Financial freedom, traveling nonstop and loving life: It sounds like a dream, but for many people traveling in tiny houses, it's a reality.
Take for example, travel writer Jenna Spesard and her photographer partner Guillame Dutilh. Together with their canine companion, Salies, they have been roaming the country for months thanks to the minimalist lifestyle afforded them by making the journey in a tiny house they built. They documented the building process and their travels on their blog, Tiny House Giant Journey.
“The tiny-house lifestyle enables us to have intentional living,” Dutilh said. “Instead of how much money it takes us to do something ... I like to think that the tiny-house living alleviates those issues, and we can have a lifestyle that we choose.”
After a landslide of research and planning, the couple set out in 2012 to build their own tiny house on wheels; a year later, they had completed the construction.
“The fact that we chose to build our own house was part of the story,” Dutilh said. “We really wanted to have this thing we’d built ourselves, having never built anything before.”
The house—all 125 square feet plus a sleeping loft—sits on a 20-foot trailer pulled behind a diesel Ford F250, with an odometer of 22,405 miles when we interviewed the couple while they were in Colorado.
Dutilh says the couple took the incredible downsize in stages, and had to put deep consideration into every item and appliance that was built into the compact domicile.
“We don’t have a washer or dryer. For laundry we go to laundromats or use facilities in campgrounds,” Spesard said. “We also don’t have an oven, but that’s a personal choice. Everything is smaller; our stove only has three burners but it fits the space.”
While living in such a tiny space creates its own obstacles to overcome, the couple says that they won’t be going back to large-scale living anytime soon.
“It gives us an opportunity to travel in a unique way in all seasons,” said Spesard. “ A regular RV wouldn’t be nearly as insulated or as comfortable to travel with in all weather.”
The couple partners with Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. and teaches workshops all over the country to travelers who are interested in transitioning to a tiny home. Each transition is personal, Dutilh said, but it can be dramatic shift from a standard home or apartment to a one-room tiny house where “the only separate room is the bathroom”.
In deciding what stayed and what went during the tiny-house transition, the couple made sacrifices. Those sacrifices of belongings, though, have led Dutilh and Spesard on a journey spanning 35 U.S. states, five Canadian provinces and backpacking travels through Costa Rica and Iceland.
A Growing Tiny House Movement
Though Spesard and Dutilh’s journey is unique, there is a growing community across the U.S. of tiny-house enthusiasts. Elaine Walker, a co-founder of the American Tiny House Association shed some light on demographics throughout the tiny-house community.
According to a recent survey, 63 percent of survey responders have a tiny house on wheels, either parked on their own land or in a communal setting like an RV park or a friend’s backyard.
“The recent trend began … around 2007, slowly accelerating up until about 2013," Walker said. “In the past couple of years [interest] really took off with more people building and buying tiny houses, new TV shows coming out and more news coverage.”
Walker told us that finding a legal place to live in a tiny home is one of the biggest challenges for interested parties. Spesard and Dutilh agreed and said parking the home was one of their common concerns.
“[Legal parking] is definitely one of the biggest challenges for someone wanting to go tiny,” said Dutilh. “We started our trip and stayed in a lot of RV parks. Eventually, as our website became more popular, people started contacting us and letting us stay in their backyard or driveways.”
Tiny-house dwellers all over the U.S. have reported instances of “tinyvictions” where they’re evicted from their parking spot, or have cited trouble with local law enforcement over their tiny structures. Spesard and Dutilh recounted all two of their instances with police since building their tiny house.
“We went from California to Illinois pulling our tiny house before it was actually complete. We got pulled over because we were going too slowly on the highway,” said Dutilh. “The second time we were stopped on the side of the road and a cop car pulled up behind us. He got out and came to the side of the truck. He pointed at Jenna and said 'I know you! I’ve seen your YouTube videos!' He'd seen our YouTube channel and was excited about tiny houses, just wanting to chat.”
Though not all encounters with in-city building codes—that lead to tinyvictions—and interactions with the police are as delightful, the couple says that they think it’ll get easier for tiny-housers to find places to park their micro-homes in peace.
“Overall, we think it’s getting better,” said Dutilh. “We like to think the growth of the movement and its popularity will be too big to ignore. We want to be legitimized and we want to have this be a viable solution for lots of problems in this country including the housing market, minimizing debt and impact on the environment.”