Our Tiny House and travel plans

For me, September always feels like a new beginning. As the season and the leaves change, we’re usually making fresh life plans and in recent years, we’ve done so from our regular September catsit. Despite Covid, the homeowners here have been able to take their annual Norfolk trip so we’re back in Chiswick once again, trying to figure out how to navigate travel and housing in this new, Covid-scarred world.

The striking Betz, who we regularly look after in Chiswick

Our Tiny House plans

After years of living nomadically, 2020 hit us hard. How do you lockdown when you don’t have a home, when you’re hopping between housesits, planning long stretches of travel and dropping in on family in between? In pre-Covid UK, this lifestyle allowed us to stay in amazing London homes rent-free, retain a sense of freedom and with both of us working, save a ton of money. Covid, however, made us realise how much we needed our own base.

We’ve been discussing this housing conundrum for the last few years and it’s always been a tricky problem to solve. After escaping the 9-5 office life and enjoying the freedom to live and work where we please, locking ourselves into full-time jobs again so we can get a crippling mortgage and sell our souls to the overpriced UK housing market has never felt right to us.

Tiny House being built in Yorkshire

Instead, we’ve thought about buying a house boat or renovating a cheap property in Europe but what really caught our attention was the idea of having our own Tiny House. If you have no clue what this means, check out the Living Big in a Tiny House Youtube channel, we’ve been obsessed with it for years. We love the idea of having an eco-friendly, minimalist space that is moveable and can be bought virtually outright; a low-cost base to live in full-time or return to between travels.

The drama of 2020 really pushed us into pursuing our Tiny House ambitions. We booked an appointment with Tiny Eco-Homes in Yorkshire and headed up there once travel restrictions eased in August for a consultation. After meeting the company owner, Chris, and stepping inside some of the Tiny Houses he was currently building, we were both hooked. There was one question plaguing us though: where can we put a Tiny House, since land in the UK is super expensive and planning laws outdated and restrictive?

Visiting Yorkshire for our Tiny House Consultation

Land for Tiny Homes

After talking with Chris, it turns out there are some options. Most people either put their Tiny Home on land belonging to family or friends or they rent a pitch from a farmer, or at a camping or glamping site. You have to put in a lot of legwork, time and effort to find a good pitch and rent can cost a few hundred pounds a month, plus you technically have to be away for a few weeks of the year. However, all of the people Chris has built homes for have managed to find pitches, you just have to be prepared to search. The process isn’t easy but if it was, many more people would be doing it. Andrew and I talked it over for hours and decided to put down a deposit on our own Tiny Home.

Yes, finding a good parking spot is going to be a challenge but we’ve done harder things, right? Buying that one-way ticket to New Zealand all those years ago was a gamble, one that paid off. We had no idea when we left the UK how, with limited savings, we’d make a life of travel work but despite the challenges, we did it. There’s no reason we can’t make our Tiny Home a reality too. There’s even a tentative possibility of a plot for us in Surrey, where Chris is due to deliver another Tiny Home later this autumn.

Tiny Eco House being built in Yorkshire

I know we’ll still have to pay rent but it’ll be a few hundred pounds rather than over £1,000 a month in London and we could cover this by renting the Tiny House as a holiday let over the summer. If we continue to save, one day we could even buy some land to move the home on to. We’ve also heard about a group in Bristol that’s currently going through the planning process to create a Tiny Home community, which could be a game-changer if it gets approved.

Travel planning in a Covid world

Tiny Eco-Homes is so booked up with builds that it’ll be a year until ours is completed, so we have time to figure things out. In the meantime, we’re excited to be designing our home with Chris. So far, we know that it’ll be 22ft long and split over two levels, with an office space and bedroom upstairs and an open-plan living area and bathroom below. It’s all timber with eco-friendly features like a composting toilet and the potential to add solar and be totally off-grid in the future.

So, what are we going to do while we await our Tiny Home? After being marooned in the UK for a year, I just want to get away. Lately I’ve been consumed with travel memories, of reading old journals and blog entries, scrolling through our travel photos, watching travel documentaries and lamenting the trips we had to cancel this year. I thought I knew what a privilege travel was but I really didn’t, not until it was taken away. It’s selfish to admit this in the midst of a global pandemic but I want my old life and my freedom back so badly.

Us at Aysgarth Falls, Yorkshire

Andrew has gone back to school now and although they’d like him to stay through to the end of the year, lack of housesits and affordable housing in London means this isn’t a viable option. We’re also scared that Covid cases will surge again causing another lockdown which means we’ll end up in the same position we were back in March, with no housing and worried about infecting anyone we stay with.

Luckily, there’s still a glimmer of hope on the horizon for Vietnam. I’ve been recruiting teachers for our former language center and although the visa process is a minefield at the moment, it’s looking hopeful. The center has also submitted our documents to the government and if we’re approved, we’ll be granted a work visa, hopefully in the next few weeks. Even if that happens we have to work out flights and insurance (Safety Wing is apparently now covering Covid) so it still feels like a shaky plan. Plus, quarantine costs in a four-star hotel in Hanoi won’t come cheap.

Hanoi traffic

When October comes, while we wait for news, we’re unsure where we’ll end up. We were planning to head to Croatia for a few weeks until the UK government took it off the list of countries it deems safe to travel to (how the UK can hold these judgments when Boris and Co. have done such a spectacularly bad job of dealing with Covid is beyond me). We’d go anyway except we need to get a Covid test in the UK before we (hopefully) fly to Vietnam and the UK is imposing a two-week quarantine on arrivals from Croatia. We thought about countries on the ‘safe list’, Slovenia or Greece for example, but perhaps it’s better to avoid an extra flight and drive up to Scotland instead?

Wherever will go, it’s likely to be a last-minute decision and we’ll of course follow all necessary testing and quarantine requirements. We’ll keep you posted and drop a comment below if you’ve managed to travel during Covid or are abroad at the moment, where are you and how are you finding it?

  • Patti
    Posted at 16:21h, 15 September Reply

    “I thought I knew what a privilege travel was but I really didn’t, not until it was taken away. It’s selfish to admit this in the midst of a global pandemic but I want my old life and my freedom back so badly.”

    Oh boy can I relate … even though we love taking care of little man, the very idea that we cannot travel to most countries in the world is just a constant irritant for me. I resent the fact that the US “president” has failed this country on such an extraordinary level.

    It’s so great that you’re making your tiny house chapter come to life and I look forward to following along as it all comes together. I’m try to conceptualize 22 feet! I think a tiny house community sounds like an amazing way to live, I know they are popping up in the US as well.

    Good luck with the plans for Vietnam. I’m hopeful it will all work out for you.

    • Amy
      Posted at 16:25h, 17 September Reply

      Uggh – I can’t imagine how awful it must be with that Beast calling the shots, really hope he gets tossed out with the rubbish soon. Yes, we’re super-excited to think that this time next year we’ll be in our Tiny House! By then, I’m really hoping that travel will be easier too, I miss it. Hope you guys are doing well despite the horrible circumstances right now.

  • Alyson Long
    Posted at 09:04h, 17 September Reply

    This is so exciting! I love tiny houses. This will be a whole new adventure. We’re still looking to buy a farm here but we’re moving very slowly. Food security and land would be so good. My garden could currently feed maybe one very slim person, but we’re a long way off feeding a family of four. I’ve decided to spend more time in the UK once Australia lets us out (which is absolutely infuriating) and we need to figure out if and where the boys will sit iGCSEs. Probably Bangkok, but we can’t plan yet. Mum’s death made me realise I should see my Dad. And I’ve FINALLY figured out a big SEO problem with my blog and traffic is skyrocketing again. That’s so good, I don’t want to have to worry about income, it’s been shocking lately. So maybe we’ve both turned a corner? Autumn is my favourite time too, new boots and jumpers and new university year, all that stuff. Only it’s the start of summer here, but I’m still British. Best of luck!

    • Amy
      Posted at 16:28h, 17 September Reply

      Hi Alyson, I was so sorry to hear about your Mum, what an awful situation being stuck on the other side of the world while it happened. I hope the restrictions ease and you can get out next year, maybe we’ll see you over here in the UK at some point! So great that your traffic is recovering, that’s promising news. My freelance work is still really suffering but there are a few glimmers of hope, I’m trying to adapt and look at different income streams too. Your plan to buy a farm sounds perfect, we’d love to grow some fruit and veggies. Best wishes to you all 🙂

  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 19:46h, 17 September Reply

    Amy, how lovely to get an update ffrom you guys. So glad you have managed to secure your usual September house/pet-sitting in London. Such exciting plans about your tiny house project, I like your design idea of open plan downstairs. Fingers crossed a plot of land will become available soon, but still you have a year to get that sorted, I guess. It is frustrating for everyone at the moment with UK rules changes and not very clear plans. Our government unfortunately has not been on top of things from the very start. It is frustrating. Brian and I have managed to set off traveling again and we are currently in Northern Italy. Our motorhome has been perfect for traveling at current times. We can easily self-isolate. and follow all the rules and reccomendations. I hope your plans for Vietnam come to fruition and I will be looking forward to follow your travels again. Stay safe😄

    • Amy
      Posted at 11:12h, 18 September Reply

      Hi Gilda, yes, luckily we have a year to get our pitch sorted. So glad to see you guys back on the road again enjoying your motorhome, such a perfect way to travel right now. I’ll keep you updated on Vietnam and look forward to more of your stunning Italy updates – the lakes look amazing!

  • Rhonda
    Posted at 00:12h, 18 September Reply

    A tiny house!!!!! FUN FUN FUN. That is super exciting 🙂 I can’t wait to see how it goes. We are so fortunate in that our day to day life hasn’t changed up much with camp life being what it is, but we had planned on spending some time in Thailand in February which is now on hold. Fingers crossed for the Vietnam gig to work out and for you to get your itchy toes back on the road. I hope the writing is hanging in there and 2021 brings new changes for all of us. XOXOXO

    • Amy
      Posted at 11:13h, 18 September Reply

      Hi Rhonda, great to hear that your still working at the camp and enjoying the outdoors. Yes, it does seem like it’ll be a long time before we can nip over to Asia again the way we used to. Here’s hoping 2021 might bring a vaccine and some better news. Take care x

  • Melanie
    Posted at 04:36h, 18 September Reply

    I’m grabbing all the good news I can get at the moment and your new house is very good news! Tiny houses are a great idea – I’ve stayed in many accommodations that might qualify space-wise over the years, so I know how doable it is especially if it’s cleverly done. It sounds like an ideal solution to a soul-sucking mortgage, I’m sure a lot of people are waking up to that realisation.
    Vietnam is also a good option, if that works out. They seem to have kept a lid on Covid relatively well unlike some other SEAsian countries. Good luck, hope it does happen so you can miss some of the UK winter.
    No you’re not selfish for wanting your life back – you’re naturally grieving for what you’ve lost (albeit temporarily dammit!) and you’re certainly not the only one. I usually have at least one trip in planning on and without that, I feel horribly adrift. I’m very fortunate otherwise – I got a Bali holiday in in March and I’ve had a job the whole time but I’m still pining for rest of the world.
    Thanks once again for your update – so glad you’ve bounced back a bit from when Covid hit and it’s interesting to hear about your lateral ideas for copying with the situation.

    • Amy
      Posted at 11:15h, 18 September Reply

      Hi Melanie, yes, Vietnam has done such an amazing job with Covid, the UK could certainly learn some lessons from them. I’m glad I’m not the only one pining for travel! So glad you got to enjoy Bali before all this hit though, hopefully it won’t be too long before we can all start planning trips again.

  • Shane
    Posted at 19:33h, 18 September Reply

    If Deirdre’s brother wasn’t such a tosspot there’d be plenty of land here you could stay on. You wouldn’t even have to share with the sheep at the moment.

    • Amy
      Posted at 12:02h, 21 September Reply

      Haha – love this 🙂 Sounds like a lovely parking spot, if only! Hope you guys are doing well (or as well as can be expected under the circumstances).

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