Wednesday, 20 March 2019

How not to be an overtourist

It's something I wrestle with constantly: how is my work as a travel writer affecting the way others travel? Am I encouraging travel that has a positive impact? Will my stories about untouched destinations inspire those who follow to respect them - or not?

Lately these issues seem to be gaining urgency as "overtourism" becomes the buzzword of our time. I'm not going to pretend I know what to do about it, how to reduce our impacts as travellers, but sometimes I get a chance to explore this side of travel - as I did in my recent cover story for Traveller, The Sydney Morning Herald's travel section.

It's about what the travel industry is doing to reduce the pressure on certain destinations around the world and what we, as travellers, can do too. It's as much about how we travel as where, says one industry insider.

But where is important, so after talking to various travel experts I came up with a list of 10 destinations that actually want tourists, where the place and its people can benefit from tourism and where they welcome visitors with open arms. Here's an excerpt and a link to the story:


You're welcome: 10 unsung destinations where we're wanted 
We’ve all been there. And wished we hadn’t been. Standing elbow to elbow with our fellow travellers, breathing in “eau de tourist”, seething at selfie-sticks protruding from the sea of heads like periscopes and wishing, for the love of god, that everyone else had just stayed home and left Angkor Wat, the Eiffel Tower or Macchu Picchu in peace.

Overtourism is the buzzword of our time, thanks in large part to travel being more affordable and the world being more accessible than ever. And it shows no sign of abating.

Last year international tourist arrivals worldwide reached 1.4 billion, two years ahead of schedule according to the UN World Tourism Organisation. France, the world’s most popular country, is expecting a record 100 million visitors a year by 2020; 30 million people will step aboard cruise ships this year; and destinations from Rome to Reykjavik are straining under the weight of too many tourists.

Overtourism is an existential issue for the tourism industry,” says Darrell Wade, co-founder of Intrepid Travel. “If travellers and the travel industry don’t get our response right, we’ll kill the very thing that makes us all love travel.”

And it’s not just about us. By putting what’s been called an “invisible burden” on the places we visit, overtourism is the antithesis of responsible tourism, which aims to make destinations better to live in as well as to visit. Read on

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Because travel stories like these involve more than just me, the writer, I'd like to thank those who helped me better understand this issue, including: Intrepid Travel, World Expeditions, Bunnik Tours, Trafalgar and The Travel Corporation, Matt Edwards from Expedition Engineering, Andrew Bain, Rasa Ahly and Silke Kerwick.

How about you: Are there places you'll never go again? Others that you'll keep secret so they're not spoiled? Do you have strategies to avoid other tourists or do you just accept that the world is different now and we've all got to get along? I'd love to know, if you feel like commenting.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

2018: The year of coming home

End-of-year greetings to you, fellow sun-travellers. How was your journey around the golden orb this time?

I love this part of the year, for the pause it gives us all, whatever our beliefs, the breathing space amid the relentless moving-forwardness of life, the chance to glance back at the year that's been.

Barefoot, at home
At first, it's hard to see it clearly. Then markers appear out of the memory mist and a movie begins to play, seen from your own eyes. Each year unique to each of us, despite all the shared experiences and events.

I packed my travel bag less often than usual this year, by choice: to minimise my flying time and to spend more time at home letting my roots sink deeper into the rich Northern Rivers soil.

I'm not sure I have the mix right yet - between travelling to make a living and staying home to make a life - but I'm working on it. And although being home is often regarded as second-best, a consolation prize, something you do when you don't travel, particularly in my world, it's precious to me and I'm increasingly grateful for all the love, belonging and natural beauty I've found in Lennox.

Frangipani thanks
At the same time, I feel privileged to travel and want to thank all the editors and travel people (PRs, tourism organisations, tour operators, you know who you are) who have sent me places and published the stories I've brought back.

That's my 2018 in a macadamia nutshell: a year of balancing these competing, co-existing urges.

Here are a few personal highlights from it, things that made me feel lucky or happy or connected to this big old world hurtling around the sun.

Nepalese kids on the trail
1. Trekking in the Langtang Valley. This Nepal trek went beyond the usual simplicity of walking amid snowy mountains and along glacier-fed rivers, because every day we met people affected by the 2015 earthquakes that devastated the country. A reminder that while many places are over-touristed, some destinations really want, and need, tourists. Read all about it here.

Old jeans make excellent bags!
2. Boomerang Bags Lennox Head. The community group I helped to start last year had its official launch in June and has become a good news story around town. Our volunteers turn recycled fabric into reusable shopping bags we give away and sell at local shops to reduce plastic pollution. It's the first time I've been involved in something like this and I love it.

A stone-walled shed, Nepal
3. Other home-game highlights: I started singing lessons! And, as part of my education, saw A Star is Born (four times!). I read a lot of fantastic non-fiction, particularly Sapiens, Eating Animals and Utopia for Realists. And I helped my dad launch his new website, GoPal.travel, which helps people find someone to travel with. I also did a travel sketching workshop and started doing little drawings when I'm away.

Serenity at Santani
4. Serenity in Sri Lanka. Though I've been into yoga and meditation for a while, I stayed at my first wellness resort in August. Santani Wellness Resort was the highlight of my Sri Lanka trip. The life of a travel writer might seem dreamy from the outside, but it's still a life, with all its ups and downs, and those three days at this beautiful place - with its twice daily yoga classes, incredible Ayurvedic food, kindly people, and bungalows reflecting the "architecture of silence" - soothed my soul and brought me home to myself.

5. A win for sustainable travel. Also in August, I won the ASTW's Best Responsible Travel Story award, for the sixth time, for my review of Feynan Ecolodge in Jordan. It feels wonderful to be recognised by one's peers and an award like this is also a great opportunity to spread the word about low-impact travel and I'm grateful for that.

A writer's tiny house (yes please)
6. Learning how to build a tiny house. In September I added fuel to my daydreams of a rent-free existence by doing a weekend tiny house-building workshop run by Fred's Tiny Houses. Daunting as the whole idea seems to me, Fred's workshop inspired me to make this happen, somehow. Stay tuned.

7. Japan, revisited. I spent October in Kyushu, where I did a working holiday more than 20 years ago, and fell in love with Japan all over again. The best part was self-driving around the island in the world's cutest campervan, indulging my love of Japanese food and relaxing into the bosom of Japan's peacefulness.

Buddha in Dad's garden
8. Coming home, again. Last month Dad and I planted three native flame trees on his property for Mum, who died 25 years ago. That was a big milestone, not least because the life I now live began that day.

After Mum died, I left my corporate job to live in Japan, where I found my feet as a writer and travel photographer. Much later I remembered she'd been a photographer too, before she married Dad, and had always loved to travel. She also grew up in Murwillumbah, in northern NSW, just north of where I came to live four years ago - by chance, I thought, or maybe it was Mum calling me home one last time.

Barefoot love from me to you
That's how it is sometimes. We put one foot in front of the other, thinking life is linear, until something makes us realise it's really a circle.

May your new year be full of adventures, away and at home, that remind you we're all connected - to the earth, to each other, to the past and the unlived future. See you back here in 2019.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Sashimi, cats and tatami mats: 15 reasons to love Japan

What's your favourite country? People ask me this a lot. I often feel cornered by the question and end up mumbling something about every country being amazing. Or I start talking about the place I've just been.

Street art, outside Fukuoka
What makes a favourite country anyway, I wonder (sometimes out loud). There are some I would happily visit again (Jordan), others where I feel part of humanity (India), places that are special because I may never get there again (Antarctica).

But there is one country I've loved for a long time: Japan. I lived there in the mid-1990s and it changed my life. I taught English there and surfed typhoon swells, found a community of like-minded friends and lived pretty simply for a year and a half. It's also where I grew my wings and started to write about my travels.

And cosmos flowers
When I think of Japan, I don't imagine Tokyo or Kyoto or even Hokkaido. I think of hot summer days, palm trees lining the main roads, bento box picnics by the sea and friendly people. I think of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands.

A few weeks ago, I returned to Kyushu for the first time in 22 years. So much hadn't changed. And being there reminded me of some of the things I love about Japan, my Japan.

1. The people. It's never a good idea to generalise about an entire nation, even one as homogeneous as Japan (only one per cent of its population is non-Japanese). But it is basically an introvert's paradise where the ideal is to be quiet, thoughtful, bookish and sensitive (unlike the "extrovert ideal" in countries such as the US and Australia; see Susan Cain's wonderful best-seller Quiet).

A simple vegetarian meal (a rarity
in Japan) in Yufuin, Kyushu
2. The food. Where to start? I love the fresh-off-the-boat sashimi, the sweetness of Japanese rice, miso soup and genmai cha (brown rice tea). I love okinomiyaki ("Osaka pancake"), the noodles (particularly udon, soba and ramen), teriyaki anything, bento boxes and California rolls, onigiri (rice balls wrapped in seaweed, the perfect healthy snack) and so much more.

3. "Irrasshaimase!" I love hearing this when I walk into a shop, cafe or restaurant. There's no expectation of a reply, it's just the staff acknowledging your presence. There's no "I'm too cool to serve you" attitude in Japan either. People seem to take genuine pride in their work, or at least don't show if they don't. There's a lot to be said for NOT expressing every thought and feeling one has, in the name of group harmony, and makes even the busiest places feel surprisingly calm.

My own private onsen, at KAI Aso
4. The onsen! Japan's natural hot spring baths come in all shapes, sizes and temperatures. Some are social, some are rustic, some have outdoor pools and ocean views, others are silent but for the trickling of volcano-warmed water. I love them all. I even love sitting on those little stools to shower and the communal (same-sex) nudity - all for just a few hundred yen (about $5).

The "Ship's Cat" outside
WeBase hostel, Fukuoka
5. Cat-love. Japan is quite possibly the world's crazy cat-lady, in a good way. Wherever you go, you'll see cats. Not just real ones - on the streets, in parks, snoozing on the steps of temples and in "cat cafes" (there are "cat hostels" too now). But cat iconography, from Hello Kitty everything (even a Hello Kitty-themed bullet train) and waving fortune cats on shop counters to a giant cat sculpture out the front of WeBase hostel in Fukuoka. Japan's No.1 courier company even has two cats on its logo, which hasn't changed in decades: a mother cat carrying her kitten.

Hello Kitty does Hokusai
6. Convenience stores. "Conbini" (as they're called) really are convenient in Japan. Not only is there a Lawson, Family Mart or 7-Eleven on almost every corner, they're usually open 24 hours, have incredibly clean toilets (good to know when travelling) and sell everything from snacks and bento boxes to toothbrushes, shirts, undies, pens and notebooks, and magazines. Even the coffee's not bad.

Loved this tatami room in the
mountains of eastern Kyushu
7. Tatami mats. Oh, how I love the sweet straw smell of tatami mats. Not to mention the feel of them under bare feet (no slippers allowed!). Traditionally made from rice straw, they just say "Japan" to me. I love paper shoji screens too and how their delicacy inspires mindfulness; one careless gesture and you can tear a hole in the wall.

8. Bikes. I love seeing people of all ages riding bikes, day or night, without helmets (so European!), which makes bike-riding accessible to everyone: women in skirts and high heels on their way to work, children returning from school (they usually do have helmets on), ojichans (grandpas) riding to the shops, even police officers (who wear caps instead of helmets in Kyushu).

9. Hundred-yen shops. There are thousands of these shops in Japan, where everything costs 100 yen (well, 108 yen including tax, which is about one US dollar). They're way better than bargain $2 shops back home, selling everything from stationery to swimming goggles to homewares and kitchen tools. They're a great place to pick up reusable chopsticks too, to avoid killing a tree three times a day by using disposable wooden chopsticks.

Black, shiny limo-like taxi
10. Taxis! In Japan, catching a taxi makes you feel as if you're in a limo: they're black and shiny, the drivers wear uniforms with caps and white gloves, lacy doilies cover the headrests, and the back doors open automatically (Aussies, take note: one never sits up front in Japan).

11. Full-service petrol stations. Only in Japan would you be able to find someone to pump gas for you, in the 21st century. There are fully automated gas stations too, but if you're ever driving in Japan, try to have the full-service experience at least once. It's like being set upon by a Formula One pit crew. The uniformed attendants will even stop traffic for you as you drive out, before bowing deeply until you're out of sight.

Remember these?
12. It's timeless. I'm not talking about geishas and cherry blossoms, lovely as they are, but about the fact that on my latest trip I saw things I remember seeing 22 years ago. Like one-yen coins and public phone boxes and the same convenience store and department store brands. Constancy is a rare thing in this ever-changing world.

13. It's safe. I love that you can walk down pretty much any street in Japan alone, even late at night, and feel completely at ease (my fellow womenfolk will get this). It's one reason I didn't even think twice about doing a solo campervan trip around Kyushu on my recent visit.

Beautiful Takachiho Gorge, Miyazaki
14. Japanese English. It's oddly comforting to see English signs in a country where you can't read the signs (I can speak a little Japanese, but I never learned to read it). And some of them make you smile, like the Hotel Grateful, The Brilliant Coffee (a cafe) and car names such as the Toyota Athlete and the Suzuki Stingray.

15. It's beautiful. Mountains, volcanoes, cedar and cypress forests, even beautiful beaches and wild horses in Kyushu. There's also beauty in human-made settings: tatami rooms, weathered wood, wabisabi (the embracing of imperfections) and Japan's trademark simplicity.

A footnote: My love for Japan isn't blind and this post wouldn't be complete without mentioning one thing I don't love about it - the excessive use of plastic packaging.

Pretty, but plastic
Even travelling with my own reusable water bottle, coffee cup and chopsticks, I probably threw away more plastic on my three-week trip than I do in a year back home. I bought plastic bento boxes, rice balls wrapped in plastic, even a banana wrapped in plastic. (I know. I'm going to have to change the name of this blog). I vow to do better next time.

*

Big thanks to Kyushu TourismWalk Japan and Hoshino Resorts' KAI Aso for a wonderful trip in one of my favourite places in the world. I'll post more links as my stories about the trip are published - about the 10-day hike, the solo road trip in the world's cutest campervan, two nights in a boutique hot spring resort and a few days in Fukuoka, gateway to Kyushu.

Until then, I wish you all peace and a happy Saturnalia, winter/summer solstice, Christmas or whatever you like to celebrate this time of year. Maybe just the chance to slow down and take a few deep breaths. I'm all for that. Thanks for reading :-)

Monday, 12 November 2018

Adventure + Sustainability = Jon Muir

Here's something surprising about the man often called Australia's greatest living adventurer: sometimes he'd rather talk about chickens than big mountains he's climbed.

Jon on the farm, in the flesh
That's how Jon Muir opens his latest public speaking event, in fact, with an anecdote about swapping sustainable farming tips with fellow Australian mountaineer Tim McCartney-Snape at an awards dinner a few years ago.

I saw Jon speak in Brisbane last week, part of a national tour to promote a new World Expeditions trip he's running (more on this below) and it was enlightening in so many ways.

If you haven't heard of Jon Muir (not to be confused with the Scottish-American naturalist/conservationist John Muir, who died in 1914), here's a pocket-sized resume of his considerable achievements.

Left school at 16 to pursue a life of adventure. Started sailing then rock climbing and in 1988, at the age of 27, climbed Everest solo and without Sherpa support. Then climbed a bunch of new routes on mountains most of us have never even heard of, like the 6864-metre Changabang in northern India.

North Pole stroll
He has walked alone and unsupported across Australia, hunting and gathering en route, trekked to the North and South Poles, tackled various sailing expeditions, paddled more than 6000km in a sea kayak - and made award-winning films about some of his adventures.

Last year he received Australian Geographic's Lifetime of Adventure Award, which honours those who have not just lived extraordinary lives but given back and inspired others in the process.

He is also very much his own person. For the talk I went to at the University of Queensland, he wore a kilt (it's comfortable, he says), accessorised with a black singlet and several necklaces made from crocodile teeth and/or boars' tusks. His trademark mop of brown hair and beard might be grey now, but at 57 he still looks very, very fit.

Suzy & Jon Muir + chickens
He's a great storyteller, generous, witty and so utterly unpretentious it's like listening to a mate telling you what really happened on the extreme adventures he talks about.

What shines through brightly, too, is his love of simplicity and the wild, natural world that sustains us, which has led him and his wife Suzy to start sustainable farmstays on their property near Grampians National Park in western Victoria.

I could have listened to him for hours and wanted to share a few snippets from his talk. So here are 9 more surprising things you (probably) didn't know about Australia's greatest living adventurer:

1. He has peed on top of Mount Everest. Let's get this one out of the way first. One thing that sets Jon apart from other public speakers is his boyish honesty. So unlike other accounts of scaling the world's highest peak, his ends with relief of a different kind: from being able to finally pee after holding on for so long on the ascent (it's not easy with a down suit, harness and other gear at altitude).

Harvest time at Inanna
2. He grew up around backyard farmers. Wollongong in the 1960s, pre-television, was full of migrants growing food and sharing their crops with each other, which sparked Jon's lifelong desire to live close to the land.

3. He's afraid of water. Yes, despite completing more than 50 solo sea kayaking expeditions. He can swim of course, but he recognises that although we might enjoy being in and on water, we're land animals. "I'm not a marine mammal, I'm not a fish, it's not my natural environment," he says.

4. He's not particularly goal-oriented. This might seem counterintuitive for someone who has racked up so many summits and expeditions that just wouldn't have happened without at least some planning. To clarify: he does plan, he just doesn't get hung up on getting where he planned to go. "When you're at the cutting edge of what you're doing, you're not going to hit your objective most of the time. I love that," he explains. "To me the objective is the cherry on top of the pie. I'm more interested in the pie."

Yoga in the Coorong, Sth Australia
5. He meditates - with a gun. To keep himself physically and mentally in tune, he does yoga every day and meditates in the bush surrounding his property, often with a gun by his side so he can return home with dinner (perhaps a feral rabbit) as well as a clear mind.

6. Short trips are good too. You might think an extreme adventurer would sniff at a day trip or a "weekend escape" but Jon loves them. So while he and Suzy have done plenty of epics together, they also love weekends away, for the chance to be playful and try things you could never do on a long trip.

7. He has 76 chickens. An "empire" rather than a flock, he says. They provide him and Suzy with meat, eggs, chicken poo for the vegetable garden and hours of entertainment. His prize rooster is Enzo the Magnificent and apparently quite the gentleman, often finding worms for the hens.

8. Solar batteries are optional. Who knew? When Jon and Suzy took over their property, Inanna, it had an ageing solar battery system that soon konked out. In the spirit of adventure, they decided to see if they really needed batteries so for 18 months used electricity only when the sun was shining and spent their nights by candlelight. That'll get you in tune with nature's rhythms.

Big-sky-mind adventures
9. Adventure is all about psychology. People think it's all about physical strength and endurance, Jon says, but it's more about inner strength, attitude, maturity and a whole lot of other stuff, whether you're adventuring alone or with others.

During question time after his talk, thinking about all the trips Jon and Suzy have done together, I asked if he had any tips for adventuring as a couple. Know each other's strengths, he said, listen to each other (and have regular "councils" using a "talking stick") and take turns taking the lead.

Inspiration, a window on an epic life AND relationship advice from one of the world's great modern-day adventurers, what more could you hope for from a 2-hour talk? Maybe a few last words. For Jon, life is "just a series of moments" and "having a go IS success".


Big thanks to World Expeditions for hosting me at this event. The new 5-day "Off The Grid with Jon and Suzy Muir" sustainable farmstays in western Victoria are on 16-20 March and 2-6 November 2019 and will be an amazing hands-on way to learn some real life skills from Jon and permaculture guru Suzy - natural building, organic farming, aquaculture, energy harvesting, sustainable food systems, bush tucker and more.

There's also a doco about the couple, Suzy and the Simple Man, released late last year. You can watch the trailer here.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Small is beautiful: How to build a tiny house

It probably started with my first cubbyhouse. Dad built it for my brother and me, onto the paling fence in the backyard of the first house we ever lived in, in leafy northern Sydney. It was so small you could reach out and touch both walls without even trying, it had tiny stairs leading up to its tiny porch and two windows with curtains (made by Mum) and I loved it. 

Tent living in the Philippines
My love of small dwellings soon leaked out in other ways. I've always loved sleeping in tents, the simplicity of having everything you need within arm’s reach and a world of spaciousness just outside. I loved the long summers our family spent living out of a campervan at Trial Bay on the NSW mid-north coast.

When I started travelling further afield, my love of cosy spaces was expressed by staying in felted gers in Mongolia, a tipi in Portugal, safari tents in Africa, mountain huts in New Zealand, and ship’s cabins everywhere from the Amazon to Antarctica. 

My cabin away from home
south of Oslo, Norway
Then, in 2014, I spent two weeks in a cabin in Norway, alone. My tiny-house heart had found its way home. 

My tiny house obsession
Since then I’ve become slightly obsessed with tiny houses, I think because, for me, they marry simplicity, low-impact living (a small footprint means low energy use) and freedom (from mortgage or rental servitude), with a dash of earthy minimalism and Scandinavian "hygge"-ness (a Danish word referring to a feeling of cosiness, comfort and simple pleasures). It doesn't hurt that they're also cheaper to build than a regular house.

A tiny house for writers!
Pic by Inhabitat
"Tiny houses" aren't just extra-small dwellings, by the way. Most are built on trailers, to allow them to sidestep council regulations that cover fixed structures. 

They tend to be about 7m long, 2.5m wide and up to 4.3m high - to allow space for a loft bed over the living area or kitchen, to maximise floor space - with a footprint of 30-40 square metres (considerably less than the 189 square metres of the average new home in Australia). 

I’ve watched countless Living Big in a Tiny House clips on YouTube and the beautiful Small is Beautiful doco about the tiny house movement in the US (Minimalism is also great, and on Netflix). I've subscribed to Cabin Porn and read their first book (a new one is in the works, on cabin interiors). My web browser is bursting at the seams with bookmarked links to earthships and treehouses and kit cabins and shipping container houses. 

With tiny house guru Fred Schultz 
How to build a tiny house
Last weekend I took another step forward on the path that seems to be leading me towards tiny house living: I did a weekend workshop run by Fred Schultz of Fred’s Tiny Houses

It was a revelation. Fred is a talented teacher, a generous soul and a passionate tiny house advocate. A true believer in the liberating power of tiny house living, he's keen to share all he's learned (the hard way) through years of building and living in his own tiny house, with his partner Shannon and their children, in Castlemaine, Victoria. 

Fred's tiny house with awnings
in Castlemaine, Victoria
There were four 3-hour workshops over two days, covering everything you need to know about trailers, making your tiny house off-grid, where you can legally build and live in a tiny house (in Australia) and how to build one (including how to speak "builder" at the timber yard). Here are just a few things I learned last weekend:

8 things I learned from Fred
1. Humans have always lived in small dwellings (think igloos, gunyahs, yurts, tipis), well until the recent rush of consumerism and the desire for big houses. We're built to live in small houses that keep us connected to nature.
2. The recent tiny house movement began in North America, led by Jay Shafer and Dee Williams, where tiny houses mostly need to protect their inhabitants from snow and cold; Australian tiny houses, by contrast, need to be insulated against extreme heat and cross-ventilation.
3. Tiny houses are so new there aren't any regulations covering where you can build or live in them. No council in Australia has a permit system for tiny houses but it's coming soon; Casey Council in Victoria might be the first, and Fred has been working with them about it
4. Until then, tiny houses on wheels are legally classified as caravans - so they have to be registered and road-worthy. Of course they're better than caravans, mainly because tiny houses are built to last.
5. Tiny houses have to be built to withstand being towed behind a vehicle; as a result, they're often (or should be) more solid than cabins or fixed foundation homes.
6. Living off-grid, not dependent on mains electricity or town water, is easier than it sounds. It's all about solar batteries, building near a water source if you can - and composting toilets!
7. Weight is everything in tiny house land - which means weighing all your building materials and everything you own so you don't exceed the maximum legal towing weight of 4500kg.
8. You can design and build your own house, and plenty of sane people have. Fred gave us a brief introduction to Sketchup 3D modelling software (he also designs and builds tiny houses for a living).

Last Sunday also happened to be Sustainable House Day, when people all over Australia welcome strangers into their passive solar, low-impact, sustainable homes. And there happened to be a tiny house on display just down the road from where we were doing the workshop, built by Brisbane Tiny Houses.
Not the tiny house we visited
(this one is from an ABC article)

It was the first time I’d actually been into a tiny house. The one we visited wasn’t as earthy as I’d like, but it was surprisingly spacious, gave me a few ideas; it was also interesting to hear Fred’s take on its design features.

Inside Fred's tiny house
(family not included)
Tiny houses are everywhere
The next step for me is to actually stay in a tiny house, to really feel how I might use the space and what features I might (and might not) need. First stop: the tiny off-grid house that Fred built (available through Airbnb, see Fred’s TinyHouse), the next time I'm in Victoria. 

In a sign of the times, there are more ways to do a tiny house stay than ever before: Unyoked has six beautiful tiny houses in secret bushland locations within a 2-hour drive of Sydney and Melbourne, Cabn has (so far) one off-grid tiny house in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia; and In2thewild has 10 cottage-like tiny houses close to Sydney, Canberra and Wollongong.

Brendan, Tas, Christian
and their (very) tiny house
There are Tiny House Real Estate agents, websites where you can buy Tiny House Plans and dozens of tiny house builders. There's aAustralian Tiny House Association based in Melbourne.

My friend Brendan's son Tas even designed and built a tiny house model for a school project.

Liberate yourself*
If you've ever daydreamed about tiny house living, about liberating yourself from the burden of stuff and mortgage payments and paying rent and having more time to do the things you love, do yourself a favour and sign up for one of Fred's weekend workshops. (This is not a sponsored post, incidentally; I paid my own way.)

One of Unyoked's tiny houses
south of Sydney
Not only will you learn more in two days than you ever could by doing your own research, you'll get to meet Fred and become part of a supportive community (with its own Facebook page), both of which will be invaluable when you're ready to take the leap and build, design and/or buy your own tiny house.

They might seem offbeat now, but tiny houses are the future, if we’re all to share this planet in harmony with each other and the natural environment and our fellow earthlings. Watch this space.

Fred runs tiny house workshops in various towns and cities across Australia, and you can do just one 3-hour workshop or a whole weekend of them. See Fred's Tiny Houses for the 2018/19 schedule. 

*Fred's Tiny Houses' motto