I have to admit, this lifestyle is pretty great. Living in the mountains, far from the rat-race and all it implies, definitely has its perks. But, such is life, everything isn’t always just sunshine and flowers.
In fact, some days are really hard.
We’ve had to learn a few tough lessons over the last year and a half, and are still learning. Here are some of the things I wish I could have known when starting out, and would tell to anyone who would ever consider a similar adventure.
1.) Your car will probably break down. And then break down again.
One aspect of our lifestyle that has become shockingly clear: it’s rough on vehicles. When you’re travelling rocky forest trails and winding mountain roads on a daily basis, wear and tear comes with the territory.
So, from a Jeep that ultimately didn’t have the power to tow that we were comfortable with, to a Ford that has a higher towing capacity but a now defunct transmission, we’ve found ourselves in yet another SUV. Third time’s a charm, right?
But for off-grid nomads and full-time travellers, the mode of transportation is crucial, so we’ve had to become experts at roadtripping.
What have we learned?
About a million things dealing with technical specifications and preferences, to begin with. For instance: GVWR and dry weight vary greatly, always tow with a thousand lbs of extra capacity, there’s a difference between All-Wheel Drive and Four-Wheel Drive but both are preferable to Two-Wheel Drive, every sound, smell, or vibration means something, the mountain elevation to engine strain ratio is to be fearfully respected, towing with a manual transmission may be preferable to towing with an automatic, sway bars are your friends, tow hitch does not mean tow package…
I could go on and on.
More importantly, though, is that we’ve learned to be Zen masters of flexibility. Where a shot transmission may be a detrimental blow to some, we’ve adapted to rolling with the punches.
That’s not to say that it’s not a big deal — it definitely flipped our plan on its head. I mean, it’s never a good time for anyone’s transmission to go out. It’s just that, we may be more flexible now to deal with crisis because of our lifestyle, not in spite of it.
And with flexibility, things tend to fall into place.
A family friend was selling a nice SUV, we’ve been needing a secondary vehicle soon anyway, and it all worked out to both provide us some time to replace our transmission (yay for mechanic dads!) and keep us on wheels in the meantime. So maybe this third time really is charmed.
2.) You might go to the Emergency Room.
That’s a bit dramatic and probably not likely for everybody, but definitely makes the list.
And though visits to the ER may not be exactly synonymous with tiny house living, I wouldn’t be surprised if a correlation exists with this sort of rugged lifestyle.
Basically, you’re just doing so much with your body — hiking, gathering firewood, biking, climbing — that it really should come as no surprise that you’re more likely to injure yourself when you’re spending so much time moving and outdoors as opposed to laying on the couch watching marathons of Murder, She Wrote (guilty!).
With our ailments ranging from dehydration to a likely fractured foot, we’ve pushed our bodies to their limits, at times.
What have we learned after a trip to the ER, each?
How to better take care of ourselves, actually. The nourishment of water and healthy food is so vital to us now — we simply won’t be able do all of the things we want to do in this lifestyle if our bodies can’t handle it, and that’s quite the motivator.
Plus we know to be prepared. Being prepared means always being hydrated, fed, and healthy.
And if college-era Kacie could’ve predicted any of this — with my strict regimen of whiskey, nicotine, and cheeseburger grease — my head probably would’ve exploded.
3.) Everything gets dirty. Dirt. Everywhere.
I mean… duh. Ya go hiking, ya get mud on your boots, that mud might get in your car a little bit, your floor. You can deal with some mud, right? WRONG. The dirt is never-ending.
The whole camper needs cleaning after one trip out to the car and back, and forget having a clean anything after the doggies go outside for any amount of time for any reason. Our black car will never stay black, and the license plate is so dust-covered and illegible that it’d take an archeologist to make it out.
And oh, you want a nice little fire pit? Good luck going out in public EVER AGAIN. Every piece of hair, clothing, skin, and doggy has to be CDC-level scrubbed to eliminate any trace of fire scent or residue.
What have we learned?
In terms of practical matters, we’ve had to become preemptive with our cleaning.
I know my former roommates probably don’t think of me as the model for organization and order, but by golly am I ever on-guard with broom, sponge, and vacuum, fighting the small dirt battles throughout the day to prevent losing the war.
But sometimes, you just have to go to the grocery store with leaves in your hair and sweat on your face.
I remember previous phases of my life when I wouldn’t leave the house until I had made myself appear a certain way — applying makeup or wearing particular clothes — and I know it partly comes with age, but I’m happy to no longer put that pressure on myself.
Anyway, this type of lifestyle isn’t for everyone, and one day we will no longer feel the need to trek through the wilderness all the time. But until then, I’ve learned to embrace the mud.
It’s good for my skin!
4.) People will treat you differently.
Like the wearing down of vehicles or attracting dirt on a daily basis, I guess this just comes with the territory.
Some people don’t understand why anyone would want to live a rugged, seemingly uncomfortable lifestyle, so a lot of misconceptions are projected onto those who do. Some don’t know (or tend to forget) that many people live nontraditional lives like this out of choice, not necessity, and therefore misconstrue the motivation behind the lifestyle.
We’ve heard all of the reactions, received all of the labels — a range stemming from curiosity and intrigue to ignorance and ridicule.
Aaaaaand what have we learned from it?
People are jerks.
Just kidding. We simply live and let live. In this lifestyle, one person’s question is another person’s insult, but isn’t that how it goes in daily life everywhere? To be bothered by perceptions is to invite in the sort of pseudo-social pressure we want to reject in the first place.
In other words, we’ve learned to just not give a damn. What we gain from this experience has far outweighed any criticisms and labels from society that may exist.
Say what you want about the lifestyle, but there’s no denying that we do whatever tf we want…
And we’re still going to stay in the wild.
Like I said, we’ll reel it in a little bit eventually, but the rough thrill of the dirt-covered unknown has proven to be very rewarding.
Owning a little vintage travel-trailer/camper (tiny house!) that we can be-bop around in is still worth it to us.
Loading our camping gear into the SUV and spending days, weeks, months even, in a tent in the forest is still worth it to us.
Waking up every morning to stunning sunrise views of the Rocky Mountains, be it from tent or camper, is still worth it to us.
So even though it’s not always sunshine and flowers, don’t you know that “hippies” dance in the rain?