I wouldn’t lie to you.
Tonight, my house is sitting mostly level. Not bad for a rent of $0. Driving through the wash to get here had me puckered up just a bit, but only because I’d seen Wyoming Auggie end up with his own bus axle-deep in the mud only seven days ago. It’s been raining buckets in southern, New Mexico, and my house weighs ten tons.
I’m parked under a full moon in December. Outside the sky is clear, a balmy 56 degrees, and the chaparral of BLM land extends right out my back door. Hell yeah. I’m sipping 100 Años Tequila that I bought just a few days ago in Palomas, Mexico and it’ll be the perfect way to wrap this day up. A few chapters of the book I’m enjoying, one last pee outside in the cool desert air and I should sleep like a baby. For the next three, maybe four nights, my family and I live about 500 yards from the Rio Grande River west of Las Cruces.
It does not escape me that this life we’re living is some pretty romantic shit. It’s a dream come true, actually. I suppose I could be streaming it on YouTube. I could be staging adventuresome photos of myself and coaxing my wife to pose on a yoga mat on our rooftop patio. Clickbait. Perhaps I could trumpet our educational accomplishments: giving our boys a truly unique and well-rounded education while reinforcing our family bonds! (Turns out that the campground scene from “Captain Fantastic” was filmed at the KOA just down the road. Maybe I’ll step out of the bus tomorrow with my junk hanging free just to express my liberation.) Indeed, people congratulate us all the time on what we are doing and that does feel nice. Ready for some swag?
How about the reality? Lauren Modery posed some entertaining and very well worded questions about living in 250 square feet. Her article was geared toward tiny houses, not nomads, but our house is tiny (with huge wheels). I’m not going to lie, Lauren, your point about Mexican food farts in a tiny house is well taken. The four of us are crowded. At times we’re cold. On multiple occasions we’ve been holed up in the bus due to awful weather and I assure you the ‘cozy’ factor only lasts until about 9:22 AM. Every conflict between our team members is aired in a forum of rigorous and loud debate, which will undoubtedly lead to fantastic complexes for my children as they grow. (I’m quite certain I’ve called my oldest a “lazy hoarder” on more than one occasion, and my youngest a “narcissistic asshole.”) Nearly every action taken by one member impacts all others. There is seldom a day that goes by wherein I don’t at least think to myself, ‘I’m going to turn this fucking bus around!’
Before we’d set out, more than one couple said to my wife and I that they would love to do the same thing… just not with their kids. I get the sentiment. We have boys, ages ten and eight. Luckily, they are pretty good friends and have a dynamic that works more often than not. Even still, an astounding percentage of my wife and I’s daily efforts are spent managing the children (read: 90%). Everything from their food needs, to fielding questions to getting them to study, calm down, pick up, hurry up, slow down, don’t use the upholstery as a napkin… You know how different it is going to the grocery store with your kids as opposed to without them? Ok, well… our kids are always with us, the grocery store is always new to us and due to our storage constraints, we shop about five times as often as we did before going ‘tiny.’
Did I mention that our children are boys? It’s often occurred to me that I am traveling the country with Irritation and Annoyance. There is endless jittery movement and destruction. We live in constant fear of spilled milk. Thanks to a brief, but unfortunate exposure to YouTube sensation ‘Dude Perfect’, our boys have decided that flipping half-filled water bottles in attempt to land them upright is somehow a noteworthy pursuit. They land one and lose their shit, statistics be damned. Live with that in two-hundred and fifty square feet and try not to lose your own shit.
Then there is the filth. My boys like projects with paper and scissors, the result is predictable. They eat sandwiches like they’re reclining on a chaise lounge rather than at a dinette seat. The youngest hasn’t had a bath in well over four days and I’m beginning to think that people might be able to smell us. My ‘Kingdom’ for a vacuum cleaner! Making matters worse, I painted most of the bus interior white to, you know, make it appear more spacious. Guess what color it is now?
Despite your suspicions, the bathroom situation has worked out very well. We’ve got a composting toilet and frankly I hope to never go back to shitting in water. (It’s water, people! Water is precious! Don’t do THAT to it!) We have a grey water tank that catches all the drain water from our sink and shower and, yes, our pee (when we aren’t doing it under the moonlight.) Other than the size of the shower (I have to crouch) I’ve got no complaints. (Ok, it’s really bad news when someone has to drop a ‘hot one’ in here. It can linger. We’re all under strict orders to use the bus’s toilet only if there is no alternative. I swear to you though, it’s the odor of the act, not the composting toilet!)
However, this simplicity has meant that in the last three months alone we’ve seen more of the United States than an average child can hope to see during their entire upbringing, and a few things they probably shouldn’t (ever been to Slab City?) We’ve watched ocean-liners push their way into the mouth of the Colombia River. We had to wait in a three-hour line in Mexicali to get back to our own country. We’ve stood along newly erected border fence and cursed the pathetic actions of our President. The boys went Trick-or-Treating in San Diego after stopping off at a neighborhood tamale stand. We played hide-and-seek in a labyrinth of rocks until hours after dark. We’ve ridden countless miles on local bike trails through four different states. We’ve eaten everything from raw oysters to Hatch Chilies.
We generally have no idea what day it is.
So, do I regret this Tiny House/ RoadSchool adventure? I honestly do not. It’s had moments of misery for sure, but I’ve seen more of the U.S. already than I’d ever hoped to do in a lifetime. The simplicity and the routine are growing on me. My favorite time of day is first light when I make the pour over coffee while all others sleep (YouTubers can imagine my ripped six-pack abs showing through my unzipped hoodie) Also a highlight is the late evening as my wife cuddles the boys to bed. I’m far more relaxed than I’ve been in years and am literally changing my life every time we fire up the big bus engine. We’ve got enough time to do those stupid little things that you always wish you could while on vacation. (I’ll be dammed if we leave the West Texas town of El Paso without stopping off at Rosa’s Cantina.) So, yes, this has been a pretty sweet deal, even in 250 square feet. Besides, why worry? My wife and I still own a home in Montana that is, thankfully, rented. I’ll be damned if I live in this bus with teenagers!