A high-profile environmental blog recently published a piece on a couple who built their own mobile house for less than $30,000 and have been traveling through the US and Canada over the past three years, and loving every minute of it. In a nation convinced that home size is directly proportional to happiness, the article raised an important question: Is a large, stationary house really going to make you happy?
The housing market is a fickle beast
Following one of the most catastrophic economic recessions in recent history, most people are well aware of the fluctuating nature of the housing market in America. Leading up to the crisis, housing prices peaked in 2006 and rapidly began to decline from this point on. The resultant “burst” of the housing bubble is widely attributed to causing the economic recession that officially lasted two years (but in reality, much longer).
Beyond the obvious financial hardships presented by the housing crisis, it also resulted in an estimated eight million people losing their homes, in the US alone. That’s eight million people suddenly out on the street, with nowhere to go and few financial options. The US government forked out a whopping $900 billion in 2008 to special loans and rescues in an attempt to rectify the situation, but the fact is that many people had their lives shattered and are still recovering today.
And despite all this, our national obsession with housing has never been greater. We make it our top priority to build the largest, shiniest, most ostentatious homes we can, as apparently the larger the house the happier the owner. Like many other aspects of American culture (does the word “supersize” ring any bells?), we are driven by a baffling need to have the largest of everything amongst our peers.
Home mortgages have become so easy to get, but high interest rates force people to empty their bank accounts just to make monthly installments. The reality is, people might spend their entire lives trying to pay off just one house, and who knows when the next housing crisis might hit.
What’s more, investing in a larger home comes at a great cost to your lifestyle. Yes, it may be a glorious place to come home to after a long day at work, but the cost of repairs, upgrades and any other unforeseen problems quickly pile up and can become insurmountable. Often your weekends are filled with tasks from a never-ending to-do list of cleaning out gutters, mowing the lawn, sweeping the deck and driveway, and so on.
Thus, the very thing that is supposed to give you happiness begins to control your life.
Enter the mobile home
Ask any longtime RV owner or motor home enthusiast, and they’ll explain how there’s really no comparison between living in a fixed house and living in a mobile home. Mobile homes offer all of the excitement and wonder of a semi-nomadic existence while avoiding most of the problems plaguing a sedentary one.
Firstly, take a step back and really think about whether you need all that space. Today, the average family home is close to 2,700 square feet, which may not seem like much until you look further back in time. In 1950, the average size of a family home was less than 1,000 square feet, while the average-size family was larger than today. If past generations could live happy lives in a house almost one-third the size of yours, so can you!
Beyond historical comparisons, one of the more obvious reasons to consider a smaller, mobile home is that it brings you closer to nature. If you have a remote job or even if you can “work from home” for a couple of days a week, you can drive to a national park or local campground, park up and live amongst the wilderness in style and comfort. No loading up the car with camping gear, pumping up air mattresses, messing around with tents or huddling around campfires for warmth (unless you want to, of course). A mobile home literally means you can take your home and possessions anywhere you want, especially to the great outdoors.
And what about all the debts you took on when you paid for your oversized house? Well, if you sold it and invested in a mobile home, you’d be saving a heap of money as well as avoiding most of the burdens involved with real estate. Mobile homes range from anywhere between $10,000 and $200,000, so just about anyone can afford to buy their RV or motor home in full. Just imagine what you could do with all the money you saved from skipping those crippling mortgage payments every month, not to mention all the other taxes and fees associated with having a permanent address. Aside from repairs and maintenance on your mobile home, the only things you’ll be paying for are gas and the occasional camping or RV park fee.
Arguably even more important than the cost savings is the fact that you can go where you want, when you want. A family trip to this neighboring country or that far-off national park doesn’t have to be a pipe dream, to be realized when you can all get enough time off and gather enough funds. When your home is a mobile one, you can be constantly heading in the direction of your dreams — they cease to be intangible creations of the mind and suddenly become reality.
Another big bonus is you can pick and choose your seasons. No more moaning about how nasty the winter is this year or how hot and dry the summer was — you can literally follow the seasons. So, if you’re big on sun and warmth, your home can follow the sun southward as things begin to get chilly up north. There are thousands of other people who’ll be doing the same, creating great mobile communities, so there’s no chance of you or your family missing out on social interaction.
Next, think about how nice it is to wake up on weekend mornings with the sun streaming in through your window and, if you’re lucky, perhaps a few trees or bushes to hide the view of the suburban street you live on. Then imagine being able to park up and sleep in any area of your choosing on the continent. Instead of waking up to a sad little lawn and a noisy street choked with cars, you could pull the curtains and find yourself in a secluded forest, with deer prancing about and birds flitting around in the trees, not another person in sight. Or, if that’s not your cup of tea, how about waking up directly overlooking the ocean, and watching dolphins frolic in the water below as you eat your breakfast. This view doesn’t just need to be limited to a once-in-a-lifetime vacation either — it can be your new reality.
A welcome side effect of being able to choose where you live on a daily basis is a dramatic reduction in stress and anxiety in your life. At some point recently, you’ve probably read or come across an article providing tips on how to “get away from it all” or “escape the fast pace of city life.” These usually involve recommendations suggesting walks through the park, weekend camping trips, or glitzy all-inclusive Caribbean escapes that only provide fleeting moments and days of happiness — not sustainable, life-changing solutions.
When you abandon the city altogether and go where your heart directs you, there’s really no cause for stress or anxiety. Life in a mobile home offers a simpler vibe, but one with depth and meaning and the ability to spend as much time as you want in nature. And it just so happens that spending time in nature is just as relaxing as sitting at home with your legs crossed and fragrant candles burning.
That couple might just be onto something
At the beginning of this article, you were probably just a trifle dismissive of our featured couple and their house on wheels. Modern-day society teaches us that happiness is tied up in material wealth, bringing with it a subliminal need to better our social status via large houses and flashy cars. Society encourages permanence and stability as opposed to leading a nomadic lifestyle and not conforming to these notions of material superiority.
But it’s easy to forget that life is about the pursuit of happiness, and perhaps the closest thing one can find to happiness in this modern world is to have a house on wheels. Jenna and Guillaume are part of a small minority who have come to realize this, and they’ve never been happier.
A vital component to living in a mobile home is letting go of material obsessions. Find out how to break free of these obsessions and achieve the freedom of less.
Liivi is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and is training to become a doula. She inspires women to find peace and personal power by taking control of health and fertility naturally. Liivi‘s passion is ancestral nutrition and primal lifestyle design. She and her partner Will live between Toronto, Canada and Queenstown, New Zealand.