Danielle Norton tries Tiny Away, 2020's take on downsizing your weekend in the country.
With big dreams about living small, my daughter and I headed to a Tiny Away home at Gherang on the fringes of the Otway National Park, 35 kilometres west of Geelong. Only two hours' drive from Melbourne and we are on a farm, without another house in sight, unpacking our overnight bags. I rarely travel light, but in the spirit of minimalism, I acquiesced.
"That can't be it," says my daughter as we spot our accommodation across the waterhole. "It's too tiny!" The blue Colorbond tiny house looks like a child's cubby, parked under a grove of eucalypts.
It seems impossible that two people could live inside, but upon entering it's like Mary Poppins' magical carpetbag - it fits far more than expected. A mini version of a caravan, the 2.4-metre by 4.8-metre home is certainly compact. There is not a scrap of wasted space and we delight in the way that there's a place for everything.
A double mattress is cocooned on a "mezzanine level" at the rear of the house, and the sofa slots snugly under a window, beside the living room's single storage cabinet. The open-shelved kitchen has two of everything - plates, mugs, wine glasses, spoons - and minimal cooking equipment. I start to believe that I really am a minimalist like Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, the social activists who threw out all their stuff and live a simpler, happier life as a result.
Despite being a compressed space, the windows are large and each has an uninterrupted view of the bush. The tiny house is a picture of style and function, until my daughter unpacks her bag in a very "teenaged" fashion and spreads her gear out on the floor. She also lounges on the compact sofa, so I am forced to take a folding chair outside to soak in the views.
I end up spending a lot of time outdoors over the weekend; relaxing in a deck chair, alternately reading a novel and watching the sheep creep closer. There's no wi-fi or mobile access and I revel in the tranquility of being disconnected. Magpies caw and birds twitter merrily in the bush. Here, there are no shops and no activities, only the sound of the wind rustling through the leaves and the faint noise of a chainsaw, far far away.
At night we cook a pasta meal, with a pot on each burner of the stove, and I pour myself a glass of local sauvignon blanc from Mt Moriac winery. We light a fire in the teeny fireplace and the cabin warms up in minutes. My daughter and I play cards, chat and look at the stars before climbing the ladder to snuggle into our bed.
It's a perfect, cosy escape from life - and stuff. By the end of the weekend, I have decided that I could definitely live in a tiny house like this. I would just need two extra: one for the kids and one for my beloved books.
Take me there
Tiny Away has tiny eco-friendly homes located on 14 rural properties in New South Wales and 14 in Victoria, none more than two hours' drive from the city centre. Prices range from $99 to $240 per night. Tasmanians don't miss out: for a great short break the Compass Hut (compasshut.com.au) in Forthside.