Tiny House Expedition Blog

Observations // News // Travels // Advocacy// Lessons Learned from our Exploration of the Tiny House Movement 🚚🏡💨


Vlog E4: We Joined 3 Tiny House Communities this Spring

Our latest tiny house travels have taken us from North Carolina to Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington DC. We temporarily joined three very different communities, as part of our on-going exploration of the tiny house movement. What makes a tiny house community is definitely open for interpretation. From our perspective, if land is shared by two or more households and at least one is a tiny home, then it can be called considered a community, or village as our friend Jill Kanto would say.

A village can be anything as small as a household that wishes to share their land to a few hundred people sharing land, resources and time with one another. There is a solution out there for everyone.
— Jill Kanto, creator of SearchTinyHouseVillages.com
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Tiny House Communities Visited this Spring:

1) Autumn Sun Community in Ashland, VA

We spent a week parked at Autumn Sun Community, a forming intentional community in lush central Virginia. If you’re looking for a place to park and/or contribute to the land, contact them via autumnsunlane.com. We enjoyed getting to know residents Derryl, tiny house dweller, and Ken, the land owner. Back in the 70's Ken got into geodesic dome building and solar energy. His passion for sustainable living is the founding principle of the community. While there, we participated in a fun Meetup to share our passion for the tiny house movement and for community-minded attendees to learn more about how to form an intentional community— a group of people who live together or share common facilities and who regularly associate with each other on the basis of explicit common value (defined by the Fellowship for Intentional Community).

Our focuses include implementing permaculture design integrated within the living structures, overall land stewardship of the acreage, and intelligently designed dwellings featuring energy conservation and sustainable practices.

Our direct tiny house neighbor there was the Tiny Chapel. A charming reminder of the many creative uses of mobile tiny structures, from offices and shops to destination weddings. Entrepreneurial, creative and just plain fun.

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2) An informal backyard village in Baltimore County, MD

Our next temporary neighborhood was small historic farm, home to Jill and Aaron and their tiny home. Her hosts, aka "land-mates”, live in an old farmhouse up the hill. Don and Missy welcomed us with open arms. We hit off immediately with them all of our new neighbors. Together they’ve created a mini-village. A place for all of them to raise kids and care for their animals. Room enough for privacy, yet close enough to grow a strong friendship.

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Our porch view was of a charming chicken coop which meant daily fresh eggs, courtesy of our kind hosts. The close proximity of our neighbors meant spontaneous conversations and extra helping hands— a cooperative friendship.

If you’re looking for a community to join, it can be very challenging to find without spending countless hours of web searches and networking. That’s why Jill launched her new site, SearchTinyHouseVillages.com. It’s a social solution to tiny house parking, and is intended as educational resource for anyone wanting to create their own community.

3) Tiny Estates in Lancaster County, PA

We next made our way to southeastern Pennsylvania to Tiny Estates, a brand-new tiny house resort community. It features short-term tiny house rentals and long-term lot rentals– bring your own tiny home on wheels. Guests can currently choose from 14 nightly rentals, each distinct, varying in size, layout and style. There could ultimately be up to 100 tiny houses at Tiny Estates, with 10% reserved for full-timers and handful set aside for those traveling through, like us. Our first impression: how beautiful! It is set on a large wooded lot with gentle rolling hills, well manicured lawns and two ponds, complete with ducks and a family of geese. The individual tiny house lots are sizeable, by RV park standards, and are skewed from one another. There is an overall quaint village feel, emphasized by the community spaces with fire rings, grills, picnic tables, hot tubs and outdoor games like cornhole and giant Jenga. We were blown away by how near the surrounding neighborhood is to Tiny Estates. It’s practically a pocket neighborhood, while still retaining a semi-secluded feel.

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Currently, there is one full-time resident, Cody, the on-site caretaker. He built this own tiny home but had nowhere to park it. After connecting with CEO Abby Hobson, he settled at Tiny Estates before it was open. Ever since he has helped develop the land and is now eagerly awaiting the arrival of his first full-time tiny house neighbors coming this month.  These folks will be parking in the upper section, set aside for full-timers, with room for a community garden. Lot rent is $600 per month and includes all utilities (water, sewer, electric, propane, and internet), as well as grounds maintenance and access to site amenities. The list of amenities will be growing tremendously over the next couple of years. New additions will include a community/event center, pool, rocking climbing wall, and renovated docks. Long-term tiny house residents can stay for 180 days; then the resident, not the structure, is required to leave for one day. After basically a “day-cation”,  the resident can stay for another 180 days. A simple and solid work-around for full-timers.

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Lancaster County created a planning packet to provide guidance for their municipalities and their zoning officials on how to address tiny housing.

During our stay, we were charmed by Abby and her team. She has designed and decorated many of the tiny house rentals, each named in honor of those who made Tiny Estates possible. Abby stays in each one before opening to guests. Her goal is to ensure a high-quality experience for her guests. It was apparent to us that she is not only business savvy but sincerely wants to see her community become a shiny example of how to incorporate tiny housing into communities everywhere. Abby and her fiancé, Ryan, are currently converting a school bus.

Other Visits:

  • Baltimore

Fact: tiny houses make you smile. And that’s exactly what’s happening at Civic Works Tiny Homes. Baltimore’s youth are being given a big opportunity to learn construction skills and professional development basics while earning a GED through the YouthBuild program. We spent a couple days with those involved and left feeling in awe of what’s possible when you believe in young people and believe in yourself.

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Civic Works Tiny Homes is not only are providing valuable training to YouthBuild participants, they are also promoting sustainable, affordable housing. The city is working with them to pre-approve tiny home designs that could be used as infill on the city’s many vacant lots or possibly in a pocket neighborhood.

DC:

Tiny Houses Across America YouTube playlist, live videos of tiny house tours, panel discussions and more. Brought to you by the United Tiny House Association.

We formed a temporary tiny house community at the the DC/Virginia Tiny House Festival 2018. This event was part of TINY Houses across America (THAA), a nationwide celebration of tiny living. While there we produced live broadcasts across all the 3 THAA events, including TinyFest Midwest and TinyFest California. BIG thanks to the United Tiny House Association for dreaming this all up and bringing us on board!

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We love seeing friends during our travels. Always great when you get to see someone in multiple states. We've now seen Lee Para in 5 states (including DC)! Lee is a geographer, tiny house owner, and founding member of the now disbanded Boneyard Studios—tiny house community showcase. She is an excellent resource for finding land for your tiny home, how to form a community and zoning. Follow Lee's Instagram page @kotierra; website coming soon with nationwide zoning map for tiny houses and accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

Even in urban areas, like DC, you can find neighborhoods with yards big enough for a tiny house. In this backyard, there was still room for a garden and hangout space. The makings of a cozy micro-community! Practical density.

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While in DC, we took a week off to enjoy some quality family time with our 11-year-old part-timer, Garrett. He flew to DC to meet up with us and our traveling tiny house. Our trip was in part to celebrate his elementary school graduation. When not on the road with us, he lives in NC with his dad. Beyond grateful that we all get along and trust each other, so we can lovingly co-parent whether near or far.

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We parked at the Pohick Bay Regional Park. It was lovely wooded campground with fun activities, like mini golf, disc golf, boating, hiking and a small water park. It’s only 45 minutes from DC—family vacation score! We spent a few days museum hopping. Did you know there are 17 Smithsonian museums and galleries in DC? They are all national treasures, and all available to the public for FREE. We enjoyed a wonderfully affordable and awe-inspiring trip, soaking in the history of our country and planet. We had the best time traipsing around DC, being in the moment. No schedule, no pressure, just fun. Our advice: make time to wander. Not always easy but well worth it.

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We’ve gotten in the habit of examining housing everywhere go, a side effect of traveling with our tiny house and our insatiable passion for tiny housing. When we found ourselves standing in front of The White House, with a group of strangers, it really hit home that this is America’s house. It belongs to all Americans. Let that sink in. Take ownership of this house; a feeling that makes us what to help maintain it and keep striving for the idealistic values that it was built upon. Two things we’d like to encourage you to do (and a reminder to ourselves): be an active citizen—vote, stand up for things you believe in, value your rights— and be a good neighbor—say hello, offer a helping hand, make those around you feel welcome.

VA:

We again formed a temporary community when we parked in Carmen and Xavier's backyard in Staunton, VA. They are using the small house on the property as office and workshop space, and currently working on converting a shuttle bus, named Vinny, into their new tiny home. Carmen, aka the Tiny House Foodie, recently released her first book, Kitchen Simplicity. While there is delectable food inspiration in this book, this is not a tiny house cookbook. It is an empowering tale of embracing simplicity and eating well, no matter the size of kitchen. Kitchen Simplicity is definitely a page turner. If you're thinking of downsizing, we highly recommend this book. And once you're done with it, pass it on to someone else who could use the inspiration.

Carmen's hubby Xaver is an artist, inventor and masterful pipe organ builder.  He created this absolutely stunning American Flag Sound Sculpture. It was created to honor and give voices to those who lost their lives in the tragic 9-11 attacks. The sculpture was created as the basis for a proposed Ground Zero monument. The ideas was to include a pipe for one for each person lost, over 3,000. Of course, he too modest to tell you this is the first-ever all glass pipe organ. That's why he and Carmen make such a great team; she's the communicator. .They are yin and yanger, as they like to say. You can follow their bus conversion on their vlog here.

I thought one ought to remember the life. One ought to remember the interaction, the voices of people. Life is better remembered in a musical instrument, as opposed to a memorial that is mostly stone.
— Xaver Wilhelmy.
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We are nomads, weaving a rich, intimate community network across the country. A community not defined by geographic boundaries but defined by in-person connections, open minds and shared experiences. Our stranger danger level is pretty much non-existent. Fear and travel don’t mix. Openness is everything. Hospitality of strangers is more common than you think.

If we have learned one thing during our three years of nomadic living, it’s that that one of the powerful things you can do is make someone feel welcome. We challenge to take a step back from the online world of division. Smile and say hello to a stranger. You will start a positive ripple effect and build tiny connections between people from all walks of life. A step towards greater understanding and acceptance.

It’s chaos. Be kind.
— Patton Oswalt

Our Next Destination:

 The People's Tiny House Festival, 8/3-8/5 in Colorado Springs, CO

The People's Tiny House Festival, 8/3-8/5 in Colorado Springs, CO

-Alexis and Christian, founders of Tiny House Expedition