Tiny House and Vanlife Living

Lately I’ve been on a weird tiny house and vanlife kick. I’m not really sure how it started.

Last year I read the ESPN piece on Daniel Norris and his van. I was fascinated, but I quickly forgot about it. Since then I’ve seen a smattering of people who live in vans full time or just while traveling (trail runners and rock climbers seem particularly enamored with their traveling homes). But in the past few months I’ve taken my (previously) mild fascination to a whole new level.

Tiny House and Vanlife Living #vanlife-trailer-living-converted-bus-little-red-retreat

I stumbled across a few blog posts about people living in their vans and traveling the country, which somehow led to me reading their blogs and discovering all of the people they knew who were also living in their vans.

It’s been a weird few months and it suddenly feels like everyone lives in a van or a tiny house.

Is Tiny House or Vanlife living for me?

As much as I want to know everything about it and I’m enamored with little houses, people who live in trailers/busses, and gorgeously renovated vans, I know very clearly that it’s not the life for me.

Could I see myself traveling for a short time in a van or doing a short stint in a full on tiny house? Possibly. But live full time? Not for me.

I like having solid ties (and walls with thick insulation). I feel cooped up when I can’t pace from wall to wall. I hate feeling like the whole room (or tiny home) is stacked on top of me. I don’t need a lot of space, but most severely tiny homes just aren’t what I imagine myself living in for the rest of my life.

But I’m still fascinated by the way the people in this community live. It’s so far from my comfort zone, and yet most of them are so happy.

Want to see more?

Here are some links to all of the people I’ve started following on Instagram and blogs.

Blogs/Posts:

A great blog post with even more people to follow from Tiny House, Tiny Footprint. I really enjoy their whole site.

Four people (two littles) and 600 sq.ft. I love her style, her thoughts, and most of all, her little home nestled in Vancouver, BC.

A story I wrote about storage tips to steal from Tiny Homes (I snuck an Airstream and a converted school bus or two in there as well).

People to follow:

A photo posted by Kate (@wondertheroad) on

A photo posted by Erin Sullivan (@erinoutdoors) on

And the rabbit hole of them all. #vanlife.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park

We spent a whirlwind day in Yellowstone on our trip to Wyoming this summer. While that’s really not a lot of time, especially when you sit down in front of a guidebook or map about Yellowstone and factor in drive time to and from the park, we got to see just about everything we wanted to.

What to see if you only have one day in Yellowstone National Park

Since we were staying just outside of Teton National Park, we entered Yellowstone through Teton via the south entrance. The drive there was gorgeous, and well worth the time in the car.

1. Old Faithful

We somehow missed the signs (there had to be signs… right?) for West Thumb – our intended first stop. Instead we ended up going to see Old Faithful first.

I had heard mixed reviews about the geyser, but I really couldn’t imagine going to Yellowstone and not seeing it.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park – Old Faithful

I felt like a brat – Old Faithful did not live up to my expectations. You only see pictures or short video clips of it shooting into the air with force and stamina. In real life it spent maybe 10 seconds at its full height and the rest of the time half as high if that. It also took forever to get enough steam. There were a lot of false starts and disappointments. It didn’t help that we were parking during an eruption and thus had to wait 90 minutes or so to see it.

2. Area around Old Faithful

While we waited to see the geyser, we walked around the pools and crazy landscape around it.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park – Boiling Thermal Pool

The experience was surreal, and way better than Old Faithful if you ask me.  I’ve never seen a landscape like it. The pools of boiling water were like something out of a dark-magic movie.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park

I wanted to see inside of this so badly

3. Gibbon Falls

We just happened to pull over because the area looked beautiful and there was a turnout. I’m so glad we didn’t miss these falls. They aren’t the most impressive of the (many) falls in the park, but they were a nice little stretch break and a great view.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park – Gibbon Falls

If you visit, you’ll likely be just as impressed looking at the valley below the falls.

4. Canyon Village Upper and Lower Falls

I was impressed from the lookout at the top. I was even more impressed from halfway down the cliffside.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park – Lower Falls

We took Uncle Tom’s Trail down to the lookout along the canyon. The trail featured many flights of stairs after zig zagging a bit on a regular trail. (We also saw a deer who could not care less that we were all standing there. S/he really held up traffic while lazily eating in the middle of the path.)

The stairs were a bit frightening. I’m not huge on heights, and I particularly didn’t like that you could see straight down into the depth of the canyon below through the metal stairs. They were also wobbly in places or had (small) holes in others. The stairs cling to the side of the canyon in a not so comforting fashion, and they had a tendency to move a bit as people waked on them. Add in the huffing and puffing from climbing stairs at elevation, and I was thankful to get back on solid ground.

Despite the scare, they are 100 percent worth the views at the bottom (and along the way if you aren’t freaking out and staring at the hand rail calculating if it will really save you). Bonus, you get in a good workout before hopping back in the car.

5. Yellowstone Lake

To be fair, we just drove around the edge of it on our way home, but this expansive lake was incredible. It’s the largest high elevation lake in North America. With 141 miles of shoreline, it felt like it went forever. It blew my mind that the lake is frozen for nearly half the year. I can’t imagine what it takes to freeze a lake that’s roughly 20 miles long and 14 miles wide.

I’ve spent my fair share of time around Lake Tahoe, and this lake didn’t stop impressing me. It went on for miles and miles. Stunning.

So much more

There is plenty more to see, but if you only have one day in the Yellowstone National Park, this southern loop will give you a good start. There are plenty of places to pull over along it to see jaw-dropping views and wildlife (between the two parks we saw bison, elk, a wolf, lots of adorable chipmunks, squirrels, unidentified birds, and cute dogs traveling with humans). We got to the park a little before lunch and left around five or so.

One Day Yellowstone National Park

One Day Yellowstone National Park – Chipmunk

After a day of exploring (and what does start to feel like too long in the car), we were spent.

Helpful Tips

There are water bottle filling stations at just about every tourist information station.

The food sold at Old Faithful did not look appealing – I’m very thankful I brought my own lunch.

We stayed with other people in well-populated areas and didn’t have to worry about bears. If you do want to hike around and have a little more space to yourself, it’s a good idea to bring bear spray and take the snacks out of your bag.

10 Months + Peroneal Tendon Surgery Update

Preparing for peroneal tendon surgery and the aftermath has been a weird experience. Never before have I known an injury or setback was coming as clearly as I have with this. I said goodbye to lifting weights (for now) and talked to my foot the night before knowing I wouldn’t see it again for a while (no judgements).

Our vacation has a bittersweet tinge to it. I’m so thankful I got to do so much, but the view from my bed seems a little grayer in comparison.

Surgery

I purposefully scheduled my surgery as soon after my trip as possible so I would have the least amount of time to stress about it. While I had a of couple insanely busy days when we got back, it worked out great.

I had a wonderful team in the O.R. that made me feel comfortable and safe, which let’s be honest is not easy. My surgeon and his team repaired a tear in my peroneal tendon and removed a bone spur from my injury. I still don’t know how long of a tear or even how any of this works, and for now I’m good with that.

My family and the doctor’s fellows have reported that I was hilarious in the recovery room. Thankfully there are no videos or photos to prove it. I vaguely remember repeatedly asking if I had a tendon tear before falling back asleep and promptly forgetting the answer (sorry guys!).

Peroneal Tendon Surgery Update

Recovery (AKA Why I’m Not Made for Crutches)

It’s taken me a bit longer to bounce back than I expected, but overall the whole process has gone much smoother than I feared.

I’m learning to laugh when I lose my balance for the hundredth time instead of crying like a toddler. Stairs are my current nemesis, and I have yet to figure out the best way to carrying things with crutches. I’m still coming to terms with having to ask for everything. I love to do things on my own, and having to ask for someone to fill up my water bottle or make me breakfast has been infuriating.

This will get better. I will get better.

Peroneal Tendon Surgery Recovery

In the grand scheme of things, this really ins’t so bad. I’m in cast for two more weeks and on crutches for a total of three. At this point I’m really looking forward to when I’m in a boot for 4-6 weeks because it means I can take it off! I’m trying to embrace the tightness of the cast and it’s constant presence. But telling yourself something is comforting when your body is sending you signals otherwise is a bit of a challenge. I’ve also started to daydream about my stitches coming out and what it will feel like to wash my leg.

Big dreams.

In case you missed it:

I thought I could still play basketball
One Month Later
Two
Three
Four
Five
Six
Eight
Nine

7 Days in Wyoming

For a girl who loves the ocean, I sure do feel at home in the mountains too.

My family and I spent seven glorious days in Wyoming just a mile outside of Teton National Park. After having a blast in Whistler last summer, we couldn’t resist Teton Village’s hiking, biking, and more. This trip was my last hurrah before surgery. My doctor gave me the green light to hike and bike to the best of my ability before I left, and I definitely pushed those limits. Teton Village Wyoming Hiking Wildflower Trail

7 Days in Teton Village Wyoming 11

Hiking in Teton Village

I went all out on vacation. Some people drink or eat like it’s their last chance while on vacation – I hiked my heart out until my ankle couldn’t take it anymore. That said, it held up so much better than expected. All taped up I was able to hike four miles with 2,677 feet of elevation gain. Not too bad for an old, hobbled lady.

My little ducklings on today’s gorgeous hike. #hiking #wyoming #tetons #vacation #travel #mountain

A photo posted by Mandy Ferreira (@treading_lightly) on

Teton Village Wyoming Hiking Wildflower Trail Teton Village Wyoming Hiking Wildflower Trail Piste

On our first hike we made our way up to the gondola stop and took it all the way down. Man were we happy to sit down, but the fast ride was a bit depressing given how long it took us to get up there.

We had originally intended to hike to the summit, but lunch and hunger got in the way. Instead, we took the tram up to the very top a few days later and hiked back down to where we stopped earlier in the week. The hike down was beautiful, but a bit much for my mom who hates heights and the feeling of walking along a drop off/mountain side. We did all get some good laughs at her attempt to use her hands as blinders to avoid looking down. (Don’t worry, karma paid me back with some wicked ankle pain. Downhill on loose rocks is bad news for me.)

Also, shout out to the bear between towers three and four who had been making appearances (and apparently sniffing the faces of friendly staff members). Super thankful you decided not to come play with us.

Downhill Mountain Biking

My mom desperately wanted to downhill mountain bike. No joke. She was so stoked to try this out, and her excitement was contagious.

7 Days in Teton Village Wyoming – Downhill Mountain Biking 7 Days in Teton Village Wyoming – Downhill Mountain Biking Beginners 7 Days in Teton Village Wyoming – Downhill Mountain Biking Ski Lift

I think this was the highlight of the trip. We all suited up and hit the trails. I felt like a princess being toted up in the ski lift so I could ride back down. It felt like cheating to downhill mountain bike without riding the way up too, but oh man was it fantastic. We got in around 12 runs.

I’m proud to announce that no one got hurt. Less proud to say that everyone knew when my mom and I were on the trails. We might have squealed around some of the turns, but we got braver and braver and by the end we were tearing up intermediate trails. (We also laughed so hard once that we had to stop riding until our tears cleared up. I might have started it by narrowly avoiding a wipeout…)

7 Days in Teton Village Wyoming – Downhill Mountain Biking Trails

The two in the helmets are my parents. They claim to not be ashamed to be seen with us, but this picture suggests otherwise…

We returned dirty, exhausted, and giddy. Wicked fun.

Teton National Park

My heart broke a bit standing in front of these majestic mountains, broken. I wanted to hike around and explore them, but instead I was confined to the car and the mile or so I could walk from there. I’d love to come back one day and really backpack around these beauties.

7 Days in Teton Village Wyoming – Teton National Park – Grand Teton 7 Days in Teton Village Wyoming – Teton National Park – Grand Teton 7 Days in Teton Village Wyoming – Teton National Park – Grand Teton and Little Teton from REI

I’ve been joking for years about taking Little Teton (above) home. I’ve had the little guy since outdoor ed in 6th grade. From Warped Tour to hiking to kayaking, we’ve been places together. I hope he enjoyed his trip to his namesake.

7 Days in Teton Village Wyoming – Teton National Park – Grand Teton – Jenny Lake

While we spent most of our time in Teton Village, we also got the chance to see Teton National Park and Yellowstone. I’m so glad we were able to see both parks, especially since this year was the National Parks’ centennial and Yellowstone was the first national park. (Stay tuned for more on our day trip to Yellowstone.)

Pictures via my phone and my dad. You can check out more of his stuff at Dean Ferreira Fine Art or Pinterest

August Reads

Last year four books in a month would have been a great feat. But after my run, I was a little disappointed this month. Work and a vacation at the end of the month left my August reads a little shorter than normal.

But just because I didn’t bring home the entire library doesn’t mean I didn’t snag some great reads! I really enjoyed every book this month.

August Reads

Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More

As a long time reader of Erin’s blog, I wasn’t sure if this book would feel like an overplayed song on repeat. After tearing through it, it’s safe to say this wasn’t the case.

I could not have picked a better time to read it. I would snuggle up with this book during my recent move when I was feeling overwhelmed by stuff or like we were missing the perfect solution. I highly recommend it to everyone – whether you want a little more simplicity or you are just curious about how Erin and her family of three (soon to be four) live.

Rad American Women A-Z

Just because this book was written for children doesn’t mean it’s not great for adults too. I loved it! I had never heard of most of these women, let alone their impact on America. It’s also a great gift for your next baby shower.

Shrill

Confession: I didn’t really know who Lindy West was before I requested this book from the library. I heard her on one of my favorite podcasts, Call Your Girlfriend, and added it to my list on impulse.

I’m so glad I did. I laughed out loud and had some of my flash judgements tested. I’m a sucker for any book that puts me into the mind of a successful writer, but even more than that I enjoyed seeing the world from her eyes. This book got the elusive five stars from me on Goodreads.

Americanah

I don’t know why it took me so long to pick up Americanah. I’m so far behind the times on this one, it’s embarrassing.

This book dragged me in and wouldn’t let me go. I was so far into it that when the main character was down I was in a mood for days. I just couldn’t shake the story and I couldn’t stop myself from behaving like I knew her in real life. Brace yourself now and be prepared to need to take some breaks to digest.

Bottom line: Drop what you are doing and read this if you haven’t already.

Two people, 275 Square Feet

Welcome to Tiny House. While it’s not an actual tiny home in the sense that it’s on wheels with a tiny sleeping loft, it is quite tiny at about 275 sq. ft. Tiny House (as we like to call it) is a two-story attached in-law unit with a separate entrance and no doors to the main house. Downstairs is the kitchen/dining room/living room/office and upstairs is our bedroom (with it’s own door and everything, major bonus for a space smaller than some studios) and the bathroom.

Tiny House – Two People, 275 sq. ft.

To be perfectly clear, this picture makes the house look smaller than it is. He’s standing slightly in front of the house, which is about 10 ft. long on this side.

Two People, Too Much Stuff

When my boyfriend and I first talked about moving in together, there was no question that we would move into his small place. The location is great, and this little home all to ourselves was the perfect fit.

Until we had to contend with all of our stuff. Neither one of us had much – my boyfriend traveled around the world for months before we met with a single backpack. He’s even less attached to stuff than I am. And since we’ve started dating I have completely infected him with my love of going through things and getting rid of them. We did the Mins Game together, and I had been doing my best to reduce to the essentials before moving.

We were starting with a pretty minimal collection of things, but even so it was not looking incredibly feasible. My previous bedroom was bigger than our downstairs, and I had a closet with enough room for two or three times the things I had in it.

After many sleepless nights worrying about where I was going to put each and every one of my things and dreaming about cleaning out long-gone closets, the move was much easier than I had anticipated.

I slowly moved in a box at a time until I only had about a quarter of my stuff left, which I did all at once. I started with the essentials and slowly found homes for (most of) the rest. For weeks it felt like we were drowning in stuff. I must have said “I just don’t know how we’re going to fit all of this” at least twice a day while we stepped over boxes of stuff. But it all miraculously fit.

While we still have more stuff than we need, we are slowly cutting down on the amount of stuff in our little place. Once we get things a little more settled, I plan on doing a little tour of the space so you can see what two people and all of their stuff in 275 sq. ft. really looks like. I’ll also be sharing some of the tips and small space tricks we’ve learned along the way.

The Case for Showering Less and Ditching the Soap

We are obsessed with showering and extreme cleanliness in the U.S. We put medical grade antibacterials into our body wash and encourage women to douse the inside of their bodies with unnecessary chemicals. Showering daily has become a cultural norm – one that is difficult to break.

But the more I read about our bodies’ microbioms and the amazing, helpful bacteria on our skin, the more I realize we are living under false assumptions. You don’t need to use harsh soaps, you don’t need to shower every day, and you don’t need to treat your body like a battle ground.

The Case for Showering Less

No Poo or Less Shampoo

For years I have wanted to wash my hair less often, but I was hesitant to go to work with greasy hair while I transited. I washed my hair every other day for years, despite the dry scalp and frizzy hair it gave me.

When I started working from home in February, I seized the opportunity to experiment with my shampoo schedule (and spend entire days in the comfort of my pajamas). At first I stretched it from two days to three. Then after a couple of weeks I went for a crazy stab at five days.

These days I wash my hair every three to four days. I typically wash my hair after my sweatiest workout of the week or after I swim. I could likely keep stretching the time between washes, and it seems like a shame to wash it again after only three days, but it works out well with my workout schedule.

Why You Should Wash Your Hair Less

Since I stopped washing my hair so frequently I have stopped incessantly scratching my head. My hair doesn’t have crazy flyaways, and it feels silky smooth.

I typically wear my hair down the first 1-2 days, and up the other 1-2. By the last day it is a bit greasier than I used to tolerate, but I’ve come to realize that no one notices! And those natural oils are so good for your scalp and hair.

Washing and drying is tough on hair. If you normally style your hair with heat, washing it less means you can go much longer on a single style. Your hair will be less damaged, and you can stop staring at your split ends incessantly.

Ditch the Soap and the Daily Shower

There was no transition for showering less like there was with my hair. I went from showering every other day (or every day during super sweaty summer workouts) to about 3-4 times in the average week.

When I do shower, I (mostly) skip the soap. For the past six months or so I have been washing my body with water. I haven’t turned into a massive stink bomb (and yes I’ve asked people who spend time with me). After a sweaty workout, I wash my arm and leg pits with soap. The rest of me gets a good rinse and I’m done. (Although it should also be pointed out that I shave my legs with a moisturizing handmade soap, so I do effectively wash my legs with soap once a week.)

You don’t need to jump in the shower to get clean. If I have put on sunscreen or I feel like freshening up without turning on the tap, I wipe down with a wash cloth.

The Benefits of Showering Less

Save Time
On the days that I’m not washing my hair, I can be in and out of the shower in two minutes or less. Although when I shave my legs it can take me closer to 10 minutes. I try to shave on days that I don’t wash my hair to break up marathon showers. I used to spend nearly an hour a week in the shower. These days it’s more like 20-30 minutes.

Save Water
I could easily run out of hot water in the shower when I was growing up. Fifteen minutes was the norm, if not longer. The amount of water I wasted makes me cringe. My new shower routine likely saves me 95 gallons of water a week. That’s 4,940 gallons a year!

Healthier Skin
Despite eschewing soap and only washing my hair twice a week, my skin and hair feel better. They are less dry and I don’t get so itchy anymore. My back and chest haven’t exploded with zits (if anything they look better than before). Instead of needing an intense moisturizer after every shower, a light application of sunflower oil is plenty.

Good Bacteria
Our skin is crawling with bacteria. For the most part, the bacteria you carry around on you are harmless. They help ward off dangerous bacteria, improve would healing, and help protect us from infection. Much like our guts, the bacteria we harbor is extremely unique to us, and we can change its composition with our diet, health, environment, beauty products, and other factors.

“Applying detergents (soaps) to our skin and hair every day disrupts a sort of balance between skin oils and the bacteria that live on our skin. When you shower aggressively, you obliterate the ecosystems. They repopulate quickly, but the species are out of balance and tend to favor the kinds of microbes that produce odor.” I Quit Showering and Life Continued, The Atlantic

Much like the bacteria in our guts, we are only just starting to understand what these bacteria do and how they benefit us.

To be extremely clear, this doesn’t mean you should stop washing your hands with soap. But it does mean you should avoid body wash with triclosan or other antibacterials and consider skipping the soap all together.

Downsizing to a Tiny House

There is something about moving to a new place that makes me simultaneously think I have too many things and that I need the perfect thing to make life easier. In this case I am massively downsizing to what is effectively a 275 sq.ft. tiny house, which means I do indeed have too much stuff for the space.

Downsizing to a Tiny House

Downsizing

In the process of combining two households we’ve gotten rid of redundancies (how did we end up with three whisks between us?) and let some things go in favor of the one we like better. But I still feel like we’re drowning in stuff. My stuff to be exact.

In our new home, I have two dresser drawers and half (okay… maybe three quarters) of a closet smaller than most people’s hall/coat closets. I have a relatively small wardrobe, and yet nearly half of my clothes don’t fit.

My first instinct is to panic. To try to get rid of everything, even if it feels like I’m already down to the things I love.

Instead I’m just letting it all sit. My homeless clothes are sitting in a laundry basket in the closet, which means actual dirty clothes storage is also in a temporary home. We have a box of things in “purgatory” waiting to either be found a home or done without. Our “donate” pile is slowly taking over all of the space, and our “to-sell” pile keeps growing.

There’s too much stuff in this tiny place and not enough room for us.

Nothing New

But until we have things 95 percent sorted, nothing new. No life changing storage solutions. No new set of sheets to replace the dingy pair with holes. We have discovered so many better solutions than the one we had planned to purchase.

Home isn’t built in a day.

My plant friends have found a slightly sunny window sill to call home. We (miraculously) discovered a shoe storage solution appropriate for two athletic people’s numerous pairs.

Things are slowly making their way into their rightful place, and in the meantime I’m trying to just let it all be. Let the boxes fill the living room. Let the donation pile take up more space. Fill the purgatory box and let it stew.