by Abigail Epperson

When you live tiny, you live in close quarters. There’s no getting around that. Your days are spent in a small space, in closer proximity with your loved ones, and often if you need space, you go outside. It’s a deliberate way of life, and one Jason and I felt really drawn to as our family began to grow. For us, it works, but it works because we recognize that not everyone wants to be with everyone 24/7/365. We all need our space, and it’s important for our family that bus life include spaces all our own, and that we have a strategy in place for resetting ourselves and our kids when close just becomes overwhelming.

We knew going into this life we wanted everyone to have a space to call their own. We wanted each boy to have their own bunk, to decorate it with things that were important to them, and to have a curtain they can close when they need some quiet time. For me, it was really important I have a bedroom space that is mostly just for Jason and I. Of course, we are family bed people, and often Henry shows up in the middle of the night and snuggles down between the two of us. The kids and I do our nightly reading in my bed and often they fall asleep with me and Jason has to move everyone in order to come to bed, but all those family habits aside, I still wanted a space all our own with a door that could be shut and offer privacy and quiet from all the noise.

Nightime conversation from their bunks.

So we did those things and I’ve shut the door many times and just sat on my bed in quiet while chaos whirled on the other side. The kids will often close up shop (their curtains) and look at books, or draw, or play with toys. Their walls are adorned with posters, art, letters from friends, pictures, whatever it is in that moment they are into can usually be found on their walls.

But what do you do when being in a tiny space is just too much? Because that is going to happen. You are going to have days, moments where you, your kids, your partner, just aren’t getting along. People are full of emotions and sunshine and lollipops is one of them, but so are rain drops and thunderstorms. So what do you do when you feel like you and your family are standing at the gates of Mordor? Well, you make like Aragorn and head into battle, or on a less dramatic note, think about going outside. The outdoors is our go-to when things aren’t going well inside. We hike, we go for a walk, we send the kids out, I go for a run, Jason goes for a ride, we get in the car and go for a drive, whatever we decide to do we do it outside of the bus. Yes, people will still be mad, and often our kids claim they don’t want to go out, but you know what? It works. 80% of the time, every time.

Hiking near our campground in Yankton, South Dakota

For example, we recently had a situation where one kid was just mad at the world, mad at everyone and everything in it. His brothers were public enemy number one and eventually, they grew tired of his constant rudeness and fighting ensued. Jason and I tried to talk him through it, help him understand that his big feelings were keeping him from all the good that was in his day, but he just wasn’t having it and he continued to grow more frustrated at his inability to articulate what was happening. I felt a mingle of sorrow and exasperation and could feel myself starting to grow really short with him, Jason too, so I told everyone to put their shoes on, we took a break from work and we went for a walk around the campground.

Sunshine, a cool breeze, fresh air, and at one point just me and the angry kid walking alone while he spilled every single thing in his heart and head that was making him angry. I didn’t try to reason with him, I didn’t try to explain to him that some of his scenarios weren’t exactly accurate, I just listened, and you know what, he slowly started to calm down and I could see all the anger melting off him as we walked.

I also realized at that moment that I need to do a lot more listening and a lot less fixing with my boys. Sometimes, people need to be heard and not told how to make things better. They don’t want to understand the other people in the scenario they just want someone to listen to them. That’s hard for me. I’m a fixer for sure, especially with my boys, but sometimes they don’t want a fixer-upper they want a listen-upper. You just never know what you’ll learn when you go for a walk.

Hiking at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota

Whether you live tiny for a weekend, a few months, or you take the leap and decide to full-time travel, family life can be overwhelming and sometimes the people you love the most are the people who are most likely to drive you crazy.

But—and this is a big “but”—if you go into knowing that there will be times you need your space or a change of scenery, tiny living can be a life changing experience. It can open up family dynamics you didn’t know were possible, and really help you zone in on what is important and how best to go about achieving those goals.

And one final word, even the best of partners, the ones you can’t imagine life without, need space from one another, so don’t think you can’t have alone time from your whole family. You can. I find running to be a lovely way to spend an hour every day.

View during a run along the Rio Grande