There have been plenty of times in the past several weeks that Olivia Berg has questioned her choice of living in a 180-square-foot trailer with her husband, 4-year-old daughter and Labrador retriever puppy for the next two years.
A freak mountain rainstorm in Idaho proved too much for their 50-year-old retrofitted trailer’s windows and the family used every towel to prevent being waterlogged.
The trailer’s air conditioning unit created such a horrid smell one day that they couldn’t even stand to be inside.
Then there are the endless hours on the road and the possibility that you may not be able to take a hot shower for days at a time.
“We have so many mishaps,” said Berg, 25. “It’s not picture perfect.”
But then she remembers how they went swimming and hiking in those mountains, and only a week or so later, being in the redwood forests of Northern California. She loves all the hidden places they’ve explored, the people they’ve met.
“The call of adventure and wandering had just been in our hearts for a while,” she said. “And I think everyone has that in them.”
Olivia Berg, along with husband Tanner Berg, their 4-year-old daughter Oakley and Labrador retriever puppy Copper, have now spent more than a month on the road together in their rehabbed trailer, affectionately named McStreamy.
It’s the beginning of a planned two-year adventure during which they’ll explore the West and other parts of the country as they document it online and, hopefully, strike a blow for focusing on experiences rather than possessions.
The Bergs were pretty set before they decided to downsize. They had Oakley when they were young, and it pushed them to be careful and calculated in providing for their small family, Olivia said. With Olivia working as a drug and alcohol interventionist and track coach at Pasco High School, and Tanner, 26, as a lineman for Benton PUD, they built up a nest egg and bought a farmhouse in the country.
As they acquired more “toys,” they bought another piece of land and looked to build a bigger home there. It was looking for a temporary way to live on that property that led Olivia to the McStreamy, an AirStream trailer, for sale in West Richland.
But the more she thought about building that house and filling it with all their stuff — including a boat, quad and snowmobile — and holding down a job just to afford it all, the less appealing it sounded. The trailer and its ability to go anywhere, however ...
“I just got this idea, ‘We could live in this,’ ” the former educator said.
Inspired by the tiny house movement, which advocates people rid themselves of clutter and live in homes no bigger than a couple of hundred square feet, Olivia said she saw the trailer as a way to get back in touch with what really mattered. It took some time, and a renovation of the trailer by a Tri-City company, but she convinced Tanner that they should quit their jobs and travel the West.
They started out in Montana, exploring mountain lakes and waterfalls. They’re currently spending time along the Northern California coast. All along the way Olivia has documented their travels with Instagram account “silver_lining_usa” and on her blog, silverliningusa.com.
She also writes about the issues the family faces on the road, such as finding quality education apps for Oakley to use or how to make hikes fun and comfortable with a toddler.
“We can fly at the seat of our pants,” Tanner said.
The Bergs haven’t completely abandoned the Tri-Cities. A number of summer and fall weddings, plus hunting season, will mean they need to be back in the area every two to three weeks, Olivia said. And they aren’t fully unemployed, either — Tanner looks for freelance lineman work when the family is settled down for a time. Olivia, who is also a graphic designer, is doing freelance work and recently opened an online shop available through her blog.
The couple’s adventure isn’t a new phenomenon, as is the blog Tiny House Great Journey or the Instagram account vanman, have shirked the traditional 9-to-5 job to travel the country and document it all for their followers.
The couple acknowledges that not everyone has the freedom or desire to travel and live in a small trailer.
But Olivia said she’s seen the numbers of people following her online accounts boom since she launched her blog in recent weeks and has had great feedback. Her motivation is more to inspire people to be more thoughtful in how they lead their lives and how they can still be adventurous by looking for hidden spaces around them.
“It’s dealing in the currency of time instead of possessions,” Olivia said.
The family does miss some of their creature comforts — a place to always call home, a coffee shop always nearby — but they are reveling in their adventure, they said. And since they can go anywhere, anytime, they certainly aren’t going to miss Eastern Washington’s cold winters.
“I’m looking forward to going to the Southwest, like the old people do,” Tanner said, laughing.