This family had a baby, visited 33 states living in their Airstream

When Heather and Austin Holmes met in San Diego in February 2018, it didn’t take long before they knew they were in it for the long haul. They decided to make a life plan together and, like many young couples, had to choose where to live.

After more than a year of research, they decided to find the answer by embarking on a road trip exploring the United States via an Airstream attached to their van. While they were excited to see the country, they were really looking for the right place to put down roots. Starting in December 2019, they drove across the country, crossing 33 states including Tennessee, Ohio and Florida, spending a day or two in a new city to see how they liked it. As the pandemic halted most travel, the couple were able to continue using their Airstream, affectionately named Freya.

“When you live in an Airstream, I think you have more space and time to worry about what matters most,” Heather, officially known as Heather DeSantis, said of the experience. .

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Over the past three years, the couple have gone through milestones living full-time in the 23-foot-long Airstream, from dating, to getting married, to pregnancy and the birth of their daughter, Rose. They also made stops at Zion National Park, Key West, and Mount Rushmore, to name a few.

The couple towed their Airstream across the country via a van.

Although the couple are now planning to build a home in Morganton, North Carolina, they know the Airstream will continue to play a vital role in their family.

The couple spoke to USA TODAY about how they fit into their life in a van, what it was like to be pregnant in such a small space and learn more about the Airstream lifestyle . The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did Freya get into the plan?

Heather and Austin Holmes with their Airstream named Freya.

Austin: When I was going on deployment in November 2018, we looked at all of our options, how are we going to jump on Airbnb? Are we going to build a van because it was the right thing to do then? … I had friends who bought surf vans and adventure vans. Then we kind of fell in love with Airstream and the culture behind it, and just having a bit more space, like having your home and all your comforts with you while you travel. We wanted the travel piece, and we also wanted to know where we wanted to live.

Heater: We went to the different visitor centers to see what there was to do in each town. A lot of it was to see what it was like for young people. What’s it like to have a family? If you are creative? Or, if you are an entrepreneur, how does it work? We looked at how much sun, how much snow, and we literally had a spreadsheet. From there came a formula to get to where we are now: we chose North Carolina in the mountains between Charlotte and Asheville.

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What’s been the biggest surprise when it comes to living in the Airstream?

Austin: The actual driving takes a bit of time, but I’d spend a third of my time doing this organizing work to figure out, okay, where are the places we’re going to go? What are we going to see ? Reserve everything. It takes a long time to do it. Luckily, I made a bunch of Navy travel plans, so I already knew my stuff.

Just like a regular house, things in the Airstream break too. Your faucets will break, and anything else, like a pipe, will crack, or the current will do something weird. It’s pretty constant, honestly, especially as you move around, everything shakes. Something breaks, like every month. Most of the time they are not adults.

Austin built a standing desk for Heather to make remote working easier.

Heater: My perspective would be to work virtually. When I started my business in 2016, we were virtual, so we could hang out there, but I had to live on a hotspot and a booster. Austin also built a standing desk in the Airstream, so I had a dedicated workspace that fit in perfectly. He lifts it, which was really great to have.

How would you describe the nomadic way of life?

Airstream of the couple near the mountains.

Heater: Every part of life flows together, and that’s what we wanted. The whole work-life balance isn’t what we’re looking at; instead, we’re like, how can we integrate our lives so that everything works together? For example, when choosing places to go, we ask how can we have a business meeting, then be at a quirky, funky cafe, then go see a show.

Austin: We don’t need a lot of space, like Heather’s apartment in San Diego was like 500 square feet or something, and, you know, I’d lived on a ship in the military, so not much space there.

Heater: It was more difficult for me to really go down to the basics, like having a basic set of clothes to wear regularly. When you live in an Airstream, I think you have more space and time to worry about what matters most, like taking an extra hour to curl your hair when you could be in a coffee shop, doing hiking or going on an adventure. You don’t want to waste your time.

What was it like being pregnant on the road?

The couple in their Airstream while Heather was pregnant.

Heater: It’s so interesting. People stress about having a nursery, having a baby shower, and having all those things. But at the end of the day, when you don’t have a lot of space, you don’t have many options to create all those extra things for your baby. We have a girl who needs love, attention, music and dancing, but she doesn’t need a lot. Luckily, and luckily, we do co-sleeping and it was great. It was not difficult at all. Like I think the hardest thing was when I tried to use a pregnancy pillow, and the bed is so small. So there’s almost no room in the bed, right? Like how to sleep on your side with a pregnancy pillow in an Airstream? But the pregnancy pillow was more work.

Austin: I became the pregnancy cushion. Yeah, I honestly think I was more worried about that because we started looking at other options like where we’re going to live. We are currently under contract for the house. But I was worried like, oh, is this gonna work out with the kid? And it totally is. You have this element where you can hang out, like you spend a lot more of your life not sitting on the couch because you don’t have a couch.

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What was your favorite part of life in the Airstream?

Heater: I would just say that I can be close to your family. It’s not a lot of room, so you can get to know your family really well.

When we went to the Grand Canyon and Zion, I felt like a lot of people were older. It’s such a gift to be able to work from home and travel, it just gives you more opportunities to not have to wait for a retirement lifestyle. However, you will have to work hard to make it work. As for me, I get up at 4 a.m. and work until 1 p.m. so I can go to the park in the afternoon. It’s really exciting that people can create this lifestyle now.

Any advice for people who want to try the van life?

Heater: My advice would be to do so. I’ve always been one to follow your intuition. But also do a lot of research. There are so many blogs, Facebook groups and YouTube channels to follow. You can also contact full-time Airstream people. If anyone is reading this and they’re like, oh, I want to do this, you should definitely do this.

USA Today

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