How do you renovate a vintage Airstream in two months when you have no building experience? Allison and James not only made their vintage Airstream livable in two months while working full-time, but they also taught themselves how to do carpentry and electrical work – and found a parking spot! In this interview, we talk about how and why they worked on such a short timeline, how they approached learning, and what design choices they made in order to make the Airstream fully functional for their lifestyle.
In This Episode:
- Developing a taste for life in motion
- Have you ever heard of too much storage in a tiny home?
- The surprising reason they chose fiberglass for the shower
- Working full-time while building
- How to get started when you have no building experience
Links and Resources:
- Allison and James’ Linktree
- Laguna Swivel Table
- Exploring Alternatives
- Sailing La Vagabonde
- Sailing Uma
- Sailing SV Delos
Allison and James
Allison & James are two adventurous tiny home dwellers from opposite sides of the world (Newfoundland & Australia)! They met while working at a remote healthcare center on an island in the Pacific Northwest and have been living an adventure-based lifestyle together in tiny dwellings ever since!
Currently, their home on wheels is a vintage Airstream that they converted completely themselves (with minimal building experience)! They also live part-time in their home with sails – and during the summer months can be found cruising up and down the pacific coast in their 30ft Catalina sailboat.
A few years ago their lives looked a little different, but recent times in healthcare created a sense of urgency to pursue their dreams. They’ve made some bold moves – scaled back their working hours in their conventional jobs, downsized their possessions tremendously in order to live a minimal debt-free lifestyle, and learned photography & videography while working to pursue their dreams of becoming digital nomads.
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Allison and James both love to cook, so they knew they needed a large kitchen
That stove probably comes in handy during winter in British Columbia!
The table can swivel around and detach to maximize use of the space
An indoor bathroom was an upgrade for them!
Allison and James taught themselves carpentry and electricity for their build
They found themselves with too much storage space
The Airstream still has the original insulation in the walls
James made the drawer and cabinet pulls out of leather
Allison McIsaac 0:00
It was really rough around the edges. We were camping in it and sleeping here and there but there was no kitchen or anything like that. We would take the mattress out of the trailer we were renting and we would throw it into the van and then just go.
Ethan Waldman 0:16
Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 225 with Alison and James. My guests, Alison and James bought a vintage Airstream trailer, and had just two months to convert it into a fully livable tiny house. They succeeded, and along the way, taught themselves carpentry, electrical, plumbing, and more. In this interview, I'll ask them how they possibly did it so quickly, how they approached learning along the way, how they designed their Airstream and made the space so functional for their many interests, and so much more. I hope you stick around.
Just a quick note to say that unfortunately, James connection dropped about halfway through the interview. So if you notice that James gets quiet for the second half, it's because he unfortunately was unable to continue with the interview. It's still really great and Allison held it down. So just a programming note.
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All right, I am here with Allison and James. Allison and James are two adventurous tiny home dwellers from opposite sides of the world (Newfoundland and Australia). They met while working at a remote health care center on an island in the Pacific Northwest and have been living an adventure based lifestyle together in tiny dwellings ever since. Currently, their home on wheels is a vintage Airstream that they converted completely themselves with minimal building experience. They also live part time in their home with sails and during the summer months can be found cruising up and down the Pacific Coast in their 30 foot Catalina sailboat. A few years ago, their lives looked a lot different. But recent times in health care created a sense of urgency to pursue their dreams. They've made some bold moves, scaled back their working hours in their conventional jobs, downsized their possessions tremendously in order to live a minimal debt-free lifestyle, and learned photography and videography while working to pursue their dreams of becoming digital nomads. Allison and James, welcome to the show.
Allison McIsaac 3:23
Hi, Ethan, thanks for having us. We're stoked to be here.
James Stace 3:26
Yeah, thank you for having us on Ethan.
Ethan Waldman 3:28
Yeah, so excited for you to be here to. First of all, just let me compliment you and say how incredibly impressed I am both by your Airstream build out and your YouTube channel, both things that you learned seemingly while doing it. So you're both very talented. Congratulations.
Allison McIsaac 3:47
Thank you. I think we've been congratulating ourselves lately because we, we we can't believe how much we've been able to do in such a short amount of time. It's really been a been a lot of growth in the last year and a half. And it's it's felt very uncomfortable. But yeah, I think sometimes we like to relish in the achievements of it all.
James Stace 4:11
It's been quite the amazing journey so far.
Ethan Waldman 4:13
Nice. And we do have quite a lag. So in the in the case that like you hear me starting to talk and you're talking feel free to just keep going. You know, I'd rather hear what you have to say than what I have to say. So just just starting off with we just start with kind of some of the vital stats of of your Airstream before we kind of get into some of the details of the build like, you know, what year is it? What's the length, what's the weight? How long did it take you? The vital stats?
James Stace 4:50
Yeah, sure. The Airstream is a 1968 Airstream Overlander. It's a 26 foot trailer from the tongue to the tail, and the physical size of the actual living space of the trailer is about 22 1/2 feet from the front head to the rear, and encompasses about seven feet wide, making up 160 square feet of livable space. And it weighs in at about four and a half tons, I believe. It's the dual axle trailer. And really, it's pretty quite simple in terms of how it's all set up.
Ethan Waldman 5:24
Nice. Yeah, it's at just at 26 feet, it is so well thought out. And I love how much you've fit into the space. You know, I've already said it once. But anyone who's kind of curious about what it's like to kind of convert a vintage Airstream into a tiny home, their YouTube series on on the build is really quite extensive and really great documentation of that process. You know, when I first when I first heard about you, and we were you know, booking the interview, I kind of assumed that you were somewhere really warm. Because, you know, when I think of of Airstreams and RVs and other trailers, I kind of think in my head like, not a lot of insulation, not great for cold climates. But you live in British Columbia. You do experience cold temperatures there.
James Stace 6:21
Yeah, it's um, we usually they're associated with Southern California and around that part of the world. But up here in the Pacific Northwest, we do have a considerable winter. But where we live on Vancouver Island is probably the most temperate and mild climate in all of Canada. So we're really quite blessed in that sense. It really makes the whole Airstream living situation possible.
Allison McIsaac 6:46
Yeah, we do see people living in Airstreams in Alaska and things like that. And we're always really blown away because we know how difficult it is to be in some of these colder climates in a structure like an air stream. So that's always really impressive to see.
Ethan Waldman 7:04
Nice. How is the Airstream insulated?
James Stace 7:09
The Airstream actually has its original insulation still in the walls. There's about a one 1/2 inch space between the outer aluminum shell and the aluminum lining. And it has the original fiberglass batting insulation. So apart from that, we haven't really done anything further to insulate the actual shell of the structure.
Ethan Waldman 7:32
Did you have to do anything to fix that lining or like when you when you bought it?
James Stace 7:39
Oh, when we bought it, it was it was pretty well the original 1968 layout of the trailer. Apart from decades of user modification and painting and the occasional little bits of work they had done on it, it was otherwise a completely original Airstream and its layout and its function. But as far as the insulation was concerned, we didn't really touch it, we were under a really significant time crunch when it came to completing the build on the Airstream. And while we would have liked to have done what is referred to as the "gold standard" of Airstream restorations in removing and separating the shell of the airstream from the trailer, peeling the inside skins off and re insulating and rewiring and doing it all properly, we just really want allowed, we didn't have enough time in our schedule to really do the project to that degree. So we just kind of fixed up the problems that we could and took it from there.
Ethan Waldman 8:44
I got the sense that from the from the tour video that you ended up having to move into it before it was finished. How long did you work on it before you moved in? And then how long were you living there while you were finishing it out?
Allison McIsaac 9:02
So our situation at the time, we were actually living in a tiny trailer, it was a 30 foot. Gosh, I can't remember the name or the brand of the trailer. But we were essentially paying rent to live in someone else's trailer on sort of a communal property. And we had been doing that for I guess about a year. And for a number of reasons. The first being that we were really trying out this tiny home lifestyle, but we were also wanting an affordable rental situation. And so we were in that situation when the property changed hands and we found ourselves having to relocate pretty swiftly. So this was back in December of 2020 when the pandemic was really at its peak. And being December and Christmas, no one was really moving at that time. And we were struggling to find a place to live. There wasn't a lot of apartments available at that time. And there was actually more listings for people looking for places to live, then there were options for living. So as two working health care professionals, with a lot of privilege and you know, financial resources, we found ourselves in a situation for the first time where we were a little nervous about where we were going to be living.
I think if it came down to it, we would have been able to find somewhere to stay. But we were really passionate about alternative living and wanting to stay in alignment with our values, not really go back to paying, you know, the $2000 to $3,000 a month for a rental unit. And we basically had two months to move out. So we had a two month timeframe to, well, find a place to park.
Ethan Waldman 11:12
Allison McIsaac 11:13
an Airstream, yeah, or a tiny home, purchase something, complete the build and move in. And at that time, we were paying double rent and all sorts of things. So that was the reason for the tight timeline. And by the time that two month deadline rolled around, it was livable, but it was definitely a little rough. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 11:42
Wow, that's super, super fast.
Allison McIsaac 11:45
Yeah, we, we actually found the parking pad before we even landed on what we would be living in. So that was really, we were really happy about that, because it was so tough to find a place to park. But we were really fortunate in that sense that we met this lovely young couple and we had found the listing online on Kijiji, or something like that. And, and we reached out and wrote them a big bio about ourselves and met with them. And they basically said, "You can park something here. You know, it only is is this much space. So it has to be around 26 feet." And there's like some power lines and things like that. So it couldn't be too high. So that ruled out a lot of you know, those the beautiful tiny homes on the trailers that are like two storeys, and so we knew we were looking at a skoolie conversion or a trailer or a van or something of that nature. But we weren't quite sure what we were going to park there at that point in time.
Ethan Waldman 12:54
You had previously done some some van life. Why didn't you want to go with - I'm gonna say something more traditional. Of course, none of this is traditional. But why didn't you want to go with with, you know, a sprinter van or a van build out or a skoolie build out if you're looking for a little bit more space?
Allison McIsaac 13:13
Yeah, James and I had spent a considerable amount of time doing van life on the island and the coast of BC. When I met James, he had a 75 Ventura and so we were adventuring in his van. And there was - some it was really rough around the edges. We were camping in it and sleeping here and there, but there was no kitchen, or anything like that. Essentially, we would take the mattress out of the trailer we were renting and we would throw it into the van and then just go, you know, cooking on the campstove. And it was really definitely not luxurious, but super, super fun. And we really got a taste for what life was like, on the road. Like, as much as we tried to anchor down the cab, the the drawers and our things like stuff would just fly around everywhere. And we just got a taste for life in motion. And it was a really, really small space for two of us, which I think is totally fine. If you're living a lifestyle where you don't have to show up at work on a Monday and look, you know, polished and professional it was it was really tough to do that. And I know a lot of people do do that. Maybe. I mean definitely out of necessity or choice, but it was really hard. For the two of us with the jobs that we were holding currently, mostly because James and I he was doing shift work as a nurse and so if he did a night shift, he would need to sleep all day and there was no way I could be in the van. And there was it was really difficult to be away from our tiny home on wheels for 12 hours or so while he was resting and stuff, so yeah, I think that was the the big, the big reason. But also, we encountered quite a few breakdowns with their life in the van, and we decided, you know, maybe for our semi permanent home, we would prefer something that didn't have an engine attached just to kind of eliminate that stress and anxiety. Do you have anything to add to that?
James Stace 15:34
Um, the I would just say that the biggest thing was definitely separating the engine and the mechanical maintenance on top of the house maintenance. Yeah, by separating those two things, you really eliminate so much complexity from your housing situation.
Ethan Waldman 15:49
Yeah, that's always kind of scared me about van life or skoolies. Like if you're going to be living full time in this vehicle, when if that vehicle has to go into the shop, like literally, your house has to go into the mechanics and like, it's like, where are you going to be during that time? And what if it takes multiple days to fix?
Allison McIsaac 16:09
Yes. And so if you're on more of a flexible schedule, then that might work fine. But for us at that time, it wasn't an option. If we needed to report to work at the hospital, then we needed to show up. And so we needed a reliable living space and a reliable vehicle and ideally, separating the two.
Ethan Waldman 16:29
The design is really well thought out. And I'm I'm surprised to learn that you did it quick on the fly almost. I'm curious how you approach the design and the layout of the Airstream since you did kind of take away all the original stuff that was in it?
Allison McIsaac 16:55
Yeah, I think so after we determined that we weren't going to be living in James' van, and that we were going to be purchasing something. The next question really was, "Well, what do we purchase?" And so we looked at other RVs. And we looked at school buses. And we I think we landed at something on YouTube and seen an Airstream and we were just like, "Gosh, these things are really cool." We really loved the vintage ones, but just kind of the circular or spherical feelings in them. And we just did a quick search to see if maybe there was one in our area that we could look at. So yeah, we did a quick search. And there was one for sale here on the island. And it was actually just an hour drive from us. And so we were like, "Let's go check it out." And we just fell in love with it. And it's really funny, because most people are like, "What were you thinking? Like, why would you purchase that it was so you know, it was in such rough condition?" And it just looked, you know, pretty rough around the edges. But we just like fell in love with just the aluminum like body. And yeah, we thought it would be really fun to build something in that space, it really inspired us, I guess. But at that point, we knew we weren't going to keep the original layout because it was really closed off and segmented. And it was very dark inside. So the original, like walls and countertops and things were like really, really dark. It had been painted this kind of 60s neon green, but it was just very, yeah, we knew we were going to change it. But we didn't really have a vision for exactly what it was going to be. James and I were talking about this earlier, but during that time, we really didn't feel like we were planning ahead so much like, during that time, things felt so chaotic. And we felt more like we were reacting to things. And so we were just rolling with it, you know, we we made the offer, purchase the Airstream.
And then I was pretty naive to think that we were actually going to live in that space, as is like my mentality was like, "Okay, we're gonna give it a really good clean, and we'll live in it for a little bit and just fix a few things." And it's funny because James knew all along that we were going to completely demolish the entire thing. And I just didn't think that was possible. But I think the design really came about after we gutted the trailer and painted it and then it really started to design itself based on what we wanted and our lifestyle but also just functionality of two people living in their and what our lifestyles are like. In terms of the design. We had also looked a little bit online to see what others had done with Airstreams of a similar length. And we basically determined pretty quick that there's just endless options, people really design these tiny spaces to meet their lifestyle and their design choices. And we didn't really follow a design that we had seen per se, although it's the design we landed on is common. But what we ultimately determined is like, "Okay, what do we like to do in this space? And what will what will we be doing in here?" And then design it around that. So for James and I, we both really love cooking. That was something that was really important to us, and something we didn't want to have to compromise in being in a tiny space. And so a lot of the designs we had seen were, you know, tiny counter spaces, and not a lot of cooking space. And so that was really, our focus was to have a lot of countertops, where, you know, at least one person could comfortably cook in there, but maybe sometimes too, and, you know, and needed to have a comfy bed, and a space for us to work, essentially. And so that that was the design principle that led us to really building a lot of counter space, we have about 15 feet of, of counter space. And in, in building that into the design, it made it an open concept, because the countertops run the length of the entire trailer, essentially. And so that was it. And then we realized we needed a bathroom.
And it's funny because the trailers we were living in previously didn't have bathrooms, we were on a communal property where we actually use the shared outhouse. So we would walk from our trailer to the outhouse. And so that was a really important part to put into our tiny home was a place where we could use the bathroom without having to walk out in the rain. And, yeah, you know, kind of run to the bathroom in the night because you're afraid of animals and things like that.
Ethan Waldman 22:04
Yeah, when you don't have an indoor bathroom, and then you upgrade to having one it's like, it's a luxury for sure.
Allison McIsaac 22:10
Yeah, it felt pretty foreign at first.
Ethan Waldman 22:12
And, and I will note, you know, some other cool things that I that I learned from the tour video is that you have a specific space for your sewing machine, which I am always telling people like design your tiny house around your activities, and if like, and I always use sewing as an example, like if you are going to have a sewing machine, make sure you know where it's gonna go. And then also, you apparently have a full beer brewing kit, like stored in your closet?
Allison McIsaac 22:38
Yeah, it's funny. These are actually afterthoughts. So we didn't, we didn't build those items into the build necessarily. It's funny those items, we didn't think about them when we were designing the Airstream. Those were definitely afterthoughts. We did think of things like our skis and snowboards and hiking gear and things like that. It wasn't until after when we were living in this space that we were like, "Oh, we actually have too much storage now. We have way too much space." And so yeah, the things that we actually own. And so we were able to, you know, purchase a few things that we wanted, that we never thought we'd be able to have in this space. And James and I are we're pretty passionate about beer and we always wanted to brew our own. And we had this nice big closet now. So we we filled it with stuff like people normally do, but they're things that we really love and bring us joy. So yep, we've got a full beer kit in the closet that we it's actually a giant kettle that we take outside and we brew the beer and the sewing is just something I would like to get into. I actually haven't pulled that out yet. So that is a hobby for later days.
Ethan Waldman 24:04
A future hobby.
I asked John and Fin Kernaghan with United Tiny House Association what they love about their PrecisionTemp hot water heaters and here's what they told me.
John Kernohan 24:14
Hey, Ethan. This is John and Fin Kernohan with United Tiny House Association.
Fin Kernohan 24:19
We organize tiny house festivals
John Kernohan 24:21
Oh yeah, I guess so.
Fin Kernohan 24:22
First and foremost.
John Kernohan 24:23
We have a total of three PrecisionTemp on demand hot water heaters. The thing we really like about these and folks know this, I think they pick this up on Fin and I, if we don't like something, you'll never hear us talk about it. So the two things we noticed and experienced immediately, they took painstaking effort to make sure that it was done right and installed. And so that was pretty cool right there. The other thing is the continuous on demand hot water that just ran forever without any fluctuations or anything. I can't imagine an application, especially in our environment and our lifestyle of being the nomad, transportable, mobile, tiny lifestyle where one of these units aren't good to use.
Ethan Waldman 25:15
So another unique thing that you did during the build that that I really liked is that you went for a fiberglass shower surround. Can you talk about, you know why you chose that and what the process was like for building that out?
Allison McIsaac 25:33
Yeah, that's a good question. I think during the entire build, the build was pretty rushed. And we were, we had built every component ourselves, you know, we had built the cabinets and the drawers and the countertop and we countertops and we had learned a lot about carpentry and woodworking, and as well as utility systems and things like that. But what was actually happening concurrently. Literally the week before we bought the Airstream we had finally bought a sailboat. So that was something we had been working towards for, you know, quite some time. And we had gotten ourselves into a financial situation where we could finally afford one, because we had downsized and we're living in these, these tiny trailers, trailer that we were renting. We bought a fiberglassMonohole. And we knew that fiberglass was something that we would eventually need to learn on the boat or would be a really handy skill to have. And we also knew that it was really durable and lightweight. And so it was something that intimidated us to be able to work with fiberglass to build a bathroom. But we knew it was a skill that that would come in handy later. So we kind of just went for it. It made sense.
Because when you're building bathrooms in these really tiny spaces, I mean, they're super awkward, we had decided to put the bathroom in a part of the Airstream where the wheel well was. And so there was this awkward bench area that we had to work around. And you just can't buy a shower pan or, you know, conventional shower, that's prefab that will just fit in that space. So we knew we'd have to do something custom. And fiberglass really just seemed like the best option for our situation. And we loved look the look of tiles, and we had seen some really beautiful tiny bathrooms. But you know, tiles can also be heavy and they can break when you're moving. And so yeah, just for our situation with the boat. It made the most sense to go with fiberglass. And we're super happy with how it turned out. Honestly, I had no idea what the end result was going to look like. I was just thinking, "Well, if it's evidence of being waterproof, that's awesome." And it ended up turning out really, really nice. And that was surprising to because we were still doing the build outside. I mean throughout the entire project. We never had a workshop or a space where we could comfortably do things with you know, conditions that were favorable. We had done the entire Airstream build outside during winter in snowstorms and you know just out there sanding and milling wood and so the fiberglass projects for a bathroom was no different. We we popped a tent and we did it outdoors. So there was like bugs doing a suicide dive into the fiberglass and the epoxy and I was just like, "Wow, this is going to be a nature mosaic. It's just going to be whatever it is." But it ended up turning out really really nice so that was surprising honestly.
Ethan Waldman 28:56
Nice. Bugs caught in amber
Allison McIsaac 29:01
Well it was funny because when we had demolished the Airstream we found some pretty interesting creatures that were definitely not fossilized in the Airstream. They would be in epoxy but we found you know, rodents in the electrical and there was like a wasp nests like exotic wasps from Mexico and we found mushrooms growing in the walls like really healthy mushrooms. They were beautiful. So now we were laughing about what is what are the previous I mean sorry what are the future owners going to find when they open up the walls and yeah, they're gonna get a real treat with the with the bathroom?
Ethan Waldman 29:45
Can you share the total build costs like what what you paid for the Airstream and then what you put in financially to the build?
Allison McIsaac 29:54
Yeah, definitely. So we ended up purchasing the Airstream for $8,000. It was in pretty poor condition, I would say it had a flat tire. I think the tires were probably original, or like had maybe been changed once, but they were they were in pretty rough condition. And there was lots of mold and mildew. It was leaking. There was some, you know, soggy sub floor and it was definitely a big project. And so, yeah, we paid $8,000, we had done a little bit of research to see you know, what other Airstreams are listed as, and generally they're quite expensive. I mean, new off the lot. You're looking at many thousands of dollars. And so yeah, we were really happy with that. And the the seller at the time, she was really sad to see it go. She she actually wanted to renovate it and restore it herself. She had a another Airstream too that she was using for her business. So she was sad to see it go, but she was happy knowing that we were really going to turn it into something. And so yeah, we're both happy with that final cost. And then throughout the build, we ended up spending around $25,000 on supplies for the build, but also tools and things like that. I mean, we had we had the basic tools, but we ended up needing to purchase things that are specific to Airstream builds like rivet guns and things like that. So that we could put the rivets in the aluminum. So the total cost included things like that, as well as, you know, the price of the lumber and, and, and all that we did have a bed basically that was the only thing that we could take from our our last living situation and kind of implant into the airstream. But we needed to purchase a lot of stuff. And I think timing wise, we got really lucky because I I don't know how easy it would be to do the build now for that cost. I mean, the the price of trailers and vans and everything have gone up so much just even since 2020. And even while we were completing the build the price of lumber, every time we went to Home Depot, it was more and more expensive. So we feel very fortunate that we purchased the Airstream when we did and did the build. When we did yeah, because we were able to keep the cost down.
Ethan Waldman 32:38
Do you have a sense of of how much time like how many hours you've you put into it?
Allison McIsaac 32:44
Oh, gosh. It took us two months of us sorking
Ethan Waldman 32:49
I know you don't like to think about it sometimes.
Allison McIsaac 32:51
I think we do. It was it was a really difficult time. We were juggling so many other things. So I was working full time in healthcare and working really long hours. I was actually on call evenings and weekends. And James was picking up shifts as a nurse as well. So we say it took us two months, because that's the timeline that we had to complete the build. But I was actually working full time pretty well up until the last two weeks. And when I was at work, James would be you know, endlessly sanding like 12 to 16 hour days, and just living on ham sandwiches and you know, doing a marathon sanding and you know, then I would we were actually commuting to the build site. So I would drive up after work. And we might lay the flooring and you know, try and do some things until midnight, get some sleep, and then I would try to drive back to work the next morning completely exhausted. So it we had a two month timeline, but we didn't actually work on it for two months, we worked on it less. But any waking hour we had where we weren't at the hospital, we were basically researching or doing physical labor. And that got to be pretty exhausting for sure. Yeah, I wouldn't recommend necessarily doing it in that way. We were pretty burned out afterwards. And and it was tough to like to stay positive during that process and really enjoy the process when we were working so much. Yeah, I think for most people working on an Airstream or any tiny home, a two month timeframe is totally unrealistic. And I mean a year really is, I think, a normal timeframe to complete a project like that. Yeah, we did continue to work on it after we moved in. And yeah, it was just plywood when we moved in and we were able to really just finish everything over the next 12 months or so.
Ethan Waldman 34:58
That's awesome. So you both work in healthcare and, you know, weren't trained in carpentry. Yet you you managed to produce a pretty, pretty sweet, custom Airstream. I'm curious, how did you approach learning these new skills? And any advice for for listeners who may be maybe not in healthcare, but also not in a, in the carpentry field who are, you know, thinking about taking something on be into an Airstream or a tiny house or whatever?
Allison McIsaac 35:37
Yeah, this was something we always wanted to do. And so, you know, for me, I had spent all a number of years, you know, watching tiny home things on YouTube, and just really starting to think about what I wanted in us in a tiny home and what I wanted my life to be, but I certainly did not have any concept of, of carpentry or building, I think you'll see the videos like, I didn't know what the names of any of the tools were, you know, James would be like, Can I have this wrench and I'd pass them a hammer, like I really have no clue or concept. And I thought that we would be living in the trailer as is. But luckily, James came with, you know, he had dabbled in a little bit of carpentry. So he felt pretty confident in what we would be able to do together as a pair in that amount of time. But we were definitely not, not experienced. And so we really relied on YouTube University. Honestly, I think we got everything was Google. Okay, we need to build cabinets today. So how are we going to do that, you know, a search on the internet. For the cabinets, for example, James watched a wonderful three part series on cabinet building, and then we were doing it like the next day, we really, we just relied on the internet, watch something and then tried to do it ourselves the best that we could. And that was nerve wracking because we had that timeline. So if we, if we made a mistake, then it would really set us back. But also, it was expensive. And we were trying to stay within budget. So we got we really wanted to get it right, but we made room for mistakes. But that was really the best way to learn was just to, you know, do a bit of research, and then try it yourself. And if we couldn't figure it out, we went back to the drawing board, you know, maybe researched some more, or called somebody, you know, everybody has a few people in their life who have built something or done electrical or propane, there's somebody you can call. And so we really relied on those external people to be like, "Oh, our friend's boyfriend is actually an electrician. Should we like cold call her and see if he would be willing to give us a hand? And you know, people just they really show up for you in the most amazing way. And so that that was awesome. We just reached out to people when we needed it needed an extra mind and some expertise.
Ethan Waldman 38:23
Nice. This this question probably has, well, maybe it has a lot of answers. Maybe it has no answers. What would you what would you change? If you you did it over again?
Allison McIsaac 38:35
James and I have sat with this question a few times. And it's weird for how little we thought about the build when we were doing it like for how little we planned it out. We are really happy with all the decisions we made in the moment and under pressure, we actually wouldn't change much, which is interesting. The one thing is that the bed is a little bit too short. So and I'm tall, so I tend to sleep on a diagonal and crowd James's foot space. So that's usually a bone of contention. But other than that we are we're really impressed with how well it all turned out and, and how well we live in that space. And I don't think we would change anything that was within our control. We would have liked to have done a shell off restoration if we had had the time or the workshop space. And so we always say, "Well, maybe someday we'll do another and we'll do it, you know, the whole the whole thing will take the shell off and and get to have that experience." But at the same time I think we're moved on from it as well. And so we want to build something else and we're really looking forward to new challenges, but I think the next build that we do will be completely different. It won't be an Airstream or even a trailer, it would probably be some other sort of structure that we could live in, it would still be tiny. But yeah, yeah. We wouldn't change much about it.
Ethan Waldman 40:11
Nice. Kind of a random question. I wanted to ask you about the swivel table, which, you know, this is a podcast. So I'll kind of tried to describe it. At the at one end of the Airstream, there's kind of a U shaped seating area. And there's this really cool table top that looks like it mounts on to like a metal pipe. And it can turn and swivel kind of wherever you want it to be. So depending on where people are sitting, it can be where they are. And I'm assuming you can get it out of the way entirely if you want. What what is that? And and where did you find it? And can you talk a little bit about how how it is important to the to the design?
Allison McIsaac 40:53
Yeah, I think that that's something that James found, I believe, if I remember correctly, and I know he's not on here anymore to talk about it. But I think it's just something we stumbled upon, I'm not quite sure where we can definitely share the link to that product. But it's a Laguna table swivel. And so essentially, it mounts onto the seating area bench, but it really changes the area so much. Because if you have a fixed table, then yeah, you can't really do activities on the floor and that space. And we really wanted the seating area to be like a multi purpose, office and lounge area. So it mounts on really easily. And then you can swivel it in all directions, you can change the height. So if you're sitting and doing some work, then you can adjust it so that it's like it's ergonomic. And then if you want to do yoga in the space, you can totally push it out of the way, you know, pull out your mat and have a nice flow, it's a it really changes the space. Something that I think other people might want to add to their tiny spaces, if they can, we love it so much, we actually just bought one. And we're going to be installing it tomorrow on our sailboat, we have a big clunky table in there. And we were like, "Wow, this would really change the space." Not just for like the seating area inside the sailboat. But the the table can come off the you could have two brackets, for example, maybe mount one in your cockpit on your sailboat, and then also, you know, in the interior and you could move it from one location to another so you have one table that you can pack away. And yeah, when we do pack it up someone else can someone can sleep in the seating area. So it's really really functional.
Ethan Waldman 42:44
Very cool. Very cool. Are one question that I like to ask all my guests is, what are two or three resources that you would recommend to our listeners? And these could be books that have inspired you YouTube channels that were super helpful. It could be something related to tiny houses are not related at all, kind of open ended.
Allison McIsaac 43:06
It's funny, I would say that I haven't been completely loyal to any one book or resources. We're really lucky in the sense that right now if you want to get into the alternative living space or downsize or you know, learn about minimalism and things like that, you there's so many resources out there. Certainly podcasts have been really helpful because when life was really busy for me, and I was just commuting and things like that I was able to still, you know, listen and learn. And so you know, I listened to your podcast, I listened to sailing podcasts to learn how to sail. But I would say just very broadly, the most instrumental thing that has helped us on this journey is really YouTube and one of the reasons why we got into it is because we learned most everything about the build from YouTube University and yeah, there's some some really inspiring channels. It's amazing to see what what people are building and doing and yeah, so there's a, there's so many really great channels out there. The ones that I landed on first, I would say that got me into alternative living and in tiny home living is things like Exploring Alternatives and some of those channels that really show you the different types of tiny homes and living situations that are out there. Like it really blew my mind that people were living in Earthships and just like really, really cool structures. So that really got me thinking and got me got me thinking about, you know, not living in a conventional home because that's all I had seen. And then there were some other channels Just like, you know, sailing, love Vagabonde, or Delos, so anyone who's into sailing would be familiar with those channels. But, you know, although they're sailing channels, it's a similar theme of people just kind of leaving the status quo and just going after something that is really different are scary and they don't really know what they're doing. They're just going for it because because it's something that's calling to them and I that really resonates with me. So yeah, definitely check out those channels. If you haven't already. Sailing Uma. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 45:38
Awesome. Well, Allison, and and James (for part of the time) thank you both so much for being guests on the show today. I really enjoyed talking with you both.
Allison McIsaac 45:47
Yeah, we really enjoyed talking to you, Ethan. Thank you so much, and hopefully we can do it again.
Ethan Waldman 45:54
Thank you so much to Alison and James for being guests on the show today. You can find the show notes, including a complete transcript, photos of their Airstream conversion, and more at thetinyhouse.net/225. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/225. Well, that's all for this week. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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