I don’t normally buy cookbooks, but during a recent trip to Alaska, I picked up the delightful cookbook “My Tiny Alaskan Oven” by LaDonna Rose Gunderson. LaDonna is married to a Norwegian fisherman and she and her husband, Ole, live for five months out of the year on their 32-foot commercial fishing vessel in Ketchikan. Continue reading
Many shepherd wagons don’t have the functionality of a tiny home and are not really for full time living, however Barrel Top Wagons near Dartmoor National Park in southern England might be building some of most beautiful and practical mobile wagons around. Now they just have to make it over the the U.S. Continue reading
by oPhelia and Julien
Our story begins with 2 city-dwellers and their little dog who love being in nature We spend most of our time off playing in the great outdoors: rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing etc. Two years ago, we made the leap and rented a cabin in the forest nestled in the mountains. After a year, we decided that we wanted something of our own. Unfortunately, we were not able to find land that we loved and that didn’t require us to sign over the rest of our active lives to a mortgage (we live in one of the most expensive real estate areas in North America). That’s when we got creative and this school bus home came to be.
We live in our school bus all year-round. It is currently parked on a bio-dynamic farm with cows, chickens, horses and plenty of forest along a river. After just one year of being in it, we have paid it off and the rent for the land is a quarter of the rent of living in the city. Our plan is to one day find land that we love and to drive our bus home there. At that point, we can continue to live in the bus as is… or expand it (adding an extension and/or a second floor)… or build an actual house and turn the bus into a B&B… or use the bus as a guesthouse… or even sell it… The possibilities are endless!
School bus living reflects our values. We believe in living simply (i.e. not having too much ‘stuff’ and having a smaller footprint on the earth). We value our time and prefer to spend it doing the things that we love rather than spending countless hours at work to pay off a huge mortgage. We found a way to minimize our expenses without compromising having a beautiful home. We built it into the wood cabin that we dreamed of – the interior is lined with wood, from the floor to walls to ceiling. It is a super cozy space with all the modern luxuries: a gas stove (and oven), fridge, washer/dryer, shower/toilet, on-demand hot water, electric heaters.
When we look out of our (many) windows, we see only trees and mountains. We are a short walk to the river and the lake, and a bike ride away from the Pacific Ocean. We have access to fresh eggs and milk from happy animals and a plethora of organic veggies from our farmer/gardener neighbours. If we drive one hour in one direction, we arrive in Vancouver – and have all that a big city has to offer. Half an hour in the other direction brings us to Whistler – a world famous ski resort and mountain town (2010 Winter Olympics). When we are not outside, we can be found on a yoga mat, at the library, talking about the meaning of life, or drinking wine. Our bus home allows us to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world in an affordable way that does not require us to compromise our values and way of life. Not to mention that it is just cool to live in a big yellow school bus!
We have documented the journey of school bus conversion (from bus seats to cozy cabin living) in our blog: teenytinyliving.blogspot.com
Our bus is also published in the book: Tiny Homes on the Move
oPhelia (Julien & Pico)
My life was wearing me out, so four years ago I left a high-rise condo in Seattle’s Capitol Hill and moved aboard my Valiant 40 sailboat, Koyah. My condo was 750 square feet, which is small enough… but Koyah has less than 250 square feet of living space (though it’s hard to be precise about living space on a sailboat.)
I’ve moored my home in various neighborhoods around Seattle and the Sound, from Fremont to Shilshole/Ballard to Anacortes up north, but I’m currently living in La Conner, Washington.
I’ve made the living space on Koyah comfortable with small but pretty decorative touches. Many people who come aboard are surprised by how homey it feels. The bunks are cozy, the narrow salon makes a great conversation pit, and the galley is always well stocked. We’ve got everything we need to be happy in this small space.
Compared to life in a condo in the big city, life on a boat is simpler and more meaningful. The living space is small, so my boyfriend and I spend plenty of time out in our environment. We’ve built a small hydroponic garden on Koyah’s aft deck and use what we grow to supplement foraged meals. Fresh-caught Dungeness crab is a favorite, and we love gathering mushrooms in the woods near us around La Conner. We’ve both taken up the hobby of carving wooden spoons from driftwood and other found wood, too.
One of the best parts of living on a boat is the view. It beats looking at city streets and traffic any day, and if you get sick of looking at the same waterway, you can head for the islands and anchor somewhere else for a change of scenery.
Since downsizing and simplifying, I’m working fewer hours, but I actually keep more of my paycheck than I did when I was paying for a condo and living in the city, working 40+ hours a week. Changing my lifestyle and going small has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I feel like I’m finally living my own life instead of allowing my lifestyle to control me.
By the way, for those who are wondering, it takes more moxie than money to make a change like this. You can follow us at http://facebook.com/handsandropes for tips on how to live well by living with less.
You wake up, put on your house shoes, throw on last night’s clothes that still lay in a pile on the floor, amble down to the lobby (of course stopping to speak to the college co-ed manning the front desk), grab a paper from the lobby coffee table, and stop at the occasional table behind one of the oversized couches, just long enough to get a cup of coffee and say good morning to a couple other familiar faces. And so begins life as a full-time resident in a hotel. Okay, so the hotel sounds a bit more posh than perhaps what you or I may be able to swing. But it does sound pretty amazing, no?
photo of the Adina Apartment Hotel Norwest in Baulkham Hills, Australia
I can easily think of a number of perks that living in a hotel might provide including free and reliable WiFi, on-site fitness room, access to a pool, fresh towels upon request, in-house laundry service, and even an on-site restaurant/bar! The idea of living in a hotel is not so far fetched either. In fact, a number of celebrities have called hotels home though the years.
New York’s Hotel Chelsea – a Queen Anne-style landmark that first opened as an apartment cooperative in 1883 – served as home for the likes of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Arthur Miller. Overlooking L.A.’s Sunset Boulevard, the Chateau Marmont has been home, sweet, home for people like Greta Garbo, Robert DeNiro, and Johnny Depp while the St. Regis in Washington, DC counts among its past residents, Howard Hughes, the eccentric billionaire. And those are just a few.
On a more practical note though hotel living is a style of tiny house living on its own. Most rooms available for long-term lease are only about 325 square feet according to BoardingArea.com and feature a small kitchen, a bathroom (usually with tub/shower kit), a master bedroom (2 queens or 1 king), a sitting area, and some sort of workspace be it a simple desk or a fully dedicated corner. It features the essentials; typically nothing more and nothing less. But is it feasible? Can one truly live in a hotel? Absolutely!
NOTE: The hotels talked about in this post are usually called “apartment-style” hotels. Rates are based on a minimum of a month’s stay (30 days).
POTENTIAL PERKS OF HOTEL LIVING
- No long term commitment. Perhaps you have been bitten by the traveling bug and have a location-independent job? Maybe you don’t want to build a tiny house trailer or live in an RV or even sublet a room in a house. This might be the best arrangement. It offers privacy, small amounts of luxury, and a lot of freedom.
- Choice. When I moved to Brooklyn some years ago I was limited to my budget in a major way. I could choose between a 7th floor apartment with only two windows and bathroom at the end of the hall or a garden apartment that literally faced The Garden; a sushi restaurant that was open 24-hours. Luckily something else came along out of the blue. But when when you live in a hotel you can decide what you want to be close to, what kind of atmosphere you want, and how large/small you want your accommodations. Remember, this is not a long term commitment so it can be changed quite regularly with no penalty.
- On-Site Services. While most full-time hotel dwellers don’t abuse this service there is still housekeeping and room service available. You can have fresh towels as you need/want them. You can have someone else make your bed. You can have someone replace your dirty dishes. The list goes on. It is important to note though that because you are living there you will gain some sort of reputation (be it good or bad) and tipping is STILL polite. Skipping this and doing things on your own could save you money and make you great friends in the building.
- Free newspapers, coffee/tea and/or breakfast. This is typically included in your rate so feel free to take advantage of them. No more excuses for running late to your next appointment either!
- Having your own kitchen. Just like a sticks ‘n bricks or your own tiny house trailer, with a hotel room/suite you have a kitchen or at least a kitchenette which – more often than not – comes with plates, bowls, silverware, glasses, mugs, strainer, chef’s knife, etc. You still have to grocery shop but at least you can cook your own meals whenever you like.
- Front Desk Support. Looking for a donut shop in the neighborhood? Need a cab to take you to an event neighborhoods away? Waiting on a package from UPS that will arrive just moments after you leave? No worries. The desk clerk is there….24/7!
- Handyman Support. Your coffee pot is not brewing? Your TV stopped turning on? No problem. Every hotel employs a small staff of handymen and service personnel. Call them. Tip them.
- Security. This is huge! Between lobby cameras, hallway cameras, key card elevators, etc. security is usually top notch at a hotel.
POTENTIAL PRATFALLS OF HOTEL LIVING
- Nowhere to call “home”. While it is true that home is where you park it or home is where you hang your heart or a number of other cliches living in a hotel means you won’t have a physical address. While hotels will allow you to have mail delivered there in care of their direct address they – nor the government – will allow you to claim the location as your permanent address.
- Loneliness. Like living in a campground or other community-type setting there are in-seasons, off-seasons, perk weekends, and quiet times. On normal days and nights it is likely that you won’t see many guests at a hotel so you’re interaction will be limited. Living in a hotel may also keep you at some distance from friends and family unless you are huddled down in your home town.
- Lack of personality. Don’t like the artwork on your bedroom walls? Does that picture over your bed make you think of clowns parading through lollipop factories singing a chorus of degenerate laughter? Too bed. Without causing damage to the room there is nothing you can do about the overall appearance. The colors, pillows, comforters, and dishware are there to stay. This is however a good exercise in adding personality to your surroundings. You can use colorful scarves, small houseplants, live flowers, digital photo frames, etc to add a personal yet portable comfort to your accommodations.
- Space. A hotel room/suite is usually a standard, corporate design with furniture designed or purchased to fit in an exact spot. There are few options, if any. If you feel cramped with the desk in a certain spot chances are you can’t move it anywhere because there is nowhere to move it. The space is laid out for you. You are the guest in this situation. The furniture is there for good.
Living in a hotel room or suite is not conventional at all. It is not part of the American Dream so many of us grew up to understand and look forward to. But it is an adventure like no other and could possibly make your next tiny house. Don’t ever be afraid to hang your heart anywhere there is a good cup of free coffee!