Living in a 1950’s Travel Trailer

By Kyle Harvey

I have spent much of my adult life thinking about living spaces. For quite some time, as a touring musician, sleeping arrangements were made on the fly. Sometimes a couch and many times a floor, finding a place to crash after a show on the road was almost always an adventure. In the event that we were unable to find a place to stay, we could always find a piece of ground underneath the stars in the sky. Camping was common and comfortable, in warmer months. On occasion it meant sleeping on top of picnic tables at rest stops. Once, it even meant sleeping directly on the pavement in a bank parking lot, two blocks off of the Vegas Strip, complete with a good pair cowboy boots under my head taking the place of a pillow. While not always ideal, it was most certainly romantic.

Naturally, I have spent a great deal of time pondering society’s perception of shelter and home, which has led me to looking up their definitions, respectively. According to Mirriam-Webster’s online dictionary, shelter is something that covers or affords protection. Further, their definition of home is not only one’s place of residence, but also the social unit formed by a family living together.

Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska the idea of a home generally went hand in hand with the very concrete idea of traditional housing. You can imagine my sense of surprise and intrigue when my wife and I moved our family 900 miles to Moab, Utah, finding that the idea of home was not so immediately attached to traditional housing, instead noting a general acceptance and openness to many forms of nontraditional living spaces, ranging from single-wide trailer homes featuring a myriad of unique build-on techniques, to folks experimenting with straw bale houses, teepees, yurts, and other earthen plaster forms. In addition to these historical methods, there are a rather large number of people utilizing the prehistoric, yet perfectly efficient idea of cave dwelling. From the simplistic living techniques of cultural revolutionary Daniel Suelo, to the modernized renovations of the Hatchrock community, the idea of relatively constant and comfortable temperatures is appealing, and of simple efficiency. However, the nontraditional living space that I found most fascinating was the one that was mobile, specifically vintage travel trailers.

travel trailer bed

Little did we know that a travel trailer experience was in our near future.

When my wife was recently offered a fantastic job opportunity in the beautiful state of Colorado, we set out to find a home in Fruita, one of the last towns on the Western Slope before entering Utah. Our goal was to find a place before our son would start back to school. With the summer winding down, time was running out and we were coming up empty handed in our search. Knowing our struggle, our close friends offered up the idea of living in a 1950’s travel trailer parked out behind their woodworking shop. In addition to the trailer, they also offered a second workshop space to be converted into a living space for our two children, complete with air conditioning. Embracing the adventure, we moved the bulk of our possessions into storage and began to settle into our new home.

We have been living in this situation for a few weeks now, and while it has taken some getting used to, it has been easy to find rhythm in the simplicity of living in a tiny space. The clutter of our traditional living space lives waits for us in a storage unit. Since moving in, I have only been to the unit to get something once, and that was to grab a sleeping bag, cooler and folding chair to go camping with some friends. Overall, I have felt freed by the concept of less is more.

from the door way

As I write this piece for Tiny House Blog, I listen to the charming sound of a light, summer rain tapping on the trailer’s tin roof. Our boy quietly plays with his Legos as our little girl naps in the old workshop, cat curled up at the foot of her princess bed. My wife, taking a break from work, has just returned from a run. By my definition, I am home, surrounded by my family, the people that I love.

Kyle Harvey is a musician, poet, artist and dreamer. He lives in Fruita, Colorado with his wife and two children. You can follow his blog at

view from the bed

32 thoughts on “Living in a 1950’s Travel Trailer”

  1. Nice customising in there. I’ve changed my Boler a lot to make it work better for the way I use it. Had to laugh about trailers and “unique build-on techniques”, reminded me of a lot of places in the Yukon – campers and trailers that more or less added a small shack on the side so you could have a wood stove, big comfy chair or couch and a place to hang your winter gear. Or tuck in the occasional guest.

  2. Way to glorify homelessness! Surprised though you would be proud of raising your children this way. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for small simple living but cave dwelling? Crashing in someones trailer and calling it home?

    • What an odd comment. The family is together, they are in a sheltered place they can call their own, and they obviously love each other. There’s no statement that is a permanent solution; but a recognition and an embracing of the idea that not everyone needs a typical American house, and that there are many alternatives.

      • Nicely stated, we all have our perceptions … I choose to live a simple, uncomplicated life, in a one room home, it could have been just as easily a camper. Some of my friends are envious I only work two days a week and play the other five. I agree with Kyle: Less is More

        • Take it from someone who grew up in one of these,the first twelve years anyway. nothing about that little wreck is home-like. Kids will except it until they know better. i liken this kind of living to homeless as well. small is fine but when kids are part of the mix. PLEASE get off your lazy butt and provide those kids with what they are going to need to excel in life. when your done playing house YOU can go back to being a starving artist,singer,bum or what not.

          • j-

            I appreciate constructive discussion and dialogue, so please don’t perceive this as a hastily defensive response. Instead, please take this as genuine attempt to address your concerns.

            You wrote:
            “PLEASE get off your lazy butt and provide those kids with what they are going to need to excel in life. when your done playing house YOU can go back to being a starving artist,singer,bum or what not.”

            I am not sure which sentiment I disagree with more, the idea of lazy, or the idea of “what they need to excel in life.” Your statement sounds more like that of projection (i.e. it is very possible that your experience was different, and I can respect that, however that doesn’t necessarily apply to ours).

            Your idea that I am some sort of typical or iconic incarnation of a starving artist and bum is incorrect, and could be mistaken for slander.

            Let me just say that the kids are happy and comfortable. We continue to look at houses (we have one under contract at the moment, as a matter of fact). However, they have said on more than one occasion that they wish they could live here forever. Further, the tools to excel in life are not nearly as linear as you suggest. In fact, I don’t think that there is any such correlation between said tools and excelling at/in life. Those tools are gifts of experience, lessons in life.

            I intend to give my children as many experiences and lessons as I possibly can. I see living in a nontraditional space for a short period of time as a valuable experience that I would encourage everyone to try. The lessons that we, as an entire family, have learned in just one month, are extremely profound. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.


          • you folks can post long over thought replies all you like. fact is you could have had just as profound experiences by just giving your child a road trip. if you wanna know your kids fine. im just asking you to open your eyes. this life style is not even legal in many of our states. i lived it i heard all the warm and fuzzy stuff about being together. and i say WE owe our next gen better. no that don’t always mean bigger,just more. i don’t hate campers i have one in the yard but i would never try to make my future, live in a space where everyone else parks a car. some do fine in a small travel trailer but i cant recall a single time where i said to myself or my wife well hon looks like little jimmy needs to put down the math flash cards so we can spend time together in the tin can. if you are doing for them then please keep it a SHORT, FUN time for growth. If your doing it so you can paint,sing, sit around 5 out of 7 days then shame on you. good luck in your parking spot, i was removed from my loving little tin-can by people with guns, we had done nothing wrong we just lived our life. DONT MAKE THAT KIND OF MEMORY FOR YOUR CHILDREN PLEASE.

          • Both of my sons spent a lot their early years in Northern Canada living in tents, shacks, RV’s and various “alternative” environments and I can tell you they are both well adjusted, sane, practical, down to earth, fully functional and proceeding with their lives without signs of distress. They were always warm, well fed, properly clothed and educated. One is starting on his PHD while working at a local university (after getting through several years of schooling on his own without any student loans) and the other just finished his third apprencticeship and is busy working at a trade he loves. Both have fond memories of their early years and plenty of amusing stories to tell. My oldest son is working on his own tiny shack as a vacation home for his growing family. There are plenty of examples of people who grew up with all the privileges that have NOT turned out well. If you want a good life in a shack,trailer, or whatever, believe me it is entirely possible but you are not going to be having a lazy life!

          • Wow J so judgemental! I think you are completely wrong in your ignorant assumption that Mr. Harvey is being a lazy bum and that living a simpler life is so harmful to his childrens future. I would be willing to bet that unlike your children J who are dependent on the materialistic things in life that they will grow to be well adjusted and mature well beyond their years simply because they will not be stellar dependent upon the latest playstation game or becomng depressed because their cell phones aren’t as cool as all their friends. How shallow you are J perhaps you would do good to get back to the basics and lose that judgemental streak of unhappiness!

  3. I wouldn’t put too much stock into anything Jackass says–my guess is he’s a stressed out McMansion owner burning with envy at what you and your family have by the ton–simple satisfaction and probably financial freedom as well. I’ve found time and again people lash out at others with that sort of nastiness when they hate something about themselves. Very telling. I think the simple life you and your family have is wonderful!

  4. Thanks for all the support… if one thing is for sure, it is that our kids love it right now. Our son went as far as saying that he hopes that we can live here forever! They are happy and healthy. What else is there?

  5. Love it! Thanks Kyle, your place looks very cozy. I’m currently researching the issue of condensation in RVs during the winter. Have you any advice or insight on that?

  6. Great story! As for mr,jack ass well he must have
    A very sad life I flew to Portland or to pickup a little rv toyota rouge. 22r motor. Yep a 4 banger
    Needs some tlc but I hope to make it homey for me and my boy. I will add pics next time.
    I know it’s not a home built but I have always wanted to re-do a trailer. And again great story!

  7. Kyle, thanks for sharing, what works for you doesn’t always work for others. I like the idea Less is More … and I choose to live that small livestyle also, although I’m in a one room home.

  8. This is awesome! I love the way you re-designed the interior with the fold down desk and wooden floorboards. I also live in a 1950’s travel trailer, it’s about the same size at 15 feet long. I call her the COMET (cost-efficient, off-grid mobile eco-trailer). With the amount of junk I’ve gotten rid of, it actually feels roomy compared to a regular house! Love to see others recognizing the beauty of this lifestyle. We are a special bunch, us tiny vintage trailer dwellers!

  9. Thanks so much for sharing. Down-sizing, minimizing, limiting the things we thought were once important and are now put away and exchanged for those that are truly important. Love, laugh, live 🙂 BTW I might borrow your fold down desk idea for out little camper!

  10. Great article. I admire that friends are helping each other and your son is playing with lego’s and not xbox. I love the shots of the inside. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Posts only disappear when you disagree rudely. It’s just fine that you think this is a silly idea. It’s fine that you say it. But you can say things in a way that is respectful. You don’t know many specifics here so calling him a lazy bum was a bit of an assumption. You could simply have said you thought that while it’s a charming Idea, your experience was that growing up in camper was terrible. However, one does have to ask, why are you reading the Tiny House Blog? This whole website is about living in spaces as big as where a car parks, which you clearly despise.

    • you cant decide what others wish to say, i like what he said and he is right if you try to live that way in most of our states you will have lagal issues

  12. Rock on Kyle your family will forever enjoy the simpler things in life and will enjoy a closeness rarely seen in urban families these days! Jackass is secretly very jealous yets hides behind sharp words! Rock on my friend!


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