Airbnb yurt near Grand Canyon

In 2011, Louis Herron dropped out of Ball State University, packed a backpack and moved west.

Restless for out of doors journey, the Indianapolis native picked up a job washing dishes at a restaurant near Yosemite National Park. He labored his means as much as worker recreation, guiding hikes for park staff. After a few months, he nabbed the same position at Glacier National Park earlier than settling in Flagstaff, Arizona, proper exterior the Grand Canyon.

There, Herron spent $2,400 for an acre of land that might finally host two tiny properties, his Grand Canyon touring enterprise and his aspect hustle: a 16-foot yurt listed on Airbnb. In August 2020, Herron spent $15,000 to construct the yurt and furnish it with facilities, together with a compost rest room and water-pump sink, he says.

In the final yr, Herron has made $27,600 by way of yurt leases alone, in keeping with paperwork reviewed by CNBC Make It. The yurt paid for itself inside a yr, he says.

“I wasn’t really keen on [renting out property] because my idea for the land was, ‘This is going to be my quiet little island,'” Herron, 31, tells CNBC Make It. “But I wanted an extra source of income without having to pick up a nine-to-five or commute anywhere.”

Herron’s 16-foot yurt is a 30-minute drive from the Grand Canyon and features a full-sized mattress, futon and personal compost rest room. It additionally has a grill, espresso maker, hammock and video games — however no WiFi.

Louis Herron

Over the final two years, visitors has remained regular: The yurt is at the moment booked by way of mid-November, in keeping with Airbnb’s website. It’s not out there three hundred and sixty five days per yr, anyway: Cleaning and sustaining the rental exterior of reserving hours eats up 30 hours of Herron’s schedule per week.

Here’s how Herron juggles his aspect hustle together with his off-the-grid Grand Canyon enterprise:

A bare-bones expertise

The first time Herron stayed in a yurt, at a ski resort exterior Flagstaff, he acknowledged the round construction’s “unique energy.” He mimicked that yurt’s skylight when he constructed his personal, so renters can see the celebrities.

Building the yurt concerned extra handbook labor than Herron anticipated. He purchased the supplies off an internet site in 2020 for $8,000, then spent 9 days and $4,000 constructing a picket platform for it. Then, he spent one other $3,000 to strengthen the construction: Because of Flagstaff’s highly effective wind gusts, he needed the yurt to face up to winds as much as 200 miles per hour.

The yurt does not have plumbing. Neither do Herron’s two properties on the property. Herron says he retains a continuing eye on his water provide, so he and his visitors can drink water, wash dishes, bathe and use the bathroom on website.

Building the yurt was simple, Herron says: It solely took him six hours to construct, whereas its platform took 9 days.

Louis Herron

It’s not as hard as it seems. It just takes thinking outside of the box,” he says.

When Herron does not get sufficient rainwater, he drives 5 miles to a close-by group nicely, and fills up a 200-gallon tank in his truck. It takes him nearly a whole day to cart the water again, however he says the availability lasts him and his visitors as much as 4 months.

“I could get it delivered, but it costs twice as much and I actually enjoy the process,” he says. “It becomes a little meditative for me, and it definitely makes you respect and conserve water a lot more.”

‘A dream come true’ — with a couple of circumstances

The rental immediately feeds into Herron’s small touring enterprise, The Desert Hiking Company: Guests can ebook Grand Canyon hikes at discounted charges. The firm earns Herron as much as $40,000 per yr, but it surely’s deeply reliant on buyer suggestions — which suggests the yurt is an ideal method to maintain his revenue and desert way of life, he says.

“It’s been a dream come true to host people on the land, then wake up early with them and show them the canyon, and take them on a hike,” Herron says. “To give them a whole packaged experience that’s led by a local who’s passionate about the area.”

Herron’s yurt at the moment prices $186 per night time and may host as much as 4 folks. He says he primarily will get {couples}, millennials and older, who’re in search of an off-the-grid-experience. 

Louis Herron

That dream remains to be accompanied by harsh realities: Covid-19 restrictions have made park visitors unpredictable, and nearly each visitor within the yurt wants a tutorial on dwelling off the grid, Herron says.

“I definitely would like to upscale, but I only want to grow this vision on a sustainable level,” he says. “I have neighbors who have four, five or six Airbnbs on their property, and I see the stress it brings — and how the quality of care starts to fall through the cracks.”

For Herron, upscaling means putting in plumbing, constructing extra yurts and shopping for extra land. He says he finds that growth course of bittersweet.

“I’m a reserved, conservative person, and I like to keep things simple and small and sustainable,” he says. “Given the opportunity, I’ll definitely capitalize and I’d love to see more yurts out here. It’s just a matter of having time and money to invest.”

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