The Tiny House Movement is picking up steam. And with good reason: The housing crisis is ongoing, the U.S. economy, although improving, is still anemic, and droves of people seem to be heeding that age old cliché, “You can’t take it with you when you go.” These are the circumstances and evolving attitudes causing people to seek out an alternative and, for them, a better way of life.
One couple, Jenna and Guillaume, did just that when they ditched their cubicle careers and embarked on the giant journey of building their very own tiny home. What could an 8,000-pound home on wheels have to offer these successful, multi-talented, and active 20-somethings? Well, it’s really quite simple: Freedom to pursue their passions and to live bigger than they thought possible. We interviewed them to get the scoop on their upcoming roadtrip across the country, building challenges and, of course, where and how they plan to play in the outdoors now that they’ve downsized.
THE CLYMB: Was there one specific moment or life event that made you realize, “Holy cow, I wanna build a tiny home!”?
JENNA: About two years ago, Guillaume and I realized the majority of our conversations were about how unhappy we were in our chosen careers. We’d much rather be traveling around and playing outdoors, but how can we possibly do that when we have to pay off college debt, monthly rent and eventually a mortgage? We felt stuck and frustrated with the 40+ hours a week we spent in cubicles.
One day, Guillaume was stumbling around the web, searching for “alternative lifestyles” and found Tumbleweed Tiny Homes. We were so taken with the stories people were telling, I remember thinking, “Wow, this could be an affordable solution for us to live on the road in a really unique way.” The benefits of building the tiny home ourselves meant that we could customize it to fit our needs, plus, it’s another notch in the belt, an item crossed off the bucket list!
GUILLAUME: We’re in our twenties, we built and own a custom home (albeit tiny), and it allowed us to quit our jobs to pursue our passions: travel, nature, photography and writing.
THE CLYMB: What was your best moment during the building process and, conversely, what was the moment that made you question everything, throw your hands up in the air, and curse the tiny house gods?
J&G: The best and worst moment for me was when the house was about half finished and we needed to tow her to the nearest DMV for registration. This was the first time we attempted to move the house, and our build site in Los Angeles was a slender driveway hugged by two residential homes. For a few hours we carefully maneuvered our tiny dwelling inch by inch, back and forth, slowly easing her out of the only quarters she had ever known. At one moment we thought our house would be trapped in the driveway forever, an impossible notion because we were so paranoid of this awful possibility that we were diligent about measuring! Finally she squeezed out of the driveway’s narrow birth canal, earning only a few bumps and bruises along the way. Watching helplessly from the sidelines, I felt like 8,000 pounds (her weight) had lifted from my shoulders the moment she emerged into the world. Truthfully, I’ve never given birth, but I can say our tiny house delivery was a painful yet rewarding experience!
THE CLYMB: How do you think living and traveling in a tiny home will impact your ability to play in the outdoors?
J&G: While we are downsizing our square footage and material belongings, we are also happily forcing ourselves to spend more time outdoors for entertainment, fitness and, ironically, a little personal space! The belongings we’ve kept are actually mostly for outdoor activities. For example, we kept our snowboarding and hiking gear but sold our televisions. I’ve donated all my work shoes and nice dresses, but decided to keep my trail running sneakers and quick-dry outdoor clothing.
Traveling constantly with our tiny home in tow will also ignite our thrill for adventure. We hope our life on the road will feel like a constant vacation, with beautiful new scenery to explore and interesting people to meet. Having a tiny home base will allow us to travel longer and farther. When we feel it is time to move on, we will simply pack up and tow our home to the next destination.
Our tiny home is designed to be off-grid or on-grid. This will allow us to immerse ourselves in nature without having to plug-in!
Guillaume hasn’t explored much of the United States and Canada, being originally from France. His passion is landscape photography, so I know North America’s breathtaking terrain will inspire him to capture this part of the world with images that are as pure as the landscapes we will encounter.
THE CLYMB: Where are you gonna put all your gear?
J&G: That has been a challenge! For snowboarding, we decided to mount our boards to our 11-foot cathedral ceilings inside our home, while our helmets, boots, gloves, pants and coats are going into a hidden storage under our build-in couch. For hiking, we have trek polls, backpacks, boots, rain gear, camelbaks and a small two-man tent that we will store under the hard shell of our truck bed. For rock climbing, we made the hard decision of giving away all of our ropes and trad-climbing hardware but kept our shoes for bouldering. For scuba, we decided to scrap our wetsuits, fins, and heavy tanks, but kept our certification cards for the occasional dive. Any extra gear that we need, we will rent.
Guillaume has downsized his enormous collection of lenses and cameras. His goal is to be a “lightweight photographer,” allowing him to climb higher and go deeper into nature.
THE CLYMB: What part of your cross-country journey are you looking forward to the most? What part are you most nervous about?
J&G: I’m really excited to see Nova Scotia and the North Eastern U.S.A this fall, as I hear it’s gorgeous country. We are planning on putting the house on a ferry from Nova Scotia to Portland, ME. A house, on wheels, on a boat. That should be interesting! I’m also really excited to head up to Alaska next summer. Guillaume and I met a little over two years ago when we were both planning separate trips to Alaska. Although our trips were only a week apart, we never crossed paths. This time, we will experience it together.
I’m most nervous about height clearances in some of the more historical neighborhoods along the east coast. Our tiny home is 13’ 4”, and any low bridges, branches and/or telephone wires could cause serious damage. We are going to have to plan ahead and take it slow.
THE CLYMB: For the DIYers out there who are thinking about tackling a tiny house project of their own, what are 2 bits of sound advice you would give that you wish you’d had before you began your journey?
J&G: If you’re inexperienced, like us, make sure you double or triple the amount of time you are predicting it will take you to build. You will spend more time researching materials than you will actually building your home.
Design your tiny house to fit your lifestyle. A poorly designed 200 square foot home will bother you more than a poorly designed 2000 square foot home. So think twice about every piece of the puzzle, because you are the architect of your own tiny dream home.
THE CLYMB: What benefits can a tiny home afford that we might not consider?
J&G: Tiny homes can be heavily insulated and fitted with a wood burning stove or propane heater for off-grid warmth and comfort in cold weather. Backpackers will enjoy parking their tiny home near National Parks or scenic hikes where they can leave their secured off-grid home for a week-long trek… knowing all the while they can come back home to their comfortable cabin on wheels for a shower or hot meal. The environment will benefit from a tiny home’s low energy use and by minimizing their belongings, outdoor enthusiasts will find they have more time and money to spend on their favorite activities.
One of the benefits of tiny living is having less but experiencing more. Tiny homes are mobile, affordable and allow a flexible lifestyle. North America is going to be our back yard! Our utilities and rent will be extremely low, allowing us to spend our money on travel and adventure. Living tiny means not being tied down to your home, but instead, having a home that is customized to accommodate and accelerate your personal lifestyle.
THE CLYMB: This lifestyle clearly isn’t for everyone. What sacrifices should people expect to make if they choose this way of life?
J&G: You have to sacrifice certain luxuries such as a full size washer and dryer, walk-in closet, attached garage, etc. Less space might also mean not having a private office, but instead an office/living room combination. Kitchens will be smaller, so you might have to swap the full size refrigerator for a mini to allow room for a full range stove. There wont be room for a gym inside your tiny home, but on the plus side there are plenty of ways to get fit outdoors! Tiny homes of different shapes and sizes offer countless floor plans to accommodate any lifestyle, but a few hard choices and cutbacks will need to be made.
We find that living with less has been a freeing experience. The benefits have completely outweighed the sacrifices on our end. We now have the time and money to pursue our dream lifestyle with careers we are passionate about, and, that gift is priceless.