As a kid with a wild imagination and a love of reading, I latched on to the Boxcar Children books, and what I saw as a really romantic way of living. Sure, living without parents had to be the worst, but I couldn’t get past how completely awesome it would be to start your life over in a the boxcar of a train.
Although I’ve grown out of my fantasy about life in a boxcar, it’s probably no surprise to learn that I still find myself intrigued by unusual housing situations. More than once, I’ve sent my husband a link to an old RV on Craigslist or made him sit through tiny-living reality shows. I can’t explain why, but I’m beyond amazed by people who buck the system, decide for themselves how and where they want to live.
So far, all of my best attempts to convince my husband that our family of five would fare just fine living a nomadic life in an Airstream trailer have fallen flat, but that doesn’t mean I’m done researching alternative lifestyles online.
My favorite story, perhaps, is the story of Sealand, a sovereign principality founded in 1967 on a fortress originally constructed an international waters by the UK during World War II. After the war was over, most of the fortresses were destroyed, but this one was left behind and eventually inhabited by Roy Bates, a major in the British Army, in the 1960s. Eventually, he declared it an independent government, and he lived there with his wife and two children until he returned to the mainland just before his death.
Bates may have never gotten the recognition from the United Kingdom that he wanted, but I still think it’s darn cool that he just decided one day that he was done with the status quo and got the heck out of the UK.
Of course, Bates and the Boxcar Children aren’t the only people to push back against societal norms on how and where people should live. Keep reading for seven more unusual housing situations that put the Boxcar Children to shame.
One Google employee is saving a truckload of cash.
Meet Brandon, a 24-year-old blogger and computer engineer living the dream in California, working for Google and living in a truck. On his blog, Thoughts from Inside the Box, Brandon writes about his life living in a 16-foot box truck.
Yep, you read that right. This young professional has turned a box truck into his home sweet home. After moving to the Bay Area for a summer internship at Google, he fell in love with the city but not with the outrageous cost of living. When he was offered long-term employment at Google, he looked at housing options and didn’t love what he saw. So, he made the obvious choice—to sleep inside a truck. He slapped down nearly $9,000 to purchase a 2006 Ford E350 Super Duty Cargo Van, and then he turned it into his new home.
How does he make it work? The truck is basically used for sleep and storage of his few belongings. When he needs to eat, work out, or shower, he moseys onto the Google campus to take advantage of the amenities he is provided as an employee.
Three years later, he still calls his truck home.
An entire community is turning these unlikely containers into homes.
I hope you’re paying attention, because you are about to notice a theme—life on the west coast, specifically the Bay Area, is much too expensive for your average joe.
Brandon isn’t the only San Francisco resident trying to creatively avoid paying the highest rent in the United States. An entire community of Californians moved onto an abandoned lot they bought for $425,000 in industrial Oakland.
Each resident paid $600 in rent and set up their miniature apartments inside of shipping containers. Their little city, dubbed Containertopia, was founded in 2014 by young professionals Luke Iseman and Heather Stewart, per The New York Times.
Unfortunately, when neighbors started to complain, they were forced to leave the lot, which wasn’t zoned for residential living, and move their shipping container homes into a warehouse.
Life is but a dream.
In May 2016, Erica and Scott made a very big announcement to their friends and family: they were packing up their life and moving their family of four onto their 43-foot boat, The Albin. For the last year and a half, the Magdaleins have lived a dreamy life sailing in the Bahamas and are now moored in historical downtown St. Augustine, Florida.
“For us, the saying is true that small homes build tight knit families. You are forced to work together and resolve differences in a timely manner. We have become closer as a family since living on a boat,” Erica Magdalein says.
Still, life on a boat hasn’t been without challenges. Magdalein confessed that long passages or rainy days were especially difficult for their family since their kids are so young. These days, they’re facing a new, happy challenge—they have a new baby on the way! They’ll be selling their boat (it’s on Craigslist if you’re interested!) and splitting their time between a new boat and a more permanent residence.
“We need a boat that sleeps more people. We just purchased a boat that, believe or or not, is smaller than The Albin, but sleeps six. We will not live on this boat full-time, but instead take long trips on it for weeks or months at a time,” she explains.
It's a tight fit for this family of five.
Although the Curren family has been traveling for a long time, they officially took the plunge into full-time travel in 2014 when they sold their house and moved into a 188-square-foot Airstream trailer. They wanted to see as much of North America as possible.
You’re probably wondering how they manage to pay for what appears to be perpetual vacation; the truth is, they’re not really on vacation, they’re just living their normal life on the road. Sam Curren works remotely as a programmer, and Jess homeschools their three children and keeps up their blog, where the family shares the lessons they have learned on the road.
Although the family took a break from traveling this past spring—they lived in a rented condo—the Currens have been back in the Airstream for a few months, and they don’t seem to have any plans of returning to a typical suburban lifestyle in the near future.
Life on the move is a wild ride.
Kirsty Skitt is a longtime nomad who recently moved to the States from New South Wales, Australia. She lives in an Chevrolet Astro van she is remodeling.
“Breaking down has been a challenge for me, for sure. You don't know when it's gonna happen, or where. It just happens, and you just got to ride with it and hope you find a good mechanic,” Skitt says.
Although Skitt isn’t new to traveling alone (she was in South and Central America for the last three years), this is the first time she has had a permanent residence that travels with her. She has been documenting the whole thing, including the renovations of the van, on her Instagram account.
“I've been living out of a van for only two months now,” Skitt shares. “I have always enjoyed visiting USA. One day, I decided to move over here and buy a van. I’ve spent two months stripping it down and turning it into a moving home of my own.”
The best part of life on the road so far? Waking up someplace new each day.
“I love driving all day and finding a place to park and sleep, then waking up and realising you scored the best view!”
Yurt not going to believe this.
Beverly Spanning had just graduated college. Having grown up in the city, she found herself disillusioned with the status quo and in search of a simpler life. Immediately, she left the city for the country, according to her blog, Yurt Farm Mamma. Today, she lives in a yurt with her husband and three kids, where they have been growing their own food on a sustainable farm.
What is a yurt, exactly? It’s a large, round tent made from canvas or felt that is stretched over a wooden framework, according to Pacifica Yurts, Inc. The original design for yurts dates back to ancient times—they were portable homes for nomads living in Mongolia.
The key upsides to living in a yurt, Spanning blogged, are that it's portable, affordable, and environmentally friendly. Her family loves spending life primarily outdoors, and living on a yurt enables them to do just that. There are downsides, though, such as difficulty keeping the space clean and struggling to keep the yurt at a comfortable temperature during changing seasons, says Spanning.
Small Living In The Midwest
The tiny house movement may have only gained mainstream popularity over the last decade, but living in tiny space isn’t exactly a new idea. In fact, Henry David Thoreau is often referred to as the model for small living, having spent over two years living in a 10- by 15-foot cabin and then writing about it in his book, Walden.
These days, tiny houses are certainly more trendy, and in them, small living enthusiasts are using tech to document their lives. We were especially impressed by Jeremy Luther and Kendall Quack, who built a tiny house in Kansas City, Missouri, together. Not only did this couple call their tiny house home, they also ran a business out of the space for a time.
These days, Luther and Quack have gone separate ways, but they’re both still making art seperately and devoting their lives to intentional living and travel.