Tag Archives: alternative lifestyle

Christmas Gifts – I saw this & thought of you / I thought of you… I saw nothing.

How do we get back to the true spirit of giving and receiving through this haze of Christmas shopping?

xmas-shop.pngAs an anti-consumerist, each year I freak out a little about the Christmas Season’s enforced gift giving. Gifts and generosity are beautiful things to behold, but the push – the pressure to give objects on a particular date, feels driven by commercial industries that want to sell. It’s lovely to be able to say to someone “I saw this and thought of you”, down right embarrassing to say “It’s the thought that counts, because I thought you’d like it but you clearly hate it” and totally taboo to say, no matter how true “I thought of you… but I saw nothing”.

I am notoriously difficult to buy non-edibles for, as a minimalist, traveller and anti-consumerist. If anything, I’m hoping to reduce the contents of my backpack, not increase it! I even looked through “ideal gifts for Digital Nomads” articles and couldn’t see anything I wanted, so goodness knows how anyone else is going to fare.

Having said this, almost paradoxically, as a traveller I’m incredibly sentimental. Many things I own/use/carry are from loved ones. This helps me feel connected to my friends and family wherever I am. Right I’m wearing, pocketing or using 12 things that were given to me. Not all were necessarily “presents” wrapped up for a birthday or Christmas. Some were also given as an alternative to donating, or bought for me onthe spot. It really doesn’t matter to me if it was expensive, wrapped, or presented on the “right” date. What matters is being given something I’ll use, by a loved one, so I can be reminded of them every time I use it.

There are certain ideas surrounding Christmas gifts, largely from advertising, which I’ve always found odd. At their worst, they can make gift exhange feel like a form of tax. As follows:

  • It’s not a proper gift if it’s used (especially if it’s been used by you).
  • Something bought is better than something home made (I’ve heard home made cards referred to as “cheapskate”).
  • Consumables are not gifts unless they are a special “gift box” of soaps, biscuits, chocolates which often are over-packaged and overpriced. Honestly, show me a chocolate lover who would rather receive 100gms in the shape of Santa rather than 200gms the same stuff in squares!
  • The “how did you know” factor, is all that matters. Yes, it’s lovely when it works, but there’s also an assumption that if you can’t get someone a surprise gift they’ll treasure, there’s no magic (possibly Santa’s to blame for this one – but seriously guys, he had a list!).
  • Presents must be un-wrappable (although digital gifts are getting more normal now).
  • Cost matters. Seen exactly what your Gran would love on sale for a fiver? Well, better hope she doesn’t find out it cost you so little.

It’s exactly these ideas that left my mother despairing and simply buying everyone a white bath towel one year. “Well, they can’t say it’s not useful” she said, “and if they don’t like the colour, they can dye it”.

Returning to my original question: How do we get back to the true spirit of giving and receiving through this haze of Christmas shopping? Many people just want to forget the whole thing, but my experience is that it’s a baby bathwater situation, in which loved ones are blocked from being generous. I would seriously recommend breaking the above taboos wherever needed, by having a talk with friends and family about reframing gift giving and receiving. Many people would be relieved by the suggestion of a “consumables only” rule, a spending limit, the “ok” to buy 2nd hand, or even guidance on what sort of gift you would like. Other ideas include agreeing to give handwritten personal vouchers such as “I’ll take you out for a curry”, “A massage from me”, “Breakfast in bed – redeemable Boxing Day”. Have whatever conversation it takes to take the stress out Christmas shopping/making, and free yourself from the pressure. After all, we all know the embarrassment of going to the shops, thinking of you, but seeing nothing!

Whilst this article is about attitudes, check out my next post on sustainable/anti-consumerist gift ideas at buymeonce.com, here: BuyMeOnce (stocks things that last a lifetime): Brilliant for Christmas Shopping!


Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:


Music @:




Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:


Music @:



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Confessions Of A Minimalist – Getting Rid Of Stuff Hurts!


Powder pack – check! Carpet bag – check! Talking umbrella – check! All set!

You may be surprised to know that although I’ve been a minimalist for most of my life, I do find it really hard to get rid of stuff. Putting my sketches from school and uni in the recycle bin this morning was a real wrench (even though I’ve scanned them). Giving away books I can’t get digitally and would prefer to read again is tough too. It’s also a real pain having the feeling of wanting to play an instrument that I’m not travelling with, or don’t own anymore.

So why do it? Well, I’ve always said I prefer real books to e-books, but I prefer e-books to a mortgage. Many people say that they couldn’t do what I’m doing because they have too much stuff. Less stuff = more freedom.

Initially when I moved out of my yurt in 2013 I had no idea that I’d still be without a permanent dwelling 3.5 years later. I was not prepared for the transition. I had too much stuff, and no real way of dealing with it. It was a kicker taking furniture I’d hand made to the dump to be smashed up. 

Recently I’ve been brainstorming places to travel to after France, and some of them can only be reached van-free. I’d like to be prepared this time.

If I can make my life work on a day to day basis with what can be taken on a plane, I’ll be all set for international travel. I should be able to go abroad for a few months at a time, with no van, and still live my normal life with no disruptions.


  1. Clothes
  2. Phone
  3. Laptop
  4. Guitar

Ideally the top 3 would fit in a carry on bag (I also own other music stuff and bike stuff, which I’d store because it’s too expensive to sell and buy again when I get back).


Originally Bly was told she would never be able to do such a trip. Why? Because a woman would need too much luggage?!? As you can see, she managed with just one hand-satchel. See: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/bly/world/world/html


I’d like to get used to this early, so it becomes second nature. This means going through another purge, some aspects of which might seem extreme – learning to cut my hair with scissors and ditch the buzzer, learning to exercise barefoot and get rid of trainers, and chucking all sentimental documents (once scanned) in the bin.


I want to say at this point that this is tough. This purge not only includes things I actually use, it means saying goodbye to things that I psychologically depend on as constants since my surroundings change so frequently.

Down to a point, discarding can be fun and a good release. It can mean letting go of the weight of things you don’t need. However, I feel already way below that point, and it’s destabilising. Technology is on my side – all media can be digitised, but only the information content of a document can be captured in a scan. There’s no substitute for the real letters of a loved one, or the CD signed by your hero. Goodbye to those. 

Dave Bruno touches upon this theme in his 100 Thing Challenge, in which he purges some things which used often, were irreplaceable and meant a lot to him. Overall, it was worth it because of the personal developments he achieved by fulfilling his challenge. 

So, the question is, is worth it to me? Every time I come back to the same answer – I’d rather enjoy the freedoms that I have with less stuff, than reach into the recycle bin and draw out all my old letters. Every day I’m thankful for the life I lead and daydream about where I’ll travel next.

I’m part of a new generation of people who are nomads rather than holiday makers. We’re living normal lives, but moving location often. This being the nature of my life, I have to constantly let things go. In many ways that’s a good thing, and feels like a more natural way to be.  Doing so is good reminder that there’s more to life than stuff, and that nothing can truly be held onto… but this post acknowledges that it still hurts a little. 


Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

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Exercising Whilst Travelling But Avoiding Worms

Yoga public

Thanks Stephen for asking me to write about how I keep fit on the road. Obviously I cycle, but I haven’t had the circumstances to cycle regularly for a couple of years now.

When I first became so nomadic that I had to get rid of my free-weights I was pretty gutted. For years weightlifting had been my favourite way to work out. I felt at sea having neither a cycle routine, nor any other kind of exercise routine. I couldn’t believe how rubbish I felt travelling whilst being unfit. After just a few weeks, aches and pains appearing, shoulders so tight you can’t concentrate, period pains twice as bad. Yet I now manage to keep up a very good level of fitness and do strength training wherever I am, with no equipment and no gym.


Using bodyweight exercises of course. However, I’m not expert enough to design myself a program, so I use exercise DVDs. Yes, that’s right – I take my laptop to the park, stick it on a bench and work out in front of it – I don’t care how mad I look. Other workout locations have included underground car parks (when it’s raining), living rooms, supermarket car parks and by the sea.

The best thing about it has been that when I’m travelling so much I’m sleeping in a different place every night and getting stiff on long train/van journeys, I can get myself back to feeling normal even by doing half of one of the videos. Even on my tightest schedule I’ve been able to fit this in at least every 2-3 days. When I do get to ride my bike, I’m still fit for cycling, in a way I wouldn’t be if I’d focused on running rather than full body calisthenics in the mean time.

The key to doing bodyweight exercises that simulate heavy lifting for muscle gain is to leave the ground. When you land, you seem heavier. As such, much of the exercises involve jumping or leaping from foot to foot. As a result, I’ve discovered that you can’t really do it upstairs, especially at a friend’s house. You also can’t do it on grass, since the worms feel the vibrations and come up from the ground in hoards, leaving you squashing a worm per minute with your feet – yuk!

So, that’s how to stay strong and fit on the road whilst still avoiding worms – stay on the road! Jump up and down by all means, but make sure you do it on concrete not grass!

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The Wooden House



Wooden House living room

I’m writing from a farmhouse in the Loire Valley, just having completed a 10 week house sit in a beautiful self built eco Wooden House just 30mins from here. Our host and friend arrived yesterday for a handing over of the keys, welcome meal and an afternoon’s unpacking and rearranging before we headed on, van packed to the gills.


At 10 weeks, this is the longest house sit yet, and although I’ve been calling it a “sit” that’s not truly accurate, because I don’t honestly think this friend needed their house occupied for that time period – it was more of a favour/exchange. It’s been the most ambitious house sit yet, being abroad in France where I don’t (yet) speak the language plausibly. It’s also my first try at being a true digital nomad, in that over 95% of my income for the period was from online work (Skype teaching).

DSC01545.JPGAs you can see from the pictures, we have been exceptionally lucky with a gorgeous location and beautiful house, however I wanted to write mainly about the challenges presented by a longer house-sit abroad and what I learned from them.

Van: I travelled without breakdown cover, because it would have cost £200 and I was advised that in France garages are plentiful. There were two problems in 10 weeks (that’s the type of van I own!). One non-starter – the local garage came to fix it, and one flat tire – I actually managed to drive to the tire-shop without creating further damage.

IMG_0056.JPGHaving no cover is quite high risk and I do still feel uncomfortable with it. Because I didn’t speak French, it took me two weeks to get the van fixed in the first instance, meanwhile cycling 14miles back and forth for food shopping. My bike was my “breakdown cover”. If you’re thinking of travelling without cover, it’s best with spare food, a bed and a bike in the van, not to mention never leaving the house without your phone and wallet. I learned that the hard way.

DSC01573.JPGHouse Care: With a longer house sit, it’s much more difficult to remember to put everything back in its original place. You might move furniture, or hide away precious ornaments you feel nervous about. I took reference photos, but even then it was tricky – which cupboard was that cheese grater originally from? I’d also ended up leaving my own stuff in many different places in the house without even realizing – a pain for packing up. If I did it again, I’d be stricter! I also wish I could travel with less stuff:

IMG_4460 My Stuff In France.JPG

My things. Music stuff on the left – recording studio, keyboard, guitar, flutes, live kit including amp. On the right, my personal possessions including cycling stuff (bike in van). May not seem like a lot but feels that way when you have to keep moving it. Sadly I’ve actually used all of it, so what can I discard?

DSC01578.JPGBeing in a house for longer there’s also more chance that something might break. I’d never broken anything during a house sit, but this time there were two broken glasses, a joint snapped on a chair and the plumber needed calling out when the toilet leaked. This panicked me! I prefer to leave a house just as I found it if not better, often cleaning, clearing or sorting some corner as a thank you to my hosts. Although we did plenty of that, I was still terrified. In the end I just had to accept that these things will happen from time to time.

IMG_4483.JPGFrance: The house sit was located in rural France, meaning that for the whole stay I really only spoke to 5 people besides shop staff. Although I wasn’t lonely, I felt very exposed, lacking the recourses of a more populated area. If I needed something, it wasn’t always possible to buy it. As a result, I joyfully found that the few neighbours were extremely collaborative. One picked me up from the rail station an hour away(!), after my train was delayed and the busses had finished. Another neighbour I took to work when her car was totalled. A culture of lending and giving freely was engendered by this isolation, despite the language barrier. Amazing!

Being a Digital Nomad: Focus focus focus! Many people must be imagining me leading the French lifestyle, a man of leisure, never having to go to the office. Whilst it is pretty idyllic, of course I go to the office, or rather the office comes to me. IMG_0087.JPGRight now, this is my view, sat in my van working. I’ve just had a Skype call with a colleague discussing a student’s essay draft, and look forward to writing up my lesson reports this afternoon, and preparing my tutorials for the evening. My schedule is different every week, but the most important thing is to be focused – both to be working when I am working and to play when I am playing. I’m still learning this and will write a post on it soon.

Hope this post has been useful to anyone thinking of trying house sitting, digital nomading, or other alternative lifestyle ideas.





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Cure For Loneliness? – Be authentic

One apprehension I had about spending a few months in rural France was “will I be lonely?” After all, the situation is not that different to the 3 months I spent in Malaysia in my early 20s, where I was profoundly and painfully lonely. In fact, the decision to go alone and deliberately isolate myself was in part to explore my fear of loneliness. However, when I returned, I decided I was simply a social creature, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I set about investing in close friendships further, instead of seeing my need for people as some kind of weakness.


My current stomping ground – miles of open farmland…


But here in rural France, I don’t see many people, there is a language barrier, I’m working from home and I only have contact with my English friends on the Internet. All this was the same when I stayed in Malaysia, so why did I feel lonely then and not now?

The difference is not how many people I see, or how often, but how fully I’m seen, understood and accepted by the people I do see. It’s about being able to be fully authentically myself with people.

When I stayed in Malaysia, I was only in contact with one friend in the world who truly understood me, so daily emails were like a lifeline. The main person I saw was my Grandmother, aged 80, who’s idea of who I was came entirely from her expectations of who I should be, and was vocal about it. Additionally, it was considered unsafe for me to go out on my own, as a single western female bodied person, so when out and about I had to keep my mouth shut. I was also aware that meeting a gorgeous lady and asking her on a date could end up landing me in jail. Essentially, during all my interactions with others I felt isolated.

I’ve felt this way within households I’ve lived in, and even whilst living with a partner whom I loved deeply, because there were other close relationships in my life at the time within which I felt painfully misunderstood.

There are aspects of me that may be totally outside of the field of vision of the person who I’m talking to (and show me anyone who can say different!). For me, these are the particular sticking points: fluid gender, sexuality, aspects of my mixed culture and spirituality, positivity. When these things went unseen or were seen negatively by others, it was hard for me to see them myself. Therefore, I couldn’t experience them, couldn’t present them or explain them to others, and experienced the pain of this as “loneliness”.

Over time I’ve found ways to make space for these aspects of me, to learn to be fully myself with the right people (I’m indebted to my friends & lovers for making space for this), and to find the language to explain who I truly am to new people on their own terms. I’ve realized the importance of being fully authentically myself in every aspect of my life – work, friendship, performance – an idea that is generally viewed as a recipe for disaster.

It’s said that social media and Internet communications cause loneliness, but I would argue that’s only true when they fool us into having interactions with people where neither party are being authentically themselves.

What I now believe is that the greatest gift you can give to another/to yourself is simply this – to be present and allow them to be whoever they are. This is easier said than done, as it requires a complete absence of judgment and abandoning of all expectations of who you think they are, or who you need them to be. This may also mean abandoning what you expect to be true about the world in general. It may widen your heart, your mind and your soul, since what happens next could be totally outside your current field of vision, understanding and experience. This is why making a space for someone is so powerful – it might give them what they need to finally be themselves, or to evolve into who they are going to be next…





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Design 2 – My Dream Small Van (Part Time)

The 2nd in my series of Dream Tiny Home designs – A small van for part-time living.

This is what I’ve chosen for my current lifestyle – a vehicle I can sleep in at a moment’s notice and live in comfortably for a few days at a stretch without any planning, but that isn’t suitable for full time living.

A bigger fully self-sufficient van is useful for weeks on end in nature or an urban life in which the van essentially acts as a full time home. You can stand up in it and it has enough room for a wood burner.

View From Rear Seat

Interior of my last big van, with mini woodburner.

Unfortunately it’s also easy to spot and invite hassle, on account of the chimney, long and difficult to park. Having such a low MPG, it could be prohibitively expensive to drive.

Alternatively, a moderate sized van can sleep two, may not have enough room for standing or for a burner, but will be as economical to run as a large car. It’s a better choice for a lifestyle in which long distances are covered, and cooking/sleeping in the vehicle fill the gaps between using indoor spaces. The money saved on fuel can be spent on the occasional cheap accommodation, or using coffee shops for office space.

The nightmare comes when you need a live-in vehicle that you can also drive long distances…I haven’t found a solution for that problem yet.

IMG_3519 Yellow Van

My current setup – quite similar to my ideal design but with less storage space


So, I’m currently running: a short wheelbase VW Transporter. It’s a squeeze. I’m continually pairing down my possessions. My pet gripes with this lifestyle are that it’s not possible to set up my studio speakers in a van so small, and I have to store most of my instruments in a friend’s cupboard. It’s too cramped a space to act as a useful practice room, so I’m sad to say I’ve practiced less since having a small van.

My dream small van represents how I’d upgrade my current van. To summarise, I’d double the cupboard space and buy more sports bags and packing cubes.

Van Top viewOver time I’ve come to love the simplicity of my current van furniture – one bed and one kitchen cupboard set. I wouldn’t do much to change it. At first I was frustrated with a few things but soon discovered they were symptoms of having a small van not design flaws in the furniture

  • IMG_2569The bed is too low to fit boxes underneath, but if it were higher I couldn’t sit up in bed.
  • The bed is too short (5ft), but I’ve got used to it now and lengthening it would only eat into the living space.
  • There’s no bike rack, so I have to take my bike out of the van and lock to a lamppost literally every time I want to use the back space. But actually, a rack would cost £200 and then it would keep costing by decreasing the van’s MPG, so I won’t bother.

Other things that you may have to deal with in a small-van:

  • No heating: The gas stove can be used in short bursts but that’s it really. Fortunately such a small space warms quickly, but having no wood burner can result in damp just from breathing – air your van regularly.
  • Limited kitchen: I currently have no running water and no fridge, but re-fill water bottles whenever docking. If I started spending more days in my van I’d upgrade, but currently it’s better to have more cupboard space than to have a fridge sitting empty half the time. Most foods except meat keep ok in the kitchen cupboard and I don’t mind eating tinned food for when needed.
  • No toilet: This hasn’t been a problem so far. In urban areas toilets are often available, especially when docking in a driveway. I’ve also a funnel and some piss-bottles (emptied when facilities appear). In nature, a trowel enables bears to shit in the woods.
  • Low headroom: Bad weather during a trip can mean being shut in a tight space with no room even to stand up for days on end. Solutions are to buy a bigger van, just deal with it, or go to cafes. In an ideal world I’d get a pop-top – currently out of my budget at £3.5k

Having accepted all this, until recently I still found my van too small for all the stuff I needed to carry to make my life function. I pared down hugely, but was still stuck. Then I discovered the key – It’s not about how many cupboards you’ve got, but about what’s going on IN the cupboards.

Van Side ViewCupboards with stuff chucked straight in don’t work – once filled to only ½ their capacity, everything starts to fall out whenever you open a cupboard after a rocky drive. Boxes are better, but you lose a lot of space around the box since it needs to be smaller than the cupboard opening in order to get it in and out. Stuffing cloth bags in can provide more space, but it’s hard to see what’s in them.

Recently I’ve solved these problems using packing cubes – mini nylon suitcases with transparent tops so you can see what’s in them. Sounds pretty basic, but moving over to using a combination of sports bags and packing cubes has doubled the storage capacity of my van – yes that means I can keep twice as much stuff in the same space! To give you an idea, the majority of my clothes fit into 3 medium sized packing cubes, but I estimate that at least 50 cubes of the same size would fit under the bed.

When I first got my van, I started collecting rectangular nylon sports bags because plastic boxes were too tall to fit under the bed. I’d previously thought that boxes were best, but sports bags showed distinct superiority: they could be folded away if empty or squashed into a smaller space if only half full.

Whenever I stay somewhere even for just a night, it’s easy to take most of my possessions inside since all the bags have convenient handles and shoulder straps. Valuables come inside even if I only stay somewhere for an evening, but I never pack and I never unpack.

The main improvement I could make on my current van is to add another set of cupboards to the right of the bed that reach up to the ceiling, and a small set of cupboards to the left of the bed, high up (as shown in both drawings). With my new packing cube system, I don’t even need that extra space  – it would just be for “visitor” luggage.


The Dream Yurt was 113 sqft (10.5 sq metere) and was about the right size for a modest living space. Designing a a small van will ultimately be a compromise – trading off features against each other because with less than 4 sq meters (43 sq ft) of floorspace, there simply isn’t enough room for everything. Rather have a short bed or a folding bed? Rather have a full kitchen or more cupboards for luggage?  I’d rather be able to ride my bike than give it up for the sake of more space, so I’ve gone for packing my van to the brim and packing smart. This system really shines when I’m working. It’s wonderful being able to pull my portable amp out, strap it to my bike and go for a day’s busking, or to go to a country house with one bag and set up to shoot a https://www.youtube.com/embed/b07rbdJ-UpA” target=”_blank”>music video like this one.







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Design 1 – My Dream Yurt

The 1st of three Dream Tiny Homes I’m designing and may build one day.

My Dream Yurt aims to be:

  • Comfortably liveable
  • Affordable (both to buy/build and to run)
  • Efficient in its use of interior space
  • Low maintenance (both time and cost wise)

The yurt used to live in had its flaws. It was damp. I kept my electrical gear in a cupboard in a house and barely got to use it. It had no power for the first few months and limited solar power after that. Because my setup was temporary it wasn’t possible to install plumbing or a toilet. But let’s imagine for the purposes of this design that we have a nice double skinned yurt or bell tent, on a platform, with no damp problems and good access to electricity, water from an outside tank and an outdoor composting toilet/bathroom.

Outdoor view of Dream Yurt, before I decided the woodburner should be to one side.

Outdoor view of Dream Yurt, before I decided the woodburner should be to one side.

These are my needs for a living space:

  • A small double bed (smaller is better for warmth, but I wouldn’t want to rule out the possibility of having 2 people in the bed by choosing a single bed).
  • A minimal kitchen with running water
  • A space to use my computer (likely a fold out standing desk) and recording studio, including speakers.
  • Storage for clothes, guitars and instruments, music books.
  • A source of heat (woodburners are best for canvas dwellings as they keep them dry).

Other considerations

No matter what, I’d keep my possessions minimal. Even if I had lots of space, I like the simplicity of not having to deal with lots of stuff. Digital stuff isn’t so bad because it automatically files itself and is searchable, removing both the headache of having to find things and then tidy them away. The less I have, the smaller the space I can live in, which I find cosy. The smaller the yurt the cheaper it is to heat and the quicker it warms up when the fire’s lit.

I’ve decided on a 13ft diameter yurt, which is 132sqft inside. My previous yurt was 12ft and was a little small. There was enough room for everything, but it was hard to have guests or a rehearsal. However, they usually only come in 12ft and 14ft…if I had to choose I’d go for the smaller option.

For This Design You Will Need:

09 Yurt Ad Ever Wanted Your Own Hermit

My 2012 advert seeking a pitch – Click to read

A pitch (which may also provide a toilet, washing machine, water source, rubbish collection etc.)

  • A 13ft Yurt (if they even exist) – my last 12ft single skinned yurt cost me £1500 2nd hand, and was a great deal. New, a double skinned yurt would have been £3.5k
  • A Yurt platform – I built my last with a carpenter for £300 using a combination of new and skipped wood.
  • The resources and skills to build furniture from new or found/recycled materials (Even so, you’d need to pay for glue and screws, and probably have to buy some materials for the kitchen etc –  estimate £500)
  • A woodburner – I used Parp Industries (http://www.woodlandyurts.co.uk/Woodland_Yurts/yurt_stove.html) in Totnes and got everything I needed to install the burner myself, for under £400.
  • Access to electricity run from a nearby building, or solar (it’s hard in the UK to run totally off solar energy without it costing thousands). Estimate £150-200 per month for ground rent(?) bills (including wood), council tax contribution etc…)

Total budget esimate: £4700 initial outlay plus £150-200 per month running costs


Building a yurt platform with Steve

Yurt before assembly, and the building of the platform

My old yurt before assembly


Click on the pics to read the annotations.

Bird's eye view

Dream Yurt – Bird’s eye view – Click to read annotations


My old yurt's bed and collection of bedside tables.

My old yurt’s bed and collection of bedside tables.

It seemed best to design purpose built storage around the bed. It would act as a thick layer of insulation for cold nights after the fire had died. In my last yurt, I pulled a curtain across the bed and the thermometer showed it kept the area 3 degrees C warmer – great for sleeping and for getting dressed in the mornings. Imagine how much warmer it would be in the Dream Yurt bed area!

I'd advise against a complete overhead curtain unless it's winter, since it means missing out on this view from the bed!

View of roof from bed in old single skinned yurt.

The last time I lived in a yurt I furnished it with bed-side tables, because they were often free. I also made some furniture – kitchen units and tables. I didn’t know how long I’d live that way, so wanted to keep my costs low, and not spend too much time on it. However, this is the Dream Yurt, assuming I have the resources to build bespoke furniture for a permanent dwelling.

The deepness of the storage units would mean that some stuff would be pushed to the back and be less accessible. I could use this for camping kit or other stuff that would normally be kept in a loft, but here it would still be useful, doubling as more insulation.

Dream Yurt Bedroom Area - Click to read annotations

Dream Yurt Bedroom Area – Click to read annotations


Part of my last yurt's kitchen, which I made from skip wood.

Part of my last yurt’s kitchen, which I made from skip wood.

I’ve always been fine with just one gas ring and a woodburner. Other people might bemoan the lack of oven. The kitchen is deliberately minimal and probably has more crockery pictured than I’d use in reality. Hot water for washing up would be provided by the wood burner.

Experience has taught me that it’s best if the fridge is outside. Sometimes I’ve used a cool box rather than a fridge, which works for everything but meat. Even veg doesn’t last as long, but it can be the best solution for setups such where access to electricity is limited. A cool box can however be easily picked up and brought inside every time you cook.

Having a sink with a tap would be a step up from my last yurt, but it’s still good to be economical with water if you have to bother to refill your water butt yourself. There are probably rainwater collection solutions too but this article doesn’t deal with water sources. I used to pour water from 5ltr bottles, which was a drag. These days I still catch myself cleaning a bowl with a hot teabag out of habit, even when I’m in a house.

Dream Yurt Main Area - Click to read annotations

Dream Yurt Main Area – Click to read annotations

The Woodburner

Someone’s fed-back that it would be better to include a wider and strategically angled area of aluminium behind the woodburner than is pictured in my design. They are probably right.

My previous yurt was always stacked high with damp wood I desperately drying, but this design includes an outdoor wood store which should be water tight, meaning I’d only need to bring enough wood inside for a day at a time.

A facility for drying clothes over the fire is vital, but it’s important not to store your whole wardrobe there permanently, because it would all end up smelling of cooking. The coat and shoe rack are also near the fire for faster drying. I’ve balanced shoes on the hearth for quick drying in a pinch, keeping a close eye in case they ignite. Once I had the bright idea of toasting my PJs for 10 seconds on the burner before getting changed for bed. They melted after 8 seconds, so don’t try that one yourself!

Door Area

No porch, just an ineffective tarp and no wood shelter - disaster.

No porch, just an ineffective tarp and no wood shelter – disaster.

You may have noticed that I’ve written VITAL next to the doormat. This is because there’s nothing like living in a one room dwelling to show you what hallways are for. It’s amazing how easy it is to tread mud through your entire living area in seconds. My last yurt had 1 doormat inside and a path of 3 outside. It also had no porch, which meant that as soon as you opened the door, rain poured into your home whilst you tried to get over the threshold.

It’s vitally important to remove shoes whilst still standing on the doormat and put them straight onto the shoe rack.


Having a double skinned yurt means opaque(ish) walls, so windows are necessary to let light in. They don’t need to open however, because you can just open the door.

Main Area/Living Room

The main area should be easy to transform for both work and play. Since there’s only one room in this house, it should be possible to fill it and clear it quickly so it can act as a study, practice area, gym, dining/entertaining area and more. At 132sqft, this dwelling can serve all these functions, unlike a 40sqft van which leaves me exercising outside, practicing guitar in the park and meeting friends in a cafe.

I’ve not included a standing-desk in my drawings but this is what I usually use to work on. There are a few reasons – it’s healthier, it saves space and it keeps you warmer (since you move more and more of your body is higher than woodburner level). A heavy duty music stand supports a laptop fine and then folds away. There are fold out chairs to create a social area (not my preference, but a compromise for the small space) and I’d consider a fold out table if I often had guests. It’s strange for me to think about this since I’ve not lived in spaces that have allowed me to have guests for some years, but I can imagine doing it often if I had the premises to. Floor cushions are another space saving idea but they are simply not an option because almost no heat from the woodburner reaches floor level. This is why I knitted extra thick guest socks for my last yurt.

As you can see from the diagram, the speakers are on casters so I can put them in the optimum position when I’m working on music. I’ve learned during my travels that I simply can’t mix on headphones, so if I had a permanent dwelling/workspace it would need to accommodate studio monitors.

What I’ve NOT included/addressed and why

Toilet: I’m assuming an outside toilet would be available. It’s best not to shit in the one room you live in, if you can help it. You may be pitched on land which is attached to a building, in which case you’d have access to a bathroom, washing machine and possibly even kitchen. If not, solutions may be specific to the limitations of your pitch, which is why they’re not detailed in this design.

Washing yourself: With a stove that can keep 3 pans/kettles warm at once, it would be quite easy to wash in a tin bath or basin. I tried this in my old yurt and it was lovely even in winter, since you have to stoke the fire to boil the water and can end up bathing in a body temperature room. I haven’t included this, but it would be easy to store a tin bath or basin hanging from the lattice.

Lighting: Assuming there’s electricity you could chose whatever lighting you wanted, but I haven’t drawn any in. Lightbulbs are cheapest and greenest, but candles are romantic. Candle lanterns suspended from the lattice are traditional.

Making tea lights in a tuna tin with string and a block of wax

Making tea lights in a tuna tin with string and a block of wax

Four long candles and a carefully placed mirror used to light up my old yurt, although once I stumbled in late at night and grabbed the pull-cord for the lights… only to remember that I didn’t HAVE any lights and was just pulling on the rope that had been tied in to tension the roof!

Washing machine: To wash clothes, I’d assume that it would be better to find other facilities than to clutter up such a small space with a washing machine. If you had to have one however, I’d recommend building an outside cupboard for it, similar to the wood store.

Hoovering: I’d carpet my yurt for warmth for warmth, but any dwelling with a woodburner gets ashy and needs hoovering. Unless I had a decent electricity supply and could borrow a hoover from a main building on a regular basis, I’d get a small battery powered hoover, even if it took longer to do the job each time. A lot can be achieved with a dustpan and brush first of all.

Household Running Tasks

  • Chop firewood and light fire daily if possible in order to keep yurt nice and dry (This is partly why I turned out not to be suitable for yurt living – I travel too much. In the end, I wasn’t able to light the fire enough and bits of the canvas went green and the new owner had to have it cleaned).
  • Re-fill water tank (if you don’t have a rainwater collection system or pipes)
  • Food shop more often if you don’t have a full sized electric fridge
  • Clear woodburner of ash when needed
  • Check yurt ropes at least once a week
  • Only 132sqft worth of general cleaning and tidying

Maintainance Tasks

  • Yurt, naked without it's canvas, being maintained.

    Yurt, naked without its canvas, being maintained.

    Oil yurt wood once a year – 1 day’s work

  • Treat the wooden platform every summer – 1 day’s work
  • Replace ropes as needed.
  • Waterproof the canvas every few years as needed. A big task which involves taking the yurt down fully and essentially moving out temporarily.

So there you have it. I know I won’t be building this design any time soon, but I’m bound to some day. Basically, I wouldn’t be able to do it till I was ready to settle in one place for a few years at a stretch. Hope it’s helped you dream up your own design based on what you need. Alternatively, write to me with your needs and I could always draw you a design.





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