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Why These Navy Veterans Chose Truck Camper Life For Now

Rebecca and Stuart were stationed together in Cuba while in active Navy service, and then spent three years long-distance when they were stationed in two different places. Once they left the military, they weren’t ready to buy a house and didn’t know where they wanted to settle down, so living in an RV seemed like the perfect solution.

While it was only supposed to be temporary, when the world shut down in 2020 they found their nomadic lifestyle more and more attractive. They ended up getting a different RV that was easier to travel in, and that’s what you’ll see below! Make sure to read our Q&A with them after the pictures.

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Navy Vets & Their Dogs in 1997 Bigfoot Over-Cab Camper

It started out with some great 90s upholstery.

Here’s another before picture.

And here’s the after!

They added some metal for flame-protection

It’s always nice to have an extra drying area.

Looking at the back of the rig.

They have a cute little bathroom.

They recovered the benches.

I love the braided piece over the bed.

What cute furry friends!

A nice spot to keep their guitar.

Could you live in an RV like this?

The happy couple.


What got you into tiny living?

My fiance Stuart and I are both prior military. We enlisted in the Navy and met while stationed overseas in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. We began dating three years later, after we had left Cuba and were stationed on the East Coast. Stuart was in Virginia and I was in Connecticut. We used to take turns driving eight hours one way, one weekend a month to see each other. For the first two years of our relationship we were long distance. As our military contracts neared their conclusion, we knew two things, 1) we weren’t staying in the northeast, and 2) we weren’t willing to throw thousands of dollars a year away renting an apartment- but we weren’t ready to buy a house. So that’s where tiny living came in. Initially, it was actually Stuart’s idea (encouraged by my dad), but I was totally onboard. I’d always wanted to do something like that. We bought a 2013 Shasta Osasis travel trailer and renovated it top to bottom. Originally, it was only intended to be a solution to our housing while we went to school at a university in Texas. But then everything imploded in 2020, and we started studying online and traveling more. We fell in love with the independence this lifestyle can create. We ended up selling the travel trailer in the Fall of 2022 and buying the rig we have now, a 1997 Bigfoot cab-over camper. We wanted something mobile that we could travel more easily in (our last rig was 30ft long!!).

Did you build your home or buy it? How long did the process take?

We bought our rig from a beautiful couple in Colorado, who have become very dear friends. We considered building something, but there are a lot more variables you need to consider for something like that, and we had a very specific idea of what we wanted. The Bigfoot campers fit that bill. They’re built in Canada and are renowned for their superior craftsmanship and durability. Our camper has lived up to that in every way. We knew that we would be able to renovate it and turn it into an amazing home. Stuart found the listing on Craigslist while we were working at an RV park in Idaho in 2022. When that job ended, we scooted down to Colorado to have a look. It was love at first sight. Less than a week after we first laid eyes on it, we signed the bill of sale and it was ours! We’ve since christened our rig ‘Atshen’ which is a Canadian first people’s (Atikamek and Tete-de-Boule, specifically) word for ‘Bigfoot’. Since August of ’22 we have slowly been renovating and updating the camper, and although we are not finished yet, we’ve accomplished so much, and it’s been so cool seeing how everything has come together.

How do you make money on the road?

Since we are both veterans, we are entitled to a disability compensation, which is essentially a check from the US Government every month, in return for the wear and tear we accrued during our service. We are also both in school full-time. I am currently using the Post 9/11 GI Bill and Stuart is using VR&E, both of which are federally funded education programs made specifically for veterans. In addition, Stuart runs a small business called Griff’s Performance Shop, and I do various jobs through social media. Aside from one-off exceptions here and there, we never pay to stay in an RV park. During the winter months, we work camp at parks in Texas, and during the summer, we find work camping jobs in places we’ve never been to, and we work there. Sometimes those gigs are paying, sometimes they’re not, but it gives us a base to explore out from and some consistency, which is nice. Atshen has a battery bank that we can charge up, and before the year is out, we will have solar on the roof, so we never really need to pay to stay anywhere. If we want to go somewhere we just go, and we have everything we need. We have multiple streams of revenue which I think is pretty common in the nomad space.

How has tiny living changed your life (for better or worse)?

I feel like it has simplified things a lot. We are a lot less encumbered by material things, simply because we don’t have the space for it. Although that can be a bit of a mixed bag sometimes, by and large we both like the simplicity. We have a degree of freedom that you just don’t have if you live in a house or apartment. We can pick up and go just about anytime we like, and no matter where we are, we get to sleep in our own bed every night. We haven’t stayed in a hotel in years and that’s been amazing. On a broader scale, it’s given us skills we didn’t have before, everything from off-grid solar to plumbing to carpentry, and everything in-between. On an interpersonal scale, it’s strengthened our relationship because living tiny tends to highlight the areas you need to work on, such as communication and teamwork. We are not the same people now that we were when we started out, and our lifestyle has a lot to do with that. For us, the pros outweigh the cons, and as long as that continues to be true, this is something we’ll continue to do. We probably won’t always live in a house with wheels full-time, but it will always be a part of our lives, and the skills we’ve learned doing this are going to carry over as we move forward.

What’s the hardest part of tiny living?

The hardest part has been dealing with the disasters. It’s not a matter of “if” something will go wrong, it’s a matter of “when”. And it’s almost guaranteed to be exceedingly inconvenient when it happens. We’ve dealt with it all, from water intrusion and water damage, to busted axels, to overheated engines, to flat tires, to electrical woes…. You name it. And unlike in a big house, where if something breaks, you can usually get a bit of space from it, go to another part of the house, that’s not an option in a tiny home. It’s all right there in your face, and you kind of have to deal with it immediately. Additionally, everything is… well, tiny. So it can be tricky getting into small spaces to fix things. It all can be really draining and exhausting, and if you’re not the kind of person who can roll up their sleeves and get dirty, it’s going to be tough.

What’s the most rewarding part?

The most rewarding part is enjoying the fruits of your labor. Whether that’s relaxing in front of a stunning vista after a day (or days) of driving, or basking in the afterglow of a completed project, it’s all so incredibly satisfying and empowering. We’ve both learned so much and grown so much as adults doing this. Even the bad times have been valuable teachers, inoculating us to stress and upheaval and teaching us that we’re resilient and that we can get through anything. I don’t think there is anything quite like sitting back and seeing the life that you have created, knowing that it is 100% because of your effort and time. That’s definitely the best part.

Any advice for people looking to go tiny?

My advice is to lean into minimalism a bit. Get comfortable with getting rid of stuff. You don’t need half of the things you think you do to be happy, and living tiny is all about cutting through the bs and simplifying things. If you can do that, it’s really freeing. Secondly, get ready to learn a lot and be okay with not knowing that much when you start out. There’s a learning curve to everything, and that’s okay! The internet is free and there is a wealth of information at your fingertips. And lastly, know that there is no single “right way” to do things. This lifestyle is so customizable, and everyone has their own take on it. If it’s something you genuinely want to do, you can do it! There is absolutely a way! And as long as you’re doing it for the right reasons, it can be an incredibly rewarding, satisfying way to live.

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.
{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Marsha Cowan
    March 29, 2023, 8:16 pm

    It’s a really lovely camper. Looks easy to live in it. Good job!

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