Finding Community For a Nomad or Tiny Houser

by andrewodom on March 3, 2014 · 5 comments


communityRecently Tiny House Talk posed the following question on their Facebook page:

Quick question.. where would you want to park & live in your tiny house? A. On your own land/lot B. In an RV park C. Backyard D. In a Community of Tiny Homes.

As the day passed and even the next day I followed the responses. It seemed that the overwhelming response was A. Most people preferred to have a tiny house on their own land. This got me wondering about where community actually fits in to the tiny house lifestyle. And please understand, when I say tiny house I am referring not just to a Fencl with cedar siding and a skylight over the sleeping loft but also park models, RVs, houseboats, yurts, and the like. I am beginning to define a tiny house as almost anything under 300 sq.ft. Please don’t quote me on that but please know that there is where my mind is these days.

When we first moved to rural eastern North Carolina I knew that it was going to be a bit of an isolated environment. Certainly we’d have family right next to us and virtually all around us in the community. And after living in both Paris and Brooklyn the idea of “breathing room” was one I was looking forward to embracing. Besides that we were ready to expand our gardening and begin raising animals so the notion of space and room to move was not just a preference but a necessity. By month 3 though I realized that there is a huge difference between said “breathing room” and utter isolation. Sometimes days would pass where Crystal and I would see no one other than each other. If it weren’t for the Internet we would be little more than pioneers in a strange land. To interact with folks we had to travel. That means we had to get in the car and drive anywhere between 17 miles (her parents house) and 34 miles (the closest city). It was taxing to say the least and our ability to really connect with community was limited by a number of factors. That inability to connect quickly led to doubt, boredom, concern, mild depression, and even resentment and then manifest itself in weight gain, stress headaches, short tempers, and complacency. By month 6 I was realizing how utterly important community and human connection truly is.

Anthony J. D’Angelo – teacher, leader, and curriculum developer – is quoted as saying “Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.” I had ceased to care and therefore I had ceased to search for a sense of community. I knew something had to give and so I began to research the very idea of community. What is a community? Who comprises the community? What is the history of the community? What are the needs of the community? What are the relationships within the community? Sounds very academic doesn’t it? Truth is, we do this everyday whether we know it or not. Let’s start with the most simple question.

WHAT IS A COMMUNITY?

While we traditionally think of a community as the people in a given geographical location, the word can really refer to any group sharing something in common. This may refer to smaller geographic areas — a neighborhood, a housing project or development, a rural area — or to a number of other possible communities within a larger, geographically-defined community. These are often defined by race or ethnicity, professional or economic ties, religion, culture, or shared background or interest:

  • The Christian community (or faith community, a term used to refer to one or more congregations of a specific faith).
  • The arts community
  • The Anglo-Saxon (or white people, as I call them) community
  • The education community
  • The business community
  • The homeless community
  • The medical community
  • The Southern community
  • The elderly community

These various communities often overlap. A white art teacher, for example, might see himself (or be seen by others) as a member of the white, arts, and/or education communities, as well as of a particular faith community. An Italian woman may become an intensely involved member of the ethnic and cultural community of her Jewish husband. Whichever community defines your direct region, you will want to get to know if you want to connect with community. Why do I even raise this topic?

In those first months of tiny house living I was missing the larger picture. I was trying to desperately to take my whole existence and make others accept it. The result was I didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. I was a square peg trying to force myself into a hole. What I was missing was an understanding of the community I had moved to. My home in North Carolina sits on the eastern seaboard. It is complex mix of farmers and fishermen. Jeans are the attire of choice and trucks are the main transportation. WalMart is not just a store but a community meeting hall and church is to Sunday what gravy is to biscuits. Folks are skeptical of doctors and hippies are anyone that doesn’t feel like Johnny Cash was the 13th disciple. It is also a community that can put their hands in soil and tell you what will grow there as well as how much acid and sulfur are deposited there. They can make a meal out of cornmeal and anything that once had a pulse and they can generally catch fish from as little as a puddle left over from the afternoon rain shower. They love big but are cautious of outsiders. Understanding this was the key to becoming part of the community. Once I began to embrace my new home and start to understand and even adopt some of the nuances before me I began to feel better about who I was in this region.

So how does one go about assimilating into community or even creating a community?

Stay tuned to a post later this week to find out our 5 Ways to Become Part of a Community.

  • Dayna Vance Barnes

    This is a timely post for me… I am so curious to find out if there are other couples like us who have some interest in creating a sort of Tiny Community. My hubby and I want a larger Tiny House here in ON and two small portable ones in the States. We have family in all 3 places, and we’d rather move ourselves than move our homes (or own large houses–and since we’re not wealthy, large mortgages). Knowing lot prices anywhere in this area, we wondered if there might exist a place a couple like us could have just a small piece of a bigger lot, and OH MY GOODNESS…I’d dearly love for it to have a garden for all of us. I’m not talking Utopia here, just a sensible way to live. It’s a dream. I grew up in the boonies, and I am not a fan of living full time anywhere that means I have to get in the car to get anywhere to do anything.

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us/ anotherkindofdrew

      I am not a huge advocate of creating communities. Rather I am an advocate of creating community within the parameters of our pre-existing locations. Assimilation should be key and not exclusion. I fully understand what you are saying but having lived in community I come from both perspectives and choose to focus on creating community from within. Thank you for sharing Dayna an being part of the conversation.

      • Dayna Vance Barnes

        A nice idea, but how do you do so where there is no land available for purchase (except in big parcels or for BIIIIG prices?) It’s looking like tiny living in this area is just not going to be a possibility.
        .

        • http://www.tinyrevolution.us/ anotherkindofdrew

          I know that struggle. It took us a very long time to find something. You just have to believe and don’t give up hope. Created communities can absolutely work. You have to understand that when I say I am not an advocate it means I am not an advocate for my own purposes. I cannot possibly speak for everyone and every situation. I wish you the best finding your niche Dayna.

  • Robyn Dolan

    This is timely for me as well. We are 3 months into our nomadic adventure and coming from a closely knit faith and music community, as well as a small rural town, I am longing for some of those relationships that make me tick. I am learning just where I can slide in as a musician, a helper, and ??? I find it very interesting to read about some european rv parks that have kind of a community thing going on, but at much cheaper rates than here in the states.

Previous post:

Next post: