There’s no denying that life can get expensive, especially for those that have the heart of an adventurer. Fortunately, thanks to remote professions and YouTube videos, people are turning in their 9-5 jobs to pursue a more “gratifying” way of life. This couple was tired of the lives they were living, so they made some drastic changes to transform their lives into something entirely different. And the best part about their story is that they proved that anyone can do it, too!Curtiss O’Rourke Stedman and his partner Kelly Tousley didn’t meet one another in what most people would consider a traditional way. Living in Michigan, Curtiss received an offer that he couldn’t refuse. He was an English teacher and he was offered a position in the beautiful state of Alaska. Being a natural adventurer, it wasn’t something he could pass up, but he didn’t really want to do the long drive to Alaska all by himself.
In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Kelly explained that Curtiss wanted someone to take the drive with him, so she volunteered to go. When Kelly got back to Michigan, she continued to stay in contact with Curtiss. One day, after the two realized that they had fallen in love, she decided to pack her things and move in with Curtiss in Alaska. So that’s exactly what she did.
Juneau, Alaska is definitely a place for adventurers, and Curtiss loved being a teacher, but there was still something missing. You see, Curtiss was living two lives and the stress was starting to get to him. On the nights and weekends, Curtiss would stop being an English teacher and he turned into folk Americana musician, Cousin Curtiss. Eventually, Curtiss got to the point where he was thinking about his music career at all times.
Kelly and Curtiss knew that they needed to come up with a solution to their problem as soon as possible. Kelly had just finished her graduate program in early childhood special education, so she was ready for some changes, as well. The couple wasn’t sure what they were going to do, but they were definitely getting restless.
Knowing that they both loved to travel, they began to wonder if they could incorporate that into their lifestyle.“We really wanted to travel around and see if there was a new home base out there. And to see if I could travel around and make it as a full-time musician monetarily and mentally,” said Curtiss in an interview with Finance101.
After giving it some thought, the couple decided that they were going to do it. They knew they were compatible traveling on the road from their journey together driving to Alaska so they began to plan for a longer period on the road. But there were still plenty of things they needed to do before they made the leap.
Soon enough, they were realizing that it wasn’t going to be as easy as they thought. Like it typically does, money became an obstacle for the ambitious couple. They knew that they need to have somewhere to stay on the road, but staying in hotels all of the time would get extremely pricey.
Also, the couple began to think about the cost of traveling around the country while they were paying rent back home. “It was just too big of a leap to continue to pay rent and then hope that we had enough money to cover those other expenses,” said Kelly. They began to brainstorm possible solutions to their problem. After some consideration, they decided that moving out of their home to create a transportable tiny home was their best option.
After Curtiss and Kelly made a payment of $4,750, they had their very own tiny home. Well, they had the skeleton of a tiny home. What they had actually bought was a 98 square foot utility trailer. They had a lot of work ahead of them, but they were looking forward to the challenge. Kelly immediately logged on to Pinterest to get some ideas on how to transform their trailer into the tiny home of their dreams.
While Pinterest is great for ideas, it’s not necessarily helpful when it comes to staying on a budget. Kelly knew that many of the tiny homes on Pinterest were beautiful, but they were also expensive. She loved so many of the ideas that she stumbled across, but they were just going to stick to the essentials. “To look at this empty shell like this 98 square foot metal wall shell and try to imagine a kitchen, a bathroom, a living room, a bed — it was overwhelming,” says Curtiss.
Once the couple figured out what necessities they needed to incorporate, like a sleeping area and kitchen, they began to plot out the dimensions of their new living space. Considering that they were working with a 7×14-foot area, they quickly realized how much of a tight squeeze it was going to be. “We measured out with like ratchet straps and bar stools and painters tape in our living room and we’re like, ‘Wow, this is it! Seven by 14 [feet].’”
You may be asking yourself why they didn’t just by an RV in the first place if they wanted to live in a vehicle. Well, they didn’t really like the idea of living and driving in the same space, so they figured a tiny home would be a better idea. “Whereas I think our idea of a tiny house was a comfortable living space that didn’t feel like a camper that we could easily haul thousands of miles,” said Kelly.
The couple worked on their tiny home every single weekend for nine long months. Keep in mind, though, just because they were getting rid of their rent and letting go of luxuries, their project wasn’t free. The solar panel, an essential item if you’re going to live and work on the road, was $1,600 by itself, but saving an entire year’s worth of electrical bills made it worth it!
Unfortunately, tiny home living isn’t always rays of sunshine and daisies. There were definitely some things that the couple had to sacrifice. Because of the limited amount of space, and the whole plumbing issue, the couple couldn’t put in a shower as they had originally planned.
You can always shower at other places while you’re traveling, but Curtiss and Kelly would have preferred having their own shower. That part must have been a challenge, especially once you realize that they had brought their two dogs, Doug and Soy, along with them for the ride. They had to make room for them, after all.
The couple may not have had a shower, but they saved thousands of dollars not paying rent in Alaska. But Curtiss and Kelly weren’t really worried about saving money at the time. “We weren’t really doing it to save money. We were doing it to prove it could be done, that you could live minimally and follow your dream,” said Curtiss. Anyways, Curtiss was making money all over the country performing as Cousin Curtiss!
On June 1st, 2015, Curtiss and Kelly began their journey across the United States. The most awesome part of the adventure was that no matter where they were, they felt like they were home. While they drove during the day and found places to sleep at night, they were living the life that they had always dreamed of. This was especially true considering that they had Harvest Hosts to help them out along the way.
Whenever Kelly and Curtiss needed a place to stay, Kelly would scroll through the Harvest Hosts website. Harvest Hosts allows people to search for places to stay all over the country. Depending on where they were, the adventurous couple could find themselves staying on farms, visiting breweries, or even in a kind family’s back yard!
Food was also pretty easy to come by while traveling, although it could get expensive at times. “We tried to cook as much as we possibly could. But when push comes to shove, you’re tired, you just want to eat out. So we would go out to a restaurant, but instead of getting two entrees, we just split one,” said Curtiss.
Before they left, Kelly and Curtiss had been reminded of the dangers of living on the road, especially when it came to strangers. But they soon realized that talking to strangers was pretty much an essential part of the process and they quickly learned how to be comfortable doing so.“It’s so easy to say ‘no’ and talk yourself into all the reasons why you shouldn’t go to a strangers house to eat a meal,” said Kelly
Staying in such small confines can be difficult for anyone, and it’s even harder when you’re doing it for long periods of time. Curtiss and Kelly even had a hard time with it on occasion, but they had a plan for what to do when they would start getting on each other’s nerves. “If that ever happened, we’d be like, ‘Break time! Let’s go find someplace cool and adventure with the dogs.’ And that was really a saving grace for our minds, our hearts and the whole adventure really. I mean, a great deal of it was centered around the dogs and their happiness,” explained Curtiss.
After visiting 28 states, the couple was ready to say goodbye to their tiny house. Kelly had put off her career for an entire year and it was time for her to follow her dreams and use her degree. After all, Curtiss had spent the last year following his dreams, so it was Kelly’s turn now.
Before they could return to their old way of life, they had some major decisions to make. Sadly, the couple decided to strip their tiny home and turned it back into a utility trailer. They had spent a year of their life in it, but as they say, all good things must come to an end.
After everything was said and done, the couple made back their initial investment and they had enough incredible memories to last a lifetime. Curtiss and Kelly loved living in their tiny house and they would recommend it to anyone. They had spent an entire year following the open road and they had loved (almost) every second of it.
Despite the fact that they loved having their dogs with them, it was sometimes a drawback to life on the road. “There were several times where we might want to do something, but it just happens to be middle of the summer in Tennessee and it’s 98 degrees with a 100 percent humidity — and we have two large dogs that were born in Alaska,” explained Curtiss.
After one year of living on the road, Curtiss and Kelly had a bit of advice to offer anyone considering tiny home life.“It’s going to be scary. It’s not going to be pleasant all of the time. But it’s something that if you really feel you want to do it,…you must. Otherwise, you’re going to resent the decision not to for the rest of your life,” Curtiss said. He also added that family and friends will tell you not to do it, but that shouldn’t discourage you from pursuing your dreams.
There’s no shortage of #vanlife bloggers and #digitalnomads on Instagram and YouTube. Their social media photos look so exciting, but it’s not always the case. They have their share of bad days too. Quitting your 9 to 5 and hitting the road isn’t for everyone. It sounds tempting to get rid of all of your belongings, quit your job, and travel the world, but this lifestyle is definitely not for everyone.
Curtiss and Kelly now live in Telluride, Colorado with their two dogs. Kelly is a special education teacher and behavior specialist and Curtiss stays busy as a full-time musician playing at 160 shows throughout the year. But the former tiny-home dwellers still have a passion for traveling. Kelly says that they both have a bit of “gypsy in their souls” and that they still don’t own a lot of material possessions. They are perfectly happy this way because they prefer to spend their money on traveling.