What have I done? I made the decision to move out in the sticks of Texas hill country in July of 2016. Ever since I made this choice, I have asked myself that question only once, and it was when I discovered a decapitated, bloody, and still moving (dead) diamondback rattle snake at the foot of my front door steps.
Meaning and Accomplishment are important elements to the PERMA model of well-being theory.
This blog post details what triggered my decision to purchase a travel trailer and live on a farm.
Ever since I began renting a place to live, which started at age 17, I have been disgusted with the amount of money thrown toward something I would never own. My epiphany that I could actually do something about it happened in 2014, when I was living in Austin, Texas with my boyfriend at the time. We were spending roughly $1,200/month for a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment. The size was around 800 sq. ft. and despite the fact that one of our rooms was filled with guitars and recording equipment, we both were content with the amount of space we had to live with. It was through this experience that I realized it was not how large our home was that mattered, but rather how it was organized and maintained.
I then began to learn about “tiny homes” and became absolutely fascinated with the idea of constructing my own. If I could live happily in a 800 square foot apartment with another person, why not live happily in a 800 square foot tiny home? I began to research sustainable design, net zero energy, eco-villages, and living off grid. The issues I ran into were the construction of the tiny home, as it was a relatively new concept, where to place the structure, as I did not have the capital to purchase my own land, and the fact that my boyfriend at the time wanted nothing to do with living off-grid in a tiny home. 3 strikes, you’re out!
It was impractical at this time in my life to pursue my tiny home dream, but that did not prevent me from imagining its existence into reality. Fast forward to 2015. I moved into a 400 square foot studio apartment, alone. My rent and utilities were now $800. Breaking away from a long term relationship and becoming an independent young woman was challenging, and I was crippled with debt. I had no family in Texas to fall back on and I worked for a startup company with a reliable income, yet wildly gradual opportunities for a pay raise.
I couldn’t sustain this lifestyle, nor did I want to. I wanted desperately to feel part of a community, or family, and to liberate myself from the perpetual cycle of rent. I wanted to grow my own food, love my neighbors, experience the calmness of nature, create a living space that was my own, and grow as a spiritual being.
How would I find the perfect opportunity to meet this criteria, in the large state of Texas?
The universe works in mysterious ways. Through my activist efforts in the local community, I met a woman who was starting a land development firm. She expressed interest in starting an eco-village on her property and explained it would be structured, legally, where partners own equity in the total acreage of the land but will own their individual structures and land plot that it sits on separately.
My activist friend, Will, who is also my age was already living on her property, and they welcomed me to visit and volunteer my sweat equity. We considered her property an incubator for intellectual thought and sustainable design solutions. The very first time I visited the property I felt an overwhelming connection to her family, and to the land.
I felt free. I felt like I belonged. I felt home.
And then there was the car accident. I crashed my car into a ditch and could have killed myself, and the passenger in my vehicle, had it not been for my Volkswagen Passat being a very safe vehicle. Although I survived the crash with a minor head injury, my vehicle did not. It was 100% totaled and I received a reimbursement check for my car in the full amount of its value before the crash. This was the only piece of property I owned in my adult existence, and when it was gone I felt a bit empty inside. I felt like I failed at ownership, and I knew that I would take very seriously the next stab I had at owning something. I held onto these funds to settle credit card debts and start up a savings account.
This was a tragic event, but things were starting to look up. Fast forward to 2016.
I had some money left over from the car accident settlement and I knew exactly how I wanted to spend it. This was my opportunity for a down payment on a tiny house, or so I thought. I was invited to park my “structure on wheels” on the 50 acre property. Having a structure that was mobile was important to me, as a millennial, and it was also important to the property owner as the unit was unlikely to be net zero. All I needed was my tiny home and I would be one step closer to financial liberation and a life of permaculture!
I scavenged the internet and couldn’t find a decently priced, or move in ready, tiny home anywhere. I. Mean. Anywhere. I posted to Facebook for advice from my friends and the comments were alarming. Really, it was the last suggestion I had expected, but it came from nearly everyone; purchase a travel trailer.
A travel trailer? An RV? What! No way. This was way far off from my posh, adorable, and sustainable tiny home dream. I swallowed my pride and began to search online and, to my surprise, the travel trailer availability in my area was abundant and they offered everything that I needed. I’ve always had a nag for interior design and the idea of renovating a travel trailer to my liking was very appealing. Can you say glitter paint and a light blue back splash? The design ideas were flowing through me! I found countless articles about “Glampers”, glamorous campers, and realized how wildly practical it would be to purchase a travel trailer, make it my own, and rely on this option as a starting off point. Thank you, Pinterest, for the inspiration. And so the search began.
I’ll further detail the ins and outs of my travel trailer search and eventual purchase in a separate blog post, as there are many details to consider before driving a newly purchased travel trailer off the lot. Most importantly, though, I calculated what my living expenses would be in an apartment for one year and made this my travel trailer budget. Anything under $12k was my ceiling. Under or around $10k was my goal. I found my 32 ft travel trailer for $9,200 and signed off on the purchase in July 2016.
As we drove off the RV lot, I knew that the journey I longed for was about to begin. I was ready. Spiritually. Emotionally. Physically. Or so I thought….
PERMApowers related articles will include a handful of posts about my journey toward financial freedom and sustainable living.
My aim in creating PERMApowers is to explore the elements of well-being theory by using my own life experiences as an example to explain, develop, and further implement a life of meaning and happiness. I know that it is impossible to reach the “be all end all” goal in the long term without making sacrifices and leaps of faith in the beginning stages. I hope that my adventure toward financial independence and spiritual awakening will inspire others to live out the dreams they’ve always imagined.
This is my story. It’s not always pretty. It’s never perfect. But it’s unique, its mine, and I am so happy to share it with you.
Aspire to Inspire.
Are you still in your Travel Trailer? I am really looking at moving myself and two children into this same type of lifestyle but would love to ask a million questions!
Hey, this is Catherine, I have been in a converted school bus for 5 years next month with my two kids. Ask me anything!