Roll with Jillian & Robert in an Airstream Land Yacht

Born in a canoe, under the aurora borealis, somewhere in the heart of the Canadian North.
Raised by wolves.
Bison soul.
Bareback rider.
Sagebrush gleaner.
Ponderosa pine tree hugger.
Gregarious Hermit.
These are the words Jillian uses to describe herself on her blog. And even though those words captivate me and take my breath away, I feel something stronger.
Jillian is a creative soul, but not in the usual way we see on our Instagram feeds. She delivers much more. Her beauty is also captured in the light around her, her relationships with the creatures of this Earth and the way she takes an inanimate object and gives it character and power.
This is a woman you want to go on adventures with and dance on the hood of your car. But until then, I will be in a daze as I watch her life unfold inside and outside her Airstream.

Square Feet: 200

A little bit of bird dog, a dash of rock and roll, a pinch of morning light and a helluva lot of rivets.

currently Living: North Cascades Smokejumper Base in the Methow Valley of Washington

Make, Model, Year: 1965 Airstream Land Yacht

My husband, Robert, and I own a 30-foot refurbished (but incomplete) Airstream that we tow with a 2500 Dodge Cummins truck.

What were you doing before you went mobile?

Robert is a U.S. Forest Service smokejumper. I am a freelance photographer, writer and independent metalsmith. These were our occupations before we went mobile, and these are our current occupations.

Before we went mobile, we were splitting our year between two places—summering up North during the fire season and wintering in Idaho.

We recently sold our property in Idaho. Now, while we hunt for working ranch property, we are living in the Airstream full time.

I am not sure how long we will be mobile, but at this point, I could do it for a good long while, I think.

What was the process like to move into your mobile home?

We had to find it first!

We found our Airstream on a little acreage in Gooding, Idaho. The fellow who owned it was looking to get rid of it as he was moving to Utah with not much notice. We phoned him as soon as we saw it on Craigslist and offered him $500, and my husband hit the highway at a gallop to go get it as quickly as possible. By the time he reached Gooding, the fellow selling the Airstream had received a dozen other phone calls about it and was beginning to realize what he had was desirable. My husband slapped $500 in the palm of that man's hand, hooked the Airstream up to our truck and towed it home before anything could be renegotiated. We've been refurbishing it ever since.

The trailer currently has an open floor plan since we haven't yet built the cabinets for the kitchen area. Robert built a walnut bed with pullout drawers for us a couple of winters ago (he even milled the wood himself). It's a piece of art. The rest of the Airstream furniture and storage is bolted down and a combination of open wire racks, vintage furniture and other sundries.

When we sold our property in Idaho, our goal was to walk away from it with as little stuff as possible. We had an enormous yard sale, did numerous trips to the dump and to the thrift store and gave plenty of things away to friends and neighbors. We have an 8x10-foot storage unit holding everything we kept.

We freed ourselves from over half of what we owned and it felt excellent while we were letting it all go.

We use the mess hall kitchen on base for our cooking needs and the base facilities for laundry and showers so the open floor plan and limited storage in our Airstream works well for us at the moment. When we're on the road, we set up a little kitchen area, shower and bathe in lakes and rivers and spit our toothpaste foam into sagebrush.

How do you balance work and living in a small space?

We try to have a place for everything and keep everything in its place.

I also keep a studio space in town where I go to work most days, so it's not like our Airstream is currently overrun with my hand tools.  

We live where my husband works, so the trickiest thing for us is living somewhat under the radar during base hours. I try to be as invisible as possible until the end of the day when everyone is off work and letting their hair down. Sometimes it's quite difficult.

For instance, North Cascades National Park currently has a wildland fire heliattack RV parked beside the Airstream, and I don't have the usual privacy buffer I like to have.

What are your hobbies on and off the road?

We fly fish, upland hunt, big game hunt, read, Nordic ski, skijor a two-dog team, trail run, backpack and raft.

I try to create a bit of art every single day, as the creative spirit moves me.

What are your top three go-to items in your tiny home?

Quality Bed Mattress: I highly value good, deep, restful sleep. Our beds, over the span of our marriage (11 years) have ranged from a single mattress in a one-room cabin in Alaska to a queen size mattress in the house we used to own. For a few years, we slept on a futon. This is all to say, when we bought our first high-quality mattress and slept on it for the first time, we were totally blown away by how we felt when we woke up in the morning. We felt like we hadn't truly been sleeping up until that point! A good mattress is a must.
Good Reading Light: I often read late into the night, Rob will join me in this from time to time. We have two wall-mounted lights above our bed, on either side of the back window in our Airstream. Naturally, I also have a pair of eye masks on hand so that if I really get hooked on a good book, Rob can still fall asleep.
Record Player: We love vinyl! Space is at a premium in our Airstream, but we still drag along a little suitcase record player and our collection of records. There's nothing quite like the music of Willie Nelson or Neko Case drifting out of the open door on a warm summer night.

What has been the most rewarding thing about living small?

It offered us a good perspective shift. I want more "lessness"—which is not a real word. I want more freedom and less things. You don't have to have a tiny home to live this way. There are so many subtle life shifts a person can make, like instead of buying every book you read, borrowing them from the library.

All the clutter in our lives contributes to soul clutter—the less you have, the more wild and free you can be.

What is the most challenging thing?

For me, at the moment, there is no challenge to it. Perhaps just occasional storage issues, such as not having enough drawers and cupboards to hold bits and pieces. But that will come as we finish out the interior.  

What is your advice to future homeowners who want to live small or hit the road?

Set yourself up so you can do what you want to do in life—don't get trapped in a life situation you find unfulfilling.

Your dreams and your life are your own; make the absolute most of them!

What's next for you? Any news you want to share?

People keep asking us what our plans are and where we are headed after the fire season. While we are doing plenty of dreaming aloud these days, we haven't settled on any particular dreams.

I suppose we’re just trying to enjoy what we have going on. We’re just trying to be as present as possible. Life is a delight.

Follow Jillian & Robert and their adventures

Edited by Kate MacDougall.
All photos credit to The Noisy Plume.