Home The yurt life: Young Waynesboro couple lives simply, naturally, in 430 square feet

The yurt life: Young Waynesboro couple lives simply, naturally, in 430 square feet

Rebecca Barnabi
Maitlyn and Austin live in a yurt, a traditional form of housing in Mongolia that consists of a portable, round tent. Courtesy of Maitlyn.

Maitlyn of Waynesboro just made a big change in her life.

Well, there was the change she and boyfriend, Austin, made in January to live in a 430-square-foot yurt.

But, a few weeks ago, she quit her full-time job providing international sales and market research for a health and wellness company based in Charlottesville.

She was diagnosed with scoliosis, and was having vision discomfort.

“And I pretty much ended every work day with a headache,” Maitlyn, 29, said of sitting at a laptop all day.

She said she quit her job of two years because she wanted more free time, and did not want to spend eight hours a day sitting at a computer. She also did not need the salary.

“I’m not a money person,” she said. “Money doesn’t drive me. I’m happier when I’m broke.”

Maitlyn has seen how others live after mission trips to Nicaragua in 2016 and 2017, and Uganda in 2019. She was scheduled to take another trip to Haiti in 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic began. “I learned obviously more from those people than they could ever learn from me,” she said about living happy with only the necessities of life.

“That’s been heavy on my heart since I went,” she said of doing mission trips again and of emulating the lifestyles lived in other countries. Sitting all day at a computer was taking her away from that goal.

“You just don’t need stuff. Humans need food, water and shelter,” Maitlyn said. “The more stuff that we have, the more stressed out that we get.”

For Maitlyn, a human being’s soul purpose is to love and honor Mother Nature.

“And that’s all I want to do with my life,” she said.

Late last year, she and her boyfriend were renting a house in Crozet when the landlord said he was going to increase the rent. The couple was encouraged to finally get rid of anything they didn’t need and buy a yurt, a Mongolian dwelling that is a portable, round tent.

Maitlyn said that their yurt cost $14,000 plus $2,000 shipping from a company in California. Blue Ridge Yurts in Floyd did not have any available in the time Maitlyn and Austin needed their yurt.

They cook on a propane stove, heat the yurt with a wood stove and have solar power. Maitlyn said she does not need a television.

“Nature is plenty distracting,” she said. “There’s just so much to take in.”

Her mother lives in Augusta County. Her father lives in Waynesboro and owns a business in the River City.

At first, the couple placed their yurt on her mother’s farm in the county and they took care of her farm animals, until her mother decided to sell the farm in April.

Now they are on a friend’s property in Waynesboro.

“You definitely need to have permission,” Maitlyn said of where a yurt is placed. She said she recommends you own the land the yurt is on, and make sure to have some wooded area nearby to provide shade during the summer, but also air to provide solar power.

Water nearby is also necessary for cooking and bathing. The couple use the bathroom in the woods. They have plans to build an outhouse with a composting toilet.

“It feels very natural,” she said. They wash their clothes outside when it is warm, but when the weather gets cold they go to laundromats.

For now, Maitlyn works part-time for clothing store Madewell in Charlottesville and Farmhaus on Main in Waynesboro.

She does not have any concerns for her financial future. She does not have health insurance.

“There’s really nothing to worry about, because the worst thing that could happen is that I die, and I’m not worried about dying,” she said.

She and Austin, 26, live as holistically and eat as organically as possible. They have two cats and a dog.

A graduate of Meredith College in Raleigh with a bachelor’s degree in English and interior design, Maitlyn also earned a master’s degree in sports management from Georgetown University. She said she planned to live in a big city, be a career woman.

“But, I was never satisfied chasing those things,” she said. Her apartment in Georgetown was smaller than the yurt she lives in now and she paid $2,000 a month for it.

After college, she worked for a nonprofit, the Washington Wizards and Mystics, then the Washington Redskins. She also worked for an animal nonprofit at one time.

“I finally feel like I’m living my life,” she said.

Maitlyn was also encouraged to quit her job because her oldest brother died of cancer at age 27. When she turned 27, she kept thinking about how she wanted to live her life.

“When I leave this earth all I want to leave behind is love, truly. I want people to have felt love from me.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Changes were made to this story on September 29, 2022.



Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.