After I was laid off, I took a job renovating a tiny-home village in New Mexico. It did wonders for my mental health.

Dylan Barahona and his partner in front of their mobile home.

My lifelong goal has been to own and operate my own hotel. Since the age of 16, all of the steps I’ve taken both personally and professionally have been geared toward making this dream a reality. 

I’m originally from West Palm Beach, Florida and I currently live outside of Denver, Colorado — but I spent much of the past year in New Mexico helping to build a hospitality business. My background has been closely involved with the hospitality industry. 

I started off my career working at hotels in Florida, then moved into glamping before transitioning to larger scale events like Coachella and EDC.

Before COVID hit last spring, I was working as the guest operations manager for CID Entertainment, a VIP music and entertainment company where I’d been since 2017. I’d spend most of the year living in Denver, and the other rest of the year I’d be working at festivals like Coachella and Stagecoach while living in Southern California. 

As the pandemic worsened and the festival season was cancelled, on March 22, 2020 I officially lost my job in the events and entertainment industry. I moved most of my belongings into storage, retreated to my sister’s house in West Palm Beach, and began reflecting on what I wanted to do next. 

Ultimately my options were either to stay in Florida, move back to Denver, or seek a completely new home,whether that be temporary or permanent.

At the end of May, I moved with my partner to help renovate a tiny home village in New Mexico, just south of Albuquerque.

Dylan Barahona 

We got a job opportunity to renovate old mobile home sites and turn them into eco-friendly "tiny home on wheels" parking areas. 

I accepted a six month contract which ran through November 2020, in a property manager role. There, I built out all of the marketing, branding, and consulting efforts in addition to taking on the day-to-day operations of the property and overseeing tiny house sales. 

The transition from events to hospitality was a good pivot for me and an opportunity to learn everything about the business from the ground up. Money-wise it was a big change also, as I took a pay cut from an average of $5,000 to $10,000 monthly down to just a $400-a-month stipend, plus free housing.

The best part of my new job was the chance to learn more about tiny homes and conscious living.

Dylan Barahona

I knew I wanted to learn about land development while also having the opportunity to build a thriving community in a time where everybody needed community the most. I also wanted to learn more about the different aspects of marketing and how to engage social and branding.

I worked to completely revamp the website and social media accounts and build a stronger presence online. This role presented the opportunity for me and my partner to build a portfolio of marketing work for personal branding content and offered a useful platform to experiment in a new field. 

It was also great to step back from living in a city, and be able to connect with nature.  

We never did any physical building of the homes, because most of them brought their own tiny homes and just wanted a place to park.

Dylan Barahona

Our tiny home residents leased space from the lot where they parked.

When we started working with the tiny home village, there were just eight mobile home residents and no tiny homes on the property. By the time we left, we had five residents with long-term leases and hosted three short-term residents for periods ranging from 15 to 60 days. 

Our day-to-day operations included yard work, clearing out lots covered with broken glass and rubbish, and building marketing pitch decks for creating relationships with tiny home builders so they could showcase their homes on our lots. 

Often on the same day we’d go from grant writing to renting a wood chipper and spending 18 hours grinding up invasive trees on the property into mulch to create walking trails. 

For others looking to make a similar life and career change, I’d recommend saving your money now so you’re not constantly working to make ends meet.

Dylan Barahona

Live below your means so you have the opportunity to do what you want. I personally didn’t complete college, because working in the hospitality industry I saw it wasn’t necessary to have a degree to move upward. Since then, I’ve still taken different opportunities to grow and learn. 

As of spring of 2021, I’m back to living in Denver, Colorado and working at a startup hospitality company, called Roameo. In my head of customer experience role, I build up the guest services department, find luxurious ways to enhance the guest’s experience in nature, create marketing packages, and network with other companies to build partnerships. 

My partner and I also recently cofounded our own company, Connecting Roads, which is a full-service hospitality brand focused on accelerating outdoor experiences 

There’s no sense of ‘competition’ in the outdoor industry.

Dylan Barahona

There’s so much opportunity, so we don’t need to be competitive with each other because we’re all paving the same path. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is how to follow your intuition and never to have any regret — just continue to move forward. 

This career change has helped me tremendously with having a healthy mindset. Before when I was always traveling, it was hard to know which opportunities to take and when. Now, I’ve had time to reflect, be present, and not feel like I have to push forward on a strict timeline for my life.

The end goal for me and my partner is to own and operate our own outdoor, glamping-oriented property brand where we can host people and host events. We’d like to focus on the retreat and wellness aspects as a place for people to connect. We hope to continue to find different ways to bring people together and create new experiences. 

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Molly O’Brien May 28, 2021 at 10:00PM

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