We have come to know Kathleen well via the world wide web. She helps to share people’s stories, and is very good at it too. We discuss alternative living and what it means to her.
Please introduce yourself and where you are right now.
Hi! I am Kathleen and I live with my boyfriend and our two dogs, Blaize + Peaches, in Colorado.
In your eyes, what is the definition of Alternative Living?
I think alternative living means living a life you control and not one controlled by societal influences. This might include redefining the structure you live in and how you live there.
Can you share your current living arrangement?
We currently live in our camper trailer when we are not renting out the cabin on our property. We are building out a van to be our adventure mobile, but plan to return to the camper trailer between travels.
How fulfilling is the experience of setting up your own home? In which ways has it affected your self confidence, self reliance and self esteem?
In the beginning, when we moved in the camper, it was a very difficult process for me. I struggled with fighting the expectations that had been established in me from a very young age. Because I was living
a non-traditional lifestyle in modern society, I tried to find a balance and acceptance in both worlds. I found it difficult to find others who understood my lifestyle and accepted it completely. As time went on, I found comfort in a community of like-minded people who were doing similar things.
In regards to our van, our most recent project, I’ve seen a transformation in myself since we started. Designing and building out our van has taught me patience and perseverance. I have learned that the best things take time and to not give up when challenges present themselves—because they will. I think often we want our dreams to happen right away. And we have to remember that there are beautiful things happening right now and those can be just as amazing as the moments that are to come.
How does the way you choose to live solidify your connection with nature?
When you live small, you notice your surroundings more. Our camper is mostly windows and thin walls. We see the wind coming as it blows the trees. We notice the wildlife that stop by and have given many of them names. We watch the seasons change and marvel in the sunrises and sunsets. We hear the outdoors more vividly. The raindrops on the roof are our soundtrack. The birds’ chirping is our alarm clock. We sometimes hear the wildlife before we see them in the distance.
We feel that by reducing our impact—by using less water, less electricity, and choosing alternatives like a composting toilet—we are living more intentionally. We are active participants on this Earth and these choices play a role in taking small steps to preserve this planet.
How might the following statements highlight issues within your societies, that may be solved through an alternative approach to living?
- Our ability to build
An average American home is 2,500 square feet and the cost to build a home that size is around $305,372. Most of us can not build a home that size ourselves, so we incur a mortgage cost each month to pay for that home and most of the time it’s a house we don’t spend much time in due to a job or travels that take us away from it. A tiny house or mobile dwelling is not very costly. You can live in a vehicle you already own, and the cost to build out that small space is often very affordable. It is something most of us can do without craftsmanship experience.
- Our ability to accept others
There is a large homeless problem in Denver, Colorado, that could be solved by building tiny houses and offering affordable housing. This way of addressing the homeless population would help keep them safe and offer services and amenities they might not normally have. On the other side, it would help keep surrounding residents safe and I think that providing these options for those in need ends up helping everyone.
I also think that the increase in the tiny house movement as a whole has pushed cities to rethink their zoning and building codes. Tiny villages have been created. There are tiny house friendly cities. As the movement continues to spread, it causes others to rethink housing and accept this alternative lifestyle into conversations and planning.
- Our capacity to care for the environment
It goes without saying that those who live small have less of a negative impact on the environment than those who live in larger structures. By using less space you are using fewer resources. Those of us who live off the grid have found creative ways to work around modern ways of living. We use solar to power our electric devices. We use water more consciously when we don’t have an unlimited source. We forage, fish or hunt for what we eat. By living off the land, we are practicing a sustainable lifestyle and decreasing our carbon footprint.
You help share people’s stories and experiences of off grid living, what are your main motivations for doing this?
When we started our tiny house journey, we wanted it to be not just about the size of our home, but the size of our environmental footprint. Over time, we discovered others who also valued those principles. I think many of us who live small do so because we love to travel and be outdoors. In turn, we love what the outdoors provides and we want to spend more time in its presence. We want to disconnect from the resources we might find in a city and instead be more present in nature.
How do you approach sharing your life with a worldwide community & what is your approach to consuming digital content?
I have always stayed true to our beliefs and the reasons why we live this way but, this is not always parallel with the beliefs and reasons why everyone else lives this way. And that is okay. So while I post about us and share our values, I always try to scatter it with others as well. Because for me, I think it’s more powerful to share other stories than to only share my own. I am just one piece of the puzzle, but together we are something powerful. My hope is that one story on my blog will inspire someone to downsize, live small or take action to better the environment.
I always try to be careful in what I consume and how I consume it. Social media is a wonderful thing but it also can be a barrier. It can take away our time. It can pull us away from the outdoors. It can put us through a lot of emotions. So I try to surround myself with inspiring content and stay mindful that we’re all people with amazing stories behind a screen and to not get too caught up in wishing I was someone else and to be happy in what I’m doing.
In what ways is access to an ever growing resource of inspiration affecting our own aspirations?
I think it’s amazing. We can see a photo of someone slacklining and get inspired to go do it ourselves. Or we might read about a place we’ve never been and go visit it. Or that photo of a van is prompting us to quit our job and travel. Whatever the case, we have so much information available and it’s helping us know that if we want to do something, it’s not that crazy and we will not be alone.
Like I said above, I think the inspiration we see can be detrimental sometimes. Most of the time what we see on Instagram is not the full story, but it can be hard to keep that in mind. I think all of the information we have available can make us feel like we’re not enough. We might compare ourselves to others instead of being happy with who we are.
What responsibilities do we have as a global movement, especially in terms of sharing knowledge and experiences in an honest way?
It’s our job as storytellers to be telling the story as accurately and truthfully as we can. We are sources of information to an ever-growing community and others might be inspired by what we’re saying or doing to make choices of their own. If we cannot be trusted because we are no longer credible, it will affect our community and others might devalue the truth.
We live in a world with an unlimited access to information. This is extremely beneficial in finding a variety of sources and information when we have a question that needs answering. However, we tend to believe information when it might not be true. And if we believe it, we might spread it to others and in turn, they might to someone else. That can be a dangerous cycle.
I think passion and truth will always conquer in the face of dishonesty. For everything that is not true, there will be thousands, if not millions or more pieces of information to counter it. So we should continue to be activists and advocates for what we believe in and the message will continue to spread.
How might concepts of alternative living and leading a life of our choosing, fit into traditional and emerging channels of education?
Alternative living goes hand in hand with education on the environment and sustainability. At an early age, we can teach children how they play a role on this planet. Everything we do leaves an impact, but
I think we’ve forgotten how to be self sufficient and environmentally conscious. These are important lessons that can be taught in any school system. Having a community garden at the school, teaching children how to compost, learning how to build a tiny house together, foraging for food in the wilderness, going on a camping trip...these are all important lessons that will stay with someone and affect how they live.