Stepping on to the Path

Well it’s one thing to make the decision to take a certain path. It’s another to start on it, and I realised this from the moment I made my decision.

When I had lunch with Brittany, the owner of the Tiny House I stayed in, I ran through a list of many questions I had. She gladly answered them all, and also suggested I might be interested in a Tumbleweed workshop which covers many of the practical aspects of building your own tiny house, over a 2 day workshop. This sounded like a great first step to me. It cost about US$400, so to me that also represented a financial investment that should make it harder to give up on.

I admit I agonised over which workshop to take, because the next one that was kind of close (a 2 hour drive away in Santa Cruz) was on the same weekend as the next paragliding trip. The only other workshop on the west coast before I was due to leave the States was in San Diego 6 weeks away. In the end I chose the sooner workshop because I wanted to know what I was in for and start planning for that as soon as possible. And I admitted to myself that right now, working on this project was more important than paragliding.Whoa. Now, for me, thats a big deal. I’m borderline obsessive about paragliding. I must really want this.

Before the workshop, they sent me a DVD on Tiny House construction and a beautiful book showcasing some of the Tiny Houses they had built and their gorgeous features. The book was great – made me feel inspired about the creative freedom I would have to design something especially suited to my needs. The DVD was.. intense. I decided that I would watch the entire DVD, and all its chapters on the different stages of building so that I would be armed with the many questions I would almost definitely have when I went to the workshop. Watching that DVD made me feel more scared than inspired, I have to say. I had a LOT to learn. And I was not sure I was capable of all those skills. Like nail guns. Have you seen those photos of nail gun injuries that go around the net? Have you then made a deliberate decision to never touch one? I have. I din’t end up finishing the DVD. I started feeling overwhelmed and decided to leave it for now and see how the workshop went.

The workshop was in a beautiful location at a hotel right on the beach at Santa Cruz. At least that was calming. There was about 50 people there – from all walks of life. There were quite a few single “middle-aged” women (that is apparently Tumbleweed’s main demographic), a few retirees, the odd hippie, maybe 2 people who knew how to build (yo – GET THEIR NUMBER), a few gay couples, and a couple of naysayers (why did the come??!). What everyone had in common was a passion and excitement about what tiny houses represented for them.

I’ll try to write up separately more detail about the workshop if anyone is interested, but I walked away feeling really good about my decision. It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops – it was designed to help you make an informed decision and know what you are getting yourself into. They described many challenges we would likely face and the presenters told us how they went about solving them. I walked away feeling like building a tiny house would not be just about building a cheaper place to live. It would be a massive challenge in that I would be faced with many difficult decisions, and it would definitely test my character to meet them all and come out the other end with a tiny house. I also realised that whilst building a tiny house would meet one of my goals to be more independent, building one will require an enormous amount of help from others. I can make this tiny house happen, but not by myself. This wasn’t a bad realisation – in fact when I thought about all the people who could help me, I became excited at the prospect of it involving lots of people I loved or liked hanging out with. And that my tiny house would be the result of a community effort.

The other realisation was that people who want to live in tiny houses in locations for a reasonable period of time (like more than 30 days) need to be really good neighbours. That’s because it only takes one neighbour to complain about your semi-legal structure and the council could send you on your way. Again – this didn’t disappoint me. If I don’t have to work as much because my costs are lower, I would have time to contribute more to the community. And that’s the kind of life I want to live.

So, after the workshop I had a much clearer idea of the work I needed to do and I wanted to do it. So I bought a set of plans and found my first challenge.

Challenge no. 1 – work out the dimensions of my trailer in accordance with Australian towing regulations and adjust my purchased plans.

First new skill to acquire – Learn how to use SketchUp.

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