Conscious gift-giving — not just for tiny house people

I love this time of year – the music, the decorations (the lights!), the movies (White Christmas, Elf, Home Alone, Love Actually, etc), the cookies, family, friends, get-togethers, tradition-keeping, the warmth.

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 1.10.41 PM

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 1.33.32 PM

But what I don’t love is the over-commercialization of the holidays. I worry about America in general this time of year. I know that may sound dramatic, but I really long for a return to what Christmas and the holidays are supposed to be about  – for everyone, not just for myself. I am genuinely worried that we’re forgetting the meaning entirely.

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 1.03.48 PM

Recently I was listening – I mean, really listening – to the advertisements in advance of Black Friday. We’re being told we’re not cool/successful/attractive/happy/etcetera if we don’t own this latest whatever is being peddled. Oh, and you’re not a good parent if you don’t buy your child the latest hot toy.  We’re bombarded with these ads, and they’re nearly inescapable. Even if you don’t watch TV, ads come up on social media feeds, online, and on the radio. And instead of the “holiday season”, it’s now, sadly, the “holiday shopping season”. Maybe this isn’t new, but it certainly feels like it’s getting worse.

And though this is coming from someone who works in social media, and also loves her Instagram, social media isn’t helping.  With so much over-sharing of photos that showcase the bounty of presents under the Christmas tree on Facebook and Instagram, there may also be some pressure to keep up with the Joneses.

“Comparison is the thief of joy,” said Teddy Roosevelt, and maybe those photos posted around the holidays make us think we’re not doing the holidays right, that our pile of presents isn’t big enough.

The true meaning of the holiday season is being marred by the huge emphasis we Americans place on buying, buying, buying. Consumerism is out of control, and rather than focus on what this time of year is truly about – giving to those in need, connectedness, family, tradition, gratefulness for the abundance around us, charity, spending time with those we love – many of us stress out, spend too much time in malls, and buy presents frantically, missing the season entirely.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Below I share a few ideas that maintain the spirit of giving, but with an emphasis on experiences and time together with those we love.

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 1.33.53 PM

A caveat – we don’t have kids so this is purely a recap of my own experiences, and I’d never dare suggest depriving little ones from the joys of unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning. But I don’t personally think people should go into debt just for that “wow factor” on Christmas morning. I think it’s a healthy thing to teach children about mindful gift-giving even at a young age. Not to mention, all the stuff we collect over our lifetimes will still be here on this planet long after we’re gone… but I digress…

I hope these ideas may spark an idea or two for whoever is reading, and inspire more conscious gift-giving this season.

  1. Many years ago, when the kids of the family were no longer kids, my extended family decided that instead of more gifts, we’d instead play the Left-Right Game. The entire family sits in a big circle in the living room, and a designated family member, usually my cousin Kathy who is great with words and presentation, was responsible for writing a story with the words “left” and “right” throughout, and then reading it and acting it out. Each player contributed a $20 bill to a basket and that basket was passed around the circle, changing directions and hands each time the word “left” or “right” was said. At the end of the game, whoever was left holding the basket contributed the collected money to the charity of his or her choice. This game was great fun, and gave us lots of laughs and wonderful memories – and importantly, since we all had everything we needed, we loved giving to a worthy charity each year. (Google left-right game if my description isn’t clear!) You can alter this game to your liking, and get creative.

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 1.07.54 PMMy sister and cousin after one year of playing the Left Right Game and face-timing with another sister who was in France for the holidays

2. A few years before Todd and I even considered downsizing, we knew we just didn’t need more stuff, and had a hard time coming up with gift ideas for each other. Every holiday season, I racked my brain but couldn’t think of anything I really needed or wanted. So we decided on a new idea. We both love a good cocktail. So, each of us decided to find a recipe for a new cocktail we’d never had and purchase the ingredients for said cocktail and give them to each other on Christmas – and then quickly whip them up to sample! This was a fun one, and can be done with food, coffee, other warm drinks – doesn’t have to be cocktails. It’s a way to get a little more creative and not fill your home with things you won’t use or don’t want.

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 1.10.33 PM

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 1.02.03 PM

3. Experiences are key. I think what many of us are longing for isn’t more in terms of material belongings, but more human connection. My sister Sarah has given some great experiential gifts in past years, such as Moroccan/African cooking classes for the two of us. One year she also bought the ingredients and the cookie mold for Lebanese cookies called Mamoul, and we used my grandmother’s old recipe to make them together for the first time. Trust me – these are gifts that don’t fill your house up with stuff, but fill your life with memories and experiences that you’ll cherish even more.

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 1.06.24 PM

4. For a few years we played another game with my immediate family where each of four households (Jess/Todd, Sarah/JP, Becca/Jamie, and my mom and dad) would secretly pick a name of another household and we’d each be responsible for giving a gift to just that couple. A lot of the time, we aimed to get creative and make all or part of the gift – there were things like indoor herb gardens, booze-infused fruit, gardening gifts, homemade soaps and lotions, sleeping bags, camping gear, and other memorable handmade gifts. We also “adopted a family” at Christmastime, which I know many other family members and friends do, and I believe giving to those in need is truly one of the best ways to celebrate the season.

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 2.30.55 PM

5. Todd and I don’t really do many tangible gifts anymore, opting to purchase airfare around the holidays so we can travel together somewhere new in the New Year. Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 1.01.11 PM

There are incredible deals on international airfare around Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Travel Deal Tuesday, as well as into the holiday season, and since we both place a huge premium on travel, this is our gift to each other.

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 1.34.06 PM

6. But when we do buy tangible gifts, it’s often things like our kayaks which we got for our first wedding anniversary, camping supplies like a solar shower, and sleeping pads, and a recent bike purchase as our old bikes were totaled in a car accident last year – so we opt for things we can use in experiences together which make our life together fuller.

7. I mentioned it above a few times, but giving to those in need, either through adopting a family, volunteering at a homeless shelter, or collecting for a charity, is really one of the most gratifying ways to celebrate this season, and is what Christmas is truly about.

8. A few more ways to celebrate the season that we need more of: carol singing, cookie baking, Christmas cocktail parties, sleigh rides, ghost stories by the fire. Any I missed? Please do share!

I hope some of these ideas have been helpful, and please feel free to leave ideas or thoughts in the comments, or by emailing me and if there are a bunch of other good ones, we can do a follow up post.

Enjoy the holidays. They’re over in the blink of an eye. I hope you have meaningful time with family and friends, and I wish you love, peace, and warmth this season and into the New Year.

PS – Just because I love seeing how other countries do it, here is one of my favorite Rick Steves episodes on Christmas traditions in Europe!

A photo collection of some of my favorite Christmas memories

 

You’re not going to win the lottery. (Here’s a better way to make your $2 – or more – grow)

Hey, you.

I have some news for you. You’re not going to win the lottery (Powerball and Mega Millions) tonight. I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you.

Yes, it’s fun to fantasize about all the things you could do with that kind of insane windfall. But it’s not going to happen. You’re more likely to win an Academy Award or be killed by a vending machine.

I have a better idea of what you could do with that two bucks you’ll waste on a ticket (Bear with me, I am not necessarily great at math. But I am great at saving.)

Say you spend $2 every week on the lottery a year, for 30 years. That’s $104/year for 30 years. (Don’t even get me started on how awful the lottery is and how it’s essentially a tax on the poor.)

Take the $2 you’d spend on a weekly lottery ticket and instead invest it. Invest it, ideally, in Vanguard low-cost index funds.

Over 30 years’ time, taking into consideration compounding interest, you could turn that $2/week, $104/year into 20,632.85. (I used this compounding interest calculator from MoneyChimp.com). I also used an interest rate of 10 percent, which is a conservative number. It’s important to note that the returns are usually better than that for Vanguard low cost index funds. They have an average annual return of more than 11 percent.

Screen Shot 2018-10-19 at 10.03.21 AMAnd this number is actually pretty low. Market Watch says Americans spends an average of $206.69 per year on the lottery. If you compound that amount, after 30 years you’d have $41,005.81. In New York where we live, New Yorkers spend an average of $398.77 per year on the lottery. If you take that money and instead invest it for 30 years, you’d have 79,113.11 at the end, give or take. That’s a nice way to make a $7.65 per week investment grow.

Screen Shot 2018-10-19 at 10.56.03 AM

Todd just said to me, “But that’s nothing compared to millions.”

Right. But you’re not going to win. Remember that.

If you think your $2 (or more!?) is going to some good, worthwhile cause like education or the environment – don’t be fooled.

From this Fortune article:

“Patrick Pierce, a political science professor at St. Mary College, has studied lotteries and how states spend the revenue lotteries generate. He found that education spending does jump in the first year after a state adopts a lottery system. But after that, the pace of education spending tends to slow. By the eighth year, education spending is actually lower than it likely would have been if the lotto had not been adopted. Pierce says the money that would have gone to school spending is diverted elsewhere or used for voter-friendly tax cuts.”

 So if you really want to see your $2 (or a couple bucks more) translate into something much, much more than it’s worth now, don’t spend it on the lottery. Invest it wisely and watch it grow.

IMG_3617

 

 

Whose idea was this anyway?

Lots of people ask us which one of us decided on a tiny house on wheels – and did the other one take a lot of convincing?

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 12.33.12 PM
Our house mid-build last fall.

The answers are: Todd. And no.

We’ve both been dreaming of alternative housing for quite some time. Here’s the short-ish version of how we arrived here.

Back in the 2000s, Todd had a penchant for buying houses. When I met him in 2006, he had just bought his third, and shortly thereafter, his fourth house. Two were rentals, one was to flip, and one was to live in. He bought them all before 2008 and the Great Recession.

It’s hard to overstate the impact that the market crash and housing bubble collapse had on many young people coming of age, including us. We saw – in real life and in the news – hardworking adults all around us fear they’d lost their entire life savings and retirements (some would bounce back and some would not) and I lost the first job I had that actually paid a decent salary during a period of huge layoffs. Todd’s housing investments lost value.

In fact, we sold our house in Albany last year for about the same as he’d bought it for 11 years prior…. No huge return on the years of taxes, money, and sweat equity we put into it.

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 12.33.57 PM
Our first home together –  145 Ramsey, where it all began

So several years ago, Todd, craving a simpler life with less money going out the door to pay for housing, started talking about living in a yurt.  (He may work in Corporate America but he is a crunchy hippy at heart). I’d laugh at him. I thought yurts were just glorified tents, so I wrote them off (only to find out later, they’re quite beautiful and can be hooked up with electricity and plumbing. I do actually think someday we’ll fulfill Todd’s dream to live in a yurt).

I might not have been sold on the yurt idea but there was one type of alternative housing that really intrigued me. I saw a documentary on earthships and was totally fascinated. I loved the idea of using recycled materials such as old tires to build a home, and creating a sustainable and environmentally friendly dwelling.

The yurt and the earthship had a few things in common – they’d make us much more self-sufficient and they wouldn’t drain us of nearly 40 percent of our budget (the average that Americans spend on housing).

We also knew we didn’t need much space. For years we lived in our conventional three bedroom, two bathroom, 1,100 square foot house in Albany, NY – which actually felt too big for two people.

A quick aside – we did almost buy a house way too big for us back in early 2016 when Todd got a great job after being laid off from Bank of America the year before, and we got ahead of ourselves knowing what kind of mortgage we could afford. We loved the house mainly because it was on a kayak-able creek, and had stunning mountain views. Someone else bought the house before we could and, wow, are we glad we dodged that bullet. Just because we could afford the mortgage doesn’t mean we want to pay for a house for the next 15-30 years.

Sometime in the spring of 2016 – after we dodged the big house bullet – Todd started talking about smaller living again.  It appealed to him because we’d lessen our environmental impact and we’d save money. Todd has been talking about extreme early retirement since I met him, and eliminating a mortgage was a huge way to achieve that goal. (For all of our big reasons for going tiny, see this earlier post).

My huge light-bulb moment came in May 2016 in Costa Rica. Todd and I were on vacation there and even though we’d been together for 10 years, it was the first country we visited as a couple that neither of us had been to before. I have a few great loves, and travel is one of them. To me, the experience of discovering a new place for the first time is incomparable. I don’t think I ever feel as alive as I do when I am exploring. And Costa Rica was magical. We hiked through rainforests to dormant volcanoes to dip our toes in the crater lake at the top. We swam in lagoons at the bottom of spectacular waterfalls. We had lovely conversation with the locals, and we had food that when I think about it, still makes my mouth water.

It hit me like a ton of bricks on that trip to Costa Rica that there are so few material things that I need to be happy. I want to travel and explore new places with Todd. A warm home, comfy bed, and my pups would be a perfect home base in New York – the size of the abode really didn’t matter to me.

For that trip, and others before and since, we take stock of the way people live. And again, many people in other countries live small because they have to – but so many of the people in Central America live small and seem to be really happy, happier than many Americans who live in McMansions and drive enormous vehicles (especially the people in Costa Rica. It’s a very progressive country with no military, a huge emphasis on the conservation of their natural resources and their land, and they have great health care to boot. Which is why we may move there in a few years… ) We had traveled to Mexico several times as well and we always noted how much happier and more communal their neighborhoods seemed to be, with folks gathering in town squares, kids playing ball, women sitting outside their homes chopping veggies for dinner. It was a way of life I’ve rarely seen here in the US. (I know that not all regions of Mexico are this way and that there is crime, poverty, and government corruption, but the point here is that big houses don’t equal happiness).

So when we got home from Costa Rica, we got to work. Todd started reading Walden, and I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. We started selling, donating, and giving our stuff away to family and friends like crazy. We kept only the things that “sparked joy” or that we needed. We read about tiny houses, watched documentaries, went to a tiny house festival in Brattleboro, Vt., and started slowly sharing our plans with friends and family.  We went from looking at 400 square foot tiny homes on foundations, to 200 square foot tiny homes on wheels – to us, the ultimate freedom because you’re not tied to one place if you find you have to move your home eventually. I’ll concede I had to wrap my brain around the idea of one small (28 inch wide!!!) clothes closet that we’re sharing.  But cutting down my wardrobe in return for a lifetime of travel and financial freedom seems like a very small price to pay. Generationally, I’m on the border of Millennials and Gen Xers, but I agree with the experiences-over-things mindset of the younger generation. Small house, but big life.

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 12.31.36 PM
At the Vermont Tiny House Festival with my cousin Kathy and her husband Brad, who’ve been super supportive and were there for us for our “barn raising” weekend in 2017.

So that’s how we arrived here. We both had big goals that can be fulfilled by a change in mindset about how we live. Fortunately, we’re both a little weird, and I trusted Todd that we could make this whole build-our-own-tiny-house thing work. So far, so good.

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 12.33.34 PM
Happiness after having installed the bamboo flooring.

For other tiny house people – was the decision an easy one? An evolution like ours was? Was it a decision that took a lot of convincing? We’d love to hear how other people came to this decision. And for everyone else, we’re always happy to answer your tiny house/travel/financial independence questions! As I said in my prior post, gleaning information from others was so helpful for us as we embarked on this journey. So reach out!

Thanks for reading,

Jess & Todd

Why Tiny House Living?

Hi there! Jess and Todd here, with our first post on our new blog and website! Welcome!

Untitled

Most of our family and friends know what we’re up to – building a tiny house –  but we’re not sure everyone knows our rationale. Have we lost our minds? Our jobs? Are we nuts? (Not yet, no, and maybe a little :))

window

Tiny House of New York is the result of years of dreaming and planning; we started getting rid of our belongings on almost a constant basis in June, 2016 and the research started in earnest around that time as well. We read many books, and watched documentaries and YouTube videos of other tiny house people like fanatics. We started designing in 2016 (we’re still designing as we go!) We sold our house in Albany in July, 2017 and our tiny house build started in late June of 2017 – and continues to this day. But we’re close to being done (yayayayayay!) so we decided it’s time to start documenting the “whys” as well as the benefits of tiny house living.

If you’re curious, here are our top four reasons for selling our normal-sized house in Albany, ditching about 80-90 percent of our belongings, and embarking on an adventure to design, build, and live in our very own tiny house on wheels in the Catskills region of New York State.

woods

Four big reasons:

1) Less house to pay for = more financial freedom and the ability to become financially independent and retire early from our everyday 9-5s (and we mean really early).

Most Americans spend nearly 40 percent of their budgets on housing. When we first heard that stat, we thought about how much we could save if we reduced that cost, or even eliminated it. We had a decent rate on our mortgage on our prior house but it was still a big chunk of what we spent every month, and knowing that we could construct a tiny house with no mortgage was incredibly appealing.

While we’re on the subject of housing costs — it wasn’t always this way! In 1940, the median home value in the U.S. was just $2,938. In 1980, it was $47,200, and by 2000, it had skyrocketed to $119,600. From CNBC: “Even adjusted for inflation, the median home price in 1940 would only have been $30,600 in 2000 dollars, according to data from the U.S. Census.” In short, the cost of housing is increasing much faster than inflation.

These rising home costs are hurting us (remember 2008 and the incredible number of foreclosures, and real people who lost their homes?!) and putting more and more people into huge amounts of debt  – many people spend their entire lives paying for their shelter. We think this is insanity.

Consider today’s norm for many homeowners:

Graduate high school. Perhaps go to college. Get a job. Buy a house. Work forever to pay off that house (30 year mortgages are the most popular). Perhaps retire in your 60s or 70s and hope you have enough money, energy, and life left to enjoy your “golden years”.

We just didn’t want to live like that and want to live our lives to the fullest NOW, not later. We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to pay for this house as we go. We’ve been building for one year, and we believe when all is said and done, we’ll have spent about $50,000 on it. Many tiny home people spend less, and many spend more. It depends on the materials one chooses, and whether building oneself or hiring someone to build. The DIY, pay-as-we-go method has worked for us, and we’re thrilled knowing our utility costs will be very low in the future, and our only other expenses for the house will include our portion of the taxes, and any repairs or improvements we need to make. (Full disclosure: we are building on Todd’s mother’s land as she has the acreage and we contribute to taxes and pay the utilities so we’re not considered “squatters” :))

livingroom

I’ll save our financial independence/retiring early (FiRe) goals for another post, but suffice it to say, we are following the four percent rule, also known as the “25 times your yearly spend” rule. Simply put (for non-math people) – take your yearly spend and multiply that by 25. Essentially, that’s how much you need to have saved to retire. For example: if you spend $50,000 per year to live, you need $1.25 million saved to continue living that same lifestyle for the next 30 years.

We are aggressive savers. Binge savers. Instead of buying stuff when we get paid, we first pay off any debts, and then we buy Vanguard Index Funds. Our goal is to save enough so that we can retire from our day jobs very early and travel/work seasonally and remotely without touching our savings and investments; the plan is to have enough to carry us for the rest of our lives should we need it. We follow FiRe bloggers and enthusiasts and are somewhat surprised that the tiny house and FiRe movements have not intersected more since one path toward FiRe is a drastic reduction in expenses. (If you’re interested in financial independence right now, check out JL Collins’ stock series and blog. A must read for anyone who wants to get their finances and investments in order.)

This is also a post for another day, but we think tiny homes could be part of the solution to homelessness. Call us crazy, but we don’t think people should be without shelter, especially in the wealthiest country on the planet!

2) Less house to maintain = more time (for family, friends, hobbies, reading, leisure)

This one is easy. I remember a few years ago looking around the back yard one beautiful summer day, dirty and exhausted, after I had mowed the lawn, weeded the garden, and painted our shed – and thinking: We work all week at our jobs only to work all weekend on our homes.

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 10.37.25 AM

I think we (Americans) are just trained to consider home-ownership The American Dream, fulfilled. But we (Todd and Jess) have different dreams these days, and home-ownership isn’t necessarily part of that. We learned a lot about home improvement while working on our Albany home, and became more self-sufficient but we spent so many hours, days, weeks working when we’d rather be out living (props to our friends who live in a condo in Albany and laugh at their friends who spend all weekend “working on the yard” – they were also an inspiration!)

In short, we have more time to say yes to family, friends, hiking, kayaking, reading – whatever else sparks our interest.

In all honesty, the summer of 2017 didn’t allow for as much freedom since we worked on the house at every free moment. We work full-time and our jobs involve a decent amount of travel. On Saturday mornings we’d build; on Saturday nights, we’d bartend (our side hustle to pay for the house as we built – and we also work with a carpenter who has helped us tremendously but he’s not free), and on Sundays we’d try to build while recovering from the late night the evening prior. It was major hustle ALL THE TIME.

As the build winds down, and we get closer to completion, we’ve already seen an increase in our free time.

roundtop

We’ve said yes to more this year, bringing us closer to our community and ensuring our friendships are solid. We don’t feel as guilty indulging in the things that make us happy because this is one of the big reasons we are building this house: to live our life according to our values.

3) Less house to hold us back = more adventure & freedom to roam (namely in the form of international travel)

A few years ago, before we came to the decision to build a tiny house, we were looking for land to build a small log cabin. We looked at a bunch of properties, but one day after driving all over looking at land, Todd said he didn’t think he wanted to put down more roots in New York. There are a bunch of reasons, some concerning today’s politics, but we both have a huge desire to see more of the world. If we put down roots, pay a mortgage, taxes, and the other expenses we’d incur, we’d be less likely to pursue a nomadic way of life.

So we decided to put our house on wheels. We can move it if we need to but more likely, we’ll travel because of it, not with it. (We were inspired by other tiny-housers like Joshua and Shelly at Tiny House Basics and Robert and Samantha at Shedsistence – two couples who travel more and experience more because they’ve made the decision to live small, which gives them more freedom). Tiny House of New York will be our home base but we’ll have the freedom to come and go as we’d like to.

And it’s already paying off. Throughout the tiny house building process, we’ve saved money that would have ordinarily gone to housing costs. We’ve used some of that money to travel, and have been incredibly fortunate to have seen new parts of the world, including Scotland, Ireland, Norway, and Spain in the last several months, and we’re planning more international travel for later this year. We’re truly grateful for these experiences and know how fortunate we’ve been to be able to travel – and we can’t wait to write about our travel hacks and budget vacations because (surprise, surprise) we are thrifty on vacation, too.

spain

4) Less house to use resources and energy = smaller footprint, greener living

Living “green” and consciously of our resource consumption has been important to both of us for many years. It’s just the two of us and two pups – no kids for us – so the idea of buying a bigger house just because that’s what you’re “supposed” to do just didn’t make sense. A smaller house with everything we need is literally using a smaller footprint, and much less energy. We’re also using a wood stove to heat our home, LED lights, and Structurally Insulated Panels (or SIPs) as our walls, which are extremely energy efficient. We’ll also be using a composting toilet, reducing our water usage. More on that once we actually start using it! We also hang our clothes out to dry and rarely use a dryer. This country air does the job just fine.

We’re also still close enough to the grocery store and library that we can walk rather than drive. We already noted we have curbed our spending but we are taking part in a local farm’s CSA so that’s something else we feel good about. Even though we’re financially frugal, we want to be able to support local businesses, including our local farms.

In a future post, we can detail how we both came to think about living smaller (Todd always wanted to live in a yurt, and Jess is not ruling it out for the future; Jess’s lightbulb moment for tiny house-living came one day in Costa Rica). We will say that we’re freely choosing this lifestyle and it is an absolute privilege. There is no doubt about it: many people, here in the US and around the world, live in very small shelters because they have to. We recognize that this is a conscious decision we’re making, not a mandate forced upon us, and we’re fortunate beyond belief to be able to create a life that makes us happy. We both steer away from the word “blessings” – but we know how fortunate and supported we are. We’re grateful for this life and we won’t take it for granted.

It’s also important to note that we don’t expect everyone to agree with our way of life, or for everyone to be able to do it, and we certainly don’t judge all the homeowners we know and love! We think people should be able to pursue the life they love – and if that means a big house and yard, great! We simply wanted something different and we’re glad we figured it out sooner rather than later before getting sucked into keeping up with the Joneses. (Let the Joneses “win”; we’ve found our own happiness).

fullsizeoutput_15db

Enough about us. If you’re a tiny houser, we’d love to know your reasons for living small! If you’re someone interested in this way of life, we’re always open to questions and will help in whatever way we can. If you’re someone thinking about making the leap toward downsizing, but have never set foot in a tiny house and want to see what it feels like inside, we’re also open to visitors (it’s something that would have helped us a lot before starting this journey but we were hesitant to ask).

We’re excited to document this journey and will be honest and transparent about the good, the bad, and everything in between. We have learned so much from those who’ve shared their experiences and we hope we can pay it forward and share the lessons we’ve learned as well. Thanks for reading!

-Jess & Todd