In 2011, Louis Herron dropped out of Ball State University to “pack a backpack” to go to the American West.
Needing to save up a bit for his trip, he took a job washing dishes at a restaurant near Yosemite National Park. He even guides staff hiking in the park. After a few months, Herron did a similar job in Glacier National Park before settling in Flagstaff (Arizona).
At the new place, Herron spent $2,400 to buy a plot of land to build two small houses, then sell tours of the Grand Canyon and another job is to rent tents on Airbnb. In August 2020, he spent $ 15,000 to build the tent and buy necessary equipment, such as toilets and sinks.
In the last year, Herron made $27,600 renting tents alone. He shared: “I’m not really interested in renting tents because I think this land will be my own, quiet ‘island’. But I want to have an additional source of income without having to move. where to move?”
In the past 2 years, the flow of tenants has remained stable. Herron’s tent was fully booked through mid-November, according to information on Airbnb. However, cleaning and maintaining the tents outside of rental hours accounts for up to 30 hours of Herron work a week.
It’s hard work, but here’s how Herron maintains his “unofficial” business in the Grand Canyon:
Bringing the experience close to nature
Herron first stayed in a tent while traveling to a ski resort near Flagstaff. He recognized the “unique energy” of the circular tent. He learned how to build this type of tent, which is to create a skylight, allowing guests to see the sky while resting inside.
Building the tent required more work than Herron anticipated. He bought a material on a website for $8,000 in 2020, then spent another $4,000 to build a wooden foundation for the tent. Then, Herron spent another $3,000 to strengthen the structure of the tent, because the area sometimes has strong winds.
This shack still has no plumbing, like both Herron’s houses on this property. He must keep a close eye on the water supply, so that both he and his customers can drink, wash dishes, bathe and use the restrooms on the property.
When there wasn’t enough rainwater, Herron had to drive five miles to a nearby residential area to fill a truck with a 200-gallon container. It took him almost a whole day to ship, but this amount of water is enough for him and his customers to use for 4 months.
“I can get water delivered to my house, but it’s twice as expensive. For me, going to the water is a thing that makes me happy and helps me save water,” Herron said.
“Dreams come true”, but with some difficulty
Renting tents also helps Herron’s tour business. He opened the Desert Hiking Company service, which allows customers to book hiking trips in the Grand Canyon at affordable prices. Herron earns up to $40,000 a year, but relies heavily on “tips” from customers. Therefore, tent rentals are the perfect way to sustain Herron’s source of income.
“It’s been my dream come true to welcome visitors to this place, to wake up with them and take them hiking. I can give them a close-to-local experience,” Herron said. this.”
However, Herron could not avoid the difficulties caused by the effects of Covid-19. The blockades make the flow of visitors to the Grand Canyon unstable and most require meticulous instruction on how to live less comfortably than usual.
“I wanted to upgrade my property, but still wanted to develop the current vision at a sustainable rate,” says Herron. For him, upgrading here is filling in the plumbing, building more tents, and buying more land.
He shared: “I am a conservative person, I like to keep things simple and sustainable. If given the opportunity, I will definitely take advantage and want to build more tents in this place. The problem is only is time and money to invest.”
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