Unconventional Living with Zac Ruiz – HTH 020
back to another episode of the HowtoHome podcast. My name’s Aaron Massey
alongside Tracy Pendergast and our guest today is Zac Ruiz from Den for our
Cubs and we’re talking about some unconventional living. Zac has a really cool
Instagram, it’s a little unconventional and we’re going to talk to him all about
his living situation and everything that he’s got going on.
you for being here, first of all.
for having me.
so excited to have you.
don’t you give us a little bit of a background on yourself and what it is that
So, name’s Zac. I have a wife, Katie and our two boys, Fox and Grizzly and
we’re originally from California. That kind of just springs up right there a
whole story of how we’ve ended up into a different state and our living
situation. But yeah, we essentially just left the state for a better life and
now we live in a tent that’s 300 square feet in New Mexico.
we’re going to have to hear about what led to that decision. It’s a huge
got a lot of questions lined up, I think our audience is going to take a lot of
information away from this episode as far as how you went from living in a traditional
California setting to what is kind of a yurt, right?
It’s essentially. Yeah, we looked at yurt options, like the whole round,
setting just didn’t really like, I don’t know. We weren’t into it and so we
eventually found that you could just basically do the same thing but with a
square setting and we were like, “Ah, that works,” because it’s more
like a cabin feel than a circular yurt.
can actually scoot some furniture into some corners and create nooks.
yeah you’ve got corners versus weird circular walls and cabinets and stuff.
we get into that we just want to take a quick second and say thank you to our
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let’s do it. I think kind of the first question is, why? Like, what led you to
this life that you’re living now? It’s probably a loaded question.
I know, it really is. You got like 40 minutes?
we got tons of time. Just go ahead.
I guess it really started with, would be having a kid. That was the first step
to it and our adventure, that was five years ago almost and that just changes
your mindset. I’m sure you guys both have kids so you know that having a kid
just completely changes your outlook on life and from there it was, “How
do we give our kid a good life now?” And we were in California, living in
an apartment, paying $1600 to rent it, a pretty crappy apartment. You start
looking at your kid’s quality of life and, “What’s my kid going to do when
he starts getting older?” He’s about a year now and you just start seeing
like, oh it’s pretty easy just to stay inside all day and let him play an iPad
and then we got a little 8×4 concrete area outside and that’s kind of his play
area and I don’t know, you start getting to a point where like, “Is this
really what I want for my kid?”
then you start looking at your own life as well and like, “What do you
like to do?”, I’m like, “I like to mountain bike. I’d really like to
hunt. I’d rather just be outdoors like hiking and doing fun stuff like that. I
live in California, how am I going to do that?” It’s probably not going to
happen very easily and even just being back out here again, I went mountain
biking and it took me like an hour to get out there and then an hour to get
back and in my house right now, in an hour I can be in the Colorado mountains
riding my bike. And here it’s like, cool you can get to maybe some pretty cool
stuff but nothing’s going to touch the Colorado riding stuff.
I started looking at just, “What are we going to do in our life? And where
are we going to be in 10 years?” And we didn’t really like what we saw
so… And our plan just didn’t look good for 10 years but we’re probably going
to be working the same job as we’re working now, “Do we really like those
were you guys working?
started off in personal training and then I got involved in CrossFit stuff and
then I got certified and was a CrossFit coach and I did that for about seven
years and then my wife was a hairstylist and she did that for nine years.
both like commission based contracts.
and we both had good client base, so that was one of the hard parts, leaving.
You have a eight, nine year client base built up and then all of a sudden
you’re like, “Hey, just drop this and move to another state and try to
figure it out.” So that was the biggest reason why we stayed for a long
time was, “What are we going to do?” We started an Etsy shop in
California as a side gig and that actually started picking up some momentum so
we were like, “If we move, we can really focus on that and have a
possibility of being self-employed at that point.”
that was one of the biggest reasons we moved too was, A, we’ll have a lot more
space to run a shop, running a shop out of an apartment’s not ideal so how are
we going to get this thing set up and moving? Well getting a house in a
different state would probably be a good first start to that.
was the original conversation a house somewhere else? Or was it… Like how did
there’s a lot to it and I might jump back and forth if I think of other things
was just, “Let’s get out the state.” That was our first step, so then
it was, “Where’s our options?” And New Mexico was number one because
my wife’s from there and she had family there so it was a familiar place. We
visited seven years at that point and just regularly, twice a year about. And
so we knew the area, we liked it. I was anti-living there for a long time just
because I was so used to my comfort zone in California in my little bubble, it
was my life for 28 years. So it was like, I don’t want to leave that but like I
said, then you get to a point where you’re asking yourself, “Do you really
enjoy life?” And you’re like, my answer was, “NO, I don’t really
enjoy life here. And I don’t do the things I want to do so let’s move somewhere
where we can do that.”
yeah, it was move out of state, New Mexico was our first step. We thought we’d
just move there and then eventually move somewhere else but we ended up with,
I’ve personally fallen in love with that whole area out there so now we’re
still there but… Yeah, it was get a house and then we ended up being able to
find a house and we were renting a house for $1000 a month and that was a five
bedroom house versus a-
two bedroom apartment for $1600. So right away that was just a huge cost cut
and just a better living situation.
then you guys transitioned to a camper, right?
and from there, we lived there for a year and that gave us a lot of time for me
to just get the shop rolling and then I really started picking up some more
momentum, making lights and I don’t know, working on new designs so that was a
year I really just worked on the shop. And then from there the whole time we’d
been looking at different living situations and, “What’s next?”.
We’re not going to continue to rent, we’re just throwing away rent every month
renting houses and stuff. So how can we do something for ourselves that’s going
to benefit us later in life without paying $500 to buy a house?
that was another reason California was like, “Hey, we want to own a house
eventually but how are we ever going to do that? We’re not going to qualifies
for a $600 000 loan ever, so how are we going to get a house?” It’s
could just live a life of stress like Aaron and I.
you go, yeah. And even if-
knowing when the shoe’s going to drop.
And then it was-
gray in your early 30s.
And then it was, even if we could get a $600 000, $700 000 loan, do we actually
want to do that and then be paying it off for the rest of our lives? And for us
it was, “NO, we don’t want to do that. What’s our options?” Like I
said, it was move out of state and then figure out some other stuff from there.
So people always think, you have to have like everything figured out and the
whole master plan, we didn’t know what the heck we were doing. We just let it
like, “Let’s just get out of state. And then we’ll go from there.”
that was our first step. So we get out of state, we had a year to figure stuff
out. From there we, yeah, we had gotten some land and so we made a plan that we
were going to get a camper because that was the quickest way to get onto the
land, you just drive the thing out onto the land and you can live in it
essentially. Get a generator and you can have power. So it was, get the camper
onto the land. We lived in that for four months and then I came across,
basically the yurt idea. It seemed like it was a cool idea but we were really
wondering, “Could you live in this?” And mainly what we talked about
was, “Two kids? How do you live in something like that with two kids? Is
we figured that out with the camper because that’s going to be much smaller
living space so after four months of in the camper we realized, “Hey, we
can live in this small of a space with two kids, like anything that’s bigger
than this is just going to be an upgrade.” And that’s where the whole tent
idea came out. I basically just bought a tent, I found one locally that was
used, it was an old hunting tent that they said they used for elk hunting
trips. So it was kind of worn, I call it the Indiana Jones tent so like that
weird canvas look, real rough and a lot of patches and stuff. Built a frame for
that and then started moving forward with the tent idea.
so it’s not, for those of you who haven’t, aren’t following you yet or any of
that type of stuff. It’s not like a camping tent, it’s like a big canvas tent.
it, exactly. Yeah, people are always like, “You live in a tent?” And
they think like an eight man Coleman tent, we’re all crunched down in the tent
the air mattress.
it’s 300 square feet. We built the ceiling to be 12 feet tall so it’s not
small, like when you’re inside of it it’s a house.
beautifully decorated. I’m just like, in awe of how beautiful it is and how
homey it feels.
talk about the process of how the evolution of it becoming a home. You took a
tent and you built it into a house, I mean it has walls, it has a bathroom, it
has a little kitchenette.
has all of that. So talk to me about that evolution.
I don’t know. People complicate the whole process like, ” How are you
going to get a toilet? How are you going to do this? How are you going to do that?”
Again they think they have to have this whole like master plan built out like
all of the areas of difficulty I’ve found that aren’t difficult. There’s always
really easy solutions, there’s tons of companies out there that you can get an
easy solar set up. You can get an easy composting toilet. All those problems
are not really problems if you just do your research.
research is the biggest thing, getting a game plan, from there you can figure
out all those things from there if you just look into it a little bit more. But
basically it was, build a platform for the tent, we measured out the tent, me
and my buddy. He’s my Aussie bro but it was build our platform, build our frame
to match our tent and then literally just slid the tent over the frame.
thing was keeping the weather out, because in New Mexico, like in this winter
we had a really harsh winter. We got at one point, I think we had 18 inches of
snow load on the roof of the tent. So we had a rain fly though which is a big,
plastic essentially tarp and that just helps to shed snow and rain.
had zero issues with anything coming in. The only issue I ever thought would be
a problem would be like wind, because we have pretty high winds that come
through but we do have a lot of trees around us and so that really breaks up
the wind. If we were out in the middle of a field, just plopped in the middle
of a field, our tent would not be existing anymore but the trees have
definitely been our saving grace with high winds but that rain fly just sheds
all the rain, all the snow and really just keeps us dry. We’ve never had a
eventually will you have to replace the exterior? Can you just drop a new tent
And that’s always been the idea. If we did ever live in it long enough that we
needed a new tent, if it started getting… Mold can be a problem and those
things but we’re in a very dry area but it can be a problem or if, yeah, if we
got a big hole punched in it and we couldn’t patch it we could just take the
other tent off and then slide a new tent on. We’d have basically a new home.
really cool. I mean I have a lot of questions as somebody from a building
background, obviously a canvas tent as far as heating and cooling and stuff can
be a little questionable. How do you guys deal with that?
was our biggest concern and obviously family voiced that concern like,
“Your kids are going to be freezing.” But that actually has been not
the biggest issue we’ve had by any means. It does get cold where we’re at. I
think it hit -11 in that area and then people were saying that it was hitting
like -15, -25 out in the windy areas out. So it gets cold, it’s not warm.
it’s definitely warm, not compared to California weather.
you did something interesting, instead of windows you guys used, what kind of
sheeting did you use on the front of your house?
was like a polycarbonate. That was one of the parts that I didn’t know if it
would work out, I just kind of went for it. But I looked into getting like
really big polycarbonate sheets, like the actual really thick stuff and like
spending a lot of money doing it but the whole idea with the tent was to keep
costs really low. That was our whole idea, “How do we save money? How do
we not spend a lot of money building a house?” So I basically bought
the… the roofing, patio roofing from Lowe’s and then I made a front out of
that for our tent. So we don’t have any windows but all the light comes from
the front of the tent. So we can keep our drawstrings pulled open and all the
light just floods in from the tent.
if we ever wanted to, we could let the drawstrings down to block out light but
we don’t do that too often.
like so many questions.
do you guys- Yeah. What do you guys use for your heat when it does get cold?
So yeah, the one cool thing about the canvas is it does a good job of
reflecting heat back in. So it doesn’t necessarily maintain a lot of heat over
time, so over time it dissipates quickly but it does reflect and so does the
polycarbonate, it does a good job of reflecting immediate heat back in. So if
you get a wood burning stove, people have no problems with those. Wood burning
stove wasn’t the greatest option for us because…
the kids. At the time we had a kid that was crawling around and I just didn’t
really want a 10×10 square cut out in a 300 square foot home for a stove. So I
started to look into a lot of other options and a little propane heater was the
next one we tried. The one we got was like a clean burning indoor one, so I
think it was called a Big Buddy. So we just hooked that up to a 60 gallon
propane tank and run that for the winter time and that’s been, I mean there’s
still set corners of the room. Like if you go into the closet when it’s
mid-winter, it’s cold but if you’re next to the heater or anywhere around that
heat, we made it through two winters now with that thing just heating us and
not like running around in our underwear, but you get some good socks, some
sweatpants, some sweatshirts and we were fine. My wife’s not as, I guess, tough
the cold stuff but it wasn’t like anyone was in danger, like we weren’t going
to wake up frozen by any means. Yeah.
that’s a good thing. And then what about water? Where do you get your water?
water, we’re right by the river. Her mom has a well that she’s dug so we pull
all of our water from that. It was basically our burke, that’s where we get all
our drinking water and we filter everything for drinking water from that. And
then we also have a little, over our sink we just have a little five gallon
water holder that we use for our rain water and we just keep filling that thing
up. So we always have running water in a sense, just not in a conventional
sense of plumbing and water coming from a city pipe but I just pull water in
from there. I’ll haul five gallons in with those buckets from the well and then
we’ll put that in our burke and then we use that for everything that we need.
all of these things that are very different from conventional living, what’s
the most challenging? Do you wake up some days and, “Ah, I don’t want to
have to deal with going and doing this,” does it make it harder? Or you
just used to it?
I wouldn’t say harder, it’s just different. Like you’re going to have
challenges in any living situation. Like you own a house, something plunges a
hole in your roof, you’re still expected to fix that hole in your roof. It’s
still on you, like there’s always going to be the home challenges. So there’s
that stuff, for us it’s cool because our house cost $5000 to build. So say a
tree or, well I’m hoping not when we’re in it, but say a tree does fall on our
house, we’re out $5000. We build a new one or we figure something else out.
It’s not like our whole livelihood now is ruined because of our $600 000 house
got smashed by a tree.
something like that, that was kind of our mindset with it. We’re not putting
our whole life into this living situation but the one thing I don’t enjoy is…
I would say this is a hardship, it’s not really that bad but it’s the
was curious about that.
what is that?
really easy to manage if you are good about emptying it before it’s too late.
in a sense that yeah, there’s a pee front that you urinate in and then you dump
that and then you just put it back in. But if you don’t dump it before it gets
full, yeah, essentially you have a problem on your hand.
So that happens a lot with us because neither one of us are good at checking
it. And same with the, it doesn’t ever smell. I’ll say that, the smell, people
think like, “Oh, it’s like poop city. You need a container in the bottom,
it’s going to smell terrible.” And they do a really good job, we had a
circulating fan that pulls through the toilet and it honestly never smells. But
at some point you do also have to take that out and dump that.
do you dump it?
00:17:42] my neighbors…
a couple acres away, over the fence.
that river he was talking about before?
we get the water?
So it’s pretty simple. You start a compost heap by putting some dirt it in
essentially, like coconut fibers or you can just get basically a soil from Home
Depot or whatever.
a starter, exactly. And then you just keep mixing it as you are using it, now
while you’re using it but over time and you’re supposed to every two to three
weeks dump it out and then essentially by that point it’s not like it’s poop,
it’s kind of just dirt. If you keep it dry then it’s not like, it doesn’t
smell. And then you can use it, if you wanted to, a lot of people do for like
gardening and stuff like that. So if you’re actually really off the grid and
you want to just be self-sustainable, you can use that for your gardening and
stuff like that.
don’t know why you’re looking at me.
actually experts in composting now, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with our…
have not used it for our gardening.
man. I think the biggest questions we got and like, I don’t want to offend you
with these questions that seem so, I don’t know, we know you’re a normal person
living a normal life, we’re not treating you like some guy out in the woods.
But I think people want to know like, “Okay, what’s your day to day like?
Do you go to a mall? Where do you live? Do you go to the grocery store?”
Like, what’s a normal day? How do you get your mail?
a valid question, yeah. So we probably get more mail than the average person
does for my business I basically have a box come every day. So we haven’t
officially got our own address so right now we just have everything shipped to
her mom’s house, so I’m sure she loves.
yeah we get mail, we live in a rural area but I think people really think we
live off the grid, they’re like, “Oh they live in the mountains somewhere.
And they’re like six miles out from anybody and there’s no one around.” We
live in a rural area, we’re on a two acre plot but everyone around us has five
to eight acres about. So it’s just a really spread apart setting. It’s still
like, I guess a country neighborhood in a sense. They’re still neighbors, we
still see people, the people drive by on the roads and we go into the gym about
four or five times a week. So we have a normal life in a sense.
(affirmative). So your kids see other kids, you guys see other adults.
we hang out with our really good friends, we hang out with them probably twice
a week. I go meet up with my buddies twice a week and go mountain biking. We
have a community, we got to a church, we see people there. So it’s not like
we’re off-grid as you would say in a sense. Like, with that kind of stuff, we
still go on and eat at places on the weekend and we have meals at restaurants
your lifestyle is very normal. Your living arrangement may be slightly
unconventional in the sense that it’s not a suburban house but beyond that you
have everything else.
to the gym, hit the Applebee’s.
our life, just jam and then TGI Fridays.
about electricity? What do guys do for power? Are you on the grid or you have
we’re not on the grid with that. We looked into getting, sorry, a pole put in
and it was going to be like almost $10 000 so we were like, “Well we can
figure out a lot cheaper option.”
could add an addition to the house.
yeah we can build two more houses, so we’re like, “Let’s not do
that.” So at this point we ran a generator for a long time, solar I’d like
to get a really nice solar set up eventually for that. But that just-
Exactly. And it’s just, “Do we need it?” And at this point it hasn’t
been a necessity and that’s this whole living lifestyle, what do we really need
for life? Are you willing to live without certain things to get what you want?
I want to be able to wake up and not leave for work at 09:00 am and so if
living in a tent is me not having to leave my family all day and go to work,
like that works for me and it works for my wife so we’re going to do that.
yeah, I can wake up whenever I want essentially and I go shoot my bow for a
little bit and then I get to hang out with my kids all day and we get to go to
the gym and I can get my work done whenever I need to get it done and that’s
all because of our living style and we’ve made certain cuts in certain areas to
allow us to do whatever we want. And like right now I’m in California and we’ve
been here for about two weeks and that’s because we live in a tent. If we had a
house back over in that area even, we probably wouldn’t even be here right now
because we’d be worried about paying our mortgage and getting all the bills
that come with that and stuff. But right now our living cost is just so low
that we don’t have to worry about it.
kind of qualities do you see in your children that you don’t think would be
there if you lived out here like us savages?
savages. That’s actually probably one of the best topics I can talk about is
you see Fox who lived here for two years of his life and he developed much
different habits than Grizzly who’s been basically living in that set up for
his whole life. He was only I think about seven moths old when we moved into the
camper. So all he’s know is being on this two acre property. So from the time
he could crawl he was just crawling through tall grass and just playing in this
area and he’s so much more attached to the outside and I said, we’re in a rural
area but we have tons of deer coming through our property all the time, tons of
meal deer, we have geese that are just constantly flying up and down the river.
we just have swarms of geese flying overhead, we have some pheasant that run
around our property, tons of squirrels, turkey will come through spring and
fall and just be running around doing their thing.
you allowed to hunt any of these?
you can. It’s all legal game.
I do hunt. I don’t post much about hunting because I don’t think it’s an
important topic for me personally.
don’t either. I’m a hunter as well but…
yeah. Like I look at hunting as it’s the same as like what president did you
vote for? It shouldn’t determine who you are as a human or how you’re looked
at. So it’s a controversial topic so I just honestly don’t go into it because I
don’t think it matters. I think what matters is, what you do in life. What kind
of person you are, how you’re treating those around you, how you’re raising
your kids. Those are topics that really matter and the rest of it’s just, if
you want to have an actual conversation about it, I’m open to that but yeah.
For the most part I don’t, but yeah I do hunt.
got a deer hunt and a elk hunt this year, so I’ll be doing that.
always wanted to do the elk hunt. But I never done, I’m a bow hunter as well.
there you go.
I’m from super rural area in upstate New York.
this is completely, yeah, it’s all white tail but this is a completely
different lifestyle in LA that I live.
so much anymore because I live in a rural pocket of LA which is weird to say
but yeah, it’s just a total different lifestyle change. I can kind of relate to
what you’re saying about you just have to shift the mindset to go back towards
something like that.
yeah. It’s a different mindset, I didn’t, my views on life are just so different.
Coming from an area like that, there’s a different mindset. It’s almost like a
different country really, like these people that live here have a different
mindset that the people living in California and there’s always all this
tension between these states and like, “Well this is how you’re supposed
to live life,” but they don’t live here. And they don’t live in California
so people in New Mexico can’t tell people in California how to live. And people
in California can’t tell people in New Mexico how to live because you don’t
it’s a different world. It’s taken me almost three years to really wrap my head
around the different lifestyles and I was telling my friends in New Mexico
like, “You have no clue what it’s like to live in California,” and
I’m telling people in California, “You have no clue what it’s like to live
in New Mexico.” It’s two different, like it literally might as well be
different countries. It’s extremely different life.
kind of reaction do you get from your friends you grew up here when they find
out or when they found that you, “I moved to New Mexico and I live in a
tent.” Like, what kind of reaction do you get from people?
opinions. Some people are like, “You’re awesome. You’re doing life
right.” Some people are just like, “Eh, cool.”
“You’re crazy,” like my parents voiced their opinions, they thought
we were crazy at first but-
they been out to visit you?
yeah, they come out. That was, family was by far the hardest thing and I get a
lot of people who will DM me and be like, “I would love to move but I just
can’t leave my family.” And I always just tell them like, “Okay,
that’s great. Your family’s family but they’re not your family. Like when you,
once you step into the world of having your own kids now you’re taking those
kids’ life in your hands and as much fun as it is, like to have your nieces and
nephews and grandparents around all the time, that’s not daily life.”
have to focus on your unit.
And our kids’ daily life was not cool out here. I hated it for them and so now
they have a great daily life and they still get to see their cousins and their
grandparents just not as often but they still get to do it and they’re still
part of their lives.
And when we FaceTime so they can talk every day and yeah, family should not be
the reason you stay somewhere in my opinion, as much as I love my family.
totally derailed you, you were telling me about your second son. And how
much… how different he is and I totally-
was just curious of you guys and actually like were allowed to eat off the
and that’s, on that topic, that’s been a cool part. I can go out and hunt some
ducks in the morning and I’ll bring them back and I’ll teach the boys how to
cut them up and we’ll carve out some breast and then they’ll watch the whole
process of like, “Hey, I killed this animal. And then I’m taking it back,
we’re going to clean it up and we’re going to eat it.”
have an appreciation for how-
I didn’t grow up having the opportunity to do that and now I get an opportunity
to teach my boys that and be like, “Hey, this is where food comes
from.” And that’s one of the greatest things and I think that just goes
back to a whole different topic of society and how removed we are from
understanding death in a sense. Yeah, back to what you were saying; Grizzly,
he’s grown up with that stuff now. And Fox still has a tendency to just want to
go back and play video games and want to sit inside and just not go outside as
much as Grizzly does and Grizzly’s like, first thing when he does he wakes up
and he’s out the door and he’s wandering around like literally chasing the deer
around or just, he’s outside and Fox has a tendency to be a little bit more inside
and it’s because for two years of his life he lived in a California apartment
and he was inside a lot.
so I think it’s just really put in a habit in him, it’s going to be hard to
break in a sense. He just has this tendency to wanna live that life versus our
kid that’s been on this property his whole life and I wish we could have been
earlier to have Fox be in that same situation where all he knew was just being
outside. But he still gets to experience it now which is better than never.
are you a different person now than you were before?
definitely been a… for both me and Katie it’s been not only like a physical
journey but a spiritual journey and then I think mental journey’s been the
biggest thing, just really getting what you want out of life. I think a lot of
times if you live in a certain scenario that you don’t want to really think
about life because you don’t want to come to the realization of maybe that you
don’t like your life and if you don’t want to change or you don’t like
something, you just will push it away whereas like, we’ve gotten to a point now
where we’ll just be like, “Hey, we don’t like this about life. Well then how
do we change it?”
we’ve accepted that we can change things. We’ve moved out of state, we’ve found
a different living situation, we do different things out of the norm so now
let’s open our mind to, “What else can we do?” We’re not limited by,
“Hey, we can’t do that because it’s not cool.” No we just limit
ourselves by, what are we capable of doing? Like, we want to start another
business? Cool, we’ve already started one so why not start another one? Or
we’re limited by what we think we can do in a sense.
what you think you should do?
We’ve definitely dropped that whole façade of caring what other people will
think about what we’re doing. We’re just going to do what we’re going to do and
what’s best for our family.
talked previously about saying, 10 years down the road, you didn’t like where
you thought you would be.
do you see yourself now in 10 years?
one of the things that I always think about. I’m like, “I’m not really
sure now, still.” We’ve done this whole life change but I think that’s the
beauty of it, we don’t know where we’re going to be in 10 years now still but
it’s exciting because I know now that like I said, the possibilities of where
life could take us when we’re open like, we might live in a different state in
10 years. And that’s fine. Like if I find somewhere else that I find better to
live, that I want to live, we can move there. I know it’s possible now.
we’ve already done it, so why can’t we do it again? But ideally, yeah we’d have
a house built on this property, like an actual brick and mortar house, I really
don’t know. Maybe just be living there and be doing the same thing we’re doing
now, like I literally like my life right now. It’s great and so if 10 years
from now I’m doing the exact same thing I’m doing now, I’m perfectly fine with
that. That’s not, doesn’t scare me at all. But if I live in a different state,
that’s also, I’m open to that as well.
advice or maybe guidance would you give somebody who maybe is kind of at that
point in their life where they want to make a big change and are thinking about
doing something like this? As somebody who’s gone through it, do you have any
pointers that you could give to somebody or resources to look at?
thing I could say is, like I said the mindset, you have to accept the mindset
that you’re just going to do what you’re going to do. Because so many people
messaged, like I said, they’ll message me and be like, “Hey, like, I just
get so much stuff from my family. Like they’re saying this or saying that, my
friends are saying this, saying that. Like how did you deal with that?”
It’s just accept the mindset, like I said, that you’re going to do what you’re
going to do. You have to explain to them like, “Hey, thank you for your
opinion. I’m going to do this.”
then the other one is just that people are scared. It’s scary, like we moved
800 miles, my wife was pregnant, we literally threw our three year old in a
moving van, my pregnant wife drove our other car and we drove 800 miles to our
new house. That was freaking scary and we had no clue if we were going to have
a job when we got there. Like, we were just banking on that I could personally
train people if I had to there, get a job at a CrossFit gym and she could maybe
find a salon to cut hair at. Like we didn’t have jobs lined up, it was just
like, “We have this Etsy shop, let’s hope it works out. And we moved. And
it worked out. So I’m not saying it’s going to always work out for everybody,
there’s always that chance that it’s not going to work out but I think taking
that chance is worth it.
if you really don’t like your life, try something. If it doesn’t work, try
something else. Like that’s better than just sitting and wallowing in the,
“My life sucks.” Because if that’s the rest of your life, that’s a
terrible life. There’s so much greater things out there. And there’s so much
opportunity and you moving could be the greatest opportunity of your life. Like
the amount of new people you could meet where you move, you don’t even know.
There’s… The amount of people I’ve met since we moved, it’s been insane. Like
I have really good friends now that I would not have if I stayed here and now I
still have really good friends that live here so now I have twice as many good
friends, I don’t know. It’s cool.
there an actual community of people that are living this way that you even
online have connected with?
there really is. We drive down to Albuquerque at least twice, maybe three times
a year and we’ve hooked up with some really cool people down in Albuquerque.
They have families, two of them live in buses so we go down there and we’ll
hang out with those families. We just have a barbecue and they’re super cool
people. I’ve connected with a lot of people that are really cool that I’ve
never met. It’s kind of fun like the whole summertime, like the meetup because
everyone starts traveling again so wintertime’s kind of lock down for a lot of
people or they’re in the warm areas but people coming through and just, but
that’s like the real time they have fun is the summertime and with all the
traveling families and stuff.
get to see all the adventures being had and it’s cool though but there’s
definitely a community on there and there’s a lot of really cool people doing
cooler stuff than what we’re doing honestly. Like they’re really living what
we’d want to do is just traveling non-stop, that’d be fun to do so…
let’s talk about your Etsy shop. We’ve mentioned it a few times, what is it
that you do? What types of products do you make? What do you sell?
is always the funny one. It was easier to explain to people in California and
then I moved out state where it’s a lot more farm setting and your neighbor
who’s like more of a farmer’s like, “Hey what do you do for work?”
And you’re like, “Oh I make custom lights.” And they’re like,
“… Okay… Is this like online?” I’m like, “Yeah, I ship
lights to people.” And they’re like, “Okay.” So basically, yeah I
make custom lighting. It started with us being in an apartment, I just made
some lights for our apartment and people were like, “Hey those are cool.
You should sell them.” I was like, “I should.”
then I made four lights and I listed them on Etsy shop that my wife had made,
she was originally selling baby clothes that she was making. And that was because
we had a kid so I started listing lights and then I sold those lights and I was
like, “Cool, made some money. I should make more lights.” And I made
more lights and then eventually I started selling a bunch of lights and she
wasn’t selling any baby clothes so I’m like, “Let’s just make this a
lighting shop instead of a baby clothes shop.” So I started selling more
lights and then I had some restaurants hit me up and I got to do restaurant
lighting. I was like, “Whoa, this is like actually could be a business.”
So that’s what got us in the mindset of, “Hey, we could maybe make this an
actual business. Let’s move and take advantage of it.”
yeah, basically I just do a lot of homes, just real rustic barn house,
industrial lighting stuff.
like high end. I mean, the words high end are probably not, it’s like really
amazing stuff. Where can people check it out? It’s Moonstone Fox?
My shop’s Moonstone Fox, I have an Instagram moonstonefox and I have links to
there. I also have a MoonstoneFox.com, yeah it’s been fun and with that’s been
just learning how to run a business which isn’t always fun. At the cost of I
can do whatever I want.
you build in your home? Or where do you build your lights?
of the time I end up building in my home which my wife loves. But yeah, I have
a 20×8 shipping container that we just set down, I don’t need electricity to
build them which is funny. It’s like, I don’t have electricity in a place that
I’m building lights. But I can test them out and make sure they work, as long
as they work before they go off obviously that’s fine but yeah, I build them
all in there and then I ship them out and as of now it’s pretty crazy. Like
I’ve been in restaurants internationally, lots of homes in the US, lots of
restaurants in the US… Yeah, Spain, Mexico, Netherlands, bunch of random
places that I was like, “I don’t even know where I’m sending this.”
And like, “Cool we’re going to use this in a restaurant.” And I’m like,
yeah I’m about to do lots of opportunity with that and just seeing work in a
building and knowing it’s thousands and thousands of miles away, it’s pretty
crazy to see that stuff but probably one of the coolest jobs I got to do was…
It was the CEO for Virgin Records. He built like a big house down in the-
Richard, yeah. And like his designer called so I got to do a big chandelier for
one of his houses that he had all basically the artists come and stay at, and
they build this whole big house and I got to do a big chandelier over the
that’s dope. Did you do it from the shipping container?
It’s funny to think like, yeah I’m building this stuff in New Mexico in this
shipping container that doesn’t have electricity and I’m shipping it out to
this mansion and it’s going to be this piece that’s featured. That doesn’t even
make sense, it shouldn’t be.
so cool. But I mean the piece has like a real story behind it and-
so that’s been fun though.
we’ve talked about, because I have an Etsy shop too, just kind of how some
months can really hit and then some months you’re like, “Is this thing
Hitting the refresh button.
like, do I need to blow on it? What’s going on? Is it stressful for you when
you guys have a month that’s a little slow on Etsy?
I mean, financial stuff’s always going to be stressful but like I said, we’ve
got our cost of living down to where we don’t need a lot so if we have to, like
if the shop does really well it’s like, “Great, let’s pay off some stuff
that we might have racked up when we weren’t making a lot.” Or save some
money or whatever it is and then we’re not super stressed about it. We know
we’re always going to have money for food, you can live.
worst case scenario we’ll be eating rice and beans if we have a bad month or a
bad few months and we get to that point where we need to but we’ll make it
happen still. And I still run, I work for marketing with another company so I
have constant pay with that. And then my wife does doTERRA so she has her oil
business that she does as well. So we’ve learned to not put all our eggs in one
basket. So Etsy’s our main source but we have a lot of other areas that we can
make money if we, and if we need to we can put more resources into those areas
and pump out more money.
yeah it’s definitely like, if I were to lose one job I wouldn’t be sunk. That’s
kind of mentality, as I said, it’s all mentality thing with us, like, how can
we live the life we want? And this we just shaped everything around that. If I
want to travel more, I can close down the shop and we can still travel, I don’t
need to have any income from Etsy if we didn’t want to.
you take custom orders or do you build the lights and then just put them up
there for sale?
do custom orders, not as much as I used to because custom stuff’s stressful.
It’s just trying to recreate something that somebody had a vision of and you’re
just hoping that it matches their vision.
as close to or better.
and so personally that’s probably the most stressful thing in my life so I
stopped doing that because it just stressed me out, like awake at night just
like, “Oh gosh, how do I make this?”
I don’t do that many more, I basically just have my designs that I’ve made and
I’ll be like, “Here’s what’s available, let me know if you want it.”
And I just, that’s how I run it now. I kind of weeded out all the stressful
sides of the business, things that just stress me out, like I’m just not going
to do that. It’s not worth the money. It doesn’t matter if you want pay in this
amount, I don’t want to do it. It’s just going to stress me out and that’s,
again, part of our life is, “How do we eliminate stress from our life so
that we’re not stressed out every day?” Like I said, like a $600 000
looming house payment has over you when you’re just like, “I got to pay
money, I got to pay money,” and like, cutting out all the stressful sides
of life and so we’ve taken that into our business as well. Like how do we make
our business not stressful for us? And just eliminate things and not let it be
about the money. What’s going to make us less stressful, not make us more
there’s a side of making both, how can we make a lot of money without being
stressed? We’ll take that route.
think financial stress is probably like the worst type of stress you can
yeah. That will destroy you, yeah.
so hard. What about like privacy?
had some people just straight DM me that. I mean it’s just, when you have kids
it’s a different life, when it’s all said and done. Our kids are still in our
bed, I think we’ve just at this point just learned like, they’re only going to
be little for so long.
in my daughter’s bed so I actually, we’re in a nice little cozy little twin
like you’re only going to be this way for so long and like-
like Fox he still every night just wants to fall asleep in this right arm,
every night, that’s his spot. Like he curls up and he just like passes out on
me. And it’s like, “Ah.” I’m going to have this for how many more
years? Maybe not even years, maybe months and then he’s going to be like,
“I don’t really want to sleep next to you anymore.” So I think we
both just, okay, let’s just enjoy this side of it for as long as we can. And I
mean the reality is we live in a tiny home, it’s 300 square feet, life goal was
to be able to walk out on my porch butt naked and just be able to be like,
“Yes.” And I can do that right now.
mean, I can do that too.
a little frowned upon.
end up in jail.
neighbors might be like, “Hey, look at that.”
drop by on a horse.
not a huge or really big private person so like privacy doesn’t bother me. My wife’s
a little more of a private person so I think it’s been harder on her with that
stuff but after two years I think she’s just learned like, “Okay, I don’t
really need to be as private as I used to be. They’re just kids and it’s my
to just try and up and change your entire lifestyle like that is crazy thing
and that’s why I think most people don’t do it.
that fear that keeps people from doing it.
for sure. People get scared and like… I don’t know, if you’re not willing to
do it for yourself, do it for your kids. If you’re fine with just working 80
hours a week for yourself and never having a life, never doing the things you
enjoy for yourself, like your kids don’t deserve that. Like your kids want to
see you, your kids want to hang out with you. Like I was gone all day yesterday
because I was out biking with my buddies, we climbed Mount Baldy but I was gone
all day and like, I came home after being gone like 12 hours and they hadn’t
seen me all day and they were like, “Ah, Dad!” And I was like,
“Dude, I couldn’t imagine that being every day though.” Like they
were so excited to see me, they’re not used to me being gone like I’m with them
all day, every day.
go everywhere I go and one of them is coming with me when I go to the post
office to drop off packages, like either one or both of them are coming with
me. Like, they’re never not with them, for them to just not see me they were
like, “Ah, Dad’s home!” Like I couldn’t imagine doing that for five
to six days a week and just them never seeing me, like I couldn’t do it. I
don’t know if they’d cope because they’re kids but it’d just not a life I want.
not what they know.
and if I had to, I’d do what it takes to get by in life. Like if I had to go get
a job at Burger King, like not my ideal life, but I’ll go do it if it comes to
that. It may, who knows? My businesses may all fall through and then I’m
working at Starbucks, like that’s just the season of life and I’ll figure
something else out.
that teaches them a valuable lesson too, just as much as being home.
where do people go that you know, they want to see your house or they want to
see more about your lifestyle and stuff like that? Where can people find your
is the spot, @denforourcubs, that’s our-
spelled out, right?
spelled out, denforourcubs, one word. That’s our main place, yeah. I try to
just post about the kids, about life, about raising boys. Put a different view
on it, give a dad’s point of view on living and just what it’s like to be a dad
and raise boys and how do I portray what it’s like to be a man to these kids
that are just so absorbent and just soaking up everything that I do and that’s
stressful. Like everyone knows, like how do you raise a kid? It’s terrifying.
So I don’t know, I try to portray that and just the joys of life.
it’s just kind of cutting out a little bit of the clutter. Stuff you don’t need
and just more focus on the essentials.
and once you do that, you realize how much you don’t need. Like, we went from,
“Okay, we just won’t use this,” to, “Okay, we didn’t really need
that, do we need this? Well we didn’t need that, we probably don’t need
these.” And eventually you get to a point where you’re like, “I
didn’t need any of that. Why did we ever have it?” I don’t know, it’s
funny. We get caught up in it too, it’s like we only had one car for a long
time, we only needed one car. Like what are the chances your car is going to
really break down? It’s a pretty small chance and like, you have two cars under
the assumption like, “Well I need another car because this car breaks
up car. It’s like, it’s just a back up car so it’s just thousands of dollars
just sitting there, it’s like, “Do you really need two cars? No. You can
probably be fine with one car and get through the rest of your life with one
car.” You’d be fine and that kind of mentality of like, how much do you
actually need, obviously there’s indulgences. Like I have five bikes, so I have
my areas that I have way too many things so everyone has their downfall but
it’s just taking life and looking at it in different view and changing your
perspective and really, really like I said, having the mindset of, “What
do I need to get by in life? And what’s going to make me happy?”
that goes into a much different conversation of obviously, some people are
called to certain places in life and it might not be a great time in your life,
like I think my time in California wasn’t the greatest time of my life in a
sense but I went through so much while I was there and I think that God shaped
me to become who I am now because of that time. So to say like, if I would have
moved out of California right when we got married, I wouldn’t be the same
person because I would have never gone through those struggles and been through
those things that I went through. They made me, now 31, who I am.
I think you’re called at certain times and it may not always be the best times
but you’re going to have a lot of times that are just, you have to go through.
these are some social media questions we got. First of all, your wife wants to
know, Are you single?
she telling you something?
was just saying, I don’t know if that’s a good thing.
better get on the phone right now.”
is actually a really good one, did you ever have a moment where it was so
overwhelming and you felt like you made the wrong choice? Were there any of,
like major setbacks that freaked you out?
always the doubts in your head of, “Is this going to work? Is that going
to work? Is this, I don’t know. Is somebody going to show up at my doorstep one
day and… you know, take my kids away?” I don’t, as a parent you have a
lot of those things and then like just as an adult you have a lot of those
things just worrying about life.
no, honestly, I think for us we were just so, I was so tired of being in
California, just like so sick of it and so over the life I had here that just
being anywhere else was so refreshing, like even when we moved into that house,
we weren’t in a… We were in a country neighborhood and we had neighbors
across the street and like neighbors close, we were on about four acres there.
So we could still see our neighbors but just to walk outside and not be in a concrete
area, like I walk out and I can see fields of alfalfa growing and stuff. It was
just different, it was just nice.
all the stresses that I had, any of those were just greatly outweighed by,
“Dude, we’re not in a normal setting anymore and this is so nice.”
there’s not hundreds of cars driving by, we don’t got to worry about freeways.
Just all the things that just stress you out is living in California, we didn’t
have that anymore. It was just a weight off our chests. So I mean, life always
has its stresses but I just think it outweighs it so much. You’re doing so much
in one area of life but the other life you’re just like, “Oh, this is just
how life is.” And I’m just going to accept it. Like whereas we’re like,
“I’m going to gym all day. If you don’t like something about you, change
your body, change yourself, work out, eat better, do those things,” and
then on the side I’m living this life that I don’t enjoy. So it’s like they
both go hand in hand, you should have a physical good health and then on that,
you should have a mentally good health and a good life.
is no good without the other.
So you can be as fit as you want and do whatever you want and be as healthy as
you want, eat as good as you want, if your life sucks it’s not going to
outweigh the other ones. You have to have a good balance and I think that’s
where tiny living and this whole our journey of eating good and being healthy
in general, they fit together so well. Like just a mentally good life and a healthy
life in general.
you plan on home schooling the kids? If that’s personal that’s totally-
No, no, no. Yeah, we do. I was home schooled my whole life, me and my three
siblings all the way up into, I took some satellite campus classes through high
school but other than that, my mom taught me and people always, my go-to for
people that think they can’t home school their kids, like I could never do
that. My mom was a 16 year old high school drop out who became an international
model and literally, didn’t know whether or not the sun revolved around the
earth or the earth revolved around the sun, no joke. And she raised all four of
us and we all are… alive.
you seem pretty tenacious and pretty smart.
are some parts of the internet that still aren’t sure about that.
if she can do it.
can a [inaudible 00:49:20] flat.
can do it. Exactly. The earth is flat, what are you talking about? So yeah,
it’s definitely something we’re going to do. My wife was not into the idea in
the beginning and then as she’s had kids now, like I said, mindset changes once
you have kids and you go, “Do I really want to send my kid somewhere else
for hours a day and be taught by somebody I don’t know?” It’s like,
“Ah, maybe not. Maybe I just want to teach them on my own and give them
the values that we like.” I mean, other people’s values are important too
but they’re our kids so we want to raise them how we want to raise them.
Are bugs a problem?
shocking, people are always like, “How do keep small animals out and
stuff? Aren’t the ticks terrible?” I’ve never had a tick. I run around the
property like all day in tall grass. I think we’re just lucky we don’t have a
lot of ticks in our area. Like I know New York is just tick ridden but our area
doesn’t have ticks. Bugs, we have two boys so the more bugs the better I guess.
yeah, heaven man.
It’s like, “Oh there’s a spider in the house that needs to be smashed. Get
it.” Free for all so not that many bugs to be honest. Mosquitoes, we have
mosquitoes obviously but nothing that-
an oil for that.
an oil, exactly. There’s an oil for that and then as far as like, I don’t know,
snakes and stuff like that, I’ve seen a couple snakes around but-
on a raised, I mean you’re…
on a platform, yeah.
tent has a raised foundation so…
we’re about a foot off the ground.
not on the-
yeah, we’re not on the dirt ground so it’s definitely. I mean we have a door.
you’re in a dry environment too, right?
it’s very dry it stays around 15% to 20% humidity so it’s very, very dry.
that helps. Do you grow any of your own food?
do. We’re torn between wanting to live a farm lifestyle, like when we first
moved out there we were like, “We’re getting chickens and a goat and all
of the stuff.” And then I kind of realized, wait, you have to be home all
the time to have all these things. You have to take care of them and have a
garden, you have to be there. We planted a garden before we left and basically
set up a timer off of the hose from the pump house and I ran a lot of hose over
and I have it sitting there and I’m just like, “Well, whatever’s there
when we get back is it because I’m not going to not go to California because I
want to grow my own food.” Like, I would love to grow my own food and just
be fully self-sustained but that requires being home.
for us right now, this season of life, we want to travel, we want to do things
and so that’s not ideal. I would love to wake up and go get fresh eggs every
morning and cook them but reality is that’s just not going to allow us the
lifestyle we want to do right now. Eventually we will do that and probably
maybe get a cow and stuff like that but right now it just doesn’t fit our
lifestyle and we have farmer’s markets that have real fresh eggs and chickens
and you can get some raw milk from a local farms and stuff like that. So
there’s a lot of it available because we’re in the country so even if we don’t
grow it we can get really good quality fresh stuff from local people.
is just as good.
thank you so much for being here.
thank you guys for having me.
been really insightful, really inspiring for sure. I don’t know, I feel like-
about to go home and smash his computer.
about to just throw everything out the window and throw a tent up in my
funny. That’s what my buddy always says, he’s like, “Dang, now I got to
sell all my bikes.”
like, “No, you have to save your bikes man.”
the bikes just have a better mindset, that’s all I’m saying.
really does make you think like even with [inaudible 00:52:40].
just want to keep my workshop and then I’ll build a tent.
it, yeah, there you go man.
also want to thank our founding partner of the show, FilterBuy for making the
series and this episode possible and again, follow us on Instagram,
@howtohome_guide, make sure you follow Zac on Instagram, @denforourcubs and on
Etsy, Moonstone Fox.
the name of the shop.
put everything in the show notes so you can kind of [crosstalk 00:53:04].
all be there and make sure you guys rate us on your podcast listening app of
choice. Give us that five star rating and we appreciate you guys interacting
with us and following along with the show. So, stick around we’ve got more
episodes coming up soon.
goes back to us moving and stuff like that, but some of the greatest times with
my dad was we’d go up to Mammoth Mountains at least twice a year, minimum once,
but we go up there and we’d just go fish and we’d get to hang out in the
mountains. I think that’s really what planted a seed for me to want to do this
lifestyle with our boys is, dude those were the best times of my life. I look
back on those memories, those were some of the best times of my life, it’s
like, how do I give that to my boys?
at an even greater scale instead of this being a, “Hey, we’re going to do
this once a year, twice a year.” It’s like, what if we could live this
life? What if that was our life? And that might not make it as special in a
sense but now we get to live that life whenever we want. Like we live by some
of the greatest fishing in the world or the greatest hunting in the world so I
can now, and I have the time to do it and we can do that with my boys.
at an age where they’re not quite old enough yet to really appreciate it or
partake in the activity but I imagine by the time they’re like eight, nine,
ten, eleven, the adventures we’re going to have when we get to that point, I
have no doubt that they’ll have the same memories that I had and just looking
back on those times and be like, that was spent with my dad and just I don’t
know. Just good times like… You look at it as the greatest times of your life
in a sense and I think people always are striving to get back to that. They
look back and they’re like, “That’s the time.” Everyone always
remembers the times in the mountains and doing fun things and going on hikes
and I think that’s what sparked so much of this.
living and traveling with people in America is, they have those times and
they’re like, “We can live this all the time and we can give that gift to
our boys or girls or whatever it is.” So me as a dad, that’s what I want
to give to my boys. I want to give them the gift of just being able to do
whatever they want to do and really just enjoy it. If that’s biking for them,
like we can go biking as a father and son and we can have a great time. If they
want to go fishing, we can fishing. They want to go hunting, we can go hunting.
We can do anything we want, so…
This week Aaron and Tracy chat with Zac Ruiz of Den For Our Cubs. They discuss how he and his wife made the decision to leave their life in Southern California to live in a tent in New Mexico- and Zac’s philosophy on living a life you love.
You can always call and leave your questions and comments on our voicemail!
QUICK FACTS ABOUT ZAC’S HOME:
- They currently live in New Mexico.
- They transitioned from apartment, to camper and then to the tent.
- The canvas home is 300 sq ft and 12 ft tall.
- They built a platform and then a frame, then essentially just slid the tent on.
- They have polycarbonate sheets on the front of the tent to let in sunlight.
- They heat the tent with a propane heater. This is the one he mentioned: https://www.mrheater.com/big-buddy-portable-heater.html
- They have a water well and use their Berkey to filter it. https://www.berkeyfilters.com
- The house cost $5,000 to build.
- They have a composting toilet. This is the one thing Zac mentioned not enjoying in terms of upkeep.
- They’re not off the grid, they go into “town” for normal activities.
“If you don’t like your life- try something. If you still don’t like it- try something else!”
The Etsy Shop:
- Zac sells custom lights for homes and businesses.
- He builds in shipping container.
Q: Did you ever have a moment where it was so overwhelming and you felt like you made the wrong choice?
A: There are always doubts/fears but he was so tired of California and ready for a change that this life is refreshing.
Q: Do you plan on homeschooling?
A: Yes. Zac and his siblings were homeschooled and they plan on doing the same.
Q: Are bugs a problem?
A: Surprisingly, NO!
Q: Do you grow your own vegetables?
A: Yes, but not a full farm lifestyle. They try to buy local as much as possible.
Website | https://denforourcubs.wordpress.com
The Gram | https://www.instagram.com/DENFOROURCUBS/
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