Monday, March 18, 2013

Tiny Living, Large Communities

Theres not much chance anyone will confuse me with Graham Hill. Hes a young, hip, multi-millionaire who just wrote a front-page opinion piece for The New York Sunday Times

Not even close, right? But heres where the resemblance begins. His topic: living tiny. The article, “Living With Less. A Lot Less,” talks about his life in a 420-square-foot studio. “I’ve come a long way from the life that I had in the late 90s, when, flush with cash from an Internet start-up sale, I had a giant house crammed with stuff,” Hill explains. His transformation didn’t come from financial woes, but was triggered by a romantic relationship. He and his girlfriend Olga travelled the world, living in love and living with less. Even though they broke up, he realized he still liked having fewer possessions and a tiny home. “My space is small,” he says. “My life is big.”

It’s a great message, but to some, it’s the wrong messenger. People took issue with someone so wealthy telling the rest of us schlumps that we need to get rid of our stuff to be happy. Hamilton Nolan, editor at, quickly took him to task, as did other writers.

But focusing on the message, it’s no surprise that Hills article was a front-page Times story. Tiny is trending, whether through economic necessity or choice.

And all this was a great reminder that living tiny doesnt mean skimping on your connections to people. I was reading Nolan’s article on Gawker for five minutes before I noticed who wrote it. He happens to be the son of one friend here in St. Augustine and the nephew of another. But I’m used to such synchronicity. Because if you want to live tiny, live in a small town where you are always within one degree of separation from someone you care about. Its not about the size of your home or the number of things you own, but the people who make up your community.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Every Teardrop Tells a Story

The alligators in the Cross Florida Barge Canal were treated to an unusual sight last weekend. More than a dozen teardrop campers lined the canal bank for the Tear Jerkers Kick Off the Year Gathering 2013.

Tear Jerkers is a group of over 1,500 teardrop and small travel trailer enthusiasts with chapters in almost every state and many outside the US. Founded over 15 years ago, it is known for its camaraderie, informative forum and lively gatherings. Many members build their own teardrops. Other tears at this gathering were made by Little Guy, Larry’s Tears and Florida’s own Trekker Trailers. A vintage Scotty stand-up trailer, restored by a tear jerker for a fellow member, rounded out the group.

Held at Rodman Campground outside Palatka, Florida, the campout drew tear jerkers from as far south as Ft. Lauderdale and as far north as the North Carolina-Virginia state line. About 20 people and 10 dogs from the Dixie, Southern Appalachian and host Florida chapters braved the cold and wind to visit with old and new friends.

Even though it dipped into the low 30s, everyone kept warm with campfires, Dutch oven cooking and cozy teardrops. The folks were as varied as their camper décor, and every teardrop had a story. One gentleman arrived just a few days after major surgery. One couple had to leave early to see to plants, goats and chickens when a hard frost threatened back home. A retired couple was trying out their teardrop in the cold for the first time and fine-tuning their gear. A mix of veteran tear jerkers and newbies, the group checked out all the unique camper builds, gadgets and banners. The tow vehicles were part of the attraction, since many made a perfect set with the trailer. It was a real treat to see so many teardrops in one spot and learn from the veterans. 

I arrived on Friday after dark and Dale, my husband, and Rudy, our dog, joined me the next day. Heading out of St. Augustine Friday night, I had to wend my way through First Friday Artwalk traffic, towing the tear on my own for the first time. I saw a few friends in the crowd and our teardrop, Lizzie, turned a few heads like she always does. It was a good, adventurous feeling, heading away from civilization into the night with my little home behind me. I knew Lizzie and I would come back with stories to tell.

Peggy & Jimmy's Shad Inn
Peggy & Jimmy's Galley
Thelma's Tear
Delmers Smiling Tear and Car
Delmers Galley
Andrews Trekker
Andrews Slide-Out Kitchen
Dawn & Dales Rondo and Lizzie
Anns Little Guy Buggy & Bug
Lindas T@B
Larrys Tow Vehicle & Tear
Melanie & Davids Dawg House
Gary & Shirleys Custom Trekker
Rick & Susans Camo Teardrop
Ricks Tear & Truck
Marvin’s Marsh • 1971 Serro Scotty • restored by fellow Tear Jerker Ross
photo courtesy 
Marvin Von Almen Photography