Since May 2016, I’ve been living the trailer life in a 17-foot Safari Condo Alto 1743, bumming around the United States and Canada. When I started, I had never spent a night in a trailer or an RV of any kind. Now I’ve spent over four years sleeping, eating, working, and living my life in a trailer. It’s definitely a different life than sticks and bricks living!
Why the Trailer Life?
When I hit the road full-time, the idea of trailer life was something that most my friends and family thought was a novelty. I’m sure some of them wondered how long it would last (and probably some of them still do!). For me, the freedom of traveling anywhere I wanted combined with the same bed and all my stuff every night was ideal. For two decades, I had hopped in and out of planes and hotels for business travel, forgetting this shirt or that power charger in the last city. I loved the idea that with a trailer, everything came with me, all stowed in a 17-foot “suitcase” right behind my tow vehicle. I still love that concept. No more lugging suitcases around and forgetting to pack my contact lenses!
I love that I wake up to forests, deserts, and lakes outside my window. The scenery changes every few days or weeks, depending on how much I move around.
Perks of Trailer Life
For starters, you can unhitch a trailer and then use your tow vehicle to get around town. It’s way easier to buy gas and shop for groceries when you aren’t hauling a trailer behind you. I’ve done it both ways, and I really appreciate the flexibility of dropping the trailer at a camping spot and then running errands or stocking up using my Ridgeline.
Trailers usually have generous storage compared to vans or those tiny teardrop trailers. When I give a tour of my Alto 1743, people are usually amazed by the amount of storage in the kitchen and under the bed. And much to my surprise, I actually haven’t filled it all up. Well, I have filled up the kitchen cabinets, but the underbed storage still has some room should I find something I just can’t live without.
Trailers over 15 or 16 feet usually have a dedicated table area and dedicated bed, so you don’t have to choose between eating and sleeping. I really like that because some days, like when I’m fighting a stomach bug or a head cold, I can go from table to bed and not have to do a conversion step before I can take a nap.
Small trailers do trade size for convenience. My trailer has a wet bath, meaning that the toilet room is also the shower room, and I have to move stuff out of there to take a shower. I use that area as a closet, hanging jackets and towels as well as stowing my small trashcan and recycling and my laundry bag. I’ve got it down to a science now; it takes me about five minutes to move everything and get the shower ready to go.
Downsides of Trailer Life
Like a house, a trailer has electrical, plumbing and waste pipes. It has cupboards and doors and windows, and all the stuff that’s in a “sticks and bricks” house. Unlike a house, though, the trailer moves down the road and in that moving, things can dislodge, get banged around, or fall out of wherever they were stowed.
If something gets broke, I figure out how to fix it, pay someone to fix it, or live without it. It helps to have basic tools and the knowledge of how to use them. Screwdrivers of various types and sizes, vise grips and pliers, zip ties, Velcro, 3M sticky tape – just the beginning of what’s in my toolbox. I even own a torque wrench and know how to use it to check that the lug nuts on the trailer (and the truck) are secure.
If I want to upgrade something, I either figure out how to do it or get someone else to do it. This spring, I learned how to replace my sink, which was the easy part. Making the plumbing work with that new, deeper sink was the hard part and I spent two days sitting the floor, staring at the gap between old plumbing and new sink, and figuring out a solution. It was definitely worth the work.
One more thing about trailer life. When you’re towing, you can’t just pull over to get that cool shot or gas up. I have missed “the shot” so many times because the pullouts were car-sized not car+trailer-sized. And gas stations? After four years, I’m pretty good at squeezing into a spot. I like truck stops a lot. They build them for big rigs and I can slide right in any lane.
Top Five Reasons I Love the Trailer Life
- Separate bed area and table area
- Bathroom with toilet and shower
- Inside kitchen
- I can stand up inside
- I can park it at the campsite and explore the area with my truck.
A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we not take a trip; a trip takes us.