As a kid, I didn’t pay much attention to mobile homes, travel trailers, and the like—they were rich people’s vacation toys, and my family was wasn’t rich and didn’t go on vacation very often. Decades later in the 1990s, when Lobo and I embarked upon an adventure to Mexico in a heavily-laden 1970s era motor home, I was introduced to the mobile lifestyle ... and have been warming to it ever since. With friends spread across this continent and beyond, prices of lodging and food rising, and wanderlust ever-present in my blood, some kind of mobile living solution seems ideally suited to my circumstances. And thus it was that I set off in search of the ideal one for me.
Freewheeling Homes, one of a series of home-oriented books by David Pearson, immediately caught my eye because the cover features a Tumbleweed Tiny House, which I’m on record as admiring for a few years now. While there is little practical, do-it-yourself information in this slim book, it is nonetheless loaded with inspiration. From brief historical perspectives on nomadic lifestyles in both Europe and North America to its wide-ranging coverage of the subject, an implicit theme in the text is, “This is a natural way to live too, and you can do it if you want to.”
Many of the chapters seem to focus on European caravans, not surprisingly since Pearson is a London-based architect. Yet an American with a creative bent could easily view the photographs of vardos, bowtops, and shepherd’s huts, and create a similarly stunning home on wheels with, say, an old hay wagon as its base—or re-create a prairie schooner, which was crucial in the expansion of this country and is given a brief nod in the book. And while many of his featured homes are pulled by animals, Pearson does address more modern mobility, featuring the Airstream travel trailer along with other vintage units, as well as the popular American pastime of school bus conversions.
Brimming with beautiful photographs and text mostly in the owners’ own words, Freewheeling Homes is an enticing introduction to the scope of the possibilities for those wanting a unique, mobile home. A concise but information-dense section titled Make It, along with a helpful resources section, provide pointers for those ready to start on their freewheeling home adventure.
Portable Houses, also an attractive and slim hardbound book, focuses more on the modern and motorized. Another difference in focus from Pearson’s book is evaluating livability: comfort and cooking are subtle but recurring subtexts throughout both pictures and text. Each chapter—Trailers, Buses & RVs; Teepees, Tents &Yurts; and Odds & Ends are a few—focuses on various solutions to the unique aspects of that kind of mobile living, via vignettes of people who’ve been through the process. Some did it themselves, while others hired out the rehab/renovation work. At the end of each vignette is a helpful overview of the nuts and bolts for your own project: what to look for; what to avoid; price issues; and so forth.
The vignettes offer both inspiration and practical ideas, such as using a metal bowl for a sink or the feasibility of approaching a rehab from an unusual angle. Rawlings and Abel excel at letting the owners’ devotion to their projects shine in both text and abundant photographs. And, in addition to the more typical mobile living fare, Portable Houses offers unusual solutions in two chapters—Trains, Planes & Boats, and Odds & Ends. Sadly for the seafaring, only one boat—a rehab of a gorgeous yacht—is featured. The growing interest in reusing packing crates and other shipping containers as housing gets a mention, as do other, more primitive light-on-the-land living spaces. A diverse Tools for the Trip chapter and decent resources section close out the book.
Between the two of them, Freewheeling Homes and Portable Houses offer healthy doses of inspiration and information to help a travel-loving soul identify a living space to suit his needs and desires. For those who like to sit at home and dream of a wanderer’s life, the photography and appealing text make both books good choices for coffee table display. I just happened to choose these two books as part of my research into mobile living possibilities, but I doubt I could find a better overall perspective than this combination.