A Home on the Road

Tiny house living: Traveling with two cats in an Airstream on clinical rotations

Kaitlin Parks, OMS III, took a unique approach to clinical rotation travels by creating a home away from home in a travel trailer.

The trend of tiny houses has hit the medical community. Wanting to feel more at home on the road, Kaitlin Parks, OMS III, renovated a 1971 Airstream travel trailer to journey across Oklahoma during clinical rotations.

The Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine student built the space with the life of busy rotations in mind. With the help of her friends and family, the tiny house is decked out with all the necessities, such as a gas oven, desk, mobile hotspot, and of course, room for her two cats, Peter and Satsuki.

You can keep up with her adventures on Instagram.

The following is an edited Q&A about Parks’ clinical rotation travels with a home on wheels.

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Where did this idea of living in a travel trailer come from?

When I was growing up, my family would take vacations in a trailer. I loved having the ability to travel and also have a home at the same time. In medical school, you put so many things on hold when your peers are starting businesses and having kids. This was a way for me to have a project of my own and to have a sense of stability because our rotations take us every which way. I can have my own space to cook healthy food, a desk to study and spread out on, and I can bring my cats along instead of moving them around to stay with friends and family.

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How long did it take for your travel trailer renovations to come together?

The renovations took from April through December of last year, but I also spent nearly a year searching for the right trailer. After reading online forums, I decided I would get an Airstream. I liked the way they looked, and they were built very top of the line, so I thought of it as an investment, even though other newer trailers would have been less expensive. I felt pretty comfortable with the money I put into it.

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What have you learned from taking on this project?

I like to be independent and wanted an opportunity to learn more about basic home repair. When something breaks, I have to fix it. If I’m in a new area, I don’t necessarily have friends or family to come by and rescue me. Luckily, the only repairs I’ve had to make so far on the road have been minor.

What advice would you give to other students about life on the road during rotations?

Bring anything that makes you feel more at home and will remind you of why you’re on this journey. For my surgery rotation, I stayed in student housing because the site was close to my school. I put photos up of friends and family and brought my favorite books and textbooks and a quilt my mom made.

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Should other students consider this lifestyle for their rotations?

It took almost two years to find the right trailer and fix it up. This has been a really big adventure. It’s not much easier than living in student housing, but knowing I can come home and make a healthy dinner and my cats can sit on my lap while I study really has made it easier to focus on rotations. Everyone is different, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. It’s probably easier to live out of a bag or live in student housing for a while because it’s certainly not the easiest or cheapest route.

How did your cats adjust to life on the road?

They adjusted very quickly. In the first few minutes of exploring the trailer, Peter had plopped on the couch, and it was less than an hour before Satsuki curled up on my bed. I expect they felt at home since my belongings were all the same. I’ve trained them to sit, stay, shake and turn around for treats and meals, so there was an adjustment period for them to figure out where they were supposed to sit and stay, but that’s all ironed out now. They ride in their carrier in the car with me for safety when we are towing, but I make sure to take breaks while traveling so they can stretch out and use the litter box.

What are you going to do with your Airstream after you’re done with your rotations?

After putting so much work into it and making it mine, I’d like to keep it and use it for family vacations down the line.

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One comment

  1. Harold Kornylak, DO

    I also bought a used Airstream for my rotations at NECOM 1978-1983. Before the days of cell phones, I had a radio phone that I plugged into a hospital extension so I was “on call” 24/7 and thus got a lot of extra hands-on experience, which I needed because I was planning to do Indian Health Service. When in Bangor Maine in the winter, I had quite a coating of frost on the inside walls of the trailer! By the time the legal department decided I could not be on Hospital grounds, it was usually time to move on anyway.

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