On my way back from Copenhagen, I stayed for a few days in cold and dark Iceland. This fascinating and stark island in the North Atlantic is fast becoming one of the top places to visit in Europe — with or without Eyjafjallajökull blowing it’s top. Reykjavik is stylish and easy to get around in and the rest of the country is a mix of mountains, seaside, towering cliffs and, of course, hot springs like the famous Blue Lagoon. It’s interesting how the Icelandic tourism industry has turned this essentially inhospitable land into a place that is comfortable to stay.
While most Icelanders live in modern homes and apartments, even up until the 1940s, many lived in tiny houses called turf homes. Since wood was so hard to come by on this nearly treeless island, farmers scavenged driftwood from the black sand beaches, marked the wood with a brand to show that they belonged to his family, and planed them down to build small homes. These homes were then surrounded with turf as insulation. These homes were not heated as there was a real fear of fire burning down the precious driftwood homes, so a separate “fire house” was built to hold a fire and cook food.
While there are some beautiful hotels in Reykjavik and the main touring areas in the south and east part of the island, I kept seeing tiny cottages nestled up against the volcanic mountains topped with creeping glaciers. Many of these cottages are available for rent all year long and feature small kitchens and amazing views.
The Hvoll Cottages near the small town of Vik is about two hours from Reykjavik. “Vik” means “bay” in Icelandic and these cottages have access to several black sand beaches, rock outcroppings and many of the waterfalls and parks in the south. Vik has become more famous since becoming the setting for many scenes in the Games of Thrones TV series. Also near Vik are the Hotel Laki cottages. These little cottages are for two to three people and have simple beds, cooking facilities and showers. Most of these little cottages are heated with steam or power from local geothermal power plants. Continue Reading »
The Tiny House Blog has featured the dynamo Misty Tosh and her travel trailer before, but now the intrepid TV producer and traveler has a new home and project — a three-story houseboat in Marina del Rey named Flo. While the boat is not necessarily tiny (for tiny, check out her other boat, Enola) Misty has remodeled the derelict houseboat into a work of art.
All the renovations for her houseboat had to be done on the water and she documented the process and houseboat living on her blog, Big Sweet Tooth. The renovation was recently featured in the L.A. Times. When Misty bought the boat, it was a dark mass of junk and tiny rooms connected by ladders. Misty worked with Refinding Design, a local design firm that scours junk yards, flea markets and roadsides for building materials. Salvaged items like a hatch door from a WWII supply ship covers a wine rack under the floor with a peekaboo view of the water, the metal ring of a wine barrel was turned into a chandelier, and the breakfast counter is a slab of wood with a base of plumbing pipes.
The bottom floor is a living and dining area, the second floor is a master bedroom, bathroom and guest area. Nautical rope is a reccurring theme throughout the boat and also acts as a banister railing for the staircase up to the bedroom. The top deck has a small office, a “garden” with artificial turf and a bar.
Misty does have to pump out the sewage holding tank twice a week, but she told the L.A. Times, “We wanted to come home to something like a vacation spa, where we can hide away all our gear and feel like we’re on vacation,” she said. “And when the windows are open and the wind and sun plow through here, we can say: What the heck kind of holy paradise is this?”
Photos by Misty Tosh and the L.A. Times
On a recent trip to Yosemite National Park, the parking lots were dotted with some very colorful little campervans that reminded me of the long-term travel vans in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. It turns out that the Kiwi company that rents out the graffiti-inspired vans Down Under now has rental options in the U.S. The individually painted vans are available in several cities around the country for both short and long road trips.
Escape Campervans are available in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami and New York and each are hand painted by local artists. Prices are quoted for trips from 3 days to 85+ days. A young British couple we met in Yosemite were driving their Escape campervan from Los Angeles to New York for three months and the longer you rent, the cheaper the cost. Only a $200 deposit is needed to reserve a camper van.
The U.S fleet of Escape Campervans are economical Chevy Astros, Ford E150 and Dodge Caravans. Each of the campervans sleep two to four people and include beds, bedding and comforters, picnic chairs, sinks and running water, cooking and eating utensils, heat and AC, stereos, propane stoves, and ice boxes for food. Some of the vans include pop-up roofs with sleeping areas. Optional items can be rented including picnic tables, snow chains, rooftop storage boxes, GPS systems, tents, awnings, solar showers and child seats.
Photos by Escape Campervans
I’ve had our tiny backyard cottage as a rental on Airbnb now since June and we’ve had over 20 visitors who’ve been both charmed and confused by the size of the cottage, awed by the location and inspired by the space planning and design. Airbnb is a social website that connects people who have space to spare with those who are looking for a place to stay. Our cottage (which we remodeled last year) has been enjoyed by people from all over the world as a quiet place to stay while in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area.
If things continue to go as well as they do, about 20 percent of our income could come from this rental and this great service, allowing me to not have to work full time anymore. However, it has not been without its ups and downs. Several people have felt that the cottage is too small, the water tank is limited in hot water and the location a little out of the way. Albeit, some visitors have found it perfect for their needs. It can be difficult to include every need and want, but I’ve come up with five tips that could help you rent out your own tiny house on Airbnb.
1. Location, location, location…but not how you think
Our cottage is centrally located to many places: Reno, Carson City, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco and Yosemite. It’s also out of the city, which allows our visitors to have a quiet getaway while still being about 15 minutes away from groceries and town. However, the majority of our visitors happen to be coming across the country — coming to or from San Francisco. If you market your tiny house as a way station to another location, you could bring in more visitors.
2. Offer a unique experience
A lot of visitors to the cottage were intrigued first by the name of our property and the bright colors of the house. Then they saw that we offered access to wilderness areas (complete with wild horses), a trampoline, plenty of parking, a giant vegetable garden they could peruse and their own kitchen and bathroom.
3. Be an expert in your area
Some of our visitors have been very happy with the advice I’ve given them about our area. I’ve told them the best places to go hiking, the best restaurants in the area and tips on how to avoid crowds. Be an expert in your own area and make yourself available for questions.
4. Check with your insurance and put it in writing
If you list your tiny house with Airbnb, your property is covered for loss or damage due to theft or vandalism caused by an Airbnb guest for up to $1,000,000 (in eligible countries). I also called our insurance company to make sure that we would not be liable for any injury to a guest as long as they were on our property. It turns out that bodily injury is covered under our insurance with any structure on the property. I have a small information packet in the cottage that outlines the rules of the property and for visitors to use our trampoline or swing at their own risk.
5. Be ready for last minute requests
Several of our Airbnb requests have been for that night or the next night. I’ve had to scramble at the last minute to clean the cottage and make it available for the next person. Be prepared for last minute requests and have extras of everything including bedding, towels and bottles of water and make sure the tiny house is heated or cooled depending on the weather.