The student who makes a yurt his home

Michael Jefferey, standing outside his yurt on the north side of the South Thompson River. (Wade Tomko/The Omega)

Michael Jefferey, standing outside his yurt on the north side of the South Thompson River. (Wade Tomko/The Omega)

At the base of Mount Paul on the north side of the South Thompson River, lives Michael Jefferey, a TRU Adventure Studies student. What makes Jefferey unlike many other TRU students isn’t his location, but the abode he has decided to reside in while studying at TRU.

Most people who drive by Jefferey’s place of living on Shuswap Rd. East might mistake the dwelling as a tent meant for weddings and outdoor markets, and although the assumption of it being a tent is close, in reality it is something much more unique.

Yurts are traditional Mongolian tents meant to fit the nomadic lifestyle of the Mongolian tribes. They are extremely portable and can be taken down or set up with ease, but still provide enough room inside to stand up and move around. Usually covered with animal hide and felt, these portable houses offer excellent protection from the windy and cold Mongolian steppes.

“I’ve done quite a bit of travelling throughout the last ten years. Throughout my travels I’ve almost always found myself living close to nature, and I love building stuff,” Jefferey said. “I think living off the land is a more effective and efficient way of living. Considering how high rent is in the city, living there doesn’t make sense to me.”

Jefferey however, doesn’t live completely rent-free. He is currently renting the area from a landlord, though the rates he pays are still “a lot less” then what he would be paying in the city. “It’s pretty much like camping,” he said.

Jefferey originally got the idea to build the yurt while staying in Regina. Taking a break from hitchhiking across Canada, Jefferey stopped in the city to work as a mentor for at-risk youth.

“I had a friend in Regina who was a pastor, he gave me access to his woodshop for working with these at-risk kids. I would spend days with these kids on probation, and on days when they wanted to skip school, we had access to this wood shop,” Jefferey said. “Eventually I got the idea that I could build a yurt while I was there, all the while keeping these kids engaged. After that I’d have a place to live while studying at TRU.”

Inside the yurt, Jefferey is well-prepared for any food shortage by keeping a surplus of preservatives. (Wade Tomko/The Omega)

Inside the yurt, Jefferey is well-prepared for any food shortage by keeping a surplus of preservatives. (Wade Tomko/The Omega)

When Jefferey was ready to come to Kamloops, he simply packed up his yurt into his quarter-ton truck and headed for Kamloops. With his father, Jefferey was able to create a sub floor and footings for the yurt and set it up in less than a day.

Like many traditional Mongolian yurts, Jefferey’s yurt is round with accordian-style walls. However, instead of using hide or yak felt, Jefferey made the yurt’s cover from recycled billboard vinyl, something he said was far more cost-efficient.

Wanting to live the full, natural experience, Jefferey has few amenities that most Canadians are accustomed to. Besides his phone and his camping stove, there are not many things in his yurt not created by him.

“Canadians are so weird. We live in such a cold place, but spend 95 per cent of our time in 30 degree plus buildings,” he said.

Though don’t be fooled, Jefferey hardly wants to freeze in the winter, and as such, he is installing a custom-made, wood-burning stove. His stove, actually a barrel, has tubes running under a clay bench.

“When it gets very cold, I’ll probably end up just sleeping on the bench with a blanket,” he said.

This simple way of living, connected to nature, is exactly what Jefferey loves. He needs little more than his guitar, his bow and the entirety of Mount Paul to keep himself entertained, though he still finds himself spending a lot of time in town.

“I really value living in a community, but I don’t know if my landlord would be cool with other people living here. I might give it two years and move somewhere else,” he said.

The heater Jefferey is currently installing. (Wade Tomko/The Omega)

The heater Jefferey is currently installing. (Wade Tomko/The Omega)

Living isn’t the only thing Jefferey does sustainably. On days he doesn’t work, he bikes from his yurt to TRU, taking him, on average, 45 minutes. In warmer weather, he’ll even kayak across the river and catch a bus up to the university. He explained that his truck is only there for getting to and from work.

Jefferey still works with at-risk populations, and is just as passionate about social work as he is about outdoor sustainable living. After his second year at TRU, Jefferey is planning to build a bachelor of individualized studies, with which he aims to get into the field of adventure wilderness therapy.

“I think being in nature is key for me. My vision is to work with at-risk populations in nature,” he said. “For example, I might take drug-addicted youth camping in the deep woods for three months. They build confidence and gain experience while also self-reflecting and healing, and eventually becoming better members of society.”