Our family made the downsize of a lifetime – from a 2,667 square foot home to 39 feet. That is, a 39-foot travel trailer AKA camper. My husband, our two boys, ages three and one, dog, and cat – we packed up the essentials, stored what was sentimental and sold/donated the rest.
Now, we are full-time campers. Mobile living where we can pick up and go as needed, living in minimal space and with maximum experiences.
It was a life I never though I’d have, and now, one I can’t imagine not doing.
We have more time outdoors, more time together, fewer things to worry about.
The day we moved into our long-term slot we were full of peppy energy. We were starting this new adventure that was outside the norm, but so incredibly exciting. After settling down around the campfire, I felt the beginning stages of an eventual miscarriage. Here we were, making this epic family move, book-ended with thrills and sadness. There are surprises we can control and those that we cannot, and we were taking in both at full force.
In the camper, everything is so simple. Those three bathrooms I had to clean before? I can deep clean the entire camper in less time. Yard work? Now we do it for fun. Because we get to be outside and the to-do list is miniscule.
The absolute icing on the experience: we have time for our kids. So. Much Time. We go on bike rides, walks, down to the park, to the pool – all the outdoor activities that we never seemed to have time for before. I’m not longer tied to things like housework that kept me from being a good Mom. (At least, that’s how it felt at the time.)
This is, of course, why we did it. We were tired of the grind. Drill hours are exhausting as a rule. (Where are you other drill wives at? You are my people!) But with two littles, my self-employment and a too-big yard and house … it was just work – work at home, work at work, work at raising kids. Work at trying to find time for fun and plan for said fun.
Sure it was hard to sell our house; good memories are always hard to leave behind.
But as military life goes, you can’t keep it all. You hold onto what matters, and then you make the decisions you have to make. In this case, it was moving your family into a camper.
Originally it was to help us through a PCS … until we thought, “Why not just do this indefinitely?!”
We had some help in that decision, of course, thanks to the military norm of dramatic and rapid plan changes.
But now, we’re steadily living that camper life. We have wonderful neighbors, and the boys have plenty of friends at the ready at all times. When a tree fell on a neighbor’s camper, we turned it into a block party, cutting firewood and eating pizza.
Because, as it turns out, this lifestyle is a thing. Families of all sizes pile into their campers for PCSs, TDY, and for entire duty station stints. It’s an entire world that I’m fascinatingly taking in as we go.
There are tanks to be emptied. Rules about what can go down the sink. I have minimal fridge space. Neighbors can likely hear me yelling at the kids – blah, blah, blah. But it’s an exciting process, one that fuels me every day.
As for the downsides – no, it didn’t solve every problem. My husband is still OCD about the way the bikes are parked or worried about there being to many things outside the camper. I’m still my normal amount of hot mess.
There are moments where we are tripping over one another, frustrated with the lack of space. We are regularly woken in the middle of the night to a propane detector that’s set off by the dog’s gas. (Not making this up; it happens to other people too.) We have to haul up the laundry to use coin machines. But laundry is always my least favorite chore; I’ll never enjoy it unless its’ done for me. And a lack of walking space also means a lack of things I have to clean.
Like everything, there are the ups and downs in life and you decide what’s important. For us, this is the life we get to be a better family, a more engaged, less-stressed version of our former selves. I encourage more people to give it a chance.