Back to Basics: Return to the New Way of Living in Eco-Friendly Tiny Houses

Back to Basics: Return to the New Way of Living in Eco-Friendly Tiny Houses

Health and freedom are the key ingredients on my ride to maximizing happiness. Simplicity and focus on what’s really important inspire me. Related to that, I am very fascinated by the tiny house lifestyle.

In this article, I want to promote the idea of returning back to basics and finding happiness in simple things. Tiny houses perfectly address this. I will discuss the benefits of the tiny house lifestyle, introduce what tiny houses are, and how eco-tourism can help to save the planet.

Finally, I will share an investment opportunity in an eco-friendly tiny house network that delivers very attractive 9% annual returns and offers investors getaway options in outstanding locations.

What Do We Really Need for Happy Living?

Tiny house lifestyle
Photo credit: @aysegulyahsi

In my view, this is one of the most important questions one should think about. The answer will vary substantially from person to person. I discussed my answer to this question in detail in my article How To Live a Happy Life. To summarize it briefly, happiness for me is created by health and freedom. I see my purpose in life in maximizing my happiness and the people around me.

For sure our recent pandemic and lockdown experiences amplified or at least influenced our thought process in answering that question. Freedom and independence in various aspects were always essential for me. The lockdown just made it even clearer what’s really important, which typically means shifting my focus more to non-material things.

Minimalism and enjoying the simple things that life and nature have to offer is my preferred lifestyle. It was not always like that but it seems the older I get the more I choose and enjoy spending my time on activities with purpose. I also simply love creating real, physical things (especially with wood) using my own imagination and manual work.

More or less by accident (or maybe not?), I recently stumbled across a concept that perfectly fits into this mindset -- or it found me: the idea of the tiny house lifestyle.

In short, the tiny house lifestyle means several things for me:

  • Freedom in three aspects: time, location, and money (financial freedom). I don’t need to be money rich. I want to be time rich and to be able to enjoy the luxury of time.
  • Focus on what I really need to be happy.
  • Connection to nature and living adventures (there is a reason why I have that tattooed on my body).
  • Living a frugal, efficient, and eco-friendly lifestyle.
  • Simplicity. I don’t need all the crap. I only need some. The more I have, the more complicated life is and the less focus I can have.

So, let’s take a look at what exactly tiny houses are.

What Are Tiny Houses?

Tiny house lifestyle

There is no generally accepted definition for tiny houses. However, it is clear that it goes way beyond just the physical object of a house itself. It is a complete lifestyle approach -- almost a philosophy, where people embrace freedom and minimalism. There are a couple of varying reasons why people choose to follow this lifestyle. Generally speaking, this lifestyle is centered around financial concerns and reducing the cost of living, gaining more freedom and time for oneself, simplifying life, connecting to nature, living a less modern, more adventurous life again, environmental concerns, and of course the tiny houses themselves.

So, what are tiny houses?

Tiny houses really come in all shapes, forms, and sizes. According to the International Residential Building Codes, a building is considered a “tiny house” if it is less than 400 square feet (=37 square meters). But it’s really not that strict. I’d say everything that is a small, optimized space somewhere out in nature, which is autonomous, incorporates outdoors into the living space, and emphasizes simpler living, can be considered following the tiny house lifestyle. I would even count living in a camper van to that type of lifestyle. I am working on that too but that is a topic for another article.

Of course, this way of living isn’t new. Back in the day, hundreds of years ago, that’s exactly how our ancestors lived. Well, without electricity, Internet, and mobile phones but in nature, self-sufficient in a space that is limited or optimized for what they needed. Not having a lot of stuff gives you a sense of clarity and focus. And it’s cheaper. In the US, the average size of single family homes was about 250 square meters in 2013. Over 70% of Americans are a slave to their work as they need to pay back mortgages for 30 years. They typically do this for a size of a living space that they actually don’t need. Up to half of their income goes into financing that living space. This just reinforces the rat race:

Cool, I got myself a bigger hamster wheel! Just so that I now have to run even more in it in order to be able to afford it -- although I probably didn’t even need it in the first place.

In contrast, three quarters of people who live in a tiny house own their house without a mortgage. Building or buying a tiny house is obviously substantially cheaper than a conventional house.

We are talking of a factor of up to 100x cheaper. Typical tiny house costs range between EUR 15,000 and EUR 70,000. The monthly cost of living can be as little as twenty Euros per month. Hence, the cost of getting a tiny house can be recouped very quickly.

History Of Tiny Houses

Tiny house lifestyle
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The idea of living modestly in a small, optimized space is not new at all. It is how we lived most of the time since we people inhabit our planet. If you dig a bit into the tiny house literature and community, you will quickly learn that the first time the tiny house lifestyle as I describe it in this article was first explicitly referred to by the American author Henry David Thoreau. In 1845, he spent two years and two months in a 150 square foot cabin close to a pond in Concord, Massachusetts. During this time he wrote the book “On Walden Pond” which is very popular among minimalists and outdoors enthusiasts promoting the simple but happy life.

The quote that I use at the very top of this article is from this book. It is one of the principal ideas of the tiny house philosophy: simplicity. It is not about how much you own (see “rat race” as discussed above), but how you build your value system around what you have. And happiness is not coming from material things but immaterial things like health, freedom, and attitude. Thoreau’s cabin was a perfect reflection of that philosophy: very small with hardly anything in it.

Although Thoreau was the first one who described the tiny house philosophy, it took another 100 years until people started to actually live by those ideas. In 1998, a crucial milestone was set by English architect Sarah Susanka when she published her book “The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Live”. Her claim was to focus design more on quality rather than sheer quantity or size.

In 2000, University of Iowa professor Jay Shafer published the article “Home Sweet Hut” which is considered the starting point of today’s tiny house movement. Two years later Jay Shafer, Gary Johnson, and others established the Small House Society to share ideas and build more momentum and professionalism into the movement.

In the following ten years, many media reports supported the growing popularity. Around 2008 the mortgage crisis influenced people to start thinking differently. Finally of course the recent corona pandemic certainly made people re-evaluate their values and many -- like me -- became enthusiastic about the simple but fulfilling life that a tiny house can provide.

How Is Living in a Tiny House Different?

Tiny house lifestyle
Photo credit: Serena House

Living the tiny house lifestyle is substantially different. Obviously, there are thousands of different options, combinations, and preferences. What I describe here is the most typical way of living the tiny house life and also my preferred way.

The tiny house itself is purposefully built using the smallest physical space necessary. Everything within that space is optimized. A lot of the furniture and equipment has multiple purposes and can be folded or stowed away.

Access to electricity can be achieved in various ways. The most common and ideal is to be autonomous via solar panels and powerful batteries for energy storage. Today’s solar systems are very efficient and will work well in many parts of the globe. An emergency power generator may be useful as a backup.

The best source of water would be your own well or connection to some water network. Other options are collecting rainwater, water desalination or purification, or water delivery that you keep in a container. Sewage needs to be taken care of and the best way is to decide on a biodegradable solution.

Cooking -- like everything else -- is pretty much back to basics: a stove or a fireplace. And let’s be real, we probably don’t need most of the fancy kitchen equipment like food processor or Nespresso machines (coffee from a cafetiera is much better anyway).

This way of frugal living is a lot more energy aware and efficient and also much cheaper. The cost of living comes down substantially in a tiny house. It’s a smaller space so you have less to heat. You have less space that you need to clean and more time to enjoy the pretty things in life. Generally, you have less to maintain and repair. You have fewer things, so fewer things can break.

A key aspect of tiny house living is that the outdoor space is included into the living space. That is also why tiny houses are usually installed in areas with breath-taking natural features like views, forests, cliffs, mountains, lakes, etc. Most tiny houses are actually mobile to some degree (e.g., on a trailer). So they can be moved around and you can change locations. This is what so massively contributes to a different (better) quality of life. You can compensate the small indoor space (of which you don’t really need that much anyway) with magnificent outdoor space.

A final aspect that I appreciate about the tiny house philosophy is the focus on environmentally conscious design and the preference for using eco-friendly and sustainable materials.

Enter Eco-Tourism

Tiny house lifestyle
Photo credit: @electerious

The COVID-19 crisis was (and still is) a big shake-up. With all the challenges that we are facing, one positive consequence is that many people start to think differently. People tend to appreciate getaways into natural environments paired with eco-friendly culture more. According to Airbnb 2021 data, visitors seek out the chance to reconnect with nature. Unique and remote outdoor spaces have never been more precious, or more valuable. Tiny House bookings exploded by 109%.

This change in peoples’ preferences, opened up for all of us an opportunity to also change the current unsustainable, global tourism path. People change what they value especially on vacation and prefer to be out in nature. Other aspects of living and vacation become a priority. A luxurious or even lavish approach is more and more giving way to reconnecting to nature -- back to our roots. This can be leveraged to change to a greener, more sustainable path in tourism.

Achieving this path is the aim of “eco-tourism”.

The International Ecotourism Society defines eco-tourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” Some of its key principles include:

  • Allow a connection to the local ecosystem and provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
  • Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
  • Reduce or avoid impact on the local ecosystem in any shape or form.
  • Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry.
  • Deliver memorable experiences that help raise awareness about the host’s political, environmental, and social climates.

These principles resonate very well with me and are in line with my search for supporting initiatives that help to preserve the health of our planet. My drive to maximize my happiness and the people around me in combination with the tiny house lifestyle and eco-tourism led me to an opportunity that I want to share with you.

A Tiny House Investment Opportunity

Tiny house lifestyle
Photo credit: Serena House

At some point, I was looking for companies in Catalonia, Spain, that are experienced with the tiny house philosophy and know how to build them.

In that matter, there is no way around Serena House.

They describe themselves as a collective oriented towards nature. They combine respect for the environment with technology to offer a different experience. They believe in an environmentally friendly habitat. They prioritize the optimal use of renewable energies for a modern living comfort responding to the needs of a respectful society. This philosophy is manifested in all tiny house projects that this company has been realizing for years.

This vision got me hooked and I was fortunate enough that they invited me to spend some time with them. This time was truly inspiring. I learned a lot about the knowledge required to design a tiny house, the manual craft involved to build it, and all the ethical thinking beyond such as how to leverage local resources and environmentally friendly materials.

Serena House recently started to offer a tiny house investment opportunity following the principles of eco-tourism. It is an environmentally friendly way of building and owning a tiny house and the ability to have it rented out. The tiny houses form part of a larger network. The renting is managed by Serena House. Investors don't need to do anything except receiving the rental income.

The top three investor benefits are:

  1. Realistic annual return rate of 9% (in best case scenario up to 18%)
  2. Possibility to stay in any of the network's tiny houses (using an internal credit system)
  3. Portfolio diversification with ethical and eco-friendly investment to support the health of our planet
Tiny house investment
RoI and attractive returns from tiny house investments

With this offer, Serena House is committed to following the principles of eco-tourism. Whoever invests into a tiny house as part of this network can rely on:

  • Guest experiences are generating financial benefits for both local people and private industry.
  • Human impact on the environment is minimized and environmental and cultural awareness and respect are raised.
  • Local ecosystems are benefiting through employment, business opportunities, and social projects.

My Future Tiny House Plans

Full disclosure: I am a stakeholder in the tiny house network investment project by Serena House. I fully believe in the vision of this project and it will lead to a win-win for everyone and everything involved -- especially our planet and future generations. Midterm I will become an investor myself and will buy my own tiny house as part of this network. I am constantly on the lookout for interesting, ethical investment opportunities (like organic almond farming, contemporary art, solar, wine, startups, crypto or NFTs). This tiny house network is a perfect candidate. If you want to discuss details, contact me.

I am very driven on my happiness ride. We can control the happiness on our rides to a large extent. Health and freedom are the main ingredients and we can actively and steadily improve both. The logical move for me on that ride is to follow the tiny house philosophy with its minimalistic and environmentally conscious lifestyle connecting to nature and focusing on the essentials, living a life full of adventure.

That’s going to be a hell of a ride!

Full Disclosure and Disclaimer:

I am a stakeholder in the tiny house network investment project by Serena House, so I may get compensated. For details, contact me.

I am not a financial advisor. I present my view on things that work well for me. I am not taking any responsibility for your decisions. Always do your own due diligence before you invest.