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From a railroad camp car to a home
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From a railroad camp car to a home

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As a youngster, Hannah Doss, a 2007 Franklin County High School graduate, didn’t consider herself to be adventuresome, nor did she imagine she’d be where she is in life now.

“My life has been really random,” Doss said. “I’ll discover a new passion or direction that I have never thought of and then embrace that change of plans. It’s absurd to think that you should have an entire life plan by college. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up ... and I’m almost 32 years old.”

Working as an international flight attendant, earning two higher education degrees, owning a home and writing/illustrating books are a few things Doss has done since leaving Franklin County. As a girl, she wanted to be a horse trainer or art teacher when she grew up.

“I thought I wanted to be an art teacher through college, until I studied abroad my senior year and fell in love with international travel,” she said. “That’s when I decided I wanted to see the world, and in order to do that, I better become a flight attendant.”

From 2011-14, Doss said she was able to visit places, including Hawaii and Alaska, Mexico, Kuwait, Ireland, Germany, England, Italy, France, Spain and Vietnam.

Doss earned her bachelor’s degree in studio art from Hollins University in 2011 and in 2017, she earned her MBA from University of Alabama, Birmingham.

Right before graduation, she bought a 1985 Railroad Camp Car at an auction for about $250 with the purpose of making it a tiny house. Doss kept finding herself having to move places for jobs where she didn’t know anyone. Tired of the craziness and riskiness of going on Craigslist to find a roommate and housing, she was ready to live on her own.

Doss said the only way she knew that she could afford to live in her own free-standing structure by herself was to live in a fifth-wheel trailer or a tiny house. After getting her tiny house to her parents’ place in Tennessee, she and her parents went to work remodeling the 29-foot by 8-foot house-on-wheels, which is considered a travel trailer by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Doss named the house Journey, because she had met a dog named Journey in Roanoke years earlier and loved the name.

“It [name] popped into my head again as a super-fitting name for the tiny house and all the journeys we would take together through renovation and road trips,” she added.

Doss and her mother worked on the house every day from sunup to bedtime, and her railroad-working/building contractor father worked on it every evening when he got home, as well as every weekend. The project took three months and was completed the day before Doss took it to Las Vegas for her new job as program coordinator of outdoor adventure at the University of Nevada—Las Vegas.

“I absolutely could not have done it without them,” Doss said, expressing gratitude for her parents’ help. “They wanted to help me realize a dream and help me to be in the best living situation possible.”

She added, “I led team-building events for two years at my last job while getting my MBA, and nothing was as good of a team-builder as renovating a tiny house with my parents.”

The cost of renovating the railroad camp car to a turnkey-ready house cost just under $9,000. Doss said the house became a home once she settled into her busy job, and her dog Banjo was able to rejoin her.

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The decision to go with a tiny house has been cost effective. Doss is at home in Journey in an RV park in Boulder City, which is about 30 minutes from the Las Vegas strip. Rent is $650 a month, she said, but includes all her water and electricity.

“It’s one of the more expensive RV parks, but it’s safe, quiet and clean,” Doss said.

The trip from Tennessee to Nevada with Journey took Doss and her parents three days. Her father pulled the trailer with his pickup truck, while Doss and her mom took turns driving her red Volkswagen bug.

On one of the truck windows Doss wrote, “Instagram.journeythetinyhouse,” which proved to be entertaining as they got comments from folks along the way who had seen Journey.

Journey’s notoriety prompted Doss to write her book while en route across the country. In one three-hour stretch while her mom was driving, Doss wrote the entire book that explains how she acquired, transformed and transported Journey.

Once in Nevada, Doss got busy exploring her new desert surroundings.

“I love desert living! It’s so beautiful out here and I find learning about the new flora and fauna of a different climate zone fascinating,” she said.

With the onset of COVID-19 in the spring, Doss said she took advantage of the downtime it provided and began illustrating and self-publishing her book, titled “How Journey Came To Be A Tiny House For Me.”

While at FCHS, Doss said she was encouraged and influenced by art teacher Lori Law.

“She has been so steadfast in her pursuit of every aspect of her life,” Law said of Doss. “She was the kind of student an art teacher dreams of having. I knew that her maturity about responsibility would take her far in life.”

Reflecting on where she’s been and where she has yet to go, Doss said, “Never stop learning or developing yourself! Use the majority of your downtime for something productive that also makes you feel good.”

She became a fan of podcasts after having discovered them last year. Instead of listening to the same old songs that are always played on the radio, she said, “I now listen to success and struggle stories of CEOs (“How I built this”, NPR, with Guy Raz), author how-to podcasts and wilderness survival tips.”

About 80 copies of Doss’s book, which was recently released on Amazon, have been sold, and she said she is optimistic for more sales.

She said she also is going to be on two tiny house podcasts in January, and she is writing an article about her experience for another tiny house blog.

Doss also recently finished her second book and described what the next adventure entails. “After relaxing in the shade, Journey hears adventure calling,” she said. “Journey, Hannah and Banjo hit the road bound for Arizona and visit the Grand Canyon, Saguro National Park and the Petrified Forest National Park. Along the way, Journey not only learns about the geological history of the landscape, but also about the Joshua Tree and the Cactus Wrenn.”

Doss will be doing a live reading of the book on Facebook at JourneyTheTiny House at noon on Jan. 1, adding that she hopes listeners can help her name her book. After completing rough drafts of her drawings done, she said she plans to start painting them in the next week and will release each page on her social media after she paints them.

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