They say that everything happens for a reason, but sometimes when you are in the middle of it all, you really can’t see the reason. For Elizabeth, it took losing everything to encourage her to follow her dreams and build her very own sustainable dream home. She took some time out to tell us a little more about her story and the journey towards building the ultimate sustainable lifestyle.
“I’ve always believed that the more simple you can make life, the better. It makes sense that we re-use things, recycle and swap. There is nothing better than finding something that someone has thrown away and turning it in to something usable and beautiful. I am a creative, full of ideas and inspiration and I have a brain full of images and pictures. From a young age, I always wanted to build my own little wooden house; something really beautiful that I could make to my own design. I kept scrap books of images and things that inspired me, everything from interiors to colours, to paintings and nature. Being a bit of a hippie at heart, I have never settled in one place for a long time. I didn’t like the idea that I might create a beautiful home and then if I moved from the area where I built it, I would have to leave it there. So I thought why not build a house on wheels? Then if I move, I can take it with me. I like the idea that without the normal foundations, it’s not a permanent structure tied to the spot, but something movable and a free spirit, as after all, I’ve learn’t that nothing material lasts forever.
I find that when you make a decision to follow your dream, your true calling, and you throw yourself in to it wholeheartedly, things start to happen…
The journey began with a phone call from, at that time, a complete stranger to me. My phone rang and I said hello. A voice spoke back ‘Are you the girl that wants to build a house on wheels? I replied ‘that’s me’ in a stunned voice. He told me ‘I have an old van base for you.’ I mean wow God is good! We have to listen to the messages. The whispers that we are sent everyday. We have to listen to our hearts and what they are really saying.
So I began, having never built anything before other than a rabbit hutch. I watched quite a lot of YouTube videos on ‘How to build a house on wheels’. I then drew my design, being careful to include everything that was important for me to have in my house and then I made a cardboard model of it to see if the proportions worked. It was quite difficult to include everything in a 5m x2.3m x3.6m space. The things that were most important for me to have were a full size shower, a nice kitchen area, somewhere to sit and eat or work, a good sized double bed and a record player. Outside I designed a fold-down terrace that I could use for meditation, playing guitar and writing songs or just being in nature.
Then the next miracle happened. A friend that I had only just been introduced to at that time, heard about what I was thinking of doing and said to me, “When you are ready to start building your house, you are welcome to build it on my land in the mountains, because there is plenty of spare land that I don’t use.” That blew me away. There was no going back now. I had some land and a battered van base. If that’s not a sign, then I don’t know what is – I had to do this.
Next, other things started appearing. A lot of the other materials were found from waste or by the side of the road, I found all of the wood for the mezzanine floor neatly stacked by the bins outside my old flat. I found beautiful wooden drawers, which I made in to my main kitchen unit. I used two trees that had fallen down to make the table leg and the porch post, the lanterns on the porch are carved out of gourds (a vegetable that is dried out and turns to a material like wood) – I found these on the bottom of the land where my house is. I bought my cooker for 20 euros from a flea market and the big bubble light was 10 euros. The kitchen sink was free from a lady that didn’t want it anymore, as was the stained glass panel in the door. All the windows I found by another bin. Lots of other elements I recycled and up-cycled from pieces of wood or old furniture. Composting toilets are so expensive, so I made my own. I bought a wooden toilet seat and then built a box with a bucket that has two compartments underneath, to separate the liquids from the solids. It’s amazing what you can do when you get creative with waste.
The whole process from having nothing, to a finished home, took 1 year. The last 3 months, I pretty much worked on the project all day, every day. There were so many little jobs that took so much longer than I expected, especially doing it all myself…there are only so many hours in a day, although I did work about 16 of them. I wore a head torch at night so I could carry on sawing wood even in the dark! I can’t believe that I hammered more than 5000 nails in to the wooden cladding. I used thousands of screws, I insulated, sawed, sanded, routed, hammered, planed – and a whole manner of other things that were all new to me. The whole process was so much harder than I imagined both physically and mentally. There were so many times when I wanted to give up. I faced difficulties, opposition, discouragement and pure fatigue, but I finally pushed through it all.
When I had finished I really had no idea that my story would receive so much attention. I was blown away by the comments people left me on my personal Facebook page. It was so encouraging. I know that the story has touched many people and my hope is that it has inspired some of them to follow their dreams. I still receive messages now from strangers telling me that I’ve really touched or inspired them. I want to say this to anyone that reads my story: “I want to encourage you in whatever you are facing, however hard it seems, however crazy people think you are…you are stronger, braver and more courageous than you realise and if you have hope, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. It is okay to follow your heart and not the way of the world. Listen to the whispers. Life is short, don’t be afraid to be you.”
Hope was what kept me going. There was one point near the end of the project where I almost lost it and quite out of nowhere, again someone I had never met, picked me out of a crowd and said to me “young lady, do not lose hope…hope is the one thing you can’t afford to lose.” That gave me enough hope and focus to finish.
Through building my very own movable, off-grid, sustainable dream house, I have realised that it is okay to follow my heart and I’ve learnt to listen to the whispers. It isn’t always easy, but it is so worth it. Now not only do I have a beautiful place to call home, but I have found the way back to who I was always meant to be. I have more time to create, to write music and paint. Building my house and escaping the rental market has enabled me to realise my bigger dream of helping others reconnect with creativity, nature and a more simple way of living.”
Elizabeth runs creative workshops throughout the year, all based at her sustainable dream house, including the Eden Whispers’ Escape & Create Retreat. The next retreat is 3-6th October 2017. You can find information at www.edenwhispers.com and follow the whole Eden Whispers Story on Instagram.