Living BIG Series, Space, sustainable living

Living in a Yurt Full-Time… What’s it like?

Living BIG – Tiny Living Series

Have you ever considered living in a yurt full-time? Yes, moving out of your house, and venturing into a quiet spot in nature to camp out year-round? It might just feel like you’re on a relaxing vacation. That’s kind of what living in a yurt feels like according to Valerie van de Ridder.

Valerie is a performer and theatre teacher who has made the bold move to pack up her city apartment and move into a yurt in the Dutch farmland. Of all places! Along with her partner Bart and their 2 rescue dogs Pit and Baas, Valerie has opted for a peaceful life in nature in a cosy 3-person yurt. And they are loving it. Read on to get some insight into: what it’s like living full-time in a traditional yurt. As well as, what kind of person becomes the person who leaves their current reality and opts for a better quality of life.

What is a yurt

Let’s start from the start. A yurt is a completely demountable and portable, circular tent-like dwelling, originating from Central Asia–Mongolia in particular. Fun fact: a yurt takes between 30 minutes to 3 hours to assemble or build depending on its size. Quite a nifty set up!

Some key characteristics of a traditional yurt include:

  • Its perfectly round shape
    The circular shape of the yurt protects it from strong winds. The round shape and low sloping aerodynamic roof, keeps the structure intact, and allows the yurt to be easily cooled or heated.
  • A wood burning iron stove
    Sitting in the centre of a yurt, often lies a wood-burning stove with a tall chimney reaching up past the central crown in the roof out into the blue sky above. This stove efficiently warms up the home in the colder months and can also be used for cooking.
  • Layered felt or wool covering
    Around the world, most yurt inhabitants are herders and shepherds. The wool they collect from their sheep, goats or yak, gets used to create the felt that wraps around the frame of the yurt. Most yurts have 3 to 5 layers of felt and often an outermost layer of waterproof canvas fabric.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get to know a human who decided to leave her apartment to actually go live in one!

“The circular design of the yurt feels like it’s giving you a hug when you come home”.

Valerie van de Ridder

Get to know Valerie

Valerie was a creative since she was little. With her brothers and friends, she would perform little skits, make music; dancing and singing an important part of her early life. She loved drawing, making things with her hands, playing with lots of soap bubbles and other random things that only kids can come up with. Her love for the outdoors bloomed as a young girl as well. Spending a lot of her time playing outside, exploring, paddling around the Frisian lakes. Even though she didn’t know exactly what she wanted for her future yet, culture was important to her and her love for being in nature was undeniable. She had a rather unique upbringing, attending a Vlinder Kinder school. Learning about mindfulness, tuning into emotions and the power of intention.

Nowadays, her main focus lies in teaching theatre and co-running a company called Maskermeiden. Harnessing the art of mask theatre in performances for a wide range of audiences using a variety of hand-made masks, which she makes herself! While work keeps her busy and excited to create, moving into the yurt actually has meant that she works fewer days of the week. A lot of her energy is being called to tend to the garden. By walking around the grounds where her yurt is settled, it is so clear that a lot of Valerie is present in the land. Given her background, it’s no coincidence she has wandered off the conventional path and forged her own creative one.

Dreaming BIG + Taking Aligned Action

It’s one thing to have big beautiful dreams and inspiration living in your Pinterest boards. It’s another to actually go out and bring them into your life. What are your big dreams? What do you spend time and energy fantasising about, mood-boarding or journaling about?

Look, there’s no shame here. As a chronic day-and-night-dreamer, I’m guilty of this myself. I love a good Pinterest sesh. Saving images and articles for “one day”, “someday”, only to disappear into the black hole of the internet. Then stepping back into reality and nothing changes. All these images and visions remain in this dream world, to be continually yearned for, collected and looked at but never brought to life.

You might like to spend some time journaling to gain clarity on the kind of life you really desire. Get clear on what you truly value and what is motivating you to create in your current life. Take out your journal and let yourself write free-flow on the following prompts:

If money were no object, what are some big dreams I would put into action with no hesitation?

The 3 most important things in my living space are…

What inspires me? What gets me motivated and excited to take on the day?

It’s funny how life has a way of showing us routes and avenues of possibility all around when we’re willing to walk down them. For Valerie, what sparked her yurt interest was her own parents. They actually moved into a yurt before she did! So she was immediately inspired seeing them change their lives and was open to exploring how maybe it could be interesting for her too.

While chatting to Valerie, it was clear that her current life was about a hundred steps closer to her ultimate dream life. She spoke about her past travels to Norway and how the wildness of nature there really burrowed into her heart. Longing for that untamed, breathtaking land that she was faced with. She has big hopes to volunteer on organic farms throughout Norway, and maybe even move there one day. You can sign me up!

For now, she lives in her yurt in the countryside of The Netherlands. The contentment sitting at dining table looking out into the green, was just palpable. You could just feel the giant exhale being there. Funny enough, some of the most important things in her living space that she pointed out were the dogs, the flowers, and the birds — all living and breathing beings! These creatures just add immesureable joy and love to her life. Though one sentimental piece stood right out in her story; a clay statue of Valerie and her siblings hand made by her grandmother. To which she’ll be adding her youngest brother, who was born after the statue was made.

A Day in Yurt Life

If you’ve never stepped into a yurt, I really recommend you venture out and visit or rent one out. There’s something so undeniably cosy about this round home nestled in nature. Its charm really comes from its connection with its natural surroundings. It’s an ecosystem. Everything is living, growing. Which also means it needs more immediate attention.

Living in a yurt isn’t all that different from living in a house, according to Valerie. All the normal things you would do in a house are still there, but with a big garden and outhouse (outdoor toilet/shower) to tend to. Every day starts with the basics for Valerie and her family. This means watering plants, weeding, walking the dogs, changing the compost in the composting toilet, mowing the lawn. Because the indoor space is quite small, actually cleaning and a lot of indoor tasks take much less time. However, mess accumulates quick and needs tidying and cleaning regularly to prevent build-up.

Because there’s so much happening outside the yurt itself, there are always little projects going on on the property. Lots is happening in the garden including, getting a vegetable garden set up, chopping wood for winter, creating a path from the parking lot to the orchard, building some shelving in the outhouse for the shower, creating an atelier. All that it takes to make the space feel like a complete home.

Of course it wouldn’t be a yurt without some sheep roaming the land! This involves moving the sheep to different plots of grass. Shaving the sheep and making rugs from the wool or other little projects. Valerie has begun crafting some birthday decoration flags from the wool as well as some throw covers and carpets for the interiors of the yurt.

Before even having breakfast, before having a drink of water, even just to go use the toilet, you’re forced to go outside. You’re just more connected to the world outside.”

Valerie van de Ridder

For Valerie, living in a yurt is a total escape. While she’s out in the garden, her head is clear and she’s able to fully relax. She’s not thinking about work, all the to-do’s, she is just present. This first year living in a yurt has taken her on a grand journey appreciating the seasons. In winter, sitting cuddled up on the couch around the fire watching the flames at the centre of the home. In the spring, those misty foggy mornings planting seeds, watching them grow. In summer, spending almost all day outside, chopping wood and enjoying the sun. And those unforgettable autumn sunsets, when friends and family come for a visit sitting by the campfire. It feels like a vacation.

Yurt Life Trials and Tribulations

All the goodness in this world, is always accompanied by its shadow. And even living in this cottage paradise has its challenges. A few tricky topics when it comes to living in a yurt include:

  • Severe weather

While the structure and shape of a yurt is perfectly designed to uphold during storms and strong winds, one can’t help but feel some stress when the power of Mother Nature strikes. Especially in a tiny and more vulnerable home. As a van-lifer myself, I can definitely vouch for this one. When the winds are blowing with all their might, it’s easy to start doubting the stability of the structure you’re living in. Plus, at the moment in her yurt, Valerie has no curtains installed yet so the flashes from lightning are very bright and intense. Luckily, the yurt is located on the shared grounds of the landowner, who has a big house on the property in which she can seek shelter when the weather conditions are particularly extreme.

Storms and thunder can feel really scary because you can see them coming when the lightning strikes. That can feel really intense.”

Valerie van de Ridder
  • Legal Stuff

Currently, in The Netherlands, one is only permitted to legally live in a yurt during the summer months, from Marth to October, as it is seen as a camping ground. In the winter months however, it is technically not permitted. The local government is aware of the fact that people live in yurts in The Netherlands, however, and when there are no complaints, they turn a blind eye.

In Valerie’s case, they have their landowner’s house as a bit of a crutch. While in their district it is tolerated since there is a small community of people living in yurts. In other districts, throughout the country however, there are more frequent checks and controls. So Valerie and her neighbours really do their best to stay under the radar, living a humble and quiet life in nature. Because if they find one yurt, they’ll find the whole street, and the whole village may get into trouble. Her hope is that in the Netherlands it will be easier to live more off-grid in the future, that living in a yurt or tiny house will be more widely available and accepted.

Depending on your local government, you’ll have to look into what is permitted and find the loopholes that can make it a possibility.

Tips for the Wannabe Yurt Dweller

Ok, so you’re intrigued. The thought of living in this cosy round little yurt is sparking all kinds of interest. Now what? You probably need some advice. It’s a big step leaving a house and moving into a yurt or some other kind of alternative home. Lucky for you, Valerie has some solid tips:

  • Try the experience before committing

Try for a week, go to a campsite and live in a yurt or tiny house for some time. See how the experience feels of living in a smaller space, in nature. You have to like the lifestyle. There will be different tasks and chores that are not your usual ones. Like chopping wood or mowing the lawn for example. Consider if these feel like tasks you’d happily do regularly.

  • Get used to different sounds

Living in a yurt means living in more remote areas. Sounds of nature and your natural surroundings will be more present, such as birds or other wildlife.

  • Consider location

Yurts are planted in farmland or other remote areas. It’s important to consider what it’ll be like living in natural areas where there are perhaps less paved roads, no streetlights, the nights will be darker. As well as distances if you need to commute to specific areas for work or errands.

  • Minimise

A good place to start is by getting rid of stuff. Throw out, donate, gift all the random objects and knick knacks, the things taking up space that aren’t of much use to you. Make your stock of stuff smaller to adjust more easily into a smaller living space.

Getting to explore Valerie’s beautiful yurt and walk around the grounds was such a special experience. A perfect example of how you can take steps to make the space around you, the space you inhabit, be a total reflection of you and the type of life that truly makes you happy. If this article about living in a yurt spoke to you, peaked your interest, leave a comment below! I’d love to hear your questions or comments.

Could you see yourself living in a yurt???