During the pandemic, some folks are trading in their traditional brick-and-mortar lifestyle for a more adventurous path while they self-isolate. For the Pickett family that meant embracing a nomadic lifestyle, living aboard their vintage 1971 Airstream International travel trailer, which they purchased just before the pandemic took hold in the U.S.
Kina, a world-class downhill skier who is the founder of the content-sharing platform ZPPR, along with his wife Nellie, and two kids Ashur and Story, decided to self-isolate on the road, giving them the opportunity to see new places and experience the great outdoors during the pandemic.
Leaving behind their home back in Montana, the mobile home life has afforded the Pickett family the unique opportunity to explore the country at their own pace, while still staying connected to work, school, family, and friends.
Kina, who is no stranger to life on the road, spent 13 years traveling the world as a pro downhill skier. Also, his line of work creating a digital platform for sharing content like photos and videos has given him the opportunity to work remotely while simultaneously helping others to stay connected with friends and family during the pandemic.
To make full-time "#vanlife" a reality, the Picketts bought an Airstream rigged with five solar panels, a 10-pack of LiPo batteries and an inverter, along with a composting toilet. This set up makes it possible for them to live off-grid, so they don’t need to plug in at busy campsites. While unplugged, the Picketts have managed stayed connected to friends, family, work, and school through hotspots, satellite connectivity, and apps that help them find cell coverage.
Their new normal means homeschooling in the great outdoors, seeing new parts of the country, and embracing the trials and tribulations of small-space living as a family of four.
We checked in with Kina to hear all about how the Pickett family is handling life on the open road and making the most of self-isolation.
Do you use the Airstream to work remotely?
We started this year in the Airstream, [and] it became very real once COVID happened. We were living completely off-grid before, then things got scary. We asked ourselves, "If we could do this from anywhere, how would this look?" That’s why we chose the Airstream — for safety, protection, durability, and comfort.
How is homeschooling your kids on the open road?
It’s going well. We just started. My mom is a retired educator with 40-plus years of experience, [and] she created a curriculum for our preschool- and first grade-aged children. Our Airstream has plenty of space to teach/learn inside, while the outside of the trailer provides a nature-scape backdrop. This has expanded our kids’ minds and ours, greatly.
How does the Airstream's interior work as a multi-use space — for homeschool and working remotely, along with cooking and hanging out?
It’s 27 feet long and it can get tight with me, my wife, two kids, and our dog. Most of the work and education happens up around the dinette. When it’s nice out, we work and educate our kids outside. We try to spend most of our time outside, depending on where we are.
What are the benefits of living in the trailer during the pandemic?
The whole reason we chose to live off-grid full-time was because of the Airstream. The point of this was protection from the elements and providing a usable home space for our family. When my family refers to home now, we mean the Airstream. This level of protection and comfort allows you to explore the country safely, even in a global pandemic. We’ve even built solid connections and relationships on the road.
What are some of the challenges of living on the road, in a small space, as a family of four?
The hardest part of living like this is trying to manage the kids’ expectations. It can be hard—long driving days just kill them. Once we are settled in a spot, though, it's a lot easier. The small space can be challenging when, for instance, we try to make dinner when it’s raining — the kids are going nuts, and the dog is in the trailer.
How do you all find "alone time" to decompress?
My wife and I usually trade days and do workouts in the morning outside when the kids are sleeping. We also read every night and drink tea when the kids are sleeping. It’s really nice and mellows you out after a crazy day.
What is your advice for those who are looking to live remotely and those who are new to this kind of nomadic lifestyle?
Planning is the big one. Also, really understanding how to shift your diet and how to entertain kids on long drives is important. We had to learn to set up a cadence for most things.
Getting into tight spaces was not a problem; the tricky thing is how much are you packing [and] are you finding good camping spots. You need to be very aware of your surroundings, too, and what’s happening in the world or at national parks or at campsites.
You need to be cognizant of power and water, with or without hookups, and balancing critical versus non-critical needs. Manage your cooling system with an expert eye.
It's a lot to remember, but overall the experience has been great.
What have been some of the family's favorite stops/points-of-interest since the pandemic?
The Black Hills in South Dakota and the Outer Banks of North Carolina were incredible, as well as the beaches around Sanibel and Captiva Island in Florida.
What do Nellie and yourself love most about this lifestyle right now?
We love the freedom of going to beautiful places, being off our screens, not watching shows, and just experiencing the world around us constantly.
And what do your kids love most about living on the road?
The kids love seeing animals, meeting new friends, and the ocean. The ocean is a big one.
Related Reading: A Vintage Airstream Trailer Is Now the Ultimate Live/Work Mobile
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