Marlene and Dan are sharing an epic adventure with their children, Ava, Mila and Luka – and Yoda the cat. While most of us notch up a handful of weeks or weekends in our van a year, they spend most of their lives on the road. They named their Airstream ‘Mali Mish’ which means ‘little mouse’ in Croatian. Ironic, given that the Airstream is 25ft long!
We tracked them down and asked them about their experience of long-term touring.
When did you begin your adventure?
We started ‘RVing’ (living in a recreational vehicle) after we had our first child, Ava. We wanted to find a way for our little family to spend quality time together and see the country at the same time.
After we had our second child, and with both of us having jobs that could be done while we were mobile, it seemed to make perfect sense to spend a lot more time on the road. So we did!
Can you describe your Airstream and your truck?
The Airstream is an International Ocean Breeze 25FB (Front Bedroom). Our tow vehicle is a GMC Savana ¾ ton diesel van. It started out as a cargo van, but we had seats and windows fitted. A standard passenger van from GMC doesn’t have a diesel option, so this was the only way for us to get that van with that fuel source.
How many miles have you covered?
We covered roughly 40,000 miles in three years. We have been across the US twice and done several regional loops, such as the southwest, the Pacific northwest and the midwest.
And your favourite place so far?
I’d say the top three favourites right now are southern Utah, the Appalachian mountains and the coastline of Lake Michigan in the fall.
How does touring beat staying in one place?
Touring has allowed us to see how people around the country work and live. We have also been able to make friends all across the country and visit places we had previously only heard about or seen in photographs.
Have you met other Airstream owners?
There is a very deeply rooted Airstream community – there really is no other RV community like it. Most Airstream owners we meet are like old friends from day one. We instantly know that we have many things in common.
Are you full-time in your van?
We spend seven to eight months a year on the road and the rest of the time we stay put in California with family so the kids can spend quality time with cousins and grandparents during the holidays.
How do the children respond to life on the road?
We often ask them if they want to keep travelling and they always say yes. They don’t make as many friends as they probably would in a traditional school setting, but instead that time is spent on building a much stronger sibling and family bond than they would otherwise have. We think our children probably have a much stronger family bond than any of their peers with a traditional lifestyle.
How do you manage to work?
We have a pretty good mobile data network that allows us to work from nearly everywhere we go. We try to limit our stays in places with no coverage to the weekends, or we will find places with wi-fi access instead.
What’s a typical ‘Mali Mish’ day like?
We wake up in the morning with the kids asking to come into our bed with us. We start work and homeschool at the dinette, then plan our day to either explore or work. We don’t really plan the details on where we will be for more than a couple of weeks ahead. We like to stay flexible.
Five rules for top long-term touring
- Be flexible. Don’t let a rigid schedule stop you doing something that might be the experience of a lifetime.
- Understand that you will have to make sacrifices. That could mean taking the job that gives you more time rather than more money.
- Take your time. This has always brought us more joy in the long run than times when we try to pack more in.
- Be adventurous and go outside your comfort zone. Sometimes you have to drive down that dirt road and see what is on the other side.
- Take time off. Know that it is OK to go back to friends and family for set periods. Don’t deny them the chance to spend time with you.
Our children probably have a much stronger family bond than any of their peers with a traditional lifestyle