Say “Yes” to a Yurt?

by | Jul 16, 2020

Please enjoy this excerpt from My Year In A Yurt.
The dream of living in Hawaii was planted deep within our hearts years prior to actually making the move-of-faith, as I like to call it. In 2002, Pat and I took our first Big Island vacation after less than a full year of marriage. His high school buddy, Dick, had moved his wife and young family to a six-acre coffee farm ten years earlier. As we spent seven glorious days enjoying the aloha spirit, we too began to embrace what this paradise had to offer.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” John 14:6

Our Big Bear, CA home

Seven years later, and after two back surgeries for work-related injuries, Pat retired from a thirty-one year career in the fire service. During this emotionally and physically stressful time, one additional stress landed squarely on our plate: sell the house!

It was the fall of 2008, and the reality of economic collapse had begun. We had just returned from our first reconnaissance trip to the Big Island, confident that it was time to pull up stakes and make the dream a reality. We both believed, with one hundred percent certainty, that our custom-built dollhouse in Big Bear, California, would sell quickly … very quickly. But after three and a half years in a virtually nonexistent real estate market, our confidence level plummeted to a negative zero. Originally, our house was priced at $1,100,000. By the summer of 2011, it had dropped to $575,000 with no viable offers. We continued to have faith that God could sell it, even in a snowstorm, and that He would bring a buyer at just the right time. We just couldn’t understand why He was taking so long. It’s hard to describe living in a home that has been on the market for 1,265 days. In my three decades of buying and selling homes, the longest it took to close an escrow was four and a half months, and that felt like an eternity!

During those three and a half long years, we watched our equity dwindle from over $500,000 to zero, as our debt, including an interest-only mortgage, consistently increased to well over $600,000. We were now living a financial nightmare, with absolutely no visible way out. By July of 2011, serious decisions had been made. We joined American Consumer Credit Counseling, consolidating our credit card debt into one somewhat manageable monthly payment. If we stayed on track, we would show a zero balance in four short years. Short? Not to me. All bank credit cards were cancelled, and we painstakingly began the adjustment from living on credit to living solely on our monthly income. I was so angry that we had gotten ourselves into this position that I was more than happy to finally live within our means … whatever that meant! It actually felt good to take charge of our finances, to say “No” to the lie that a person, couple, family can’t survive without credit cards. We were out to prove them wrong. We not only would survive, but we would eventually, with God’s help, thrive! How? We really had no idea except to follow the Bible’s guidelines—no matter what; we would continue to tithe ten-percent of our gross income.

Coastie & Mom

Later that July, I received an e-mail from John and Karen, offering us the opportunity to travel to Hawaii to ranch-sit their twenty-acre paradise for the entire month of October. I had met John almost four years earlier through an Internet inquiry as I searched for a suitable place to board our horse and three goats when the time finally came to move. John had provided a plethora of island-living information. And we even rented their guest room during one of four reconnaissance trips. As I stared at the e-mail on my computer screen, I knew what our answer would be.

Mr. & Mrs. Greg

Ashley, our oldest daughter, was getting married on October 22nd, and Chris, our only son, was entering the United States Coast Guard a day later. So I penned a painful response, “It just isn’t possible.” Thankfully, I sent a copy to Pat. The next morning changed our lives forever …

By midmorning, Pat had enjoyed his customary cup of hot tea while catching up on e-mails sent the night prior. He found me in our bedroom, suggested we hop into our indoor Jacuzzi to “chat about John’s offer.” (I hadn’t even had a chance to mention it to him.)

As the bubbles swirled around us, causing steam to cloud our view out the French windows and doors, a view to our future began to come into focus. “Pat, there is simply no way we can go. We’ve got the wedding on October 22nd, and I have to be there when Chris heads off to boot camp,” I reasoned. He was very patient as I rattled off all the reasons we couldn’t possible do this. And then, the door began to squeak open … “Jen, I think John’s offer is a lily pad for us to move. We can stay at their place for three weeks, fly back for the wedding and boot camp send-off, then return to Hawaii permanently,” he said, with a look of little boy expectancy all over his face! My jaw dropped as I tried to grasp hold of the suggestion he was making. “But what about the house? It hasn’t sold,” I replied. “Our realtor can continue to market it. We don’t have to be here. When it sells, it sells.” “But where will we live after John and Karen return from their trip?” “I have no idea. Let’s just trust God with the details,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone of voice. We sat in utter silence for many minutes, quietly digesting the possibilities set before us. I then looked him straight in the eye and said, “I’m in! Let’s go.” Our Hawaiian journey began that miraculous morning! By noon, we had called John and Karen to accept their generous offer, announcing that we were, in fact, finally moving to Hawaii. John said, “We’ve had that same effect on two other families. We will help you make the transition.” Then, like a bullet out of a pistol, I started to look for a property to rent after October.

I hate to move. I really do. In addition to bi-annual visits to the dentist, renting a home is right up there on my “don’t” list. In my entire fifty-five years of life, I have only rented twice. The first time was an apartment for five years directly after graduating from high school. The second time was a five-month stint while we were completing the building of our Big Bear home. In our current financial situation, renting was our only option. So I grasped this opportunity with all the gusto I could muster. I contacted rental companies on the Big Island, as well as searched the VRBO.com (Vacation Rental by Owner) listings. It quickly became obvious that finding a home with enough property to house our horse and three goats would be expensive and hard to come by. (I secretly wondered how on earth we would ever qualify.)

Smoke & Jen

After a full week of research, I decided to call Bailey, our Hawaii realtor extraordinaire. I wanted to not only share our exciting move news but also see if he knew of any rentals we could consider. He couldn’t believe that after three and a half years and four reconnaissance trips, we were finally making the oceanic jump. Bailey knows everyone in the Paauilo area, and although we hadn’t yet purchased a home from him, he knew we eventually would. And by this time, we considered Bailey a good friend. A few days later, I received an e-mail from him containing a most interesting offer … “Why don’t you rent our yurt? There’s plenty of room for your animals, and it will give you a chance to experience life off-grid,” he penned. As I once again stared at my computer screen, I thought back to reconnaissance trip Number Three …

Bailey’s Paauilo yurt property also includes a guest studio. It was this studio we stayed in while viewing a dozen or so potential properties. We absolutely loved his place, the lush grass-covered rolling hills, the stately Ohia trees dotting the land, the ocean in the distance. It was so peaceful, so quiet, so healing. And it was during this trip that Pat and I took a quick peek inside his empty yurt.

The Yurt – Outside

Up to that point, I had never seen a yurt, inside or out. I didn’t even know how to spell this word, as it had never once entered my vocabulary. “What the heck is a yurt?” I remember asking Bailey, as we talked on the phone one afternoon.

Thinking back to our stay on his unusual property allowed me the opportunity to do a quick mental review of his yurt: the acrylic-domed roof, the lattice interior walls, the quaint potbelly stove, light wood laminate flooring, and wrap-around lanai. “Very interesting,” I concluded. Then, I quickly wrote back, “How much per month?” His speedy response? “Eight-hundred per month, including bringing all the animals!”

I have to admit that although Pat was very excited to become yurt dwellers, I had serious concerns. “Live in one room? Twenty-four feet in diameter? Off-grid?” My questions had questions. Could I actually do this? And what would my friends and family say? After sharing my concerns with Pat, we both concluded that this was God’s plan for us, that He had opened this door, a yurt door that would eventually lead to financial freedom … in a most unusual way. I called Bailey with our commitment to say, “Yes,” to his yurt and twelve gorgeous acres, starting November 1st. Unbelievable, but true!

Renting our realtor’s yurt has truly been a blessing. We had just enough money for the first month’s rent but not enough for the customary security deposit. Any other potential landlord would have insisted on a thorough credit check. Due to our devastating financial condition, we would never have passed as sound renters. But our relationship with Bailey, developed over a four-year period, created a situation whereby no security deposit or credit check was required. It was a marriage made in heaven!

Eighteen years ago, as a member of my church choir, I was deeply moved by a song we sang at an Easter musical. “God Will Make A Way,” written and conducted by Don Moen, has forever stayed in my heart. In 1990, his sister’s family lost their eldest son in a car accident as they were traveling between Texas and Colorado. He was unable to be with them in the aftermath, but in his grief for them, he found solace by writing the song’s words while on a plane trip the following day. This divinely inspired song was his way of providing comfort for the survivors. During intense times of need, whether for myself or someone else, Don’s words bubble to the surface of my consciousness, and I find encouragement to go on …

God will make a way, when there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see. He will make a way for me. He will be my guide. Hold me closely to His side. With love and strength for each new day. He will make a way, He will make a way.

Jen McGeehan

JEN MCGEEHAN, RS-80881
Phone: 808.747.2365
[email protected]

I am an adventurer by heart, never letting too much dust settle under my feet. But, I am also a nester, a woman who loves her home, garden, animals, family, and whatever career I happen to be in. In my latest adventure, I’ve successfully merged over 46 years of varied work and life experience into a real estate career that focuses on the goals and dreams of my clients. Are you interested in moving to the Big Island of Hawaiʻi? I’d love to talk with you about your dream goal, and help you achieve it!

Integrity is the cornerstone of my business! 

Coldwell Banker | Island Properties

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