Upon returning to Canada, I contacted nearby Earthship owners to try to visit one in person. The owners were kind enough to chat at length over the phone, but explained they were no longer hosting visitors at their Earthship. They suggested I look into the Earthship Academy in Taos and try back later. After a bit more reading on the Earthship website, I learned I could travel to Taos to learn in the classroom or build one from start to finish on an International build. I wasn’t sure where to begin so I picked up the phone and called ES headquarters. A staff member informed me of a unique building opportunity coming up in Uruguay that would consist of Academy classes in the mornings and building in the afternoons. I was fortunate in the sense that I had no significant barriers (financial or otherwise) preventing me from going, so I made the necessary arrangements to hand over my business and off I went.
My time in Uruguay went better than I could have expected. I became friends with people from all over the world, learned a ton about Earthship construction, and made memories that are sure to last a lifetime. By the end of the month, I felt like my family had increased in size by 45. Many of us still keep in touch online to this day. There were so many activities happening simultaneously during the build though, that it would have been impossible to learn everything about building an Earthship in one go. The next step in graduating from the Academy was naturally to participate in a second build (or Field Study). When I learned of an upcoming build happening in Australia – somewhere I’d always wanted to go – I eagerly signed up for round two.
Just as in Uruguay, my time in Australia exceeded all expectations. Despite slicing my arm on metal lathe and requiring seven stitches on day two, I had the time of my life. On the last day, as my newfound family began parting ways something interesting happened. I was fetching screws in the shed when it dawned on me it would all be over again soon. A wave of emotion washed over me. I stood there immobilized and watched as tears rolled down my face. An Earthship build was a beautiful experience, and I didn’t want it to end. I remember thinking it was quite the revelation for me at the time. I felt I had finally found my true calling. If I was reacting this way to the project ending, it must be the work I’m meant to be doing.
After the Field Study in Australia was over, I had improved some of my construction skills (mostly carpentry), but still felt very unsure about building my own Earthship. Yes, I’d had a great month living and building with awesome people in a beautiful location, but what would happen when the magic and excitement of the Academy faded away? What would it really be like to live in an Earthship? How do I even begin the process? There were still so many questions I had around building an Earthships and didn’t know where I could find the answers.
The third and final step toward graduating from the Academy was to conduct an Independent Study. I figured this was a perfect opportunity to answer some of these looming questions. If someone with my advanced building experience still wasn’t fully sold on the concept, surely there must be information missing, and surely there must be others who feel daunted by the undertaking. Perhaps if I approached those who had built Earthships and learned from their experiences, maybe I (as well as others) might feel more confident taking on a build. Alternatively, if I learn it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, at least I’d know before getting in deeper.
I began by writing out all the important questions I had around building and living in Earthships. My belief was that any feedback (taken with a grain of salt) could be used as a learning opportunity. Readers should know that despite having participated in two builds, I had no vested interest in biasing survey results one way or the other. If the buildings weren’t working, I wanted to know before investing considerably more time and money into the process. For this reason, I made sure to request feedback around positive and negative experiences. In fact, it’s likely I gave more focus toward uncovering negative experiences as I wanted to leave no stone unturned. Once the survey was ready, I published it on my website and shared it through social media. Within a few weeks, I had responses from the following locations.