The What, Why, How Theory: Yurtlife Unpacked

The What, Why, How Theory: Yurtlife Unpacked

Guest Post By Mollie Busby

When my husband, Sean, and I tell people that we live in a yurt, their reaction usually falls somewhere between Clueless and Stoked.

Clueless: They have no idea what we’re talking about. It’s like they mis-heard what we said. “Oh. [Concentrating real hard] What is a… urrrt?”

Disbelief: They know what a yurt is, but have only associated such things with summer camp, ski resorts or hut trips… in the movies. “Seriously? Why would you want to live in a yurt?”

Stoked: They have been researching how to get their own piece of heaven and build a sustainable home, and are super interested to learn more about yurt life. “How did you guys do that?”

This trifecta is the basis of a theory created by our buddy, Chris (also a yurt dweller). He calls it the What, Why, How Theory surrounding alternative living. Essentially, by choosing to stray from the status quo, we encounter three levels of awareness when interacting with the world.

Typically, the first encounter with people (especailly Mom and Dad) when we decided to live off-the-grid in a “glorified tent” had a theme of WHAT. What are you doing? What is a yurt? What will you do for a toilet and water and power? What is wrong with the traditional homes? What does something like this cost? To this stage, we say, “Haters gonna hate.” We will always have these people in our life, and sometimes they stay in this stage and never leave. If you truly seek a simpler way of life, push past inquisition and help Mom and Dad move to the next phase…

WHY. Eventually, after we had done our research, and especially after the yurt was physically built, our friends, family and acquintances started changing their tune. With curiosity piqued by our persistance, they inquire to uncover our motives. Why a yurt? Why off-the-grid? Why move away from traditional structures? Why is it important to be sustainable? Sean and I feel this stage is an incredible opportunity to educate others. Most will appreciate us taking the time to explain, and go on living life. But a few… and I mean, VERY few, will go further into the last sphere…

HOW. How can I do what you’re doing? We are not living in a yurt to convert others to do the same. However, we’ll admit that we get a teensy bit stoked when someone actually asks about the nitty gritty. Presumably, something about the way we live has inspired someone else who–like us–seeks simplicity and is willing to sacrifice creature comforts to attain it. To these guys? We are happy to tell all.

This way of life that we’ve created for ourselves–literally, by building this yurt with our bare hands–has been the most eye opening, team-building adventure of our lives. People told us building a home together would ruin our marraige. People questioned why we would move out of a perfectly good on-the-grid home, to a smaller structure that required more “work.” But through it all, we put aside what others thought, complied with all the rules and laws of the modern world, and ended up with a lifestyle that has a slow, steady pace and keeps us grounded to the Earth and connected to nature.

We can lay in bed and listen to the owls hooting across the canopy. We spend more time on dishes because we don’t have a dishwasher. We carry in wood from the woodshed each day together to keep our heat source alive . This life… yurt life… has shown us that despite the pace of the world today, it is possible to slow down. It is possible to harvest sunshine for power. It is possible to get what you want, communicate why you have it, and tell others how to do it, too.

Once you make peace with yourself and your decision, other people’s whats, whys, and hows fade away, leaving just you, your space, and your greatest question yet. “What’s next?”

When she’s not writing, Mollie serves as the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization called Riding On Insulin. Sean is a professional backcountry snowboarder. Follow Sean and Mollie on Instagram at @SeanBusby and @TwoSticksAndABoard, or through their website: Questions about Yurt Life? Shoot them an email at


  1. Ernie 3 years ago

    What do you do for an income living out this way. Have always wondered this as I see the many possibilities that people chose for a different off the grid lifestyle? Love how you have made so many wise choices in your planning and use of space and eco friendly options.

  2. Erik Bell 3 years ago

    That is a wonderful story you two, great job :)

    My wife and I live in LA and I’m sick of it. I’ve been backpacking, hiking, car camping all my life and I really like Goal Zero products. I’m at a point now in life where I’m considering going off the grid and getting out of the big city. Would you two be willing to share how much it cost roughly to get stared with your beautiful yurt home?

    Thank You and Best Regards.

    • Dorothy Hartmann 3 years ago

      I am living off grid as well. So I commend you as kindred spirits. I am in my mid 60’s and plan to be here till I push up daisies. Love the fresh air, mountain views and living sustainably. Wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  3. Bryan 3 years ago

    I too would love to know how you make your living, as I have been investigating the lifestyle but can figure out how to pay the pesky little things like taxes on the land and buying gas for the chainsaw to cut the wood for the fireplace and gas for the arc or snowmobile to haul the wood etc. If you know of ways besides the way you pay for things as well any and all advice is apreciated

  4. Robert Brooks 3 years ago

    I would be beyond happy to be able to do this living.

  5. Neal Nilsen 3 years ago

    Mollie and Sean
    I have been involved with Goal Zero products for several years, and you made a wise decision for your power needs.
    Of all of the En Route stories, your has touched me, for many reasons.
    I admire your spirit, your dedication to each other, and your desire to live life your way.
    I live in a peaceful wooded community in the Blue Ridge Mountains in between the Shenandoah River and the Appalachian Trail outside of Harpers Ferry WV.
    I use Goal Zero Yetti1250 and Yetti400 to power the audio equipment I use for outdoor events.
    As you may imagine, I need to extend runtime for these events, and I have been able to do so safely and affordably.
    After looking at the picture of your “power farm” I can not help but wonder if what I have done to increase my runtime would also be beneficial for you.
    If you are interested, please send an e-mail to the link submitted with this post.
    My best to you both on your adventure…

  6. Scott 3 years ago

    Nice story. What do you do for a living?

  7. Amanda 3 years ago

    I love your interior design better than almost all other Tiny Houses I have seen. Do you have construction plans you might publish and/or sell?

    Good luck and keep posting updates!

  8. Tom Ruma 3 years ago

    I have many Goal Zero products and they are fantastic. I am surprised why you will not answer the question regarding what you do for a living. Are you on welfare, food stamps, independently wealthy? Are you people that can work off of the internet? We really would like to know. Thanks and I was very impressed with your adventurous spirit.

  9. Mollie Busby 3 years ago

    hi all! Wanted to hop on and mention what we do for a living :-) Sean is a professional snowboarder and public speaker, and I run a nonprofit that hosts action sports camps for kids with chronic diseases. Our website gives a little more detail:, and this is the international nonprofit: We are traveling currently but would be happy to answer any direct questions via email:

  10. Bob S. Laquer 3 years ago

    Would an electric chainsaw be compatible with the Yeti? That would save some money against the cost of fuel for a traditional gas-powered chainsaw. How durable is your tent in nasty storms? Do you also have an inground or underground shelter for those natural disasters? How do you secure your belongings from thieves? I don’t mean tell us your secrets. But a tent doesn’t look like it would keep burglars out. A good sharp knife will cut a nice opening for easy access.

    • Author
      goalzero 3 years ago

      An electric chainsaw definitely draws a lot of power. A Yeti wouldn’t be the best choice for that tool. As for your other questions, we’ll leave that up to your imagination.

  11. Sean Keller 3 years ago

    I guess like everyone else, I am curious about the Yurt and the cost of everything. I am thinking of relocating my family to northern Idaho and with our equity from our home in California I hope to buy a Yurt and all of the necessities outright! Could you break down the price of everything that you purchased? Thanks again for the video. We loved it.

  12. steve 2 years ago

    wow i loved your story and your amazing yurt home. i was very interested in knowing more about the rechargeable on demand water and where i could find that product or similar trchargeable water heater . you folks habe a home to be proud …thank you for sharing with all of us……..steve

  13. Steve 2 years ago

    Love it! I to am starting to prepare to make the transition to Off grid life. Where did you buy your yurt from?

  14. Rod Vogel 2 years ago

    Some time ago I saw a National Geographic program about living off the grid in Alaska. As my finances allowed I have been acquiring goal zero products for about two years. I have a second home a log cabin on the 7,000 level near Park City, Utah. Although it has electricity and running water next month I am going to turn off everything and try to live there for two weeks using only water from the river, my wood burning stove, my food supplies and my goal zero products. Will try to keep you posted

    • Author
      goalzero 2 years ago

      Let us know how it goes!

  15. Maggie Rooney 2 years ago

    Love your home, looks very cozy and has everything you need. Love your view and location too. Thanks for putting your life/story out there to continue to motivate those of us living non-traditional lives.

  16. Emilie Gate 2 years ago

    Could you tell me what brand of Yurt you have? Did you do all the amazing wood work inside the yurt? I love how it covers up the latis wood and makes it feel more cozy, and probably give more strength to the yurt to. My husband loved the silver corrugated iron around the bottom and the inside, is that for cosmetic reasons or for something practical?! thanks!

  17. Corina 2 years ago

    I, too am a yurt dweller. 5 years now. What I am curious is about your insulation.
    It seems that you have no roof insulation, does that mean your walls dont either, of course this is minus what the yurt companies sell for insulation (reflectix) . I live in Vermont, so we have cold winters and I have running water, so keeping the yurt a sustainable temp is necessary, so there are no freezing pipes.
    I insulated 3 years ago with roxul and consulted with many folks. All agreed that no air space would be necessary for this type of living however the condensation from the roof (cold night/warm days)has created moisture (the roxul is completely cover in plastic from the interior so no moisture is coming from the interior). And now mold is growing so the project this summer is to get rid of the insulation and find another solution.
    After living with the original roof and yurt insulation and going through 6 cords of wood I needed something more sustainable. So I am wondering- do you burn alot of wood or have you created a different model?
    My yurt is 30′. I love your interior and set up! Nicely done!!

  18. Scott 1 year ago

    Interesting video. Besides the Goal Solar stuff the water heater was new to me.
    It’s a Mr. Heater Aqua Cube.

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