When thinking about living on the road, one of the most common thoughts that’ll pop up is something along the lines of, “Sure, that works when you’re traveling with one other person… but is it really sustainable when you start a family?” Leave it to this family of five to tell you it’s possible! Nathan and his oldest son Tristan started living small in 2008 in an older Class C RV, which Nathan decided was too big.
They went and found a VW Bus in Colorado, and around the same time, Nathan started to date his old college friend Renee. A few months later, he convinced her to hop into the bus with Tristan and him. They eventually got an Airstream when it became evident that a little VW bus wasn’t going to be big enough for them… but three years (and two more kids) later, they’re back in that old VW bus. Wondering how it all works out? Kathleen and Greg from Tiny House, Tiny Footprint caught up with the family for some insight into living on the road with kids!
So, explain why you moved from the Airstream into The Bus.
We’re in Mexico right now, and the VW Bus just seemed like a better choice than a big old Airstream for that adventure. A 31′ Airstream plus the 16′ van we use to tow it are big, bulky and annoying to drive and they limit where we can go. There is very low clearance on the Airstream, so although we love staying in national forest campgrounds and boondocking spots, we can’t always get to all of them. We’ll probably get back into it at some point, but we want a break.
How do you balance work, kids, and sharing 25 square feet of space?
I’m a freelance web designer and developer and was even before we hit the road, so my work has always been completely location independent. As for working in a small space, it’s never been much of an issue. I can work outside if I need to, or go to a coffee shop, and Renee takes the reins with the kids. I’m always looking for ways to work less and do more, but sometimes that can be elusive. We’re hoping Mexico will help alleviate some of the costs and give me more time to spend with everyone.
Nathan, what made you want to start living on the road full time?
I went on a road trip in 2004 and saw the west for the first time—big mountains, the colors in Utah, places like Flagstaff and Lake Tahoe—and realized I didn’t want to live in one place and definitely not in my home state of Pennsylvania. It took me about a year, but I quit my job with PBS and started my own thing and that has been working really well for us. Sometimes it’s hard, as our family has grown to six and our income is still just me, but we’ve discovered tons of ways to save money while traveling too, so our traveling expenses go down even when the bills go up.
What’s the hardest part about living on the road with your whole family?
There are a lot of things. I want to take it slow, so we find a campsite for a few weeks, and then I am desperately bored and want to leave. Repeat. It’s a silly problem, but there’s an addiction to travel that sets in, even when it doesn’t always make sense. There’s also maintaining the vehicles. And saying goodbye to great friends, even though you know you’ll see them again. Right now that’s one of the biggest things. I miss my friends in the Northwest, Renee misses family, Tristan misses family. It leads to tension that, frankly, I don’t know how we could ever resolve because these people are scattered all over the nation.
Just trying to be great parents is the short answer though. And I think we’re doing a good job, but it has continuously proven to be the hardest thing we’ve ever done.
For more #roadlegends interviews check out Kathleen + Greg’s Tiny House, Tiny Footprint blog or follow their journeys on instagram.
Header via Wandrly