Dave Erasmus: Shepherds huts as alternative living

Naia Schoonderwoerd
5 min readMar 21, 2017
Dave Erasmus with his home in the woods (Photographs produced by Wilfried Haubenberger)

Shepherds huts offer an off-grid, on-wheels way to free yourself from economic pressures and immerse yourself in an alternative way of living.

Since before the eighteenth century, they have been traditionally used by shepherds as a form of shelter when watching over their flock. Shepherds huts were simple constructions acting as nothing more than a roof over your head. Nowadays however, these tiny ark-rooved shelters can be surprisingly homely. They can provide you with all the amenities you need to not only survive, but live, in a much simpler environment.

Dave Erasmus is the entrepreneurial founder of multiple philanthropic organisations. After setting up his first business by the age of eighteen, Dave then went on to co-found clickego.com, an online marketing business based in Cape Town, and in 2011 launched the online fundraising platform Givey.

As well as this Dave gives speeches and produces weekly video content on his YouTube channel. He is currently video documenting his experience living in a shepherds hut in the woods.

While now beginning to build his own shepherds hut from nothing but a frame, Dave bought his first hut already built, and is now nestled away in the woods of Sussex, a place he calls Corcovado. With its golden wooden exterior and green front door, this has been Dave’s home since late 2016.

Dave Erasmus with the new shepherds hut he is building from just a frame (Photographs produced by Wilfried Haubenberger)

Sharing his thoughts on adapting to a simpler life and learning new skills along the way, he takes us on his journey with him. Before making the hut his new home, Dave was living in a cabin he’d built in his garden, choosing not to live in his conventional three bedroom house “I just noticed that I wanted to live an alternative way to the suburban Surrey life I’d been offered.”

Recalling his time in South Africa, he mentions his friends living in townships. While noting that they go through hardships he will never fully understand, Dave felt that living in a similar sized hut acted as something they could both relate to, saying “I quite like being on the same page as everybody” before asking “What is a standard of living that we can all aspire to?” Dave assures us he’s not on a vow of poverty but rather living lightly “I want to live the best possible life I can live and I know that that doesn’t come from more, it comes from a balance between safety and simplicity, and I want that for everybody.”

So why specifically shepherds huts? Dave offers his vision of a “spectrum of mobility” explaining that shepherds huts offer a compromise from both sides. The huts are mobile structures and this flexibility makes finding land to live on much easier with the ability to move your home if necessary. Their wheels provide a means of transport, yet trying to move one from A to B can prove to be difficult. Their semi-portable nature provides “a bit of familiarity and a bit of a base” which Dave believes to be important as “to allow humans to flourish they need safety, and to have safety they often need a place that they can call home.”

As well as providing a more generally achievable lifestyle, shepherds huts can also be designed to offer a variety of sustainable features. From composting toilets to collecting rainwater, reducing your environmental footprint is becoming increasingly achievable. Describing sustainability as a process, Dave explains “what I’m trying to do in the woods is build almost a perfect world of how I want to live, the kind of emissions and impact I want to have and then hopefully scale that up to my whole life.” Giving himself a transition year, Dave aims to review the extent of his sustainability, and from that, look into how he can progress.

However, living through the cold, dark winter with only solar powered light and burning wood already on the ground for heat, can be a challenge, forcing Dave to realise “how much darkness is worse than cold, but then again my relationship with the dark has improved, since I’ve been faced with it more.”

There are a multitude of things to consider before deciding to step back from conventional life. “There are three P’s of land that you have to get right; proximity, planning permission and pounds.” Taking your time to allow these three factors to come together is vital, as Dave mentions it took him years to find the land he wanted to live on.

As well as practical preparation, such a life altering move requires a lot of mental grounding. One approach, to up and leave conventional life and dive in head first, was not Dave’s style “I like doing things slowly” he says as he recalls only spending a few nights a week in his hut to begin with “that’s why I’ve given myself a year, call it a transition year… it’s just about accepting that these things are hard and they take time.”

Easing himself in has also helped his friends and family adapt to his situation, something that Dave believes to be very important “social issues, both in terms of the community that you’re trying to live informally within but also your family, your old friends, you don’t want to alienate them. Life is made up of our most meaningful relationships and people can find it quite hard to keep up with what’s going on.”

Asked what he would say to convince someone to make the move themselves “It’ll look good on your Instagram” Dave jokes. “Get a flavour for it…the best thing is to just go and try it, you can’t describe deeper experiences adequately and it is a deep experience.” And doing just that may be easier than you might think as there are plenty of shepherds huts available to rent for an interesting weekend away.

Book your weekend away to get a taste of life in a shepherds hut!

The Original Hut Company — www.original-huts.co.uk

Hand built with recycled and locally sourced materials, these sustainable huts are based in the beautiful woodland of Sussex.

The Shepherds Hut Retreat — www.theshepherdshutretreat.co.uk

In the heart of Somerset, these luxury huts sit on the water’s edge and are mainly powered by solar energy.

All photographs produced by Wilfried Haubenberger. Be sure to check out more of his work at his website! http://www.wilhaub.com/