Family of 5 and a Cat Traveling the Country in an Airstream

by Kent Griswold on December 13th, 2012. 52 Comments
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

by Dan

About 4 years ago, when our first born was only a year old, we caught the road tripping bug and decided to buy a small travel trailer. We began traveling locally in California and Arizona and fell in love with the lifestyle.

t&b trailer

A year later, as we were expecting our second child, we upgraded to a 25-foot Airstream and began contemplating longer and more extensive road trips. Being self-employed in the software industry, we were able to work from anywhere. Even though our home in California was a small bungalow less than 1,000 square feet, we felt like it was a lot of space for our little family of 4.

family of 4 and a trailer

When our second daughter was just 5-months old, we packed up and left our house for a cross country road trip. Unlike most other road trips, this one was not a vacation but rather a working, living, and learning experience on the road. For the next 4 months, we lived in our Airstream with less than 200 square feet of space. We learned to live small, conserve our resources and were surprised that we were happier than ever.

baby on bed

When we returned home from our first 4-month trip, our lives were never the same. We tried to settle back into our 950 square foot California Spanish bungalow but we longed for our life in our Airstream. The days at home seemed to all blur together and knew that soon we will have to find our way back on the road.

closeup of family and airstream

When we had our third and (hopefully) last child 7 months ago, it had been 2 years since we returned from our first cross country trip and were now planning to get back on the road with our three little children and cat named Yoda. This time around, we sold our home, packed everything that we didn’t bring, sell, or give away into storage and left for an undetermined amount of time. Our newborn boy, Luka, on the day of our departure was only 3 months old.

little girl

We have been everywhere from the Golden Gate Bridge to Key West, Lake Michigan down to the Gulf of Mexico. Everywhere we go, we try to make it a learning experience for us and our children. We don’t usually know where we are headed next but as long as there are good roads, decent phone reception and something spectacular, our tiny home on wheels can take us there.

family by bus

Our cat Yoda loves the ever changing view out of our window as much as we do. Since she is an indoor-only cat, she is a very easy going, road loving travel buddy. The only thing we have to be careful of is the weather. We have to avoid being in places that are too hot so Yoda doesn’t overheat in case the electricity goes out at the campground and air conditioning stops working while we are away. Fortunately for us, this lifestyle lets us follow the nice weather around the country wherever it may be.

airstream

We often hear from people that our life on the road brings up fond memories of them going camping with their parents when they were kids. We can only hope that our children will grow up feeling the same and maybe one day they will fondly remember our time on the road while complimenting another traveling family on their adventures.

family eating

Living on the road with little children has its fair share of challenges. Our oldest daughter Ava is almost 6 years old and is currently in kindergarten. When we decided to leave for another extended trip, we had to also commit to home schooling her. We will be the first to admit that, like most people, we were more than a little nervous about tackling home schooling. We are not traditionally trained educators and the last thing we’d want to do is to keep her from getting the best education possible.

8231982743

As it turns out, we couldn’t have hoped for a better kindergarten experience for her. The road is full of learning opportunities and the education she is getting is unlike anything she can get while sitting inside a building. Not too many people can say that they learned about Abraham Lincoln while visiting his birthplace in rural Kentucky. I don’t suspect many kindergartners can claim to have learned about the story of Rosa Parks while sitting in the same seat of the actual bus that ignited the civil rights movement.

airstream photo

We keep a blog of our adventures at malimish.com and document our adventures daily. We hope it may inspire others to realize their dreams of seeing the country with their family. It takes a fair amount of planning and even more sacrifices to realize this dream but I am certain that there will be no regrets. Since 2010, we have spent over 400 days on the road in our Airstream. We hope to spend hundreds more in it before we eventually settle back into a traditional home. When that time comes, we hope to continue to live small, simply and richly.

Dan from MaliMish.com

52 Responses to “Family of 5 and a Cat Traveling the Country in an Airstream”

  1. molly says:

    What a wonderful story! I hope to do this someday, but as I do not have a work from anywhere job, it will take years of saving before I am free to roam. I am headed over to your blog right now!

  2. [...] Griswold graciously invited us to write a guest post about our story on the road at his very popular blog, TinyHouseBlog.com. It just went live this [...]

  3. liz goertz says:

    I literally laughed out loud about your home schooling fears, You cant get a better education than you are giving your kids!

  4. DJ says:

    Adorable kids!

  5. scotty says:

    this is not that unusual. there are tens of thousands of people who live in RVs. Within the RV community they’re referred to as “full timers”. most of them are retired. and they tend to park their RVs in one spot for 6-12 months at a time. Airstreamers are sort of their own seperate community, though.

    Unlike most Tiny House living, full timing in an airstream can be incredibly expensive. if you’re going to move around and not stay putyou’re talking about 15mpg at best to tow a 25-30ft trailer. RV parks charge by the day, week or month. And you’ll have costs associate with electrical hookup and waste dumping, or with buying fuel to run the trailer systems on propane.

  6. scotty says:

    Not to mention that the retail price on that trailer is around $60,000. Add another $40,000 for the tow vehicle

  7. Kaelan says:

    @Scotty

    Or you can buy a used airstream for $8,000-$15,000 and if you don’t already have a tow vehicle, buy a reliable late model truck for under 10,000 and be on the road for under 25k. And all those costs – they are perhaps expensive when you’re only participating for a few weeks a year and tying down a mortgage for the other 52 weeks, but doing it fulltime allows you to delegate the money you’d be spending on rent/mortgage, utilities, and gas towards your Airstream expenses. It comes out looking about the same.

    • scotty says:

      Kaelan, yes. You can buy a used AS Trailer for that price, but it won’t be the one pictured in the blog post. Which was my point.

  8. dan says:

    Scotty, we paid less than half of your estimates between the van and the airstream combined and they were both new. We spent a good amount of time to find the best deals and it paid off. Of course buying it with cash is still expensive but our monthly payments on both are less than $600 a month. There are lots of reasons why people don’t do this but cost shouldn’t be one.

    • scotty says:

      reading you blog now it sounds like you got your international for a great price! typically for that price you’d have to buy a 10yr old unit.

      Since the 63flyingcloud.com website is no more, I’ll have to start reading your blog. Looks like tons of fun.

  9. MBee says:

    I’m SO happy for you guys…you are living your dreams and have a lifestyle that’s exactly what you want for you and your kids. That is not an easy achievement. Bravo on all you’ve accomplished and tackled to make it happen. Wishing you the best!!!!

  10. dan says:

    Our lifestyle costs on the average $4000 a month including everything. That is car payments, trailer payments, food, camping fees, health insurance, etc.. there are lots of places where at cam trim back if at chisel to. the biggest barrier is to find a job that you can do on the road and the willingness to detach.

  11. dan says:

    “where we can trim back if we choose to” thanks autocorrect, oops :)

  12. JCinCT says:

    Delighted in hearing this family’s story.Good learning experience for all the kids which they will draw from for the rest of their existence.
    Love the Airstream.

  13. dan says:

    To sum it up our interpretation of tiny living is quality over quantity, mobile over static and conserve over excess. It isn’t all about living on the cheap.

    • molly says:

      Thank you for bringing up a very important point. There is no “one” definition of tiny living. It’s different or different people. The common theme seems to be for each person to decide what is important to them and to create a life that revolves around that. You seem to have done a splendid job of doing that for you and your family. I hope you live your dream for as long as you wish!

  14. LOVE your story! Less IS more!And living simply in an Airstream IS a dream!

  15. stpauligirl says:

    You are really living the dream! It sounds amazing and wonderful. I hope to do a LOT of road trips in an RV upon retirement.

    As for expense, Airstreams are very expensive. For those who want to do this for less, there are plenty of trailers out there in almost every price range.

    Our little travel trailer cost $10k, brand new (only sleeps two, although it advertises as sleeping three). We tow it with our 10 year old Chevy Blazer and get about 15 mpg on the road. When doing the math, it would usually be just a little cheaper ( just a little) to drive in a car that got good gas mileage and stay in cheap motels. BUT, for me, nothing beats the joy of staying in your own little trailer, in an amazing state or federal campground. Its addictive.

    ENJOY your time!!

  16. Wonderful to read your story in one summarized place! And I was amused to see it start off with a T@B! We started full timing in 2006 in a 16′ T@B as well… what a fun experience that was! Nearly 7 years later, and we’re still at it, just now in a 35′ vintage bus conversion. Still a tiny home tho, at less than 280 sq ft!

    And true indeed, this lifestyle can be done on all sorts of budgets. And it’s not always about doing it for the cheapest. All and all tho, our full time life on the road is considerably less expensive than our former stationary lives. With a mobile life like ours, you can control your fuel costs by varying the amount of travel you do.

    We look at our fuel costs as ‘pouring rent in the tank.’ We generally spend less than $800/mo for fuel & campground fees combined. Which is pretty cheap ‘rent’ for always being in amazing places with ever changing views! (Our full cost log can be found at http://www.technomadia.com/the-finances-how-to-afford-it/ – if anyone is interested.)

    And we too work remotely running our software and technology business. It’s a wonderful life, and hope we get to cross paths with you guys sometime soon!

  17. -billS says:

    I don’t know where else to post this but the most recent story. Am I the only person that thinks this site is more about ad-space than tiny houses any more? This site is becoming visually unappealing.

    • steve dogtownrunner says:

      I don’t know if you are the only one that thinks this site is more about ad-space than tiny house, but I know I don’t think that way. Kent needs revenue to put up a quality site like this. I am grateful that this site is free and that these companies advertising here support our community. Just counted eight ads on my page and four of them were specifically targeted to the tiny house industry. That doesn’t seem like a bad ratio. What do you propose as a better way to run a blog of this sort?

      • -billS says:

        yeah it may have been a bad day for me. but after surfing my usual haunts it occurred to me i have a headache with all the pop ups, sliding up/down/sideways ads on just about EVERY site. like an old arcade game i have to kill all the “whatevers” that are trying to get me. so I laugh and realize, a bad day of wading through pictures of tiny houses with ads is better than a day now wading through pictures of tiny houses. good day.

    • Sun says:

      My issue with the ads aren’t the appearance so much as the load time. Those with older/slower computers have major issues loading pages with tons of ads. Even tho my computer isn’t that old, sometimes too many ads bog it down or even lock it up completely, and then I just stop going to those blogs/webpages. So be careful, don’t ‘ad space’ yourself out of business.

      • molly says:

        Sun, you can install flash block on your computer and it will stop those ads that use flash from loading. You will need to click on them to see them. This includes videos as well. It works wonderfully on my computer.

        I, too, am glad that this site is free. I know a lot of time goes into it, and I have seen many other sites close down because the person maintaining them didn’t have the time to do it for free anymore. I would much rather have some ads than pay for access to this site and all the great information on it or have it close.

        I have clicked on some of the ads targeted to tiny living and have found many of them to be helpful or interesting, or simply something to think about, as someone who is still waiting for the chance to build a tiny house but is trying to live as tiny as I can, where I am.

    • Barb says:

      I love this site. It is a place of dreams of freedom. The ads don’t bother me a bit. Please don’t give up on this website – we need it.

  18. MJ says:

    Wonderful story, wonderful life; your kids are incredibly fortunate, as are the two of you (with a lot of work and planning fortunate)!
    No matter how one lives out ‘the dream’ it is always inspirational to read the stories of others’ realities. Thanks for posting here!

  19. It’s a wonderful story and your kids will never forget it. When our five kids were in grammar school we camped from Rhode Island to Califirnia and back in a station wagon and tent and they never forgot it.

  20. Christina says:

    What a wonderful way to raise your children. They will never forget it. Dan, have you seen the Long Long Honeymoon website? Sean and Kristy might like to meet you. :-)

    • dan says:

      Thanks Christina! Yes we have heard of Sean and Kristy. We are friends with them on Facebook and have corresponded numerous times but we have not met in person yet. Maybe next time we come through Alabama we will try!

  21. Benjamin says:

    Yoda has four eyes!

  22. Kenise says:

    Kudos to you guys and your adventures. Most people would be afraid to try what you’ve done. I would have died to live the life your children are living. Homeschool? My niece was homeschooled and went to Berkeley on a full scholarship. Parents are the true teachers of their children. Don’t worry about Yoda getting too hot, cats are desert animals. Happy Trails and Merry Christmas and or Hanukkah!

  23. Jen says:

    I always wondered, how do the parents maintain a healthy, private relationship in these circumstances?
    Seems like an amazing journey otherwise!

  24. I’m a woman fulltimer who lives in a 1996 25′ Airstream Classic with 3 Collies….I’ve pulled it to 48 states, over the last 13 years. I spend my time in nice weather, and move quite a bit….. its a wonderful way to live and I have no interest in having a house and being stationary.

  25. Ric in a travel trailer in Milford says:

    There is something surrealistic about hearing people touri9ng with an Airstream. OK, it would be nice to travel almost full time. Airstream is a bit pricey for most. However, I am in Northeastern PA, have a 1983 28′ Taurus Terry which is in a “community.” It is great to have the low expenses. Besides, the smaller interior virtually requires I do something away from the trailer. That said, I do have space for RV travelers. I would like to find a larger (30′-35′) unit. Does anyone have any suggestions?

  26. Mike Dean says:

    Hi, my wife, 2 dogs and our pariot have been traveling full time in our Airstream for 4 years.We started out in a 2006 20ft safari and moved up to a 30ft classic this year. We are not rich but we are retired and have a fair income. We love our travels and the sun. Our experience traveling over the years has been wonderfull and living in a “tiny” space has been the best. Happy travels.

  27. MamaDeb says:

    Beautiful! So happy you are doing this when your kids are small. It’s not money or school or work that keeps one home – it’s soccer!
    I suspect you have this figured out, but I hope you have found a local home-schooling community. We have many well-adjusted, smart kids in our community who are home schooled. They transition in and out of public schools fine and do great on standardized tests. Not all of their parents are trained teachers so their co-op and frequent communications help out a lot. Curricula already exists and home school days take much less time to cover the material that takes a looong time in in a large group. I am sure you are best friends with the library!
    Would love to hear posts about handling scary weather! As a Minnesotan, that’s my only RV worry!
    Having some big vicarious joy seeing your family dreaming, then going for it! Thanks for sharing!

  28. Carla says:

    Beautiful Story!!! I wish I had the circumstances to copy your example. If you can afford it and have the right career as you obviously do then what a fantastic experience you are giving your family. My daughter is 20 and oh how I wish I could have done something like this. Enjoy it with no regrets! They are only small for a very short time.

  29. Dan – My company, AMS Pictures, is producing a number of shows for HGTV. You and your family and life in your airstream may be a fit for the Dow “You Live on What?”, which is a lighthearted show featuring homes that gave been converted from something else–in your case, an airstream trailer. Would love to speak to you in more detail about this if you could give me a call @ (972) 542-6639.

  30. Nicola says:

    What an inspiring story! I am impressed that you manage to do this all with little ones in tow, what an amazing experience for all of you.

  31. Gloria says:

    What repairs have you had to make on the airstream? How is it holding up to the full-time use?

  32. paula says:

    Hello! I’m reading everything and I’m fascinated. When I was little I dreamed what you are living ue. I wonder how much would estimate that the cost of living if it were only a couple. We also ask you whether to have a thriller or a tiny house, and why.
    many thanks for the answer you can give me, and sorry for my English, if not very good.
    Paula

  33. Julius C says:

    dan and family,
    I hope one day you can have a book on how to prepare for this kind of lifestyle, as well as lessons on the field.
    Beautiful family and beautiful experiences, thanks for sharing.

  34. Kathy Parker says:

    Great Story!! As avid rv’ers my husband and I have logged a lot of miles over the years. Your story caught my eye, because you travel with a cat. This may sound silly, but where do you keep the cat pan??? We travel right now in a 19′ Roadtrek and I can’t imagine what I can give up to accommodate the litter…lol I’ve always had someone to leave him with, but those days are over. I’d love to hear what you think.
    Blessings as you roll along. Btw, I homeschooled my daughter… she graduated college a few years ago with high honors… Thanks, K. Parker

    • Cindy says:

      My 14 y/o daughter and I are full-timer RV’s (2002 R-Vision Ultralite, 23 ft bumper pull…with a slide-out!) and homeschool. Also on board, we have 3 small dogs and a cat. The cat’s litter box is in the shower; we are usually at state or federal camps and use their shower. Kitty doesn’t seem to mind the rare times we have to put his litter box ‘in the living room’ so we can use the shower. The cat is easy! Now, the dogs are a different story………

      Rescued pets weren’t going to keep up stationary. We are their forever family, so they left Oklahoma with us at the end of last Sept.

      • Cindy says:

        Full-time RVers, that is!

        We have a page on FB called CBreaze Ontheroad, if anyone wants to come ‘LIKE’ our page and follow our adventures, too. (Any ads on that page are not ours! :P )

  35. Christine Ferguson says:

    Comparing happiness across all strata of home dwellers I have perceived the respectful, ceative and responsible travelling community to have the highest stisfactions over all categories. You folks have just endorsed this finding in the fullest measure. Lucky children. Lucky kitty.
    Balanced but adventurous life! Such a combination!

  36. Nicole says:

    Hi there,

    I love reading about your adventures. I too have been interested in the life of freedom and roaming. Specifically I have been following the “Tiny house” movement. I noticed that you mentioned the possibility of the campground “loosing power”, have you considered solar power? I have been researching to add to my tiny house project and found the following that could be built easily and relatively cheap. Check it out! http://4dca2uejhffix8g2hl5diqflbf.hop.clickbank.net/?tid=SOLAR

  37. Edie Rodman says:

    Hi there,

    It was wonderful to read about your life. Keep on truckin’! The year of 2000 my late husband and I, and our two cats, took off in a 26′ BornFree motorhome with our car following along. We had wonderful times that year from California to Florida to South Dakota, Indiana, Oklahoma, Texas, you get the picture. At the end of the year, in a 2nd stop in Arizona, we decided to head home, sell the house, and take off. There were more places to go! A sudden health crisis ended our dreams. I may yet find a way to ‘get out there’ again. Thanks so much for sharing your life and family and adventures! There’s nothing like it .

  38. Mike says:

    Truly inspirational. You are living your dream, not one prescribed or fabricated, one that is attainable! Living life to its full. How many people can reflect and say the same? You have provided me with inspiration.

Add Your Photo: To add your photo to your comments just visit Gravatar and upload your photo.

Leave a Reply