Tent Living: Not Just for Hobos and Hippies

Our home for the season.
Our home for the season. Who said you can’t make a tent homey?

I never planned to live in a tent. Sure, I liked camping, and I certainly loved travel. But prior to experiencing life in this minimalist way, I had two preconceived notions. First and foremost, I believed that the only people who lived in a tent were hobos and hippies. Secondly, that this would never be me.

After graduating from the University of South Carolina, my boyfriend Clay and I sought to move out west. We wanted to explore a new part of the country and work and play in and around whitewater. (He is a talented, extreme whitewater kayaker, if I do say so myself. More to come on that later!) We were hired by Wet Planet Whitewater in Washington state and were thrilled for a new adventure. As the question of our living quarters came to mind, we decided to go with the affordable, local, and novel option: camping. We were happy to discover that our employer offered camping sites on the private property, with access to kitchen and bath facilities. We ordered a tent online and packed our bags!

Living in a tent inevitably brings about lifestyle changes. While living in the tent, I read more books, played more guitar, had more conversations with Clay and our friends, and saw more stars. It’s not always glamorous, as such a small space can get messy, hot, and cold at different moments. I would often find bugs hidden in the corners, and the task of going to the bathroom in the middle of the night was even less fun than normal. Despite the unpleasantries, living in a tent taught me that I could live with so much less than I had previously believed. No wi-fi, no television, no A/C, or electricity outlet. I found that life (for four and a half months) without modern conveniences was fun!

Realistically, living in a tent does not work with every lifestyle. It also isn’t for individuals in different stages of life. In fact, there may be few or specific lifestyles in which it does work – but for some of us travelers, seasonal workers, explorers, or people wanting to try something new, here is why you should try it!

The interior of our humble home.
The interior of our humble home.

You spend more time outside.

Of course you do – because you live outside! There is something to be said for always feeling that breeze through your screen door, and becoming more aware of the rustling of leaves and songs of birds. The night-sky can always be visible, and the hammock you set up in your “front yard” becomes your favorite place to read.

Your down-time takes on a new, higher quality.

Books become a primary source of entertainment once you live in a tent. I zipped through books and got to the point to where I had to write down what I’d read, because I couldn’t remember what I’d read earlier that summer! While living in a tent, it is no longer hard to make time for reading. You will find yourself picking up a new instrument or engaging with your family and friends more than ever. Gone are the evenings spent watching the tube or mindless reality television. With the unimportant distractions of modern life, you’ll find yourself living more intentionally.

Money in the bank.

Finding it hard to put your paycheck in the bank? Our decision to live in a tent cost a one-time grand payment of $120. (And this was a McMansion, luxury tent as I called it: 18ft long, by 10ft wide, and 6ft tall). When your cost of living is cut to food and fuel, the amount that you can put into savings instantly snowballs. In fact, the money that Clay and I saved throughout our time in the tent more than paid for our three month trip to South America. Talk about travel!

Views of the night sky outside my front door.
Views of the night sky outside my front door.

Should you ever find yourself in the position to which you could potentially take on the unconventional life in a tent – I highly encourage you to do it. With the good and the bad, you’ll learn so much about yourself, and you may begin to look at the things that you “need” in life a little bit differently.

Tent living in the Columbia River Gorge. Life is good!
Tent living in the Columbia River Gorge. Life is good!

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