Falling in Love with Washington
Our first trip to Washington was on a road trip from Southern California in 2013. After two long days of driving , we arrived on the Olympic Peninsula in the dark of night. We wanted to see Olympic National Park, so we stayed two nights at the Mora campground and the amazing Hoh Rainforest campground. The rainforests and wild coastline were from a fairy tale! We were in awe of the beauty. Three days was definitely not enough!
<== Photos from our initial trip to Washington and our backpacking trip up the Hoh River Valley the following year.
Searching for the Right Place for Us
We made a plan to start checking out areas to live in. We wanted to be close to nature, but also have easy access to civilization. Our requirements included being near amazing forests and mountains, but also near scuba diving in Puget Sound. So one year, while on vacation, we checked out Orcas Island, Anacortes, Bellingham and North Cascades National Park. Though each had their unique appeal, they didn’t quite check all of our boxes.
While hiking on Sucia Island State Park, we met a gentleman who told us he dreamed of retiring in Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula. We missed that stretch on our first road trip, so in 2017, we made the two day drive again with Port Townsend as our main destination. We fell in love with the charm and history of Port Townsend. It’s a small town that still looks like a sea port from the 1800’s. From Port Townsend, we were able to take day trips to more amazing Olympic National Park areas. We visited Sol Duc and the Elwha River Valley, and also to the towns of Sequim and Port Angeles. It definitely captured our heart!
CrtrGrl hiking in the beautiful North Cascades National Park, WA ==>
CrtrGrl captured me photographing Fossil Bay, Sucia Island, at low tide.
There was one more place to check off. On our way south, we stayed near Hoodsport and the Staircase entrance to Olympic National Park. The diving there is reportedly amazing, but the town was a little too small and remote for us. At that point, we had done our homework enough to know the general area we wanted to live in. From then on, we focused our attention on the area surrounding Port Townsend.
All the places we checked out in Washington over 7 years! Click each dot to see where.
From Rat Race to Tiny Living
Starting in 2016, we got serious about changing our lives. I had a stable career working on computer systems, but the place I worked was in a building with no windows that came with a 130 mile round trip commute. We wanted a simpler life, with less impact on the planet. Then we discovered tiny houses, the skoolie community and minimalism!
We asked ourselves what was really important to us. For CrtrGrl, she could sit in the forest all day and be completely happy. For me, I love to explore and capture what I see to share with others. What would we be willing to sacrifice to have more time and space to do that? A lot!
Since then, we’ve had a Grand Plan (literally this check list in an Evernote note – just that last item isn’t done yet!):
- Pay off all debts
- Minimize expenses
- Save money
- Buy skoolie
- Quit day job
- Move to WA
- Start online business
- Buy small plot of forest land in WA
- Build Skoolie and tiny dwellings in WA
Now it didn’t all happen in the order we planned or even in the way that we planned. But somehow, we’ve navigated the ever changing obstacles to get closer to our end goal. We paid off all of our debts and minimized our expenses by cutting out things that weren’t necessary. That allowed us to start putting money into savings. We did all of that over the years while we were traveling to Washington to find the perfect area to live. CrtrGrl and I also started to brainstorm ways to transition to earning income from home, with the ultimate goal of earning passive income. We yearned to do meaningful work that aligned with our values. We’ve been slowly developing alternate ways of earning a living, but really haven’t succeeded in that department yet.
CrtrGrl going through my comic books from jr high school
CrtrGrl’s RHCP benefit concert tshirt was sold on eBay
My childhood Star Wars toys that we ended up donating
CrtrGrl and I Took the Red Pill
In late 2018, we bought Skoolie Woolie and in 2019, we made the leap! CrtrGrl and I saved up enough money to last about 6 months of reduced expenses. In March, I was promoted to deputy IPT lead for the Boeing team I was a part of. That prompted me to announce our plans that month and give my job over 5 months notice that I planned to leave. It enabled me to fully document everything I did and transition anything important. I was also able to negotiate some remote, part-time work after we moved and that helped with the transition. At the end of the day, I worked at that job for 17 years of my 21-year career. In some ways, it was leaving a family that was a huge part of my life. I definitely miss the people I worked with!
Boeing Seal Beach, CA, where I spent 17 years of my life.
A subset of the Wednesday afternoon running crew – Bob, me, Tony, Nathan, Sean, Mark & Dan. Photo taken by Mary Lou.
View on my morning walk with Indi in Sequim, WA
Moving to Washington
We made the move to Washington in April, 2020, in the middle of the pandemic and while trying to launch our Forest2Sea AWEAR Apparel business. What a knack for timing! We packed up Skoolie Woolie with all of our belongings and made the long, 1 day drive from Northern California. The property owners were very supportive of our plans to build a tiny house/skoolie and have plans of doing their own year long road trip with their kids. We immediately got to work again on earning income, launching AWEAR Apparel later that month. Still living off of savings, we knew adding rent would push us harder to figure out income.
The family we’re renting a studio from have been such a wonderful gift to us. Combined with the other tiny house renters on the 10 acre property, it’s given us a sense of community that we hadn’t experienced in Southern California. CrtrGrl works in the shared garden, helps watch over the pets and we get to play with the kids. We’ve gone hiking and jogging and had late nights of beer and conversation around their campfire. It’s been a wonderful experience!
Our rental studio in Washington
I now understand generational wealth and the privilege that comes with it. Through no action of my own, I am receiving the benefits of decisions my relatives made 80 years ago. We acknowledge how fortunate we are and how most people don’t have this. Since we’re living off our savings right now and trying to start up our own business, we wouldn’t have been able to qualify for a traditional land loan through a bank for some time.
My grandparents were fortunate to be in a position to buy land in Southern California in the 1940’s. They built their own house, by hand, on 5 acres of hilly chaparral. At the time, it was very rural, with only dirt roads in the area. Fast forward a few decades and it ends up in between the wealthy neighborhoods of Rancho Santa Fe and Del Mar. My grandparents gave some of that land to my parents as an early inheritance, so that they could be around to see my parents enjoy it. When my parents moved out of Southern California last year, they sold their property. With some of the proceeds from the sale, my parents wanted to do the same thing for their kids that their parents did for them.
Our dream has been to eventually own land to park our skoolie on. We want to preserve a small patch of forest and live in harmony with the plants and animals. We’re so grateful to my parents that they made that happen for us. Because of an early inheritance from them, we’re now the super excited and a slightly frightened owners of 5 acres of forest next to Olympic National Park, near Port Angeles WA.
<=== My grandfather, Jack Santone, building their house in 1942 and also my parent’s property with Skoolie Woolie parked on the driveway.
Take a tour of our forest with us!
Getting a Forest of our Own
From our new property, we’ll have access to multiple entrances to Olympic National Park. Lake Crescent is only a few miles away. On our way into town for groceries (20 minute drive), we’ll cross over the beautiful and recently freed Elwha river. Past Lake Crescent, to the west, is the Sol Duc river valley. Going west to 2nd Beach on the Pacific coast is only an hour drive. Then, the amazing Hoh Rainforest is 1.5 hour drive. If we want to visit the Salish Sea / Straight of Juan de Fuca, it’s only a 20 minute drive.
CrtrGrl and I plan to share our adventures and journey with you. As we learn to live in the forest, with minimal impact, we’ll share how we do it. We want to share our triumphs and our silly mistakes, so that you can learn from us. We’re all sharing this small blue planet. And we are interdependent with nature to provide a livable habitat, so we need to minimize our impacts and protect it the best we can.