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. 🙂