Home MarketsEurope & Middle East 23-year-old artist paid $500 a month to live in a “dry” cabin in Alaska

23-year-old artist paid $500 a month to live in a “dry” cabin in Alaska

by SuperiorInvest

The day after AnnMarie Young graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2021, she and her best friend moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, for the summer.

The 23-year-old artist lived in Alaska for three months before returning to Texas. But Young tells CNBC Make It that the moment he left, he knew he wanted to return to the Pacific Northwest state.

“Something in my heart just didn't want to leave Alaska,” he says. “I wanted to prove to myself that I could last.”

Young used the money he made selling his art that summer to buy a van that had already been converted into a small house. He packed his bags, headed toward Alaska, and after a week of cross-country driving, he arrived.

“I went slowly and took scenic routes,” he says.

When Young returned to Alaska, he lived in his van for a few months before moving into the dry cabin.

annmarie young

Young spent the summer of 2022 living in his van, but when winter hit, he had to make a decision: return home to Texas again or find a different living situation there in Alaska.

The artist eventually found a cabin in Fairbanks through word of mouth, but there was a catch. The cabin Young was offered was dry: a residential structure with no running water. The property had a latrine.

The owner, Mollie Sipe, a 71-year-old retired educator, rented it for $500 a month.

Sipe tells CNBC Make It that he bought the cabin in 1988. It's about a 10-foot x 20-foot room with a sleeping nook. It includes a kitchenette with a stove, microwave and an oil-fired heater, which Sipes always fills before each new tenant.

Young was able to see the cabin from the outside, but was never able to tour the interior before deciding to accept the rental. Fortunately, everything turned out well. “It's not the dream cabin you imagine, but it's really nice inside. It was very cozy and perfect just for me at the time,” Young says.

“I had a whole section to do my artistic stuff and that was the most important thing to me.”

Young's favorite part of the cabin was that he had a corner dedicated to working on his art.

annmarie young

'It's a place for women to turn their lives around and start in Alaska'

Sipe began renting the cabin in the '80s, and its tenants have only been women—a total coincidence, but a fact Sipe loves.

“They always find the next person for me, and it's always been women. That's kind of the mystique of the 'Cabin Girls,' as I call them. They've been very reliable in that sense, so I never have to search.” Sipe says.

“It's a place for women to turn their lives around and start working in Alaska,” she says. “It's just a way of life where you find out what you're made of, what you can do and how capable you are.”

After rent, Young's expenses included 25 cents to fill three five-gallon water jugs, something he made to the city about every week and a half.

Young admits that one of the biggest problems he had living in the dry cabin was internet access. The cabin is surrounded by tall trees, which made it difficult to get a reliable mobile and internet connection. He even tried to use Starlink at one point, but had to cancel due to inconsistent service.

The dry cabin measures approximately 10 feet by 20 feet and has one room with a kitchen area and a sleeping nook.

annmarie young

Living in a dry cabin meant Young had no plumbing, laundry, shower, washer or dryer.

He washed dishes and brushed his teeth in a five-gallon jug of water that drained into a bucket below and had to be emptied manually.

“Because I was already living in a van, the transition to a dry cabin was much easier. I was already living without things that the dry cabin didn't have, like a shower or a bathroom,” says Young. “It took me a week to get used to it and then it became my new normal.”

“I'm not a tough person; I didn't grow up camping and I'm not a tough outdoors person, but if I can do it, I think a lot more people can do it,” he added. “It's about setting your mind on something,” she adds.

The dry cabin had no running water, so Young showered at the neighbor's house several times a week.

annmarie young

Young was able to take a proper shower at a neighbor's house every other day and used baby wipes and other products in the dry cabin in the meantime.

“We had an agreement that I would go and use the shower when they weren't home because they wanted someone to use the pipes to make sure they didn't come loose,” he says.

And when she needed to go to the bathroom, Young would put on a thick robe and slippers and start walking down the path to the outhouse in the back. Young made sure to always keep that path clear of snow.

A typical day in Young's life when he lived in the dry cabin included training his dog, Moose, driving into town to a coffee shop to use Wi-Fi and work on his website, and spending hours painting.

While some may think living in a cabin in the middle of the woods sounds isolating, Young says she has never felt more of a sense of community than when she lived there.

“I had such a great group of people in the area that I felt like I was going out with friends every night,” he says. “I loved feeling like I was doing something special and hard and that the whole way of life is normalized in the area.”

Young spent almost a year living in the dry cabin before moving to a one-bedroom apartment in Anchorage.

annmarie young

“You can do it yourself, but it's a lot harder, so I loved the community aspect of everyone leaning on each other to live that kind of lifestyle,” he adds.

Young lived in the dry cabin for about eight or nine months before moving into a one-bedroom apartment with her boyfriend in Anchorage, Alaska. The two split a rent payment of $1,450 a month and, although she loves having the extra space, Young admits that she misses cabin life and that she would do it again in a heartbeat.

“I think we could do it again. I miss the cabin living aspect,” Young says.

“I feel so connected to Alaska since the first summer I arrived. I don't know if I'll be here forever, but I know it's where I want to be right now.”

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