“I’ve done a lot of things in my life. Now my wife, Rachel, and I are woodworkers. We build cutting boards and other similar things under the brand Dependent Creations to afford our tiny lifestyle. We’d like to have more income, but we’ll take what we can get,” explained Messick from a workshop at his parents’ house in rural Tennessee.

The couple met eight years ago at Middle Tennessee State University where Daniel and Rachel earned degrees in horticultural and environmental sciences, and global studies and leadership, respectively.

“Ironically, we lived close to each other – one small town apart – before college, but we didn’t know each other then,” said Messick.

Nomads

Until now, the couple has taken small trips in their van to tiny house festivals and shows, the longest of which was 10 days.

“I don’t truly feel qualified to answer the question whether long-term van life is for us. The 10-day stints were fine, but it’s sort of a honeymoon mode,” said Messick. “Our plan is to produce a stockpile of products and then take our wares on the road with us. Last Friday was Rachel’s last day at her fulltime job.”

Rachel and Daniel hope to earn at least enough money to pay for gas through graphic design and social media publishing. They currently have a strong audience on Instagram.

“We’re going to hit the tiny house circuit this year, but the ultimate dream is to go down to South America, source local goods and help people there export items to America,” explained Messick. “I used to work in the landscaping industry. Guys come here from their home countries and in many cases are gone for years at a time to support their families. My dad worked night shift in a factory six days a week for years, so I know what it’s like to not be with your family. I would like to help them figure out ways to stay at home and still make a living.”

Living Tiny

“We have pretty well purged everything. All we own, including our woodworking stuff, is in the van and trailer,” said Messick. “We’ve learned how to stay out of each other’s way. It’s only 80 square feet, but we came up with a rolling closet that has helped us maximize the space. It’s bigger than the master bedroom closet we had in a 1950s house we once lived in in Nashville. And, we can seat six for dinner at our table.”

“Even though we’re new to this, the preparation for tiny living has been freeing. Because of the small space, we can’t buy anything new. When possessions are less important, we find we have more time for each other,” said Messick. “We’ve both lived the career lifestyle. Nice jobs. But no time for each other. Part of this adventure is intended to help us understand each other better. We are learning how to do ministry together.”

Banana Van

“It’s a 2003 Dodge Sprinter 2500 with the longer wheel base,” said Messick. “It has 200,000 miles on it, but that doesn’t scare me with a diesel. Plus, it’s a pre-2006 model, which has far less complicated electronics and is easier for average people to maintain.” Mileage has been “in low 20s,” even when towing their trailer.

“The guy we bought it from was in Virginia Beach and he did the floors and insulation before we got it. We are trying to decide whether we should fix the body. There is some rust, but honestly it’s one of our last priorities. I’ve seen some plasti spray that can deliver good results from aerosol cans. We might do that at some point,” said Messick.

You can meet the Messicks and see their banana van at the Mid-Atlantic Tiny House Expo in Howard County, Maryland, October 6-7.