THE LONGNECKER FAMILY: @TINYSHINYHOME
By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas – 1/7/19
For the ninety ninth installment in our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orcas, we are very pleased to share the story of The Longneckers. A family of six living and traveling full time in their Airstream. You may know them as @TinyShinyHome.
Jonathan and Ashley Longnecker, along with their four children, have been living out of their Airstream for nearly two years now. They completely restored the classic travel trailer over a 6 month period and have been exploring as a family ever since. Which I think is pretty cool.
I was tipped off to their adventures by a previous Dirt Orca interviewee and also Airstream full timers, @4000Rivets.
Jonathan and Ashley have done a beautiful job with their conversion as you will see from their photos below. I recommend starting to follow them on social media if you aren’t already. You can find @tinyshinyhome on Instagram and Facebook.
Of course if you want to dig a bit deeper than this interview and their social accounts, I recommend finding your way to their website, tinyshinyhome.com. Here you will find an abundance of information about this family and their exciting way of life.
Their slogan on their website tells you all you need to know about their mentality. It reads “Live like you mean it”. It is a great reminder that intention and thoughtfulness do not have to be lost arts in this digital day and age.
Check out the interview and photos below.
What do you consider to be your place of work?
Jonathan works in our Airstream. He is a web designer/developer and has had his own company, FortySeven Media for 13 years. We’ve created a little standing desk work area with a mounted monitor and collapsible tripod mounted keyboard stand just outside of the kitchen area. He’s had a standing desk for around 7/8 years and much prefers it to sitting all day. It’s actually worked out perfectly since there’s not much of another option in our tiny home.
Tell me about your vehicle. What do you call it?
We live and work out of our 1972 Airstream Sovereign, lovingly called our Tiny Shiny Home. We purchased it in August 2016 and began working on it in September. We spent 6 long, hard months, with the help of Ashley’s dad, completely gutting and fixing it up to suit our family of 6 for full-time travel. We had previously been in a 2015 Grand Design Reflection 5th wheel for a year and half before we made the move to a much smaller, shorter, lighter rig.
Choosing to make the move from the 350 sq/ft 5th wheel to our 220 sq/ft Airstream has been the best decision we’ve made while traveling full-time with our kids!
What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you bought?
Just last December, 2017 we bought a 2017 F250 Super Duty (gas) after a year of struggling with diesel trucks. We are so happy with our truck now, and our kids have named it Shredder (big TMNT fans).
I cannot tell you how nice it is to be able to turn the key in that truck and know it will start! We had been camping in the middle of nowhere and our old truck would just decide not to start some days. It was unpredictable to say the least, and having the new truck has taken so much stress off of our shoulders.
Have you made any upgrades or changes to it?
For the truck we added a spray-in heavy duty bed liner, a nice locking roll-top cover to secure our belongings, and some beefy mud flaps to protect the trailer from rocks and debris.
As far as the Airstream, heck yes! With the help of my (Ashley) dad, we have done so much to it! We completely gutted it, took the interior walls off, rewired, re-insulated, fixed tons of leaks, replaced all the vent fans and the AC, replaced the rotted out bathroom floor, and completely gave it a new interior complete with bunk beds for our 4 kids, shower/tub, composting toilet, 12ft of counter space, marine fridge/freezer, new stove/range, enough kitchen storage to make all travelers cry, a dinette that transforms into a nearly king size bed at night, beautiful flooring and just the right amount of eclectic charm to make it feel like home. And we can’t forget about the 500 watts of solar on top and our 400 ah of lithium batteries making our Airstream an off-grid machine!
What is your favorite part about it living/working out of your vehicle?
By far, the best part is our ever changing backyard. Sometimes we’re working at the beach, sometimes the desert, and we’ve even worked/lived in the middle of a rain forest!
It also allows us to spend less time working and more time adventuring with our kids. Did we mention the commute time is pretty good, too?
What is your least favorite part about it?
My least favorite part about living in our Airstream is not having a garden or a workshop. I miss the conveniences of having a washer and dryer, a clothes line outside, and a big kitchen. But, our experiences while traveling and exploring full-time have topped all the conveniences that come with living conventionally.
How many miles have you put on your vehicle?
Since we first left in May 2015 we have logged over 100,000 miles (though on 3 different trucks, and 2 rigs)
What is the best place you have taken it?
Though it’s hard to pick a favorite, we love when we find incredible landscapes and no one around. Trona Pinnacles in California, the Sonoran Desert, a little town just outside of Yellowstone.
Is there just one?
There’s definitely not just one location that we love. We’ve seen some pretty amazing places, but we’ve learned to explore and enjoy wherever we end up, whether it’s the most picturesque place or not. Sometimes we’re mountain people, sometimes we’re beach people, and sometimes we’re desert dwellers. It just depends on the week!
Favorite road you’ve driven?
Oh man, probably the Icefields Parkway on our way to Athabasca Glacier. It was our first time in Canada and every turn was more incredible than the last. A view that will never be forgotten.
In one word, what describes your approach to life?
If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living from a vehicle, what would you tell them?
You have to be flexible! Things will go wrong and you just have to learn to roll with it. Things will break, things will leak, you’ll have days when you want to just sell it all and go back to the comforts of a traditional home, but if you stick it out, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best memories you’ll ever make.
It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your life where you became conscious that you were those kind of people?
No, I don’t believe there was one point where it just clicked. Jonathan had a friend who was traveling full-time with their 2 teenagers and they came to visit us at our home one day. From that meeting, I was hooked. I knew we could give it a shot and it’s been one of the best decisions we’ve made as a family.
You have found a strong place in the community of travelers. What values do you think your home or family instilled in you, that you take on the road?
You know it’s funny. I, Ashley, come from a very traditional, strict family. I have two older sisters and none of us have a traditional life. One of my sisters lives in a jungle in Papua New Guinea, and the other built herself a tiny house and lives off grid with her 3 boys. We often joke that our parents must be ‘so proud’ of how we turned out since none of us are living anything like the traditional life we had growing up.
We do however have full support from both our families, and the full-time traveling community has been incredible. We’ve met some of the best people while on the road, and really, they’ve become some of our closest friends.
I admire your outside the box approach to career and home. Do you see yourselves as people who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened?
We absolutely took a leap of faith when we began traveling full-time, but I do think our mindset of what was important to us began changing soon after we our kids reached school age. We just couldn’t see the benefit of them being away from us for 8 hours a day at a traditional school. We knew that home-school was for us, so why not travel to all the amazing places we were reading about? It just made perfect sense, and we love seeing and learning about all the amazing place together.
Where do you want to go next?
Geographically, we’ll be in the southwest for the winter. We LOVE southern Arizona and the free camping is spectacular. In the spring we hope to hit several states we haven’t seen yet, top of that list is Colorado!
This year we’ll be expanding our courses related to camping off-grid and traveling full-time. We had a great time teaching people this last year and hope to do more of it.
Also, we’ll be concentrating more on our video content for YouTube. We would love to make some great videos of our adventures to share with those who are considering traveling full-time. An honest look at what our life looks like and how a family of 6 can make it work in 220 sq ft while traveling North America!