We've all heard of the tiny home movement by now and in a place like British Columbia it's an enticing idea for many people. We have mild winters (compared to the rest of Canada) and sky-high rent/mortgages. For the adventurous hearts, the concept of simply driving your home off to park on a beach at sunset is simply divine. Entrepreneurial brains see the savings advantages created by downsizing. More cash on hand for re-investing in those passion-driven plans? Yes please. Those of us with children, on the other hand, may admire the idea... but fear the practicality of being contained in small spaces with our tiny humans. Many of us have just learned what it's like to be around our family 24/7 due to the COVID-19 pandemic locking our doors for us and we are starting to re-think the open-concept living plan we have... imagining this lifestyle packed into a tiny home is more a thing of nightmares than whimsical wanderlust.
But I got curious... as I do. And I interviewed four Vancouver Island locals who DO live tiny. Why do they do it? What do they love about it? Will they do it forever? Who ARE these nomads?
Let's start with the latter question... who are these nomads?
Meet Kirstie... a horse-loving SFU student and adventure loving vegan who lived tiny in her 2018 Promaster RAM for almost 3 years... which was converted into the coolest little home. Due to a parting of ways with her partner, their tiny home is actually on the market! You can check it out by clicking here!
Why did you decide to live tiny?
The main reason was because we were fed up with paying rent in Vancouver and as a university student and a supportive bread-winner partner, we weren't in a position in our lives to save money for a mortgage. It was empowering to take matters into our own hands and live in something that was completely ours.
How much time and planning went into your home?
We had followed the tiny home movement on social media for a year or longer before we decided to do it ourselves. I would say planning roughly started around then. We would throw around ideas and debate about what things we absolutely needed in our lives, and what we would feel ok about tossing away. When we decided to purchase our sprinter van, that's when the real planning began. But by that time, we knew pretty well what we wanted to do. I would say the tangible planning process took about three months, from the time we decided to convert a sprinter van to when it was completed and we were full-time van lifers.
What is unique about your home?
Our home is fully off-grid, which is pretty rad. We have a Nature's Head composting toilet, which doesn't smell at all -- and I cannot emphasize that enough. Living in a small space means smells are up close and personal, and I'm super grateful that is one smell we do not have to deal with. We have a dual-battery system that recharges via solar panels during the day, and we have an isolator on our vehicle engine that allows the system to charge while driving. Our Isotherm fridge is equipped with a Danfoss compressor, which ensures a low power-draw. My favourite part about our tiny home is the murphy bed my partner built. It's brilliant! Tuck the bed away during the day, and easily pull it down when you're all tuckered out at night. I think the most unique part is that our van is a stealth van. You'd only know it's a home-on-wheels if you saw the inside!
What is the best part about living tiny?
It felt so good to downsize and keep only what I needed. I did not realize how many knick-knacks we had accumulated through the years! I felt my mind was free when I had less 'stuff' in the physical world. I could focus on the things that really mattered, like my family and my studies. It was also very empowering to create something from scratch with our bare hands, and live in a space that we created ourselves. The best part was that we brought our imagination to life, and freed ourselves from the constraints of so many 'things' that we manage to find space for in a bigger apartment or house. Plus, we had extra spending money all the time. That was pretty awesome.
What was the worst? It did get pretty compact in the fall and winter, living in less than 50 square feet. Mainly because in Vancouver we see so much rain, and so our rain jackets and winter jackets took up a swath of space while we hung them to dry. Van-life living is best served with an outdoor lifestyle, and that is harder to accomplish in the winter months. Also showering -- if I were to do it again, I'd find a way to have a shower on-board. In hindsight, it was always an adventure finding a shower. I learned all the best spots in the city to have a shower, and utilized my campus fitness centre quite often!
Did living tiny impact you in a big way?
It did. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I now appreciate how much water we use on a daily basis, and relish in the fact that we all have showers at our disposal every day! We take a lot for granted, living in a first-world country. Tiny living opened my eyes to that, and allowed me the experience of getting to know my city a lot more intimately than I would otherwise have done. Now when I go shopping to buy clothes, I make sure I absolutely need an item before purchasing it. When I do make the purchase, I ensure I get rid of something in my wardrobe to make space. Tiny living is not for everyone, but if you are even remotely interested in trying it out, you must do it!
Meet Josh and Rebecca... one of the most genuine and kind couples that you will meet in your entire lives... and stewards of this beautiful land that we live on.... for real! This couple is as outdoorsy as you get. They own New Eden Landscape & Design, grow a ton of their own veggies, have chickens, and do their tiny living along with their NOT so tiny Great Dane cross.
For these entrepreneurial spirits, this lifestyle allows them to experience luxuries they wouldn't otherwise have... and aligns with their goal to retire early and own real-estate when they are ready for children. Plus, their home is on a gorgeous sprawling farm property, giving them more than enough space for their outdoor lifestyle. Bonfires at sunset without the light pollution of the city? Yes please.
"We love it! We get to live in a beautiful spot for super cheap and we can take our house with us whenever we go on our adventures. We love the lifestyle! It's not forever, but it let's us bank a lot of our money and our plan is to retire young." - Josh & Rebecca
Meet Peter. Peter and his human Frank decided to go tiny almost 4 years ago because of the rising rent costs and difficulty finding rentals that allowed Peter at all!
It's not easy being a renter. Peter and Frank moved around in the Greater Victoria area quite a bit, ending up in places that just didn't suit the quiet lifestyle they wanted. Thumping noises from upstairs tenants, cigaratte smoke blowing in through windows, or landlords that didn't see it fit to fix leaking fridges or broken ovens led them to think outside the box. Peter, being the smart old dog he is, LOVED being close to the water. And how better to be close to the water than to live as close to the water as possible??? Now to get the human onboard.
There are some very beautifully maintained RV parks where people go for quiet living on the island, just a stone's throw from the ocean. For Frank, sitting outside at the picnic table playing his guitar by the cool ocean breeze is the best place to be after a day's work is done. Buying an RV meant ownership, freedom from renting, and lightening up the load on the wallet for things that are a little more fun than paying rent. Like motorcycles!
What's your least favourite part of tiny living?
The shower in my RV is a little tight for a big guy like me. I like to be able to stretch out and not bump my elbows! Also, I'm a musician. I have a lot of music books, guitars, amps, you know... equipment. And it takes up a lot of space. So storage can be a bit of a challenge. They make these RV's pretty cleverly, but when you buy one that hasn't been renovated, it's really built for camping trips, not permanent living. Oh, and the oven. Propane ovens don't cook your food like a regular one. I got an air fryer... it's awesome. If I changed the kitchen, I would take the oven right out and just use my air fryer. I can do a whole rotisserie chicken in it!
What would you do differently with your setup?
I'd gut it and change the layout so that there is more counter space in the kitchen, and more cleverly hidden storage space. Like, the bench could lift up so that things could be stored below it. I'd also change the colours. I love the light turquoise blue. I'd put more of that happy colour in.
What's the best part about tiny living?
I own this place. It's mine. I don't have any neighbours in the next apartment that can bang on the walls or stomp on the ceiling. And if I don't like my yard anymore.. I move! I'm planning on driving my home over to the Sunshine Coast in a few years. I've had my eye on retiring there. You can't do that with a normal house.
These are accounts from just three people who chose to live tiny... but there are thousands more. And many of them LOVE to talk about it! There are online communities, Instagram accounts, Facebook pages and websites dedicated to those who have made the "tiny home movement." And there seems to be some secret camaraderie between tiny home dwellers. If you're driving around in your home, it's like the other tiny homers come out of the woodwork to meet you. If you're thinking about going tiny... or maybe just living tiny for a couple of months on an extended adventure... talk to these people! They'll give you incites and ingenious tips on how to do it well.