Pros and Cons of Living in an Airstream Trailer After One Year

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Our Airstream Journey:

In January of 2017, we moved out of our studio apartment in Manhattan and into an Airstream travel trailer to live in full time while we relocated to Washington state. We spent our first month in the Airstream traveling, parking at a different campsite nearly every night while we slowly made our way across the country, covering roughly 5000 miles in total.

We started at the Airstream dealership, Colonial Airstream in New Jersey, and headed south through Virginia and Tennessee and then started moving westward through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, all before going north again up through California and Oregon and eventually arriving at our final destination near Seattle, Washington.

 Camping in Monahans Sandhills State Park in Texas

Camping in Monahans Sandhills State Park in Texas

It was this long trip that made us fall in love with this lifestyle. Living in a travel trailer gave us the freedom to all travel together, our rabbit included, and have adventures in amazing new places every day, but still be able to come back to a place that felt like home. 

One we arrived in Seattle, we found a long term parking spot where we have lived in the trailer for the past year. While we loved traveling, Anthony's job is in Seattle, so after our month long adventure moving here we knew we were going to have to enjoy a more stationary life in the Airstream. 

In all of our "What Could Go Wrong?" lists and planning we had made before we began our Airstream adventure, we fully expected most of the problems to arise during the month of travel and figured that once we arrived at our final location it would be smooth sailing from there. Surprisingly, it was just the opposite.

While we travelled, everything worked out almost perfectly, there were no major issues to report all throughout our trip, and when we arrived in Seattle we were so relieved to start living in the trailer in a fixed location. It started feeling like an actual home and we were able to start a garden and see a different, maybe slightly less adventurous part Airstream living. Little did we know, this is when the real adventures and lessons would begin. 


What We Didn't Love about Living in the Airstream:

I'm going to start with the cons or the negative experiences we had while living in our Airstream so that we can end on a positive note. It doesn't feel right to even say anything bad at all about our experience because overall, we loved it and would do it over again in a heartbeat, but I think some of what we experienced, the good and the bad, could be helpful if this is a lifestyle you're interested in and want to hear about the full spectrum of experiences we had.

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The Small Stuff:

These are just the little minor inconveniences we don't hear mentioned too often about what it's really like to live in an Airstream full-time.

  • When you first move in, expect lots of small injuries. The process of adapting to a smaller space involves a lot more cuts, bangs and bruises than we had anticipated. Whether it's bumping your head on the light fixtures or smashing your elbow coming too quickly around a sharp corner, expect to get a little beat up while you form that muscle memory that eventually guides you more smoothly through your new space. 
  • Metal riveted walls look beautiful, but they can and they will eventually cut you. Every single time I wiped down the walls especially around the kitchen, I'd get cuts from the sharp edges of the metal. It's not jagged metal or anything, but it's blade-sharp metal that leaves thin, fast-healing cuts. Obviously still not ideal, but just something to be aware of when polishing those shiny walls. 
  • I managed to overdraw on power almost daily and we had 50 amp hookups. This wasn't such an issue when we were travelling, but once we were parked for good and we got out the rice cooker, blender, and several more kitchen appliances, the limits of 50 amp power became much more pronounced. 
  • The layout of an Airstream is designed for travel and adventures, not for being parked in the same spot for a year like a stationary home. While we enjoyed our time in that one spot, we found ourselves not going out as much as when we were travelling and through staying inside a lot the furniture seemed to get less and less comfortable everyday. This is no fault of the Airstream, but just a sign that if we weren't going to be using the trailer for travel anymore like it was intended, we would have to make some modifications for it suit our needs. 

The time someone tried to break in at 2 a.m.

Our long term parking spot was located in the town of Bothell, a rapidly growing suburb of Seattle, which had always felt like a pretty safe place to be. We lived near an RV park, but a little out of the way in one of their long-term spots on a hill top surrounded by a beautiful meadow and lots of tall trees. We had two other RV neighbors, but they both had homes and only stayed in their RVs during the work week, so we were usually all alone on the weekends. 

One rainy Saturday night in November of 2017, we awoke to some strange sounds coming from the outside of our trailer. It sounded like someone or something climbing on the Airstream and then we thought we heard someone try to open the door as well, which was locked. We turned on the lights and tried to figure out what was going on and that's when we heard yelling. Anthony looked out the window to try to see who it was and that's when he saw a man standing on top of the trailer next to ours smashing his foot through their roof vent. Immediately he called 911. 

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Five minutes later a police officer arrived and then shortly after several more police officers showed up. They told us they believed someone was inside our neighbor's trailer. We told them no one was supposed to be in there because the family that lives there goes home on the weekends. They surrounded the trailer, guns drawn, and yelled through the megaphone urging the occupant to come out of the trailer several times. Eventually they pried off the door and sent in a police dog followed by several officers. What happened next was the craziest thing I've ever seen. 

Out of the trailer came the dog and multiple officers escorting out a completely naked man in handcuffs with pupils the size of dinner plates. All of the officers cheered-- they seemed very happy to have caught the perpetrator and that no one was hurt. They tried to get him to sit down but it was apparent that he had consumed a lot of meth and was covered in injection wounds. They kept trying to give him a blanket to cover up with but he threw it on the ground repeatedly, determined to stay completely naked. 

The cops later told us that he admitted to leading them on a high speed car chase earlier that night, ditched his jeep at a local auto shop and took off running before ending up on our hilltop where he was trying to find a place to hide out. He was trying to get into our trailer, but since it's rounded and it was raining, he wasn't able to get onto the roof. He must've heard us wake up and that's when he started yelling before climbing up the ladder on our neighbors trailer, which has a flat roof, and found it much easier to get inside. While he was inside our neighbors trailer he took off all his clothes, did some more meth, drank their milk, and relaxed in their bed. It didn't seem like he was there to steal anything, but more like he was just really high on meth and didn't know what was going on anymore. He kept telling the police they'd need to buy him a new door for his trailer. 

The owners of the trailer showed up a few hours later and were very fortunate that they, and their two small children, weren't home when this guy came crashing through their bathroom ceiling vent. He was arrested for vehicle prowling and spent a night in jail before being released with a pending court date. 

After this terrifying experience, it really began to sink in for us that while our trailer felt like a home, we were actually living in a vehicle. We still felt fairly safe knowing that our Airstream was more difficult to break into than other trailers, and if anything this put the Airstream through an interesting safety test, but the reality of what could've happened that night gave us a lot to consider about staying safe while living in an RV. Since this incident we have taken several more self-defense and safety measures. 


The time a tree almost fell on our trailer:

Earlier in March of 2018, A powerful windstorm brought down a giant Douglas fir tree which landed right next to our trailer while we were home. This was caused by the seven acres of forest being cleared next to us, so this tree was exposed to high winds it was never meant to endure. This was the second major close call to happen to us in that spot, the first being the meth head break in, and we didn't want to wait around for the third strike. 

While we wanted to keep the trailer, we didn't have anywhere else we could park it. The land we purchased last summer doesn't have a septic or running water yet, so we couldn't take it out there, and all of the RV parks in our area aside from the one we were staying at would be a very far drive from Anthony's work. This is why we made the sudden decision to move out and sell our trailer.

For the full story check out my post here

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What We Loved about Living in the Airstream:

Overall, we loved our experience of living in an Airstream travel trailer. While our time spent traveling and staying at a new campsite every night was by far the best part of the lifestyle, it was still an amazing experience to live in the Airstream in a fixed location. It really began to feel like home.

Here's some of our favorite things about living in the Airstream-

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  • We expected with our daily living and use of the trailer that eventually something would break and we'd need to take the trailer in for repairs. We figured maybe it'd be the water heater failing, or the AC breaking, but to our surprise and delight nothing major ever broke. Some minor things broke- the small round mirror in our bathroom fell off the wall during our travels and our awning arm got bent in a wind storm, but nothing major failed on us the whole year that we lived there. Airstreams are built to last and we experienced that first-hand. 
  • Living in a smaller space also helped us to stay more organized. There are so many little storage nooks in creative places all over the trailer, so there was always a place for everything, and while we couldn't have tons of items fit in there, everything that we did own had a place. The small size of the place also made cleaning much easier. Vacuuming takes only a few minutes in a trailer and having less space really inspires you to keep the free space that you do have clean and tidy. 
  • Since we chose the International Serenity model of Airstream, which has more windows instead of overhead storage, our space was always bright which made us feel much more connected to the outdoors. 
  • The kitchen in the Airstream is in many ways better than any apartment kitchen I've ever had. The convection oven/microwave can cook anything, and some things it cooks much better than any regular oven could. The sink is super deep, which is important since there's no dishwasher, but you could tell a lot of consideration was put into these small things and it made using the Airstream kitchen daily a very pleasant experience. If you love to cook, you won't be sacrificing anything that you love about cooking while living in an Airstream. 
  • We were worried that living in such a small space would start to feel cramped or restricted, but that was never our experience. There was just enough space to feel comfortable and we rarely found ourselves wishing we had more room. Even after a full year of living there and acquiring more things, we always found creative ways of storing them. We were definitely glad to have decided on the 30 ft. trailer for our full-time living situation.
  • The trailer passed an important albeit terrifying experience when someone tried to break in and failed. This was likely because of the round shape of the trailer which he had difficulty climbing on top of and also the secure lock on our door. I think if someone really wanted to break in to anything, our trailer included, they probably could, but Airstream has done a good job of not making it the easiest thing in the world. If you are considering a trailer with a flat roof and a ladder on the back, I'd advise you to consider how that might invite in the wrong kind of company, even if you live in a safe place that's still a big risk to take. 
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Ultimately, we are so grateful for our time spent in the Airstream and we would go back and do it all over again if we could. It was an incredible experience which taught us a lot about ourselves and enabled us to have adventures that we'll always remember. 

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One day, we might get another smaller Airstream for actual traveling as opposed to living in it like a full-time home, but for now since we don't have any travel plans and are starting to settle in to living in Washington, that won't be happening anytime soon. While we wish we could have kept living in the Airstream for another year while we build our house, we know we made the right decision to part with our Airstream at this point since we were no longer traveling and taking it out for adventures.

"A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.”

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For more information, click the button below to check out our videos documenting our travels in the Airstream on Youtube!