I’ve been a little overly fascinated – okay, obsessed – with small living situations since university.
I am not sure exactly when or how it began. Perhaps it was when I chose to move into a one bedroom suite with my friend Sara to save money – I took the living room (we were supposed to switch halfway through the year, but she offered to pay more to stay where she was – I was all for it).
The next year, I lived in my van. A Chevy camper van, outfitted with everything I needed (after I bought a parking pass, of course): Kitchen, fridge, stove, bed, and even a furnace. The added bonus of brown crushed velvet just added to the awesome ambiance.
While I did move into a house for some of the wetter months, I had a great situation going on, living under the biggest tree in Parking Lot 1, which during the summer months that year had a nursing student under the opposite side in her Westfalia.
My friend Johnny pitched a tent for a few months in the forest nearby, and we had a couple of fantastic parking lot parties, cooking food and hanging out in the relative comfort of home.
I had the added bonus of having 24-hour access to a nearby building due to my cancer research job in a university laboratory, and there were two gym facilities on campus where I could easily access a shower.
After this initial foray into living in a small, fairly portable space (I didn’t drive the van unless I had to, University of Victoria student fees include a public transit pass which will get you pretty much anywhere from such a major hub, and I had my bicycle, mounted on the front of said van) there was no going back.
I became obsessed with the ultimate van layout, and my friend called me a “vanophile” as I had to stop and peak in the window of nearly every camper van I walked by, to see what might be done differently.
I sold my Chevy van at the end of university, but I knew I would not go without one for too long.
A few years later, as a seasonal forest firefighter, I knew a van would again make the perfect rent-free or low-rent solution to my seasonal housing issue, and keep costs low – ideal for a job which can have you away for more weeks than you’re home.
So, I spent far too much time and thought trying to find the perfect van to return to van life, which led me to purchase a Dodge camper van, which came complete with the same amenities as my old Chevy, but with a different layout and it ran on propane, which at that time was a cost saver.
I lived in that van for a number of seasons, and while of course it had its challenges, for the most part, it was pretty fantastic.
Home was always close, if I came back from a fire at 1 a.m., I could drive around the corner and bam, I was home and sleep was not far behind.
Now, vans were not the only form in which I could appreciate a small space, either.
On a bicycle tour of the Pacific Coast, I enjoyed staying in yurts (small, round structures styled after the traditional Mongolian portable homes) in state parks.
I loved the open feeling possible in even such a small space, and I revisited them again when I later returned to the Oregon Coast on a motorcycle tour.
While my situation has changed, and I may now live in a house (though the small part has remained true), I still have my van, and enjoy it whenever I do get the chance to stay in it.
So imagine my excitement when the tiny home movement began, and all of the incredible things people are doing building tiny homes on trailers, and making small spaces really usable and beautiful.
I have been watching eagerly as people have been creating beautiful, tiny homes to create affordable living spaces for themselves. My friend Molly has recently joined the tiny home revolution by beginning her own home building project.
As a woodworker and an artist, I can only imagine she will create something incredible and I can’t wait to see it.
Why the reason for the long, drawn-out diatribe on tiny living spaces?
Well because I just received a press release from Chippawa Cottage Resort in the Ottawa Valley which is showing off their new attraction.
The Algonquin Pod Company has partnered with the resort to offer stays in their “pod” which is a beautiful tiny gothic-arch structure to offer what is known as “glamping.” A term which means glamourous camping, the phenomenon is pretty big in Europe, but is still a new concept in North America.
The release re-ignited my passion for the simplicity of small-portable structures, and reminded me of an earlier, simpler time in my life.
Perhaps the home renovations are wearing on me.