Here at ATWS we’re interested in challenging the norm of debt and spending. In “Living Tiny” we focus on people who have gone to (what some would say) extreme means with their living situations to get out of debt, save money and live a simpler life. Today we have Seth K. Hughes and Drea Knufken giving us the grand tour of their Airstream home. Seth is a photographer and Drea is a writer and content strategist. They’ve been working and traveling full-time in their Airstream trailer for a year and a half. Take it away, Seth and Drea!
We decided to move into a tiny house because we wanted the freedom to travel and explore with our dog while continuing to build our businesses. Moving into an Airstream was an ideal way to meet all three requirements.
Our home is a 25-foot-long Airstream that has everything we need in order to live comfortably. Our bed is in the back. On one side, past the bed, is a bathroom with separate shower. There’s a sink and medicine cabinet outside of the bathroom, and we each have our own closet. Next are the pantry and fridge, kitchen sink, oven and stovetop, couch and dinette. Everything is fitted with additional storage: there are drawers underneath the bed, couch, dinette and sink, and cabinets above all of them. The Airstream has heat and air conditioning, a flush toilet and a big pull-out awning. We rarely have to plug it into A/C power, because our solar panels soak up energy for us. Once a week or so, we need to get rid of our black and gray water at a dump station, which is easy enough because believe it or not, dump stations are in almost every city and town. We pull in a data connection from a Jetpack, so we can work from almost anywhere.
We found the Airstream on Airstream Classifieds. But before purchasing the Airstream, first, we had to decide how long a trailer we wanted. One or two feet makes a huge difference in a living space, believe it or not. We decided that we needed at least 20 feet, but no more than 28, so when a 25-footer showed up on the classifieds, it was perfect.
We also factored in whether we wanted to restore an older trailer (we didn’t), and how much we were comfortable spending.
The day our Airstream popped up on the classifieds, we got in touch with the owner and learned we were third in line to look at it. Airstreams are a hot commodity! We drove from Denver to St. Louis that very weekend and took the Airstream off the owner’s hands. When we bought our Airstream it was just about move-in ready. We installed solar panels so that we could live off the grid, and we sold our cars in order to buy a truck with enough power to reliably tow the Airstream.
It cost a little bit more than expected to get the Airstream road-worthy. The solar batteries ended up being pricey, even though we installed the system ourselves. We had to stick the Airstream in storage for a few months as we prepared for our trip and that added up. Finally, the tow vehicle introduced its own set of expenses.
The costs of the living on the road have been a mixed bag. The surprise expenses were the worst. When we blew a tire a month into our trip and realized we needed all four wheels replaced, that hurt. Beer and data plans were unexpectedly pricey in Canada, and camping in coastal California will quickly thin your wallet. That said, we’ve had months in the desert where we only paid for gas and food, and that felt like a real windfall.
Dump stations have been the most surprising cost. Some outfits will charge you $20 for the privilege of relieving your trailer of its gray and black waters. That’s like charging someone the price of a decent meal in order to use a public restroom. There’s almost always a cheaper option nearby, but it requires a little more research.
We have saved money since living in the Airstream. Forsaking the monthly gym membership, co-working space and fancy happy hours has added up. Our road costs are less than life before the Airstream, but not dramatically so. Traveling costs money, period. The cheapest way to live is to go tiny and stay put. Granted, that can get a little bit old.
On a typical weekday, we wake up, make coffee and sit down to work. At some point, we walk the dog. We make lunch at home and work into the afternoon. Late afternoon or evening, we go mountain biking, hiking, kayaking or enjoy whatever else our current locale has to offer. Sometimes we caravan with fellow young RVers, sharing food, drinks and good company over a campfire, or even karaoke.
Travel days are different. We clean and close up the trailer before hitching up, so that things don’t fly out on the road. On the way to our next destination, we usually find a dump station, get gas, refill our propane tanks and stop at Costco to stock up. If the drive is long, or one of us has work obligations, we might overnight camp at a Walmart or rest stop.
Upon reaching our new destination, we have to find the camping spot, level the trailer (the fridge stops working if it’s uneven!), unhitch, unpack all of the things we locked down. After that, it’s nice to walk around and get a lay of the land, see who else is around and if there’s anything interesting, like large animal tracks, mine shafts, rivers … you name it. We like to boondock, which is a euphemism for dry camping, often out in Bureau of Land Management or National Forest land. Almost all campgrounds are a pleasant surprise, and beautiful, but you want to come to understand the place you live in, even if temporarily. There’s nothing quite like waking up with a view of 10,000-foot mountains, or the Pacific Ocean, and knowing you live there!
The best part about living on the road is discovering amazing new places that we never knew existed. Did you know Oregon has a bristle cone pine forest that grows in sand dunes, or that there’s a lake in northern British Columbia as blue as the Caribbean? Living in a house, it seems like there are pockets of beauty here and there. On the road, it becomes clear that beautiful places are everywhere, just waiting to be explored. There’s no way you could see it all, not in an entire lifetime. It’s humbling.
We know that this lifestyle seems like an intimidating decision, but once you’re on the road, everything falls into place. By far the worst part was preparing to leave. The logistics were overwhelming, and it felt like we were never going to get out. Now we’ve been at it for a year and a half, and still love it. If you want to do it—just go for it. Pick your budget. Buy a trailer. Diligently work through the preparation process. Sell, donate or store all that extra stuff you don’t need. Then fly the coop! You will not regret it.
You can learn more about Drea and Seth by visiting:
Would you ever consider giving up your current living situations for a simpler way of living? Let’s chat in the comments!
P.S. Looking to declutter and minimize? CLICK HERE to learn about the Fearless Minimalist Guide