It should be no surprise that I am inspired by everyone in this tiny house movement. Each person I interview shares their passions with the world in unique ways.
But I am impressed that Jess + Andy are using this lifestyle to give back to creatives like themselves. In a little over a year, they have traveled more than 18,000 miles to offer in-kind services to nonprofit organizations, artists and entrepreneurs in need.
It's one thing to live small on the road and do it for your own adventure and gain. It's another thing to live small on the road and do it for others.
Square Feet: 86
Currently Living: Red River Gorge, Kentucky
Make, Model, Year: 2002 Scamp 16’ Travel Trailer
What were you doing before you went mobile?
From 2003 to 2014, Andy and I lived and worked full-time jobs in Chicago. I ran a ceramics gallery, and Andy was a graphic designer for a small coffee roaster.
Why did you make the change?
For one thing, we were generally fatigued by city life—commuting to work, expense, crime. We had good jobs and terrific friends, but we wanted to have more freedom and better access to the outdoors.
We’ve been rock climbers for over a decade, and we’d drive 1,000 miles each weekend just to get to a crag.
In addition, we also wanted to expand our freelance design business and try our hand at running a nonprofit: furthering our careers, sustaining ourselves financially and helping others became driving factors of the DesignEgg adventure. Initially funded with Kickstarter, DesignEgg grants design and photography awards to nonprofits, artists, and entrepreneurs working across the nation.
Years Living Mobile: 1.2
We’ve been living in our trailer full time for 14 months. We’ve traveled across the nation from Wisconsin to California, Texas, Utah, Montana and British Columbia.
We’ve been in our current spot near Slade, Kentucky, for the last few days and plan to stay here until early November.
What was the process like to move into your mobile home?
We had a serious fire in our condo a few years back that destroyed most of our belongings. We went through a forced sorting and downsizing process at that time, and so when we decided to move into the trailer, we were already pretty lean. We did get rid of even more stuff before moving into the Scamp though and stored a few remaining boxes and some furniture with family.
Renovating Scamp to live in full time
How did family and friends react to your decision to live small?
Some were a little skeptical and wondered how it would work, but most were excited and saw that it was the best decision for us.
Where do you receive mail?
We still own our condo in Chicago and rent it out. We made an arrangement with our tenants that they forward our mail to us in exchange for a little money off the rent. It’s worked well so far. We keep the Chicago address as our permanent one. All important items go there, and mail gets forwarded to us here or there as needed. We often use post office general delivery addresses and sometimes UPS or FedEx stores for packages.
How do you get Internet?
There are three main ways we get online:
Mobile: We use our phones as wireless hotspots and have a 30GB data plan.
Starbucks: We’ve been to dozens across America. They just upgraded the speed of their Internet and it makes a great office when you need to transfer large files.
Campsites: Some have decent WiFi, including the one we’re currently at. It can be slow at times, but overall works well and allows us to stay at home and work from the trailer.
Where do you shower?
Like most road dwellers we don’t shower as much as we (or others) might like. We usually go one of three ways:
Solar Shower: When we’re in warm climates, it’s pretty easy to fill the bag up in the morning, let it sit out in the sun all day, and then shower in the evening. We rig a tarp around a tree or use our tripod hangboard setup.
Gyms/Recreation Centers: There are lots of community rec centers in towns across the nation, and they often are clean and inexpensive. We’ve paid $2-$15/day for a place to work out, swim and take a long, hot shower.
Campgrounds: Some are better than others in terms of amenities, but at least half of the ones we’ve stayed at offer showers. In the Red River Gorge, we get free showers as part of our camping fee.
How do you balance work and living in a small space?
The tendency is just to work all the time. Without an office to go to, or even a separate room to retreat to/from, you find yourself working and eating, working and stretching, and working and playing with the dog. Good thing we love our work!
What are your hobbies on the road?
Rock climbing and training for climbing is how we spend a lot of our time when not working. It’s our hobby and passion and a huge reason why we are on the road to begin with.
We also like to read, listen to podcasts, and cook; Andy also plays guitar.
What are your top three go-to items in your tiny home?
Coffee: We enjoy making good coffee and prioritize buying fresh beans and using our handmade ceramic mugs. We only have two mugs in the trailer—compared to 20-plus that we used to have at home.
Dog: Having a pet on the road can be challenging at times but overall it’s a great joy. Our pit-mix Pickle provides us tons of love, warmth and security, and we’re so glad she’s along with us on this journey.
Memory Foam Mattress: Sleep is important and we don’t scrimp on comforts when it comes to sheets, pillows and our mattress.
What has been the most rewarding thing about living small?
I love having fewer choices in my life. For example, it has reduced a certain amount of stress to go to my closet each morning—which is actually just a 15 x 20 x 20 inch cubby—and select from a very small number of items that I can wear that day.
Same goes for cooking. I find I’m actually much more creative when I don’t have a giant fridge and cabinets full of food or a grocery store down the street. I look into my little bin and see what I can come up with! We waste very little food, compared to our previous life, and make better meals than we ever did. It makes me feel great to buy less and waste less.
If you could change one thing about your lifestyle, what would it be?
Honestly, I miss having my own bathroom probably the most. Going outside in the woods, in a pit toilet, port-a-potty, the nearest gas station, etc., gets old. We actually do have a toilet in the trailer, but are wusses when it comes to dealing with RV dumping, so we don’t use it.
What is your advice to future homeowners who want to live small or hit the road?
Like many things in life you can do a lot of prep and planning, but there is still that moment at which you have to jump into the unknown. You’ll never be 100% prepared. Save as much money as possible so that you don’t have to add that to your list of travel stresses, and take 50% of the items you think you’ll actually need. Get to know others doing a similar thing and learn from them.
Do you plan to go back to your previous way of living?
No, I don’t think we’ll ever live in a huge city again—and not in a condo. After we’re ready to settle down again, we’ll probably end up in a very small house or tiny house in a midsized city. Probably in the west, somewhere close to climbing.
What's next for you? Any news you want to share?
We have two big upcoming events/deadlines for our DesignEgg project:
October 5-25: Golden Egg Auction
More than 25 of our favorite artists and brands have donated a fine selection of items to the Golden Egg Auction. Choose from handmade ceramics, jewelry, textiles, outdoor gear, gift certificates, coffee and more. Each bid directly supports the work of DesignEgg and helps us get closer to our overall fundraising goal of $24,000 by November 1.
Nonprofits with annual budgets of $250,000 should apply and will be evaluated by an outside committee based on the excellence of their organizations, the degree to which their work helps others and financial need.