There is always a backstory to the people I interview for this blog series. Sometimes I find them through Instagram or read an article about them and shoot them an email. But it's pretty rare that I meet up with people first and then discover they are living this lifestyle.
And I wouldn't have met Kelly & Justin if it wasn't for Sarah & Jon—two people that became my friends all because Sarah picked up my business card at a local coffee shop. Sarah must be pretty good at finding people because through the Instagram world, Sarah connected with Kelly & Justin. So when Sarah invited Greg & I out to grab a beer, Kelly & Justin were there as well.
While we were all chatting, I got out my phone to follow Kelly & Justin on Instagram. When I said we went by Tiny House, Tiny Footprint, Kelly said, "I'm pretty sure we already follow you!" And sure enough, she already was.
This Instagram world has been so fascinating. I didn't ask how they found us, but just felt warmth knowing that this tiny house movement has brought so many of us together.
Square Feet: 180
Where are you currently living?
Justin and I have been hopping around from campground to campground, trying to keep him within a 30-minute commute from his office in downtown Denver. Currently, we’re camping in Golden, Colorado.
Name the make, model and year of your home.
We live in a 1960 Airstream Overlander that we call "The Riveted Roost" and affectionately refer to as "Riva."
Moonshine Moxie is the name of our 2015 Ford F-150 V-6 Eco-Boost, an extension of our tiny home. We couldn’t sustain this lifestyle without our trusty tow vehicle.
What were you doing before you went mobile and why did you make the change?
It seems as though the Airstream found us and unveiled a whole new realm of opportunity. Riva caught our eye from the side of the road in Florida, where she was for sale. We weren’t looking for a camper at the time but dreamed of owning an Airstream. One thing led to another, and we were towing her home. She was like a rescue dog in need of a lot of rehab. During the past three years, we’ve invested a great deal of blood, sweat and tears into her restoration.
What began as a vessel to allow us to camp during Florida’s sweltering summers, the Airstream opened the door for us to travel more. Unbeknownst to us at the time, Riva would eventually become our home.
Justin was working as director of marketing, communications and corporate relations at United Way of Martin County in Stuart, Florida. And I am a freelance writer who also runs my own business, New Growth Media, a multimedia communications/marketing firm.
We started the downsizing process by selling our boat—a 17-foot Boston Whaler that Justin restored. We used the money to fund a trip to France and England at the end of 2014. That was our first trip to Europe, and it really opened our eyes to how big the world truly is and how we needed to get busy exploring more of it.
How long have you been living there and do you live there full time/part time?
Justin and I have been living full time in our Airstream for a little over a month.
What was the process like to move into your mobile home?
The process of selling our home and moving across the country was a whirlwind. We were in a constant state of remodeling our 1974 1,082-square-foot home in Florida. The plan was to complete the remodel, sell the house, move into the Airstream and head west to California (all at a leisurely pace). However, when Justin got a job offer in Denver and needed to start in exactly one month, it put us into overdrive.
We told our family about the opportunity in Denver on a Monday, had a yard sale that Saturday, hosted our going away party the following Saturday, listed our house two days later on a Monday and left the house by Wednesday. It was intense, but much like ripping off a Band-Aid, it was probably the best way to handle it.
After four days at my parent’s house, prepping the Airstream for the trip and saying our goodbyes, we hit the road. It took five days to get to Denver, camping at state parks in the Florida panhandle, Louisiana and Texas along the way. Getting in the truck and driving west was, by far, the easiest part of the transition.
The long journey and rough roads certainly took a toll on our vintage Airstream, and Riva required some triage once we arrived in Denver, but nothing Justin couldn’t handle.
How do you get mail and Internet access?
We use a large PO Box for our mail and get Internet through our AT&T data plan and WiFi at campgrounds and local coffee shops.
How do you balance work and living in a small space?
Justin works for United Way in downtown Denver, so he’s in an office and attending meetings around town. Not much has changed for him, except coming home to a tiny, vintage home that needs frequent attention.
I am handling the administrative tasks that come with selling the house in Florida and transitioning to a new state. I continue to freelance, shop for a new place to park, keep our pair of four-legged children happy, and clean our home and make dinner—all from our tiny home base. The free Wi-Fi at campgrounds is mediocre at best, so a hefty data plan keeps us in business. Enjoying the great outdoors while typing away: priceless!
What are your hobbies on and off the road?
We love to hike with our two dogs, Remington and Jackson, and stand-up paddleboard. Justin is an avid surfer and will cope with being landlocked by snowboarding—but surf trips are certainly in order. I am a mermaid and an equestrian, so I'm always on the hunt for the nearest water source and a place to ride. I've been combing Craiglist ads for a seahorse to no avail. We can’t wait to carve up the slopes this winter.
What are your top three go-to items in your tiny home?
Camera: My Canon DSLR and our iPhones are always capturing the beautiful scenery we come across during our travels. It’s our way of documenting the memories and sharing our journey with our family and friends. By sharing our photos on Instagram, we’ve made many new friends in the Airstream/tiny home community.
Storage Ottoman: I scored a $150 storage ottoman on sale at Kohl’s for less than $30. We keep books, DVDs and odds and ends in there. It’s a great place to hide stuff, and it doubles as a table when we need to eat inside.
Mini Shop-Vac: With two dogs, we’re constantly vacuuming up hair, leaves and all the dirt that gets tracked into the Airstream. It helps us tidy up the truck or trailer in a hurry.
What has been the most rewarding thing about living small?
We found it incredibly liberating to get rid of most of our possessions. We’ve been purging our home of clutter and unnecessary items for a couple years now. When we needed to make a quick move across the country, we gave many of our favorite possessions away to family and friends. It was a little extra work, but it felt good to find the perfect home for these items.
We also discovered all kinds of odds and ends hidden away in the attic and in closets. It was exhausting going through all that stuff, and we vowed to never accumulate so much junk ever again. We had a yard sale and donated what was left to Goodwill. It was a cleansing process both physically and mentally. We feel lighter, like a weight has been lifted. Living in a small space makes you incredibly conscious of the things you buy, which ultimately saves a lot of money.
But the most rewarding thing about living small is the variety. Having a house on wheels means the view from our kitchen window is always changing.
These days, we have a new neighborhood to discover each week, we’re making new friends, and we have a great big backyard to explore. If we like it, we stay awhile, or we keep on movin’.
What is the most challenging thing?
We’re not going to sugarcoat it, living in a tiny home certainly has its fair share of challenges, especially in the beginning as we transitioned from an entire house to an Airstream. With two adults, two large dogs and all our clothing, gear, food and necessities, it’s a constant battle of squeezing, rearranging and purging. It can get tight, especially when trying to cook a meal inside while it’s pouring rain outside. We continuously have to clean and organize. It doesn’t take long for a tiny space to get cluttered, but luckily it doesn’t take long to tidy up either!
Finding campsites has been a bit of a headache, especially in summer when everyone else wants to camp. We’ve been bouncing around a lot, trying to stay at campgrounds and RV parks within commuting distance for Justin, which has proved to be quite limited and sometimes expensive. Packing up and moving your entire house in the middle of the week can be a chore, but we’re getting better at streamlining the process each time.
A tiny home that is mobile is in constant need of maintenance and attention—there are a lot of moving parts that can and will break. You quickly become a mechanic, learn how to expertly secure everything and get rid of the things that just don’t jibe with your roaming lifestyle.
Finally, you need an extra measure of patience and tolerance when living with another person in a tiny space. It’s important to find ways to maintain your individuality and independence. Develop a schedule so you’re not jockeying for the bathroom sink at the same time. Burn off stress with a solo activity so you can enjoy the time you spend together in your tiny home.
What is your advice to future homeowners who want to live small or hit the road?
If you’re interested in living small or traveling full time, start scaling down now, getting rid of clutter and items you don’t use or need. Be mindful of how you’ll use an item before you buy it. Everyone can benefit from a life less dependent on material items. Spend the money you save on travel and pay down debt.
Start going on excursions in your tiny home if it’s mobile. Make each trip longer than the last. Or find a tiny home on Airbnb and rent it out for a trial run.
Do you plan to go back to your previous way of living before you went tiny?
After living in campgrounds, we do long for privacy and our own piece of land. We never want to accumulate as much material possessions as we had before, but we would like to own a small cabin.
What's next for you? Any news you want to share?
We’re head over heels for Colorado and look forward to exploring all the beauty that surrounds us. We can’t wait to travel to the surrounding states and discover the western U.S. and all its treasures.