When I mention to people that my husband Jesse and I live and travel full-time in our 200-square-foot Airstream travel trailer, most people respond with, “You must really like each other?”
The answer: “Yes, yes we do.” After 12 years together, with the past two spent living and working full-time in our tiny travel trailer, I can safely say we’re still happily married.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that every day is full of non-stop adventures and belly-laughs. Living, traveling, and working full-time with your partner is one of the most challenging aspects of tiny living, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. RV living and full-time travel can bring you closer together, but it can also quickly bring pain points in your relationship to light.
Prior to life on the road, my husband worked a typical full-time job and I owned a small business, working late and on weekends, so we rarely had more than a few hours together each day. When we made career changes to live and travel in an Airstream, our time together grew exponentially. And as best friends, it’s definitely one of the biggest perks of RV life.
Of course, spending all day with each other every day doesn’t automatically equal quality time together—or quality time alone. Full-time RVing together isn’t for every couple, but for us, the flexibility outweighs the lack of privacy. Here’s how we maintain a healthy relationship while living in an RV.
Commit to a Good Night’s Sleep
Space and sleep are the best gifts you can give each other when living in an RV. We use the Scandinavian sleep method, meaning we each have a twin-sized duvet and top sheet in our shared RV bed. Downsizing from a California king to a short queen RV mattress was tough at first, but after investing in a quality mattress and bedding, we sleep better and don’t disturb each other at night. We also go to bed around the same time and use a dividing curtain and sound machine.
On the road, many couples opt for two twin beds instead of a shared mattress. While this may not sound as romantic, it does often equate to better sleep.
Communicate and Compromise
Firstly, invest in some walkie-talkies. They’ll spare you irritation and embarrassment when navigating a tricky back-in spot or rolling onto leveling blocks. But in all seriousness, how you communicate is just as important as what you communicate. Transparency, patience, and understanding are three values we use to help foster healthy communication.
Do what works best for you and your partner, but setting aside time to share goals and desires, as well as plan logistical details, will help curb future resentment. This applies to everything from finances to route planning to how we spend our time at a destination. I like spontaneity and boondocking, but my husband prefers an itinerary and booking prime campground spots in advance. To compromise, we have a planning session every 6 weeks to discuss our route and incorporate both of our travel styles.
Make Space for Quality Time Together and Alone
To make sure we spend quality time together—rather than just exist in the same space—we schedule “date nights.” These can include daytime adventures like golfing or visiting museums. Exploring a national park, hiking, or dining out are all simple, fun ways to spend quality time together while enjoying new surroundings.
Equally as important is spending time apart. My husband is often in meetings during the week, so I use this time to shoot photography, get laundry done, go to a museum, or eat lunch alone with a good book. My time alone allows me to reset and recharge. Jesse likes his time alone in the morning, to meditate and prep for his day. This is where a good pair of noise-canceling headphones and a dividing curtain come in handy—I can drink my coffee and respond to emails in bed while he spends time alone in the main living area.
Work as a Team
Packing and unpacking the trailer, hitching and unhitching coupled with long drive days can be exhausting, which easily leads to short tempers and petty arguments. This is why we like to separate our “duties.” I prep the inside, while Jesse preps the outside, but we hitch up together. I also like to plan our driving routes, while Jesse likes to research places to stay. I like to decorate and organize our tiny space, while Jesse likes to research and buy the gear and gadgets needed for easy and enjoyable RV living.
Decide what aspects of tiny living you and your partner each like—and are good at—and then divide and conquer.
Master the Art of Conflict Resolution
Arguments and conflict are bound to happen and, in my opinion, they are an important part of a healthy relationship. If you never have arguments, it means you’re not communicating. There are resources available to help master the art of conflict resolution, from books to therapy to online articles.
After an argument, we start off by listening to each other and allowing space to say whatever needs to be said. Simply allowing each other to air grievances—whether directed at each other or not—will often help start to resolve the issue.
And lastly, don’t be ashamed to apologize with words of affirmation. Saying “You were right” doesn’t hurt either.
Living and working in a small space shared with your partner will test your relationship, but by communicating and compromising, getting a good night’s sleep, and spending quality time together and alone, life on the road can bring you even closer together.