Why try living in a travel trailer?
It’s a very good question. Most people have much less mobile lifestyles and more spacious homes. There is no mistake, living in a travel trailer can be very cramped. I’m learning that RV parks can be less-than-wonderful places too. Most parks have a 14 day limit, which is a pain to move on when you are permanently living in.
We live in a crowded world, with a very stressed environment. Our homes are ridiculous in size, with more square footage than ever. All of that requires natural resources, and requires them for the entire life of our home. All of this conspicuous consumption led me to believe that smaller homes are not only more affordable to build, but much less expensive in terms of upkeep and heat/cooling.
To build a micro house is expensive, and I wasn’t sure about the idea anyhow. A used travel trailer is the ultimate in recycling–we are reusing something already built for which it was built to do (provide shelter & security.) We can try out our concept and see how we do. The real issue is about learning to do less with more. How much space do we really need and what do we really need space for in our living space?
GM & I seem to need living space for working on computers, reading, writing, etc. Like traditional desk space. We need storage room for books because of the writing we do, the website we maintain, and the radio show’s frequency of featuring an author. I cook and write about food, so I need space for cooking, ingredients, photographing the food, props for the photos, and specialty cookware. We don’t need space for lounging and watching tv.
We also go camping and fishing, so that gear needs storage space. We work on our van, and do small projects, so there are tools to be stored, as well as supplies for the projects. I also sew. These are not compact hobbies, we’ve discovered.
The travel trailer is a crappy design is another thing we’ve discovered. Low end models lack storage features, as they add a lot to the expense of the trailer. Our total cupboard storage is about 36″ over the sink. Hence our little modification projects. They are necessary!
One totally and utterly useless feature is the bunks. I can’t imagine trying to crawl into one of the coffin like spaces. I’ve been trying to figure out how to tear them out and re-use the space effectively. Right now, they are used as really awful shelves, and Sissy’s nice-safe crate is on the lower one, with our file box as a step for her to make her leap into her safe space.
We also hate the built in dinette with its dreadfully uncomfortable benches and a leg placed so that GM can’t get his size 14 feet past it to sit comfortably. I don’t mind 3 burners on the stove, but the oven? OMG, its ridiculous!
I KNOW I have had apartment sized stoves in the past that had ovens that could cook a turkey. This one, I suspect I’d have to flatten a chicken. A cornish game hen MIGHT survive. I’m not sure how I’ll use it for holiday dishes. To be honest, we haven’t even hooked up propane to it. I didn’t bother…we just have been using my large assortment of camp stoves to cook with outside on a table, resorting to the microwave in foul weather. Since we haven’t braved the RV park world yet, we can get by living outdoors a lot.
We have the battery option for running the lights, the batteries won’t manage anything tougher than that. BUT…these 12 volt lights are not what I’d call efficient in the 12 volt world, and we are using an old battery that doesn’t hold a charge well to begin with. We do need to replace that battery with a better deep cycle one. I would like to replace the more critical lights with LED fixtures for better light with less power consumption. Our “main” lights that we use a lot are the ones over the table, a bedroom light and the light over the sink. The LED fixtures are pretty spendy, so to replace each and every one of them would cost a small fortune. Replacing 3 of them with more efficient and better light fixtures is quite affordable. Being able to have light without power is important only for brief periods of time with our current lifestyle choice. This particular unit would be a nightmare to boon dock with though. We would have a LOT of modifications to make to turn this into a boon dock worthy trailer.
Right now, we also don’t own a vehicle that is capable of towing our 6000 lb yacht of a travel trailer anywhere. Ok, so maybe not a yacht…it resembles an old shrimp boat more than a yacht anyhow. We would need to acquire one of the powerful gas guzzlers for that task, and while old would work since it would get little use outside of hauling our house, it would have to be mechanically sound and reliable. Who wants to be all ready to relocate and discover that George-the-truck has need of a serious repair?
We’d need to put in the water supply tank and holding tanks too, as well as modify the current sewer hook up. Having a portable (and removable) version would make boon docking easier…instead of moving the entire trailer, you’d only have to haul the tanks for emptying, rinsing, and refilling, which would require a small trailer that could be towed by our mini van and would get double duty hauling other things when the entire trailer isn’t making the journey. Maybe even our boat, Swamp Thing, could carry the holding tank and water tank? It would have to be small enough to allow us to hoist the thing up that high, because even though Swamp Thing is a flat bottom fishing boat…it is a fair distance from the ground when sitting on the trailer. A better option would be just a plain small trailer, and if it would fold up to fit as a passenger on Swamp Thing during relocations, it would be easier…we’d not have to worry about the number of journeys to carry all 3 of our towable portions of our life to the new location. Someday, it might not be an under 50 mile journey to the new location, but rather a long journey to a whole new scene.
But I’ll confess, my biggest interest in going small is not about traveling right now. It’s about learning to live with less. It’s about learning what really IS important, in our lives and our living space. Maybe its a bit about learning how to disconnect “me” from a location and learning that the where is not part of the definition of who I am and what I am about. It’s also about GM and I learning to be interdependent too, and truly and deeply establishing our partnership. We’ve been in the travel trailer for varying degrees for just over 4 months now, and we’re still learning and adapting.
How would I rate the experience at this stage? That’s tough. I don’t regret it, usually. I regret some of the mistakes. We’ve made plenty too. The first recommendation I’d make is that any major changes in the interior of the travel trailer or other micro-sized living space…is done when you are NOT living in the space. It’s one thing to live in the house when you are remodeling, it’s another to have to share space with the drill, saw, screwdrivers, boards, etc. when you can’t just go to another room. At the same time, it’s hard to see what changes you are going to need to make if you don’t spend at least a month living in the space.
Maybe to spend a few days bunking with friends might solve the problem, otherwise, just plan on living outside for almost everything during the construction phase, plan it well and make sure you have ALL of your supplies and tools before you start, and clean up at each step of the way. It’s too hard to lose bits and pieces when you are suddenly cramped for space and trying to work too. In a micro-sized space, any minor project involves moving a number of other things and temporarily relocating them elsewhere. (That’s the Pil-Ot zone!)
Do the project in good weather–you don’t want to have to cope with being stuck outside sawing and drilling, cooking and eating, and maybe even sleeping…when you are in the middle of a weekend of thunderstorms! Remember that micro space means everyone has minimal space, and the construction is going to eat a huge chunk of it. That will cause stress, along with the changes and just trying to make sure things go right. If you aren’t an expert carpenter, with the close allowances tiny spaces have, errors happen frequently, requiring re-cutting, re-thinking, and maybe even revising your plans and methods. Murphy’s law always has full reign when working in a small space!
But always remember, in a micro space, it’s always a short distance to tell the most important person to share it with you how important they really are to you, and to give them a quick hug of appreciation and affection.