I had no idea so many people wondered so many things about this groovy trip we’re taking. Here’s the running list of answers to questions I’ve been asked (often repeatedly) both on and off social media. Msg me if I missed one…or if you bunch of sillies think of something else you’d like to know.
- “When this Airstream’s rockin’…” You guys…really!? So, those of you who saw my FB post know that
I associate with complete pervertsTHIS subject ranked at the TOP of the “I wonder” list. And thusly I have made it numero uno here for your dirty, creeperinquisitive minds. Prepare for your WAH-WAH moment. While I won’t go into details because…ew…I will say that we have loud A/C-furnace units and noise machines and our children go to bed HOURS before we do. They have a curtain for their bunk and we have a door/curtain for our room which is on the opposite side of the camper. And, c’mon peeps…where there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s really not difficult.
- “I’m starving…” I still go grocery shopping once a week (ok, probably twice since I can’t seem to keep enough yogurt on hand) and stock up as best I can. Our fridge is maybe 1/4 to 1/3 of our house fridge, the freezer is easily only 1/6 of our old one and our pantry is maybe 1/8 of the old one. Other full-timers introduced me to the fun game of pantry Tetris (or freezer Tetris etc). I’ve found that I play this game quite well. I always had too much food in the fridge/pantry at home….it would take weeks to months to get through it, if we ever did. So, now I buy what we need, we eat it all, I buy it again in a week. There’s definitely no “stocking up”. I don’t really do any meal planning. I probably should. I said the same thing when we were in the house. We have a regular rotation and I throw in something interesting once in a while. As for eating out, we haven’t eaten out any more than we did in the house…maybe even less? Once a week average, I’d say. I’m sure that will wax and wane depending on where we are and who we’re visiting. But we’ve found that we venture out for sightseeing after lunch (or pack a picnic lunch) and we’re home in time to cook dinner. I still do almost all the cooking, but Shan has been grilling more now that we’re full-time.
- “That’s it…we’re moving to a nudist colony!” Washing clothes has been OK. We’ve done both the in-town laundry mat and used the laundry at the campgrounds. The big in-town kinds are great because you can Do All The Laundry in one fell swoop with those big units. Plus they often have free wifi (download All The Updates, watch All The EvanTube!!), so score! But you have to drive there vs. humping your laundry to the close-by campground facility (but some state parks don’t have laundry). Neither give me the willies. Both are fine. Both are expensive. I’m so happy some folks who bought our stuff paid us in rolls of quarters (Thank you M & D!). There’s definitely more planning involved. I swear we used to wash 20+ loads a week at the house…because we could! Now it’s more like 2 or 3. Aside from laundry, it takes (literally) 15 minutes to clean our ENTIRE house. That’s good stuff right there.
- “Where the hell is my Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes letter!?” When we sold the house, we changed our address to my dad’s so we’re still Maryland residents. They’re getting our mail and forwarding it along. Easy peasy! Thanks Nona and Poppi!! 🙂
- “I called the witch doctor…and he said ooh, ee, ooh, ah, ah…” Ah medical. Ah health insurance. We’re all signed up for (what we think?) is a good plan though the ACA…now let’s hope that doesn’t get kicked out from under us. We all got physicals (and I got lots of other BS since I’m the super special medical marvel of our family) before we left town and got the stamps of approval from all the docs and dentists. For sicknesses on the road we’ll most likely hit up local urgent care places (which, frankly, is what we did at home since our “real” doc was 45 minutes away and the boys never got sick during office hours…you know the drill). Emergencies are the ER of course.
- “Excuse me…pardon me…can I get by…oops, sorry…” While we downsized from 2400 square feet to 240 square feet…that’s not 240 square feet of FLOOR space. We (literally) have only a hallway of floor space inside the Airstream. A hallway to get to bedrooms, bathroom, pantry, fridge, clothes drawers, dinette, sofa, front door. I’m not gonna lie. It’s tight. But not uncomfortably so. We’ve become very polite with our “excuse me’s”. This is definitely an everything-in-its-place lifestyle. Things come out, things get put back as soon as you’re finished with them. Organizing is key. Thankfully an organizational freak lives here. We all have our own little spaces to escape to, if needed. The boys’ bunk area is a cozy little nest for reading, game playing, LEGO minifig battles and even doing schoolwork. Our room up front is big (it’s all relative) with a walk-around queen bed and a thick door/curtain thingy if you need to have, say….a temper tantrum in private without mom, dad and brother staring at your ridiculousness. There’s just enough room at the dinette for the four of us to eat (and enough room on the floor close-by for Vader to beg). Then, outside at our campsite, LEGOs or Minecraft figures or art supplies make their way to the picnic table or in the rocks/sand of our site or spread out on our patio mat so that feels like a huge increase in space. But…the REAL beauty of this is that outside our front door is an ever-changing front yard of campgrounds, mountains, forests, beaches, new cities to explore and so much more. Looks like downsizing to some, but feels like upsizing to me!
- “Headed to the bathhouse, brb…” For the uninitiated, bathhouses are facilities at campgrounds with showers/changing rooms and toilets. Some are fancy, some are sketchy at best. We’ve experienced a couple sketchy ones that didn’t really bother us much beyond “I wish there was more water pressure”. Most seem to be middle-of-the-road. As long as they’re semi-clean, I’m good. We have a little basket with bathhouse essentials in it that we keep and use in our Airstream shower even when we don’t need the bathhouse facilities (I’ll get to the difference in a bit). It’s shampoo/body wash, conditioner, soap, a scrubby thingy, razor for me and comb. We just keep it by the front door during our stay if we’ll be using the bathhouse. So, when do we need the bathhouse and when do we not? When we have FULL HOOK UPS we don’t use the bathhouse and DO use our Airstream bathroom–that means we have a city water connection (water hose that goes right into our water tank), electrical connection (power from the campground for our electricity inside) and a sewer hook up (a place we can connect our “stinky slinky” hose so we can dump our gray and black tanks). The Airstream has holding tanks for fresh water (goes to our faucets and potty), gray water (holds the USED water from our sinks and shower) and black water (holds the water and…other stuff…from the potty). The gray and black need to be emptied when they get full and the fresh needs to be filled (if we’re not connected to city water and have an endless supply). Confused yet? Meh. We’ll move on anyway. When we don’t have full hook ups, we need to conserve water so we shower at the bathhouse. When we do have full hook ups we do everything in the Airstream. POOPING: Our Airstream bathroom has a door and a fan. No need to clear out of the camper for dropping dueces. Can we sometimes hear what’s going on in there? Sure. But really, I haven’t pooped in complete privacy for almost 10 years…no different here.
- “Shhhhhhhhh!!!!! Conference call!!” Shan’s employer was gracious enough to work with him for this adventure of ours since 100% of what he does is on the computer. He is working 20 hours a week from the road (we have mobile Internet so he can connect). He generally wakes up at 6:30 and gets to work while the rest of us lazy bums sleep till 8-ish. The boys ease into their day by drawing/coloring or playing LEGOs while he works. He’s excellent at tuning us out but does have noise canceling headphones should the need arise. Since he’s only working 20 hours a week, by the time we’re finishing up school he’s finishing up work and the afternoons are set aside to exploring the area we’re visiting. It’s actually working out beautifully!
- “YOU ARE ON MY LAST NERVE!” Are we driving each other absolutely batty? I know some of you totally expect the answer to be yes…or you’re sure that YOUR answer would be yes if you were in our shoes. Just the opposite here. This small space is not causing short tempers or increased annoyances. The boys have never gotten along so well. Seriously. I shit you not. It’s VERY cool to watch as their mama. Of course they still argue with each other like 2 brothers, close in age, would…and Shan and I argue sometimes like any married couple too. But this space draws us together in good ways. I suspect that not only will we learn SO much about our country on this trip, but we’ll come to appreciate our family on a much deeper level as well. I can already see it happening.
- “But how will the kids (and/or adults) socialize!?!?!” This is my favorite question and one I knew I’d get LONG before we actually started living this life. Socializing is obviously much different than it was in our S&B (sticks and bricks house). When we hatched this idea we thought we were such pioneers…”let’s live in our camper and travel the country…no one else is doing something so crazy and cool!” Well, weren’t we surprised to find this HUGE network of people doing the same thing…old (<that’s relative), young, singles and couples, and FAMILIES with KIDS…so many families with kids! In the weeks we’ve been traveling, we’ve been MORE social than we were in our S&B! Of course the boys miss their school friends in a big way. But aside from the school day, where they mainly got to socialize during recess and lunch, they didn’t have this big social network. They each had a friend or two (and we ALL miss them a ton!) they had playdates with semi-regularly. No one ever pitched a fit about going in this adventure. If anything, the boys are developing some great social skills…making new friends at playgrounds, learning how to interact with kids of all ages. Some examples…our first week traveling we were in Asheville. While there we had dinner out with a family who had just settled down after having lived/traveled in their Airstream for 17 months. They had 2 younger boys and within minutes all 4 boys were sharing their passion for Angry Birds and art. Fast friends. Later that same week we met up with an old friend of mine and his family (they have 2 kids)…again fast friends with plenty of imaginative play packed in to a short time. In Savannah we connected with another family who full-times with 3 kids…fast friends with hopes and loose plans to meet up again. Same goes for Shannon and I…we’ve been FAR more social than we ever were at home. We enjoyed a happy hour last night with another Airstream couple that’s 2 campsites away. We were happy hermits in our S&B. The few date nights a year we got, we were home by 9. Ha! The beauty of this is that the boys are not just making friends with other 8 and 9 year olds in their exact situation…they’re making friends with many different people from all walks of life. And when I say “the beauty of this”, I mean BEAUTY. I am thrilled to provide for my family experiences and interactions with people like us and completely unlike us, with similar stories and totally different stories, old and young and as diverse as I could hope for. And that’s beautiful. I’m pretty good at social networking and meeting strangers. Most of my roommates in young adulthood were total strangers that became friends (or even BFFs and maids of honor). I met two of my closest girlfriends online and they live in other states. Shannon and I met online. I have a network of online mom-group friends across the US and Canada (can’t wait to visit you guys—please let us do laundry at your homes!!). I put us OUT THERE on social media and connected with many other people doing the same thing, many of whom I’d consider at least almost-friends. So, the social thing? Yeah, we’ve got that down.
- “Fa la la la laaaaaa!” Hiding gifts? We have all kinds of secret areas we can hide things. Plus we’ll be spending Christmas near my mom in Dunedin, FL (right on the gulf coast, thank you very much) so we’ll be sending packages there. And…obviously Santa will know where to find us and he’ll know where to direct Fozzie the Elf too…who should be making an appearance sometime in mid December. And we’re totally decorated for Christmas, including a wee little tree.
- “Best Ever!!” I think what has surprised me in the best way has been how EASY a transition this has been. I was just telling Shan that it almost feels like we’ve been doing this forever. We seem to have a nice, easy flow going. I’m shocked at how comfortable it has been. We have SO FEW worries getting in the way of enjoying life and exploring our surroundings.
- “Worst Ever!!” I’m not sure there IS a worst part. Not yet, at least. We haven’t experienced a solid week of rain that keeps up trapped inside. I’m sure that will stink. I don’t have this yearning for “me-time”…my Vader walks and grocery shopping by myself seem enough to fit that bill so far. Maybe in a few months we’ll have a “worst part”. OK…maybe the amount of money we spend on laundry? That stinks. That’s the worst part so far. Or the dog hair in our food? I mean, that’s not the best. There’s just not as much space for the dog hair to spread out so it ends up on the counters even though we vacuum multiple times a day. Or the skeeter bites? Ugh…the Florida state bird…skeeters. Let’s talk again in 4 or 5 months…maybe I’ll have a definitive WORST then.
- “I got my mind on my money and my money on my mind…” We made some pretty serious sacrifices to do this. It was THAT important to us. I quit my 17 year career in financial marketing and Shan went to 20 hours. That’s left us with only a fraction of our former household income with healthcare that will cost double what it used to. I’m sure there are ways to do this that leave families spending almost nothing. But since our goal was to TRAVEL and SEE STUFF, that’s what we’re doing. The day at the Biltmore? That was a $200 day. But then we have days we just go on hikes and ride bikes. Those are $0 days. I spend less on groceries but about the same on going out to eat (on ice cream…we spend it all on going out for ice cream). We have no mortgage, no electric bill, no heating oil delivery bill, no cable bill, less in vehicle insurance. But we have campground fees which (right now) are ranging from $200 to $300 a week (still less than half our mortgage). And gas…whoa…we can spend money on gas! And we have fees to see stuff. However, the National Park Service started their “Every Kid in a Park” program where families with 4th graders get in to every National Park for free. That helps! We have a small storage unit we pay for monthly. And we have our Airstream payment but no car payments. Thankfully, I’m a financial ninja (uh, kinda) and we’ve been smart about finances, so we felt very comfortable making this happen.
- “If home is where the heart is…” Are we homesick? This is a tough one. There are aspects of home that we miss for sure. It’s people mostly…and the familiarity of our old routine. There was comfort in familiarity. We miss family. I miss seeing familiar faces when I picked the boys up from school. We miss our big sectional couch for wrestling matches. I don’t know that either of us miss Maryland, per se…although as we see other parts of the country, we can appreciate Maryland’s beauty. The boys, I know, miss floor space to dump out their millions of LEGOs (most of which are in storage) and they miss family and school friends. For me, personally…Shannon, Quinn, Callum and Vader are “home”. Where I am with them, I am home. I could be back in our old house with all our old stuff and if they weren’t there with me, I would be painfully homesick. This Airstream, this cozy little rolling nest is HOME since that is where my tribe is. So, while I wouldn’t call it homesickness, I will say that there are things we miss for sure. Oh! My heated towel rack. I miss that.
- “Vader, Vader, Sweet Potater!” This dog. This go-with-the-flow, 85 pounds of solid LOVE. He’s awesome. While we had 3.5 acres at home for him to run, we NEVER (ever) took him for walks. I mean, WHY would we with a massive, fenced backyard? Well, now he gets multiple walks a day and is happy as a clam to have his pack so close in his big, silver den. He’s great when we leave him for hours at a time to sightsee. He makes this nest out of all the pillows on the master bed and burrows down for a nap. Vader is good. And tired most the time. That’s always a good thing for a lab to be.
- “What do you mean we don’t have a campsite booked for tonight!?” This has already happened. Headed from Savannah to St. Augustine, we realized we did NOT have reservations for that night. Doh! An easily remedied mix up. We both do the planning and have a general idea of where we’d like to go next. I’m typing this on 11/30/16 and we have through 2/3/17 planned out and RESERVED. After that? I dunno. We’ve made a few traveling Airstream friends that may be down this way so we’d love to do a little caravanning with them. I’m sure by February we’ll be ready for different landscapes and be heading up and out of FL to start on our westward journey. No clue. We both have a few apps and a few websites we check for reservations and/or reviews. Campendium rocks for easy searches and honest reviews and we always use Reserve America since our first choice is always state/national/army corps of engineer parks. We also check Campsite Photos before making reservations anywhere. Once we head out of our winter in Florida, it’s totally up in the air but we know we’ll be headed through AL, MS, LA and TX to points west. Hoping to spend a good amount of time in NM, AR, CO, UT, CA, OR, WA and then across the top. Maybe Canada. If we love this and keep going…Alaskan caravan…who’s in??!!
- “Reading, Writing and ‘Rithmatic.” During the course of the SCHOOL week we probably spend 30-40% of it doing traditional, book-work school and 60-70% experience-schooling which I think we ALL prefer. Math and language arts are mostly bookwork and seem to be going really well. Social Studies (and science) has been all experiential and immersive. Nothing like being next to a confederate soldier as he loads and fires his Civil War musket or staring down the sightline of a massive canon to see if it would have made it’s target in the harbor…or taking a ranger-led hike in the pitch dark to learn how animals use their senses. The NPS does an AMAZING job with the Junior Ranger program. I’m continuously in awe of the amount of work these kids do to earn their ranger badges at each park. It’s tons of history (and sometimes science) and they have to read and research and figure out answers to pretty in-depth questions. Do they retain it all? Nope. Did they retain it all after reading it from a textbook? Nope. We also got a membership to a Maryland museum that participates in this reciprocal program so we get to visit museums and science centers all over the US (world, actually) for free…yay STEM! Generally we’re done book-school by noon and on to other stuff (sometimes school-related, like a field trip). We really like spending one week at each place (assuming there’s stuff to see). That gives us a good balance of field trip/exploration days vs. chill at the camper/bike ride/play/housekeeping days. I’m sure things will change along the way, but for now this is how it works.
- “I call Do-Over!” What if we had to do it over again…what would change? We’d have done it sooner. We would have realized the Class A we bought and sunk thousands into was not the right move for us and skipped that year of pure RV annoyance.
- “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…” Are the people we’re meeting on the road total clowns/jokers? Not yet. I’m fully prepared to meet some of both as we go along, but so far, so normal. It’s still early in our travels but it’s been a mix of visiting old friends, meeting new friends that we’ve connected with on social media and being drawn to other Airstreamers that land in your park like zombies to fresh meat. All three of those categories have been absolutely wonderful! And again, we’ve been more social in the last month+ of traveling than we EVER were in our S&B. RVers (like boaters, I suspect) are just generally good, kind, helpful people who enjoy hanging out together.
- “I like it here. I think I’ll stay.” Would we stay in one place for a longer time? We’re actually doing that right now. We’ve landed in an RV resort near Grandma for an entire month so we can have Christmas with family. And then after Christmas we’ll be staying a 2 week gig at a state park (and a couple other parks) near Gram and Pop too. Staying for a month+ is generally cheaper when you average the per night cost. Plus if you’re not traveling and towing, you spend less in gas. Being able to dig in to an area and visit with family (and friends) will be nice, but I think we’ll definitely both prefer the week-long stays. Expenses be damned—we want to travel and see All The Things. We were only in St. Augustine for 4 days and that definitely felt too short. It’s not that we feel we HAVE to keep moving, but we definitely want to.
- “Well, this is different.” Ooh…biggest adjustment for each. For the kids I think it’s a cross between having so much down/free time (“Oh, you’re bored? Good, you’ll get SO bored your imagination will kick in.”) and not having the regular routine/friends of school-school. I think they both love and hate it. For me it’s been sharing one MASSIVE tank of a vehicle. It hasn’t really posed a problem (at least I didn’t feel it if I ran over something/someone), but I miss my zippy little red hybrid with it’s teeny tiny hatchback (in retrospect, that teeny hatch trained me well for freezer Tetris). This F250 is SUCH a lumbering beast. For Shannon…he says this feels completely natural. Zero adjustments. I think he was ready for the change.
- Must…Have…Internet… What do we do for internet? Great question. We joined a group called Fulltime Families and they have a few folks who offer a couple different internet access idea. We, essentially, bought an unlimited data line from a business and use a JetPack for connectivity and some signal boosters mounted to the roof of the Airstream. Lots more technical mumbo jumbo, but we had great luck using the Fulltime Families resources, as have LOADS of other full-time travelers! As for wifi, it’s been hit or miss. We stay at many state parks, which often don’t have wifi (except occasionally AT the ranger stations). But never have we experienced blazing fast wifi until we camped at Fort Wilderness in Disney.
- Baby it’s cold outside…and inside… What do we do when camping in below freezing temperatures? Honestly…we don’t know and we hope to not find out. We’re attempting to stay in temperate climates though I’m sure we’ll hit some below freezing temps at night and some hot-as-hades day temps. Our Airstream has a killer furnace and keeps it nice and toasty inside but also have heat pumps if we just need to take the chill off (and don’t want to use propane). We have 2 a/c units for those hot days and as long as we’re hooked up to 50 amp service we can cool it to ice-box levels in here!
Did you actually READ this far?