A couple decided to ditch city life after having children, moving their family to live off the grid in a tent – and they claim it’s improved their lives, giving them a chance to teach their children ‘real life skills,’ like throwing knives.
Etsy shop owners Zac Ruiz, 31, and his wife Katie, 33, from New Mexico, were living in Orange County, California, back in 2016 in a 1,100 square foot apartment which was costing them $1,650 a month. To top it off Katie was paying back $40,000 worth of student debt.
But the couple admits that thought their life was comfortable back then; they both enjoyed their jobs and Zac worked as a gym coach while Katie was a hairdresser. It was all they’d ever known, and the busy city life kept them entertained.
Something different: Zac and Katie Ruiz have been living in a tent in the New Mexico wilderness with their two young sons Fox, five, and Grizzly, three, since July 2017
‘Life skills’: Both Zac, 31, and Katie, 33, believe it is important that their sons learn ‘real life skills’, including archery, and how to throw knives and axes
Papa bear: Zac sees their new home as a den for his cubs where the two can raise their children in the best possible way spending the majority of their time in the great outdoors
Breaking free: ‘When we started having kids, we really started to see the flaws in our way of life. We started to see Fox and Grizzly grow up in this materialistic environment and we had to ask ourselves, “Is this really what we want?”‘ Zac said
However, when they had their first child, Fox, now five, they started to question their environment and whether it was the right place for children to grow up in. When looking to the future they saw themselves doing the same thing in ten years’ time as they were back then – this wasn’t enough for them.
After securing their very own rural two-acre piece of land they started building a tiny 314 square foot tent which has been their full-time home since July 2017. Since moving in they have had another son, Grizzly, now three.
Zac sees their new home as a den for his cubs where the two can raise their children in the best possible way spending the majority of their time in the great outdoors.
‘Back in 2016 when we were still living in Orange County, our 1,100 square foot apartment was costing us $1,650 a month and Katie had $40,000 worth of school debt,’ Zac said.
‘It was comfortable living really close to neighbors, seeing lots of cars, driving in traffic, it’s all I knew in life after twenty-eight years of living in the same county.
‘I was working in gyms as a coach for years. There were many early mornings and late nights. It was an enjoyable job and I made a lot of good friends through it. Katie was a hairstylist and spent her days making people look good which she really enjoyed and still misses it today.
New horizons: The couple admit that they were perfectly happy with their city life, however they were struggling with Katie’s $40,000 student debt and the high cost of rent in Orange County, where they were living
Priorities: ‘We don’t spend much time inside, so we don’t need a lot of space. We want our children to be outside a lot,’ Zac explained of their day-to-day lives
Home is where the tent is: The couple bought a two-acre plot of land where they started to build their special tent
Out and about: Zac and Katie also travel around with their sons, ensuring that they spend plenty of time in the great outdoors
‘We were happy at the time and enjoyed living there as a young married couple. There were lots to do and our friends were all nearby.
‘But when we started having kids, we really started to see the flaws in our way of life. We started to see Fox and Grizzly grow up in this materialistic environment and we had to truly ask ourselves, “Is this really what we want for our kids?” And if we were brutally honest about it, we knew we didn’t want this for them.
‘We have all had ten-year visions, but we saw ourselves doing the same thing each day that we were doing then, and it was kind of scary. We had sort of lost hope and vision for the future.
‘So, we bought a two-acre plot of land in New Mexico and created our tiny 314 square foot tent in just one month for about $5,000.
‘The exterior is all canvas, there is no other insulation beyond that. We have a rain fly on top that keeps us dry inside and helps shed snow. The inside was mostly built out of barn wood. We based the inside layout completely off the land.
‘We don’t spend much time inside, so we don’t need a lot of space. We want our children to be outside a lot. Our children still get to play video games or watch TV sometimes, but we are trying to teach them that “stuff” is not a lifestyle and being outside is.’
Working hard: ‘We have a duty to our kids, not to my parents or my siblings or friends, but to our children. We have been entrusted to raise them to the best of our ability and that’s what we are doing,’ Zac explained
Example: The father-of-two warns that too many parents miss out on life experiences with their children
Quality time: The two parents do allow their children to watch TV and play video games on occasion, but they prioritize family time, and outdoor experiences
Lessons: Zac says he relishes the chance to learn new life skills with his children, although he admitted that his family and friends had a hard time saying goodbye to him
Zac said leaving his previous life tore him apart particularly as his family and friends cried as they watched him and Katie drive off. But, he felt he was doing the right thing for his family.
A main concern with the current system for Zac is that parents don’t get enough time with their children because they are working all day and sending their kids to school.
‘Leaving everything I knew tore me apart. I felt like I was doing something so wrong. Our family stood on the curb crying as we drove off in a moving truck. It was like something out of a movie and absolutely heart-breaking,’ Zac said.
‘But I knew it was the right thing to do. We have a duty to our kids, not to my parents or my siblings or friends, but to our children. We have been entrusted to raise them to the best of our ability and that’s what we are doing.
‘I think it’s a shame that parents hardly get any time with their children. Our society tells us we must go to work all day and build other people’s businesses, only to be laid off. We send our kids to school for hours a day to learn about things that won’t apply to real life.
Idyllic: The couple spent just one month setting up their new home, which is a wooden frame with a canvas exterior
Hard work: Their tent is just 314 square feet – a far cry from the 1,100 square foot space they lived in before
Important: Zac warns that ‘too many people are buying into the lie that life will be better if we make money’
‘For example me and my boys have been learning real life skills together. We have built a pretty decent archery, and we have been learning how to throw knives and axes together.
‘It might seem like something that should die with the times, but we have learnt a lot together and we’ve had such a good time doing it.
‘We have been sharing our journey with others on Instagram, but it’s evolved over the last three years. I talk about tiny living and I share that we all have a choice and we can take our lives into our own hands. This is where my true passion lies.
‘Too many people are buying into the lie that life will be better if we make more money, or we get that new car or that six-bedroom house. We are all trading the outdoors for neatly furnished indoor comfort zones to protect us from having to go outside. These lies will eat you up and leave you wondering where your life went.
‘Do you really want to chance it, that you are living the best life for you and your family right now? There is so much out there to do and experience, and we’re foolish to think this is all there is.
‘We might have a ten-year vision right now, but the future doesn’t scare us anymore. We know life is changeable, we’re not stuck. So now when I think of where we could be in ten years I get excited.’