Stay at home. Don’t travel. Social distance. These are the rules we need to abide by in order to get through this surreal pandemic bringing the world to a standstill. But what if your home was on wheels? What if you could safely stay at home while driving through national parks, desert canyons and coastal redwoods, feeding your wanderlust through the windows of your front room? Living in a housetruck sure sounds like a good idea right about now, I thought to myself. And isn’t there always someone driving a mobile home in those Hollywood disaster movies, successfully escaping the alien invasion? But before I start packing up my city apartment and scouring eBay for housetrucks, I thought perhaps I should ask the opinion of someone who knows what they’re talking about. So I reached out to the folks behind the most beautiful housetruck of them all, The Ugly Truckling…
MNC: Who are the members of this mobile household?
There’s myself (Kai), I live in the housetruck with my boyfriend, Ben, and occasionally a little orange tabby cat called Opie.
MNC: How the heck did you end up living in a housetruck, Kai?
Ever since I was a girl, I’d always wanted to build a cabin in the woods to escape the modern world. Unfortunately, the region that I live in has experienced a dramatic increase in the cost of real estate in the past 20 years, and purchasing land was financially out of my reach. I put the dream on the back burner, until one day I was in a used bookstore and picked up a copy of “Some Turtles Have Nice Shells”. This book chronicles a subculture of creative artists and makers from the 70’s and 80’s who transformed old buses, trucks, and vans into wonderfully custom homes-on-wheels. Most of these homes heavily feature wood panelling, stained glass, eastern textiles, and hanging plants, everything that is so deliciously 1970’s. Seeing those images inspired me to one day build my own housetruck; I reasoned that if I couldn’t afford land now, why not just build my house first and find somewhere to put it later?
It should be noted that Kai has spent the last 6 years building this housetruck herself.
MNC: If you don’t mind my asking, what was your living situation prior to the housetruck?
Prior to living in the housetruck, I lived in a succession of shared flats, at one point I realized I’d moved 9 times in 10 years! I’d always disliked the fragility of living in a rented structure, there’s very little protection for tenants and almost no opportunity to improve the space you’re living in. The housetruck is the largest space I’ve ever had all to myself; in all the flats I shared the only space that was “mine” was a single bedroom, and most of those I even shared with a partner.
MNC: How much of the year do you spend living in it?
We spend the spring, summer, and fall living in the truck; for the past two winters we’ve had the opportunity to stay and help out on an organic goat farm on the north shore of Kauai in Hawaii. This year we arrived in February and had originally intended to only stay until April, but the outbreak of Covid-19 has changed our plans.
The severity of the outbreak back home was one of the deciding factors, and the other is that our whole industry has shut down completely until after the pandemic passes. So there would be no work and no way to earn money. We have gotten creative however, I’ve started doing watercolor painting commissions while we’re here. Check out my Instagram feed for details and pricing @the_ugly_truckling.
MNC: Are you disappointed you can’t spend the isolation period in your truck?
Yes and No. I miss the truckling so much, I built the whole thing with my own hands and it’s the most “home” I’ve ever had. Being confined in it would have been a good opportunity to finish off some little projects around the place, but it’s in a safe location and I know it will be fine for however long we are away. That being said, being stuck in a 200sqft structure would get pretty boring pretty quickly! Also our province has been hit quite hard by the outbreak, and we figure that being on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean is probably one of the safest places in the world.
MNC: Do you know about friends in the house truck community that are trying to make it work?
Yes, I have many friends who live “on the road” and are having a difficult time right now. The closure of public spaces and parks has pushed people farther away from resources. That combined with a travel ban means there’s no where for people to go. The lucky ones have found a place to park up on private land to wait it out, but even then, how do you store enough food and water (let alone toilet paper!) for weeks when you live in a tiny space? So much of living mobile is meant to be that you get to spend more time outside, but when you’re confined to your vehicle it gets rather dire.
MNC: What would you say to those wishing the travel in world in a housetruck right now?
I would say that it’s a fantastic idea, but one that should wait until after covid-19 disappears. The more people can stay put right now, the faster this disease will go away so we can get back to our lives.
MNC: What do you miss most about your housetruck at the moment?
I miss the community of friends that we have back home. We live in close proximity with many other couples living in mobile structures, and during this crisis they’ve all pulled together to help and support each other. It’s really heart warming to see how people stick together during the hard times.
MNC: Thanks for being the voice of reason Kai and stay safe! I guess we’ll stay put for now, and in the meantime, we’ll just leave these internet-found photos here – a few other curious little housetrucks to keep the dream alive…