When I told the editor of the newspaper I used to work for that I’d never made more than $12,000 per year at the age of 25 he looked me in the eyes and said, “that’s impossible.” Meaning it’s impossible not only to live, but to live well, under those circumstances. People, like my boss (and others), might wonder how it’s possible to live on such a low income without either living in your parent’s basement forever or receiving government assistance. While it may be the case right now that I’m living with my parents to save up to buy my very own tiny floating home (thanks mom & dad!), I’ve never needed government assistance and I’ve been in a perpetual state of (slow) motion for nearly five years.
So, curious what kind of accommodation less than 12 grand per year can buy a girl???
Dorm style living, in New Zealand. In 2012 I traveled overseas by myself for the first time for a seasonal job at a winery in the wine region Marlborough. That year was lousy for grapes, in fact we coined a catch phrase “Vintage 2012: Bad for grapes good for mates.” This may look like your typical college party but I assure you, it wasn’t. Everyone in this photo ranges in age from 20 to 40 and everyone is from a different country. Portugal, Argentina, Spain, the US, you name it. I’ve never been to to Italy, but I lived with Italians who taught me how to make excellent pasta sauce from a can of whole peeled tomatoes, which of course we ate at 10 p.m.
One third of a van. I was working for Greenpeace as a street team campaigner and was staying at a hostel in a room where beds were constantly emptied and refilled with travelers and seasonal workers. After a couple of months Greenpeace sent me to campaign all over the North Island using that van above as a home base. In theory, awesome. Sharing the van with a very tall, very stinky Irishman and Canadian? Only awesome for a couple of weeks.
A little cottage with a banana tree.
And an incredible view.
(For any sailors reading this blog, that’s the Bay of Islands where Lin and Larry Pardey live). This sweet little abode was half mine for eight hours per week of housekeeping at the bed and breakfast next door. My then boyfriend/flatmate also worked for eight hours gardening at the B&B to cover his half of the rent. We got sick of the TV so we turned the couch to face outside. The view was always better than what was on.
A room in the cleanest house that ever existed.
Honestly probably my favorite place to live if only for what it represented at the time, a refuge from the storm. I went back to the NZ wine region last minute in 2013 for a job and wound up living in a house that was advertised as having access to the river, and only $75 per week. Well, the river was nice but the owner raised the price to $90 per week because he had bought each of us containers for our food and cleared out extra cabinet space. There were nearly seven people living there and one roommate spoke very loudly (nearly screaming) every night around 2 a.m. to his family in Sri Lanka. The homeowner also refused to turn on the heat and was not very kind to his mail order bride from the Philippines (who by the way was very sweet and made me a plate of mussels and potatoes once). I begged my workmate to ask his landlord if I could stay in the extra room in his house. It was $125 a week and I’m pretty sure the landlord checked every night to make sure I didn’t leave any clothes on the floor (it was a stipulation to living there), but I didn’t care. It was a clean, well lit place.
A handmade clay cabin surrounded by rainforest and permaculture gardens.
In Australia I stayed for free for a month helping my now dear friend maintain her gardens. I went to Australia in hope of staying longer (and because my second visa had expired in NZ), but found myself yearning to experience the coasts of my own country.
A room in wine country.I didn’t get to meet the land lady for a while because she was busy hiking the John Muir Trail (she didn’t like me very much anyway). I remember sitting outside underneath an electric sky of stars and could hear coyotes. Less than a mile away was a dense forest wilderness, vineyards and more sky than I’d ever seen. I felt like I’d finally arrived in California, the promised land.
A really crappy yet fully functional and (basically) reliable car.
I pretty much lived out of my car for a while as I road tripped both with friends and solo from California to Canada and everything in between, multiple times. When my friend and I crossed the border into Canada the immigration officer was very confused by the amount of stuff I had in my vehicle and I think he thought we might try and stay there forever…
A tiny cabin/shed on a mystical goat farm.
Some of the best six months of my life were spent shoveling goat poop, milking their udders, and canoodling with the guard dogs. This farm was entirely run by (mostly) young, open minded and inclusive people. We were in the foothills of Mount Rainier and on clear days you could see the mountain in all its glory. But even the stature of the mountain did not compare to the bounty that was this farm and the community that kept it thriving.
A prefab log cabin on a little evergreen island.
This cabin was sweet, but I’ll admit I was very lonely at the time and mostly only took pictures of the food on the shelves (I was OBSESSED with trying to have a “clean diet”). The cabin was part of the employee housing at a snooty marina where I worked tying up boats.