If there is one thing I can say about my approach to anything that I am focused on or committed to, it is that I am thorough. Very thorough. If I can’t be thorough, I generally just don’t bother. Before we bought our RV, a lot of research was done. I scoured the internet for all things RV related. There is an interesting twist though because I am also very impulsive.
In the past my thoroughness has perhaps slowed me down and caused me delayed decision making and even tons of late homework assignments in my school years. My theory is that my impulsiveness is a learned mechanism that I have incorporated into my psyche to balance my thoroughness…Or maybe it is the other way around…? Anyway, balance is important. Perfectionism and the intense anxiety surrounding it can make a person physically ill if they don’t lighten up and go with the flow every now and again. Trust me, I know from experience.
There are all these slogans and quotes like, “Just do it” and “Perfection is the enemy of good enough” and “You will regret the things you don’t do more than things you do.” These are all pretty good for me to an extent, they are words of wisdom that I try to remind myself of when I start over thinking things… Or as my husband, Rob says, “being German.”
Having said that, I tried to convince Rob that we should live in a van and become “van dwellers.” I was very serious about this. This conclusion that I reached with such confidence was a combination of both my tendency to “over think” as well as this newly embraced impulsive nature. Rob never outright said “no”. He just tried to keep me focused on the task at hand which was, RV shopping. He said, that I was “changing the plan” and “confusing him” and that we should just do the thing we set out to do in the first place which was “get an RV!” He didn’t want to just jump in all at once and said if we loved extended periods of time in the RV, we could talk about being “VanDwellers” at some point in time, when we had more experience… Well played Rob, well played!
You see, in all of my scouring of the internet in search of the “perfect RV”, I found this wonderful and brilliant website, Cheap RV Living and it’s sister sight, Cheap Green RV Living. It spoke to me in so many ways! And even though “RV” is in the title of this site, it is more about “VanDwelling”. Please, please, please take some time to explore these sites and read the stories!
Why it appeals to me:
- Conservation of resources, the idea seems so logical, this would be a great way to save money!
- DIY! I love a project! I love the idea of converting a van to a living or working space. The conversions on the site are quite inspiring. And the size of the project is manageable!
- Independence and self sufficiency.
- Ability to pick up and travel any time. I embrace and welcome a change of scenery.
- Simplification of lifestyle. I honestly believe that the more stuff one has, the more complicated life becomes. People actually spend time and energy WORRYING about their stuff.
- Sense of adventure and a longing to really “live”, serious wanderlust.
- I still harbor a spark of rebelliousness. “Fuck the establishment!” Amiright???
In any case, I read all of the stories and experiences and that led me to search for more such accounts of adventurous living. I worked up a pretty fabulous and romantic fantasy in my head of how we would live life on the road in a way cool van! It would be like living inside of a fucking stealth Transformer van/house that we perfectly customized with all of our desired requirements, like secret passageways, a crazy slide and a candy dispenser in the dashboard! It’s gonna be so rad!!! Dude, how could you not want that?
When I get what may initially seem like “harebrained” ideas, Rob doesn’t shut me down. He goes along with me and slowly neutralizes the situation until we both distill the essence of what it is I am after. Though, I still think that van dwelling is an excellent idea, I concede that it is not ultimately the best situation for us. Though someday, I am totally going to convert a van into a living or working space. I want to do that project!
Some people would say I have A.D.D., like the overmedicating shrink I had in high school. Personally I think I just like to multitask and explore my options. Life is short and the world is vast, which can be overwhelming. There is a lot to see and do. I don’t want to limit myself with the constructs of what is socially popular. I would hate to make the wrong decisions as a result of not thoroughly exploring my options. I know I’m not alone in this sentiment.
In any case the idea of “full timing” in our travel trailer, maybe, possibly down the road in the long and distant future was now something we were sort of, kind of, maybe thinking about… And it was something that we were definitely keeping in the back of our minds while we were RV shopping. Even if it was just something we tried out for a few months or just for a summer… we were thinking about it, and we purchased our RV accordingly.
Guess what? The future is here! The future is now! It will probably take a few more blog posts to get you up to speed on how exactly we arrived here at this exact junction in the “future” but nevertheless, we are arrived. Incase I have been too cryptic, we are moving into the Apex!
We currently live in an 1800 sq. ft. foot house, built in 1939 on over an acre of land. After living in a 700 square ft. apartment near downtown Austin built in the 1980‘s and being in a band and trying to rehearse, write and record albums in that space with paper thin walls, it was incredible to move out to this semi -rural, very private land in South Austin, and finally finish our third album in a huge old house with lovely wood floors… It was great to have space to practice and teach yoga, it was great to make an outdoor shower and fire pit in our back yard. It was amazing to be able to use the house and land for several writing, photography, film and music video projects. And to each have our own offices to work out of. And make as much noise as we wanted… This is a great house in which to realize and see any number of artistic projects through. We even made our own batch of wine here!
But now we are ready for a change.
We want and need to be more mobile. We want and need to save more money. We want and need to be able to afford to commit more time to our creative pursuits, as well as leisure pursuits like hiking, surfing, dancing, climbing, skiing or visiting family in other parts of the country. We are ready to be a little more social and closer to downtown again. We crave water; lakes, streams, rivers, oceans, or even just a pool or hot tub. It is time to move…
What one needs in life is not a static and fixed thing. Human beings are dynamic creatures that ebb and flow like a winding river. What we have come to realize is that we absolutely DO NOT NEED all of this space. We do not have or want kids, we do not have or want a mortgage, we don’t have a big dog, Rob hates mowing the acre of lawn we are living on and we want more freedom both physically and financially to move about. After all, we need to save money so we can find and buy land to build that tiny house we have been dreaming of! Also, we are really compatible (perhaps to the point of codependence) when it comes to sharing small spaces together for extended periods of time, it doesn’t bother us. So, why the hell not? The status quo will always be there, waiting for us, if we choose to return.
The house, that we are living in is amazing; and living in it has fostered a tremendous amount of creativity as well as clarity. There will be plenty of things that we miss about living here, but it is time to move on. We can’t forget that being in this house is what prompted the creativity and unorthodox, yet totally logical decision making that led us to the new experience that we are about to embark upon. It is time for someone else to live in this house and let it nurture and push them to be brave in pursuing their hearts desires*.
We officially made the decision in mid July after returning from a glorious trip West (that is another blog on the burner, coming soon!). Our last day here at Casa 1626 will be September 30th. In the meantime, we are giving away, selling and donating the vast majority of our worldly possessions. Be sure to follow along and subscribe to my blog as we make this massive transition to tiny living and continue to live, learn, travel and explore!
*A side note to this blog is that coincidentally, the three hippies that were renting this house prior to us moving in, left by way of a school bus that they converted into an RV and drove to Costa Rica. Makes you wonder…
Along the way, I have developed a few quirks and obsessions, aka passions. Some of these are deeply rooted and can be traced back to my childhood.
I have always had an interest in architecture, design and different materials. As a child this manifested itself in fort building, and the observation of regionally changing architecture while on family road trips. My parents were very lovely and let me keep my forts erected for much longer than most would allow and even let me sleep in them. They have also reported to me that one of my first sentences ever, while en-route from Florida to the Midwest was an inquiry, “where did all of the condominiums go?” I noticed! Where did they go???
I have a very distinct memory of being toddler aged and driving through Indiana, just before you get to Chicago and seeing these old town houses built in rows and some of them even built into the side of the hills and being amazed by it. It is so simple and so “heart of America” yet it blew my mind. Growing up on an island in Florida, I had never seen anything like that. At that point, I remember my mom telling me that yes, indeed architecture and the way things are built, varies widely from place to place. I remember making a mental note of that so that I could keep my eye out and observe what might come next. I have been making these observations for about 30 years now with the same inquisitiveness.
While investigating RV’s and the RV lifestyle, something new popped up on my radar that piqued my interest in design and architecture again, in a new way: The Tiny House Movement. My interest has been piqued somewhat intensely and obsessively.
Design that turns me on:
*Maximum efficiency and good uses of space.
*Items and spaces that can multitask, like stairs that are also drawers etc.
*Conservation of money, environment and resources through the use of things like solar panels and rainwater collection.
*Nice outdoor spaces.
*Creative use of materials, especially recycled and natural materials like reclaimed wood, shipping containers and cob.
*Ability to be off the grid if necessary or desired.
What is the “Tiny House Movement” you say??? Or maybe you have already heard about it, it is quickly gaining popularity in this country and well, globally.
My personal definition: The Tiny House Movement is a reaction to the social, economic and environmental climate of modern society. It is a movement that favors design, economy and environment over square footage, wasteful spending and excess building. It is is about being thoughtful, as well as socially and environmentally conscious. It is about examining ones needs and wants and realizing that we really only “want” a lot of non necessities because we are marketed to heavily – we are living in a hyper capitalist society that thrives on a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. Such an intense rat race has been imposed upon us that people are willing to risk their health, happiness and quality of life to acquire bigger THINGS and greater quantities of THINGS and consequently bigger houses to store all of their THINGS. To quote my late grandfather, J. Kenneth Baird, “they sure can think of a lot of shit for you to buy.” Life as we know it has become very complicated and The Tiny House Movement is answering back with a call for some simplicty. It is about personal choice and figuring out what ones true values are.
Here’s what I value in life:
*Outdoor activities and nature
*Minimal environmental footprint
Here is what I value in people:
*Compassion and Empathy
*A desire to help others
*A desire to continue learning
As you can see the Tiny House Movement speaks to me because it is directly in-line with my values. And I am not the only one. See for yourself….
One of my favorite blogs to follow is, Tiny House Blog. Kent Griswold is one of the pioneers in this movement. His blog is always offering new tiny houses to moon over. Also, I have learned a lot on this site about the different types of tiny dwellings people are building, where they are building them and why. For instance, I didn’t know what a Vardo was before reading this blog. Also I learned about straw and hay bale construction, cob homes, container homes, and pallet houses. Additionally I learned a bit about buying tiny house plans as well as building codes and laws. One of my favorite sections on this particular blog is “Tiny House in a Landscape.” The Tiny House Blog is really just the best virtual window into almost every aspect of tiny house culture.
Another really fabulous resource is The Tiny Life blog. On this site you will find inspiration as well as great ideas about how to build multi-purposed furniture and space saving solutions to fit perfectly into your tiny house. A couple of other informative and inspiring sites are Tiny House Talk and Tiny House Design.
Some of the pioneers and famous names in this movement who are currently offering tiny houses, building plans, workshops and books are Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, Dee Williams of Portland Alternative Dwellings, Derek Diedricsen of Relax Shacks, LLoyd Kahn of Shelter Publications and Jim Wilkins of Tiny Green Cabins. I find them all fascinating and massively inspirational!
One of my most favorite sites is Tiny Texas Houses! I absolutely love what they are doing with reclaimed and recycled materials. The tiny homes that they are building are undeniably beautiful. When I see their homes, construction, and philosophy, I truly see my heart and soul reflected. Also, they are in Texas!
A few other fun sites for browsing are, Cabin Porn, Tiny House Swoon, and Tiny House Listings. I am sure there are others out there that I am missing, let me know if you know of any cool “tiny sites.”
If you still are not convinced that Tiny Houses are the coolest thing ever, the wave of the future and becoming super dooper popular, check this out: The Huffington Post, The New York Times, Bloomberg Business, Wall Street Journal, Dwell, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, PBS, NPR, NBC, CBS, CNN, even Oprah and USA Today are reporting on the movement!
If you can’t tell, I am ready to join this movement. I have Massive Tiny Dreams! I want to get my hands dirty and use power tools. Don’t worry, Rob is on board. I have been talking about this for about three years now, he is excited too. We want to buy some land and build our own Tiny House! For the first time in our lives, the “responsible” thing to do also seems like fun.
Right now this project is just one important piece my varied number of Massive Tiny Dreams! For now we shall practice the Tiny Lifestyle in the Apex.
Not all tiny houses are the same, they are actually really diverse. Here is some inspiration.
Where would you build your tiny house? What materials would you use to build your tiny house?
Also check out Pinterest for some inspiration!
We were on tour in Florida with our old band, Before Dawn, which was just us at that point. We we were a duo. It was October of 2009. It was hot and humid, surprisingly so for Halloween. We had played several shows. It was our thinking that October should be a good, comfortable month for camping. Instead of paying for hotels on our drive back to Texas, we decided to tent camp at a State Park.
As you might imagine, tent camping when you have hundreds of pounds of guitar amps, monitor speakers and instruments in your car is a little different than say having a cooler with food and an extra sleeping bag. We went very minimal with our camping gear. After all, it was only going to be an overnight…We had our tent, our air mattress, a sleeping bag and a quilt.
It was actually turning out to be a really beautiful evening. We had driven as far as the panhandle of Florida and it was quite a bit cooler, pleasant really. We were staying at, Falling Waters State Park. Yay, a waterfall! After spending late nights playing loud rock music in dirty bars, and days on end driving, despite being rather exhausted, we were excited to go on a little hike and try our damnedest to change mindsets, relax and enjoy camping?
We really wanted to hike to see the waterfall for which the park is named, but it was getting dark fast and we only made it halfway there before we disappointedly decided we better turn around and go back to camp. We still needed to set up our tent and bed, get firewood and make some sort of dinner from the items we were able to find at the only store that was around for miles. It was a very weird old Walmart… If you spend time traveling the country via interstate, you know exactly what I am talking about.
We were trying so hard to enjoy ourselves! We were trying so hard to accomplish these normally fun camping tasks with enthusiasm. We were trying not to be the tired, cranky babies that we really wanted to be. And, ”jeeze, the temperature really is dropping now that the sun went down.”
We ate our dinner. I don’t remember what it was. We went on our requisite “camper walk” whereby we walk around the campground and voyeuristically observe others enjoying the conveniences of motor homes and travel trailers. We sat by the warm fire and fantasized a bit about what kind of camper we might want some day. Then we turned in for the night.
From the screen window on our tent we had a clear view of a travel trailer at a campsite across the way from us. We could make out the outlines of comfortable, warm, cozy people watching television. We had camper envy. We were really jealous. Also, we were VERY cold.
After nodding off, we both woke up around 3:30 am absolutely freezing. There was no going back to sleep at this point. This was Florida! What the hell? We put on pretty much every single piece of clothing that we had with us. We were getting cold from the ground up, so we let air out of the air mattress thinking that the air in the mattress was keeping us cold. We took the quilt that was covering us and put it underneath us. Now we were cold on top. We tried to both cram into the only sleeping bag we had with us. We were miserable and I was pretty sure I was starting to get a sore throat.
Even though, at this point we were probably more tired than we have ever been, at first light we got up and started packing our stuff. There was no point in staying. We were in no mood to hike and all we wanted to do was get home. When we got up, we realized that there was frost on everything! How cold was it??? I looked at the thermometer I had recently added to our camping gear. It was 35 degrees and all we had had with us to keep warm was a summer quilt!
Thirty five degrees! That was the last straw! We were now officially in the market for a camper. Consuming large amounts of caffeine, we drove 13 hours from the panhandle of Florida back to Austin, Texas and spoke almost exclusively of our necessity for a camper. We were going to somehow make it happen! This was now more important to us than the vague social concept that one must buy a traditional home first.
Because of my parents RV, the concept of RVing was now on our radar, though it would be at least ten years before we would entertain the idea of getting one ourselves. Rob and I started to take notice of them everywhere we went. We started to realize that the different kinds of RV’s that exist is vast! We noticed them on the road, we noticed dealerships on the side of the road that for some reason had been completely invisible in the past, and we noticed them in campgrounds, now with some curiosity rather than scorn.
We went on a few overnight trips and did various fund raising events with my parents in their RV for their dearest cause, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. We had a ton of fun! We met other RVrs. They are some of the most friendly and warm people you will ever encounter. They are also extremely enthusiastic about their rigs and will gladly answer any questions you might have. We started to amass a bit of experience and jargon to go with it…. Despite being somewhat fascinated, it still seemed like something other people did, not us.
The thought that we could be a part of this interesting little club had not occurred to us yet; though my mom every once in a while would subtly suggest it and point out small campers that might be appropriate for us… We just thought, “it is nice for you, but no, that’s not us.” I am certain that this block existed because we are absolutely NOT the typical demographic that the RV market appeals to and we never once saw people like ourselves with an RV. It is no secret that the largest population of RVrs is retired folks; we actually partied with a lot of retired people during this process… The second largest population is families with children. We are a very long way from being retired and we have no plans to have children.
We are artists, we are theater people, we are a fucking rock band! AND then, that is where this all started to make sense for us. Touring. Between 2005 and 2011, we had been doing a lot of it. There were certainly mornings that we woke up not knowing where we were geographically or whose house we had crashed at, not because of being intoxicated, but rather because we were working hard and constantly on the go. We thought, wouldn’t it be nice to sleep in the same bed every night?
We are not famous or on a record label, our tours are completely self-funded. We were crashing at the houses of generous friends and family, staying in really crappy hotels and every once in a while even tent camping while on the road and performing in clubs. We were often exhausted, getting very little quality sleep and eating poorly (especially bad for someone with Type 1 Diabetes).
The idea of getting an RV started to become a big fantasy. We would talk about it and imagine ourselves with our own mobile bed, kitchen and bathroom. Even though this fantasy was starting to bloom, it still seemed like it stopped there. We thought, one day, maybe we will be able to afford such a luxury. We also thought that it was important to buy a house before we bought something seemingly frivolous and of our fantasies like a Recreational Vehicle, even if it was for work………………………………….
Too be continued!
Update: 2/3/16 – We no longer perform as Before Dawn, from Austin, TX. We have an L.A. based rock band called JagLyonz, if you want to know more about us go to www.JagLyonz.com. Here are a few photos from the old Before Dawn days!