Tuesday, August 9, 2011


In April of 2011, I came to a turning point in my life.  For the past 11 months, I had been living in free or minor cost housing provided by my employment.  Frankly, after having experienced the siphoning of rent payments during college, it didn't take long for me to become addicted to the notion of coming home to an abode that wasn't going to cost me several hundred dollars at the beginning of every month.  But, as with most things that seem too good to be true, this freedom was scheduled to end May 1st since the company owners required their house back for family gatherings.  Like most addicts, I wasn't going to let go easily.

And so, for the month of May, I lived out of the back of my truck.  After work each day I would take a quick shower in the locker room and choose a spot in the woods to cook dinner and bunk down for the night.  I had to be rather clandestine, particularly when pulling off the road, since my employer owned most of the land in the area.  In all honesty, this system worked fabulously, other than the mosquitoes that would gather in the pine plantation swamps at dusk.  I was content with living in this rustic- somewhat illegal fashion until my uncle loaned me "The Small House Book".

In it, Jay Shaffer (founder of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Co.) described his quest for simple, affordable housing.  Since Jay's definition of "simple" differs from that of the government's (building codes dictate minimum size standards), he was forced to design his structures on wheels so that they would be governed by the rules of the road, not the developers and building inspectors.  The end result is a house that is classic in its style, sturdy in its craftsmanship, and willing to travel as much as its owner desires.

Also on my uncle's bookshelf was a biography titled "Tales of an American Hobo".  Charles Elmer Fox, one of the last great hobos of the Depression Era, tells stories of a life on the road that will probably never be relived by future generations.  (Note: a hobo is a wanderer, "a free spirited human, who put his personal freedom ahead of his desire for worldly gain", whereas a bum is one who uses the depressing story of his life to get a dollar or a drink)

Modern America no longer accepts hobos and the spirit that inspires people to ride freight trains and trade odd jobs for steady careers.  I doubt that our country is quite ready for convoys of tiny houses rolling down the road, but perhaps this is an opportunity for those of our generation "infected with the 'rambling fever' to explore their world.  My uncle told me that if he were in my position in life, he would build one of these small houses in a heartbeat.  So, I have taken his advice, ordered a custom built trailer, and bought some framing plans.  I'm not really sure where this adventure will take me (anywhere in the Americas will be open to me!), but I invite you to come along for the ride!