilege to work remote. I’ve never wanted Jason to climb the ladder at his corporate job. Sure, he’d make more money, but how much money do you need to be happy? It all comes at a cost. You get promoted and take on more responsibility which means more stress and less time. And then it’s a slippery slope to keep up with the Joneses, move into a bigger house and drive a fancier car. Then you’re stuck in a never-ending cycle to pay for these things that you aren’t even around to enjoy because you’re working so much to have them in the first place. We are happy where we are in life. We have flexible jobs and have the freedom to travel and have a life right now. Not just when we retire. We have decided to value time more than money. We value experiences more than money. We value our lives more than money. As the saying goes: You weren’t born to just pay bills and die.