Tim & Amanda Watson have been traveling the country since 2012, living and working from their renovated 25 ft Airstream travel trailer. Their method of slow travel, typically staying in each location for at least a week, has been a huge inspiration in our desire to travel full-time and experience the unique towns and cities across the country the way they have. Their route, days spent in each state, average cost per night and many more stats are illustrated in an awesome live infographic on their website. A website that wonderfully chronicles the active and vibrant lifestyle of a full-time traveler. We hope you’ll enjoy this Q&A with Amanda of Watsons Wander…
What prompted your decision to live on the road?
Several things. First of all, we wanted to explore more of the country and doing so from our home in Vermont was pretty limiting. Second, we were ready to leave our house and small town behind, but without a new destination in mind, it only made sense to travel around in search of that perfect place (which we still haven’t found nearly 5 years later).
Finally, our lives had fallen into a rut of sorts where everything felt routine and lacked excitement. It wasn’t a bad life. We had a beautiful home and a great group of friends, but something was missing. The majority of our friends were having kids and settling in for years of little league and school plays. We knew we didn’t want that. Instead of the picket fence and 2.5 kids we wanted to see new places and experience new things. We wanted to meet people who we would never have come across in our small town and take ourselves out of our comfort zone. Since we’re not retired or independently wealthy, full-time travel seemed like the perfect way for us to incorporate these experiences into our lives.
What do you and Tim do for a living?
Tim is a web developer who works for a company based out of North Carolina. Of the two of us, he has the “real” job with a set schedule and normal working hours. I am a freelance travel writer as well as chief errand girl, head chef, and housekeeper extraordinaire.
Do you find it harder or easier to balance work and play from the road?
I’m not sure if it’s easier to balance these days, but we do make an effort to play far more than we ever did. We try to set ourselves up in places where we can step out the door and go for a hike or bike ride after work. We also dedicate at least one weekend day to an adventure like a long hike or kayak trip, or maybe even a day exploring a new city or town.
So while work is still a big part of life, we are much better at enjoying the time outside of work than we ever were before.
What drew you to Airstream and how do you like your set up?
What can I say, we were enticed by her good looks and generous curves. Seriously though, our decision to buy an Airstream was initially based solely on aesthetics. Since this was to be our full-time home form was as important as function. Airstream seems to be the only RV brand who has managed to combine usability with good looks. Of course we also liked that Airstreams have been around practically forever and unlike most other RVs made these days actually hold their value.
Our current set up of a 25’ trailer works fairly well for us. Initially, the goal was to find the smallest Airstream we could with a full-size, separate bedroom. Since Tim’s a night person and I’m a morning person we need that separate space to maintain sanity. This size trailer allows us to enjoy the comforts we want for full-time living while still maintaining a smallish footprint for squeezing into smaller sites or getting to those remote boondocking spots.
Is there anything you wish you’d done differently when deciding on a truck and trailer?
If we were to do it all over again with a truck and trailer I think we would make the same choice. We went with an older Airstream — ours in a ’99 — because it allowed us to buy it outright instead of having monthly payments. Also, since we’re DIY addicts we knew that an older trailer would allow us to customize all we wanted without feeling bad because we just ripped out that brand new dinette or replaced those perfectly good but bland white curtains.
That said, if we were to start from scratch right now I’m not sure a truck and trailer combo would be my first choice. As time goes on and we spend longer periods of time in each place we visit, driving a truck as a daily vehicle is kind of a hassle. Also, we only have a tiny amount of outside storage in the Airstream which means that we carry most of our gear (chairs, grill, tools, etc.) in the back of our truck which leads to some security concerns.
My dream RV of the moment is an Airstream 345 Motorhome. The problem is that they were only manufactured for a few years in the mid to late ‘80s and most that come up for sale need a complete interior overhaul (think mauve upholstery and mirror-front cabinet doors). And then there’s the 30-year-old motor….yeah, we won’t be getting one of those anytime soon.
What are a few of your favorite pieces of everyday gear?
Kayaks, bikes, hiking boots, and backpacks are the first things that come to mind. With space at a premium, we tend to place value on the things that encourage us to get out and experience the places we visit.
What have you learned about yourself from this lifestyle?
I’m far more adaptable than I once thought. Life on the road is never predictable and if you can’t adapt you won’t make it. I struggled with this a bit in the beginning. I remember having a breakdown only a few weeks in while shopping for groceries at a run-down Walmart because it was the only store in town. It seems like such a silly thing now but at the time I couldn’t imagine anything worse than having to pick through sprouting potatoes and wilted greens. I quickly learned that full-time travel meant not always having access to the things we’re used to. And at some point that became okay. I’ve learned that I can roll with the punches and set a new course when needed.
What has surprised you most about this lifestyle?
I am constantly amazed by how much I genuinely enjoy spending 99% of my time living in less than 200 sq. ft. with my husband. When we first told our friends and family about our plans to travel full-time their most frequently asked question was, How will you live together in such a small space? I’d be lying if I said that concern hadn’t crossed my mind. Surprisingly, it was not as much of an adjustment as I thought it would be.
Like so many couples, in our previous life we didn’t spend that much time together. Between work, commuting, running errands, and going out with friends there were some days when we only saw each other for an hour or two before bed. These days it’s unusual if we spend an hour or two apart in any given day. Instead of feeling like this is a burden we must bear to maintain our chosen lifestyle, I am pleased to say that this forced intimacy (there is NO privacy when you live in a 25’ x 8’ metal tube) has brought us closer than ever and made me realize how much I enjoy sharing my life with a partner who is also my best friend.
I catch myself thinking that full-time travel would afford us a simpler way of life. Is this a grass is greener mentality? Do you find your lifestyle to be simpler than when you lived in a house? If not, is it possibly richer?
I’m not sure if simple is the word I would use. We still have jobs and responsibilities. We still need to make sure that we’re connected for work, have enough water to make it through the week while boondocking and enough food to last us until the next town. We spend a lot of time planning routes and researching campgrounds or boondocking spots. We work hard to maintain a sense of community while always being on the move, and staying in touch with the family and friends we left behind is a constant struggle.
So simpler no. More rewarding, exciting and overall awesome? Absolutely!
What are you most excited about for the future?
Everything! The best part about full-time travel is that the future is infinite. I admit that at times I struggle to enjoy where I am in the present simply because I’m so excited about what’s to come. After nearly 5 years full-time on the road, we still have so many places to explore – not to mention a growing list of places we want to visit again. High on our bucket list are a trip to Alaska, more time in the Canadian Rockies, and some islands hopping around the San Juans.
This winter we decided to mix it up a bit by spending three months renting a house in the Florida Keys. It’s been an eye-opening experience. Not because it’s made me yearn to live in a house again (although the big shower with endless hot water sure is nice) but because it’s opened up a whole new possibility of what the future could bring. Full-time travel can be whatever we make it and I’m so excited to find out what comes next.
To follow along with the Watsons, check out their website at www.watsonswander.com.