home, Living BIG Series, Space, sustainable living

How To Embrace Alternative Living

Living BIG – Tiny Living Series

You may have noticed that an alternative living movement is sweeping across the world, presenting intriguing notions such as financial freedom, simple joys of minimalism, sustainability and self-sufficiency, potential freedom of travel and immense self-growth! Have you been considering switching up your lifestyle and dipping your toes into an alternative way of living?

In this series, I’ll be walking you through the process my partner, David, and I went through in deciding to purchase and convert our very own passenger van into a tiny home on wheels, with all the ups and downs of this journey. As well as featuring other creative and unique individuals who have decided to pursue a non-conventional living path and embrace alternative living solutions!

So that you can understand what kind of alternative way of life might be cool for you to pursue (if any), this post will cover:

  • Some alternative living possibilities
  • What to consider before making a commitment + investment
  • Some benefits of pursuing an alternative lifestyle
  • Some challenges of pursuing an alternative lifestyle

“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”

Thomas Jefferson

Some alternative living possibilities:

  • Van Life

Buy a van and convert it into your full-time mortgage-free home and travel mobile! Imagine being able to open the doors to your home to a different setting every day. One day you’re at a remote beach on the Costa del Sol, then an urban site in the outskirts of Copenhagen, to the bed of a river in the valleys of Slovenia, or the heart of the Black Forest. All of that accompanied by all the comforts of your own cosy home. A warm cup of ginger tea as you rise in the morning with the banana bread you baked yesterday afternoon? Now doesn’t that just sound like heaven.

This lifestyle comes with a steep learning curve and lots of physical + mental input. Based on my own experience down this path, it will require a lot of work and patience. In future posts of this series, I willl go more in depth covering the steps of this process.

Cost will range greatly depending on selected products and materials. But the outcome will be perfectly tailored to suit your own needs. On top of that, you’ll have no rent, no bills and no limits to where you can end up. The world is truly your oyster when you travel the world in your own home on wheels.

  • Bus Life

Van life’s big brother – is a good alternative to living in a van if you’re keen to have a much larger living space.

Bus conversions will provide you with a lot more room than a van. Potentially more suitable for a family with children or pets who require more a more functional and spacious environment.

A larger project also means higher cost. As well as sacrificing on mobility and accessibility of certain locations. If you’re not so fussed about getting to the most remote hidden locations, then you may consider living in a converted bus.

  • Live on a boat

If the seas are calling your name, don’t limit yourself to the open-road, you could easily live on a boat! The ultimate way to see the world, set sail and dock at any harbour of your choice around the world.

Either purchase a sailboat for open waters or a canal boat with pre-built interior or convert a boat into a home. Living on a boat is one of the cheapest ways to live in a big city at a fraction of the cost. The initial investment on the boat may be big, but certainly no where near mortgage on a house.

Don’t forget that you’d need to learn how to sail first, if you don’t already know how! But if the lifestyle matches your needs and desires, don’t rule out a floating home.

  • Shipping Container

If you’re keen to get your hands involved in a DIY at a fraction of the cost of other alternative housing, converting a shipping container might be the choice to go for. Endless options are available within the four walls of a metal shipping container, creating rooms or mezzanines within, rooftop gardens, wrap-around porches, as well as attaching multiple containers together to create a larger home.

The beauty of a container is that it can be picked up and plopped down on any plot of land you own or have access to! Making this a flexible option if you’re not necessarily tied to one location for good.

  • Tiny House

Why build a big house when you could live tiny? Embracing the minimalistic life, forcing you to spend more time outdoors. Opt to downsize from a regular big house to a mini version. Buy a small plot of land and design and build your house from the ground up, or convert a cabin or shed into a tiny house. This may just be one of the most cost-efficient and self-sufficient ways of living.

No more clutter, only the bare necessities. Reduce costs such as mortgages, bills and overall maintenance by pursuing the tiny lifestyle. The more energy sufficient the house is, the higher the building costs may be, but the lower the living costs. If you’re looking to live in a permanent location and avoid an expensive mortgage haunting you til retirement, consider learning about tiny houses.

  • A Fixer-Upper

Think: Under The Tuscan Sun. Transform a cheap shell of a home into your absolute dream home.

If living tiny, minimal or mobile is not for you, an alternative route is to purchase a permanent property that will require some work, some fixing up. A fixer-upper may start out as a cheap purchase, but prepare to invest financially and physically in the improvement of the home. Your budget may range here depending on product and material choices, but can result in a very unique home with character and history.

  • Yurt

A yurt is a portable, circular tent which is becoming an increasingly popular alternative living option among young people who desire to find their way to a simpler way of living in or close to nature.

Yurts are native to the people of Mongolia, Turkey, and Siberia. They are collapsible tent homes made of repurposed material like leather, felt or sturdy cloth. Yurts are extremely affordable houses. They can be insulated and padded if situated in colder climates. Don’t be fooled by the plain exterior, the interior of these houses offer many options for personalisation and decor.

One amazing advantage of a yurt is that it only requires a piece of land to sit on. it can be collapsed, packed and carried away to any other location the moment you desire to change living address.

  • Natural Building (Cob, Bamboo, Hemp Concrete, Pellet, Straw Bale, Treehouse…)

If you’re a true environmentalist, then you’re probably keen to approach building a home primarily made out of natural building materials. Today, there are constantly new building materials and techniques being brought to light, such as hemp concrete, straw bale, bamboo, etc.

Cob is a very eco-friendly material to use for building a home, and also a material that is both unconventional and beautiful. Cob houses are considerably cheaper than other alternatives. Bonus: you can definitely try to make one on your own.

Want to be completely surrounded by nature and green? While it may feel extra-alternative or not very feasible in certain parts of the world- you might consider living in a tree house or bamboo house! This may most likely require some additional help in the build, but imagine living in the treetops… Check out the story of author Nick Weston, who  built his own treehouse in the south of England in 2010.

If you’re based in a colder climate, a more suitable building material to consider is straw bale. A great insulator and completely natural product that will protect you from harsh winter weather.

  • Digital Nomad Life

With more and more remote job opportunities becoming available around the world – or creating a remote position of your own – living the life of a digital nomad is now quite a realistic dream to pursue. With the ability to work and live anywhere on the planet, you won’t be tied to one set location. If exploring the world, connecting with new people and cultures, all the while earning money, sounds like your kind of fantasy, I’m here to tell you it’s possible to make it into a reality.

  • WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms)

Volunteer on organic farms around the world in exchange for a bed, meals, and sometimes pay! A great opportunity to learn all about different organic farming techniques from locals in different countries of the world, share skills and make connections with like-minded humans.

While this may not be a permanent solution, volunteering to improve on skills that bring you closer to a lifestyle in alignment with your dreams will be certain to open doors for you in the future.

What to consider before making a commitment and investment:

  • How do I like to live?

Big question, I know. But you need to understand the kind of life you want, to then determine which living style is right for you. Do you like to travel? Do you prefer to be based in one specific place? Are you someone who likes to get out into nature and wilderness? Do you fancy exploring an urban/city environment? Are you up for a challenge of making/building something yourself or do you want more of an immediate solution? How personalised do you want your home to feel?

  • How much physical effort am I willing to put in?

Are you willing to build or partially put some manual work in creating your living space? How much time are you able to devote to this project each week/month? If manual labour is not on your agenda, doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but most likely this is going to drive up costs.

  • How much of an emotional + mental effort am I willing to make?

Are you willing to take on the challenge of learning new skills –and failing a lot– in this process? You will fail, a LOT. Can you handle things not necessarily going according to plan and sacrifice some of your social, personal time?

  • How much of a financial investment am I willing to make?

Of course you need to get pretty clear on how much money you are willing to dedicate to taking on a new and different living style. Start by breaking down your monthly expenses (bills, subscriptions, food, taxes, gas, etc.)

Do you need to start saving or do you already have some money set aside? Make a plan and begin putting money away regularly. Luckily, alternative living comes at a fraction of the cost of a deposit for a house nowadays. Get creative and informed on what is possible for you based on your own projections.

Some benefits of pursuing an alternative lifestyle:

  • Gets your out of your comfort zone. It will be a wild adventure.
  • You will learn new skills by failing – A LOT. The best way to learn if you ask me.
  • You will get in touch with the essence of what brings you joy, getting close to a lifestyle more in alignment with how you truly like to live.
  • Responsibility, determination, perseverance. Your desire to live in a different way will be tested consistently. You will become more patient as a result.
  • You will get to express your creativity and end up with a unique home that represents you and how you enjoy living!

Some challenges of pursuing an alternative lifestyle:

  • You are going to feel alone at times. Not everyone around you is going to understand this desire to seek a non-conventional path. Stay true to yourself.
  • It will be overwhelming at times. Take breaks, ask for help when you need it. Use the resources you have available: skilled people in your local community, online tutorials (Youtube is your friend)
  • It will take longer than you planned. In fact, be prepared to change the plan multiple times.
  • It may be financially straining at times. Take it one step at a time, make adjustments as you go, move in and start living the lifestyle before it’s totally finished and perfect, you’ll get there eventually.

Are you ready to embrace alternative living?

Reading about all the potential that these different alternative living styles have to offer – along with their challenges and investments – are you feeling inspired to consider embracing an unorthodox lifestyle that allows you more personal freedoms, self-sufficiency, new skills and time in nature or traveling the world? I hope you walk away from this post with many ideas of what your future living situation could look like. You have the power to create something special that’s just right for you.

Love the life you live. Live the life you love.

Bob Marley