We’ve been living in our Airstream home and traveling for a year! It’s hard to believe, because it went by really fast. We probably traveled as much in a year as we would have in ten years if we hadn’t done this. It’s been a great opportunity to see the country. We’ve visited places that I never knew existed before we started this trip.
It’s amazing how much biologically diversity is in the U.S. This year we were in forest, tropics, bayou, desert, red rock canyon, mountains, and prairie, and we only saw a small amount of what is out there. We’ve also been able to visit friends and family across the country, and had them visit us at the trailer, too.
To celebrate, here are some statistics!
- Total Miles Traveled: 40,100
- Miles Towing: 19,389
- Places Visited: 41
- States Visited: 20
- National Parks Visited: 19
- National Monuments Visited: 9
- State Parks Visited: 14
- Campfires: 45
- Airstreams Spotted: 234
- Nights of Paid Camping: 265 (73%)
- Average Cost per Paid Night: $31
- Nights of Boondocking: 52 (14%)
- Nights Moochdocking: 31 (8%)
- Nights at Walmart: 17 (5%)
- Nights in Michigan: 116 (32%)
- Truck Repairs: 9 (Timing Chain, New Engine, Turbo Charger Repairs x 3, Brake Pad Failure, Flat Tire/New Tires, Loose Starter Wires, Throttle Body)
- Airstream Repairs: 4 (Flooring, Propane Detector, Furnace, Water Heater)
- Airstream Improvements: 5 (Soap Dispenser, Solar Panel, Power Jack, New Batteries, Shelves)
When we started, I didn’t really know what to expect. At first I was nervous to tell people our plan, what would they think?! After we told everyone, I realized that was a pretty silly concern. Most people were excited for us.
After that I was still nervous to bring it up to strangers, and I didn’t want to talk about how long we were going to travel for. Because, what if we didn’t continue that long? Would that be failing? What if we didn’t like it?
The first surprise I had was how easy it was to adjust to living in a trailer. The process of downsizing and moving was a pain, but once we were in the trailer, it felt pretty normal. I think it’s because the trailer became home really quickly, and when we are inside, it’s actually pretty easy to forget what’s outside. Unless it’s really windy or rainy, which is loud in a trailer!
Living in less than 200 square feet of space hasn’t been too hard either. Brian and I have survived the year without killing each other, though we’ve occasionally wanted too. Fighting in a small space is harder because there’s no where to get away from each other!
The trailer can get cluttered easily, and feel claustrophobic when it is, but it also is fast to clean up. Still, sometimes (not often!) it looks like this.
In the first few months I struggled with whether of not we were doing it “right”. I wondered if we were going home too much, and I wasn’t sure if we were traveling too fast or too slow. Especially when the truck broke down and we were stuck in Michigan for two months.
We ended up being in Michigan for about a third of the year. That’s more than I planned, but there were things going on with friends and family that we didn’t want to miss. Everyone in Michigan that thought they were getting rid of us for awhile was mistaken. In fact, we are starting Year 2 with a couple weeks in Michigan.
Maybe in month 4 or so, I started to get comfortable with the fact that there isn’t really a right or wrong way to do this. There are a lot of people doing it, and everyone is different. A lot of people that live in trailers full-time don’t even have a home base, and many are working too, so they might travel slower than we do.
I’ve been accused (mostly by Brian) of sugar-coating the blog. There have been things that have been upsetting on the trip (like all the truck troubles), but overall it’s hard to complain about our lives right now. I do occasionally censor the blog to avoid embarrassment. In the early days of not knowing what we were doing, we foolishly had confidence in our trailer’s cabinets to stay closed while traveling. One cabinet in particular did not cooperate. Over time, we learned to not store heavy things in it, Brian tightened the latch, and then built a slide-out shelf in it, so fortunately it’s been awhile since we’ve had a “clean up on aisle 5!”.
We definitely don’t have it all figured out yet, but I no longer feel very uncomfortable with that. For instance on our way into the Upper Peninsula, we had our first driving-related mishap. It was dark, and Brian cut a turn a little too sharply and drove the trailer through a ditch. At first we thought we escaped with no damage, but it turned out that we bent a stabilizer jack beyond repair! I feel pretty zen about needing to get this repaired, and don’t feel like it’s a condemnation of us or how we are doing.
There are things I miss since moving into the trailer. Aside from family and friends, I miss having a dishwasher and a normal bathroom. We have a sink, toilet, and shower, but we don’t poop in our toilet. Maybe that sounds strange (and I’m sure lots of other people do), but we dump our tanks about once a week, who wants to have a bunch of poop stored in a tank? Also, since the trailer in so small, it would kind of be like pooping in our kitchen, living room, and bedroom. So, we’ve gotten really good at using public bathrooms. A new pet peeve is motion-sensored things (toilet flush, soap dispensers, paper-towel dispensers, and hand dryers), that don’t work! Another consequence of this is that we talk about poop way more than we used to.
I don’t miss working per se, though I do miss having a routine. I think Brian misses working but adamantly refuses to admit it. I especially don’t miss rush hour or business casual clothes.
Never having famialarity with the area we are in probably affects us less than many other people, because our sense of direction is so bad that we use GPS no matter where we are, even at home! Sometimes we miss having a good, reliable grocery store closeby. But, the trade-off is that we find interesting new things to buy at the grocery stores we go to. It’s fun to find regional products, like cajun ingredients in New Orleans, and green chiles in New Mexico.
Laundromats have not been too bad. It can be annoying that they are all different, and don’t always clearly explain how the machines work, but it’s really nice to be able to do all our laundry at once. Three loads of laundry is everything we have with us.
We were surprised at how much we enjoy National Parks and Monuments. I expected to visit National Parks as well as cities and State Parks, but National Parks have been our favorite destinations. They are generally very beautiful and unique, with great history and wildlife, and so easy to visit. We can basically just show up, and learn what there is to do and how to do it when we get there. Our favorite city visit so far has been New Orleans, which has amazing food and a unique culture, but visiting was a lot of effort! We had to figure out on our own how to best spend our time to get a good understanding of the city, and figure out traffic and parking and stuff. Cities are also expensive and we tend to eat and drink a lot! Since we are visiting so many places back-to-back without a lot of time to plan, National Parks have made it really easy for us.
We have gained a huge appreciation for the National Park Service and conservation efforts in America. We often talk about what the park land would be like if it weren’t protected. The National Parks are an amazing asset for all Americans.
Toll roads are especially annoying for us now. Many areas don’t have toll booths anymore! There’s no way to pay for them on the spot. We could get a transponder or open an account and pre-fund it, but there are different toll agencies in each state/area/or even road. We’ve done this when we can, but it’s a pain, and then we have to request a refund of unspent account balance. When this hasn’t been possible (because it isn’t available, or we don’t know about the tolls far enough in advance), they send a bill (which includes additional administrative fees) to the address we use (Brian’s parents address). If we don’t get the bill for awhile, we pay a late fee too. It’s pretty frustrating!
When I look back through everywhere we have been in the past year, it feels a bit like a blur. We have been traveling pretty fast, which has advantages and disadvantages. We have seen so much, and never feel too sad leaving a place because we know we are heading somewhere new and exciting. But, we kind of shed each place as we leave it too, to make room for the new places. We haven’t been taking a lot of time to plan ahead or to reminisce, so I suppose it is forcing me to live more in the moment, which I am not always good at.
We are hoping to continue traveling for another year. In year 2, I’d like to travel slower and take more time at each stop. This would let us have more time to persue other hobbies rather than just travel, and also to enjoy each place without feeling so “go go go!”. It will be hard to slow down, when there is so much out there!
We would also like to get better at meeting people. The few people we have met in the last year have been really fun. We thought it would be easier to meet people while traveling, but honestly we haven’t been making much effort. I think that’s partly because we are traveling fast, and haven’t always wanted to be flexible and take time to meet people.
In the next year, we’d also like to make it to Alaska, and that will definitely take some planning.
Before we left, I was really nervous about how everything would be, and for me the only way to get over that was to do it. Now, we are a year in, and it has really been great. I’m amazed at everything we have been able to see and do. This has been an unforgettable experience, and I’m very grateful for it!