My family and I recently wrapped up a few months of full-time travel in a super tiny travel trailer. This post is really long, and it’s a summary of how it went and why we stopped. Keep reading if you’re interested in this, otherwise, head to the archives to read posts on the things I usually write about!
Late last Fall, my family and I were in Northwest Arkansas- the place we’d called home for one very difficult year- looking for a house in Southern California. We’d followed God’s call across the country and gone on an incredible, wild journey. We’d started out as a stay-at-home mom and an internet technician and ended our time in Arkansas in a very different place.
I was now an entrepreneur with an armful of high-profile media features under my belt (I talked to friggin Jenny McCarthy in my living room! What is happening?!), a book agent, and the possibility of a reality television series on the horizon. Brian was still shell-shocked. Did this all really even happen?! Our lives had totally turned around so quickly. He was no longer bound by the job that had kept him away from his family for years- missing soccer games and prenatal appointments. We had no more ties in this beautiful state, and we could feel our hearts being pulled back to our roots. It was time to go back home and be near friends and family again.
We sat in our office on the phone with landlord after landlord hearing the same words over and over. Nobody wanted to rent to an out-of-state couple with a brand new business (no matter how much we had sitting in the bank), a dog, and not-so-great credit (we had struggled so hard to get to where we currently were).
We sat there feeling frustrated. I mentioned that one idea we’d always talked about since four years earlier… living in a camper and traveling a little. We tossed the idea around a bit but it didn’t really stick because we were tired and needed to sleep and start fresh tomorrow. The next morning we went to church and then took an afternoon drive. We saw a vintage Airstream travel trailer on the side of the road with a “For Sale” sign on it, and it seemed perfectly timed, so we pulled over. It was unlocked, so we snuck inside for a peak. It was so amazing, but so old, and it needed tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of work. Not for us!
Seeing that trailer made last night’s idea catch a new spark though, so I opened Craigslist up on my phone and we found another trailer for sale just down the road from where we were. We called the couple that had posted it and headed over. We talked, bursting with excitement about what it might be like to leave everything behind and live in a camper, visiting friends around the country. Even the kids were into the idea!
The trailer was perfect. It had a little water damage, but nothing my handy hubby couldn’t fix. It was decorated, well, like a camper, so we decided we’d renovate it. We still weren’t sure about living in it, but we knew we could at least use it to get back to California until a house worked out. We were feeling excited and a little trigger happy, so we handed them cash and left with a camper attached to our Suburban. Crazy.
December came around and we wanted to spend Christmas with family, so we said goodbye to the friends we’d come to love, packed our furniture into a POD storage container, and rolled out. December and January were spent on renovations, and finally, after what felt like years of painting and fixing and planning, we were off to live beachside for awhile.
It was sort of a weird place to be in… we’d just finished renovating our camper, but our hearts weren’t quite ready to go. We’d just come back from more than a year away from family; we found ourselves wanting to be around them still. The city Brian and I grew up in is just forty minutes or so from the beach, so we landed a site at a beautiful RV resort in Oceanside and decided to spend some time there so we wouldn’t be too far from loved ones.
We’d also realized, after renovating the camper and getting all the furniture and belongings we needed into it, that it was WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY WAAAAAAAAAAY too small for a family of six (plus a dog) to be living in. Like, way way way way way (okay, you get it) too small. Honestly, neither of us had a clue about camping, travel trailers, what kind of RV’s were even available (we now know there are basically estates on wheels out there), and like I said… we were a little trigger happy and just tried something crazy and ran with it. So we would keep running with it even if it was hard and imperfect. Because this camper was ours and it was special to us.
With what I do in my business, it was a fun challenge – minimalism to the extremest point. And that it was…
We spent two months living literally on the beach in beautiful So Cal. We would wake up in the morning and walk to get coffee and breakfast at the Buccaneer Cafe, watch the waves while we talked and ate eggs, go back to the camper to get some work done, and every time the kids needed to burn some energy or we felt cramped, the beach was right there.
We quickly learned that it’s hard to be productive in work and homeschooling when everyone around you is on vacation. You have to create your own boundaries and structure, and that’s really hard to do when the beach is outside your window. I’d hired several people to take on important roles in my business (a VA, a customer service rep, and a social media manager) in order to make my work load lighter, but working without an office was still a challenge that I was determined to figure out.
We had made an amazing deal with a huge website- they wanted me to create a mini course for their audience (a bite-size version of my full decluttering course). This was a huge opportunity for us and we were so excited about it! Brian had taken courses and learned to do the video/photo/media work I really needed done, so we worked as a team and took this project on.
It was terrible. There were so many problems and hurdles because of our lifestyle. The situation made us look so frazzled and unprofessional…we needed an office.
We tried renting a cute house in LA to record the course at, but the neighbor was working on his roof and it was so loud we couldn’t record, and we couldn’t convince him to stop either (he was kind of a jerk…).
$350 down the pipes.
We borrowed a friend’s adorable shop in Oceanside and spent an entire day recording with the camera set up on auto-pilot (so Brian could be with the kids while I recorded), and the footage turned out unfocused on fuzzy.
Seven hours of me sitting in a chair talking into a camera, for nothing.
We spent another $500 on furniture and set up a faux living room in the empty cottage my parents had in their backyard. Third time’s the charm I guess, because this time worked. However, we had leaked money on this very simple project and it had taken so much extra time… all because we didn’t have a home office to work from. We started to feel worried. Could we really do this with the type of business we had?
Pretty soon it was time to leave- we could feel the urge to travel and do what we’d bought the camper to do, so we planned a trip south and rolled out again. Our goal was to end up in Florida. My best friend of twenty-three years lives in Clearwater with her husband and two kids, and I hadn’t seen her in way too long.
We planned to stop in Arkansas for a week on the way to visit the friends we’d made while we lived there. We hiked, laughed, had slumber parties, met friends for lunch, and had a blast! We did all the things we couldn’t do while we lived in Arkansas because of the chaos of starting a business.
We left Arkansas feeling grateful for friendships but very behind on work. No matter what we did, this felt like vacation and it was nearly impossible to balance visiting with friends and not being “home” with getting steady work done. One of us needed to be with the kids at all times and we both had a list of work tasks to handle.
The camper was so small and cramped we really couldn’t all be in it at once, which was a really difficult problem to have. Every day felt like a battle we were losing and it really sucked the fun out of traveling. We decided to work harder to find a