It may seem strange.
It's a great question and one we have made sure we can answer since buying our home a few months ago. But unfortunately with us, there's never a quick answer. So instead of trying, I'm going to take you on the story of our journey to explain why we are where we are now.
Last fall, when Greg and I bought a 1969 camper trailer (140 square feet), we knew we wanted to live in it. But at the same time, we didn't know how we could find someone who would let us park in his or her backyard. It's a strange thing—this concept that people own land, but they don't want to or feel like they can't share it. We've discovered that some people want to but fear breaking their building and zoning codes. It makes sense wanting to follow the rules, but lately we've been asking ourselves, "Does it really do any harm to just share it anyway?"
Like many people living small, we really struggled with finding a place to park.
After a few months of our outreach efforts, we found a family who was interested in meeting us and hearing our story. We met them at a local brewery and caravanned back to their place to see their backyard.
The word "grateful" just doesn't quite say how we felt when we walked around their little spot in the foothills.
For $300 a month (plus $200 of yard work and chores for the owners), we could live in their backyard. And so, for the next year, we lived on their little slice of heaven.
But living small on someone else's land doesn't really feel like freedom. We didn't want to make it known that we were living in someone else's backyard, so we kept our curtains down and radiant barrier over our windows most days. When the neighbors played volleyball in their backyard, we tiptoed around as to not appear like we were living an alternative lifestyle. And when we had people over, we had to tell them to park down the street and let our owners know that there would be friends walking around their property.
It's hard to describe the feeling of being appreciative but also feeling trapped. Knowing that so many people we met were living small without so many barriers made us dream about living freely with our own rules and creating value in our space. We wanted our own garden to grow as much as 75% of what we eat. We wanted to host travelers and van gatherings. We wanted to put our rent money toward a future instead of throwing it away.
So after a year of living small, we moved our little camper to our own land where it will stay.
The past two months have felt weird. Awkward. We have been living in a house that is seven times the size of our camper trailer. Wrapping my head around that almost makes me feel nauseous.
What has happened since we bought the house has been surprising to us in good and bad ways:
More people visit us now than when we lived in a camper. We don't really know why, but we can guess that not having conveniences like space and running water might have turned them away.
People tell us they are proud of us. No one said that before when we were living in a camper trailer. Somehow this new version of a house that we live in gives us some sort of status of success, of all things.
Travelers are excited to stay in our camper. It warms our heart that people living on the road are simply grateful that we are offering them a place to stay. They don't think of it as small or worthless space. Rather, they feel honored that we are letting them into our home. They see it as having so much more value than a luxurious place.
Sure, our camper doesn't have running water and things don't come as easy. But it's where we learned to adapt to hardships. It's where we got to know each other and spend quality time together. It's a home that makes us happy.
Slowly, but surely, we have been sneaking away to spend time in the camper. It's amazing how we feel when we escape the stress-filled space of the house. There's always a never-ending list of chores and tasks to do in the house. But the camper just sits there smiling at us, without any demands or expectations.
We are almost ready to leave the house and start renting it out here and there. It's exciting, but it's also scary. Working a full-time job while living small poses challenges. Going back to packing a bag and showering at the gym doesn't make me excited about going to work in the mornings. Running outside in the winter to grab food out of a full-sized refrigerator nearby doesn't always make me want to cook inside. Watching people come and go from our new home won't always be easy. But the house wasn't always ours and it might not be again someday. Treating a house as just another place versus a permanent home opens you up for more freedom. We won't get attached to our space and will be more willing to go outside and explore.