Why We're Renovating Another Airstream

Why We're Renovating Another Airstream | Birch & PineI've been putting off writing this post for three silly reasons: one, it's gonna be a doozy. It's long and rambling and involved. Reason two: (the big one) I am afraid of admitting I want to live tiny. I'm still working through some of the reasons why I might be struggling in my admission to live small. It seems a bit pathetic when you think about it - we already did this once. We sold everything we owned (including a 1600 square foot house and extra cars) with the exception of the things that fit into our self-renovated 1957 Airstream. The plan was to travel for a year and then settle somewhere and live in the trailer while we built our dream tiny house. Our dreams haven't changed, even when our plans were derailed. For six months, my family of three, plus a dog and cat, lived in 160 square feet: 10% of the house we sold and left behind. Sometimes it was terrible. Sometimes it was glorious.

See, I'm afraid to be different and to want things that others don't want. Around our current neighborhood, where homes range from 190k to million dollar (or more) homes, we are definitely going to be the odd ones out. When meeting new people, I don't mention last year's travels very often, nor our goal of building a house. I might mutter something about wanting to build a house, but I don't admit that it will be 500 square feet, nor that we will live in our Airstream while building to save money on housing. We'd be the weirdos, the strange hippies, irresponsible, childish. I don't believe these things are true, I don't see how not wanting to have debt is irresponsible, but that's what makes you a responsible adult in America, right? Having the pretty house, the two cars, the right things, and the status that comes with.

Three? I'm embarrassed (and a little frustrated with myself) that I don't want to admit I want to live tiny. Does that make sense? I'm angry at myself for my lack of admission. Not only am I afraid, I feel really pissed off that I am afraid. 

I mean, when it comes right down to it, it's not a question of whether or not I want this. I DO. I fall asleep thinking about one of two things these days: money and living small. How not having a hefty mortgage or rent payment each month and owning our home outright will allow us so much more financial freedom, freedom to get out of crushing debt, freedom to travel again one day, freedom from the stress that plagues us monthly when payday is spent on bills...our car debt, our credit card debt, and the costs to power a large house.

I wish I wasn't so afraid of what others will think, but I am. I don't want our daughter to have to defend us and our living choices when her friends come over after school. I don't want the other parents at school to think we're weird and not let their kids come over. Online, it's different. We can seek out those who are like-minded or at the very least, understand where we're coming from and find community and support. In our current neighborhood, we've noticed that there are the ones that have and the ones that don't, and we can't keep up. We don't necessarily want to keep up, but we sure feel the pressure to! Yet for us to reach our financial goals (being 100% debt-free by 2019, just 2.5 years from now), living small is the only way for us and our current budget. We looked at houses recently and toyed with the idea of buying a house locally, realizing we'd thrown $14,000 away this year on rent alone and would have nothing to show for it when we moved out. We added up three years of living here and realized we could potentially build a tiny house on that amount (around 40k)! It was all suddenly very difficult to stomach. Buying a house didn't feel right: getting into more debt while trying to pay off debt (school loans, credit cards, and our 2014 car) didn't make a lick of sense...but neither did throwing away thousands on rent.

When we purchased our current Airstream, we really wanted another project and a means to travel comfortably whenever possible. We were missing being a part of the Airstream community, missing travel, missing the work of renovating itself. As we realized our budget was seriously hindering our housing options, especially considering our financial goals, we started dreaming about renovating the Airstream as a fully functioning living space (unlike our first Airstream, which was much more suited to the camping lifestyle and was built out more like a converted Westy or Sprinter, very minimal with a portable single burner stove, no hot water, and a homemade composting toilet). Much of our reasoning for returning to life in 160 square feet is need based. 

Sure, we could go into more debt and have a mortgage, or throw away more hard-earned cash on rent...but in order for us to reach our personal financial and lifestyle goals, we need to severely reduce our monthly spending (and I need to be working full-time, which I'm currently not, but I've had several fantastic interviews). In July, we will be completely paying off one credit card and some of another (we only have two). In August, we will be starting the rebuild in the Airstream in hopes to move into it when our lease is up in December, and will likely spend around $30k to finish the entire renovation, which I'll post about later this week. I've written a detailed post about the design, elements, and amenities that we plan to include. In preparation for the renovation cost, we have been working hard to pay down debt and reduce the amount of cash leaving our bank account monthly to pay interest on credit cards. We've drastically reduced our unnecessary spending, eating at home instead of out and only purchasing new things when they are desperately needed (case in point: Ellen keeps sewing up the bottoms of her shoes so she doesn't have to buy new ones and I wear shirts with holes in them and run on threadbare Adidas I've had for four years that make my left leg cramp up something fierce). However, we will once again own a finished, gorgeous Airstream outright in no time at all, and continue our path to being debt-free.

So there you have it. The Airstream means a lot to us, sure. We love Airstreams! You may not know that this is actually the third Airstream we've bought, not our second. We rescued a 1961 Bambi while we were traveling and sold it to some friends in Southern California who've worked to make it stunning and not that far off from what I would've done with it. This Airstream though...means freedom. Freedom from debt. Freedom from excess. Freedom to pursue our dreams: travel, experience, minimalism, owning our possessions - not being a slave to a bank. This Airstream gives us hope. It makes us smile. It reminds us to work hard for everything we have in life. It brings us community and friendship with like-minded folks. It teaches our daughter to live simply and work hard and to be content. It brings our family closer together. It enables us to travel comfortably with our pets and visit all the amazing folks we met while we traveled, people that have become some of our closest friends and some, our family. This Airstream, to us, is everything. 

*Above photo was taken by me of E and A and our first Airstream in July 2015, on the road in Wyoming. We stopped here to take in the view and run in the wildflowers and climb rocks and revel in the road.