A Minimal Existence

One of Jon’s colleagues asked about our weekend plans, and he told her we were headed out for another camp-out. She asked about what we would do, considering the weather forecast was for high heat and humidity. Jon said we would probably just stay inside Cloud 9 most of the weekend, enjoying its creature comforts.

“Why not just stay home?” she asked.

“Because we love tiny living,” Jon replied.

“What exactly is ‘tiny living’,” she wondered.

We should pause here to note that “tiny” doesn’t mean rustic. We have Ellen DeGeneres bedding, for goodness sake! We have not one but TWO high-definition flat-panel TVs! We have air-conditioning! We have indoor plumbing, complete with a flush toilet and a shower! We have internet access and Amazon Alexa! We have a Big Green Egg! How can anyone call that “roughing it”?

My colleague asked about our travels to date and Jon told her about a recent weekend we spent at Loyd Park. She asked, “What did we do?” Jon talked about how we cooked wonderful meals and took long walks and gazed at the stars. She said it didn’t sound much different than what we might do on any other weekend at home, to which Jon responded, “We don’t do what we typically do.” We don’t do chores. We don’t do yard work. We don’t do laundry. We don’t run errands. We don’t fret over finances. And we don’t fall asleep, exhausted, in front of the TV.

We don’t do what we typically do.

Despite its small size (or perhaps because of it), our little house represents a big idea to us: Minimalism. We are so often overwhelmed by the complexity of modern life. The idea of getting away from it all, in a little, self-contained house, is so alluring that it almost seems novel. Yet people have longed for just such minimal existence for centuries.

In the first century before the common era (BCE), the Greek architect Vetruvius asserted that every structure must be solid, useful and beautiful. According to Vitruvius, architecture should be an imitation of nature. A bird’s nest and a bee’s hive, although simple structures, are solid, useful and beautiful, particularly to the birds and the bees that inhabit them. Thus, even a simple shelter in a forest can be virtuous.

A mobile living structure, such as Cloud 9, shouldn’t be an emergency accommodation or a temporary shelter, but a destination. It should minimize our ecological footprint and reduce our living environment to only the most essential elements.

Cloud 9 may be small, but it’s equipped with everything we need for living large. Like a “studiolo,” or studio apartment, it is completely self-contained. The lounge area is outfitted in luxurious ultraleather, and features a built-in ice maker and panoramic windows; the kitchen has a peninsula with a deep sink, a microwave oven, a gas cooktop and oven, a spacious refrigerator/freezer, a pull-out pantry, and a combo washer/dryer; the “water closet” is situated across the hall from the shower; and the bedroom has ample storage, a custom mattress and built-in nightstands. An awning nearly the length of the Airstream provides an “outdoor room” nearly as big as the trailer. And protecting our little “home away from home” from all sorts of elements (grizzlies, we’re looking at you) is its iconic aluminum skin.

In short, our little house is no simple camper but a technically perfect and aesthetically attractive refuge. Is it any wonder we can’t wait until our next weekend outing?