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So You Want To Live In An Airstream…

FirstTinCanMove1You’ve caught the bug. You pin Airstreams by the dozens to your Pinterest boards. You follow a long list of Airstreamer blogs. You spot them in fields or parked behind old garages. You browse the listings on Craigslist and eBay, and now you think maybe you’d really like to downsize and live in one. The thought can be both exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. You struggle with the idea asking, “Can I really do this?”

Believe me…I’ve been there: daydreaming, then excited and a little fearful. I’m not talking about the purchase itself. I discussed that in the previous post, and it really comes down to the technicalities of dollars and cents. This time I am referring to the necessary lifestyle adjustment. For years I admired the people whose stories I followed, but I wasn’t convinced I could actually be one of them. I’m still amazed on a daily basis that I am. Now I’m not going to make the statement, “If I did this, then you can too”. It doesn’t really work that way, and the full-timer lifestyle is definitely not for everyone. It is perfect for me. Maybe it is for you too, or maybe it isn’t. Only you can determine that. What I am attempting to share here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way and some thoughts to take into consideration before taking the leap. I hope analyzing the following will help you determine if the full-timer life is right for you.

1. Why do you want to live in Airstream? Be honest with yourself.

Is it because Airstreams are cool (and even perhaps somewhat trendy at the moment)? By the way, they are pretty cool. 😉 However, this shouldn’t be your only reason or even the main reason for moving into one. The lifestyle of full-timing is very different and requires drastically downsizing possessions. If you are simply in it for the cool factor, I’m pretty sure the small space will quickly become very cramped and uncomfortable. Also, not all people will find your chosen accommodations cool. Some will find it very strange that you would opt to live in an RV. I know…I can’t imagine that myself, but those people do exist. I have even met some of them.

Is it to simplify your life? This is an excellent reason for full-timing. The drastic downsizing needed to live in such a small space makes simplifying a necessity. The space is limited so everything in it must be useful or very special to you. There isn’t room for the kind of extra stuff that we tend to accumulate just in case we need it someday. Less room means less stuff to shop for. Less stuff means less to care for. Both of which mean more time and money to spend on other things.

Are you hoping to save money? This one is tricky. An Airstream may or may not save you money. (I really helped you out there, right?) A lot will depend on how much your Airstream costs, what type of repairs and renovations you want to do to it, and where you will park it. Savings will also depend on what you are currently spending for your rent or mortgage. The higher the rent or mortgage the higher the possible savings. Personally, while I’m still paying on the loan I took out to purchase my TinCan my monthly expenses are not on the surface much better than if I were renting an apartment. However, once the TinCan is paid for monthly living expenses will decrease to only my lot rent. Also, each loan payment I make is money I should be able to recover in the event I eventually sell the TinCan. Win, win! Utilities have been drastically cheaper while living in the TinCan. She is quite energy-efficient and with some planned future improvements I hope to increase her efficiency even more. I feel like I save money and waste on my grocery bill as well. The smaller refrigerator holds less so I tend to buy smaller amounts at a time thus leading to less waste. Remember the previous question about simplifying? Yes, all of the reduced shopping saves money too. Only so many clothes or other possessions will fit so the budget for these items tends to decrease. Of course, I also spend money on repairs and desired improvements on the TinCan. However, I would do this in any living space, and the small size of my living space limits me in a good way here too. I personally do not yet own a tow vehicle or move very often (maybe someday). If you plan to be more mobile this will also factor in to your expenses. As you can see a large number of variables come in to play when determining if full-timing will save you money. I suggest you sit down with a pencil and paper (or an Excel spreadsheet if you are like me) and calculate your budget. Track where your money goes now and compare it with your estimated expenses in the Airstream. See if the numbers add up in the Airstream’s favor, and then move forward from there.

2. How are you at dealing with small spaces?

Let’s face it. Airstreams are not huge. In fact, they are rather small. However, when organized well, they can feel quite spacious and comfortable. Mine feels every bit as big as the studio apartment I lived in previously despite actually being smaller. I advise you to go look at several if you can. You might even check Airbnb for one close by. A visit might be a good way to test the waters. I’m saying this as a recommendation, but you certainly don’t have to follow it. Hahaha. I had only actually stepped foot in new ones on showroom floors before buying my own vintage TinCan. I had never even been in one of the actually models I bought before I went to pick her up.

3. Will you feel secure enough?

Will you be parked in an area where severe storms such as tornadoes and the like occur? Then be sure to park where you have access to a storm shelter or can stay with friends when necessary. While a rainstorm is lovely in an Airstream, a tornado would not be. This is one of the first questions I ask when looking at a new parking space.

Perhaps you are concerned about safety and security? Airstreams (or other RV’s) tend to be less secure than many traditional houses or apartments. However, there are some security modifications, such as a deadbolt for the door, that can help. I was a little concerned about safety when moving into the TinCan. One thing I have learned is that with a little careful choice of parking space there is little need for concern. The parks I have lived in so far have had great neighbors and an instant sense of community. Fellow RVer’s tend to look out for each others safety and security. I actually feel at least as comfortable in my Airstream as I have in other homes, maybe even more than some. If you are a single lady like I am, you may even be surprised to find how many of us there actually are choosing this lifestyle. Don’t let concern over doing this alone be what holds you back.

4. Are you handy with repairs and maintenance? Or, how adaptable are you to learning new skills & dealing with inconveniences?

The facts are living in a vintage Airstream will call for repairs and maintenance, some minor, some major. It is no different from living in an older home when it comes to needing work from time to time. The upside is that the Airstream is smaller, so repairs normally are too. However, they could add some inconvenience to your schedule or put a dent in your budget from time to time. I mention this because it is too easy to think that a smaller, simpler living space means a carefree living space. If you are looking for that, rent an apartment. When you own your own place you own the maintenance and repairs too. The landlord won’t show up to fix that leaky faucet. Oh wait, yes they will…you are the landlord…for better or worse. If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you will be aware of some of the issues I’ve faced over the past year. Some hurt in the pocket-book. Some hurt in my daily routine and peace of mind. All have been survivable learning experiences.

There are a couple of common activities that are not quite as simple as when you live in a more traditional home: 1. Will you be comfortable stepping outside at night to switch over to a full propane tank? This mostly applies in the winter when the tank always seems to empty at the break of dawn or the middle of the night. Brrrr… 2. Will you be comfortable dealing with your waste on a more personal level than in a traditional house? An RV waste system is quite different to deal with, and it is not always a pleasant experience. Ask any full-timer, and they will likely have a waste water story for you. Some worse than others. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Are you the type of person who can learn to laugh at these kind of stories? Then you will likely adjust just fine.

5. Are you looking for a step to escaping the rat race?

Then Airstreaming might be just the thing for you. Although I am still working full-time at a stationary location, I feel like I am at least making progress toward my own goals too. I have a home that is my own, and I can take it with me if/when I decide to move from here. The simpler life style is so very rewarding and very liberating. The things we do, learn and experience in our lives are the really important things. If you agree that experiences are more important that things and money, then living in an Airstream just might be the next adventure you are looking for.

You all know how much I love the choice I made to live in an Airstream, and I would love nothing more than to tell everyone to go for it. I will, however, temper that thought with the following advice: Do your research. Be realistic and honest with yourself in the decision process, and if you still have the bug…Go for it! You don’t have to commit to it for the rest of your life. That is part of the fun and learning process. You just might find you love this lifestyle as much as I do.

4 Comments

  • Todd says:

    Very well written, as always!!

  • David Lawson says:

    Re: switching propane tanks.
    I’ve had an RV mechanic tell me to open both valves on the tanks and set the switch to one of them. The system will automatically switch to a full tank when the other is empty. Enjoy your posting and enjoying our 27FB Flying Cloud.
    David & Mary

    • aunt am says:

      I’ve thought about doing that, but I sort of like it to alert me when one of the tanks has run out. Knowing me, I’d forget to check if it switched over and one was empty. Next thing I’d be out in both. Whenever I have to switch manually at least I know I need to get a tank filled. Thanks for the input though. Maybe one of these days I will grow brave enough to try it this way. Thanks also for reading, and I’m glad you are enjoying your Airstream. It is such a pretty model. Hope you guys are keeping warm this winter. 🙂

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