Since the culmination of our adventure in Tahiti Brad and I have spent hours brainstorming where we’d run to next. We know that wherever we go we want to run there. The journey of sweating out every hard-earned dollar to get to Tahiti made the payoff so palpable—so visceral—so fun. We’re searching for the next destination and getting our sneakers and savings account prepped.
For awhile we’ve gazed further west toward New Zealand. You see there is simply no good reason not to go to New Zealand. Whatever your preference of climate, you’ll find it somewhere in NZ. And let’s all cut to the chase with five words—Lord of the Rings tour.
You can actually visit The Shire.
Do you like snow-capped mountains?
Or bucolic countrysides?
Did you know the human population of NZ is 4 million and the sheep population is 40 million?
Maybe you’re a big city kinda gal.
Auckland at night.
New Zealand fulfills the scuba diving requirement.
And, I mean, look at their national symbol of pride?
It’s like the coolest, cutest, weirdest thing ever. Can we all agree that a kiwi bird is basically a real-life Muppet? A bird without wings. Of course. Why would anyone need wings in New Zealand? There’s no reason to ever fly away.
And now you think I’m going to tell you the mileage from Tahiti to New Zealand and our plan to get there.
Wrong. We’re not going to New Zealand.
That’s not entirely true. I have every confidence that one day Brad and I will get there and have an incredible Kiwi adventure. But like every epic hero’s journey, ours too leads back home.
Don’t let the sunshine and palm trees fool you—Los Angeles does not always make living easy. Rent prices continue to rise. Home values continue to rise. The sprawling landscape demands significant travel and mileage. Cars break down faster because of said mileage. Of course, there are so many benefits to living here as well. Rent may be high but I’m still living in an apartment with only one building separating me from the beach. And I can get a helluva deal on fresh avocados year round. The value of delicious and fresh produce all year long can’t be understated actually.
The sunshine is in fact quite amazing. Palm trees are iconic. Most of all, things are happening here. There’s a feeling in the air that Los Angeles is evolving into a creative epicenter of this country. There’s a museum for just about everything, incredible theatre, great food, music. Every industry is represented here in varying degrees. When I changed my focus from acting to writing I didn’t have to relocate to get a hands-on look at the publishing industry. It’s still not New York, but publishing is here too. Publishing, film, television, finance, academia, science, technology. Innovation surrounds us.
For Brad and I, perhaps the biggest draw is the outdoors. Oh the outdoors. I can wake up tomorrow and toss a coin as to whether I’d prefer to hike along an ocean-side ridge, or up in the mountains where at some points in the year you’d hike through snow. It would take years to hit up all the campgrounds near enough to trek to on the weekends, not to mention the outlying wilderness that may require more of a three-day weekend. We can scuba dive, surf, hike, run, camp, bike, and more—all barely leaving our neighborhood. I can drive home to Sacramento for a long weekend. We can steal away to San Diego, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, Big Sur—if we need to get out of the city for a day or two.
I think you get my meaning. We love Los Angeles. I love Los Angeles more than I truly ever thought possible. But we have a conundrum. We want to plant roots but the price of the soil is so unwelcome. What will happen, then? Are we doomed to the renter’s market for the rest of our days, paying someone else’s mortgage without putting a cent away for ourselves? Should we put a pint-size amount of money down on a small condo in the valley and walk around with the elephant of a mortgage and HOA fees on our backs for the foreseeable future. Neither seem like great options. We don’t want to be house poor. So what then?
My mom visited last weekend to help us with direction on our fringe show, The Designated Mourner. She started looking around our teeny apartment and telling us about the ways they economize space on Tiny House Nation. A revelation followed.
Our apartment is about 500 square feet. Living space is probably closer to 400. Essentially, we live in a tiny. As my mom told us about the clever tiny tricks she’d heard about, a light bulb went off. Brad came home from a run while Mom showed me an episode of Tiny House Hunters and I quickly announced to him, “We’re buying a tiny.” He did not object.
Our little apartment reverberated with excitement in the ensuing conversation. This idea was a real possibility. It felt like opening a door after pulling on locked doorknobs for months. Yes, a very tiny door, but ornately carved with love and care—full of magic. We could break our backs for the next four years saving for a down payment on a house that would subsequently shackle us with a mortgage for the next thirty years, or we could spend four years saving for a tiny and once we’d done it be free from rent, free from a mortgage.
Free to run to New Zealand. Free to save for our future child’s education. Free to pay off my student loans before I die. Free to go to grad school. Free to save for retirement, or a car, or a boat, or a rainy day. Free to not work quite so many hours giving us more time to pursue our artistic dreams. Free! Free! Free!
Can you tell I’m excited?
Brad and I spent a year in the early part of our relationship living together in the teeniest studio. It couldn’t have been more than 300 square feet. I think back to that little room with only the fondest memories. Sometimes I think we bicker more now than we did back then. When you don’t have an actual door to close between you, you’re more or less forced to address whatever it is that’s compelling you to retreat. So you do. You address it. And you’re patient. And you’re flexible. And you compromise. At least we did. These are all requirements of tiny living and Brad and I passed that test years ago. In fact, now that I think about, I think we have that studio to thank for our ability to argue with an even temper, and thus the success of our relationship, really. There’s no reason not to join this movement. There’s every reason to stop paying for someone else’s future and start investing in our own.
We’d all but given up on the dream of home ownership as residents of Los Angeles. Our only hope, we thought, was a windfall of success as writers or actors and you don’t have to remind us that that’s not something to be banked on. We didn’t need to give up. There was a very big American dream waiting for us in a tiny package. We’re putting our sneakers back on, and we’re running toward it.
We looked further west and considered more travel adventures, but for now it’s time to go home. We’re running home—from Tahiti back to Los Angeles. All with the very exciting promise of a future that will foster our travel dreams, maybe even with a bit less running required.
This time we’ve upped the mileage to $10 per mile (maybe $20/mile once we get used to saving so aggressively), and we’re both running back ALL the miles. If you recall, the journey to Tahiti was more of a relay race. We ran a cumulative 4,109 miles. Running home is going to be harder. We have to run a total of 8,218 miles. Time to get going. This is real. This is happening.
There’s a huge future waiting for us in a tiny home.
Some tiny inspiration:
Have you ever thought about going tiny? What freedoms do you think it would give you? What would be your greatest fears of downsizing?