Howdy folks! I figured I'd better write something about tiny living, being as my time in the Airstream is quickly drawing to a close. And how about that? Six months in a 25ft camper sounded like FOREVER back in October, and here we are, one month left. Time does fly.
So. After the house got mauled by that giant tree in September, it quickly became clear that it wasn't structurally safe to stay in, so I had to find somewhere else to live. A few folks have asked me why I didn't just move into another house/condo/apartment. The biggest reason we chose the camper situation was so I wouldn't have to move twice in 6 months. Well, technically, I still am moving twice in 6 months, but this way it would be one big move and one little move instead of two big moves. And I'm renting the camper, we didn't buy one. The Navy pays for us to move when we change stations, which is great, but they would not pay for me to move my things to a different place just down the street. I would have had to do that myself, and that was just not possible financially or time-wise. So we decided I'd move into something tiny, and we'd put the majority of our things in storage until the house is ready in El Paso. It took a little bit to get my retirement orders released early, so I could have the Navy move everything, but I was able to do that, thank goodness. With no help whatsoever from my command, I will add. Ugh. Typical. For those that aren't familiar with the military deal, we get orders to our next assignment, and only after those orders drop we can schedule a move. It used to be that we got orders a year out, but now it's more like 3 months or less (which is definitely not cool - even without kids, finding a place to live in a completely different part of the country isn't necessarily a cake walk). So if I didn't work to get my orders released early, I would be getting them right around now....which wasn't an option when I had a house full of stuff that needed to be moved somewhere safe. ANYHOO - that's the background. This way the Navy moved the good majority of our stuff into storage and I have what I thought I needed for the next six months with me in the camper and in some bins in my office at work.
Turns out I have WAY more stuff than I needed. Shocking. I was thinking oh it's gonna be winter, so I need to have winter stuff AND warm weather things (because winter here has 50 degree temperature swings from one day to the next), and things to cook with, and I wanted to keep all the sentimental stuff with me as well. Definitely not how someone would be packing to go on a little camping adventure for a few weeks. So there's that. If I had the luxury of planning this out a little more I would have whittled it down considerably.
I don't have a structure to this post, can you tell? Ha! So you're probably wondering - do you like tiny living? Hate it? What's the deal? Full disclosure - it's just ok. I don't love it. Part of this could be the circumstances under which the decision was made to do it, but part of it could be that it's just not my thing. I definitely have had an irrational love affair with Airstreams for years. I love how they are iconic Americana and the idea that you can bring your home with you on adventures used to be so appealing to me. Down the road I still would consider getting an old one (if the opportunity fell in our laps...not gonna go out looking anytime soon) to put in the yard and use as a cool guest space. But I wouldn't care if it rolled. And I've honestly thought all these folks living out of their Toyota Tacoma for years are straight up cuckoo. Van life has never appealed to me. I really need my space.
So - pros and cons. Let's get to the meat of this, shall we?
PROS (in no particular order):
- It takes 5 minutes to clean. I have a hand held Dyson with me, and that and a broom do the trick.
- Even though I have established that I have too much with me, it is nice to have less. A few of your favorite clothes, shoes, books...that kind of thing. We really don't need all that much stuff in the day to day, and it's been good to have experienced that. Scott and I are not pack rats (moving every 2-3 years definitely helps you eliminate what you don't need or want), but it's easy to accumulate things when you stay in one place for a while, something I want to be conscious of once we are permanently in Texas.
- Sleeping in there is wondrous. The original set up in there is two twin beds, which I thought would be totally doable at first. But after one night it became abundantly clear that wasn't going to cut it. I'm not 8 years old anymore, no twin bed for me. So with the help of a couple guys from work, we put a makeshift platform in between the two twins, and moved our queen mattress from the guest room in there. Now it's like a magical sleep cave.
- The water heats up ridiculously fast. No waiting for a minute or five for it to get warm enough to wash your face.
- It's really nice when the weather cooperates and you can leave all the windows open. I'm in a decently quiet spot for being on base (well....there is significant aircraft noise, but I'm used to that). There is no car traffic besides the handful of people that live there. I really enjoy hearing the birds and feeling the wind, and seeing deer at sunset when I go walking. I do love that part of being "outside" most of the time.
CONS (also in no particular order):
- It is so hard to keep clean. Especially when the dogs were in there with me (they've since gone to Texas with Scott because my stress level was bubbling over...plus I don't think they liked it much either). It's ridiculously humid here, so dirt and sand always sticks to the bottom of your shoes (or paws) and gets tracked inside no matter what you do. I'm not a germaphobe or OCD, but I still like my living space to be clean. It's easier without the pups in there but it's still annoying as hell.
- Making the bed is a legit workout.
- I hate cooking in there. Like I said earlier, I like my space. There is nowhere to prep food, let alone store it. It does have a three burner propane range, and an oven, but unless you have mini-sized pots and pans, you can't put three things cooking on the stove top at once, or bake anything in the oven. Yes, I could have gone out and bought small baking sheets, but let's be real. I don't bake much in real life, why start when I'm living in a pregnant toaster? So yeah, I love cooking, but in there it just irritates me. I did make chili in the crockpot once (yes I brought the damn crockpot...thought I'd be making meals for the week all winter...so optimistic haha) but then didn't have enough space to store all the leftovers. Also the sink is tiny and the faucet is low-set over it, so I'm ALWAYS hitting things and myself on it. It's just claustrophobic for me. If I designed my own camper kitchen it would have a faucet with much higher clearance.
- The shower is miniscule. To the point that I don't even bother with it. It's my closet for coats and shoes (because there is legitimately nowhere to put shoes). I shower in the locker rooms at work. Again, if this was for a couple weeks here and there, I'd definitely shower there, but for six months? There's barely anywhere to put my damn shampoo and towel. No thanks.
So I guess the bottom line is that I just feel way too closed in. I realize that most of us spend a good portion of our days in our homes, which is technically the same thing, but staying for too long in there makes me bonkers. When it's not dark out I try to be outside as much as I can. I walk a lot to kill the time when I'm not at work, just so I don't have to go back there and be cooped in for the rest of the day. It's tolerable being there by myself but I couldn't imagine living in there full time with another person. Scott and I are great at sharing the space when he comes to visit (we have a LOT of practice with tiny bathrooms and weird, poorly designed homes) but neither of us would want to be in there long-term.
Also, despite how cool I still think they are, in my opinion it's a hell of a lot of money to invest in something that you are only spending a few weeks (if that) of the year in. Even if you do live in it for a year traveling around the country, when you're done, it just sits in your driveway most of the time. New Airstreams run about $100K+ (for one big enough), and you have to get a big ass truck to pull it with too, which ain't cheap either. That being said, Airstreams are VERY well made. I've been in there when it's pouring rain and crazy windy, and have felt completely secure. No leaks or anything. It's very easy to control the temperature in there, and it's really well insulated (for the most part....the floor I'd say is the weak link there). So if we do ever find a bag of money, and we somehow decide we want to get a camper, I would buy an Airstream. What other campers do you see out there from the 1950s? But right now, if we want to go camping, I'm cool with our hammocks.
Even though I honestly can't wait to be done with camper living, I am really thankful for the experience. I romanticized Airstream life for so long, because honestly, all the pictures you see make it look so dreamy. Picture it: a beautiful chrome vessel strategically parked on an ocean cliff side, so tastefully decorated with macramé hanging plants, and two happy people sitting outside of it on lawn chairs having a glass of wine....that's a picture of the ideal day. Which is possible! But they don't tell you about when their toilet tank needs emptying and after you drop a deuce the entire place smells like the chimpanzee enclosure at the zoo. Or when you're drying your hair and you hit your funny bone on an open cabinet and can't feel your fingers for 5 minutes. Just sayin'.
Also, I get why some folks (I feel like this is mostly youngins, but not necessarily) really enjoy the freedom of living on the road full time. No mortgage, or utility bills, or any of that adult bullshit. If I had to do it all over again right out of college, I think living in an Airstream during flight school would have been kinda cool. Back when you don't have much of anything, it would have been great not to have had to deal with leasing a shitty apartment with loud douchey neighbors and worry about scheduling movers. But that time has come and gone.
Now, being a nomad is exactly the opposite of appealing to me. Just a couple of years ago, I thought that after I retire we would go on a big trip to see our friends in Australia, or journey to Alaska, or coastal Norway to see the northern lights. One of my friends talked about going to a big music festival in Europe too. But obviously now, those are just ideas that went up in smoke. And that's ok because frankly, I'm tired. I don't want to go anywhere. Because of pretty much everything that's happened in the last year and a half, I am ready to just stay put. Living on the road just ain't in the cards. I don't want to be a nomad anymore. I want to put down some roots. Roots that I've never had.
Another thing I have romanticized in the past (I blame home renovation shows!) was buying an old house and fixing it up. We've pretty much lived in old houses our entire marriage, and I can say with full confidence that I have fully disabused myself of that idea. Too. Much. Work. And money, woof. Our place in Texas is 100% our design, and brand spankin' new. The builders have started framing and even though it's currently just a slab, some rough plumbing, and wood, it is incredible. I can't wait to share more of that process in the future.
So yeah, tiny livin': it's not for everyone. Hahaha. I know I'll look back on this time in my life fondly and remember what it taught me. Regardless of the difficulties. Pretty soon we'll be making the last push West. After that, you can find me in Texas. Growin' some roots.
Until next time,