A Plywood Box and Why We Want To Live In It

5 minute read

To begin with, our goal is pretty simple.  We want to spend two to five years living a mobile lifestyle while adhering to our four principles of “Independence, Adventure, Sustainability, Freedom” and by doing so free ourselves from previous debt and other baggage.  We’ll be blogging about all our adventures and experiences along with foraging tips, recipes, advice, news and performance photos while working toward our ultimate goal of someday settling on a sustainable, off-the-grid homestead.  Pretty straightforward, right?   

We’re not a large family which does make this process somewhat more feasible.  Just two women in our early 30’s and a precociously adventurous seven-year-old daughter.   Some would say that what we lack in size we make up for in eccentricity.   We’re avid foragers and amateur herbalists; we hunt, fish, garden and do our best to practice ecological sustainability.  Possibly our crowning achievement of eccentricity though is the fact that we also do sideshow and fire acts performing as Fire and Slice Productions.  Brooke is a juggler and sword artist, Miriam is a Human Pincushion and fire-breather.  We both do Human Blockhead stunts and together we do bullwhip targeting tricks, Human Chopping Block stunts, fire-eating, fire-spinning, and walk in broken glass.   With all that lack of self-preservation, life on the road seems downright safe, except that we plan to take our performance with us and do it as often as possible

The starting point to this winding road came from some wistful late night conversations about our mutual of love road trips, camping, performance, ecology, foraging, and homesteading and also inspired by a nostalgic appreciation for the idea of the traveling performer families of the old carnival.
As homeschoolers we were also fascinated with the idea of helping history, biodiversity, and geography be more tactile experiences for our daughter.  What if all the national parks of the U.S were one huge backyard for us? Why just read history books and look at maps when we can take her to the places the events we read about actually happened?  What if we could drive the Oregon Trail? Visit Antietam and the Alamo and the ghost towns left from the California Gold Rush? Take her to stand among the giant redwoods, hiking in the Rockies, canoeing in the Everglades; from coast to coast and back again every stop would be another opportunity to learn about the great and amazing world around us. Charting our progress through the country, learning about each state by actually being there instead of just seeing it on PBS.  What an education we could provide!

Somehow these discussions seamlessly flowed from “That would be great.”  to “We wish we could do that.” to “Ok, let’s do it.  Where do we start?”  As we became determined to change our entire lifestyle so began the process of research and implementation.

We started by investigating the Tiny House movement; the idea of reasonably self-sufficient houses so small as to be ludicrously cramped to the usual American mentality was a compelling concept for us.   However, we soon discarded that particular path upon concluding that many Tiny Houses aren’t meant for frequent moves, and without waste water holding systems, aren’t appropriate for long stays in remote forests such as we would want to be able to do.  Next we looked into premade travel trailers and fifth-wheel type campers.   Between the high prices, lack of road clearance and levels of luxury we really don’t need, we ruled these out pretty quickly, as well.

Finally, we settled on the idea of converting the interior of a cargo trailer.  They’re sturdily made, have superior clearance to most travel trailers, can be modified fairly easily to accommodate insulation, hold solar panels on the roof, a tiny woodstove in the “living room” area, sleeping quarters for all of us, play space for our daughter, and a small kitchen area. Every nook and cranny will be modified to maximize storage and a tiny closet will hold a composting toilet that will eliminate the need for a blackwater system.   With all these modifications and a few others we’re still developing, our caravan will be the coziest hobbit-hole-on-wheels two crafty women can make it.

I mean, doesn't this just say "home" to you?

To smooth our transition into camper dwelling we’ve begun modifications on our current lifestyle.   We’re taking stock of our possessions, deciding what will be going into a storage unit for future use when we have an actual house (this will include some items of more durable furniture, bulkier cookware, lots of books, gardening tools, and some general housewares).   What will not be going into the storage unit for later use or coming on the road with us will be donated to thrift stores or sold.  We’ve already given away multiple bags of clothes and household items, but we still have a fair bit more to sort through as yet.   This process is made easier by the fact that neither Brooke nor I are much for material goods; we don’t own a lot, and most of it is easily parted with.   Happily, even our little one is on board for the process and had been steadily paring down her toy collection to her most essential items.

To make off-grid caravan-dwelling more ecologically responsible we’ve completely stopped using any detergents in our household, replacing them with biodegradable castile soap instead.  This means that shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, laundry detergent, dish detergent and standard hand soap have all been eliminated, which, in turn, means that our waste water in the caravan will be ecologically neutral and fully biodegradable.

Some months ago we also cancelled our cable internet plan and switched entirely to cellular internet.  This allows Brooke who works remotely as an IT virtualization expert to work from the road, her computer on a lap desk across her knees and the cellular internet device sitting on the dashboard while I drive.  With the purchase of a signal booster and a range extender, we should have service almost anywhere except the most absolutely remote areas.

We’ve made other changes as well which I haven’t mentioned since they’re involved enough to merit blog posts of their own.   Soon we’ll be starting a crowdsourcing project to help fund our upcoming plans as some things like the truck required to pull the trailer are out of our reach at this time due to debts left from trying to live a more conventional modern lifestyle.  It’s a long road in many ways, but we can’t think of anything more fulfilling.

Thanks for reading!