It was spring 2012. Michael’s last day in the Army was a few months ago and I was in the busiest semester of graduate school. It was a difficult time as our daily lives felt intensely different. Michael had just left behind a world where he confidently ran military operations and mentored soldiers. I was working at two internship clinics, PLU’s couple and family therapy center and Auburn Youth Resources. I was behind in client contact hours so I had taken 5-10 extra clients to make up the deficit. This lead to most of my days being 12-14 hours long. The adjustment was a struggle. Michael did great at filling his time applying for jobs and had already been accepted to graduate school set to start in the fall. But I think it was hard for him to spend most days alone during such a big transition. I myself was struggling with this point in school. I felt the lack of hours were a reflection of inadequacies and I feared I didn’t belong. It was a time of great stress.
From this stress an idea was born. Michael and I had one month off together after I graduated and before he started school. I got into learning about tiny houses and we both loved the idea. The tiny house revolution lead to me researching buying a camper or trailer. However, they were so expensive! So I then started researching building a truck canopy so that we could sleep in the back of the truck. And finally through looking up plans for truck canopies, I found truck camper plans. Not only were the camper plans only $15.00, the website also linked to people who were blogging about building the camper plans. The latest one was only a couple years before so we figured, they must still be sound plans. We were so curious and blown away by the idea of building a cab over truck camper. It was irresistible.
The plans arrived in May of 2012. We read through the organized list of parts and materials and began to budget. When Michael told his dad what he was up to his dad stated that he wanted to help by “sending the green truck.” We were so excited! Now we could just budget for shipping the truck and the building materials. We had plans and a truck!
We began to come up with ideas about where to take the truck. Maybe a west coast trip? Or south west? And as our camper plans developed, our trip plans developed. If we had a small kitchen, a bed, a heater, a bathroom…. Why not drive to Asheville North Carolina? A complete cross country trip.
Michael worked hard on the camper as I completed graduate school. There were days when I came home blown away by what he accomplished. There were other days when Michael labored away for hours, only completing a small part. And as my school schedule began to ease, the finish line in sight, I began to help build. We worked late into the evenings until we could no longer see. We argued, we celebrated, we laughed, cried, and drank a lot of beer and ate a lot of pizza.
We ended up working feverishly through the whole month we had off together. The trip never happened. At the time, I was devastated. I was so upset that we didn’t get time off together. Life felt so crowded by obligation. But the entire exterior of the camper was finished by that fall. And to be honest, it took us three months to take it anywhere after that. We were so exhausted by that year.
Fast forward to April 7, 2013. We arrived home to find the kitchen of our rental house in flames. I will never forget the moment the fire fighter came out of the house to us standing in shock in the driveway. He reported, “your house is unsafe to stay in tonight. And to be honest it may be a few months until you can return. Do you have a place to stay?” Michael and I looked at the camper and laughed. “Yes, we do have place to stay!” In hindsight, it wasn’t the best idea, but we lived in the camper at my moms for 6 weeks. We were so cautious of the insurance company we wanted to preserve our savings as much as possible.
The camper then served as a home again when we moved out of our home in Gig Harbor. We stayed in it the night before we left for Europe. When we returned from Europe we stayed in it again for a couple weeks before moving to Bend, Oregon.
Then it happened. We finally took the cross-country trip to Asheville we had always planned. After two years, a truck upgrade, and some finish work, it made the voyage, serving as our tiny home along the way. It wasn’t the long luxury trip we had hoped for but it was a lot of fun!
When reflecting on the camper I can’t help but feel it was a project much larger than us. It has been the one constant in a few tumultuous years of change. It has provided shelter, been a learning experience, and a continued project that fosters dreams. It appears the camper had known all along that it was destine to make it to Asheville.