Alternative Living: Two Stories About Freedom and Creativity


On the Road

In pursuit of a new life five years ago, Nickie Jalife decided to give her friend $30 for gas to take her from Los Angeles to Ventura, California. The other $30 she had was in her pocket. Several months later, walking down the street she met Andrew Mizzy and “Vega,” his very distinct Volkswagen bus.

“We met in downtown Ventura,” Jalife recalled. “He was hanging out with a friend of mine, so I met him, came on the bus and I haven’t left since. I fell in love with him right away.”

She was 19 then and is 21 now. “The moment I saw the bus and came on I just knew that was my life path, that was where I was meant to be at that moment, and this is so fulfilling,” she added. “I still feel that way. This is where I’m supposed to be.”

Andrew Mizzy, 25, who has always enjoyed anything related to art, got the green VW bus from a friend, chopped it up in the middle and attached it to the top of his bigger school bus, which created a little loft area that serves as the couple’s bedroom now.

The couple is just one more example of young adults who are opting for a more sustainable way of living in North America. “We are self-sustainable, off the grid, running off of solar power and vegetable oil, Mizzy said. “Part of our daily life is to get prepared to find the oil, the sun and a nice place to park the bus. It’s really fun, it’s worth it. And music too, we like to follow good music.”

Nickie was raised in a farm in Santa Paula, California, surrounded by nature and many animals. Her mother was trying to make their farm into a small type of zoo, but because of all the regulations with the county they were not successful with their plan and had to move to Los Angeles. Nickie did not adapt well to the big city lifestyle and thought she would have a better quality of life in Ventura or Ojai – much smaller towns.

“Our home goes everywhere with us. That’s my favorite about it,” Nickie said.

The couple have not had too many problems with Ventura County while living in the bus. They just keep traveling, creating new art inside the bus – like painting the walls, or drawing a mandala of stars on the ceiling, creating new spaces – and living the bus life, with daily missions for vegetable oil, good weather and nice parking space. On the road, the couple explore the expansive freedom of their lives.

On the Tree

To wake up and hear the birds singing close by while the house moves along with the wind can be a typical morning for Wiley Connell and his dog, Raybelle. Wiley, 22, is from Ojai, and Raybelle is a 4-year-old chocolate Labrador. They grew up in nature and cultivate food on the Earth every day. Dreamland is usually left a little before the sun is rising, that time when the sky has a magical blue color and the roosters are starting to announce its arrival. For Raybelle, this is the best cuddle time. As she gets closer to him for a loving petting time he opens his eyes, the same color as the sky’s, and observe the long branches in front of them. Birds and squirrels are already awakened and passing by.

Wiley started to hang out at the tree house when he was a teenager. It was his friend’s land and they would gather there to do what they couldn’t do in the main house.  They did mostly teenager stuff like played games, drank beer, smoked pot and created art.  They also enjoyed long bike rides during a full a moon after their time together. After a few years passed by, all grown up, his friend’s family decided to start renting the tree house. Wiley, who was looking for a place at that time, saw the opportunity and didn’t think twice before making the move. He was now the permanent president of the tree house.

“First I was afraid that Raybelle wouldn’t like going up the stairs all the time but she actually really loves living here now, we both do,” Wiley said. “It almost feels like living in a boat because it sways with the wind, but when you wake up you see branches and leafs, birds and squirrels. We are also constantly battling with this one crazy raccoon that sneaks in sometimes to eat our food, it’s pretty funny.”

Now, after almost a year has passed, he is feeling winds of change. A new nest was found – a little secluded cabin in Matillija Canyon with the constant sound of the river. Nature is definitely the predominant scenario in this guy’s lifestyle. His daily practices include being in the ocean, riding crystal waves, and getting dirt under his nails as a farmer. “The dirt and the salt water help me to keep grounded and also to be constantly cleansing my body,” Wiley said.

With the intention to keep deepening his roots, the next projects are to build an outside kitchen for his cabin and to start his own farm on a new piece of land he just acquired. It will be his way to keep supporting the community with organic herbs and vegetables, and still sustain a lifestyle in harmony with nature.