6 months ago on a whim, my boyfriend and I left our three-bedroom house, bought an all-season Bigfoot camper, and moved out to the back of a farm property we had stumbled across accidentally in a rental ad. We did it for two reasons: for the adventure, and to save money. We aren’t nomads or full time travellers- although a big part of our lifestyle now involves saving money to travel more with- we are just two ordinary people with 9-5 jobs who wanted something different. We do our best every day to capture and experience the best of both worlds.
These are my honest reflections on our first 6 months living in a camper.
–I feel deeply connected to the weather. It isn’t because it gets really cold in the winter or really hot in the summer in the Bigfoot (although, okay- it was really hot in the summer, but more on that later). I feel connected to the weather because of the way it sounds. When it rains on the roof of the camper, you hear it pouring. When it’s windy, it sounds like it can’t be contained- like I am at the mercy of nature and weather at its most wild. I see this as a gift. When I am 20 minutes away at the office, the seasons might as well be changing, and I have no idea. If you have ever sat at your desk and opened up a weather app on your smartphone to find out whether or not it is raining at that exact moment where you are, you will understand what I mean.
–I’m more aware of what I’m using- but I’m not sure that I’m using that much less. In the kitchen, we have a switch labeled “MICROWAVE- NEUTRAL- WATER HEATER”. It takes too much power to run the microwave and the water heater at the same time, so we use that switch to choose. Now, it’s no sacrifice- it is not often that I feel the desperate need to heat up my food and take a shower at the exact same time- but it does keep me constantly conscious of the energy I use. It also keeps me grateful- after the first two or three times that I found myself having to take an ice cold shower in the morning because of forgetting to flip the switch after making five minute macaroni and cheese, I learned to be thankful for hot morning showers like never before. There is no question that living in a camper has opened my eyes to how much everything I use- electricity, water, even toilet paper. We have to empty our water tanks frequently, and we see the damage ourselves. We haven’t gotten over the shock yet of how much water we use- just from washing our dishes, brushing our teeth, and showering. Overall, I think that I am making more of an effort not to be wasteful. But it hasn’t been an overnight transformation- there is still more to come.
–I’m not bothered by the small space, but I am increasingly bothered by clutter. Before we moved into our 28 foot camper, my boyfriend and I lived in a three-bedroom house in the suburbs. It’s not like any of the rooms in that house were empty (not by a long shot), but looking back on it, we hardly ever really used any of that space. We just spread out the heaps of things we didn’t need all across the house, and we spread them out so well that most of the time we couldn’t tell that they were just heaps of things we didn’t need. Needless to say we got rid of just about everything we owned before moving into the camper, and I can’t even say that it’s been a big adjustment. Of course there is no extra space- but there is a place for us to sleep, a place for us to put our clothes, a place for us to cook and eat, and several little spots for our pets to curl up and nap- we haven’t found that there are many more things that we need space to do. For me, the biggest adjustment in terms of the space has been the impact of clutter. Since I have about 99% less stuff than I’ve had in my whole life, I never thought that clutter would be a problem here. But because space is so tight, one or two misplaced pieces of clothing on the floor make it feel like a pigsty. One nights worth of dirty dishes and the kitchen has the look of not having been cleaned for a month. I suppose what that boils down to is that it’s just harder to hide a mess- I think I can view that as a good thing. Just an irritating good thing.
-The incredible outdoor space makes up for the lack of indoor space. This is an important distinction for me. When I first moved to the GTA, I was completely against moving into an apartment. The space constraint seemed overbearing. For the record, I did live in an apartment in downtown Ottawa for a little under a year when I first went out on my own- and I loved it. But having experienced life in a house with a basement and a backyard and my own driveway- it seemed infinitely better. So, I ruled out moving into an apartment. I ruled out renting just one floor of a house- this is by and large the most common type of accommodation available in the area that I moved to, but I didn’t like the idea. I wanted a house that my boyfriend and I could live in, just the two of us. Now, after having lived in that house and then moving on to the camper, I’ve mentioned that the lack of space hasn’t bothered me, and it’s true. But I still don’t ever want to live in another apartment or rent half a floor in a house, even if it would be the same amount of space (or more) than what I have now. Because my camper is parked in the middle of a huge farm. If ever I feel claustrophobic, I can open up my door, and there is grass and land as far as the eye can see.
-I’m sort of in heaven. There is a pond right outside my kitchen window. There is a heron- we call him Hank- who comes to visit the pond every so often in search of fish. In the mornings, I wake up early and take my dog outside. I get to see a mostly unobstructed sunrise. When the sun comes up, I let her off her leash, and she spends all morning playing and running freely with the dogs who live in the farmhouse at the front of the property. It is just beautiful here.