BY: ALEX BROWN
For $150 a month, recent undergrad Michael Jeffery claims one corner of a horse paddock at the foot of British Columbia’s Mount Paul in Kamloops, rented out by a local farmer for his yurt. As a student of the wilderness therapy program at Thompson Rivers University, Jeffery has distinguished himself as an obvious talent. Aside from saving hundreds of dollars each month, Jeffery opted for the yurt-life to fulfill the simple desire to remain close to the land and hone his outdoor survival skills.
“I think living off the land is a more effective and efficient way of living. Considering how high rent is in the city, living there doesn’t make sense to me,” Jeffery tells his school newspaper, The Adventure Project. Finding a landlord who was willing to rent out land for cheap was Jeffery’s biggest challenge. Now, his big problem is staying warm during the winter months, but Jeffery doesn’t seem too concerned. A custom wood-burning stove keeps the space warm, though Jeffery claims he doesn’t mind the cold too much anyway.
Over the summer, Jeffery built his yurt in a woodshop owned by his friend and pastor who works with at-risk youth. They met while he was passing through on a hitchhiking trip through Canada. By working together with the kids, Jeffery was able to build his new home while giving the kids a constructive project—not to mention the benefit of learning how to one day build their own yurt. As the school year approached, Jeffery packed the yurt into his truck and drove it to Kamloops, where he reassembled it in under a day.
Nomadism is engrained in the culture of yurt-living, which are traditionally Mongolian structures that offer easy set-up and take-down. Jeffery’s yurt, 23 feet in diameter, was built with easily deconstructed walls that fold up into 4-foot sections that he can fit in his pickup truck along with the joists, ring, and outer skin. The outside of the yurt was built from reclaimed billboard vinyl to save money and add a flare of sustainability to the project. Jeffery stays warm at night by running pipes from his stove under a clay “bench,” which resembles a long mound of dirt, where he sleeps in the winter.
To maintain a sense of self-sufficiency and a low environmental impact, Jeffery rides his bike to school and is currently looking for a kayak to paddle across river to the bus stop when it’s warm. For drinking water and showers, Jeffery uses a tap by the river to fill 20-gallon jugs, sometimes requiring a few trips back and forth when he needs a particularly luxurious shower. It is still unclear how he manages this bathing routine in the winter, though I’m sure he’s innovated a workable routine—even if it’s stealing a few odd showers from his friends’ dorms.
Jeffery’s bold living situation has become a campus legend, attracting national media coverage and inspiring other students to consider building their own yurts. For anyone interested in pursuing a living situation similar to Jeffery’s, he offers nothing but support. In his mind, too many Canadians are addicted to the comforts of modern life, thus missing out on important experiences: pride in one’s home, a connection with nature, and the financial leeway to spend one’s time exploring the unique natural environment that surrounds them.