Las Vegas has been heavy on my heart, and the hearts of many of you readers, the past two weeks.
I have several tiny houser friends there and am beyond grateful that none of them were hurt. The senseless loss of life and brutal violence that occurred is utterly devastating. In the face of the horror, humanity has shown how compassionate and loving it can be. People from all over the country, LV residents and local organizations are working together to serve those in need and to heal this grief-stricken community. One such company is downtown Las Vegas-based Zappos. They are matching donations, up 1 million dollars, to help shooting victims and their families.
All of this loss and love has gotten me thinking about my heart-warming Vegas experience, a year and a half ago. It all began with a remarkable visit to Llamalopolis, an Airstream and tiny house park, in the heart of downtown.
This is an intentional community founded by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. He lives there in an Airstream with a dozen or so neighbors. Christian and I became temporary neighbors for two weeks. We certainly did not know what to expect when we arrived but were delightfully surprised by the down-to-earth residents and the inclusive vibe. The community felt like a big warm family with frequent spontaneous potlucks and jam sessions. Many of the residents identify as introverts. For them, community life enables them to achieve a healthy balance of social interaction and private alone time. Another unique aspect of Llamalopolis is that it is part of a downtown revitalization effort— working to create a safer, more vibrant and walkable city.
Christian and I couldn’t have felt more welcomed or more at home during our stay. I never expected to feel that way, in downtown Vegas, of all places. Read all about our visit and this one-of-kind, reinvented trailer park/tiny house community here.
After we left Llamalopolis, we parked our tiny house in front of Zappos headquarters. We hosted a lively open house for employees and locals. Eye-catching exhibits are nothing out of the ordinary at Zappos, though the employees were curious and excited to check out our DIY tiny home. They have a great appreciation for creativity and efficiency. In fact, one of Zappos core values is “Do More with Less.”
As popular as the tiny house shows are, most Americans have yet to experience one first-hand. One of our favorite things about sharing our home with others is witnessing the mind-blowing, first-time reactions from tiny house virgins. “Wow” gets uttered countless times throughout each open house we do. People often say, “it feels bigger than I thought it would.”
The main reasons we invite strangers into our tiny home is to inspire change and foster acceptance.
Open houses are our opportunity to intimately encourage people to rethink their consumption habits and housing choices, to understand that there are other viable lifestyle options. We hope visitors will leave with a new appreciation for simple living and that this will help them prioritize what’s most important to them. Also, our great hope is that this experience will open their hearts and create more acceptance of alternative housing; even if tiny living isn’t right for them, they can recognize that it is right, for many others.
This downtown Las Vegas open house was one of the most moving events that we have ever done. All because of one lovely lady, Mariana (not her real name), a Zappos employee. Mariana was sharply dressed and had a friendly demeanor. Her eyes were filled with wonder as she took in every aspect of our tiny house, very thoughtfully. After a thorough tour, Mariana turned to us, almost teary-eyed, and explained how our home was making her reevaluate what success meant to her. Mariana is a first-generation immigrant and had been working hard to achieve her material goals. Her whole life, she thought true success meant owning a large home. And now, Mariana realized that was not a valid metric. She said, “you have everything you need”; you are living comfortably and living well.
What if success isn’t about how much you can buy? And isn’t about achieving a status symbol? Maybe just maybe, real wealth comes from the quality of your relationships and experiences.
Now I’m the one with teary eyes. My heart swells remembering this conversation. There is nothing like witnessing a paradigm shift, up close and personal. This experience again proved to me that tiny house living is a force for positivity in the world. Thank you, Mariana, for sharing your honest and incredibly intimate reflections. Thank you to the Zappos family for welcoming us into your home, downtown Las Vegas.
“Las Vegas is our home. We are deeply saddened by the events that happened on Sunday night, and we are working to ensure all of our employees are supported during this difficult time. In addition, Zappos is matching donations made here, up to $1 million, and 100% of funds raised will help support victims and their families. We will be working closely with The Direct Impact Fund to ensure that all funds raised are distributed to those affected by the tragic events in Vegas.”
-Alexis Stephens, Tiny House Expedition
“My partner, Christian and I are traveling tiny house dwellers. Together we’ve been on the road two years for our documentary and community outreach project, Tiny House Expedition. We live, breathe, dream the tiny home community every day. This is our life, and our true passion project. We are very grateful to be able experience this inspiring movement in such an intimate way and to be able to share our exploration with all of you.