Create Your Freedom: How the Tiny House Lifestyle Supports Joy

Living tiny has been paradoxical. In some ways, it has created such a radical shift in how we live our life that we hardly recognize who we used to be, while in other ways, it’s been so easeful and natural that it’s embarrassing to reflect on what a huge deal we made of it all initially. What we’ve experienced and learned in that time has literally been priceless. There’s not a morsel we would change.

A SEED SPROUTS IN THE CRACK

One of our favorite family vacations ever was to Yelapa, Mexico where there are no cars and electricity had just been installed 6 years before.

I wouldn’t classify us as a conventional family. Rather I’d say we’re more of a tapestry of sporty, outdoorsy, and bohemian, all sprinkled with a solid glazing of hippy. Our nature is primarily optimistic and some have branded us as wanderlusts. No matter what we are though, one thing is perfectly clear: we have a very low tolerance for pain, stress, and suffering. If something’s not right, we’re compelled to fix it. This drive to create our best lives possible has often led us down sparsely trodden paths; we gave up following the herd years ago.

We knew something wasn’t right soon after moving into our “dream” home in 2009. Everything we had worked so hard for was plunged into this behemoth. After just six months our family dynamic was in disarray. Financial stress was getting the better of us, our ability to spend time together as a unit thwarted by our need to work longer hours to generate more income. Fueled by exhaustion, we created the habit of opting for the “easy” way out of each challenge: retreating into the various corners of this large house.

Just a small portion of the stuff we got rid of before going to Baja. Haven’t missed a single thing we got rid of since!

The side-effects of our disconnected life were most evident in our (at the time) 10 year old daughter. We could feel her slipping away and setting foot into a new reality where she was more at ease being combative and withdrawn than in being the warm and open child we had always known. We were losing her to social media, friendship stresses, western society programming, school dramas, etc. Her frequent sulking was a hot poker in our hearts and served as a reminder that our family unit was not well.

An introduction to the tiny house movement came in the nick of time and we we embarked on “Operation Extraction”.  Within the course of several months, we had gotten rid of 90% of our worldly belongings, gotten rid of the house, bought a used pop-up tent trailer and created a five month itinerary in which we would explore the beaches of the Sea of Cortez in Baja Sur, Mexico. Our at the time 14 year old son, Paiute, a competitive ice hockey player, had decided that he wanted to play in Colorado for high school. This created an opportunity for Andrew and Terra and myself to go spend a few months focusing on her needs and passions; she had been raised on Jacques Cousteau documentaries and had always wanted to go to the Sea of Cortez.

INTO THE UNKNOWN

After months of preparation and downsizing, we finally were ready to head down to Baja with our pop up tent trailer.

We embarked for our Baja trip with a two-fold objective: 1) to reconnect with Terra by giving her an opportunity to re-experience life free from intense external pressure, and 2) to discover what defines home by whittling away all the frivolities that most American houses are encased in.

Our tiny house journey began in earnest October 20, 2011, the date we shoved off from our familiar nest in Ashland, Oregon. As we followed the first bend on southbound I5 and our home town became smaller in our rearview mirror, we could never have guessed the implications of the amazing journey we had just begun. Or how profoundly our lives would change as a result of stepping into our intention of creating an extraordinary life.

GOING THROUGH HELL TO GET TO HEAVEN

Our new surroundings seemed harsh initially and we longed to go back to our old familiar life.

As our pace of life came to a sudden halt south of the border and access to cell reception and the interwebs scaled back to a measly 1.5 hours per week, a deep and insufferable itch permeated our beings. For 30 days we tossed and turned, irritable with each other and the world around us. We felt like addicts and withdrawal from our previous busy life and electronics took its long and twisted course. At one point, Andrew and I lay awake in the middle of the night, confessing in secretive hushes so as not to wake Terra, that we had made a mistake in coming down. That it was too hard. That we were probably psychologically damaging her and ourselves.

But some inner wisdom begged us to stay. To be just a tiny bit more patient.

When we arrived in Baja, the sea temperature was 92F! We spent all our days floating and relaxing.

On the 31st day, for reasons still unknown and magical, Andrew’s withdrawal symptoms lifted, the next day mine, and the one after, Terra’s. The toxic fog cleared and we found ourselves standing at the epicenter of paradise. For the next four months we played like children. We swam like dolphins. We ran like pumas.

Our days were spent SCUBA diving, snorkeling, harvesting foods from the sea, making new friends, playing instruments, singing, learning Spanish, drawing, eating freshly made corn tortillas, playing board games, reading, and most importantly enjoying each other’s company. We talked. We talked. And then we talked some more. Our draw to spend time on electronic screens became as distant as the sun. We felt Terra pull in close to us again; a planet falling back into the easy rhythm of its natural orbit. Order had been restored in our universe.

A rustic open well provided us with fresh water at a remote beach in Cabo Pulmo area.

In five months we learned that in living with the least, we were the happiest. That busy-ness and excessive material possessions are high ticket items with a premium we’re not willing to pay.  We knew that in order to remain in this optimal state that we would need to create a tiny house lifestyle back in Oregon. Which is what we did.

A FAMILY GROWS UP

We have been living the tiny house lifestyle now for exactly 2,042 days; 5 years, 7 months, and 3 days. The date we shoved off from Ashland into the unknown to radically shift our lives serves as our anniversary. Taking a peak into our future, we see no major forks in the road which would take us from this lifestyle.

Terra had prom last week and like a good brother, Paiute wanted to be in the photo with his little sister.

Today we are fortunate in that both our kids (now 20 and 17) have been living with us for the last two years. Our son decided he wanted to play junior level hockey here locally in order to be closer to home and to spend time with us before setting off for college (which will happen this August when he leaves to play hockey for University of Arkansas). Terra graduates from high school in just a couple of weeks and will then set off on a year long volunteering adventure which will take her to various countries in SE Asia and Central America.

The changes we saw in Terra all those years ago have stuck. That journey allowed her to experience herself without the intense stresses and pressures all youth must face in our fast paced culture. To this day, she pays us the ultimately compliment by calling us her best friends.

The foundation that our lifestyle has created for both of the kids is invaluable. Moving forward in life, they will always have a unique perspective and an understanding of what brings joy and what works against it.

As for Andrew and myself, we are finally seeing our passion for creating a workshop called “Create Your Freedom” come to fruition. Years in the making, we are giddy with excitement to announce that we will offer our inaugural event in our beloved Ashland, Oregon October 27, 28 & 29, 2017 (more info coming soon). 

We still return to Baja at least a couple times per year!

Our Create Your Freedom workshop is a culmination of everything we have learned in our lifetimes, from the good to painful lessons learned, and all of the best tools and strategies we’ve adopted to create a magnificent life. Living the tiny house lifestyle has afforded us the experiences and opportunity to finally be able to create this workshop and we’re already counting down the days until this goal is finally reached.

In closing, we would love to hear from you and to have you join this conversation. Did you step into a risk at some point in your life and have it reward you with incredible lessons? Do you have a goal/vision that you’re timid to commit to at this point? What have you found has helped you in your relationships with those closest to you? If you’re moved to share your experiences, we’d love to hear them…you can do so by simply commenting below.

 

13 Responses to Create Your Freedom: How the Tiny House Lifestyle Supports Joy

  1. Laura May 24, 2017 at 2:00 pm #

    I want to do this so much! Everything from the Baja trip to attending your workshop. I’ve been through a tricky “transitional phase” since I last commented or wrote to you, but I’m about to go to Bella Bella for a month to work and I hope to have acquired some wisdom and insight about my way forward when I return. I hope the universe guides me to your workshop later this year! Thanks for this inspiring article.

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella May 24, 2017 at 2:10 pm #

      HI Laura!! The great thing is that Baja and our workshop and all the great things in life are there waiting for you! Sure hope to see you in October…keep us posted! <3

  2. Daniel Calero May 24, 2017 at 5:24 pm #

    Gabriella and Andrew, reading this has made me so much more excited to meet you both at the Toronto tiny house workshop next month. You are quickly becoming role models and I also hope to break free and create a life that my wife and 5 year old daughter will be happiest with. I have lots to learn from you both 🙂 excited to meet you!!

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella May 25, 2017 at 1:07 pm #

      Hi Daniel! We’re really looking forward to meeting you as well! 🙂

  3. Renee May 24, 2017 at 7:33 pm #

    Inspiring story! How much privacy did everyone have in the tiny house? Did you have a bedroom with a door? Did the kids?

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella May 25, 2017 at 1:15 pm #

      Hi Renee! We found a perfect solution for our family…separate sleeping cabins for the kids. During the day when they’re home they hang out with us in our tiny house (only kitchen and bathroom and TV for movies on our property). At night, they go to their own cabins. I don’t think we would have been able to make it work with them sleeping full time in hOMe. If they were younger, yes. But not at 17 and 20. It’s been an arrangement that we weren’t sure about at first but it’s worked out extraordinarily well!

  4. Kristen May 24, 2017 at 7:50 pm #

    I so enjoyed your story. I attended the workshop in Portland, OR, last fall, but still have so much de-cluttering to do. I hope someday to travel and live other places, and then have a tiny house, with or without wheels. As I learned at the workshop, fear is my biggest obstacle… Keep on doing the wonderful work you’re doing, spreading the word and helping to legitimize this life choice of living small. Thank you!

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella May 25, 2017 at 1:17 pm #

      Nice to hear from you Kristen!! Yup…fear is a biggie, at least it CAN be. One of my favorite quotes, as a fear-based person myself, is “feel the fear and do it anyways”. Sometimes that’s been just the thing to help me find the courage to take that next step. Keep us posted! 🙂

  5. Tracy May 26, 2017 at 5:50 pm #

    So inspirational! My husband and I were wondering, without a traditional employer and with family health insurance premiums being exhorbitant right now, what do you guys do about health insurance? With my husband being self employed, this is one of our biggest expenses, more than our mortgage payment actually.

    • Gil and Carol July 24, 2017 at 1:38 pm #

      I too would like to hear the answer to this question. Hubby is almost 65, so he’s going to be in good shape, insurance-wise, but I’ve got 12 more years until I’m 65, so I’d need insurance of some sort if I quit my full-time job.

      Any ideas?

  6. Jonathan May 28, 2017 at 8:41 am #

    I’ve always wanted to transition to the tiny lifestyle. I’m in negotiations with someone to potentially purchase a used tiny house. It is already located in a community with other tiny houses and rents out to tourists fairly regularly. I figured this would be a good way to transition to the tiny house club, being able to rent it out regularly to pay for it, but also use it on occasion for staycations and getting used to the tiny lifestyle. It is of course a scary thought to make that big of an investment, but any encouragement and advice would be appreciated. Thanks for your inspiration!

  7. Worlds Greatest Groupie July 2, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

    I absolutely loved reading this story. I’m sad that I will not be able to attend your premier workshop, but look forward to the next one, with great anticipation. Thank you both for teaching the lesons of the universe, how to create freedom as each individual person sees it for themselve. Love you both !!

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella July 3, 2017 at 7:46 am #

      So thank our lucky stars that you came to our Philly workshop!! Life would not be the same without you. We love you and appreciate you SO much!!! And it’s true…you truly are the world’s greatest groupie!!!

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