One thing that we, rightly or wrongly, always feel the need to explain to people is our reasons for living in the truck. Moving your family into a tiny house definitely doesn’t align with society’s norms, and it feels like some explanation is needed. There are certainly practical reasons that we can give people, the most obvious one being the financial savings. Even with the cost of buying the truck and the build, we are still significantly better off than we would have been if we had been paying rent all this time (including bills we were paying about £1500 a month in Brighton). The ability to pack up our home and move it wherever we want is another advantage that is obvious to people. But there are more abstract reasons for our choosing of this lifestyle that are sometimes harder to explain, but in many ways are bigger factors for our family.
Something we strive to do as a couple, and are constantly working to be better at, is slowing down. It is so easy, especially in this super connected electronic age we live in, to feel like you are always rushing- even when you don’t have anywhere to get to in a hurry. Living a life where we try to step back from that a little, and have our technology (which we still use probably too much) work for us rather than feeling enslaved by it, is our aim. It’s something that is surprisingly difficult, as these little devices are very addictive, but finding the right balance of connection and screen free time is the aim. Another aspect of time that is important to us is that having such dramatically reduced expenses means that Henry needs to work much less so we both get to spend lots of time with Annabel. Henry’s job is such that when he works he is away for at least 5 days a week, so being able to spend this precious time together while she is so tiny is an amazing gift that is completely priceless, and I know we will always look back on this era so happily.
The feeling of freedom we have living in our tiny home is a wonderful thing, and hugely important to both of us. Knowing that, if we wanted to, we could strap everything down and drive our truck almost anywhere is awesome. It is also freedom from a mortgage. We have both always rented before so having a place that is our own, all 200 square feet of it, is a lovely feeling, and building it from scratch means getting to decide exactly what we want and where we want it.
We are people who like to do things ourselves. One way of being free is by viewing problems as an opportunity to learn to do something new, rather than paying someone to fix things for you. If something in the van needs to be repaired or replaced, Henry will do it himself. If we need bread, I’ll bake it. Every part of the truck was done by us, from the insulation to the parquet, to installing the wood stove and plumbing and wiring, the windows and every single nail and screw. We don’t buy mayonnaise, or hummus, or jam, or smoothies. We grow vegetables and herbs. We are very far from self sufficiency, but what we can, we do.
Although we are currently plugged in, we have the capacity to get our energy from the sun, and to be able to collect and filter rain water. We have designed the truck to be able to live off the grid, in a large part for sustainability reasons, but also to be able to take a step back. We believe in healthcare and education and of course pay our taxes, but we don’t want to be giving hundreds of pounds a month to energy companies if we don’t have to. We shop from local farmers and butchers to give less of our money to the supermarkets. Annabel wears cloth nappies and most of her (and our) clothes come from charity shops. Neither of us watch or read the news, because whether or not we know what is going on in the world has no effect on events, it just makes us sad. There is a lot more we can, and will, do- but we are always working towards stepping away away from the consumer-driven society we live in. I would also like to make clear that when I talk about “society” I am not talking about COMMUNITY. Sharing with and leaning on neighbours and friends is very different than becoming outraged by reading news designed to make you angry and fearful, and is something that is a big part of why we are doing all of this.
You may have noticed some overlap in all of these ideas. Self reliance is an important part of freedom, which gives you more time. Freedom and time make it more possible for you to opt out. There are lots of other things that are important to us, and that we hope to pass on to our daughter, like being in nature, kindness to others, and trying to be mindful, but if I had to sum up the values that have led us down this path, it would be these four things. Trying to walk the walk and live by your values isn’t easy, and we are very far from perfect, but we are working all the time to bring the way we live in line with the way we feel.