First Impressions of Nomadic Life

Sep 11, 2013

Just under two weeks ago, we packed almost everything we owned into a pickup truck and 26’ Airstream travel trailer, handed our house keys over to our great new renters, and took off on the adventure of a lifetime. I thought it might be fun to do a blog every so often that reflects back on what we’ve learned and how we’re handling the transition to nomadic life.

You may think “yeah, whatever, it’s only been a couple weeks and that’s not enough time for it to not feel like a vacation,” but it actually hasn’t felt like a vacation at all. For one, we’ve been working a lot, and using most of our spare time so far to get our little trailer feeling like home. We aren’t going out for meals that much or doing too many touristy things, and have been spending a lot of time “at home” wherever we are – cooking dinner, sitting around a campfire talking, reading, going for walks.

We’ve learned a lot in the past two weeks:

We’re not just surviving – we’re thriving in this small of a space. I was worried that it would seem claustrophobic or that we’d miss a lot of things we had in our “sticks ‘n’ bricks” home, but so far I’ve missed nothing (well, at least since last week when we finally we got our shower finished and no longer had to use the campground bathrooms!). The dogs are adapting really well and seem far less stressed that they’re always within sight of both the door and Jason and I. They used to feel the need to patrol the yard and house constantly, but these days they’re happily napping the days away and enjoying more time with us.

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There are some adjustments of course, like how to cook with only a few pans, using a cooktop, grill, or toaster oveninstead of a full-size oven or microwave, and working around each other in a much smaller kitchen. It actually simplifies life significantly not having so many dishes to clean up afterward, and makes cooking more like a game because we have to get very inventive with food preparation and storage. One-skillet meals are becoming our specialty. Those “wasted” hours of playing Tetris as a kid have now come in handy again when we stock our cabinets and refrigerator after a grocery run!

We’re also wasting far less food because we have so much less storage space, so things don’t just sit there and go bad, or get pushed to the back of a cabinet and forgotten. We get maximum use out of everything we buy because we have to use it all before something else can take its place in our tiny fridge or cabinets. That, plus our tiny trash and recycling bins, have been a great lesson in reducing waste!

It feels like our non-work time is truly ours again. It’s so nice to need only 5 minutes to sweep the whole floor, or the same to clean the entire bathroom or kitchen. 160 square feet is just so simple and stress-free compared to all the maintenance of bigger house. Now that’s not to say things don’t go wrong with an RV too – we’ve already had a few issues we had to fix on the road that were a bit stressful – but most of the recurring and highly-time-consuming household activities we despised, like the multiple hours of vacuuming, dusting, cleaning several bathrooms every week, mowing, and caring for flower beds and trees, are all things of the past now.

Less has been so much more for our physical and emotional health too. We’ve been playing more, cooking more, laughing more, spending more time with each other and the dogs, and taking delight in simple things we had forgotten about, like going for leisurely walks. We spend the extra time we have now admiring the brightness of the stars in the countryside, watching a beautiful sunset from start to finish, reading books we’d put off for years, talking around a campfire with a glass of wine, and going on spontaneous adventures whenever and wherever the mood strikes us.

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Our home office in the Finger Lakes – not bad!

This isn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be . Much scarier than not knowing where we’d be sleeping the same night was the monotony of living a life where every day is mostly the same and risks are few and far between. The challenges and new experiences of being on the road every day make me think that this could never get boring, unless of course we ran out of places to go – which is unlikely in a country the size of ours and with a couple others bordering us!

There will of course be good days and bad, as with any lifestyle. We’ve already had our share of challenging days of tough driving, bad weather, technical trouble with internet or phone service, fixing plumbing leaks, locating a place to park for the night, and mail and banking has been a headache, even with lots of preparation. All of that can all happen living in a normal home too, perhaps with the exception of not getting mail delivered right to your door! At our last campsite in the Finger Lakes of New York, we had to have some trailer parts overnighted to us, and the campground owner was very thoughtful and brought it to our door by golf cart. Somehow it’s easier to take on those challenges while on this adventure, knowing that something really awesome is waiting just around that next turn, if you can just get through the current issue you face.

It’s very odd to have a home that we own outright but have to continually find and rent the land for it to sit on. We haven’t gotten used to going from a stationary home we own and are wholly responsible for (including the land it sits on) to having a home that we’re responsible for, but on someone else’s land that we don’t have to care for at all. Our condo was the closest thing to that, but we still had to do lawn and flower bed maintenance. Then there’s the really peculiar situation of parking somewhere for the night and being “home,” but located in a parking lot or on public land somewhere. The whole concept of “home” has changed for us so much already. When people ask us “Where are you from?” we have to pause to think about what it means now to be “from” somewhere. It implies that you’re returning there in a certain amount of time to live again, when in fact, we may not ever settle down again. Additionally, neither of us was “from” Knoxville – it was just the last place we lived. For now we say Tennessee, but eventually, our answer to “where are you from?” may change to “everywhere” as it becomes more and more true.

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Charting a course for our first two weeks of our new life.

It’s also strange to be living somewhere for an undetermined length of time, unlike a vacation with a known start and end date, or even renting a place for a certain number of months. We’re in the Adirondacks in New York right now and had planned to only stay for a week, but we like it enough that we might stay longer. We pay nightly so just leave when we feel like it. Our locations are completely flexible based on the weather, how we’re enjoying the area, internet connectivity, and people we meet. If we get bored we just hitch up and move! We’ve also unexpectedly picked up potential clients here in town, and even had a business meeting last night while drinking beer with our dogs at a pub, so work can dictate where and when we move now too!

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Our beautiful family photo was taken by the talented Jennie Huettel of Mountain Mutt Media in Knoxville, Tennessee! Some really talented people who live in an Airstream also built her a new website (not mentioning any names *wink*). 

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2 comments

  1. Comment by Neal Davis

    Neal Davis Reply May 10, 2014 at 12:03 am

    I saw you in the latest chat that Chris and Cherie did, and I was intrigued enough to wander to your website. Learning that you lived in Knoxville makes me all the more interested in you and your travels. I went to grad school at UT (ag econ) and am “from” just outside of Chattanooga. So, I suddenly feel even more intrigued by you. As to me, my wife, and our puppy dog, we’re opting to await retirement (less than 3 years now) to begin to RV, but we plan to only be on the road half-time. I can hardly wait to see all the things that you do and see, and how much I vicariously learn from your experiences.

    • Comment by Kristin

      Kristin Reply May 10, 2014 at 3:57 am

      Thanks, Neal! That’s such a coincidence that you went to UT also. It’s a great area, and we loved visiting Chattanooga when we lived in Knoxville.

      How exciting that you’ll be traveling in a few years! Why wait though, you can get out there some right now and practice! 😉 Most people find that they buy a “starter RV” then switch to something else in a few years anyway, so you could get it out of your systems now and buy your ideal rig when you’re ready to be on the road more. Just a thought! It might save you a lot of the learning curve we experienced by jumping into it straight from a sticks ‘n’ bricks existence.

      Let us know if we can be of any assistance, if you have any topics you’d like us to cover, and of course we love to hear from you through comments on our posts. Best of luck during your countdown to retirement!

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