Mabel-Canton teacher and husband plan to retire, downsize and travel everywhere


Deb Graf, a teacher at Mabel-Canton, has plans with her husband to travel the world as they retire and downsize. SUBMITTED PHOTO

When Deb Graf joined the faculty at Mabel-Canton last fall, she came to town with her own tiny house, placing it in the trailer court in Mabel. LISSA BLAKE/NEWS LEADER

A view from the loft shows the first-floor space in Deb Graf’s tiny house. She lived in the home five days a week, while she was teaching, and returned to her home with her husband in Lake Elmo. LISSA BLAKE/NEWS LEADER

Even with little space for extras, Deb Graf found comfort in her tiny home, decorating it in her own style. This view from the door shows an efficient kitchen and small bathroom as well as the ladder to the loft. LISSA BLAKE/NEWS LEADER
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LISSA BLAKE
NEWS LEADER

When Deb Graf took a teaching job in Mabel last November, she moved to town, complete with her own tiny house.

“I lived in the trailer court in Mabel. It was only 125 square feet, but I loved it,” said Graf of the small home where she spent five nights a week, returning on the weekends to her husband and “regular” home in Lake Elmo.

“I’ve loved it. I got to decorate it the way I wanted to and walk to school most days. It had everything I needed, even a queen bed up in the loft with room for my books and stuff,” she said.

The commuting arrangement worked fine, until she and her husband, Tim, an engineer for 3M, decided they didn’t much like living apart.

“We decided to retire instead,” said Graf.

So the Grafs put their tiny house up for sale and were pleased when they sold it in no time.

“We sold it to a ballet dancer from Texas,” said Graf, adding the couple pretty much broke even on buying and selling the tiny home.

Love to travel

Both the Grafs spent time abroad before they were married: Tim in South America and

Deb as a teacher at an international school in Vienna, Austria.

“When I was still single, I went to an international job fair and ended up spending six years in Austria as the head of the department,” she said.

Selling everything

The Grafs also have their home in Lake Elmo for sale with plans to eventually establish residency in Seattle, Wash.

“We are selling everything in it but two cats and my husband,” she quipped.

“The cats are both older and will come with us to Seattle,” she said, adding they will each keep a few sentimental items to be stored with relatives.

Making the leap

Graf said they plan to head to Seattle over the Fourth of July weekend to seek out a condo or rental.

“We want to take our time, think it through and make a travel itinerary. We’ve thought about heading to New Zealand first,” she said.

Graf said they have been looking at some different options for housing, such as housesitting or vacation rentals by owner.

“We hope to live pretty reasonably. After New Zealand, we may visit Malaysia and Indonesia. Then we’ll just see. If the weather is too hot for us, we’ll just go somewhere else,” she said.

Graf said many countries have a three-month agreement for visitors, so the couple hopes to explore different “regions” of the world in succession.

“We’d love to explore a whole area, like the Far East. We’ll always be planning one or two places ahead of where we’re going,” she said.

A compromise

Graf said because she had such fond memories of living in Vienna, she thought she wanted to live somewhere like that permanently; Tim hoped to live somewhere in the States and travel abroad.

“We talked a lot about how to do it, and we finally just decided why don’t we just not live anywhere and travel everywhere?” she said.

The Grafs are working on purchasing international health insurance and networking with other people who have lived across the globe before.

“It will be good to talk to some other people, so we can be aware of some of the pitfalls,” she said.

Will miss teaching

Graf said its hard to believe she only has a few concerts left before she is finished teaching.

“My students have been my children. They make me laugh. I couldn’t get any more joy from any other profession. I’ve always felt this was my calling,” she said.

Graf said once they get on the road, she plans to blog about their adventures.

“I’ll definitely send my (blog) address back to Mabel-Canton Schools,” she said.