This influencer has been paid to stay in 85 tiny houses, treehouses, and yurts across the country

  • Ethan Abitz started traveling to tiny houses he found on Airbnb and posted pictures on Instagram.
  • In 2020, he turned this into a career, traveling to unique dwellings on Airbnb to photograph them.
  • Abitz hopes his photos will inspire some people to live more sustainably and minimally.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

While most people look for luxurious and comfortable listings on Airbnb, Ethan Abitz searches for the smallest and the most unique.

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The 22-year-old influencer started traveling to tiny houses, treehouses, yurts, shipping containers, and other unique dwellings listed on Airbnb so he could post pictures of them on Instagram. In 2020, Abitz turned this hobby into a career, traveling across the US and Canada to photograph various forms of tiny homes.

Here’s how Abitz made a niche career for himself in the larger tiny house movement.

Abitz stayed in a cabin in 2018, which sparked his interest in tiny houses and alternative living

In fall 2018, Abitz took a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine to celebrate his 20th birthday. He stayed in a small Airbnb cabin in the middle of the woods with limited amenities. But Abitz loved it.

“I fell in love with getting away and the solitude that I found,” he said.

Two months later, he booked another Airbnb near Mount Washington in New Hampshire. This time, it was a treehouse located 30 feet off the ground. Abitz said staying in this house was “indescribable” because it moved as the trees swayed, and he couldn’t see the ground from the windows.

He eventually stayed in his first traditional 300-square-foot tiny house in Maine – it was so remote he had to snowshoe half a mile from the road to get there. It had no electricity, no running water, and just a wood stove for heat.

“As difficult as it was, I loved it,” Abitz said. “I realized how many different accommodations and how many alternative ways of living there were – that really sparked [my interest].”

Since he was a real estate photographer by trade, Abitz decided to take photos of the Airbnbs and post them on Instagram to share his first experiences with alternative housing.

“Those pictures blew up, and I was thinking maybe there’s something there,” Abitz said. “I slowly found more and more cabins that I could stay in and barter stays in exchange for pictures.”

During the pandemic, Abitz turned his love of tiny Airbnbs into a business

In the first month of 2020, Abitz was working in Costa Rica, so when he returned home during the pandemic, he didn’t know what to do or how to make money while in lockdown. He ultimately decided to take his interest in alternative housing up a notch. He reached out to Airbnb hosts who own unique dwellings and asked them if they were interested in hiring him to take photos of their homes to attract guests.

“Once June came, [Airbnb] hosts were having a crazy year since everyone was trying to escape,” Abitz said. “The hosts were trying to keep up with demand, so they suddenly had the money to really invest in photos. They jumped at the opportunity. By mid-June, I was fully booked until the end of October.”

Abitz typically spends one or two nights in an Airbnb for free and takes as many pictures as he can for the hosts. He also posts them on Instagram where he now has over 32,000 followers. For one listing, Abitz can make anywhere from $500 to $1,000.

“Pre-pandemic, I did paid work for four or five places, and it was more of a passion,” Abitz said. “By summer 2020, I was able to work it into a career.”

To date, he has traveled to about 85 unique Airbnbs in the US and Canada and is set to reach 100 by this summer.

Abitz prides himself on being one of the few people who has stayed in almost every form of tiny house. However, he likes some structures over others. He thinks treehouses are “the coolest thing ever,” but he also loves yurts – rounded structures made of wood and fabric. Most notably, he stayed in a cliff house in Kentucky that could only be accessed via a 200-step staircase. Abitz said it was “one of the coolest, most unique dwelling I have ever stayed in.”

Abitz hopes to raise awareness around sustainable living with his photos

While visiting various Airbnbs, Abitz realized how important sustainable living is to him, and it has become his main motivator.

“I’ve traveled the country quite a bit now and one of the worst feelings I get is when I see huge forests being completely chopped down for massive houses,” Abitz said. “For what? For a four-person family? There’s a lot of things that we can be doing as a society to take better care of our earth.”

Abitz decided to do his part. In February, he moved into his car, a Volkswagen Tiguan, full-time despite the fact “it’s not easy.”

“It’s not bad, but knowing that my carbon footprint is minuscule to what it would be in a house makes me feel much better, and it makes taking a cold shower at 7 p.m. worth it,” he said.

As he lives out of his car, Abitz continues to travel to Airbnbs across the US to experience other forms of sustainable living. He hopes to inspire more people to do the same with his photos.

“My calling at this time is to share these stories in a way that gets other people excited about [sustainable living] and to get people to think a little bit differently and open their minds,” Abitz said. “It’s not the most lucrative dream. I’m not trying to make a million dollars. I’m trying to really do what I can to share these different stories and all these different ways we can live more minimally.”

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