Next steps, new places, new spaces…

Nick J Miller

I spent last weekend in a field in Sussex with 400 of the most inspiring people I’ve ever had the pleasure to a spend a weekend with in a field in Sussex. I still haven’t fully recovered. Which is fine, because truth be told, there is nothing to recover from. This is and has got to be the new normal in my life.

My friends at Yestival 2016

Those of you who were there, at Yestival, will know exactly what I mean.

I need to live my life surrounded by friends who understand me, who challenge me, and who inspire me. And I need to challenge myself every single day to live the life I’ve dreamed of for too long.

There aren’t any excuses anymore. Just countless examples of how a life built the way you want is not just possible, but morally obligatory. Every one of us needs to stop doing what we are being told we need to do, and start doing the things we dream of doing. Everything you have ever dreamed of is only not happening because you’ve decided not to put in the work to make it happen. And that with a simple change of mindset, it can. Boy, that’s an exciting truth, isn’t it?

On the face of it, my life right now isn’t bad. I have a job that ticks a lot of boxes on the list I made of things I’d want a job to tick should I ever have a job. Having spent the past year converting an old school bus into a liveable space, I now have a comfortable home (more on that later). I have an amazing group of friends. I only actually have to work less than half of each year and still get paid all year round. And I’m lucky enough to be the owner of a British passport which has allowed me to explore a fair bit of this Earth we call home.

But underneath all that, I still worry every single day that I’m missing a trick here. That there is so much more to life than this and that if only I could build up some strength and conquer my fears, then the world really would be my oyster. For the first time in a very long time, I’m ready for that fight.

It’s scary as hell stepping out of your comfort zone, but if you stop thinking about it like that and start thinking about it as if you’re stepping into your “having an incredibly fulfilling life” zone, then it’s much easier to take the leap. I was going to wait another 18 months or so before I took the leap and got started on the next phase of my life. I was going to wait until that “perfect time” when my work commitments are over, I’m completely debt free, and I have a bit of money saved away. But screw that, let’s get this ball rolling now.

“What ball?”, I hear you ask….

Quite.

For quite some time now (10+ years), I’ve been harbouring a couple of big dreams. About this time last year, I wrote some of them down on my “ridiculous dreams that I could maybe actually make happen” list which among other things includes:

  • Live in a bus
  • Fly like a bird
  • Go to Mars
  • Explore every country in the world by bicycle
  • Perform my music/songs to a million people
  • Learn the 100 most spoken languages on earth fluently

Recently, however, I’ve realised two things:

Firstly, these are pretty boring ambitions. I need to allow myself to dream bigger. Much bigger. Elon Musk size big.

Secondly, for the most part, I’m the only beneficiary of making these dreams a reality. This is okay (after all it is my life), but really I endeavour to spend the majority of my time doing things that brings positive change to the world and the people within it.

So what am I going to do? I’m going to start building something. A community. An organisation. An idea.

Just imagine for a moment that one day I gave you a present. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning and I had given you a house. A house that would provide everything you needed from a house for the rest of your life, and I gave it to you expecting nothing in return. You never had to pay rent, you never had to pay me back, or pay interest on a loan, or pay for any bills to keep the thing going. It was yours, forever, for free.

Imagine how much time you’d have spare if you didn’t have to work to earn the money to live somewhere because you already owned a house that didn’t need to be any bigger or better.

Imagine all the things you could do with all that free time! You could read every book ever written on the subject of anything. Because why the hell not?! You could explore the whole world and learn every language (enabling you to speak to every single human on the planet). You could do so many things that I can’t even begin to list all the possibilities.

Now stop imagining all this stuff. Stop being a cynic and kidding yourself that it’s not possible. Start thinking this through practically. How much of your annual income could you save by never having to pay for your home ever again? Could you get the act of home ownership over and done with in the next six months or year? Could you build yourself a house just big enough for you to live in comfortably with the savings you have in your bank account right now? I bet you could. Because I just did.

It’s taken me 3–4 days a week, for most of this past summer, plus approx £10,000 in cash to do. But it wasn’t that hard. I taught myself all the skills I needed along the way (from YouTube mostly) and am now a home-owner with skills in carpentry, metalworking, electrics, plumbing, home design, mechanics, and many other things. Now I’m free to turn to everything else I’ve wanted to do in my life that doesn’t in some way involve struggling to pay the god damn rent.

It is my belief that the vast majority of otherwise well-educated, intelligent and talented humans in this world waste a huge proportion of their lives (and therefore potential to do amazing things) attempting to satisfy a need that isn’t really there. We’ve been brought up to believe that one of the most important things in life is to have a permanent place to live. The bigger, the better. And it’s just not true. You don’t need much space. You don’t need many things. You need a place to sleep, a place to cook and eat, a place to wash and a space to be creative. Everything else is just an optional extra.

My plan then, is to take what I’ve learned and build something else. Another unique, inspiring place that somebody can one day call home. I’m thinking that if one at a time, I/we can hand-build a network of unique, inspiring homes around the world each for less than £10,000, then a lot more people would be able to live fulfilling lives, free from the mammoth constraints of having to afford rent or mortgage repayments.

I’ve no idea exactly how this will work in practice; I keep on having new ideas all as exciting as the next. All I know is that there is potential here for something amazing to be born. It’s time to jump — we can build our wings on the way down.

Some of the ideas I’m currently having are along the lines of:

  • We build interesting spaces around the country/world. We can rent these out on AirBnb as holiday lets for half of the year and gift them out rent-free to young, ambitious individuals the rest of the year to work on projects of their choosing.
  • People can pay a one-off membership fee to help us build a new space, which will give them access to the whole network of spaces whenever they are available and they want to use them, forever.
  • People can build their own homes, learning the skills from us to do so at the same time for a set cost. They then own the space but it’s part of the network and can be used in the same way as other spaces.
  • Or they build their house, and we teach them how and provide the materials to do so, then we own it but they are the guardian of it for life.
  • You could become a guardian of a property for years at a time without having to pay a dime, as long as you maintain it (we’ll teach you how).
  • Etc, etc, etc. There are so many ways of making it work.

So this is my current big dream. It’s time to get started. Luckily, we’ve got a starter property. My bus, otherwise known as Old Smokey Cottage, is going to be empty for the whole summer next year while I’m cycling (or Ice-triking) across the Middle East and Central Asia. There is definitely an opportunity for somebody to use that space while I’m away. Someone to be the guardian of my home for a summer. Maybe someone could live in it while helping to build space number two.

At the moment, all I’m thinking about it is what’s next. Whatever this thing turns into, it has to happen organically. But we’ve got to start somewhere and head off in a direction of some sort. The things I’m most excited about building next are either a treehouse or an underground hobbit house. Not just any tree/hobbit house though, a comfortable, functional space with everything you need to live productively all year round.

I’ve found a small piece of land in a wood in Wales with a river running through it, a waterfall and a lake (of sorts), surrounded by beautiful trees and only a couple of miles from the Snowdonia National Park. It’s a couple of acres but only costs £5000. I think it’s a good starting place for this project.

The only problem is that I can’t do this stuff alone. I need your help, your inspiration, your ideas, your time. Oh, and if anybody has £5–10k seed capital to get this thing off the ground, that would be mega.

Talk to me, let me know your ideas, your thoughts. Let’s make something special. Specifically, I’m in need of your help with the following things:

  • Some land to park my bus next summer (and potentially longer). I currently live rent-free and bill-free on a piece of land a few miles outside of Oxford, in exchange for keeping an eye on the place. It’s peaceful and secure, but not particularly beautiful and I’m interested in looking at alternative locations (anywhere in the UK really, but ideally within an hour or two of London) to set up a more attractive home for the bus.
  • Some funds to help secure a piece of land on which to build the next stages of this project. I’ve invested most of my earnings this year into building Old Smokey Cottage, and am now living on just a couple of hundred pounds a month (which is fine). But I have no savings and am not interested in the slightest in getting a bank loan. I don’t need much but this land I’m looking at is going to disappear from the market unless we get our hands on it soon.
  • Your skills and ideas. I’ve come up with designs for what I think would make the ultimate simple home and have put those ideas into action while building mine. I’ve come up with a few ideas for getting a community like this to work. But I know that there are better ideas out there and I’m excited to hear them.

If anybody knows anybody who can help me, I’d love to hear from you. You can find me on Facebook here and on email at nick@nickjmiller.com.

Remember, SAY YES MORE.

Nick J Miller

Written by

Ginger-bearded adventure junkie addicted to long-distance human-powered travel. Has bicycled across North America, Africa and Western Europe.

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