The reaction is often the same. A pause, a raised eyebrow, a cocked head, and then:
What’s a yurt?
When I tell people I’m putting my 2200-square-foot home in the city up for sale and moving to the mountains, they generally assume I’ve joined the tiny home movement or the nomadic life of the camper dwellers who move freely about the country, parking their ultra-miniature homes in remote locations with spectacular mountain views. All reasonable assumptions, if you know me. I love the outdoors. I’ve done a fair amount of backpacking. And hiking with my golden retriever, Bodhi, relaxes and replenishes me. So it makes sense that I’d follow the trendiest of trends by simplifying my life, converting a boxcar into a compact luxury home, or driving off into the sunset hauling a trailer the size of a large dresser behind my old Toyota SUV.
The yurt throws them.
Depending on my mood — and the person asking — I might launch into an explanation of how yurts are the traditional, highly portable homes of the semi-nomadic peoples of the steppes in Central Asia. I might tell the inquirer that yurts were traditionally made of felted yak wool to protect their occupants against the elements. I might compare the hole in the center of its roof with those of Native American tipis and lodges, which allow smoke from interior fires to vent up and out of the dwelling.
Or I might just respond with: “It’s a big-ass, round tent.”
Lots of anxious, logistical questions follow:
Will it have running water?
How will you heat it?
Will you have electricity?
What kind of toilet will it have?
Will you be able to take a shower? Wash your clothes?
Will it have internet? How will you work? Are you still going to work?
What will you do with all your stuff?
And then the big one, usually tinged with a note of disbelief, discomfort, even a little wonder:
Simple question. Complicated answer. It’s one I’ve been exploring for better than a year now as my vision for the future started getting clearer. The seeds were planted before I ever recognized that I’d been preparing the ground for them. I’d already begun the process of shedding self-limiting thinking, self-diminishing habits, false and broken masks. I was learning to better manage my finances, set goals, live debt-free. I was starting a business, experiencing failures, building on successes, redefining my work. I was rekindling friendships, making new ones, letting go of the ones that no longer fit. I was rediscovering parts of myself I’d left sleeping for so long they were practically comatose.
And I’d started challenging myself: What were my values? Was I living in accordance with them? Or was I simply carrying them around like some kind of worn-out membership card to a club for which I’d long ago stopped paying dues?
Shoot: Who was I, really?
Then, recently, it occurred to me: I’m divorced, childless, work for myself, and, therefore, beholden to no one. I should really be having more adventures than I do.
Living in a yurt qualifies.
And, so, I started researching. Where should I put my yurt? What should it be made of? How big should it be? Should it have a loft? Kitchens and toilets and gray-water catchment systems and power and heat and…
There’s a lot to learn.
And, so, for this new chapter in my life, I’ll be using this space primarily for thinking out loud about preparing to live in a yurt. (Not to say there won’t be the odd poem, as the mood strikes me.) I intend to post updates here, with product comparisons and changes of direction and advice from random strangers — none of which should be surprising to friends and family. And I’ve started a Pinterest board for Yurt-Worthy Ideas, with a jumble of yurt plans, design elements borrowed from tiny homes, and the occasional meander into Japanese baths. (Because, seriously, why wouldn’t I meander into Japanese baths?)
Anyway, it’d be nice to have you along for the ride. And for the advice. Y’know, if you’re a random stranger.
This post originally appeared on my creative writing blog, Small Conceits. Because my journey to what will become my mountain home involves a different kind of storytelling, I’ve moved these posts here to retain and extend the narrative without muddying the waters on Small Conceits.