Building a Tiny Eco-House on Wheels in New Zealand: a Couple of Planet Loving Surfers Live Their Life to its Fullest Potential

Ever dreamed of packing your bags and setting off to travel the world with a loved one? To adventure in nature, surf, explore, live like those two folks in the Minimalism advised us? Yelena Savinen and Jai Aitken have followed suit, and the couple shares their story of building their first eco-home on wheels whilst on the road with us. 

Words: Meri Frig

  Image: Yelena Savinen and Jai Aitken

Image: Yelena Savinen and Jai Aitken

Tell us more about your DIY Tiny House project?

We are building a tiny house on wheels, which we can then tow around New Zealand and hopefully explore all the beauty this country has to offer. The house is on a trailer which is 2.4m x 4.2m, and will be eventually fully self-contained. We also started making Youtube videos of this whole journey, first starting off with the building stage we are currently at, and then life shows where it takes us.

What plans do you have for the near future?

After we finish our tiny house project, we are going to hit the road and explore some amazing nature and scenery in New Zealand. We want to enjoy the beautiful nature and meet like-minded people. We are planning on making more videos to show our travels, as well as share other topics that are important for us. We have also been thinking about possibly turning our tiny house into a little 'food trailer' and provide people with fresh fruit juice, bliss balls and other healthy treats at markets around the country. Setting up some donation-based yoga classes in parks is also something that we would love to organise in the future.

  Image source: Yelena and Jai

Image source: Yelena and Jai

What inspired you to start this project?

We have been travelling for many years and living in Indonesia. It has been some sort of a dream to have a base, our own place where after all the travelling, we could go back to and just relax and chill. We dreamed about having land with a small shack and growing a big food forest. However, the banks didn’t want to cooperate with us and we couldn’t get a mortgage out. We actually felt relieved after a while, since having a mortgage would mean staying put and working to pay it off. 

We found some tiny houses on social media and decided that it would be suitable for us, as we love being on the move, but still want to have our own base, a safe home. We looked into the logistics and decided to go for it! There was plenty of information available online to learn the basics and plenty of people along the way willing to help and advice us.

Making Youtube videos alongside came almost naturally, as we already had all the camera equipment. Inspired by other stories on Youtube, we wanted to share our journey and insights on life and travel with others.

  Image source: Yelena and Jai

Image source: Yelena and Jai

What are the values and life philosophies that guide your lifestyle?

We are trying to approach life as if it is filled with infinite opportunities that we could never even dream of. Not settling with only the possibilities we can rationally come up with, but simply letting our actions guide us towards whatever opportunity awaits us. It creates quite a lot of excitement when you are not quite sure what is going to happen; only knowing whatever will happen will be perfect and there for a reason. Already along this journey of building our tiny house, we have met some amazing people at the right time who have helped guide us on our journey. It seems like everything quite happens for a reason when you let go of the control.

"Moving into our tiny house has also helped us to get rid off even more things we simply don’t need, or things that bring no value to our life. We believe that experiences are more valuable in life than things."

  Image source: Yelena and Jai

Image source: Yelena and Jai

Since we have both travelled a lot, one could describe us as minimalists. Moving into our tiny house has also helped us to get rid off even more things we simply don’t need, or things that bring no value to our life. We believe that experiences are more valuable in life than things.

We are also quite mindful about our food consumption, trying not to eat anything processed or animal-based in any way. Basically we are eating whole foods: fruits, vegetables, berries, seeds and nuts in their natural form. Raw food would be the best, but since the winters in New Zealand get cold, we have moved towards cooking our food for the warmth factor.

"It seems like everything quite happens for a reason when you let go of the control."

  Image source: Yelena and Jai

Image source: Yelena and Jai

What are some of the most amazing experiences you have shared together, travelling the world?

Quite soon after we met in Bali, we decided to go for a 5-day mission together on a motorbike around the whole island. We hung out with locals, explored the island life and enjoyed the scenery. We got stuck in the rain one day in this small village on the hills and found shelter in a local shop. The old couple, who ran the place, didn’t speak a word of English, but we had an amazing time learning about each other with our broken Indonesian, and mostly pointing at things and using body language. They even happened to have an old world atlas book, so we could show them where we were from. This trip is when we found out that we both liked to travel and adventure in the same way: no plans, no expectations, no tours; only the free spirit, always curious to see and learn more from others, absorbing the beauty all around. We love connecting more with the locals at the destination and learn how they experience life.

"This trip is when we found out that we both liked to travel and adventure in the same way: no plans, no expectations, no tours; only the free spirit, always curious to see and learn more from others, absorbing the beauty all around."

  Image source: Yelena and Jai

Image source: Yelena and Jai

Of course we have also climbed a volcano together, hiked numerous forests, surfed many waves and seen many places. We have so many stories, which we are very grateful for. In Guatemala, we visited truly amazing Mayan ruins of an ancient city, Tikal. It was slightly overcast day and there weren’t many people around. As we were wondering around the ancient city in the middle of the rainforest(!), we saw lots of monkeys and white-nosed coatis just hanging about. Most spectacular was the view from the top of one of the temples, from where we could see other temples: these massive stone structures, popping out in the horizon over the rainforest in the sunset. The view was just mind-blowing. 

  Image source: Yelena and Jai

Image source: Yelena and Jai

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