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Updated September 12, 2023
Airstream In Sedona Sunset

We made it! We went the whole month of May (plus some more days) without paying for a campsite! We can count on one hand the number of showers the kids had (yikes), but we made it. We spent almost two weeks in Las Cruces, one night in a Travel Center parking lot, 3 nights in a friend’s driveway, 2 weeks in Sedona and a the rest of our time in Coconino Forest in Flagstaff (which is where we still are currently).

Flagstaff Coconino Forest

So, let me breakdown the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good.

We were able to save the $500 we set aside each month for campground fees! WOOT! Everyone is so excited that we are able to get the kids something that will be very useful for their research/learning and free time. 

It has been a big deal for me to push my comfort zone. I’m used to cleanliness, order, and let’s face it...air conditioning. This has been a test for me. And you know what? I survived. 

We found out that we can make it through 95 degree heat without an air conditioner, but we may end up spending some extra money in icy drinks and gas to go to the local library during the hottest part of the day.

Our solar set up has been awesome! In Sedona and Las Cruces our batteries were up to 100% by noon every day. In Flagstaff, not so much. We may need to move to a new site up here.

Having the Nature's Head composting toilet has been a huge component in us being able to be off grid for long periods of time. It's been a great way to save a crap ton of water! 

Natures Head

The Bad.

Dirt, guys. SO MUCH DIRT! 

Airstream Dirt

The Sedona red dirt has left a permanent mark on our hearts, as well as our bed sheets and rugs. Geeze oh Pete! The screens of our Fantastic Fans are coated in dust and blow a nice layer of red dirt when turned on. I’ve already cleaned them a couple times this month...but you’d never know it. 

I can count on one hand the number of showers the kids had this month and my hair hasn’t been washed since May 4th! However, we recently got the opportunity to try out Epic Wipes and woah! Game changer!

These wipes shouldn't even be called wipes, it's basically a wet towel that smells amazing! They're so big that we cut them into forths so that between the four kids, we can use just one wipe and they still get clean!

Epic Wipes Kids

Jon and I cut one in half to make them last longer, too. I LOVE the smell of the oils used in the wipes, plus they are 100% biodegradable (made with bamboo) so we don't feel bad about throwing them out. I can see these being a big part of our travels.

The Airstream and truck both looked as though there was a red dirt tornado that came through them but is there any point in cleaning it when we’re still on dirt roads? Not really.

The Ugly.

The heat made me loose my cool on more than one occasion. 95 degrees in the trailer?? NOT A FAN. Yes, we made it, but it' wasn't pretty.

I’ve learned how crazy I am about having a clean place to work/live/sleep but I’ve also learned that the red dirt on my bed at night isn’t going to kill me. 

My hair! It's so hot and heavy right now. I’ve never had hair this long and the dreads are at a point where I’m searching how to comb them out and looking at short hair styles because...holy cow! I miss my head feeling the wind and rain.

What did we get the kids?

We were able to save $500 from #nopaymay and we used that along with money that the kids had been saving from birthdays and chores and we were able to purchase 2 iPads for them! We bought each of them Kindles last Christmas and those have been a nightmare. (hey, we have 4 Kindle Fire's for sale!) Different chargers, the OS is lame, and everyone is always frustrated with them. Plus, we're huge Apple nerds and knew that iPads would be a much better fit for us. The two little kids claimed these, so if we can make it through June without paying for camping, then we'll grab 2 more for the older kids. With as much research as Adali has been doing for her tiny farm, having a good device to work on is going to be very important. Plus, all the school work I can have them do on them will be a huge bonus.

Will we do it again?

Heck yes! We’re already planning out our boondocking spots for June. (hello, Grand Canyon!) Our only hang up is the need to be in Phoenix next week for a doctor’s appointment. We may splurge and get a hotel for the night! Or we’ll bring the Airstream and find a cheap place close to the hospital. Who knows? 

Finding all these public lands we can camp on has been life changing to say the least. I never even knew that it was an option when we first started traveling. We just thought we’d be in campgrounds all the time. My, oh my...how things have changed. We love the solitude, the quiet, the peace we find when we score a chunk of land with no one around and a million dollar view. 

So, what about you? Would you go a whole month on the road without paying for camping? Would you park in the middle of nowhere with no one around to save some cash? Is boondocking your style or would you rather be with full-hookups? We’d love to hear what your favorite type of camping is.


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Ashley Longnecker

About the Author

Ashley Longnecker is the fiercely independent tattooed and dreaded half of Tiny Shiny Home. She's a woodworker, photographer and maker of delicious baked goods. She loathes schedules and makes every day an adventure.

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Posted June 01, 2017

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