Who are you and what is your backstory?
Hi! We’re Jonathan and Ashley Longnecker, also known as @tinyshinyhome. Jonathan (41) owns his own web design business which allowed us to travel full time and work on the road. Ashley (38) was the head route planner, dreamer, homeschool mom, and maker of delicious foods. We have four kids and traveled full-time for 5 years before settling down on our own off-grid property in Southeastern Arizona. We launched from Knoxville, TN where we sold our 2700 sq ft house and transitioned to a HUGE 5th wheel (which we thought was so small). It had 4 slide outs, a full bunkhouse, and a separate master bedroom. It was more like an apartment than an RV. We lived and traveled in that for a year before finding our love of boondocking and living off-grid.
Once we found out we preferred boondocking to the cramped campgrounds, we knew we needed to change up our rig and make it suit our lifestyle better. That led us to purchasing a 1972 Airstream and spending 6 months renovating it to be our off-grid adventure rig. We outfitted it with bunks for the kids, a composting toilet, 2 gray tanks, 500 watts of solar on the roof and 400 amp hours of lithium batteries. We were set!
Be patient! It took us a good 6 months to feel comfortable on the road. To get our ‘road legs’ we say.
We traveled in that Airstream for nearly 4 years before purchasing our off-grid property in Arizona where even now, we are still living in the Airstream while building our homestead from the ground up...literally. We’re building earthbag/hyperadobe structures in the desert using the earth from our land. We’re very excited about continuing to live tiny, use sustainable materials, and leave this place better than we found it.We are also documenting our entire homestead and hyperadobe construction journey through our YouTube channel Tiny Shiny Home.
Take us to the moment you decided to begin your RV life?
When living in our home back in Knoxville, Jonathan’s friend came by with his family and told us about how they’d been traveling full time in an RV for a year while working on the road. They were in the same line of work (web design) so naturally I was like, “Why are we not doing that?” We spent a good year researching the lifestyle and downsizing our belongings to be able to hit the road full time.
We just got to the point where we were thinking…”why not?” If it doesn’t work out we’ll buy another house and start over. There wasn’t a whole lot to lose, but we knew that if we didn’t do it then, we’d regret it. Our kids were at the perfect ages, 3, 5, 7 and 9 when we started traveling.
We had no problem downsizing and selling our belongings. To us, it’s just stuff. There were a few sentimental items that we kept at Jonathan’s parents house, but other than that, we sold it all or gave it away.
People always seem so concerned about how their kids will do socially. We weren’t really worried about that at all. We’ve always homeschooled so there were, no changes there....
A big motivator for selling it all was that we would be completely debt free. It was a great feeling to pay off that last bill with the proceeds of our house. We were ready for a new life of adventure with the kids by our side.
Tell us about the advantages to the RV lifestyle?
Traveling changed us in a really good way. We realized how little we really need to live day to day, plus we were able to give our kids an incredible education. Instead of just reading about the history, we were able to see these places with our own eyes, touch the land, and learn first hand about the history of our country.
Through the Junior Ranger Program at the National Parks Systems they learned so much, and have retained it even though they were so young. Still, to this day, they recite facts they learned at different parks that I had completely forgotten about. What a childhood
Tell us about the biggest challenges and downsides to the RV lifestyle?
One of the hardest parts about transitioning to RV life was having to deal with RV maintenance. Even though we had bought our 5th wheel brand new, there were so many times that something would break and we’d need to schedule it to be in the shop. Most of the RV Repair Shops wanted to keep our rig for months at a time. Not ideal when it’s your house!
That was also a big reason why we wanted to renovate an Airstream. That way we would know exactly where everything was and how to fix anything that would break. Renovating our Airstream has saved us thousands of dollars by being able to fix repairs ourselves while on the road.
Of course there were things we missed about living in a traditional house. I’d say an endless supply of water, a bathtub, and washing machine were at the top of the list. But with time, we learned how to use way less water. We would regularly stretch 40 gallons of water for 3-5 days at a time, and I also learned to love a laundromat. Instead of doing 1-2 loads of laundry a day like in our house, I could get a whole week’s worth of laundry done in just 2 hours at a laundromat. You just learn other ways of doing things. This lifestyle really requires one to become more flexible in their day to day.
How do you find a sense of community when you’re always moving? How do you maintain and build relationships on the road?
People always seem so concerned about how their kids will do socially. We weren’t really worried about that at all. We’ve always homeschooled so there were no changes there, but as for finding friends on the road, it wasn’t really a problem.
We hit the road at a good time. More families were out traveling full time while working on the road, and we were able to meet some of our best friends while traveling. It helped having 4 kids because there was always someone for them to play with. But really, we spent a lot of time just focusing on our family bond. We’ve always been close, but living on the road really forced us to rely on each other even more. Our kids are amazing and we are so thankful that we’ve been able to connect with them through these transitions, from RV life to now homesteading. We’re very close.
How do you support yourself financially?
Jonathan has had his own web design company, FortySeven Media, for almost 16 years now. His clients were all over the world so it was no problem for them that he was now traveling. He was able to cut back on some of his hours while we traveled so that we had more time to explore which was a huge blessing.
We were asked many times if we were independently wealthy but the truth is we still worked full time. Jonathan with his company and I was working on our travel blog. Traveling can be cheaper than living in a house, but for us we found it to be about the same cost. It all just depends on how you want to travel. We were able to save a lot of money by boondocking and living off grid most of the time in the Airstream.
What is your one piece of advice for people who want to do what you do?
Be patient! It took us a good 6 months to feel comfortable on the road. To get our ‘road legs’ we say. It was a lot of learning how to tow, how to park, how to hookup the trailer, being flexible with plans changing and things breaking. You really have to be okay with everything changing at the last minute. There were times we’d be without a vehicle because the truck broke down and we were stuck at a campground for a week without a ride. It’s not for everyone, but you just have to look at all the struggles with different eyes. Think of it as an adventure, or another chapter to your adventurous story.
What have been the most influential and helpful books, podcasts, blogs, websites or other resources?
The app we used the most was Campendium. We were able to find some incredible boondocking locations as well as some pretty great state parks and campgrounds.
What does the future look like?
We are excited for our spring/summer/fall travels and will be travelling to nine different states and connecting with family and friends along the way. We will be attending our first big RV meetup, visiting Yellowstone National Park, traveling the Pacific Northwest to the Southwest.
We purchased our own off-grid property in southeastern Arizona one year ago where we are still living in our Airstream while we build our homestead. We’ve leaned into the homesteading life and have goats, chickens, pigs, rabbits, a dog and a cat. We love it out here. It still feels like we’re boondocking, but we also are able to build our homestead from the ground up. We’ve just got the roof on our first hyperadobe structure and are excited to be able to use our earth on our property to build the walls of our buildings with earthbags.
Rapid fire questions
What are the top 3 RV essentials that you couldn’t live without?
Top 3 favorite places you’ve visited?
- Dry Tortugas
- Trona Pinnicles
- Ajo, AZ
Where are you now?
Cochise County, AZ
How long do you usually stay in one place?
While traveling, 1-2 weeks.
When did you first start RVing?
Are you full-time or part-time RVing?
We are now stationary as of May 2020
How many weeks have you spent in the RV in the last 12 months?
All the weeks :)
What kind of vehicle/rv/trailer/setup do you have?
1972 Airstream Sovereign - fully renovated
Where can we go to keep up with you and your adventures?