During the past ten years there has been a popularity of people writing about and making videos showing Van-Life, Tiny-House Building, Tiny-House Living, Off-Grid Living, Sustainable-Farming. Unfortunately much of this is misleading or even fake. Ordinary people, especially young people are getting the wrong impression of what is actually going on, and they are making plans to copy what they see, not understanding that this is not real.
One of the most popular Van-Life, Tiny-House, Off-Grid, Sustainable-Farming YouTubers is Isabel Paige, with over 600K subscribers to her channel. Myself and a few other people, have tried to point out that Isabel Paige has over-glamorized Tiny-House, Off-Grid, Sustainable-Farming
My criticism of Isabel Paige’s YouTube videos, is that I believe her viewers do not realize the amount of help, assistance, support, and backing that her parents provided. That Isabel’s viewers do not know that her parents own the land where Isabel built her tiny-house, that her parents’ fully equipped second home is several hundred feet away, that her parents bought the land in 2015 to legally grow marijuana, that’s what kind of “farm” it was.
Supporters of Isabel respond to these criticisms by saying that Isabel already said that her parents own the land, or that her father helped build her tiny-house, but there are always signs that many viewers don’t know. For instance, a viewer in Florida tried to start a GoFundMe in order to raise money for Isabel to have car repairs, not knowing that Isabel’s parents are multi-millionaires. How this viewer got this idea that Isabel didn’t have money, may have come from Isabel talking about trying to save money for her tiny-house by working as a waitress, and working at a farmer’s market.
Another area of criticism that I and few others had about Isabel’s videos, is that much of what she was doing was counter to survival. Examples of this, frequently bathing naked in the icy river where she could have fallen and gotten hurt; trodding through the snow and performing chores outside with clothing that was not protective enough; going far from home into the woods without a firearm; not spending enough time actually farming.
This week, Isabel announced that she was moving out of her tiny-house, leaving the farm, and that she was now embarking on a life of travel and videography. There are probably a thousand different responses to this news, myself, my response was something like “that figures…I knew it…I told you so…she was never into farming…she grew out of it…living in a tiny-house is not fun after all.”
Probably most of Isabel Paige’s viewers don’t think that she did anything wrong. I do. I think that there were many young people that used Isabel Paige’s videos as an excuse not to go to college, not to go to tech or vocational school, not to seek an apprenticeship, not to do any real life planning, but think that they could just drift around and daydream. I think that some people planned on homesteading, following Isabel Paige’s videos as a model.
Below, I want to explain some of the unique things about Isabel’s circumstances, so that people can clearly understand that Isabel had a lot of support and backing, especially from her father Steve, that most people do not have to this degree. I will try to explain this using a kind of time-line.
From 1978 to 1983, Isabel’s father Steve spent five years in college studying primarily mechanical engineering, fine arts, and studio arts. Twelve years later, Steve began designing, manufacturing, and distributing a variety of consumer products via three separate companies that he founded in 1995, 1996, and 2008. These products that he produced in his own manufacturing plant, and contracted foreign manufacturers to produce overseas, were sold around the world. The sale of one of his companies in 2013 is estimated to have yielded several million dollars. Steve’s financial success through the 1990s-2000s, allowed his family to live in a $2.5 million home overlooking Puget Sound in Seattle, which they still own and occupy.
In 2013, Steve started a legal marijuana growing company in eastern Washington State. In the 2013-2015 time frame, Steve purchased several large acreages in eastern Washington. At one of these locations there was a single-family home that was recently built by either Steve or the previous property owner, that Steve and his family used as a vacation home until he and his wife were ready to relocate from Seattle.
In approximately 2016-2017, Isabel was going to college in Australia, then living in New Zealand, then living in India to pursue Yoga.
In June of 2018, Isabel was living in a van in Hawaii, and working as a waitress.
In the end of Summer 2019, Isabel was living in her parents’ $2.5 million home overlooking Puget Sound in Seattle, and working as a waitress. Here is a video showing the view of where Isabel was living at her parents’ Seattle home in 2019, plus several views of Isabel visiting her parents’ second home in eastern Washington, and an explanation of how she had started out going to college in Australia, then living in New Zealand : https://youtu.be/kYtYKpB2h8o
In the Fall of 2019, Isabel got the idea that she would like to go live at her parents’ second home in eastern Washington, she was talking about doing it, but she kept her job in Seattle until April of 2020.
In the Spring and Summer of 2020, Isabel is living in her parents’ second home in eastern Washington. In the Summer of 2020, Isabel and her father begin building Isabel’s tiny-house. Isabel’s tiny-house is completed in about November of 2020.
In January 2021, Isabel goes on a trip with Hannah Lee Duggan in Florida. Spring of 2021, Isabel does some more interior work on her tiny-house. In June 2021, Isabel’s boyfriend Logan from Tennessee comes to stay for a while. In July of 2021 Isabel, Logan, and her family begin building an “Art Studio” that is slightly larger than Isabel’s tiny-house. November of 2021, Isabel and Logan finish construction of the Art Studio.
January 2022, Isabel is alone in her tiny-house. 2nd half of January, Logan returns, he and Isabel both get sick with Covid. February 2022, Isabel and Logan are done living in the tiny-house and the farm, they are leaving and not coming back. Here is the video about leaving: https://youtu.be/QooZrcx0mm8
In the Fall of 2019, Isabel was saying that her parents’ farm in eastern Washington was where she wanted to spend the rest of her life. She moved onto the farm in the Spring of 2020. In the Summer of 2020, Isabel and her father began building her tiny-house. In the Summer of 2021, Isabel and Logan began building their Art Studio. In February 2022, she’s done???
Most people, including myself, if I lived in a large $2.5M house overlooking Puget Sound in Seattle, I would be beyond satisfied with that. It doesn’t get any better than that, I don’t need to move. But let’s say that I did have a life-long dream of living in the mountains, in a forest, beside a river, and that I had a tiny-house and an art studio built there, WTF!, how does your supposed spend-the-rest-of-your-life/life-long-dream get boring in less than two years, and you’re ready to walk away from it all?
I am trying to point out two things. One, that off-grid/tiny-house/sustainable-living/homesteading must not be as exciting, fulfilling, fun, and glamorous as portrayed in YouTube videos if it gets old, boring, tiresome after less than two years. Two, that what other people might have intended to copy as a model for off-grid/tiny-house/sustainable-living/homesteading, saving and using every resource they possess to accomplish, wasn’t actually a long-term plan, it was all just like a privileged child’s backyard play set.
Update 3/13/22: For a more complete discussion about Isabel Paige quitting her tiny-house, off-grid, sustainable-farm, and beginning to make van-life videos, watch Jasmine Cherry’s YouTube video about this, and read the comments to this video: