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airstream mobile home

A couple months ago, I wrote about alternative houses, including yurts and those made of pallets and recycled materials. People choose unique homes for a variety of reasons. Being frugal, rebellious or creative can drive someone to turn his or her nose up at traditional housing. Downsizing and yearning to be debt-free will also push homeowners into new territory.

How non-traditional would you get with your shelter?

Life on the road

When my kids were little, we had a motorhome for a few years. We followed the sun and warm weather. The only reason we settled down was because I wanted a garden. RV life suited me well aside from that.

We lived outside in beautiful places. We could have coffee in a different setting every morning. We stayed in the national forest, trailer parks, and everything in between. We met young campers and retirees. Every day was different, and it was a wonderful life experience for all of us.

You don’t need an RV to live on the road, though. I camped out in my Toyota pick-up for a couple years. Everything I owned was in the back – a box of books and journals, a box of kitchen items, a small satchel of toiletries, a backpack of clothes, and a sleeping bag and pillow. These were my belongings! It was all I needed. All across the US, I camped in the woods and in rest areas, and I stayed with friends for extended periods of time.

truck and mobile home

My kids are grown and involved in their own lives, so I am considering selling the house, getting a small motorhome, and hitting the road again. I wonder if this should be my next motorhome! When I decide to settle down, I can get to work in the garden immediately!

Life on the water

Another potentially mobile living situation would be on a houseboat. Instead of traveling on the road, you travel on water, which offers more opportunities around the world, if you so choose. This is not for the frugal minded, though! Boats, fees and rents are high. This is a wonderful alternative to a home in a town that you are tied to, though. Many coastal residents naturally gravitate to a life on the water.

To ‘live aboard’ means to live in a houseboat full time in a slip in a marina. Boats are hooked up to municipal water and sewer, I hope for obvious reasons. Dozens of boats dumping waste directly into the water is …. illegal, unsanitary, and everything else that put laws about waste management into place.

houseboats Amsterdam

So be prepared to hook up. The beauty of a houseboat, though, is if you need a change of scenery, unhook, start your engines and go. Travel to another marina in a different area. Slips are provided for temporary visitors, not just live-aboards. Like being in an RV, you can wake up in a new place each morning!

Some houseboaters live that way, never pulling into a slip as a permanent location. They travel vast waterways, such as the Great Lakes, the Tennessee River, and the Gulf of Mexico. This sounds like my style – kind of like having a house in the middle of 100 acres!

houseboats Little Venice London

Houseboat communities are tight-knit, but they also afford privacy. This sort of neighborhood is a wonderful atmosphere for children to grow up in. Live-aboards are there for each other in times of need, but keep to themselves otherwise. Dock parties and get-togethers are a part of this lifestyle, too. It is very social yet quiet and private.

Land or water?

RV and houseboat living appeal to those who want mobility, whether they choose to use it or not. They can move around or stay in one place. There are no building regulations and permits needed to set up home. There are no property taxes.

You have to get rid of stuff for these lifestyles, because there is limited storage in both types of homes. You also learn (or yearn?) to live with the elements. Weather dictates a lot of life on the road or in the water, since much of it is lived outdoors.

I’m a landlubber, hands down. You? What would be your choice – land or water?

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.