Tiny House, Giant Journey

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. 

If you’re want­i­ng to know a bit more about Jen­na and Guil­laume, check out their web­site. You can also fol­low them on Face­book if you just can’t get enough.