Let's See What Happens
Somewhere between Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter March, I decided I didn't want to do this, meaning society, anymore. At least for right now. I'm tired of the racism, I'm tired of the lack of understanding, I'm tired of our failing government, I'm tired of us not working together as a society and as a people.
Most of all I'm tired of writing a check to some mystery person as I sit in my room waiting for this pandemic to be over while most of my employers can no longer pay me, and jobs have all been canceled. The summer is my bread and butter as a shooter. Large gatherings of people are my thing, and my thing is gone. Meanwhile, I'm watching my friends sign up for loans we really don't know anything about and I'm over here burning through my savings. Not part of anyone's plan for 2020.
I've been a photographer for more than 15 years now and for that to just be gone is crazy. Supposedly people, artists and creatives are supposed to "find something new" to do.
There was a need for me to take real control of things. I'm not IN debt and I'm not ABOUT to be, I decided to change what I could while also living out a tiny, green dream of mine.
No more rent. No more utilities. No more giving away my money. No more sitting in my room waiting for the pandemic to be over and for my job to return!
In the middle of the night, I found myself looking at alternative living possibilities. I've spent years watching tiny house documentaries and years minimizing everything I own. I wanted to see if I could do it for real.
Who knew there was a website where people sell tiny homes, but there I was going through all of the filters and price ranges at 3 o'clock in the morning. This was it, this was the picture that grabbed my attention, not to mention the price was right. (Insert gameshow model joke here)
Images Courtesy of www.TinyHouseListings.com
"Find your oasis in this freshly built tiny home that you can easily move with an SUV or small truck."
A good friend accompanied me for this long drive, 28 hours and 1840 miles round trip. David and I met working for one of the conventions I do annually in San Diego, we work as part of a team helping to create content and images as part of the show. He's also the mastermind behind all the dope beats and music beds I use in most of my YouTube and blog videos. David always sees me going on these road trips, always sending me a message asking how come he did not get an invite. I had called him to tell him about my exciting new adventure and through our conversation learned that he has never really left California before (Vegas doesn't count)! So I did what any good friend would do and invited him to come with me, crossing six states in five days!
We took two different routes to complete our trip. The way there, without anything to tow, I took it vantage of the beautiful scenery driving through the Sierras and Aspen Colorado. The way back I took the lower route that's much more flat, through New Mexico and Arizona. Of course we stopped and ate in a diner somewhere along Route 66. There was also an interesting moment we realized we were the only non-American Indians in the diner!
(Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico... What am I missing?)
The video below pretty much sums it all up! Apologies for all of the swearing, I'm sure the mixture of shock and reality produced more f-bombs and mother f-bombs than usual. Enjoy!
Amazingly, I feel like I adjusted pretty quickly to driving with Tiny in tow. The only time I felt nervous was when I had to pass extreme winds and maybe some hail… But that's it!
Tiny is originally a 1992 Coleman PopUp Camper. The man I purchased it from fixed it making it a permanent structure.
The first thing I had to do once I returned was paint the camper to match my car. It was really important for me to feel like I looked professional, like something that went together. Without the paint job, I was nervous about getting pulled over, looking like a drifting hippie (even though I kinda am).
There has been a downside to painting her, people are drawn to Tiny! They want to take pictures and they have tons of questions everywhere I go. At first, I didn't mind it, I just always have to keep in mind safety at all times.
Solar panels and a second battery were also installed. During the day I have endless amounts of energy to use, keeping my laptop and other gadgets charged. Overnight, the two flood batteries will provide me with 5 or 6 hours of energy.
After deciding to have a compost toilet, I made sure it would fit in the same space as the tub I removed. To my surprise, I found a bunch of plumbing underneath that I didn't expect to be above floor level. A little elbow grease and I got it all out. This is helping me to save some space as well being that the toilet is smaller than the original tub unit.
Raising the bed gave me so much space underneath for storage. My entire wardrobe fits inside of two 30 gallon storage tubs that I've lined the bottoms of with carpet so that they slide easily back-and-forth on the floor. In the pictures below you can also see the walls have been replaced with beadboard, a shelf has been installed and the kitchen has been redone. Some fun LED rope lights really made the place lively, it also gives me color light therapy on the go! It was fun looking up how different colored lighting can affect your mood. It was also interesting to find out that red lights help to keep away mosquitoes.
So Many Decisions
When I got into this, I had no idea how many decisions I was going to be making. I didn't have enough room or real plumbing/water supply for a full shower - as tall as I am. One thing I did know, is that I never wake up in the middle of the night and need to take a shower, but I do wake up in the middle of the night and need to go to the bathroom! So there you have it, that's how I decided if I was going to have a shower or a toilet.
After removing the tub that was previously installed, I had to figure out how (and how often) I was going to shower. There are so many options when it comes to portable showers, I had to figure out what was right for me. After a ton of research, watching people use and review different products online, this is what I chose. This is a USB chargeable, portable shower with a pump automatically installed!
All I l have to do is warm up a pot of water, drop the pump into the pot (not too hot as to damage the unit), and find a place to hang my showerhead. Of course, I'll be turning the pump on and off while I soap myself in an attempt to save any water while I bathe. I also ordered a pop-up tent with an open-top, since I will be showering outside I'll be needing the privacy.
I really like the idea of being able to take it with me and not having to leave it inside of Tiny. This will be great at the beach, camping, or anywhere for that matter!
The other big decision I had to make was how would be keeping my food cool. After housesitting for some friends for three weeks I took a good look at how I eat. Usually, my meals are cooked with fresh ingredients. The only items I had inside of their refrigerator were my oat milk and cream for coffee. Once in a while, I buy salads for lunch or save leftovers from the night before. That list right there isn't enough for me to invest in a small refrigerator, plus refrigerators are energy suckers!
I really did want a refrigerator or an electric cooler but once I started doing research it didn't take much for me to change my mind. Most of those coolers are ambient coolers. That means that they only drop the temperature 20° or so below their current environment. So let's say I am in the desert and it's 110°. That cooler will only go down to 90°. Most of these coolers are between $400 and $900, and 90° isn't something I'm interested in paying for. Having an appliance like this would also cause my power inverter (inside the unit) to run on and on, that along with the sound of the cooler engine itself would drive me nuts in such small quarters.
The one thing I love the most in life is ice in my drink so I opted for a cooler that I rigged to stay on top of an old printer roller. I also put a cooler box inside so not everything will be floating in the water once the ice melts. This way I'll have ice for my drinks and my food stash will stay chill. Usually, the cooler will keep everything cold for three or four days. You have no idea how excited I am to eat from the farmers' markets on a regular basis.
Then I thought to myself, what about all of this water! It's going to be a pain in the butt to drain this thing with my food and snacks inside, and that's when I had this idea! Please enjoy the 30-sec video below.
Figuring out how I was going to cook the food I can now store was next. It was really simple actually, all I did was replace my favorite appliances with tiny versions. Now, my entire kitchen fits in a 2' x 1' space underneath the counter.
(Above) An electric kettle, rice cooker with steaming tray, 2-burner propane stove, slow cooker and my Solo Stove for open fire meals. Done!
30amp Shore cord
12volt Water Pump
5 Interior Outlets
2 Exterior Outlets
2 12volt Flood Batteries
Internal Propane Hook Up
External Propane Hook Up
Compost Toilet with Wee Diverter
Multi-Color LED Rope Lights
GPS Tracking System
Alarm System w Alert
14 Gallon Water Tank
18 Gallon Gray Water Tank
Things To Come:
Installation & Rubber Coating on Bottom
Refinish Ceiling Inside
People smile and wave at you
Less Environmental Impact
Personalized space for me
Saving a ton on rent and utilities
Finding places to park
Gyms are still closed for showering
(if I think of more I'll list them)
The Real Journey
After all the sorting and letting go I've done over the years, even more clothes had to go. But that isn't why I found myself crying often. That was happening because I'd never had or felt so much freedom before. I have power you guys! Power on the go, at the tip of my fingers! And I'm not paying for it! That's insane!
As I make my way up California I was thinking about who I could visit along the way that would want to see the new rig. My sister for example, I could spend a night or two there for sure. Then I found myself doing what we always do, preparing to leave before I had even arrived. Like we are on some schedule and I need to get back. But this time I don't need to get back. I can stay wherever for however long, that's a freedom I've never experienced.
My mother said I would get bored in a "normal" job, and she's right. She said, "You need a challenge" - right again. Nearly every day for two months I worked on this to make it my own. Major shout out to Home Depot Store 640 in Sunnyvale for giving me the skills I needed to pull this off. Even though the build was a challenge of its own, I already know I ain't seen nothing yet!
TOP 5 QUESTIONS:
Where do you empty your toilet?
After doing much research, it's my pleasure to inform you that your poop is not considered toxic waste. It is absolutely safe for you to dispose of good ol' number two in a trash bin. HOWEVER, if this #vanlife, #nomadlife, #camperlife and #tinymovement sticks around, expect rules to change. Of course, the best thing to do is find an RV park or a safe dumping zone.
Number 1 drains into a separate container thanks to my wee-diverter. The container is a good size that can be easily put into a bag, carried indoors and tossed into the regular sewage system.
Does it smell usually follows this question and the answer is - not when taken care of. Toilets like these only smell when you mix urine with feces. It's the moisture that makes poop smell, that's why the diverter is so important. I'll be using wood chips, or hamster bedding to absorb any moisture after usage. Basically, instead of flushing, I'll be sprinkling.
Some places I'm looking into staying also use your number two and turn it into soil that makes an excellent fertilizer.
Where are you going to park it?
Right now I'm headed to Northern California. I've had an amazing offer to stay on a property that'll allow me to get used to living tiny. There's all sorts of green living happening on this property including solar, small farm, chickens and walking distance to the river.
Are you going to be on the side of the road?
How much was it?
$5k Purchase and another $3k in solar in customizations.
So now what?
I just want to finish all of my writing projects, save money and like I've done many times before, reinvent my income. Long term, I hope to stay in Tiny for at least a year and then sell her for a bigger tiny and get a new truck/SUV.
I'd love to hear your questions and comments! Thanks for following me along this crazy Covid ride! If there's anything you'd like to know more about, don't be afraid to ask!