I've known Sarah for close to 10 years but we only met in person last summer. Sarah is a bicycle touring professional and also a tiny house enthusiast who got in touch with me nearly 10 years ago when she was looking for people interested in both bicycle touring and tiny houses. It turns out that they are a lot in common! In this episode, Sarah will share her story of how she fell in love with bicycle touring and how it goes so well with tiny house living. I also share my story of how bicycle touring led to tiny house living for me.
In This Episode:
- The various forms of bicycle touring
- Are your things bogging you down?
- Why Sarah chose not to build her tiny house and what she did instead
- Tiny living can take many forms
- Voluntary simplicity and living a life in reverse
- Lessons learned about creativity, the DIY spirit, and realizing what you need
Links and Resources:
- The Voluntary Life Podcast
- Mr. Money Mustache
- How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World by Harry Browne
Sarah achieved financial independence and quit the rat race nine years ago at the age of 34. For the last fifteen years, She’s been living her life in reverse. She started out with a husband, a house, a career, and a plethora of responsibilities. Over the years, She has simplified her life – shedding those things that bog her down from living life to the fullest. Her passions include voluntary simplicity, minimalism, financial independence, happiness maximization, and sucking the marrow out of life. She also enjoys traveling, bike touring, leading cycling trips, writing, photography, and meditation.
This Week's Sponsor:
Tiny House Engage
Is this the year that you're finally going to embark on your dream of living tiny? If you're serious about building or buying a tiny house, then I'd like to personally invite you to my online community where you can connect with other tiny housers, get your questions specific questions answered, and get support on your journey. If you need some encouragement or just need to know how someone else solved a problem, you’ll get those answers in Tiny House Engage. I’m also very active in the community, answering questions and keeping an eye on things, so if you want to interact with me, this is a great way to do it.
Sarah has some solar panels on top of her van
Sarah's custom van
A smaller closet means you have to be conscientious about what you put in it
A place to put pictures of her travels is a must-have
This tabletop slides out for use as a table or desk
The van was designed around the bikes
Clever space for a pop-up table
The bikes are on a slide-out tray in the garage
The bed is up on top of the garage
Adding some insulation during the build
This will last Sarah around 9 months!
Bike touring at the Volcan Lanin
Sarah Burch 0:00
So I'm not against things by any means. But I think it's really important to prioritize what is important to you and what brings you joy, and focus on those things and get rid of everything else.
Ethan Waldman 0:17
Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 165 with Sarah Burch. I've known Sarah for close to 10 years, but we only met in person last summer. Sarah is a bicycle touring professional, and also a tiny house enthusiast who got in touch with me nearly 10 years ago, when she was looking for people who were interested in both bicycle touring and tiny houses. It turns out that there are a lot in common. And in this episode, Sarah will share her story of how she fell in love with bicycle touring, and why she thinks it goes so well with tiny house living. And I also share my story of how bicycle touring led into tiny house living for me. It's a really great conversation, and I hope you stick around.
2021 is almost half over, but it's not too late to embark on your dream of tiny living. If you're serious about building or buying a tiny house, then I'd like to personally invite you to my online community where you can connect with other tiny houses, get your specific questions answered, and get the much needed support on Your Tiny House journey. Tiny House Engage brings together tiny house hopefuls and DIYers to share plans and resources, learn from each other's challenges and mistakes, and celebrate our successes so that we can feel less alone, while we build faster, safer, smarter, cheaper Tiny Homes and embrace the tiny house lifestyle. Whether you're a tiny house dreamer, who's still figuring out all the systems plans and everything you need to put into your tiny house. Or if you're actively building your own house right now, Tiny House Engage has the resources for you. There are professional contractors in the community here to answer your questions about plumbing, electricity and ventilation. And there's also plenty of interaction between members. If you need some encouragement or just need to know how someone else solved a problem. You'll get those answers in Tiny House Engage. I'm also very active in the community personally answering questions and keeping an eye on things. So if you want to interact with me, this is a great place to do it. To learn more and register for Tiny House Engage, go to thetinyhouse.net/engage. Registration is open Tuesday, June 8 through the following Tuesday, or whenever we get 20 new members. I can't wait to meet you in Tiny House Engage and I know you'll love your new tiny house community. That website again is thetinyhouse.net/engage. I'll see you there.
All right. I am here with Sarah Burch. Sarah achieved financial independence and quit the rat race nine years ago at the age of 34. For the last 15 years she's been living her life in reverse: she started out with a husband, a house, a career and a plethora of responsibilities. Over the years she has simplified her life shedding those things that bog her down from living life to the fullest. Her passions include voluntary simplicity, minimalism, financial independence, happiness maximization and sucking the marrow out of life. She also enjoys traveling, bike touring, leading cycling trips, writing, photography and meditation. Sarah Burch, welcome to the show.
Sarah Burch 3:49
Hi, Ethan. Thanks so much for having me.
Ethan Waldman 3:51
Yeah, I there are so many things in your bio that like just demand follow up questions. I love it. I love your bio. I've read a lot of bios on the show. But I wanted to start because it like it's tucked down at the bottom of your bio is is bicycle touring, which is something that is is near and dear to my heart as well. But it's now something that you've been doing for the last like 10 years. Right? And I was curious if you could just explain to our listeners like what what is bicycle touring?
Sarah Burch 4:28
Bicycle touring is traveling on a bicycle. And that can mean many things that can be an overnight trip it can be trip of multiple lengths or multiple years. For me I you know people always talked about "follow your passion" and I felt very empty. For the longest time I didn't feel like I had a passion. There was nothing that made my heart skip a beat until I went on my first bike tour a friend and I loaded pioneers on our bicycles and We had a very short tour to the San Juan Islands. It was just a one night trip. And I absolutely fell in love with bike touring. And it became very clear to me at that time, that that was my passion. That's what it feels like to have a passion. And so I came back home and learned everything I could about bike touring, and eventually decided to to lead bike tours. And now I lead and design trips for others as well. So it has definitely become a big part of my life.
Ethan Waldman 5:32
Yeah, so you're you are a professional bike tour guide.
Sarah Burch 5:37
You could call it that, I suppose.
Ethan Waldman 5:40
The tour that you described, you mentioned panniers. Correct? Could you explain what those are?
Sarah Burch 5:47
Yeah, those are bags that you attach to your bicycle. So you've probably seen people who've had bags on the rear rack of their bicycle, those are called panniers. And, you know, there are all sorts of forms of bags that you can attach to your bicycle, just whatever you need to carry the gear with you whether you're camping, or you know some people go credit card touring, where they just take a credit card with them and decide to stay in hotels and to eat out at restaurants. That's very, a very lightweight form of traveling. So yeah, bicycle touring comes in all shapes and sizes. I personally prefer gritty, off road touring. So I like riding off road and camping. That's really what makes me excited about bike travel.
Ethan Waldman 6:31
That's really cool. So bike touring, as I mentioned, also has a kind of a soft spot in my heart because the bike tour my bike tour, which was about 1500 miles on the West Coast of the United States, I will add for those international listeners. It kind of preceeded my tiny house, I didn't know that I was going to do a tiny house while I was on the bike tour. But working backwards. We did a lot of couchsurfing, which was still around. But it's a popular website where you can find it's like Airbnb but free. We did a lot of couchsurfing, we actually stayed in a few different tiny houses. And I think the being on the road with just the things that I need the most, that I needed the most kind of set me up to even believe that it was possible to live tiny and be more of a minimalist. Did Have you found the same thing? Or were you already on a path of minimalism? Like before you started bike touring?
Sarah Burch 7:39
Yeah, I for sure was encouraged to become more of a minimalist with bike touring. I think that is a fantastic way to it's kind of a forcing function for minimalism. Yeah, so when you are living on your bicycle and, and I more or less have been living on my bike for the last number of years, not full time, but I spend the summers exclusively on my bicycle. And so I'm just carrying everything that I need with me - my laptop, you know, a couple changes of clothes, my tent, my food. And it's just an incredible way to realize that you can be self sufficient with very little. And when you're on a bike tour, and you're getting along with with a minimalist lifestyle, you come back to the real world. And you look around and you say, wow, I have a lot of stuff people have a lot of stuff is gigantic houses and you know, the houses are filled with things. And you know what, I had a fantastic time on my bike tour, I was the happiest I've been in a long time. And, you know, there's just, I think there's a realization that there's a high correlation between having very little and happiness. And for me, bike touring was really critical. And and in making that switch for me to a more minimalist and simple lifestyle.
Ethan Waldman 9:02
Yeah, and in your bio, you mentioned voluntary simplicity. I think bike touring, and sometimes be involuntary simplicity. Yeah, you end up like, realizing that every every extra pound is just like, extra agony.
Sarah Burch 9:20
Oh, for sure. Yeah. Yeah. And that's true on a bike tour. And it's true in life as well. I mean, we think, and we surround ourselves with things and things that that those things bring us comfort. And sometimes they do. But a lot of things really bog us down. There's the financial cost to acquire them. There's also the cost to maintain them, take care of them later discard them. And so I'm not against things by any means. But I think it's really important to prioritize what is important to you and what brings you joy, and focus on those things and get rid of everything else.
Ethan Waldman 9:56
Yeah, and it seems, you know, a lot of people Try aspire to kind of live that ethos, I guess you could say of like, focus on what you love, get those things that you need to do it and get rid of everything else. But then ultimately, it's like, okay, but what about like, I have to have the like, mop and bucket in my closet are just all these things that like don't spark joy to use the I condo term, but like that we as adults just like have to have in order to, like maintain our homes maintain our lives. What do you what do you say to that?
Sarah Burch 10:35
I mean, that's true, Ethan, you know, if you're on a bike tour, I don't like to carry chain lube with me, but it is kind of a necessary evil. If you don't chain if you don't lube your chain every you know, so often you're gonna have issues and your bikes not going to be happy, you're not going to be happy. So that is true. There are some things that you need to get by but but you know, that's that's true for anything. And it's just keeping, keeping everything in perspective and keeping your focus on those priorities.
Ethan Waldman 11:05
Yeah. What, what is your preferred camping setup? Like are you tent? Are you a hammock person? Like what what's your...?
Unknown Speaker 11:14
You know, I'm a tent person, I'm I have a single tent. It's tiny enough that I can lug it around on my bike without being you know, it's not hugely doesn't take up a huge volume or anything like that I have this thing against creepy crawly things I get bit by insects. It's like crazy itchy, and I have this crazy reaction. So I just want to keep the creepy crawlies away. And there's something about being enclosed in a space. That feels very comforting to me. I'm very much an introvert and I like to crawl into my cave of a tent and recharge. And I don't know that I would have that same feeling. If I had a hammock or something that didn't entirely enclose me.
Ethan Waldman 11:59
Sarah Burch 11:59
And so, I mean, it's a tiny little tent, but it feels like my castle and my private space. That's my preferred setup. How about you? What have you done on your bike tours?
Ethan Waldman 12:09
Well, on our bike tour I've been on I've only been on two bike tours. I did the one big one 10 years ago. And then a few years later, Dan and I, my cousin who I did the first one with. We did I think a three night tour around Crater Lake in Oregon. Oh, yeah, that's beautiful. Yeah. And actually, we're now so he turned 30 on our bike tour in 2011. And we're actually now planning to do another one this summer. Probably a week. Cuz he's gonna turn 40. Amazing. Just goes by.
Sarah Burch 12:45
Wow, what route Are you going to cycle?
Ethan Waldman 12:47
Well, I'm going to pick your brain for information after we're done recording this podcast.
Sarah Burch 12:52
Okay. Okay. Be happy to give you some suggestions.
Ethan Waldman 12:55
Yes, we have we have some criteria, of course. But I'm curious. So actually want to maybe you could tell the story of how how we met virtually not the story of how we met in person, but the story of how we met virtually, probably close to 10 years ago.
Sarah Burch 13:13
Yeah, well, both stories, the virtually and the in person story, I think are pretty fun. But yeah. So when I first fell in love with bike touring, I was also going through this downsizing phase. And so I was just fascinated. My eyes had been open to bike touring, I didn't know it existed, my eyes have been open to to a small lifestyle and Tiny Homes and I didn't know that they existed. And I felt somewhat alone. I didn't feel like I could talk with us about my friends. They weren't interested in these same topics. And so you know, I turned to Google to see if I could find somebody else who had a similar overlap in an interest and so I googled I don't remember exactly what the search terms were but something like bike touring and tiny house living and your name was the first to pop up I read I think it was a blog post that that you had written or written for someone else. And so I reached out to you and and I think that was back in 2012. So nine nine ish years ago. Yeah. And we shared a couple back and forth and I had actually talked with you a little bit later about tiny house designs and loved your tiny house designing and talked with your I think it was an architect friend of yours who designed your house and got very, very close to pulling the trigger and building a house and and then I had the opportunity to live on a sailboat so I put all those plans on hold. But anyway, that is how we met virtually and I'm so glad we made the connection because it is just been a joy watching you and watching your evolution over the years.
Ethan Waldman 14:51
No, thank you and I've also enjoyed following you. You are a beautiful writer. I've loved reading your accounts of your trips. And then I'll add that we literally walked by you on the street. And to be fair, you told me that you were going to be in Burlington or in Vermont, because you were leading a trip here, right? But I think that we hadn't found a time to connect or that it wasn't gonna work out. And I literally, just like, I was like, "Oh, Hi, Sarah." Like, you were just there. I just like was down my street.
Sarah Burch 15:28
Oh, fun. That was so incredibly fun. I love serendipitous moments like that. That is one of my favorites.
Ethan Waldman 15:36
Like, sorry, go ahead. Go ahead, please. Well, I was gonna say that, like, I think that bike touring and tiny house living, like, they are both kind of novel and interesting. They, I think they, I think they increase the chance that you're going to have serendipitous events, I guess, is what I'm getting at.
Sarah Burch 15:58
Almost certainly. And I am going to take that one step further. And I'm going to say that if you live the life that you want to be living and really design your own life and follow your heart, the universe is just sprinkling. It's just raining serendipitous events. And I'll give you an example. Last night, I've had some work kind of looming over me for the last couple months. And I finally wrapped everything up last night, around five o'clock. And as soon as I did that, you know, this weight was lifted off me. And I had a couple of people reach out to me with some opportunities. And I was just like, wow, where did this come from? And I feel like, you know, the universe is just like, okay, Sarah, we're ready for you. And when you're ready, you let us know, and then we'll make the magic happen. So definitely, I agree. That happens on bike tours, and with tiny house living, but I think it's more about just following your heart and, and just being open to some cool what provides Yeah, so cool. Yeah, for sure.
Ethan Waldman 16:59
So I'm curious. So you have been interested in kind of, I'm gonna say traditional tiny houses move, you know, tiny houses on wheels. For a while. I'm curious, you know, what you've decided to do instead? Because it's because you've kind of made a decision. And you've, you've now built out a van.
Sarah Burch 17:22
Yeah. So I became interested in tiny houses before they were a fad. I first learned about Dee Williams, and an article that was written in the Chicago Tribune, which I've been trying to track down and have been unsuccessful at that. So she built her house in 2004, if I recall correctly, it was shortly thereafter that I learned about tiny houses. And they were just fascinating to me. I mean, how could somebody live in such a tiny space. And then I think that the fad, I shouldn't call it a fad. But the movement definitely picked up an interest a couple years later. And that was great to see that it was becoming more acceptable and more interesting in the common stream. Let's see it was about nine years ago when I quit my job and decided to downsize and I had a really strong push for wanderlust. And so it just made sense at that point in time for me to go and travel. So at that point in time, I say homeless, I became homeless without a home. And so I didn't have a job, I didn't have a home. There was a time when I got rid of my car, so really wasn't tethered to anything. And I felt entirely free to explore curiosities. And I've definitely flirted with the idea of a tiny house over the years, and I mentioned that I was very close to pulling the trigger on one and had an opportunity to live on a sailboat, which is another form of a tiny house. And to be honest, that was that's been one of my favorite living experiences, you know, coming up on deck in the morning and drinking coffee and watching the sunrise. It's fantastic. And so van living is a form of tiny house living as well. I had a lot of hesitancies for a long time about van living because it involved a vehicle you know, and I had been car free and loved being car free. I'm not a huge fan of the environmental impact of vehicles that are expensive, they require maintenance. But with COVID and not having a place to live. And having most of my life just kind of go up in smoke since my life has been very travel oriented. There was just this really strong, intuitive cognitive awareness that okay, it's now time to build a van and and that became my COVID project. And I finally finished the van about a month ago and I could not be happier. I'm totally smitten. It is so incredibly cool to have designed and built this tiny little place and to be able to have everything thing I own in my, in my van with me, gives me a whole lot of flexibility. And I really, really love it.
Ethan Waldman 20:07
Well, that's fantastic. Congratulations.
Sarah Burch 20:09
Thank you. I do tiny house, having a proper tiny house will be in my future at some point in time I envision that'd be a really nice compliment to have a tiny house, whether it's on wheels, or whether it's fixed to the ground, and to have a van. And then of course, to continue with the bike traveling, I think they all just really go well together.
Ethan Waldman 20:30
Yeah, totally. I think that, you know, the van is so much more mobile than a tiny house on wheels, for sure. And so, you know, I've I've never moved my tiny house out of Vermont since building it. And you know, finishing it and 2013. And, you know, I have no desire to travel in it, like that idea is stressful to think about. Yeah.
Sarah Burch 20:58
Well, and you know, traveling on bicycle. I mean, of course, I've used planes and trains to get between bike trips. But, you know, if I need to get three states away, you know, a month later to lead a trip, I find myself bicycling. Yep. You know, those 1000 miles to get to my next trip, which is totally awesome. But there are a lot of bicycle routes I'd love to do in the states that I just haven't cycled yet, because it's inconvenient to get there. But now that I have my van, it just opens up doors of opportunities for me to be able to drive to a different state or whatever to do these, you know, these smaller bike trip?
Ethan Waldman 21:41
Sarah Burch 21:42
Yeah. Yeah. Very enabling.
Ethan Waldman 21:45
Yeah. And and I see you, you shared lots of great photos, which I'll post on the show notes episode for the page. But you have you have your built in bike storage.
Sarah Burch 21:57
I do. So the whole van was designed around the bikes. There's a pullout tray and what I call the garage. Okay, so that tray was really the first thing that was built in the van. And it dictated what the rest of the van would would look like. Yep. So my, my bed is above is above the bike tray. And, you know, the, the amount of headroom that I had for the bed was dictated by the height of the bicycle frames and things like that. Oh, yes. So that is a critical piece of the van. And it's interesting. I mean, the van is very much designed for what I want. In a van I like simple, I still want to feel as though I'm camping, so to speak. So while I have a sink, and while I have water, I have 14 gallons of water, I didn't want to deal with an electric pump or drainage. So I have, you know, good old fashioned foot pump that you would have in a sailboat. And that's what delivers my water into the you know, through the faucet, but my sink, it doesn't have a drain in it. It's just a simple, you know, container that I can lift out and dump. You know, also I don't have a flushing toilet or a composting toilet, I just have a five gallon bucket and I like it that way. So it's not a van that's necessarily for everyone. But it's exactly what I want for now, and I want to keep things simple.
Ethan Waldman 23:23
I'd like to tell you a little more about Tiny House Engage my private online community for people who are planning, building or living tiny. Tiny House Engage members are also able to listen live as I record these podcasts and interviews and ask questions of our guests. So if you're a big fan of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, joining Tiny House Engage is a great way to get a look inside and get access to episodes weeks or even months before they go live on the feed. To learn more and register for Tiny House Engage, head over to thetinyhouse.net/engage. Registration will open Tuesday, June 8, and will be open until we get 20 new members or for one week, whichever comes first. I can't wait to meet you in Tiny House Engage. And I know you'll love your new tiny house community. I'll see you there. That website again is thetinyhouse.net/engage.
So the you know the name of this podcast is the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast. And what I've been trying to get at over over these years of doing the show is is kind of bringing people the lifestyles that tiny house living can kind of help you achieve. And so I'm curious if you could talk a little bit about how you see living tiny living, you know, voluntarily simplicity or living in voluntary simplicity. How does that, you know, how does that enable and complement your lifestyle?
Sarah Burch 24:58
Yeah, well you know, there's there's So many forms as you were alluding to so many forms of tiny house or tiny living, what we'll get rid of the word house and just say tiny living. And you know, living on a bicycle is one form where you're just living out of a couple of pioneers. Living on a tiny house trailer is another form living in a van is another form. And I think the important part is that you keep your possessions few, you know, small and, and that just gives you tons of flexibility as to what you can do with your life. It's there's not a whole lot of cost, so to speak, and I don't necessarily mean financially, but to making a change and experimenting with a different kind of lifestyle. So I'll tell you, with my lifestyle, the last couple years, I've spent the summer living on my bike bike traveling, I've spent the winter months, basically chasing summer so I've gone to the southern hemisphere to live and in those instances that basically lived out of a backpack, which is living with even less than I had on a bicycle. And and now that I have the van, I guess that's that's gonna be a compliment to my travels here in the States. And, you know, having a band, this is the largest space that I've been in in a number of years. And I certainly had to acquire a lot of things, the van being the biggest one to make this happen. But I still feel that my lifestyle gives me the flexibility to be able to make a change. If I wanted to move to Vermont tomorrow, I could do that very easily, because I'm not tied down to a lot of physical or other obligations, where I am right now. And, and that's just so absolutely freeing. feels fantastic.
Ethan Waldman 26:50
Yeah, I love that, I think that you've really hit upon. That sounds like for you that flexibility. And the ability to change if you want to is really important. For sure.
Sarah Burch 27:03
Another thing I didn't mention is that I also house it, ah, kind of in the old seasons, and that really fills my need for my love for animals. I love animals, but just having my own is a little complicated with with a meandering lifestyle. Sure, but it also fills that need to shouldn't say that I have a need to be in a home. But it's certainly luxurious to be in a full size home. And to be able to walk into a backyard and pick something from a guard, you know, someone's garden. Yeah. And, and so it's nice just to kind of, to live in that world, every once in a while. And, you know, I'm just having this very flexible lifestyle gives me that opportunity to bounce around between bike touring, and how sitting and traveling and van living. Yeah, and I love it. It just keeps life spicy.
Ethan Waldman 27:57
Like that. Yeah. So you mentioned, I love that the concept of living your life in reverse, you know, like starting off with lots of things and like getting rid of them. I'm curious, did you set out to do that? Or did did you kind of look back and say, "Wow, I like kind of funny, I lived my life in reverse here. I started off with all these like responsibilities and things and now I have less."?
Sarah Burch 28:28
Yeah, it's, you know, I, until I was in my mid 20s. And really started thinking about how I was living my life, I was just living my life according to society's expectations. So, you know, I went went to college, and when I graduated, I got a ring on my finger and I got married, and I bought a house and we you know, tried to start a family. And that's just what you do. That's what, you know, kind of the trend of society you get on this roller coaster, and you just follow it. And, and I was doing very well at those things. You know, I had a great job. And, you know, my marriage was going well, and all of that. And then I just started thinking like, is this really what I want? I wasn't truly happy. I felt like there was this underlying current of just constant unease and just unhappiness. And really what kicked off this whole journey for me was learning about that concept of, of voluntary simplicity, that those were the two words that really kicked all of this off. And for me, that was just pivotal. And I started really thinking about my life and thinking about what I really wanted and realizing that that the things that society told me to do were nothing that I was interested in doing. Yeah. And, um, and so it took me a number of years to kind of suss out what I wanted and to be able to unravel my life and and kind of My life and and create the freedom that I've had. But I've been at it for nine years now, I think the biggest concern was the financial concern.
Ethan Waldman 30:09
Sarah Burch 30:10
Because you know, leaving a stable source of income is kind of scary. And the first year, I had my fingers and toes crossed, and was super frugal, and I continue to be super frugal. And you know, some people look at that as kind of a pain point. I love it myself, I think it's a great way to be conscientious and deliberate about all the decisions you're making. Yeah. But yeah, I certainly did not set out to live my life in reverse. It's just kind of something that happened. And I think it's wonderful nowadays, that there are so many resources available to people, so many inspirational blogs and websites and podcasts are yours included, that kind of inform people that there's a different way to live. And had I been aware of these different lifestyles, when I was younger, I probably would have gone down one of those paths, but at the same time, I may not have been in the same financial position. Had I not, you know, had my career days. And so it's, it's interesting to see how life has unraveled and, and I'm really grateful for it all, all the good and bad experiences have brought me to where I am today.
Ethan Waldman 31:26
Nice. You, you also do some teaching around, like, bicycle touring and house sitting right?
Sarah Burch 31:37
Yeah, you know, it's been a little while since I've done that, um, when I first started, well, I love teaching. I taught in grad school, and absolutely loved it. And when I found my passion by touring, I thought, "Gosh, I just want to tell more people about this." And, and so I created a little curriculum for, you know, the house sitting and bike touring, and taught some folks about that. And nowadays, there are a lot of courses that are available and how to bike bike tour. But I love teaching I I tutor on the side, which, which I love to do, because I can do it from anywhere in the world, you know, on my own schedule, and it fills my little, my need to to want to share and help others grow.
Ethan Waldman 32:24
Sarah Burch 32:25
So that's, that's another thing that's really great about this, this lifestyle is, you know, I have so many interests and so many curiosities that are widespread, and it's nice to be able to have time to dabble in all of them.
Ethan Waldman 32:37
Sarah Burch 32:38
And if I had a full time job, I wouldn't really have the time or energy to do that. So it's nice. Nice to have the flexibility.
Ethan Waldman 32:47
Yeah, because, you know, bike touring, kind of rewards a longer trip, at least that's what I thought, like, because I found the first like, two, I'm gonna say the first four days, just like, even though we had been kind of physically conditioning ourselves as best we could doing a lot of rides like, nothing prepares you for riding 50 miles a day with 50 pounds of stuff. Then doing it like it just was just like miserable for the first couple of days.
Sarah Burch 33:21
Well, yeah, I mean physically - but also mentally. I mean, if you're, you know, taking a vacation from work, it takes time to decompress. Yeah, and, you know, if you only have a one week trip, you kind of have a forced decompression, and you know, maybe by the middle of the week are able to enjoy it. By the end of the week, you're already thinking, "Okay, I need to go home and do laundry and get everything to go back to work." You know, ready, but yeah, yeah, I definitely agree. There's, with any bike tour that I've done, it always takes me a couple of days just to get into the swing of things nice, both physically and mentally. But once you're there, it's just really fantastic. You know, I would I, for people who aren't familiar with bike touring, I like to talk about how it is to travel in a car. When you're traveling in a car in the summertime, your windows are rolled up and the scenery is just a blur. It's just flying by you. But when you're on a bicycle, you get to really your senses are wide open, you get to smell things and taste things and see things that you don't otherwise see. So your first big trip was along the Pacific coast and mine was as well. And I don't recall if you remember, but down by San Simeon and Southern California, there are a bunch of elephant seals on the beach. And if you're riding South cycling south along the coast, you are at the perfect vantage point to see these elephant seals and in fact, you can smell them before you can see them. But if you're in a car and you're whizzing by, there's no way that you can see, down on took like over the guardrail and down onto the beach to see these elephant seals. Yeah. And, you know, that's what bicycle touring is like all the time you just see things you cannot see from a car. Yeah. And it's just incredible how much richer and more colorful The world is. When, when you're really fully in the moment, yeah,
Ethan Waldman 35:24
There's a real, like, I think there's a parallel there, that to living tiny in that. It's like, when you're bike touring you, you do less, like you cover less ground. And so therefore, you can't travel as far. But But you see so much more for sure. And your, as you mentioned, you're outside, you're like in your in it, if it's raining, you're getting rained on if it's, you know, if you're biking past a bunch of cows, you smell them. And in some ways, like, it's that way in tiny house living as well, because you're kind of much more just closer to being outside. And you go outside much more when you're living tiny. At least that's what I've found.
Sarah Burch 36:11
Yeah, for sure. And you know, what I love about bike touring is and tiny living is that your, your needs really become very animalistic, so to speak. Yeah. But the thing is, is this, this is more so true for bike touring, your concerns are about finding food, and shelter. And of course, making physical progress every day. Yeah, but when you let all of the annoyances of just everyday living, you know, electricity bills, and you know, dentist appointments and things like that, when that all fades away, and you just focus on the moment and focus on your human needs. It's just, I just feel like that's how we're meant to live. You know, I love technology. I love the advances in where we are in society. But I feel like we've become so disconnected with being human beings. Yeah. And I just want to do a lot more of the being part of being a human being.
Ethan Waldman 37:13
I love that. You've got so many nice, you just like say things in a really accessible and inspiring way. I think people, this is a very different conversation than I usually have on the show. But I think that people are going to really like it. Oh, thank you. Appreciate that. I was curious to ask, like, Are there any things that you've learned from bicycle touring that you think have helped you in living tiny, that we haven't already talked about?
Sarah Burch 37:43
Ah, man, um, you know, I think this is something that comes to mind is trying to think about things in terms of their multi multi faceted functionality. I think this these days, there are so many products out there that are very specific for one particular task or accomplish a particular thing. And with a little bit of creativity and MacGyver ism, I think that you can use one single thing and have multiple applications. And that's definitely true for bike touring. definitely true for tiny living. And if you think about it, it's more kind of interesting, more fun to live that way. Yep. But just that the impact that you have your footprint is so much smaller and so much more deliberate and intentional. And, and I and bike touring has really taught me that and I've applied that to all areas of my life. Nice. Nice. Yeah. How about you? Have you have you found any tidbits of wisdom from your bike touring days that you've applied to tiny house living?
Ethan Waldman 38:59
I mean, I think that a few things come to mind. You know, tiny, my tiny house doesn't have a very big fridge or so like, figuring out how figuring out a couple of meals that are small and easy to make. That you enjoy eating. Yeah, was really important on the bike tour. And then that kind of translates over the life of like, Oh, I don't need a giant fridge full of food. I just like neat oatmeal and cinnamon. And then like some hummus and maybe some pita bread or something it just like you kind of put together
Sarah Burch 39:40
Yes, those are the base and you know that's true, not just for food, but for clothes to like find a few of your favorite articles of clothing, you know, things you put on and they just feel really good and they're functional too. And maybe you have two versions of those and you know there it is while I simplicity. Yep. That's great. That's a great takeaway. Yes, for sure.
Ethan Waldman 40:03
And then I think the other one is like the fix it yourself kind of mentality because contractors can be kind of sometimes unwilling to work on a tiny house for various reasons, either it's too small of a job. Or they just don't you know, what is this thing an RV, I don't work on those. So it was just like, you end up like getting nitty gritty with plumbing and with electrical, and just like all these things that most people don't ever deal with. And I remember, early on in my tour, I, my touring bike is a like a 1997. No. 1991 Cannondale T700. So it's an old bike. Oh, yeah. And I bought it at a bike swap in Burlington. And I remember when I started the tour in Seattle, my braking wasn't awesome. And I like kind of stuck my fingernail in in the brake pads and realize that they were just like, so old, like the rubber really hardened and like, sucked. So I went to a bike shop and bought brake pads. And the the guy at the bike shop was great. He was like, super psyched for us that we were going to go touring. And I was like, I bought the brake pads. And I was like, I don't remember if I asked him. I didn't, I didn't want them to put it on for me, because like, I wanted to save money. But like, I started asking him some questions about how to do it. And he was just like, you're gonna need to figure it out. Like not in a mean way. But in a like, you're on this bike tour, you're gonna have to repair your bike. So like, you're gonna have to figure out how to put these brake pads on. Yeah. And like, I so appreciated that he did that. Because I did I figured out how to put the brake pads on it wasn't hard. And that is kind of a mentality from bike touring of the like, fix it yourself, figure out, you know, carry some tools, be able to fix your gear be able to fix your house in the field?
Sarah Burch 42:01
Oh, for sure. Yeah, I with my van I had a friend of mine helped me design the electrical system. So I have some solar panels on top and an inverter and, you know, all sorts of cables and circuit breakers and all this and I am not naturally electronically inclined by any means. But you know, I'm living in this band on my own. And if something goes haywire, I need to be able to fix it. And so it was kind of kind of that same sort of situation that you had, where I was like, Oh, I just have to learn this. And so yeah, I went one afternoon and sat in front of my electrical system and labeled every single wire and then made a diagram of everything, and then asked that heck of questions out of my friends. You know, what if this happens, what if that happens? What do I do? And now I feel like I have a fairly good grasp of the electrical system. And, you know, that's something I wouldn't have thought I ever cared or whatever learned to know. But I'm really glad I feel very empowered by that. Nice.
Ethan Waldman 43:03
Yeah. Well, one thing that I like to ask all my guests is, are there any books or other resources that have inspired you in this kind of lifestyle that that you'd like to share?
Sarah Burch 43:16
Yeah, you know, there is a podcast called The Voluntary Life. And a guy named Jake Desyllas, has hosted that or had hosted that podcast for a long time. He has more than 400 episodes, and he's focused on entrepreneurship, financial independence and freedom. And so I learned a lot from him. He he was in the days before Mr. Money Mustache. A lot of people follow him the money stash. Yeah, yeah. You know, financial independence, retire early, early type games. But Jake's podcasts have been fantastic. Just talking about a whole slew of areas that really affected influence a simple lifestyle. So he's a resource I would highly recommend. Another one is a book called How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World. It was written by a guy named Harry Browne, who was a politician and investment advisor. He was actually the Libertarian Party's presidential nominee back in 96, and 2000. And it's just a really fascinating book about how happiness is the highest goal that you can achieve. And I think really, when you drill down into bike touring, and tiny house living and minimalism, really what is at the core of all of this is happiness, that's we're all king in this life. And so the question is, how to bring that about and how to make happiness grow and how to make it the main kind of center part of your life. Yeah, so those are the two courses I would highly recommend. Awesome.
Ethan Waldman 45:00
Sarah Burch, thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge and inspiration really with with us.
Sarah Burch 45:07
Thank you, Ethan. It's been a pleasure. And I look forward to when our paths crossed the third time to meet you.
Ethan Waldman 45:14
Yes. All right. Thank you so much. Thank you so much to Sarah Burch for being a guest on the show. You can find the show notes including photos from Sarah's bike tours, and also photos of Sarah's van including her awesome bike storage tray at thetinyhouse.net/165. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/165. 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.
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