It’s now been more than a year since we moved into our Airstream. It seems like a good time for a little reflection on where we are today, how life has changed, and how I have changed.
Living in an Airstream has simply become the new normal. While it always has its own challenges, I don’t feel any day to day regret for giving up a big house and lots of stuff. Nor do I feel like I am dramatically free of materialistic burdens. After all the initial factory issues were discovered and dealt with in the early months, the Airstream has held up great and given us very few hassles. When challenges do come up, we typically have a ready solution based on the experience we’ve built up. I keep thinking it should feel strange, crampt, or weird. But it just feels like normal life.
Travel and Adventure
Unlike domestic life in the Trailer, this part of the adventure doesn’t get routine. Nearly every day brings exciting new adventures and experiences. It’s a constant source of delight and fulfillment. From time to time I feel myself get a little jaded but time and time again I get surprised and delighted by something utterly new and fascinating. Travel is simply a great way to spend your time. Because our home is with us wherever we go, we don’t get homesick. Whether in a desert, mountain, river valley, or cemetery we are at home.
Working on this blog has been one of the constants of our journey. This post will be #238 or #239 that we have published. For a while, we were doing a post every day, but we’ve dialed it back a bit. The audience has grown steadily over that time though it’s far from a blockbuster success. We have a few regular readers beyond friends and family, though most of the activity is from people googling for information about Airstream trailers.
Our most popular post by far is Picking a Tow Vehicle for your Airstream. It gets more reads than nearly the rest of the site put together. It turns out there just weren’t many other articles out there on that specific topic. I’m happy that the articles that are most popular are actually getting read. People spend an average of 5-10 minutes on each of them and we’ve gotten a lot of feedback that the advice has been helpful to folks. We are slowly retrofitting some of our other articles to tailor to an Airstream specific audience.
We are making a little money on the Blog through our Amazon Affiliate links. Every month is a little better than the last though its’s still nothing remotely resembling “making a living.” None the less I’m happy with slow and steady progress at this point, and I feel both Trail and I have greatly honed our writing and editing skills in the process of writing these articles.
Making a Living
This is the area where I have done the most soul searching over the course of our journey. A year in and we still don’t have a steady source of income. That is not to say we are on hard times. I have considerable savings and our life on the road is incredibly inexpensive compared to life in Seattle. Our expenses for the year are in the range of 3oK (not including all the initial investments of course).
A year ago, I’d have said that by now, I’d either be making a full-time income on the road or be forced to stop and take up an hourly job. It turns out neither is the case. I’m making only a meager income but still have a pretty big financial cushion compared to our expenses. Ultimately what I ended up doing was taking a long sabbatical from working for money, and pursued working for pleasure while vacationing.
What it seems I want to do is write. Since setting out I’ve written quite a lot. I’ve got a 30K word strategy guide that’s almost done, this blog, two other blogs (though less prolific), and lord knows how many long winded facebook posts and debate board articles. There is also my novel, though that has stalled out at around 8K words for the last couple of months. I think my greatest improvements as a writer have been in self-editing. I’ve gotten much better at reading my own work and finding ways to improve it.
While I’ve written a lot, I’ve done very little to make any money at it. I seem to lack a certain entrepreneurial spirit. We’ve had quite a few money making ideas, but when push comes to shove we have let them go, often making a conscious decision not to commit to a dramatic change, and instead keep on the path of exploration first, making money second in a catch as catch can fashion.
Is that OK? Well, that’s the soul searching part. I have no regrets about having the time of my life exploring America nor do I expect I ever will. The only real concern is that I want to keep living this lifestyle of travel as long as I can muster and I know that means I’ve got to find a way to make an income. I have always been a person who bides his time and then makes a dramatic leap at an opportune moment. I’d like to think all my writing is building up skills and assets which I will cash in on when I truly need to. It’s pretty much my MO.
But none the less, I have doubts and worries. I’ve not lived up to my own expectations, even if those expectations were perhaps out of character with my past behavior. Will I truly suddenly find some kind of financial success? My gut tells me I will, that when needs arise I always find a way to not only survive, but excel in some fashion. But I know it’s not going to happen until I have the motivation to “spring into action.” So when will I do that and what will trigger it, and will it work? It all seems a bit mad, but looking back on my life, it’s always how I’ve done things and it’s always worked out. Do I trust myself too much? Do I simply love the drama of creating a challenge and then overcoming it? Perhaps.
The journey has definitely been good for my health. I am a sedentary creature by nature, but this life of exploration requires some effort. Between hitching and unhitching the trailer and the regular hikes we take, I’ve gotten in markedly better shape. My back hurts far less often and I have at least a bit more stamina than I once did. It’s not especially dramatic mind you. I don’t sprint up mountains without breaking a sweat. We took a 6.5-mile hike up and down a mountain side that left me feeling utterly beaten despite going at a snail’s pace at the end. Yet in the past, I’d have been sore and miserable for days after that. Now, after an hour of rest and cool drinks, I feel just fine.
My weight hasn’t budged, though that doesn’t surprise me. I initially got fat biking miles to and from work every day. Whatever extra calories I’m burning, I’m just putting back on while eating. Trailer life can encourage junk food dining. Long hikes give me serious carb cravings. I also have a habit of putting on muscle mass easily so all the exercise is likely trading one kind of bulk for another. Trail, on the other hand, has seen some real weight loss in our travels and she’s quite pleased with it.
I think that travel has helped me grow as a person, especially in the sense of becoming more knowledgeable about people and places I visit. That is one of the reasons people do it after all. I feel like I’ve come to better understand rural life and sensibilities to some degree. I’ve also gotten a much better sense of what places really “feel” like, not just what they look like. I’ve learned a good bit of American history and had a lot of time and opportunity to ponder the relationship between the US and Native American tribes as well as to learn about the tribes themselves. I realize it’s only a scratch on the surface, but over time I’m sure more and more will sink in. More than anything, I think new knowledge is the ultimate agent for change in life.
When setting out I’d envisioned that I’d have more interactions with people we meet along the road. While we do encounter a lot of different folks, the interactions tend to be very surface level. We travel to places that get a lot of tourists and the people we meet are used to talking to tourists. It tends to make the interactions a bit route and routine. I’ve had a few deeper conversations with folks who I can strike up a common chord with, a lot of people react to my Dungeons and Dragons shirts. The bottom line is that as a traveler, you aren’t going to be around for long so making real friends or getting to know people on an intimate level.
I also underestimated how big a role Social Networking would come to play in my day to day life. I knew it would be one of the main ways of staying in touch with friends back in Seattle, and that I’d use it to promote our business activities. What I really underestimated is how it would become my main outlet for casual conversation and interaction with other people. Because it is ubiquitous, the on-line community is now my social center, pretty much my emotional hometown. There has always been a bit of that in my life, but it was at least 50/50. Now, aside from Trail, it’s about 95% of my social life.
The other 5% is when we manage to visit desperate friends on the road. Early in our journey, we did a lot of this. As we’ve delved deeper into the heartland and acquaintances are fewer and far between we’ve slacked off on it. I’ve missed a few folks I really wanted to stop and visit. I need to make the effort to get a formal list of people I want to visit and where they are located so I can take advantage of the opportunities for face to face encounters.
What Hasn’t Changed?
Despite spending lots of time outdoors and in beautiful national parks, and really enjoying most of my time doing so, I’m still fundamentally a cave dweller. I read a lot of murals about the outdoors lifting your wings, fulfilling the void in your heart, and making your spirit soar. Not me. It’s nice, its pretty, it’s peaceful, and it’s fascinating, but I don’t get a huge emotional boost or sense of relief from the rat race being in nature. I more or less “live” in my own head, and I mostly really like it there. While it’s great being in these places and they are inspiring, it just doesn’t light me up the way it does for Trail. I’ve never seen her happier than when we are exploring a new park. That alone makes it all worthwhile for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great way to live and I love it. But it’s not something I was “missing” in my life before.
Gaming also remains a constant for me. I’d thought perhaps all the adventures and writing would perhaps blunt my time spent playing games. Not so much. It has changed how I play, fewer board games and RPGS, more computer games. Also more casual mobile games and a bit less PC gaming. But overall, it’s about the same. Anytime I’m not doing something else, I’m gaming or thinking about gaming. It remains my life’s great passion and I suspect always will.
The Bottom Line
Life is good. I love what I’m doing and have absolutely zero regrets. This feels very much like what I should be doing. More than any time in my life I’m following my heart and that’s a real pleasure. I was feeling a little stale in my day to day life and that has been 100% remedied by this grand adventure. Other than marrying my wife, it’s the best and most gratifying decision I’ve made. I just need to find a way to bring some fiscal balance to this endeavor and sort out how I pay my way forward. I am confident I will find it, but I’ll need to look harder before that happens. Stick around and we’ll find out what happens next together. 🙂
I’m sorry to hear of your health challenge and I hope you’re doing well.
Question- I drive a jeep gram Cherokee overland 4×4 v6. Towing capacity 6200. (I think?) would I be able to pull an airstream 23cb or fb (I dk the difference) ? Thanks ! – totally green RV’r
Thanks, Suzanne, I’m happy to say I’m officially in remission. There’s a lot more treatment to go, but I’m doing much better.
You should be good there. The Max Weight on the 23″ is 6,000lb. So long as you don’t overload your trailer, you should be good to tow!
Hello Sig and Anne, my wife and I LOVE your blog! I know in one post you mentioned reading advice telling you to concentrate on one subject matter, but I’m glad you have kept a more diverse approach. There’s so much here for those like us who are considering this nomadic lifestyle; it’s really of incredible value to read such a wide range of topics, both the practical, the reflective, and the experiential. Thank you so much!
As for us, we’re techno nerds and gamers in Seattle. In fact, I think we’re about where you were 3 years ago. I have worked in tech for 25+ years, 10 as a software engineer at a big Redmond-based software company (you know the one). I just quit last month. I’d had enough of the daily wheelspinning, reorgs, and uncertainty (tho the people were pretty cool). I’ve got enough saved to spend some time figuring out what’s next, and that’s how we’ve pretty much always done it – figured it out along the way, like when we moved ourselves and 2 small children across the country back in 2004 so that I could go back to college and finally get my CS degree at DigiPen. So here we are, 14 years later, ready for another journey. It’s been too long in one place. We’ve considered buying a small cabin on a quiet, serene lake, but your blog has encouraged us to consider an intermediate step in between – spending some quality time as nomads, perhaps finding that perfect lakeside spot along the way.
As I pour through your posts, the first two questions that come to mind are: Is there anything you left behind when minimizing that you wish you hadn’t (and perhaps had to repurchase – or couldn’t repurchase)? And did you have any fears about towing such a large trailer when you first started, and if so, did you take any test runs or get any training before your purchase?
Thanks so much Will, I’m so glad you find the blog helpful and inspiring.
Thanks for sharing your story, that’s very cool. Seattle is a great nerdy kind of place. Though my last trip back, it was feeling pretty crowded after two years on the road. A buddy of mine teaches game design at DigiPen but probably started after you were there.
Did we leave anything behind we regretted?: Nothing comes to mind. IF anything, we brought a few things along we never ended up using, or didn’t use enough to really justify taking them. One thing I hadn’t thought of, was leaving sentimental items with friends and family (provided they are willing). They often appreciate having them, and its fun, when you visit to see reminders of days of yore. We recently stayed with friends in Seattle and they decorated their guest room with some of our old belongings. It was very sweet and nostalgic. I didn’t miss those things (mostly Cthulu plush toys) but it was fun to see them.
Any fears about towing a large trailer?: Absolutely. Trail still doesn’t tow the trailer. I tend to be a low-anxiety type, but towing the 30′ airstream definitely got me a bit stressed in the first month or two. We stuck close to our dealership and at a friends place the first month. While that was good for getting little manufacturing problems fixed, it was actually hard driving wise. They had a big enough driveway but the pull out onto the road involved backing up into traffic on a hill. Nail biting stuff, and some of the hardest we ever had to deal with. We have yet to have a close call while towing, though we’ve had issues parking a couple of times.
I think it is hardest when you just don’t know what to expect, but the more you tow, the more you get a feel for what will happen in any given situation. Knowing what will happen increases the comfort level dramatically. While I’m reasonably relaxed towing now, I always try to remember I’ve got my home hooked up behind me and to keep a higher level of alertness than you would otherwise.
The only training I did was for backing up. I got a video game called European Truck Simulator 2 on Steam. I didn’t play it a lot, but it definitely helped me get a feel for how a trailer moves. I spent most of my time in that game trying to back into loading docs over and over again.
So great to read your post and your deep reflections on life on the road. It is quite amazing how fluidity of place can inspire fluidity of mind. I also agree that writing is a great way to explore more deeply the experiences you are having. My blog has been a great second partner in my life and really helps to clarify things.
My husband and I are almost 6 months in to our journey. We took a break in Asheville for about a month because we were tired of having to ask the question, “where to next?” I think ultimately we are looking for a new place to live, but also, in the back of our minds investigating the possibility of traveling full time.
Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.
Thanks, Stephanie. I agree, blogging makes for a nice reflecting pool and helps me clarify sometimes.
We’ve had a few longer stays in places. It’s nice to have some time where you just hunker down, take stock, and not worry about where to go next for a bit. Anne (Trail) tends to always have new destinations in mind though and I’m ever amiable about where we head so that works well for us.
There are many places we go where I think, I could live here! And a few where I think, I would hate to have to live here! I think eventually we want to travel outside the US, but we haven’t sorted out how just yet. Folks ask us how long we plan on roaming and my standard answer is “until we are done.” I imagine we will settle down somewhere at some point, but I don’t know when or where yet. Even 18 months along now, it still feels like a very new life to us.
Safe travels Stephanie… and feel free to share your blog here if you want others to check it out. 🙂
Sig, I know this post is over 6 months old at this point but I found it very “real”. I just found you guys by listening to you on the RV Entrepreneur Podcast. I am going back and listening to all the RVEP old episodes because everyone has a story and can add to my knowledge of this type of lifestyle. My wife and I are in the planning stages of going full time. We hope to be on the road by this September so I am doing everything I can to prepare myself, listening to podcasts, reading blogs, and searching for the perfect RV.
We’ve already downsized. We sold our house last month and will be using some of those proceeds to purchase the roving home. We sold, gave away or donated all our furniture and most of our possessions. It was hard at first (in fact took use 3 sweeps) to truly let things go. High school letter jackets, newspaper clippings from college basketball, souvenir programs from key sporting events. All the crap that just accumulated that we thought had meaning. We still have some stuff (hedging our bet in case this doesn’t really happen) that will either need to go or remain in family basement storage.
Like you, I have left my professional, 6 figure income, benefit offering job. After 25 years doing the same thing (IT management) I had just burned out. Like you, it was mainly the office politics that just wore me down. I loved helping people but once you got into upper management that personal connection was lost. I’ve now been doing IT consulting and I love it. I get to help and don’t have to deal with the $h1thead CFO day in and day out. But the area of finances is by biggest concern (well one of them) as we look towards this new adventure. My partner in my consulting business has no problem with me working from the road so I will have the opportunity for an income but my heart and soul just haven’t reconciled this yet. I know I will need to work to fund the adventure (though leaving with a decent 6 figure amount in my savings after the rig purchase). But do I really want to be tied to areas where I can get decent cellular coverage? Do I still want to work 5 days (sometimes 6 or more. Clients still need attention) a week? And do I really want to be doing IT work? Again like you, I want something more to feed my soul. I think where I have landed on this is to hit the road with the current arrangement so that I know I have some source of income but to keep looking for alternatives that will better suite the travel and short week lifestyle and hope that I hit on something in the first few years. I know I can go 4-5 years if I made absolutely no income and I need to stretch it to 10 when I can tap my pension and the wife can get to her social security, retirement funds and Medicare.
That is my other worry, health insurance. Since leaving the corporate job we’ve gone on Obamacare and its quite expensive. My wife is a cancer survivor so heath care is an important item for us. But this goes hand-in-hand with the income worry. I figure if I can make enough money then the cost of insurance isn’t as heavy a burden.
I’ve gone on long enough. I will be reading much more of your blog and following your adventure. I see you are starting to head up the east coast. If you get near the Washington, DC area before September we’d love to treat you and Trail to a nice dinner. We can’t offer you a place to stay or hook up the Airstream as we are the one’s mooching off family until we hit the road.
Safe travels, Doug
Thanks, Doug. Both for the kind words and for sharing your story. It sure sounds like we’ve had some very similar experiences. We kept a few sentimental items with my parents, something that didn’t even occur to me until they suggested it. I’m sure it will be a kick someday down the road opening that box and going through them. We digitized a lot of things we wanted to remember, but there is something about the physical artifacts that makes you appreciate the scope of time. We deemed one “treasure box” would be enough.
Health insurance is a big challenge on the road and not just the expense. Coverage is also a problem. Most insurance assumes you live in one place and only travel very rarely, and certainly not when you are not feeling well. I frankly don’t know enough to give good advice on that. There are good articles out there. I’ve read quite a bit, but it’s one thing to read it, another to do it so I don’t feel qualified to offer specific advice. We’ve tried a few solutions and none of them have been very cost effective for us.
On the work front, the one thing I find I’m really missing is the comradery of the office and the fun of collaboration with others. I’ve always been very motivated by not letting others down and helping others with their goals. I miss the spark of other people’s energy and ideas in my work. I’m starting to feel that if I really want to find a new career or a new version of my old one, it will have to be some kind of collaborative work.
If we get to DC before September I’ll send you a message using your email from this post. I’m not sure if we will just yet as we only have solid plans out through July. Here’s wishing you all the best in your adventure! So far ours has been simply amazing. In the 18 months we’ve been traveling I’ve had zero regrets.
Great article! I envy your experience. So happy for you two to be having this adventure:)
Please remember us in New England. We have a guest room. Doubles as a craft room, so if you feel the need, you can craft away
We will be there, very slowly but surely 🙂 Can’t wait to hang out again, play some games, chat and catch up. Since we have the cats we usually just stay in the trailer and drive to visit.
Thanks for the kind words and hope you and Ted are doing great!
I’m enjoying your writings and FB posts, Sig. Keep at it as long as you are happy.
I’m Glad you like them and thanks for the encouragement.
(Great writing, I was totally in to your overview of your journey. You are very blessed to be able to do this. Travelling is one of life’s best lessons and I love how you share it. Keep moving on…
Thanks for the kind words Gerry!