Tiny Shiny Home Blog 2020-01-23T22:53:36+00:00 https://tinyshinyhome.com/feed Tiny Shiny Home hello@tinyshinyhome.com https://tinyshinyhome.com/2019-travel-recap 2019 Travel Recap + Big News! 2020-01-12T05:00:00+00:00 2020-01-13T16:30:36+00:00 Jonathan Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

Oh, dear sweet 2019. You were nothing but lovely to us. With all the year-in-review posts and videos, we thought it only fitting to look back at all we did last year. Isn’t it so strange that while you’re living your daily lives, it rarely seems like we’re accomplishing all we want to?

But then you look back a year later and think, “Holy crap! We did so much!” That’s exactly how we feel, too.

While our original plan this year was to visit several states we hadn’t seen yet, halfway through we decided that we just wanted to visit as many National Parks as possible. Challenge accepted!

In 2019 we moved around a LOT! We put over 30,000 miles on the truck, visited 35 National Parks & Monuments, drove through 20 states and 4 Canadian Provinces, and boondocked at over 35 different locations. It’s been a wild year and we cannot wait to see what 2020 brings. Spoiler Alert: big changes!

But more on that soon. Let's take a look at our favorite locations this year.

Boondocking in Wickenburg, AZ

Wickenburg, AZ

What a great way to start the new year! We love boondocking outside of Wickenburg, with its rolling hills, towering saguaro, and incredible sunsets. Besides planning for 2019, we also visited on Hassayampa River Nature Preserve and highly recommend it.

Wickenburg is one of our Top 10 Favorite Boondocking Locations. For more info signup here for free.

Ajo Sunset

Ajo, AZ

Also one of our Top 10 Boondocking locations, we spent our time here with friends, soaking up adventures in the desert and the nearby Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Joshua Tree South

Indio & Joshua Tree National Park (South Side)

This was the first time we visited Joshua Tree on the much quieter south side. We were still super impressed by the beauty of the area, and managed to find several other adventures down near Indio like Ladder Canyon, the Salton Sea, and Shield's Date Farm.

Kids Harry Potter World

Universal Studios Hollywood

For Christmas this year we took the kids to Harry Potter World! It was the first time we'd ever been to a big theme park, and while we usually don't love big crowds, we had a blast.

The kids approve :)

Torrey Pines

San Diego, Torrey Pines, and Cabrillo National Monument

While we were in the area, we decided to visit San Diego! After the touristy-ness of Hollywood, we focused on outdoor adventures like Torrey Pines and Cabrillo National Monument. Beautiful!

Kofa Wildlife Refuge

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

While Quartzsite is known for it's massive boondocking rallies, we found some peace and quiet several miles out of town at Kofa. Gorgeous views, and a fun hike up a with a row of palm trees in the middle of a canyon.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

While we wouldn't recommend boondocking near here, it's got a great story, killer sunsets, and some serious free spirit artistic vibes. Worth a quick visit for sure.

Joshua Tree Hike with Kids

Joshua Tree National Park (North Side)

Here we go. While the south side was alright, the north side made us see what all the fuss was about.

It's a literal oasis in the desert!

Favorite Gifts For Full Time Travelers No Text

Trona Pinnacles

Simply one of our favorite places on the planet. There's nothing to do but be awed by the alien landscape and explore the massive rock formations.

Oh, and maybe watch film crews and military training exercises, too.

Salinas Moochdocking

Salinas, CA

During what would be one of our many "moochdocking stays" this year, we visited a friend's farm in Salinas, explored the coast, and even visited Apple headquarters for fun :)

Lake Havasu City Boondocking

Lake Havasu City

We nestled ourselves in a boondocking spot up the mountain, and explored the area.

It was a little quiet in April, but we hear it's quite the party town in the Summer.

Petrified Forest Lizard

Petrified Forest National Park

We've seen a lot of petrified pieces of wood in our travels, but the sheer amount here was staggering. And it's crazy to think there was a massive forest in these badlands long ago.

Meteor Crater Kids

Meteor Crater

Not a national park, but a fascinating location nonetheless. Loads of scientific information, and you really have to see it in person to appreciate the size of the impact.

Grand Falls

Grand Falls, AZ

This is definitely one of those off-the-beaten-path places. It's not well-known. It's not busy. There's no visitor center. But oh my goodness. One of the coolest waterfalls we've ever been to, period.

Sedona Boondocking

Sedona, AZ

When you're close to Sedona, you have to visit Sedona. It's just one of those magical places. We were treated to spectacular sunsets, and a trail to the "Robbers Roost" - an old stronghold for stagecoach thieves.

Grand Canyon Ada

Grand Canyon National Park

Can you believe that in nearly 5 years of travel we had never been to the Grand Canyon?

It was our goal this year to rectify that problem. We made sure to time it so we avoided the crazy crowds, and it was spectacular.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

While the vistas here were truly incredible, it all felt a little touristy to us. I think if we had the time and money for a guided hiking tour we would have liked it much better.

Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings

Mesa Verde National Park

Believe it or not, we had never been to Colorado until this year, either!

We were completely blown away by this State, starting with the impossible cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde.

Goblin Valley Hoodoos

Goblin Valley State Park

One of our goals this year was to make an effort to meet up with more people. So when a whole group of friends asked if we wanted to spend Mother's Day at Goblin Valley State Park we said, "Heck yes!"

Just when you think you've seen all the cool rocks, nature goes and shows you there's still so much more to see.

Colorado National Monument

Colorado National Monument

We had to leave Colorado for a bit because it was still too cold and rainy to do anything. But we made it back a month later and were so glad we did. Colorado National Monument was absolutely gorgeous.

Ouray Hot Springs

Ouray Hot Springs

Another first for us this year was being in a hot spring while it was snowing!

Let's just say hanging in a massive hot spring while snow gently falls around you was something I never knew I needed in my life until now :)

Black Canyon Sunset

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Besides having the coolest park name ever, Black Canyon is one of those smaller national parks will still take your breath away.

I still can't work my head around the scope and scale of the picture above. It's like looking into a beautiful abyss.

Million Dollar Highway

Million Dollar Highway

This was the first year we towed at 10,000 feet of elevation. And what a way to do it!

The Million Dollar Highway is one of those drives you will never ever forget.

Angel Peak Airstream

Angel Peak

Another one of our Top 10 Boondocking Spots, this beautiful badlands area is so serene and picturesque that it's totally worth the 40 minute drive into town for supplies. We ended up staying there the full 14 day limit.

Great Sand Dunes Adali

Great Sand Dunes National Park

We just happened to be here on a very special weekend. The river was flowing at unprecedented levels and all the people were there. It was like a big party!

Seriously, though - until you see glorious snow capped mountains and towering sand dunes together you don't know what you're missing.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

At 14,000 feet of elevation, RMNP was the highest we've ever been besides flying. Even in the summer, the snow was piled up 8 feet high.

It was like another world up there.

Custer Sunrise

Custer Sate Park

Even though we had already visited Custer last year, we were excited to come back.

This area is beautiful, and we always love seeing some bison roaming around!

Medora

Theodore Roosevelt National Park + Medora

Oh what fun we had in the little town of Medora!

Besides being home to the national park (which is like lush, green badlands), we worked with the city and got to experience some of the fun attractions there like Perception, horseback riding, and of course the Medora Musical.

It's a magical little town that we can't wait to go back to.

Glacier Waterfall Blurred

Glacier National Park

After so much time in the Colorado mountains, we were not prepared for the glacier capped peaks, lush green valleys, and high altitude lakes at Glacier. Oh, and the shockingly blue waterfalls.

But we were just getting started in the PNW.

Newberry Volcanic Family

Newberry Volcanic National Monument + Lava River Cave

If you want to walk through a massive pile of lava rocks or explore a lava river tube cave, check out Newberry Volcanic National Monument. It's right outside of Bend, OR, and reminds me a lot of Crater Lake.

Crater Lake Adali

Crater Lake National Park

Speaking of Crater Lake, this one had been on our list for a long time, and we're so glad we finally made it there.

It's hard to explain just how huge this extinct volcano is without seeing it in person, so make sure you visit yourself one day!

Mt Rainier Adali Jon

Mount Rainier National Park

One of the most magical moments for me personally this year was at Mount Rainier. The peak itself had been shrouded in clouds all day, and our hike was grueling.

The shorter trail we were supposed to go on was closed, and we were going to have to add another mile and 1,000 feet of elevation we weren't planning on. Ashley and the younger kids decided to head back, but Adali and I were determined to make it.

Right as we got to the top of the ridge, the clouds dissipated, and the mountain was there in all its glory. We both just looked at each laughing because it was so beautiful.

A nice couple took our picture, and I'm so glad they did :)

San Juan Islands Lighthouse

San Juan Islands National Park

This could not have been a more perfect trip. We took our truck on the ferry from Anacortes to the island and were able to drive to all the different locations.

Even better? The orcas were migrating, and with a tip from a ranger, we were able to stay and see them swimming down the coast.

A truly magical day!

North Cascades Family

North Cascades National Park

We only had a short time to explore here, but are so glad we did. With breathtaking mountain views and low crowds, it was a great way to spend the weekend.

Revelstoke Lake

Revelstoke National Park, Canada

And with that, we headed straight up into Canada to keep exploring national parks. The first was Revelstoke, and we fell in love.

There were so many great hikes, but my favorite was our 8 mile trek to a hidden lake up in the mountains. I don't think everyone else loved it, though :)

Glacier Waterfall Jett

Glacier National Park, Canada

After that it was over to Glacier National Park where we tried our best to explore, but it was starting to get rainy and cold.

This hike to the waterfall was still pretty epic, even if we were freezing and wet.

Voyageurs

Voyageurs National Park

Then it was a mad dash East and down to Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota. Again, we were on the tail end of the season so most everything was closed and the weather kept us from doing much other than a short hike.

We'd love to go back sometime and explore on the water.

Back in Indiana with the Airstream

Indiana

Finally, we made it down to Indiana to visit Ashley's parents. We spent some time catching up and of course did a few projects on the Airstream :)

Knoxville Airstream Jett Ada

Tennessee

Then it was time to visit Jon's family in Tennessee. We were waiting on our new Home of Wool cushions so we ended up in the area for quite a while.

The kids did not complain since they got to spend lots of time with their Mimi and Papa :)

Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave National Park

To celebrate Jax's birthday we took a quick trip over to Mammoth Cave National Park to explore the longest cave system in the world.

While it was cool, we still think Carlsbad is the best!

Smoky Mountains Jett

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

After that it was back to Jon's parents to celebrate more birthdays and Thanksgiving. Oh, and to take the kids to Great Smoky Mountains for the first time. How is it we lived in Tennessee for all those years and never took them?

I guess you could say our priorities have changed a bit since then!

Hot Springs Park

Hot Springs National Park

With our hearts full, it was time to head back on the road. We needed to be in the desert again!

On the way we stopped at our last National Park for the year - Hot Springs.

Definitely not your typical park, it was fun to walk the cool downtown, learn about the history of the area, and see the sweet spa rooms.

Kartchner Caverns

Kartchner Caverns State Park

We made it to Arizona in a week, which was crazy for how far we had to drive.

But we were on a mission. More on that in a minute.

Suffice to say, we love Kartchner, and it's always so beautiful there.

Chiricahua National Monument Vista

Chiracahua National Monument

This is one of those places we could come back to again and again. It's so far out of the way it's hardly ever busy, but the rock formations are just incredible.

Property

Our New Home?

And finally, friend if you've read all the way to the end (or watched to the end of the video) you'll know that we're officially putting down some roots.

After 5 years of traveling full-time and boondocking we realized how much we wanted to call an off-grid piece of land our own.

So we're currently in talks to buy this beauty in Southeastern Arizona.

We'll never be done with traveling - we've had a taste and can't go back. But we are looking forward to a new chapter in our story!

We can't wait to build our own little off-grid homestead oasis in the desert. It will be the craziest thing we've ever done - and that's saying a lot ;)

And of course, we'll be boondocking in our Tiny Shiny Home on the property for quite a while as we start building everything out.

So we hope you'll join us on our new journey starting very soon. Keep an eye out for more updates.

]]>
https://tinyshinyhome.com/growing-roots-in-arizona Growing Roots in Arizona 2020-01-07T05:00:00+00:00 2020-01-08T03:41:08+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

As you may know, we’ve been traveling full-time nearly 5 years! Seeing this beautiful country has been such an incredible adventure, and we’re so grateful that you’ve chosen to follow along. This last year we realized that boondocking awakened something in us we didn’t know was there - a deep desire to call some off-grid land our own!

As you can imagine, after seeing all the places, this wasn’t an easy decision. We even visited some new states this year that we thought may be good choices to plant some roots, but in our hearts we knew where we wanted to be. And that’s why we’re currently in beautiful Arizona.

We fell hard for the desert and the people that live here. So we’ve spent the last year researching properties and even began working with a REALTOR to find a piece of land to call our own.

It’s already been a roller-coaster of emotions. After a solid week of looking in the area that we love and striking out, we finally stumbled upon the most beautiful piece of land.

Potential Property in Arizona

To most, this piece of property doesn't look like much, but for us...it was love at first sight. But as with any new adventure, there are stumbling blocks for us to overcome.

First, let’s talk about what we’re hoping to do and why.

What are we wanting to do?

We are looking for undeveloped, off-grid land as a place to put down some roots. While I believe travel will always be a part of who we are, we are very much looking forward to cultivating community, building a small homestead, growing our own food, becoming more self-sufficient, and pouring our heart and souls into a piece of property. We hope to create our own little oasis in the desert.

Why Arizona?

So many reasons. The desert is magical. The plants, the animals, and especially the people. The climate diversity alone is unmatched. We can be warm in the Sonoran Desert or drive north for a few hours and be in snow near Flagstaff this time of year. The State Parks, National Parks, and Recreation Areas are incredible, and there’s so much to explore in just a short day trip. We cannot wait to experience more of this state.

Plus, we love the challenge of taking land that has literally nothing on it and turning it into something beautiful. We are interested in learning how to green the desert, and build an off-grid homestead from scratch.

Why Cochise County?

Yes, we’re looking for land in southeastern Arizona. More specifically Cochise County. We have fallen in love with the idea of building our own home using unconventional, natural, and locally sourced materials. Now, I won’t go into all the details just yet, but Cochise County has some of the most natural-building-friendly-rules out there. We are very much looking forward to helping others in the community with their projects, and learning first hand about alternative building methods.

All that to say - we’re about to embark on an entirely new adventure that will test us in ways we can’t even imagine yet. In case you hadn’t noticed, we don’t like to do things the easy way :)

Where are we in the process?

After long days of driving miles down dusty dirt roads, only to mark a bunch of locations off our list, we stumbled upon it. The sun was setting, the fields were golden, and the mountains were lit up. There may have been an angel choir singing. Every one of us loved this property, which is a big deal! Our REALTOR happened to be with us, and she believed it was zoned RU-4, which is a magic designation here in Cochise that allows you to build naturally with little restrictions. Thinking that it was zoned the way we needed, we were eager to put in an offer.

As our REALTOR was getting the paper work ready, we found out that it was NOT zoned RU-4. I did not take this news well…AT ALL.

After a day of heartache, many tears, and lots of research, I found that there may be a possibility of us getting this property re-zoned. We talked with the folks in the Planning and Zoning department of Cochise County and it sounded promising. But it will take some time, and nothing is for sure.

So that’s where we are right now. Our offer has been submitted, countered and re-countered, and we finally settled on a price. Now our next step is to see if we can get it re-zoned before the purchase is finalized. This will take some time since the county only reviews these requests on the last Friday of every month.

We are so excited about the possibility of this land working out for us, and we’re even more excited about sharing this new journey with all of you. We'll be documenting the process every step of the way, and wee hope you’ll follow along with our family on this new adventure.

Cheers to making dreams come true!

]]>
https://tinyshinyhome.com/packrats Packrats Caused $1,200 Worth of Damage to our Truck! 2020-01-06T05:00:00+00:00 2020-01-06T21:16:54+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post contains affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

We spent Christmas week in one of our very favorite campgrounds, Lost Dutchman State Park. We’ve been there so many times I’ve lost count. It’s one place that gets us close enough to Phoenix without paying the insane RV park prices. The Superstition Mountains are a view that we just cannot get enough of. But this particular trip was one that cost us way more than the $30 per night.

Camping at Lost Dutchman

We’ve seen it before...trucks with their hoods up, lights laid out under RVs and trucks. We’ve heard the stories of packrats in the area, but we just never thought it would happen to us since we never stay too long in an area.

The day we checked out of Lost Dutchman we had planned on driving to our friends’ home to spend the night and catch up. But once we turned on the truck we saw trouble. The little wrench and engine icons on the dash were flashing, letting us know we had a serious problem.

Once we got out on the main road we knew we were going to have to get the truck to the shop as soon as possible. Our gears were slipping and something was really, really wrong.

We arrived to our friends' house and parked the trailer, not knowing the extent of the damage or even what caused it at this point. My first thought was rodent damage, but Jonathan was nervous it was a bigger problem with the transmission (something we dealt with multiple times on our last truck).

Luckily the Ford dealership nearby let us drop it off that Saturday, but couldn't diagnose the issue until Monday. Long story short, our truck ended up in the shop an entire week and my prediction was correct. Packrats chewed our wires!!

You wouldn’t think that something so small could cause so much damage but take a look at what they did!

Packrat Damages our Truck

In our case they gnawed through the nox sensor and air intake sensor which caused the engine to get really confused when switching gears.

We were lucky that it wasn’t worse, but after a $1,200 bill we've been on the hunt for prevention methods. Here’s what we’ve found.

What are Packrats?

Packrats (which are sometimes called woodrats) typically do most of their damage under the cover of darkness. They like to find dark places to nest in, store food, or in our case...wreak havoc on your engine’s wiring.

Side Note: did you know that most newer vehicles wires have casings made of soy? No wonder they want to chew them up! Who's bright idea was that??

After lots of research it seems that the best prevention is actually multiple methods.

Hood Up

The biggest advice I've read is to keep your vehicle's hood up at night. This will allow the moonlight to shine through the engine compartment, and having the hood up will cool the engine (if it's warm from driving to your location) creating a less hospitable 'den' for the packrats to enjoy. If your hood is like ours and has a light, you can just unscrew the lightbulb so that your battery will not die overnight.

Lights

Packrats don't like the light. It's advised to use flickering lights under your vehicle or RV when in areas that have been known to have packrats. Why flickering? I've read in several places that if you just have lights on constantly they can get accustomed to that and they'll likely just invade your engine or RV despite having the lights on. We've ordered this rope light and we'll be mounting them to a large piece of wood to place under the truck. More on that below.

Ultrasonic Devices

Another sure fire way to keep the rats out is to install an ultrasonic device under the hood of your vehicle. It emits a noise that is very unpleasant to rodents so they stay away. There are some that will attach to your truck battery and you can secure them with self tapping screws or wire ties. We have ordered these and we will install them this week!

Related, grab something similar for inside your RV, too. We had multiple issues with mice in Canada last fall, and a battery powered Ultrasonic device finally stopped them from coming in.

Sprays

The last suggestion I read is to spray your engine with a spray that the packrats hate. Some suggest peppermint oil, or even coyote urine! Gross.

What We're Doing

For now, since we’re boondocking in the middle of nowhere, we bought some battery operated under-cabinet lights from Lowes to place under the truck at night. We also have been taking our ultrasonic mouse deterrent device from inside our Airstream and putting it under the propped open hood of the truck. This is not a long term solution as none of the items are intended for outdoor use, but until our order comes in, we've got to work with what we've got!

I’ve talked with several of the locals that live near packrat populated areas in the Sonoran Desert, and I love what Bill and Yvonne from The Upside of Downsizing created to detour packrats.

Keep packrats away

They’ve taken a solar powered rope light and attached it to a long piece of wood to slide under their truck each night. Then they just prop it up during the day to recharge. We’re totally stealing this idea and making our own as soon as we can! We’ll also attach an ultrasonic rat repeller to the pice of wood, as well as install one under the hood as extra precaution. Hopefully this will keep the pesky vermin away!

Have you found a way to keep packrats away from your vehicles or RV? Did you even know this was an issue in the desert?? I’d love to hear your solutions in the comments below!

]]>
https://tinyshinyhome.com/airstream-connected Airstream Connected - Is it Right for You? 2019-12-17T05:00:00+00:00 2019-12-19T23:41:22+00:00 Jonathan Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

For us, working while traveling full-time means that we need a fast, stable, unlimited internet setup. And with more and more people hitting the road each year, it looks like RV manufacturers are finally starting to pay attention.

Airstream recently announced Airstream Connected, a combination of antenna, router, and GPS tracker that can only be installed professionally through their dealer network. The cost is a hefty $999 + Installation, but the most intriguing part is the option to signup for a special AT&T 4G-A plan that allows unlimited data for $360/year.

Update: As of January 15, 2020 At&T has pulled the unlimited plan completely and has removed the option for existing users to even be grandfathered in. Which is pretty rough. More info below.

Unlimited Data for your Airstream

Using the ultra wide-band water resistant antenna and sim capable router (Pepwave MAX BR1 Mini), Airstream offers a truly unlimited data plan from AT&T for only $360/year. The unlimited option was removed in early January of 2020. These are the new plan options:

  • 1 Month 5GB Adventure Plan - $25
  • 1 Month 22GB Adventure Plan - $90
  • 1 Month 50GB Adventure Plan - $175
  • 1 Month 100GB Adventure Plan - $300
  • 12-Month 100GB Adventure Plan - $325

Now, I can understand AT&T pulling back the reigns a bit, but the fact that they've killed the main plan that people would have had the expensive hardware installed for in the first place is incredibly underhanded. And not even grandfathering the original users in after only one year of use? What the heck?

I get the sense that Airstream didn't anticipate this, but either way it's obvious neither company did their homework here. Why would anyone spend $1,500 to install hardware for a crappy plan they can get anywhere? How do cell providers keep not understanding that people want to use their data plan full-time?

Anyway - regardless the plan, Airstream Connected has a few other intriguing features.

Extending Campground Wi-Fi

Using the high gain roof mount antenna, you can connect your whole rig to an external Wi-Fi network for use inside. Honestly, this is what the Wi-Fi Ranger did back in the day. We had one installed in our 5th wheel, and it was pretty much useless. Public Wi-Fi is slow, unreliable, and downright insecure. That being said, it can work in a pinch or if there’s a Wi-Fi network you trust (like at a friend’s house).

Either way, it’s nice that they built this feature into the hardware.

GPS Locator

The hardware includes a GPS locator so you can easily find your Airstream. I know, that sounds dumb at first, but hear me out. With our setup using hotspots, the Wi-Fi network isn’t able to pull a location. Which means if someone were to steal our Tiny Shiny Home, it would be a lot harder to find it.

Short of throwing a cheap iPhone in there with “Find My” tracking enabled and keeping it charged up (or buying an expensive GPS tracking device), this combined with the app is an elegant way to keep tabs on your trailer. And get back to it if you happen to hike out into the middle of nowhere.

Simple Setup & Support

The free smartphone app allows you to mange the whole network as well as scan a QR code to pair devices for initial setup. Plus you get direct-dial access to customer service if you have a problem. Knowing how complicated a robust internet setup can be, this is really great for folks who aren’t sure how it all works.

I had more questions

While the Airstream Connected page is well-designed and easy to understand, I really wanted to get some nerdy details on the hardware, installation, and plan so I reached out to their marketing team for more info. Here’s what I found out.

Is there a sim card in the router?

Yes, there are two SIM card slots in the network router (A & B).

Can you place that sim card in another device?

Yes.

Does the hardware boost the 4G signal like a weBoost would?

It does not boost the 4G signal. It only creates a local Wi-Fi network.

Is there a directional antenna option?

With the kit that they offer, it is an omni-directional antenna. There are options that you could install a directional antenna, but it would be an aftermarket option.

Would there be a way to use a Verizon signal with this hardware?

It has not been tested and it is not a recommendation on behalf of Airstream, but the hardware does support two SIM cards. If you would choose to do so, you could add another carrier SIM, manage your router settings, and have the ability to connect another network, but Airstream's network plans and contract are exclusively with AT&T.

In light of the new info about the unlimited AT&T plans being cut, this is a sliver of good hope. At least that expensive hardware can potentially be used for another plan.

Is it possible to signup for the unlimited AT&T plan without paying for the hardware and installation?

You unlock the exclusive data plans by purchasing the hardware and there’s no other way around it. Airstream worked with AT&T to establish those plans and there are guardrails in place to make sure that not just anybody can sign up for those rates.

My Personal Take

Okay, so I have thoughts! The first is that no matter how good this AT&T plan is, it’s limited to one carrier. And I can tell you from experience you will definitely setup camp in areas where AT&T isn’t available. You will also setup in places where Verizon isn’t available. So having at least two major carrier plans is key to a strong, consistent connection. Points of failure and all that.

The second is that this hardware does not boost your 4G signal. It will definitely help - an antenna on the outside of your aluminum burrito is better than an antenna on the inside. But this is a huge disadvantage for those of us that want to boondock and camp off-grid. Without boosting gear it just doesn’t work.

The third is that it sounds like it may be possible to drop a Verizon SIM in the router and use both carriers as needed which is pretty cool. I know several folks who want that, but I prefer having a hotspot I can take with me into town or down a dusty road for signal testing.

Is Airstream Connected Worth It?

When I wrote this article the day before AT&T announced they were canceling the unlimited plan option, I would have said, "maybe."

Not anymore. If it were still available, I could see it working if you plan on weekend trips staying in campgrounds near AT&T signal - and you don’t want to deal with the hassle of a custom internet setup. Throw in the GPS tracking and support options and it’s almost worth the price tag.

But now that the data plans are not any better than what you can go buy directly from AT&T and the fact that it doesn't even boost your signal, what's the point?

Listen, if you’re like us - we travel full-time, camp off-grid, and work from our Airstream all over the country - I’d recommend something a little more robust like our Mobile Internet Setup. It’s kept us connected for 3 years all over the country and off the grid. Work all day and Netflix all night!

And more importantly, the hardware isn't tied to any one carrier. As we're seeing plans like this and others continue to be discontinued after 12 months, that's an important consideration.

What do you think? Is Airstream Connected worth it? Are there more questions I should ask them? Let me know in the comments.

]]>
https://tinyshinyhome.com/home-of-wool-airstream-mattresses-and-cushions Home of Wool - Custom Airstream Mattresses and Cushions 2019-12-16T05:00:00+00:00 2019-12-17T02:15:40+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post contains affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Back in 2017, when we were finishing up our 6 month renovation of our 1972 Airstream, it was time to start thinking about cushions.

With the project already over budget, we were trying to get it done as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Things like cushions and mattresses didn’t get much thought, honestly.

We went with the cheapest solution we could find, which turned out to be your standard highly toxic foam.

We knew it wasn’t the best option, but for just $300 we could get everyone a mattress and cushions for the dinette up front. Add in fabric at around $150 and a sweet Amish lady who sewed our cushion covers for just $200, it was a steal!

After nearly 3 years in the Airstream on the same foam cushions, it was time for an upgrade. I researched for weeks trying to find the perfect solution. We had a few goals in mind - we wanted them to be:

  • Non-Toxic/Chemical Free
  • Organic/Sustainable Materials
  • Good Price

We managed 2 out of 3 :)

Research

My research lead us to Home of Wool. They're a company in Europe that is dedicated to making the highest quality items from the purest materials possible. I actually heard of them through our friend @thestreamlinedlife when she purchased mattresses for her kids beds in their RV.

Before we committed to ordering our bedding, we decided to try out their pillows. Ours really needed replaced, so this would give us an idea of the quality so we could decide if we were ready to make the investment of wool mattresses and cushions.

Believe me, this was a big investment. Not only in terms of your budget, but in your health and wellness.

We received the pillows quickly and the craftsmanship was extremely impressive. I mean, it’s just a pillow, but their attention to detail did not go unnoticed. We ordered the standard pillows and wool pillow protectors.

What is so unique about these pillows is you can just unzip them and remove or add wool to find your perfect feel. It took several nights before I felt like I had it dialed in, but now it’s perfect! But here’s the best part…

I used to sleep with a pile of Kleenex nearby because I would have to blow my nose every night when I laid down and all throughout the night. Now, no Kleenex needed in bed. This was huge for me. Not only was it annoying to Jonathan, who is on the outside of the bed and would have to get the Kleenex if I forgot them, it was super frustrating to me. I couldn’t even lay down in bed without my nose running!!

After several weeks with our new pillows, and seeing the change in my sleep, I really began thinking seriously about our mattresses and bedding. I finally contacted the sweet folks at Home of Wool and asked about getting custom cushions and mattresses made for our little home. They were so helpful every step of the way, and quick to answer all my questions.

In exchange for a small discount on our order, we partnered with them to create this article and video review just for you.

Custom Ordering Our Wool Mattresses

The decision was made! Though the price was a lot more than what we wanted to spend, we were happy to pay for the quality and the assurance of sleeping on non-toxic bedding.

We measured and drew up our dinette and checked, and re-checked the measurements many times. We finally sent them off and they were in production. Then it was just a waiting game. I had one too many dreams of receiving the bedding and it being totally wrong! It’s always risky when working with companies that are so far away.

Since all our bedding was being custom made and Home of Wool who is located in Bulgaria, we knew this could take some time. We were given an estimated date that they would arrive and we just waited, hoping they would make it before we needed to leave Tennessee. Ivan (at Home of Wool) let us know that occasionally the U.S. will keep items longer in customs. We were just hoping we would be able to leave Tennessee before freezing weather came in.

They made it to us before the estimated date! We were thrilled. We couldn’t wait to get them in our home. And wouldn’t you know, they were a perfect fit! We couldn’t believe it.

Why Wool Mattresses?

Now, you’re probably asking, why wool? Well, there are several reasons - wool is:

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Water repellent
  • Mildew resistant
  • Fire resistant
  • Durable
  • Sustainable

It also regulates your body temperature, keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Mind blown! How can one material keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer?? I’m not sure, but it’s magical. You can read more about the benefits of using wool here.

Now, let’s talk details.

For the kids, we ordered four 4-inch tufted mattresses, wool stuffed with a cotton/linen blend fabric and piped edging. Look at these beautiful beds!

Airstream Bunkbeds - Home of Wool

These mattresses are a little bit taller than what they had before, so yes, there was some head bonking getting in and out of their beds on the first couple of days, but now they’re used to them.

We also ordered custom wool mattress protectors for each bed. Just look at the precision!

Wool Mattress Protector

They have elastic on each corner and just tuck neatly under each mattress.

Home of Wool Mattress Protector

Not only will the wool protect their bedding, it will also help with regulating their body temperature. The tufting alone is a work of art.

Home of Wool Tufting

Custom Wool Dinette Cushions!

For those of you that don't know, our dinette doubles as our master bedroom. That means it gets rearranged a couple of times a day.

For these, we went with four inch tufted cushions, wool stuffed in organic cotton, and 100% Linen removable and washable covers. We are in love!

Home of Wool Dinette Cushions

Not only do we love the natural look of the fabric and the brightness it brings in here, but having covers that are washable…game changer!

Home of Wool Zipper

Just look that the detail that went into making these. This makes me want to learn how to sew.

Now let's take a look in bed mode!

Home of Wool Cushions - Airstream Dinette

I can’t get over how precise they are. They are absolutely perfect. With the snug fit, I can’t even feel cracks between the cushions.

We also purchased a wool mattress cover that was custom to fit our bed! It also has the straps to secure it on each corner and it works perfectly even with our odd shaped bed :)

Home of Wool Dinette Mattress Protector

We’ve only had them for three weeks as I’m writing this post, but we will definitely keep updating the longer we use them. As for now...you can find me here.

Camomile London Quilt

So, let’s answer some questions…

Is it comfortable?

Yes! I’ve laid on the kids beds a few times already and I love their mattresses. They do seem to be a little more firm than our dinette cushions, which I really like. After 2 weeks sleeping on the dinette/bed, I am so happy with our purchase.

It’s not a memory foam mattress, so don’t go into it thinking it would be similar. It’s not. It’s more firm and has no bounce like a typical mattress. My back loves it! When we first laid out the dinette cushions, we were a bit nervous because the four pieces that we place on top of the table were a bit big.

We just have to squish them in more than we’re used to, but honestly, it’s so good that they are a bit big, because having them squished tightly together, I don’t feel any seams and I can’t tell where one cushion stops and another begins. On the foam, I’d constantly be stuck in the crack and it would drive me nuts! This is not a problem anymore.

Does it smell?

Yes! But not in a bad way. When we first put all the new mattresses and cushions in here it was an overwhelming barnyard smell. Obviously, it’s stuffed with real wool! We just opened the windows and let everything air out. Easy fix. It’s not noticeable anymore unless you trying to smell it by sticking your face in the beds and sniff really hard!

Are they heavy?

This is something I never even thought about until we received our first package! I hadn’t considered that we’d be adding a lot more weight to our Airstream with the new bedding. It’s a significant difference from the foam. Our build-out on the trailer is already a little on the heavy side, so we were a little concerned, but nothing to worry about. I do think it’s worth us going back to the scales to find out just how much our trailer weighs now.

What about upkeep?

Home of Wool sent us instructions on how to keep the mattresses and cushions in the best shape possible. It involves us flipping the mattresses over each week for the first couple months. No big deal as we’ll be changing the bedding anyway. They do suggest once a year that you set them outside in the sun for a day. No problem there!

Would I recommend them?

That’s a resounding YES! I am super happy with not only the mattresses, but with the company. Their attention to detail, customer service, and their dedication to make your home a healthier and happier one is unmatched. Yes, it’s pricey, but you get what you pay for. And having the assurance that our family isn’t sleeping on highly toxic bedding makes it all worth it to me.

So there you have it.

These are our new mattresses and dinette cushions from Home of Wool, and we couldn’t be happier!

If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer each one! Plus we have a special coupon for you to use if you want your own amazing wool bedding.

Save 5% on your Home of Wool purchase

]]>
https://tinyshinyhome.com/mammoth-smoky-mountains-birthdays Mammoth Cave, Great Smoky Mountains, & Birthday Celebrations 2019-11-28T05:00:00+00:00 2019-11-28T22:39:51+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

Though we've been stationary in Knoxville for a month, we were able to take a week and go on a mini adventure to Mammoth Cave National Park.

Jonathan and I take a trip alone to San Antonio!

And we visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the first time as a family.

Don't forget to like the video and leave a comment on YouTube if you enjoyed it.

Oh, and make sure to subscribe so you don't mess the next episode!

]]>
https://tinyshinyhome.com/cybertruck How the Cybertruck Could Change Camping 2019-11-27T05:00:00+00:00 2019-12-01T00:45:39+00:00 Jonathan Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

Oh Cybertruck. How you’ve flooded all my social media feeds the last week. I personally don’t follow Mr. Musk all that much, but he certainly managed to capture a ton of attention with this electric truck launch.

Between the window debacle and the polarizing angular design, people just can’t stop talking about it.

Here’s the thing, though. The Cybertruck has a ton of really intriguing possibilities not only for the truck market, but for camping, RV towing, off-road adventuring, and even boondocking.

Some of them have officially been announced. Some of them have been trickling out via Elon’s Twitter account. And some of them are just wild, crazy speculation on my part. Let’s dig in.

Design

Cybertruck 5

Ah yes, the Blade Runner inspired, much maligned trapezoidal shape of the Cybertruck is simultaneously mocked and loved by many. While I personally dig it, there are some really interesting reasons for the shapes.

It all comes down to the 30x cold rolled steel. Apparently it’s so tough that the stamping presses break trying to roll and mold it. To even get the bending effect a deep score has to be made on the inside of the bend. Theoretically making the body out of this material means less material is needed, thus the reason for the surprisingly low cost of the truck.

Towing Capacity

Hd Tesla Cybertruck

The Cybertruck comes in 3 motor variations, but the only one I’m really interested in for towing and boondocking is the Tri-Motor AWD. Anyone knows that off-roading and camping off-grid requires 4WD or AWD. Plus it can tow 14,000 lbs and go 500 miles on single charge.

I doubt that number includes towing, but dang. I don’t get anywhere near that in my 2017 F250 gas. I would love to know what the range is for towing, but I imagine that’s a hard number to share with so many variables. Either way, I’m impressed that the high end version is roughly the same cost as a new diesel truck.

One last thing to keep in mind - the crazy sloped sidewalls on the bed would definitely cause an issue for 5th wheel or gooseneck hitches. Which is generally the kind of connection you want towing over 10,000 lbs. So until we know more about optional bed configurations I’d say this is travel trailer only.

Suspension

Tesla Cyberquad

Another feature briefly mentioned that caught my eye was the adaptive air suspension. This allows you to raise and lower four inches in either direction for easy access to get in the doors or load up the bed. You can can get up to 16” of ground clearance, and it even has self leveling capabilities.

I can imagine this would be a lot of fun for off-roading, but also for heading down a rocky boondocking road towing your trailer.

Solar Panels

Tesla Cybertruck

My first thought seeing the rolling tonneau bed cover was, “Can that be a solar panel? Because that would be awesome!”

Turns out they’re already thinking about solar. On Elon Musk’s twitter account he said:


Wish I had some calculations on how many amp hours he’s talking about, but it would definitely make me feel better about taking out in the middle of nowhere if I could charge it up with some solar power.

Camping

Cybertruck Tent

You may have seen this wild picture as part of the press release. It looks like a tent and a truck had a baby. What is this madness? Apparently it will be a purchasable option, according to Elon. I don’t know about you, but that looks pretty rad. I’d love to know more about what’s going on with the slide out kitchen under the bed.

Another fun fact I ran across. In Tesla Model S’s there’s a “Camper Mode” option. This lets the car do climate control and air filtration all night long without any tailpipe emissions or sound. No idea if this would work in the bed of the truck, but it’s pretty fascinating nonetheless.

Boondocking

Boondocking in Wickenburg, AZ 2

So does something like the Cybertruck make sense for boondocking? With the right options, maybe. In addition to the solar panels there’s also talk of 110v and 220v plugs and an onboard air compressor. How cool would it be to plug your RV into your truck to charge the batteries, then drive the truck back into town to top it off?

It would be like adding a massive battery bank to your camping setup. I couldn’t find the exact battery specs, but our friends beginningfromthismorning have installed an old Chevy Volt lithium bank to the tune of 2000ah(!). And I imagine the Cybertruck’s tri-motor setup would be even larger.

What if you’re not near a charging station, and the sun isn’t cooperating? Turns out it is possible to charge a Tesla via generator, but it’s not advised. And it’ll take a really long time!

All I’ll say on this is that the possibilities are intriguing, and we need way more information to know for sure. I wouldn’t mind taking one out to the Trona Pinnacles for a week, though!

Tesla ATV's and RV's Coming?

Two other items really caught my eye in the promotional images.

The first is a sweet electric ATV that fits perfectly in the bed of the truck. Is it for real? Yes, apparently!

Cyberquad

Mr. Musk says, “Tesla 2 person electric ATV will come at first as an option for Cybertruck.”

You can charge it straight from the truck itself. Sweet.

And finally, there’s that picture of the truck towing what looks to be some kind of futuristic trailer that perfectly matches the styling. What’s inside? Is it another vehicle? What if Telsa turned this into a full-blown RV, complete with Powerwall, solar panel roofs, and all sorts of goodies?

Sadly, there aren’t nearly enough answers on this front.

--

So there you go - all my thoughts on this Cybertruck craziness. Did I miss something? Leave a comment and let me know.

]]>
https://tinyshinyhome.com/favorite-gifts-for-full-time-travel My Favorite Gifts for Full Time Travel 2019-11-25T05:00:00+00:00 2019-11-25T21:22:02+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post contains affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

It’s that time of year again. People are making their lists and checking them twice!

If you read our blog, chances are you or someone you know is traveling full time. I’ve put together a list of some of my most favorite items that anyone (traveling or not) may love to receive this Christmas season. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite things.

Travelers Notebook

Travelers Notebook

I am in love with this planner system. Jonathan and I both have one and we use it every single day! The Traveler's Notebook is small enough to fit in my handbag, but big enough I can actually read what’s on my calendars. The best part is it’s totally customizable. I’ve gone with a monthly and weekly calendar in mine, along with an extra lined insert for taking notes and writing down ideas and things to remember. What I love most is the calendar inserts that you can begin on any day because it’s all empty dates. You pick what month you want to begin and just fill in the dates yourself. No more waiting until the New Year to get started. You can read more about this planner on this post I wrote awhile back!

Wall Basket

Hanging Wall Basket

Space is extremely limited in an RV, but traveling or not, a good wall basket is extremely useful. Store produce, table linens, utensils, or even plants in them, and have less things on your counter. I may or may not have spent the last 3 years searching for the perfect wall basket. We just purchased this set and I’m in love with the geometric details. Plus, if your house is on wheels like ours, it’s one less thing to have to move on travel day!

USB Oil Diffuser

USB Oil Diffuser

Pretty much everyone I know is a lover of essential oils and when you’re traveling full time you know that every inch of counter space is precious. There’s no way a standard size diffuser was making the cut in our tiny Airstream. We made sure to add extra USB ports all throughout our home so that we could use USB powered items whenever possible, and that includes this little oil diffuser. We actually have one for the truck as well. With 6 people in a tiny space, diffusing calming oils is a must. Not only do they smell amazing, they also keep us healthy and purify our air.

Deuter Backpack

Deuter Airline 28 Backpack

Every adventurer needs a good hiking backpack. We love our Deuter Airlite 28. It's the perfect size for day hikes. We've tried several packs over the years but we keep coming back to this one. But if you're unsure of which one would be best for you, just hit up your local REI and have yourself fitted by their specialists. They know what they're doing!

BagPodz

bagpodz on cart

Storage is everything while traveling. You don’t want to be going to the grocery and coming home with 20 plastic bags. Not only is it extremely wasteful, it’s completely unnecessary. Grab a set of 5 or 10 BagPodz and get yourself in the habit of taking in your reusable bags. We’ve had them in our truck for years and I don’t even have to think about it anymore. Taking our own bags in to stores is just what we do. They’ll hold more items and are way stronger than the plastic bags. Plus, many big box stores and even locations markets are beginning to charge you for your plastic bag usage. Get ahead of the game and just bring your own. You’re doing this earth a huge favor!

Stasher Bags

Stasher Bags

It kills me every time I buy a box of Ziplock bags. I have this inner struggle of feeling extremely bad for contributing more plastic to a landfill, but also...it’s just so convenient. Though we aren’t completely zero waste, we have made a switch to these Stasher bags for almost everything. Not only are they easy to use, but they also come in super cute colors. They’re great for taking snacks on hikes or in the truck on drive days. They’re easy to wash and don’t take up too much space. This is a switch I was happy to make!

Bamboo Toothbrushes

Bamboo Toothbrushes

This was an extremely easy switch for us. We’ve stopped buying plastic toothbrushes after watching a documentary that showed hundreds of plastic toothbrushes washing up on beaches around the world. It was disturbing. Amazon makes it so easy. Just add this pack of bamboo toothbrushes to your Amazon cart and give yourself a pat on the back. You may have just saved a turtles life! While you're at it, toss in this adorable biodegradable floss that comes in a zero waste container! All you'll need to buy is the floss refills! Score.

Magma pots

Magma Pots and Pans Set

We’ve had these since we started traveling. Ours are all worn, but this nesting Magma set of 7 is absolutely perfect for our family. It comes with a 5 qt stock pot, a 9-1/2” sauté pan, a 2 qt sauce pan, a lid for the smaller pot and a lid that fits both the larger pot and pan, a removable handle and a bungee to keep them all together. Honestly we don’t use the bungee, but I can see how it would come in handy at times. I love that they nest together and only take up as much room as the larger pot. We’ve had ours for almost 5 years and they’ve held up great. A great space saving option for traveling families or those who want to live tiny!

Smithey Cast Iron Skillet

Smithey Cast Ironware

Though we do love our Magma set...if weight was not an issue, I’d make the switch to all Smithey Cast Ironware. I am in love. Their pans are nothing short of a work of art. The inside is already as slick as your grandmas cast iron pans. I’ve not had anything stick to my Smithey skillet. Just go check out their site. This hand forged Farmhouse Skillet as well as their new Dutch Oven have me staying up all night thinking about what I could get rid of to make room for these in our tiny house on wheels. Seriously...I cannot tell you how great they are, just go get one for yourself!

Hydro Flasks

hydroflask bottles

We don’t go anywhere without our Hydro Flask water bottles. I’m serious. They even go with us to restaurants. We each have one and it’s our main cup we use every single day (except for Jonathan who prefers his Yeti because it fits in the truck cup holder). The point is, get yourself a good reusable container and stop buying plastic water bottles! It’s 2019 people! Anyone will gladly fill up your Hydro Flask, and you won't be sending off hundreds of bottles to the landfill each year. It’s not only a gift for you, it’s a gift to our planet!

Berkey water filter

Strap for the Berkey

Now that you’ve got yourself a super cute reusable water bottle, you’ll want to fill it with the best quality of water you can. Do yourself a favor and get a Berkey. I can say with certainty that we are full on water snobs. We’ll take our own water to restaurants because often theirs is downright awful. Even our kids notice the difference in the quality of water from place to place. We will never be without our Berkey water filter. Yes, it’s a large up front cost, but you’ll be drinking the cleanest water out there and saving money by not buying water bottles ever again! It's truly worth every penny.

Green Mountain Grill

Green Mountain Davy Crockett

If you love smoked meats, grilled pizzas, or smoked bacon chocolate chip cookies, you're going to want to get this Green Mountain Grill for the one you love. We use it every week. Traveling with the Green Mountain Grill (we have the Davy Crockett size) has been fantastic. We smoke loads of meat each week and we can even use it as an oven. I've baked bread, pies, cookies, pizzas and much more in ours, and we highly recommend them to anyone who wants to travel with a grill or smoker. Plus, cooking outside in the summer keeps the heat down inside the trailer!

So there you have it!

These are my top favorite gifts to give this Christmas season. So, be a good friend and buy me that Smithy Farmhouse Skillet...I mean....

]]>
https://tinyshinyhome.com/visiting-family-deep-cleaning Visiting Family & Deep Cleaning 2019-11-08T05:00:00+00:00 2019-11-08T18:24:12+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

We made it to Knoxville a little earlier than planned to see Jonathan's family who we haven't seen in nearly a year!

Sickness crept in and took over most of our 2 weeks there, but we were able to declutter our home...again, give it a good scrub before we left town.

Don't forget to like the video and leave a comment on YouTube if you enjoyed it.

Oh, and make sure to subscribe so you don't mess the next episode!

]]>
https://tinyshinyhome.com/laundry-day-on-the-road Laundry Day on the Road 2019-10-08T05:00:00+00:00 2019-10-08T18:21:25+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

Laundromats make doing laundry on the road so easy. I first thought I'd hate using the laundromat, but now I've come to love getting everything washed in just two hours!

Storing all our clothes in just 2-3 packing cubes each has been a game changer. Packing cubes allow us to store all our clothes neatly in a very tiny space. Keeping things neat and organized is key to traveling full time!

Don't forget to like the video and leave a comment on YouTube if you enjoyed it.

Oh, and make sure to subscribe so you don't mess the next episode!

]]>
https://tinyshinyhome.com/airstream-family-travel-day Airstream Family Travel Day 2019-09-30T05:00:00+00:00 2019-09-30T18:46:31+00:00 Jonathan Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

We're traveling from Saskatchewan to Winnipeg in search of warmer temperatures. Here you'll get a glimpse into what a typical travel day looks like for us.

A special thanks to @natecroft for some of the rad tunes. Check out more of his music at http://natecroft.com

Don't forget to like the video and leave a comment on YouTube if you enjoyed it.

Oh, and make sure to subscribe so you don't mess the next episode!

]]>
https://tinyshinyhome.com/why-is-self-care-important-when-living-tiny Why is Self Care Important When Living Tiny? 2019-09-25T05:00:00+00:00 2019-09-25T23:33:03+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

Self Care. Even saying those words makes me feel guilty. Is this just a new catchphrase that moms are throwing around to make them feel better about spending time away from their family to do something for themselves?

The truth is, I really thought this. It’s still new to me that taking time to do something for myself isn’t necessarily selfish. I’m not talking about taking an entire day to visit some fancy spa and spend hundreds on facials and massages…though that does sound amazing.

I’m talking about taking time to do something that feeds your soul. That makes you remember that you’re a person, not just a mom and a wife. Things like signing up for that pottery class, buying a plant that makes you smile every time you see it, doing some yoga, or going to a coffee shop alone and ordering your favorite spice chai drink that you don’t have to share with anyone!

Living in 220 sq. ft. as a family of six, as you can imagine...we are close. Physically. VERY. CLOSE. We spend nearly all day every day right next to each other, and we love it. But it's easy to get caught up in taking care of everyone else's needs, and it's even easier to forget that you, too, have needs.

In the last few months, Jonathan and I have been making it a priority to let each other have one day out of the Airstream alone. Yes, that usually involves us working, doing laundry, or going to the grocery store, but it’s a start right?

This week I took it a step further. I’ve gotten up each morning (I know it’s only Wednesday, but still…) to take a long walk. We’re visiting Saskatchewan this week and fall is here to stay.

Campground in Saskatchewan

I’ve discovered a new podcast (Practice You) that is giving me life. Elana Brower's voice has a way of making all your troubles melt away. It’s been so great to have an hour to walk, and listen, and think, and find myself again. After listing to an episode with Eddie Stern, I downloaded his breathing app and after my walk I’ll take time to lay down in the hallway, AirPods still in, and just breathe. Even just having 5 minutes of intentional breathing makes me feel like a new person.

There’s something to be said about taking time for yourself, mommas (and dads). Be it 5 minutes or an entire day. We are not just moms. We have needs, we have desires, we have goals, and we need time to dive into our passions. We can’t possibly expect to be the best versions of our selves if we don’t take time to do things that give us life.

What makes you feel alive? Is it a walk in nature? Catching up with a close friend? Traveling? How are you making time for you? My hope is that we, as mothers, wives, partners, stop feeling guilty about taking time for ourselves.

I'd love to hear how you make time to do things that fill your soul. Leave a comment and let me know below.

]]>
https://tinyshinyhome.com/boondocking-etiquette Boondocking Rules, Etiquette & Just Plain Common Decency 2019-09-16T05:00:00+00:00 2019-09-16T19:29:15+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

Okay friends, let’s talk.

If you’ve been around here any length of time you know our preferred method of camping is boondocking on public lands.

In fact, we love it so much we even made an in-depth video course to teach others how to do it!

But today we're actually here to vent. That's right, these fun-loving, congenial Tiny Shiny Homies are fed up. And if you know us, it take a lot to do that.

  • Maybe it was the huge rig that parked so close we couldn't even fit our truck in front of our trailer.
  • Maybe it was 10th pile of dog poo we stepped in.
  • Maybe it was 20th bag of trash we had to pick up from the last site to even be able to use it.
  • Maybe it was that contractor style generator blaring all hours of the day and night.

Whatever it was, something snapped. And before I knew it, my fingers were furiously typing these words.

The short version of this rather long rant? Be kind, courteous, respectful, and grateful for the opportunity to camp for free in these beautiful, remote areas. It truly is a privilege. Same goes for overnighting in a business' parking lot.

The long version? Well, let's get into the nitty gritty of boondocking etiquette, rules and just plain common decency, shall we?

In Parking Lots

Get permission first

It's amazing that many Wal-Marts, Cabelas, and Cracker Barrels allow RV's to stay in their parking lots overnight. But you have to call ahead and get permission first. Don't rely on apps or hearsay on the internet, either. Pick up that phone and (gasp!) talk to a real person. Sometimes it's not even that the business doesn't want you there - many cities are passing ordinances against this, and you might get a knock at your door from the local police at 2am asking you to leave. Always clear your stay with the store manager first!

One night only

This should be obvious, but unfortunately it’s not. These businesses are allowing you to stop over on your way to your next destination. Do not set up camp here! Don’t pull out your camp chairs and grills. It's not a tailgate party, people! Leave those for football season. Arrive late and leave early. Don't take up their valuable parking spaces for their customers.

Buy something

These are businesses, and you staying in their parking lot costs them money. It’s common courtesy to go in and buy something while you're there. Make it worth their while. Let them know you appreciate that they are offering their parking lot to travelers for the night by spending some cash at their store and even saying thank you!

No dumping

Don't dump gray or black water in someone's parking lot! This should also be obvious, but we’ve seen people washing their dishes outside of their RV and leaving their leftover noodles on the ground. I'm serious. Like, what the heck? Treat their space like you would your own, and leave it better than you found it.

Keep it down

Seriously folks. It’s one night. There should be no need to pull out your noisy generators in a parking lot with other travelers who are tired from their drive and just want to get some sleep. Often the area set aside for RV's is small and everyone is close to each other so keep it quiet and be respectful.

On Slides and Stabilizers

There's a common refrain out there that you should never put your stabilizers down, disconnect your tow vehicle, or extend your slides while in a parking lot. While we get what they're saying, it's not always realistic. We have 6 people in a vintage trailer. We have to put stabilizers down for the safety of our frame. Many newer RV's with slides aren't even usable when they're in. And sometimes you genuinely need to run an errand to somewhere else in town. Use common sense, and try to stay on the down low!

On Public Lands

Boondocking on BLM

Obey stay limits

Listen, these beautiful lands are not being set aside so that you can camp for free in the same spot for months or years at a time.

Most BLM and National Forest land have a 14 day limit for good reason. Imagine how difficult it would be to find a boondocking spot if everyone setup shop for 2 months in the best spots?

We’ve seen our fair share of RV’s that are obviously setup for the long haul with dog pens, multiple vehicles, tables, chairs, and even decks! We know homelessness is real problem in some areas of the country, but as with any neighborhood, those kind of campers make the area less desirable and less safe.

Pay attention to the stay limit and obey it, please! Otherwise these beautiful locations may get shut down.

Leave some space

Give people their space! This is what prompted us to even write this post.

True story: We recently set up for a week in a beautiful location outside of Yellowstone National Park, but just hours later a big rig comes in and parks right in front of our trailer. I mean, I could understand if it was one night and there was no where else to park, but there was a ton of room for them to back up a hundred yards or so. And they stayed there all week! It was annoying to say the least, especially since our ‘bedroom’ is right in the front of the trailer.

We could barely park our truck in front of the Airstream!

Leave some room between you and other campers. The whole point of boondocking is to get out of cramped campgrounds and enjoy nature. We can't do that when you park right outside our front door.

Park only in designated sites

I shouldn’t need to say this, but we’ve seen it so here goes. This is not your land! You do not get to decide where a new campsite should be.

Only use designated or dispersed sites. They are often marked by a big area of bare land and a fire pit or fire ring. Do not cut down plants, trees, or grass to make a new site. I don’t care how perfect your view would be. This is not your decision to make.

Say it with me….BE RESPECTFUL!!

Turn out the lights

Please, for the love of God, do not leave your outside lights on all night.

If you’re on public land, people are out here for the scenery, the night sky, and the solitude. It’s hard to fall asleep with your bright lights shining in our windows all night. If you're not using them outside, please just turn them off. Especially in the designated dark sky parts of this country.

Side rant - leave them off in campgrounds, too! For all the same reasons!

Drive slow!

Yes, it’s public land, but that doesn’t mean that you get to fly down these dusty roads like a crazy person. Slow down! Kids could be outside playing, dogs could be running around, and you’re throwing your dust in our living rooms. Slow it down, man!

Quiet hours

Okay, so there are no set quiet hours when you’re boondocking in the middle of public lands, but the theme of this post is…. BE RESPECTFUL.

If there are other campers around they don’t want to hear your explicit music blaring all day and night. This goes for generators, too. Pretend like you’re in a campground and run it during the day.

Leave no trace

Again…obvious, right? Unfortunately…not to some people.

I will never understand why people leave their trash, break bottles on rocks, and treat our public lands like a waste facility. As much as we love bagging up your bullet casings, please just pick up after yourself!

We’re constantly picking up other peoples trash, and you should, too. Help us clean up this beautiful land so that others can enjoy it after you.

Even better, make sure you're not leaving anything there to begin with.

Say hello!

This one is for us, because we’re introverts :)

If you’re in close proximity to other campers enjoying the same land, just say hi when walking by. You've already got one thing in common, and people out here are usually super kind and help look out for each other.

Say hi, introduce yourself, and you may have just made a new friend you’d like to meet again on down the road.

Clean up after pets

Ugh, how many times have we stepped in your dog’s poo? Too many! Please, please, please - clean up after your pets.

I’m not saying you need to go out in a field of cactus or overgrown grass and clean it up, but right there in the campsite should be cleaned for the next people to enjoy!

Put out your fires!

Really? Do I even need to say this? People…. PUT OUT YOUR FIRES! Like, LOTS of water and make sure it’s completely out. Wildfires are a huge problem in some areas of the country. Keep an eye out for burn bans, and don't be the one that takes out an entire section of the forest because you were lazy.

End Rant

Whew, thanks for sticking with us through that. We feel so much better :)

If we sound frustrated, it's only because we care so much about these amazing locations.

We want these areas to be available for others to enjoy for years to come - so respect the land, respect the rules, and respect others out here enjoying the land, too.

High fives to all you doing your best to make these areas better for others. We appreciate you!

]]>
https://tinyshinyhome.com/family-fun-in-medora-nd Family Fun in Medora, ND 2019-07-09T09:00:00+00:00 2019-07-26T17:06:27+00:00 Jonathan Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/
This post contains affiliate links or compensated reviews. Please read our disclosure for more info.

When asked what I wanted to do for my birthday this year, for once I already knew. I wanted to go to Theodore Roosevelt National Park!

Driving through South Dakota last year we threw around the idea of heading north for a weekend to ‘check off North Dakota’ on our state map. Little did I know that North Dakota would turn out to be one of the prettiest states we have visited so far!

After lots of research, we finally decided to make it happen. A 10 hour weekend drive got us there just in time for my birthday. But the party was just getting started!

We had a fun-filled week working with the adorable town of Medora, ND. We stayed at the Medora Campground which is unusual for us, but being a quick walk from all the activities in town was a huge bonus!

The showers and bathrooms were very well kept and the employees were super helpful and extremely friendly when there was a little mixup with our reservation. Overall, the close quarters were worth the close proximity to everything this town has to offer!

Medora is full of charm and there is so much to do that we’ve broken down some of our family's favorites…

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Obviously! Visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park the first week of July was perfect. It was so green! We’ve seen several badlands in our time on the road but this one takes the cake! I mean...grass, bison, wild horses, prairie dogs, rattlesnakes… what more could you ask for?

The views just don’t stop. We drove most of the loop (part of it was closed) and just couldn’t get over the views. Green prairies as far as they eye can see, speckled with badlands popping out of the wildflower fields. It was incredible!

And of course we did the Junior Ranger program and the kids got another badge!

Perception Medora

Medora Perception Medora Perception

We’ve seen several of these spots popping up lately but we’ve never been to one until our visit to Perception in Medora. The kids really enjoyed the optical illusions. The best part was the house! As soon as I stepped in I felt like I had vertigo, but it was still so fun to see and experience. I felt like I was walking crooked the rest of the day, but it was worth it.

Cute Downtown Shops & Playground

Medora Playground

There are so many cute shops in this little town. You can easily walk to every one in just a few hours. We were lucky to find one of the magnets for TRNP (we collect all the magnets for the parks) that we were looking for that wasn’t available in TRNP gift shop. Score!

If you have little kids (or even big kids) make sure to walk over to the playground! It's right near Perception and could easily kill a couple hours there. Very well made and a great location makes it a no-brainer to visit.

Homemade Ice Cream

Medora Icecream

The kids made it their mission for the week to find the best ice cream in Medora! There are several places to choose from and they’ll be doing a report on which one was their favorite. Homeschool for the win!

As for Jonathan and I, our favorite was the Coffee Brownie at Hatlee & Brae followed by a close second of Maple at Marquis De Mores. YUM!

Medora Musical

Medora Musical Medora Musical

Okay friends, I admit that I had little expectations for the musical because the only musicals I’ve been to have been high school productions. All I can say is wow! We were totally blown away by the Medora Musical. Amazing singers, expertly executed, and an overall flawless production.

In the middle of the show, after the intermission, we were treated to the funniest magician we've ever seen. His energy was higher than you could imagine and had us rolling in our seats. We haven't laughed that hard in a long time!

You could tell everyone was having a blast! The audience was captivated and we left stunned. I cannot stress it enough, you simply HAVE to experience the Medora Musical yourself. It was worth the trip to Medora even if all you have time to do is go to this musical.

Pitchfork Steak Fondue

Pitchfork Steak Fondue

You had us at fondue! If anyone is cooking meat in a pitchfork, sign us up!

When we arrived, the line was incredibly long, but this wasn't their first rodeo. We were picking up our tray of food in no time and shocked at how smooth the process was for moving that many people through the lines!

Pitchfork Steak Fondue was a buffet style of fixings full of fresh veggies, garlic toast, baked potatoes, and fresh fruit. Once we filled out plates with all the sides we picked up our hot-out-the-pot 12 oz steaks! You heard me! 12 ounces of delicious, juicy, flavorful meat from a pitchfork!

We all got the steaks and honestly there wasn’t much left behind. This is a meal that should not be skipped when visiting Medora. Just head right over to the musical after and make it an evening you won’t forget!

Medora Riding Stables

Medora Riding Stables Medora Riding Stables

After getting rained out a couple of times, we were finally able to make it to the Medora Riding Stables. This was the kids first real horse ride and though they were very nervous at first, they were all glad that they went and had such a great time. The scenery was spectacular and the horses calm...and hungry;) it was the perfect way to close out our time in Medora.

Walk with Theodore Roosevelt

Medora Teddy Roosevelt Walk

This town is full of drama - in the best way! Joe, AKA Theodore Roosevelt, met us for a little hike and history about TR! It was super informative and I was happy I got to skip a history lesson for the week! His passion for this town and knowledge of TR was contagious and has me looking for biographies of Mr. Roosevelt! Make sure to check out A Teddy Roosevelt Salute Medora while you're in town.

4th of July Parade

Medora, ND Parade

Last, but certainly not least. If you're lucky enough to make it there for July 4th like we did, make sure you go to the parade!

An adorable mix of cowboys, tractors, firefighters, and local businesses put together this magical little parade that all the town comes out for. Our kids had a blast picking up candies that were thrown at them.

And if that wasn't enough, make sure you stay up late enough for their fireworks show! If you try to fall asleep, you'll quickly be woken up by the thunderous booms echoing off the badlands surrounding the little town. We just walked a little bit up the ways from our campground and caught the show on the side of the road. The best way to end our time at this adorable town of Medora, North Dakota.

Medora Fireworks

Thank you Medora, for a week that we will not soon forget!

]]>
https://tinyshinyhome.com/avoiding-burnout-while-traveling-full-time Avoiding Burnout While Traveling Full-Time 2019-06-26T08:00:00+00:00 2019-06-26T15:29:32+00:00 Ashley Longnecker https://tinyshinyhome.com/

It’s going to happen.

You’ll find yourself surrounded by natural beauty and you’ll feel trapped, or depressed, or irritated at the thought of looking at another canyon, mountain range, or waterfall. You’ll think to yourself… 'it looks just like all the other waterfalls I’ve seen over the last 4 years' or 'it’s just another canyon'. You’ll know in your head that it’s special and you should be enjoying it but you just can’t. That my friends, is travel burnout.

I’d venture to say that the last half of 2018 was like that for me. Nothing felt special. I didn’t care to see another mountain range and if I had to hike one more canyon I just might scream. So…what do you do when that happens to you?

First, let’s look at the root cause. Are you tired? Do you miss family and friends? Are you getting enough rest? Are you stressed about work or deadlines? Finding the root cause may help you understand how to adjust your travel lifestyle to better accommodate your needs.

Maybe you just need to slow down. Or you need to meet up with friends. Do you need to Skype with your family more often? Perhaps you need to adjust your work schedule.

But what if it comes out of nowhere? Maybe you just need a small break. There are several ways to get through a burnout period while traveling full-time. Here are some ways to change it up and hopefully avoid the dreaded burnout.

Have some alone time.

alone time

Have your spouse take the kids to a movie or go explore for half the day. It’s amazing what a few hours alone can do for your mental state. Put on your favorite music or podcast. Take a shower. Make a favorite drink. Open the windows. Take a nap. Just do whatever makes you feel relaxed and happy.

Go somewhere familiar.

Camping at Lost Dutchman

Sometimes it’s nice to go back to a familiar place. You know where you can get water, groceries, gas. You don’t have to use GPS to get you around town. Sometimes it’s nice to have a break from all the research that goes into traveling full-time. And there's a lot of research!

Get a hotel!

Jax's Birthday Hotel

Rent a hotel room for a night or two. One with great beds and clean showers! Sometimes changing your surroundings completely makes a huge difference. Everyone gets a little break, and when you get back to your RV you’ll likely have a whole new appreciation for it.

Meet up with friends.

Camping with Friends

Sometimes this is a lot harder to pull off. Traveling full-time you meet a lot of people, But it's hard to keep track of where everyone is. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to coordinate with friends to have some quality time together.

Try a new hobby.

adali and macrame

I used to have so many hobbies at our house. Creating is a huge hole that’s not been able to be filled while traveling. Supplies take up too much room and we just really don’t have the space for lots extra supplies. However, if you can plan a head, try taking a class on something you’ve been wanting to learn. Pottery, glass blowing, stained glass, wood carving, painting, etc. Sometimes I find that just learning a new skill lights a fire deep inside that just makes me incredibly happy. Maybe it will for you, too!

Go shopping!

Copper Bells

Okay, hear me out on this one. I don’t mean, ‘go out and buy a bunch of useless crap that you don’t have room for.’ What I mean is...look for something that makes you truly happy every time you see it. Just last week I took the kids to the small town of Grand Lake, CO and found the most adorable copper bells that I couldn’t live without. These bells are now hanging in our Airstream and it makes me so happy every time I look at them.

Go on a date.

Date Night

I know, I know…some of you have small kids and can’t quite make this happen. But when Jonathan and I can, we love going into town for a quick sushi date, or we’ll go grab some ice cream and just sit in the car and talk. Sometimes we’ll even take an iPad and watch an episode of a favorite show. But don’t think you have to get away. Many times we’ll just let the kids watch a movie in their area while we chill in our area. Yes, we’re only separated by a curtain, but sometimes you just need to have some time alone without anyone asking you questions! Living tiny forces you to get creative to find alone time.

Splurge!

Float Tank

Jonathan and I splurged and went to a float tank once. It was the most relaxing experience. We were able to clear our minds, have some time alone, and we left feeling so much better. Maybe float tank isn’t for you…maybe you can splurge on a massage, a night on the town, or a weekend getaway. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself so you can take care of others!

Make a list.

Thankful for...

I hate lists! But sometimes I just need to list all the things I'm grateful for. Make a list of the incredible things you’ve seen on your journey so far. The animals. The natural wonders. The people you’ve been able to meet. Sometimes we get so caught up in the negative it’s hard to see the positive. Making a list will help you see just how lucky you’ve been to experience so much.

And friends….don’t be afraid to take a break!

Just because your interests change, or you find out you need something that you didn’t think you did…that doesn’t mean that you aren’t cut out for a life of travel or adventure. People change, we evolve, our needs change and that’s okay. If you want to have roots, settle down. If you want to take shorter trips, do it! If you want to sell it all and try something new…make it happen! You are more than just a full-time traveler! You’re an adventurer…and that doesn’t just go away. It’s a part of who you are, no matter where you are.

]]>