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Change of lifestyle, trial run

We tried living in our house for a day, and it was nice.   We lived like ordinary people — if you overlook the near-total lack of furniture.   We had a nice Christmas morning doing the sort of things that people usually do when they are celebrating Christmas.   Since the house lacks a kitchen, we were forced back out to the Airstream for breakfast, but for the most part we stayed inside and sampled the suburban life: a few holiday phone calls to friends and family, reading books, snacking on Christmas treats, trying out the presents, and assembling those things that have “some assembly required”.

It felt nice, as a change of lifestyle, although I’m sure I don’t want to live like this all the time.   Coincidentally, today I finished a book called “American Nomads” by Richard Grant, which attempts to describe and analyze the phenomenon of modern nomadism.   The author alternately tells tales of nomads both historical and current, and his own restless story in which he is uncontrollably driven to wander the American southwest seeking the company of freight train riders, hitchhikers, hippies, “Mountain Man” re-enactors, and RV’ers. Although the book is a bit uneven, there are many gems of truth and I found myself wincing several times at the accuracy of Grant’s understanding of my personality.

It is undeniably the best analysis I have read on the subject of modern nomads.   Most articles and books treat those who are compelled to explore as misfit exceptions, social oddities, and sideshows to mainstream American life.   Only someone who has the bug himself can begin to understand the inner pressure that motivates us, and the author does a nice job of bridging nomadism and sedentary life so that each side can understand the other.

This is helpful to me.   I have to admit that many times in this blog I have been a nomad snob.   Forgive me — I’ve been so enthusiastic about this lifestyle that I’ve become like a reformed addict, trashing “sedentary” life at every opportunity.   Without saying so directly, Grant seems to believe that it is in the genes and makes good points about the validity of each lifestyle, although I wish he hadn’t focused quite so much on the grittiest of travelers.   Essentially he says, “to each their own.”   I think he’s right.   There’s nothing wrong with all you people who love your houses.   It’s just that I am part of a minority of people who feel very differently.   If it is wired into your genetic code and mine, that’s cool with me.

Apparently Grant lives here in Tucson, at least occasionally between trips.   I’m sure we would get along if we met, although we’re nothing alike.   He’s a hard-living Brit who thrives on rugged travel (sleeping in the car for weeks, walking the desert for days, riding freight trains with hobos), he smokes, he admits to a fair amount of drug use in the book, he seems at several points to be self-destructive and perhaps even toxic to others except in small doses.   I’m far past any interest in living ruggedly except where it is necessary to accomplish a specific goal.   I like traveling by Airstream with the occasional tent or hotel thrown in for fun; there’s no need in my lifestyle to sleep in a cold rolling boxcar with vagrants, not even “to get the story”, as Hunter Thompson would say.

Which brings me back to the house.   We could have bought a condo (and seriously considered it) instead of a house.   It would have been easier to maintain and there wouldn’t be this renovation task to complete.   But at the time we bought, in the place we bought, there was better value in houses than condos.   So now we have approximately 9 times the amount of space that we have in the Airstream, which means when we are stationary we can spread out.   That extra space means comfort for all involved.   It’s one thing to share 200 square feet when the world is your living room; it’s quite another to share 200 square feet when the days are short, the nights are cold, and there are fewer options of things to do outside.


Wendy enjoys a balmy evening outside our Airstream, near Destin, FL, Jan 6, 2006  

That has been the one issue I’ve had with full-timing.   The winters can be a bit boring.   Really the only place in the continental USA where you can be guaranteed warm weather all winter is southern Florida and the Keys.   In the rest of the south, and particularly the southwest, winter is characterized by changeable weather, warm days and temperatures plummeting to near-freezing at sunset.   This makes for long evenings inside the trailer.   Last winter we avoided much of the cold by staying in Florida in November and December, but this year we took an entirely different route.

Even a trailer as well-insulated as an Airstream is hard to keep warm on a 20 or 30-degree night.   The trailer begins to feel like an old New England farmhouse with cold floors and drafts.   People start to congregate around the furnace ducts, and the fuel bill shoots up.   If it still feels like you’re in New England every night, and the nights are still 14 hours long, the enjoyment of being in the “sunny, warm southwest” is lessened.   If I wanted to sit inside a confined space and surf the web, I could have stayed home.

So that’s what we’ll do.   Parking here for a couple of months every winter seems like a good thing to me.   We’ll get the pleasure of the southwest with the sheer comfort of a house.   There’s better insulation, more room to stretch out on long evenings, better entertaining space … and while we are whittling away at winter we will be refurbishing and planning for the next bout of travel.

Do I sound like a suburbanite all of a sudden?   I’m just trying to find that ideal balance to perfect our lifestyle.   If we can’t be somewhere interesting in the Airstream, this house will be a good place to stay for a while.   It certainly passed the test for Christmas Day.   I wonder how long it will be before the genetic code starts demanding that I find out what’s around the corner, and we hitch up the Airstream to move out again.

3 Responses to “Change of lifestyle, trial run”

  1. terrie Says:

    living in confined space….”with the world as your living room”….excellent point….you are right…it works so well….you will enjoy the house project, too…

  2. Rob Super Says:

    Roger the comments on cold and confinement. The 800 sq.ft. we live in year-round here in CA is PLENTY–most of the year–partly because we can live inside/outside almost seamlessly, doors and windows open. But come these cold, damp days of Dec & Jan it’s the big glowing window of the woodstove that lends comfort to confinement. Enjoy that fireplace (we liked the Christmas photo) now, and, shortly, the road!

  3. Sue Says:

    Nice thoughts,excellent point….you are right.