15 Sep 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.
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.
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question plaguing us though: where can we put a Tiny House, since land in the UK is super expensive and planning laws outdated and restrictive?
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.
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.
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.
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?