Tiny House Road Trip! This Couple Has Traveled More Than 40,000 Miles With Their Tiny House

Tiny House Expedition
Alexis and Christian

I’m Alexis Stephens, co-founder of Tiny House Expedition, a traveling documentary storytelling and community outreach project. Our goal is to inspire others to redefine home and rethink housing. We passionately advocate for greater social and legal acceptance of tiny housing through educational events, resource sharing and thought-provoking storytelling. My partner, Christian, and I are filmmakers and community educators. We are on extraordinary road trip across North America and are likely the most traveled tiny house in the world—40,000 miles and counting!

We are currently parked in New Orleans, Louisiana, and are now en route to the Florida Tiny House Festival.

As we travel, we enjoy exploring new cities and the great outdoors on foot or by bike, and saying yes to spontaneous invites from folks we meet on the road, like attending a rural bluegrass festival or an invite-only corporate meeting with Cirque du Soleil entertainment (believe me, it was amazing). So basically we love having a good time and sharing a good laugh. Almost everywhere we go, we have the pleasure of connecting with new people. Sometimes we even form a temporary tiny home community with other tiny dwellers (van conversions, school bus conversions or tiny houses on wheels). This often means heart to heart conversations around the fire, goofy shenanigans and potluck meals.

Christian and I are silly, fun-loving people who work hard and play hard.

Tiny House Expedition

How and why did you live in a tiny house?

Our personal journey to tiny living was born out of desire to simplify, create more flexibility and embrace everyday adventure. No matter if you travel or stay put, tiny living encourages stronger connection to your surroundings, which opens the door to more experiences. It all began with a road trip to Lake Michigan where Christian and I learned, we worked well together in small spaces and enjoyed traveling together. After this trip, we discussed building a custom tear drop trailer. Christian then introduced me to tiny houses on wheels.

Post-divorce, I was in a transitional period of my life and was looking for opportunities to simplify and embrace everyday adventure. The tiny house movement deeply resonated with me. A way of life that ditches the traditional script of our largely dissatisfied consumerist society, for a life in a simple small space. Less things, more experiences and higher quality of life. Plus, tiny houses are super cute and offer the flexibility to be mobile — a comfy ticket to adventure.

Through my extensive research of the movement, I was amazed by the many grassroots housing projects that were popping up all of the country. These vibrant projects creatively address modern housing issues, the need for sustainable living and the yearning for more meaningful lifestyles through tiny or micro-housing. I had a major lightbulb moment. The idea was born to travel the North America to document the people, culture and community experience of the tiny house movement. Cue epic road trip!

Tiny House Expedition

Why is living in a tiny house important for you?

The tiny house is a tool to help us achieve our lifestyle, career and financial goals. And that’s exactly what it has helped me do. Living tiny has enabled me to take a major career risk, leave a secure 9-5 job to pursue a passion project.

Also, for the first time in my life, I’m a homeowner. No matter what happens, I will always have a comfortable home. Living with less clutter, intentionally tiny, has given me greater gratitude for what I do have. No more taking my things and my space for granted; what I do have are essential to my daily life and enjoyment of my life.

When you live in a tiny house, you are intimately involved in the house’s utility systems, like water usage. I found that it gives me great pleasure to be aware of how much water I am using and saving. Again, no longer taking my daily living experience for granted.

Tiny House Expedition

What have been the best parts of living in a tiny house?

Our tiny home is like self-portrait. It’s a reflection of our personalities, style and tailored specifically for our needs. For us, living minimally does not mean depriving ourselves. We are surrounded by the things we most love or need. The beauty of minimal living is getting down to the essence of who you are. This means creating a just-right space, where you can be your best self. I have never felt more at home and at ease in a living space.

Tiny House Expedition

What have been the most difficult parts?

Beginning the downsizing process was a bit overwhelming. Christian, a veteran downsizer was a major source of support and coaching. He encouraged me to focus on one room at a time and start with the easy pickings in each room, the true junk items. Item by item and layer by layer, downsizing started to become exhilarating.

The downsizing process enabled me to see and feel each item for what it was— either something that resonated with me and I loved dearly, something that was crucial to my daily living experience or something that was just taking up space. The great thing about my downsize process was that by time I was ready to move into my new tiny home, my 900 square foot house felt too big. My sparse belongings were stored here and there, and I was longing for everything to have its specific place.

When we first moved in, we had to get used to sharing the such a tiny space, which means learning to compromise. Sharing the space is like a choreographed dance. This has now become second nature. For instance, in the morning, Christian will get up about 10-15 minutes before me. This gives him the chance to get dressed and go to the bathroom, without causing conflict. You see, when our closet door is open it blocks off access to the kitchen and bathroom. By the time I come downstairs, I can get dressed and make coffee with ease.

Tiny House Expedition

How did you build your tiny house?

Our DIY tiny house on wheels is 130 square feet, and it took us nine months to build it. The general footprint and size is based off of Tumbleweed plans (Elm model) but after framing, we went in a completely custom direction. It took us nine months to complete it. Construction was long and slow but very rewarding. Christian was our primary builder, and building our THOW was his full-time job. We had many friends help along the way, including an invaluable mentorship from our good friend Tom, a master carpenter and now tiny house builder of Perch & Nest, a tiny home and cottage company. He generously let us build on his property and use his tools. When we got stuck on a particular task, Tom was there to offer guidance on how to move forward.

In our build, we used many salvaged and reclaimed materials — from an old farmhouse, Habitat ReStore and trees fallen in a tornado. Processing these materials was labor intensive and time-consuming, but in the end, we saved quite a bit of money and added much charm & character to our tiny house. Everything in our home has a story behind it.

Just about everything is multi-functional, and every inch is maximized. For instance, closet is also a staircase, bench seat and book shelf. Like every house, we have a kitchen, bathroom and living room. We also have two sleeping lofts. The “master suite” has a queen bed, and my son’s loft has a folding foam bed, fold-down desk, a toy box and a special basket on a pulley system — perfect for bringing toys up and down.

Tiny House Expedition

Where do you usually work?

When we are not out filming, we are often home working on the computer or at a coffee shop. Sometimes working from home can be frustrating. When our fold up table is up, it is tricky to get around the table to access the front door or kitchen. We are currently brainstorming ideas for how to redesign our table to avoid this issue.

How do you finance your tiny house living?

Our travelling documentary project and community outreach project, Tiny House Expedition, is funded through a variety of means including small grants, sponsorships, donations for tiny house tours, merchandise sales (t-shirts, etc.), freelance photo/video jobs completed on the road and blog writing. Our biggest expense is gas. Every 150 miles we travel, we have to stop to fill up. This adds up quickly.

Tiny House Expedition

Must-have items inside your tiny house?

One my favorite items include the fold-down bathroom shelf, over the toilet facing our full-length mirror—instant counter space/vanity! I also love our shoe storage. Twenty pairs of shoes are neatly stored in a 1’x6’ shelf system. It feels so good to have a specific spot for everything, especially things that easily get messy.

What has been your best gear purchase below $100?

Organization is everything in a tiny house. We found that our mail and laptops did not have a designated place to be stored that was out of the way but still accessible, so we bought a two-tier wall-mounted wire filing bin. Also to help with the organization of our thoughts, ideas and to-do lists, we bought a large wood framed white board for last bare wall.

Tiny House Expedition

What is your best advice for people new tiny house living?

If you are interested in living tiny, our advice is to just go for it. There is absolutely no time like the present to prioritize your well-being and embrace a freer way of life. Begin by downsizing. This is a necessary process of unburdening yourself of the all the things that is holding you back and cluttering your space and mind. The next step is to look deep inside yourself to identify your goals and priorities. This will directly inform the design of your tiny home. Start saving, and start researching. How tiny is right for you? Is building your own feasible? Access to available land, tools and a support group are crucial to success of DIY builds. There are many great online resources and many workshops. Do you want to travel occasionally or frequently?

Ultimately, getting to know yourself is essential to crafting a satisfying tiny lifestyle that’s just-right for you. Shake off the mold and redefine what personal success looks like to you. And have fun doing it!

Tiny House Expedition

What will the future bring?

We will be traveling all over the Southeast this Fall, and will then be visiting family for Christmas and the winter. By the beginning of Spring, we will back on the road traveling to community events and continuing to document the tiny house movement.

Our on-going documentary projects include an episodic docu-series on the people, culture and community experience of the tiny house movement — now in-production.. Also, we are working on a three-part educational docu-series, Living Tiny Legally, examining the legal obstacles around tiny housing and how these are being overcome in a growing number of cities and model building codes. Part 3 and LTL short films to be released in 2018.

Visit Alexis and Christian on their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram to follow their tiny house adventures, and subscribe to their YouTube channel to see tiny house tours & interviews and resources, like how-to tow a tiny house wheels. Every Friday on the Tiny House Blog, Alexis shares stories on the people and communities they visit.

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One Comment

  1. Isn’t it scary driving my that giant truck + home combo? Do you have any tips for newbie nomads trying to use a tiny house? I just drove mine home last night and I felt so scared every light I went under and steep dips in the roads….

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