71 days since I picked up my Alto trailer and started down the road (yeah, pun intended) towards being a full-time vagabond. At the end of May, I let the apartment go and moved everything I had left into either trailer or car (mostly trailer). And yesterday, I officially gave my notice at work that August 19th is my last day. They don’t give you any fanfare, and to them, it’s just another resignation, not the big-deal retirement thing it is for me personally.
So what have I learned in 71 days of doing this (minus 14 days of an overseas biz trip where I had to rough it in hotels with lots of hot water and free wifi…)?
Connectivity is king. And queen. And all the other pieces on the chessboard of life. I took broadband for granted when I was living in houses and apartments. Having to step down to a cell phone hotspot was quite an adjustment. It wasn’t just in the data plan limit, it was more the overall “getting on the internet” part that was challenging. Every campsite is different, and most of them don’t come with free wifi. (I know, it’s quite shocking that google free wifi hasn’t reached WA State campgrounds!). So far, I have nailed down a Verizon unlimited data plan (whee!), a cell booster, and a big antenna for that booster. Still figuring out the best way to mount the antenna, but so far, this is working pretty well (it goes inside the trailer when I am traveling).
Right behind connectivity on the pyramid of needs is power. When campsites have electric, that’s awesome. But it costs more. So my plan has been to use a mix of what WA State calls “non-electric” sites and full hookup sites and learn how much the solar panels can do with the battery and how much my power usage drains down that battery. First change I made was to get lighter-weight propane tanks and mount them on the tongue (with my friend leading the way, he loves doing this stuff and I was happy to let him figure out how to secure things so they don’t go flying off while I’m driving). Propane can power my heat and hot water and cooking when I am off the grid.
Here’s the umbilical cords when I’m at a full hookup site, minus the sewer hose, because it isn’t long enough to reach the outlet here. Electricity and power are the two I like the best: I get hot showers on demand and don’t have to worry about battery usage when I’m writing a blog post…)
I’m not yet a grillmaster. And I might never be. Figuring out what to buy, cook, and eat remains something that isn’t all that interesting to me. A bowl of cereal for dinner is often my first choice, especially after a long day. But I do set a nice table.
I like sleeping in my little trailer. A lot. It’s a bit like a cocoon, only with a comfortable mattress. And I invested in a latex topper that provides both extra cushioning and some insulation from cold coming up from the ground. Believe me, aluminum doesn’t provide all that much insulation from the cold, cold ground. And with WA State summer missing in action this year, the overnight temps have been a bit on the chilly side. I’d post a picture of my bed, but that just feels weird so I won’t. Instead, here’s a picture of my front yard the last few days (there is another campsite about 6 feet away, so I like having my front awning mostly closed; I get the breeze but not the view of their camper.)
Working in an office while living in a trailer is a bit weird. It’s like sliding between alternate universes: one where everyone is all about high tech and videoconferences and cubicles, and the other, where I can barely find a cell phone signal, but I can hear the birds singing, the wind in the tall trees, and the rain on my roof (longest summer rain streak since 2005 here in Seattle).
I like the immediacy of living in a trailer. I can tell the weather at a glance, I have nature right outside my door, and I don’t have a lot of “stuff” to worry about. It’s very self-contained and that suits me just fine.
Of all the things I’ve learned in the last few months, here’s the biggest one: