Our 3 Biggest Fears of Full Time Living in an Airstream RV

Our 3 Biggest Fears of Full Time Living in an Airstream RV

Sometimes things aren’t so scary from a different perspective.

In less than 2 months, Tiffani and I will be moving into an Airstream travel trailer to live full time. When we tell people about our plans, the majority come back with a resounding “Good for you!” or “I wish I could do that!” But then, there are always the few who don’t quite follow. You can almost see the terror in their eyes at the thought of living in such a small place with (GASP!) no permanent address!

We sometimes have a little devilish fun with these folks by delving deeper into our plans. Just to see their heads spin, we’ll say things like:

“We also have a 50lb Dog!”
“We’ll share 1 closet!”
“We’ll have no cable tv!!!”

But in the end, we keep their concerns in mind, because after all, we’re in a minority of our own.

Our 50 lb roommate.

Few people decide to make the leap from living in a 1100+ square foot house to a 200 sq ft RV. Even fewer decide to do so of their own free will. We realize there will be challenges, and more importantly, we realize there are reasons so few try this lifestyle.

Sure, we have moments of concern, gotchas, and even panic as we plan for this move, but so far, we’ve found them all rooted in just a few basic fears. So, we thought it would be a good idea to jot a few of the big fears down now and discuss them, before we move into the Airstream. Hopefully some of you will raise questions we’ve not thought of yet or, at a minimum, we’ll have something to fondly ridicule each other about once we figure out just how unwarranted these fears were in the first place.

Fear #1 – The Unknown

When we list our biggest fears of moving into an Airstream, The Unknown has to be the most far reaching. As human beings, it seems that everything we do starts with a healthy fear of what we don’t know about it.

A close friend of mine once told me “You can’t control what you can’t do anything about.” This phrase floats through my brain at least once a day. It helps me deal with the mini panic attacks caused by the occasional wild “what if” scenarios that pop into my head. You know, things like:

Crazy me: “OMG what if there’s a hail storm??”
Rational me: “We have great insurance and we’ll try to park under cover as often as we can.”

Crazy me: “But what if we need to take the Airstream in for repairs? Whatever will we do then?”
Rational me: “We have good friends and plenty of pet friendly hotel options around. The money we save on a mortgage will help pay for the room.”

You get the idea. The fact is, you’ll never be able to plan for all the things you don’t know about. Ultimately, there are more than enough rational answers to satisfy The Fear of The Unknown living in your head. Just make sure you give yourself a little breathing room in between panic attacks to hear them. Counting to 5 helps.

Fear #2 – Failure

As the move-in date draws near (tentatively set for Feb. 12, 2011), we’re speeding closer to becoming “thingless”, having given away, donated, or sold all but ~150 of our worldly possessions. We would be insane to never ask the question – “What if this crazy plan of ours doesn’t work – what if it fails?”

Our current life situation helps calm our fears about this.  I’ve got a great job I’m not willing to leave – and that requires my presence in Dallas. This job also allows us to get a financial jump start on our ultimate dream of living fulltime in the Airstream. The nice thing about living in the Airstream full time right now, is that it’s almost like a trial run. Of course its the real thing for us, and we’ll try every avenue to make it work. But, in case it all goes to hell and we have no option but to move out of the trailer, our fallback is to simply find an apartment, find a place to store the trailer, and go back to the life we live now – not too bad, eh?

How can this apply to you? Well, it actually uses two simple principles that we use every day.

    1. Only worry about the things you can control.


  1. Visualize the worst case scenario and have a backup plan for it.

With both of these principles in place, Tiff and I sail right by most of our major fears with confidence.

Fear #3 – Fear of Safety

Let me explain the strikethrough. Safety, or lack of, is a major concern and one we take very seriously. But we’re not going to live in fear because of it. Applying the two simple rules above, we are going to be prepared for the things we can control – we’ve got excellent insurance, upgraded locks on everything, alarm systems, and safes. We’ve talked through the worst possible outcomes of various safety concerns and how we would choose to deal with each if they occurred. We’ve got pretty good plans for even the wildest safety issues, and we’re not afraid to use them, so really, this just isnt a fear to us now as much as it is our responsibility.

And finally,

Fear #3 – Fear of Claustrophobia-induced Mania

Ah, the space issue. This is the number one question we get from skeptics of our plans:

“How are you going to live in such a small space?”

For us, living in a tight space isn’t really much of a change. We started out in a small 1 bedroom apartment in Chicago, spent many-a-night in our 22′ Airstream before selling her, and most recently, we mainly keep in the bedroom, kitchen, or back patio of our rental house in Texas. We’ve minimalized our life down to just under 150 things between the both of us, and hope to dwindle that number even more once we move. Honestly, we wouldn’t know what to do with more space if we had it.

But that’s how we feel now. What about in 2 years after living in less than 200 square feet? After all, we are territorial animals. Will we irritate each other by simply moving in bed at night? Or by walking to the bathroom? or by … HEY! Fear of the Unknown Guy! Get the hell out of here! Like any successful couple, we’ll be courteous, mindful of each others’ space and communicate. What could go wrong with that?

Our hallway, or, 1/3rd of our living space.

We Confessed – Now It’s Your Turn!

So how about you? Are you in the “I wish i could do that!” camp? If so, what’s stopping you? Or, are you more of a “Why would you want to live in an Airstream?” kind of person? What’s your biggest beef with the idea?

Leave us a note below, on facebook, or twitter. We’d love to hear from you and we always write back!


  1. My wife and I are in the process of an about face. The daily grind and having an underwater mortgage and student loans have taken its toll on our young family. Neither of us are happy and financially we are getting know where fast. The thought of renting out house and living in an airstream full time is a romantic notion that we are taking more and more seriously. We are fortunate enough to have access to an airstream that we could overtake after some restoration work. We are considering buying a plot of land and living in it full time while we save to build but the caveat is that we live in Minnesota. Most of the fears you listed dont bother me Im a pretty laid back resourceful guy. The main fear I have is old man winter, -40 is no joke and the plot of land we are looking at is 2 hours away from the Canadian border. To top it off we have a 3 month old. So just curious if an airstream can handle serious cold for stretches of time or if this is a pipe dream.

    • Hi Ethan! Deke and I talked about this, and if we were in your shoes, we wouldn’t do it. We lived through 3 pretty cold winters in Washington State but no where near those MN temps, and we were still constantly worried about pipes freezing and running out of propane. I think around 28 degrees or so was as cold as it got for us and it was still a battle to get the inside temp up to a comfortable level with the propane heat. In those frigid conditions, unless you have the furnace blasting the whole time in overdrive, I dont even think you could get it warm. I’ve read another post somewhere about a guy living, I think, around the Grand Canyon area in the winter in his Airstream and talks about dealing with the snowy winters. I’ll see if I can find it and email it to you! I feel like I didnt help you much with this! -Tiffani

  2. Starting to find some sites from other “younger: f/t (or close) rv-ers out there – which rocks! My guy and I are in the process of extreme offloading, and will be moving into a Class A. The two biggest challenges we’re looking at right now (besides getting rid of a crap-ton of consumer goods and a farmette) are getting decent work space configured, and we are SERIOUSLY going to need to figure out how to deal with shoes! Right now we never wear shoes in the house, we have too many pairs of shoes, and I have no idea of where / how we’re going to stash them in the bus. Oh, and our add’l roommates are two dogs @ about 90lbs each – but they’re already stellar travelers. So – workspace, shoes, and dog fur – need to figure that stuff out. And a bunch of various and sundry other details, like what state to move our domicile to (plus a couple of businesses & a non-profit we’re firing up). Definitely bookmarking y’all’s site to keep tabs on – thanks for posting all the candid info!

    • Oh, I totally hear you on the shoes and dog fur issue. In Texas we had MAYBE two pairs of shoes (you didn’t need more!) and now in the Pacific Northwest we have about 5 each. They’re all over! Its definitely a thing we havent figured out either! And the dog fur — its a daily battle. Ive found that my Dyson handheld vacuum with the fur attachment is my best friend. If I lost it today, I would just go buy another one. Its the best thing Ive ever found for fur, truly. Most people we know that travel are set up in North Dakota. That seems to be the best place for setting up businesses because of taxes. Definitely look into it!
      Good luck with everything, please keep us posted!!

  3. Hey guys, glad I found your blog. Makes me feel better to know we’re not the only ones wanting to do this. My husband and I are looking to buy a travel trailer to live in full time. I’m also starting grad school in a few weeks so we don’t have a lot of time, we either do it now or we don’t do it at all. I’m so afraid of the unknown, just like you mentioned about, also safety and so many other things. We’ve never been in a travel trailer except when we went to the dealer. What are your thoughts on being a full time student and living in such a small space? what about space to study in? will it be quiet enough? how often will it break down? we don’t know anyone there to just go stay with them for a night or two. I just have so many questions and at the same time I feel like I just wanna go for it. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi there! I totally understand your concerns — and you’re right, we had a lot of the same ones. As for the quiet factor — we’ll that depends on where you live. You may find yourself at Starbucks once in awhile. Our Airstream is pretty quiet, it really blocks out a lot of noise and if I was studying or reading, I dont feel like Im prohibited from doing so just because Im in a small space. As far as breaking down, it also depends on so many things – what year it is, are you traveling in it, etc. There are times when you WILL have to take it to the repair shop and you WILL need to stay in a hotel, that’s just the way it is. I think you have to look at the big picture and the long term plan. Is this a step you’re taking that will allow you to save money/travel/experience something new?

  4. We have a four year old boy and we currently living in Las Vegas and are really thinking about moving and considering the airstream route. Just wondering if anyone reading this is doing it while they have little children

    • Hi J. Allen!

      Tiffani and I don’t have kids, but we have loads of friends who fulltime that do! At Malimish.com, Dan and Marlene travel in a 25′ Airstream with their 3 adorable children Ava, Mila, and Luka. Josh and Jessa Works (from http://www.1337stream.com/) travel in a 27FB with their son Jack. Lots of other part timing friends travel with kids as well. What a way to learn and get exposed to life at a young age! Good luck and let us know if we can help answer any other questions!

    • we are just in the beginning stages of thinking about it. We have a 3 year old daughter, but probably wouldn’t take the plunge for at least 6 months….we have some pretty big changes coming down the line, and we want to simplify, and downsize and take more time for family and have an epic adventure together. We also want to have another…..so, its absolutely terrifying! But also a little exciting! Really appreciate all the input I am finding here.

    • Thanks for comment, and welcome to Weaselmouth! We’re sure you have plenty of questions, so don’t hesitate asking. We don’t have kids, but plenty of our Airstreaming friends do. Being on the road seems like a super great way to raise a family if you ask us, but we might be a little biased :) Anyway, thanks for reaching out, and give us a shout if you have other questions!


  5. All too late to this game, as I am fifty-five years old and plan to retire in ten years. I live in Newark, NJ and its a pretty ruff place to survive let alone thrive, and as a teacher I do not make enough to live well in this area—so I am relegated to a poorer neighborhood. What I fear most is being left alone in a urban decay zone, so I am seriously considering jettisoning all my meager possessions overboard and buying a cool Airstream to park semi-permanently in a nice place. Prefer climates like Central Coast (California), but I have ten more years to “serve” in NJ. Eventually I do hope to have an Airstream parked in a livable area . . . I wonder if this dream is even possible?

    • Hi Ron, thanks for sharing with us.

      Of course your dream is possible! If we can do something like this, then you certainly can. It’s cliché to say, but it’s never too late. We’ve met plenty of Airstreamers and RVers who buy their first RV at retirement. I would give you the same advice we give anyone just starting out – go slow, rent a trailer if you can to see if you like it, research as much as you can (ask us anything) before you buy, and when you’re ready, buy used to avoid heavy up front costs.

      We haven’t posted about our day to day costs for living in one spot full time, but its something we’ll likely start soon. Our friends at aluminarium and Where is Kyle Now both live on the road fulltime in Airstreams and have posted about costs on the road. You might find it helpful to get an idea of costs from either of them. Our friends at have a lot of experience camping around NYC and NJ and can probably point you at some good places to see. And finally, Wanderly Magazine has plenty of articles of interest to your story.

      And finally, thank you for a career of making people smarter. I’m sure plenty of your students would have a thing or two to say about leaving you alone in urban decay zone!

      Stay in touch and let us know how the dream plays out!

  6. My wife and I are SERIOUSLY considering living in an Airstream to save money on rent during the last year of our Masters programs. We think if you’re going to live in a trailer it might as well have some retro-flair :) We have school debt from our undergrads and feel that purchasing a home at this point sounds like a better idea than it is. We do have many of the concerns you listed above, though. Space will not be a problem as we are pretty forgiving of each other and not too attached to possesions, anyway. However, concerns about safety (we live in tornado country in Indiana) or just the feasability of accomplishing the renovation of the trailer we’re looking at, make us nervous! Any words of advice?

    • Hi Seth! Oh boy do I have advice! Im going to send you a separate email because it might be a long email……

  7. I was a full timer and went back to a sticks and bricks house and hated it. I was wanting to be on the move all the time and didn’t spend enough time in the house to make it worth the trouble, so I am selling the house and I am going back to full time living in an RV. My RV is a 28′ class A no slides an older one (97). I love being on the road or the ability to be on the road. I can go anywhere I wish that I can afford. I’ll keep doing it till it isn’t fun anymore I’m 67 now so another decade?
    Have fun you two your young healthy strong and smart you’ll do fine :-)

    • Hi Kayjulia – welcome back to fulltiming! We look forward to hearing more about round two of your RVing travels. Good Luck, and hope to see you out there!

  8. We want to do this for at least a year in 6 years when the kiddles move out. My biggest fear is less about the above (we are pretty serious weekend/summer break campers now,) and more about WHAT THE HELL ARE WE GOING TO DO WITH OURSELVES??? We are teachers and plan on hitting the road when we retire, and I don’t know– maybe it will be too much change all at once, to quit work AND hit the road, you know? I think we will probably spend an entire summer or two before we make the big move, no kids, no jobs, no itinerary, see how we do. We are pretty high activity people. I feel like we will love it, but I do worry a bit about getting bored. I guess if we do, we can always pull over for a month or two and guest lecture or substitute or something.

    • Kim, I completely agree with taking incremental steps toward any big life change. If you take a sink or swim approach, you’re giving yourself only a 50% chance of success!

      I’ve read lots of posts on airforums.com about how people spend their time once retired and on the road. Many say similar things – you’re only as bored as you let yourself be while RVing. The experiences really are limitless as long as you have the time and you make the effort. Take it slow, find new things to do, see, follow and learn about.

      Since we are somewhat location locked for a while, boredom may be an issue for us as well. I’ll probably be fine since i’m driving to and from work everyday, but Tiffani may need to fight boredom on occasion. She plans to get outside more, meet new people at the campgrounds we visit, and in general, spend more time with hobbies and things that interest her most.

      My advice is to keep as much of the structure and high activity as makes you happy. Avoiding boredom is an excellent goal for any RVer – it’s a perfect means to avoid things you don’t like and do more things that make you happy!

      Thanks for the reply – we look forward to hearing more from your adventures!

    • We can’t wait to read all about your adventures. Frankly, I am a bit jealous, but hey! We’ll get there. Right now, we are not in an Airstream. We are in a Winnie View, 24′ class C. This summer, we are traveling from Northern Arizona, up to NY. Hubby Frank is finishing his Phd, so we only have a month before summer session starts. Taking the remaining kids, ages 13 and 12, and the dog. Ought to be interesting. We cannot wait to travel without such stringent time lines in front of us, but a month should give us a somewhat real taste of life on the road semi-long term anyway. We plan on trading in the cars and the Skinny Winny on a nice tow vehicle and 27′ International when we semi retire. We will be watching y’all! HAVE FUN!!!!

    • That sounds like a really fun trip! Keep us posted on how everything goes, and thanks again for following!

  9. Y’all will do great. And hey, if you change your minds in two years, you’ll have a great base to house-hunt from.
    Used to live in Dallas; lots to explore and enjoy.

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Ashley. We’re looking at it that way as well. Worst case scenario, we end up in an apartment with a really cool summer home on wheels, which is pretty much exactly where we are now!

      When you lived in Dallas, did you camp? If so, where were your favorite spots?

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