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We Left The Suburbs to Live in an Airstream Trailer: One month update

Brothers, connecting. (Jeff Schrum)

If you missed my first post, here’s the gist: Suburbanites with zero camping experience touring the country on a year-long road trip, under their own volition, with Airstream trailer and two kids in tow, wife working while husband home (trailer?) schools.

While full-time travel with the kids has long been a dream of ours, we realize it isn’t for most people we know. I’m pleased to say that so far everyone has been overwhelmingly supportive of us pursuing this opportunity. Friends, family and onlookers who have never considered such a lifestyle are understandably curious about our experience and choices. Here are a few of the questions we hear most often, in case you, too, were wondering:

What’s it like to live in such a small space?
Squeezing ourselves, two kids, and a year’s worth of necessities into a 200-square-foot travel trailer (that our friend pointed out resembles a Chipotle burrito wrapped to go) isn’t nearly as hard as I expected. In fact, it’s quite comfortable. Space is at a premium for sure, which forced us to decide what was really important. Instead of place settings for 10, for example, we have only four. We donated much of our clothing, and Lisa is roughing it with only eight pairs of shoes on board. In terms of accommodations, we have all the comforts of home: Three TVs, a whole-house (LOL!) music system, dual-zone air conditioning, a full bath with shower, bunk beds in the back for the kids, and a cute-yet-fully-functional kitchen with a wrap-around dinette that converts to a guest bed (as if). It’s a very comfortable home-away-from-home, so long as you’re patient (passing in the “hallway” requires turning sideways). Keeping the floor clean of boys’ dirty clothes and the mud they track in is a source of constant frustration, but we really love calling our Airstream and the road “home.”

How are the kids holding up?
We have road-tripped across two continents with them and knew these boys would make great little roadies on this adventure too. Meeting other kids is not a problem. Our 9-year-old is shy, but our 10-year-old is great at inserting himself into other families’ vacation activities — like fathers and sons tossing a ball — and has been able to score new friends at many of our stops. At a beach in Maine he joined in three different football games in one afternoon. We are all learning how to find a common connection with all the different people we meet. I was worried about boredom creeping in, but we can almost always find something to do, especially activities involving bathing suits. I’ve lost count of the number of glacier-fed lakes and spring-fed ponds our boys have contaminated. I fear the situation in a few weeks, though, when the other kids return to school, we begin our new schooling routine, and the average age of our neighbors skyrockets.

How are you doing on your new habits/do-over/golden opportunity thing?
In my last post I argued for using our new lifestyle as a chance to start some new habits and shed some less desirable ones. Constantly moving, we have struggled to establish a new normal and find healthy routines and habits we can make stick beyond a few days. It’s an ongoing effort with results that you sometimes have to squint to see. I have had to recalibrate my all-or-nothing mindset (one of my new habits) to be able to appreciate any progress, but it’s there. The boys still stare at screens, especially on travel days. I’m learning to let that go since they have grown a lot closer and are spending more time together than ever, with and without screens. On the food front, we had hoped to prepare more meals at home and eat healthier, but we discovered quickly how much planning and willpower it requires. This is especially the case when we’re in the middle of nowhere, or in places where local delicacies (e.g., lobster rolls, donuts, ice cream, and truckstop maple cream pies) bully the gastronomically weak, like myself, into overindulgence. Our ultra-picky vegetarian-who-won’t-eat-vegetables hasn’t budged much from his diet of refined grains, but through repeated daily exposure has come to tolerate blueberries. It’s progress.

Is it everything you hoped?
Sometimes it’s better than I imagined, sometimes I’m ready to quit. It’s no vacation (unless you mean like the National Lampoon’s Vacation, in which case it’s remarkably similar). We have all of the responsibilities and concerns that we did back home, plus several new ones. Where are we going to do laundry? Does the next campsite have electricity or city water? Is there even a grocery store or pharmacy within 50 miles? Is there severe weather in the forecast? Will we even have WiFi or LTE reception to be able to answer those questions? But you know what, even on the toughest, rainiest, most claustrophobic days when I’m feeling homesick or just sick of being the rice in a rolling burrito, there are nights like last night, standing around the smoldering remains of a campfire, away from city lights, way past our bedtimes, watching meteors and satellites cruise overhead, marveling at the white haze of the Milky Way, the constellations, the slivered moon and a neighboring planet. The experience was out of this world.

What’s next? We’re finally turning West. Ohio and Michigan, you’ve been warned.

Follow Schrum and his family on Instagram at Up In the Airstream

States visited so far: MD, PA, NJ, NY, CT, MA, RI, NH, ME, VT

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