Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

S is for Surgery

After nine months, I was fully expecting surgery. I went into the MRI hoping that whatever was wrong would be glaringly obvious so we could fix it quickly and I could move on with my life.

For better or for worse, my MRI wasn’t as clear as the doctor had hoped. My trouble spots all showed up with excess fluid and inflammation, but without full tears it’s hard to see what’s really going on.

Peroneal Tendon Surgery

Stress Test

In order to get a better idea of what’s broken, my doctor started testing my ankle. He went after my biggest source of pain first, my peroneal tendon. He injected anesthesia into my tendon sheath, and the pain immediately went away. I can’t describe the relief.

I was then instructed to do activities that normally increase my pain to see if I could bring the pain back. If I could, the problem wasn’t a tendon tear. If the pain stayed away, s-s-surgery.

I ran a glorious half mile on a treadmill. The stale gym air in my hair, feet moving under me – I hadn’t felt so free since I tried to snap my ankle in two playing basketball. I had forgotten what it felt like to run, to relax into my stride and just let my feet move. I wasn’t worried about the outcome or trying to negotiate with the broken parts of me. We just moved.

Before the treadmill of joy, I hadn’t run more than 200 steps at a time. I knew I had done more than enough to make my ankle hurt, but damn was I feeling invincible. I went into the hallway and busted out single leg heal raises like I do them all day.

After resting for an hour I was convinced. This was it.

Peroneal Tendon Surgery

The good news: Unless I twist it again, I can’t make this much worse. I got the sign off to (carefully!) hike and ride a bike (short distances) on my vacation at the end of the month.

Also good news? The week we get back, I’m having surgery. A terrifying prospect when I think too hard about the details.

The unfortunate news: After surgery, I’m on a recovery plan that will take me into 2017 before I’m back to full activity like I was before my injury. The timeline depends heavily on what my damage is. Just a small tendon tear: 3 months. Tendon tear and a bone chip: 3+ months. Tendon tear and cartilage damage: 4-5 months.

If things go well, I’ll be walking in a boot to celebrate the one year mark of my injury at the end of October.

The best news: I have a way forward. I finally have a plan to get back to running and olympic lifting. The path isn’t the one I would have chosen at the beginning, but I feel good about it. I’m so ready to be better. To be back. To be free. To not have constant pain.

When my peroneal tendon was numb, I felt like myself again. After nine months of pain I was so used to it that it was shocking to feel normal. It also made me realize just how much pain I was living with every day. When the anesthesia began to wear off and the pain came creeping back in, it was staggering. I couldn’t believe I was walking around like this every day.

I’m scared, but I’m all in. I’m ready to start chipping away at a full recovery.

How to Make Time to Read

If I could, I would spend all day curled up with a great book. I cannot read enough. Even still, I have to make time to read. Life is busy, there are so many other wonderful things to do – I get it. But you won’t regret squeezing in a little extra time to read.

This year I have read more than ever, and a lot of that is because I have prioritized reading. I’m currently on track to read well over my goal of 52 books this year. (I’m secretly shooting for at least 60 now.)

Make time to read with these tips!

How to make time to read

Carry a Book

I take my book(s) with me everywhere. Instead of pulling out my phone and passing the time, I read my book. Each 5-10 minute chunk adds up! I read in waiting rooms, during the in-between moments of work, and anytime I have a few extra minutes throughout the day.


Put Down the Remote

You don’t have to give up TV entirely, but each time you pick up a book instead of the remote you drastically increase the amount of time you have to read. It’s impossible (for me at least) to stop watching once you’ve started. Try just reading for 10 minutes and then watching TV. Or better yet, pick a TV free day and read instead.


Read What You Love

Who cares if it’s a “classic”? If it’s boring, drop it. No one has time for that. Read the books you love! You won’t struggle to make time to read if you can’t put your book down.

I used to force myself to finish books, and half of my to-read list was full of other people’s “must reads”. One uninspiring book would derail my reading habit and leave me stuck for weeks. Once I gave myself permission to admit I didn’t like a book and stop reading it, I flew through the books I really wanted to read.


Two-Time It

I love to read, but I can easily get restless with a book. For the past couple of years I’ve read a non-fiction and a fiction at the same time – double the fun! It keeps me from over-dosing on a good story or burning out on knowledge. You don’t have to stick with fiction/non-fiction. Toss in a magazine, grab a book of poems, settle down with essays, whatever you like.


Schedule It

Scheduling doesn’t have to kill the romance. Whether you set aside 15-30 minutes a day or pick a day where you read for an hour, marking your calendar will hold you accountable. It will also remind you to read and help you make reading a habit. I usually make sure I have time on Sunday afternoons to laze about with a book. It’s a relaxing end to the week.

How to Make Time to Read

Stock Up

I can’t help but tear through a stack of library books. While I am notorious for checking out too many at once (I swear my library is set up to encourage impulse shopping. I always leave with more books than I intended), try to keep it reasonable so you don’t feel overwhelmed. If you only have a few minutes to read each day, pick 1-2 short books.


Turn Off the Screen

My phone and computer can sing siren songs. I will sit down to read and waste 20 minutes on Instagram. I have “closed tabs” on my computer (a.k.a. reading the entire internet) and blown all of my free time. Swap reading for screen time and you’ll start flying through books.

July Reads

I have grand dreams of a warm, relaxing summer vacation, but so far no dice. My July reads were all read at home, except for one that came along for an exhausting trip to Seattle.
July Reads: All the Single Ladies, Between the World and Me, Not Working: A Novel, Open, and The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion


Things I know about Tennis: Serena and Venus Williams are bosses, it’s played with rackets and green balls, and the scoring makes no sense. In other words, I know nothing, but I loved this book.

I first heard about it on a podcast – It’s one of Tim Ferriss‘ favorites, and he won’t shut up about it. Andre Agassi’s memoir is a fascinating look into what it’s like to be a professional tennis player and devote your life to a single sport. Some of it felt a little too fantastical to be true, but if you give yourself over to the story it’s a great read.


All the Single Ladies

After hearing Rebecca Traister on Call Your Girlfriend, I was excited for this book. I was not prepared for how depressed it would make me. I know it wasn’t the intention, but I came away feeling like if you get married you are screwed and if you never get married you are screwed to. Maybe I just wasn’t prepared for the reality of being a woman in the United States.

But outside of the depressing bits, I really enjoyed the look into America’s past and all of the strong women who have paved the way. More than anything it reminded me that there is no right answer for everyone, especially when it comes to marriage and children, and we all need to chill out and give each other space to make our own decisions.


Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates is incredible. His book is gut wrenching, especially in light of the recent shootings and violence. Too many.

I’m a small white woman, and I will never truly know what it’s like to be anything but. Coates’ experience and his criticism of The Dream hit me hard. I know what it’s like to always be on guard, to always be afraid, but I have always had privilege to shield me from the worst. This book is as good as everyone says it is. Read it.


The Unspeakable

I had a really hard time connecting with Meghan Daum. Our lives and personalities are just so different, and I really struggled through this one. I’m leaving My Misspent Youth on my list – maybe that one will speak to me.


Not Working

Have you recently been laid off? Don’t know what you want to do with your life? Feel like you have no passion or direction? Don’t read this book. This one was a little too relatable – minus the excessive drinking and hatred of exercising. (To be fair, I tore through it and it was a good read. It did, however, ignite some serious ennui.)



See all of my book recommendations here.

And say hi on Goodreads!

9 months post injury

Injured is my new normal. ‘Maybe someday’ is the new ‘Hell yes, count me in!’

This injury is creeping up on the length of a full-term pregnancy. My friends and family would probably agree that it has had just as many mood swings and terrifying outbursts of tears. I have definitely eaten more ice cream than most could possibly consume.

9 months post ankle injury-pool-lane-lines

This month was another one full of false starts and uncertainty. I still can’t run. I still can’t olympic lift. Squatting is going okay. My feet were doing well and then fell apart over the course of a busy day. I’m ending the month trying to settle down my plantar fascia and strengthening everything so it stops happening.

Some days you fail. Life keeps going. #SoClose #oly #girlswholift #fail

A video posted by Mandy Ferreira (@treading_lightly) on

A recent doctors appointment has me hopeful that the end is near and terrified that I’m days away from gut-wrenching news.

But in the meantime, I’m doing my best to stay relaxed and not worry about my doctor’s ominous warnings of potential surgery, tendon/ligament tears, and fractured bones. I’ll deal with the reality and severity of my ankle injury next week after my MRI narrows down the extent of the damage.

Until then, I’m going to lift. See you in the gym!

In case you missed it:

I sprained my ankle
One Month Later

10 Best Summer Vacation Books

I can’t help myself from packing like Rory when I go on vacation. To be fair, I rarely return with an unread book. Vacation is synonymous with relaxation and reading for me.

These are some of my favorite books and books I have read around the world. From the plane to the beach to the tent or luxurious bed, these books will keep you hooked. You won’t regret making room for (at least) one of these great books.

10 Best Summer Vacation Books

Best Summer Vacation Books

Modern Romance
What’s a vacation without a little romance? This book was insightful (and also vaguely terrifying). When did love get so complicated?

My Life on the Road
I can’t imagine how one woman can travel so far and accomplish so much. Gloria Steinem’s story is incredible, and you will meet dozens of women who made history along the way.

All the Light We Cannot See
You might not see much of your destination either. This book dragged me in and I wanted nothing more than to read it continuously. I had trouble pulling myself away from it. I read it on a ski trip (where I conveniently couldn’t ski, more time to read!), but I don’t see why it would be any less good on a beach or by a pool.

Station Eleven
I read this book last year while in Whistler, which means this book is forever synonymous with vacation for me. Don’t let the doomsday vibe deter you – this was an engrossing story that I would have gratefully read everywhere. I loved the traveling troupe and the rich story. Although fair warning, you may never look at an airplane the same again.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Nothing says great vacation like death. I’m kidding, but despite making my cry at the end, this book had me laughing frequently. It will also help you appreciate your trip even more.

The Martian
Sand. Heat. A rough flight. Astronaut Mark Watney’s experience on Mars is sort of like a tropical vacation. A really horrific vacation. I loved the snark of this book, and it will forever remind me of the train ride from Barcelona to Valencia.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette
I started this book on a flight and refused to do anything else until I finished it (I know, I’m a fantastic travel companion). Set in a quirky community in Seattle, this book follows Bee and her quest to get her agoraphobic mother and her disengaged father to Antarctica. Instead, Bee ends up on a search for her missing mother. Bonus points if you read it while on a cruise to Antarctica.

The Happiness Project
A trip is a great time to pull back and take a hard look at your life. What really makes you happy? What makes you miserable? Dive into happiness and extend the vacation glow long after you return home.

Packing for Mars
Your hand guide to the ultimate trip. Mary Roach dives deep into the oddities of trying to get humans on Mars. And you thought trying to get everything into your carry-on was hard.

I can’t end this list without one of my favorites. I may never lace up my boots and take on the Pacific Crest Trail, but this book inspired me to get outside more and push my travel limits.