We’ve now been living in the house on wheels for a full year! At the moment, we’re parked in the Sacramento Delta, about an hour and a half outside of San Francisco and clear across the country from where we started. It has been a stormy January in NorCal and listening to the rain plink plink on the trailer roof reminds me of our very first night in West Virginia.
After driving all day from Western NY, we pulled off the road very late at a (mercifully) pull-through campsite. We fed ourselves a sorry excuse for a meal and collapsed into our new bed. As I was falling asleep the rain started to pick up, and I remember having all the thoughts an experienced camper has—Is everything secure? Are my boots under the fly? Did I tuck the tarp correctly? Will I wake up in a few hours soaking wet?
But of course, we weren’t in a tent. We didn’t get to West Virginia in hiking boots. Our cozy bed was far more encased than the protection of a tarp can afford. We were in a home! A travel home!
Now there are a few things that I would trade out of trailer-life if I could. I miss my luxurious reading chair and it wouldn’t be the worst thing ever to have an oven that fit normal sized pans. But more often I’ve been surprised by what doesn’t bother me about trailer-life. For instance….
The mini-shower: I had imagined that I’d slink off to the campground washrooms for my showers rather than rush through a hygiene ritual under the 6 gallons of hot water that the trailer could provide. But the mini-shower isn’t so bad. Yeah, the water pressure’s not great and I have to turn the water off to scrub my hair, comb through conditioner tangles, and shave, but none of this is so offensive that I need to leave the trailer to avoid it. Who has the time to indulge in endless cascades of hot water anyway? Even when I’m visiting stationary showers, I find I take less time. Hot water showers, and life, really are like an hourglass glued to the table.
Storage Space: Yo, I got a 60 lb bag of dog food (grain free, chicken free, if you please). I got a little black dress, long underwear, wool socks, and a cotton blazer. We're packing Three different backpacks of varying sizes, two light jacket, two fleece jacket, two winter jackets, and a raincoat, two printers (TWO), and a tent. I had to downsize my book collection (it was getting unruly), but I just finished a hard cover, and once I unload that at the next Little Free Library I see, I’m going to buy two more! We’ve got storage for days. We’ve got a family sized canister of steel cut oats. We’ve got a nesting set of four mixing bowls, a drill, and a cast iron pan. Do I really need more storage?
But, objectively speaking, we’ve got plenty of space and storage to spare. I do wish the storage spaces were more conveniently sized. Who can keep a 6x36x36 closet well organized? That is not a usefully shaped closet. Until Paul let’s me put shelves within our shelves, my clothes will always be a tall, narrow, deep heap, but with oodles of cubic inches still available to pile on more.
Ugly and Isolating Campgrounds: A 30-foot trailer does not tuck easily into a landscape. We have found some lovely parking spots: next to the Pacific Ocean, alongside a lake looking out at the Sierras, and in hidden Idaho canyons—but for the most part trailer friendly campgrounds are not especially scenic. Neighbors are often packed in tight and the campground is either very remote or a glorified parking lot (unless it is both). Still, we’ve found a way to make all these variations work. Of course there are some campgrounds that make it very easy to say goodbye, but the pay off comes in all the places that become local when you take your house on the go.
We’ve lived in four new states. Played tourist in six destination cities, visited nine national parks and dozens of additional national forest/recreation/preservation/conservation lands, not to mention oodles of state and county parks. We’ve attended concerts, festivals, rodeos, cook offs, and weddings. We’ve seen whales, bobcats, coyotes, javelinas, rock chucks, buffalo, elk, deer, eagles, and lots and lots of cattle. We’ve hiked over 500 miles (with 200,000 ft of elevation change) and made friends along the way.
All these adventures, and the time we’ve gotten to spend together have more than made up for the inconvenience of ugly campgrounds, small ovens, and short showers.
And—this year especially—It has been hard not to be just a little ashamed of our good fortune. We are lucky that trailer-life is a choice we make, and not a trap we’re stuck in, and that our relative privilege (as white, English speaking, American, cis, married, able bodied, college educated, old enough to balance a bank account, millennials) provides us unearned benefits in every strange corner we find ourselves in. You don’t see instagram photos of brown-skinned, wheel chaired, latinx pulling the hand of their gender ambiguous significant someone into a Hawaiian sunset. Just saying.
The one thing we miss and cannot replace is the communities we’ve loved and left behind. It is hard to make do without the folks who would have whiled away the hours with us, discussing socioeconomic disparities, the relative fake and un-fakeness of the news, and the best snacks to bring on a 13-mile desert hike. We are excited about another year of adventure, and excited about the (still distant-feeling) adventure of an eventual permanent parking spot; hopefully near some (if not all) the folks we love.