A lot has happened to Annie Coburn since taking the August 2014 Tumbleweed workshop in Dallas. She admits that she was unsure of her future plans when she first decided to attend the workshop, but one comment from another attendee changed her mind (and her life) completely. "A lady said: 'I know this person who travels around in her tiny house and sells .....' I don't even remember what she was selling, but that statement put all the pieces together for me," Annie told us.
Interior: Tiny House Teas
Annie has always loved to travel. In 2010 she created a travel website for seniors. So the idea of creating a business that could function out of the tiny house, while wayfaring around the United States, tied all of her passions together in one beautiful package. It wasn't long before Annie received her Tumbleweed trailer and started building her traveling Cypress 20 Equator without dormers.
"When I saw the picture of the Cypress, I wanted to give it a hug," Annie recalls. "It's so cute!"
But what does Annie intend to sell out of her traveling tiny home? TEA, of course! In the late 1990's, she lived in China and remains in contact with her friends there. "They know tea and tea producers," Annie comments. "So I have access to premium teas." In September she flew to China to strike up a partnership and, just like that, "Tiny House Teas" was born.
Annie's tiny house is now close to completion, and she'll soon hit the road with her traveling tea business. Her first destination will be the Florida Keys. "The tiny house gives us options," Annie explains. "We can stay as long as we wish. When we feel the need for a change, just hook-up, fill-up and GO."
Whether you are planning to be on the road everyday or you are choosing to stay parked in your favorite corner of the world for a bit, it’s likely that you have chosen a tiny house for the freedom it will provide. The adventure looks different for everyone, but it undoubtedly means a journey with less “stuff”.
So how do you approach the overwhelming task of choosing what to take with you?How will you fit everything into only a couple hundred square feet?The key is to focus on the fun ahead then choose what to pack for the adventure.
You’re already being creative and living intentionally by choosing a tiny house.You’re focusing on all that you’ll gain, not what you’ll give up. So approach the task of evaluating your “stuff” with this same positive mindset.
Think versatility and comfort for clothes, compact and dual purpose for your kitchen items. Think creatively and resourcefully with everything!
2). Remember your vision
Be selective and intentional, keeping in mind the amount of white space, storage and keepsakes you’d like with you on the journey.
3). Think with an abundance mindset
Trust that anything you need will be available when you need it.The “I might need this” reasoning will not support your freedom.You don’t need any extra baggage!
4). Remain optimistic…
Think about the opportunities ahead and the new community of people you’ll meet.By choosing to take only what you know you’ll need now, you’re making space for exciting new experiences.
5) Go with your gut
Remember when you experienced that gut feeling knowing that a tiny house was perfect for you?Use that same gut feeling to make smart decisions about your stuff.
6). Give it a rest
Tired minds don’t make good decisions.Working in small chunks of time can be better than putting in long days, so plan accordingly.
The open road. Photo credit: Lisa Luken
By approaching the task this way, you’ll be well prepared for the exciting adventure ahead, having intentionally chosen to bring along only what you truly need, use and love.
You’ll be ready to enjoy your tiny house and the big life it provides…with just the right items for the adventure.
Lisa Luken is a Simple Living Mentor, helping people find joy and freedom through simplifying. She and her family recently sold their “more than enough” home in Illinois, let go of nearly three quarters of their possessions and moved to the coast of Maine. For more inspiration on simplifying and to learn how Lisa supports others on their journey, visit her website SimpleJoyLiving.com.
My Tumbleweed Cypress has rolled all the way from Los Angeles to Nova Scotia to the Florida Keys, where I’m currently writing this blog post. In the four months and 8,000 miles I’ve traveled with a tiny home, I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. Below is a short list I’ve compiled in hopes that it will be helpful to future tiny house travelers.
*Note: A few of the below are also applicable to RVing. That’s intentional. I’ve learned a lot from RVers and many of the same rules are relevant.
5 Tips for Tiny House Travel
1). You can weigh your tiny home at any truck scale. The best way is to weigh the tiny house with your truck attached, then park, detach, weigh your truck alone and subtract that weight from the total. It’s important to know your weight and to have a tow vehicle that can handle the load. It is especially important to be aware of your tongue weight, which can be found by purchasing a tongue scale. Many tiny homes have a heavy tongue weight because of the loft. You can counter balance your tongue weight by placing some of your heavier items in the back of the trailer (like water tanks or solar batteries). You can also use a weight distribution system, like I do.
2). Call campgrounds ahead of time. I call ahead and tell the campground that I have a 24 foot travel trailer that requires 30 amp electrical, water and (if I know my 15 gallon water tank will not be sufficient) a sewage drain for grey water. If they ask for the brand of the travel trailer, I tell them it’s a “Tumbleweed tiny house, you know… like on Tiny House Nation?” And that usually rings a bell. No campground has EVER turned me down. In fact, click here for a list of campgrounds that I’ve stayed at.
3). Attach bubble levels to your tiny house. I have one on the back center of my house (for left/right leveling) and one on the side (for front/back leveling). I use Anderson levelers for left/right leveling and I LOVE them. With these levelers, I can raise one side of my house up to four inches simply by driving onto them! If I need more than that, I pull one side of my tiny house up onto planks of wood, and then use the levelers. For front/back leveling, I use the tongue jack. Never use the scissor jacks for leveling; They are for stability only.
Tiny House GJ's Anderson Levelers
4). Get an RV GPS. I use a Rand McNally RV GPS to navigate around low clearances, weight restrictions, propane restrictions, etc. It’s excellent and it is worth its weight in gold for my peace of mind.
5). Secure Loose Items. Add a lip to your shelves and hook & eyes to your drawers. Using a bungie cord works as well, but if every shelf and drawer requires a bungie, you’ll die of tedium. The less “lock and loading” the better. It takes me about 20 minutes to secure everything inside my house and another 20 minutes to pack up the outside. I’ve got it down to a science, but I’m also always improving.
Any travelers out there want to share some of your own tips? Comment below!
Now that we've been on the road for a few weeks, Guillaume and I wanted to share our stories and travel tips. We will be scooting along the highway for the next year. So stay tuned!
Our official trip began September 2nd with our departure from Shelbyville, Illinois. If you're confused it might be because we built half of our house in Los Angeles, but at the beginning of the summer we decided to move the build to the midwest (where my family graciously let us take over their driveway). Read about our move from California to Illinois here.
The construction of our house had taken over our lives for the past year, and yet, we were still scrambling to finish right up until the final gargantuan moment of our tiny exodus. It was 6pm before we slowly rolled away from my family's quiet farm town and began an 800 mile journey to our first destination: the Tumbleweed Philadelphia workshop, where our house would make its debut. Check out the below video tour of our home taken by Philadelphia workshop presenter Deek!
I had never been to the east coast before, so I was very excited that the first section of our trip would take us to somewhere exotic - a place where locals don't even blink an eye as they shuffle past 300 year old buildings, coffee is served strong and meant for drinking on the go, and lobster rolls are considered a common lunch.
Philadelphia really surprised me. I spent days just walking the streets, reading plaques and snapping photos. I'm not used to living in a place that has history, and I allowed myself to feel proud and at home. The words: "I could live here," occasionally crossed my mind.
Our Parking Spot in Philadelphia - across from the workshop
That being said, I was full of contempt for the city as we pulled our (what seemed like) enormous house through its narrow streets. Parking was impossible, which I expected. Our trailer jack clawed at the ground more than once, and every time it felt like the house was collapsing.
Tiny House GJ Parking Illegally in Philly
Watch out wire - Here we come!!
Tips for Towing a Tiny House in North Eastern USA:
1). KNOW YOUR HEIGHT. REALLY KNOW IT. There are many low overpasses along the east coast. Our house is 13'4" and we had a few close calls. One in particular in New York City, where an overpass boasted a low clearance of 12'6"! We slowed down, frantically discussed our options and then realized that our house would fit. The sign was a lie, or a terribly un-funny joke. Either way my heart skipped a beat at the thought of reversing in NYC traffic. I cringe at the idea of a convertible tiny home. A wonderful purchase for us was an RV GPS. It alerts us of any low overpasses, weight restrictions, horizontal clearances, propane restrictions, etc. If you are going to travel often with your tiny home, buy one!
2). Watch for potholes, steep inclines / declines. Our trailer jack and chains will usually take the hit first, but I wouldn't recommend it. Take it slow and be alert.
3). If you are still in the pre-build stage, consider placing your door on the passenger side. When parking on the side of the street, exiting the tiny house on the driver's side (or the side of traffic) can be dangerous. This tip really applies to travel anywhere, but especially relevant in an east coast city where streets can be very narrow and traffic heavy.
4). KNOW YOUR WEIGHT. Tie down everything inside, and distribute your weight evenly. You can weigh your house at any trucker scale (LOVES or similar). Ours is a bit heavy - 9,800 lbs. This means we have to be very careful about our tongue weight. Semi-tedious work, but we often shift our belongings to the back of the house for travel to alleviate our heavy tongue. We are looking for a bigger truck to compensate for this. Currently we have a 3/4 ton diesel Ford F-250, but would like a 1 ton dually. If anyone has any advice for us about this, please feel free to comment!
5). In New York City, watch for gawking pedestrians and flying hotdogs.
Tiny House in Central Park
Yes, after leaving Philly we drove the house through New York City. No, we aren't insane.. well, maybe a little. A short-lived cruise through central park ended with us being kicked out; we had permission but ended up causing trouble when we couldn't navigate properly. Our tiny home crawled away with its tail between our legs to a campsite in Croton-On-Harmon, about an hour outside of the city.
Our Campsite in New York - Croton Point Park
Before leaving New York City we snapped a few photos of the tiny house amongst the skyscrapers. It was September 11th, and the significance of the anniversary was not lost on us. We tried to visit the memorial, but it was closed for family members only - a respectable request.
As the new One World Trade Center proudly served as our canopy, we remembered.
Currently we are on our way to Montreal. My next update will be about crossing the border and staying overnight in campgrounds, truck strops or similar. Wish us luck!
For more photos of our journey, follow us on INSTAGRAM.
Jenna Spesard is currently living and traveling around North America in a self-built Tumbleweed Cypress with her partner, Guillaume, who is a professional photographer and Tumbleweed Workshop host. They are photographing and writing about their adventure that began in September 2014. Occasionally they will be hosting an open house. More on their tiny house and giant journey here.
As some of you may know, Guillaume and I have been building a modified Cypress since last September. The build experience has been more of a marathon than a sprint, but I can finally say we are on our last lap! Here's the interior as it stands now - with an unfinished bathroom, kitchen, etc.
As we prepare to cross the finish line, we decided to move our tiny house from Los Angeles to my home town in central Illinois. It's going to be an exciting summer spent building and catching up with family and old friends!
Guillaume and I were nervous to tow the house, but also eager to become comfortable with taking it on long road trips. We drove slow, bumping down the interstate at 45 mph and traveling only 250-300 miles a day. We could have easily gone 65 mph, but at 45 mph we were getting just over 10 miles per gallon (at 55 mph we were getting 8.5 mpg, etc). Going slow saved us approximately $150 in gas over the course of the trip. Ultimately it took us about a week to cross the 2,000 miles, but we did it without incident!
Interstates are required to have at least 14 feet of vertical clearance, which is necessary for our 13’ 4” house. For our trek, we stayed mostly on I-40, traveling through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. Once we hit Oklahoma City, we turned north east onto I-44 toward St. Louis and onward to my small hometown in central Illinois.
Here are a few highlights of "Tiny House Giant Journey's" trip:
THGJ @ Painted Desert
THGJ @ Petrified Forest
THGJ @ "Breaking Bad "House in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Moments after taking the above photo, that ominous sky began to alternate between hail and rain! It was the first substantial bath our tiny California abode ever received. We were worried how the reclaimed wood would hold up, but it dried out just fine. Although the back of the house (front of the trailer) tolerated the unintended power-wash from us driving down the road during the downpour, the vigorous shower did remove some of our beloved patina. Next time, we will pull over and wait out the storm.
New Mexico is also home to a quirky campground that we stumbled upon - Kiva RV Park, right on Route 66. Check out the tiny trailers built by the owner!
Teardrop Trailer Designed and Built by Kiva RV Park Owner on Display
THGJ @ Cadillac Ranch in Texas
The horse towing our precious wagon was our 2006 Ford F-250 Diesel 4x4. The last time we weighed our house it was creeping up on 8,000 pounds, and that was without our belongings! Luckily we built on a Tumbleweed trailer, so we knew we were within the weight limit and that our axels were specifically designed to handle towing. That being said, we still made sure to evenly pack and disperse our belongings inside the house for travel. We also bought a no sway weight distribution system from Andersen Hitches - which was extremely helpful. We highly recommend it!
Our Weight Distribution System
We had no trouble finding places to stay along the trip. Every campground was excited to welcome our curious cabin. Setting up was easy with pull-through campsites with electric and water hookups. The scissor jacks on the trailer supplied us with stability, and we leveled-out easilyusing a camper leveler, tuff pads, and rapid jack. By the end of the trip, we could setup or teardown in less than 15 minutes!
Guillaume & Our Dog Relaxing in THGJ's Almost Finished Loft
It was a lot of fun to see people react to our home. On the road, travelers would often give us a thumbs-up or snap photos. Many times we answered questions and gave impromptu tours. Only once were we pulled over by a police officer - for going 43 mph in a 45 minimum - did I mention we were being cautious? The officer gave us a verbal warning mixed with praise for the tiny house. Secretly, we think he just wanted a closer look!
When we finally pulled into our new build site, it was bitter-sweet. We loved our mini-adventure and can’t wait to continue traveling when our house is complete. I think we caught the tiny-traveling-fever!
Our New Build Spot in Central Illinois!
*Build updates from Tiny House Giant Journey here. Like them on facebook here.
*All photos taken by Guillaume Dutilh. Check out his photography here.
Jenna Spesard is a writer by trade. She is currently building a Tumbleweed Cypress with her partner, Guillaume, who is a professional photographer and Tumbleweed Workshop Host. After the build is complete, they plan to travel around North America in their tiny house blogging and photographing their adventure. More on their tiny house and giant journey here.