I’ve talked about traveling for years. I’ve been so close to just throwing a sleeping bag and laptop in the car and driving into the wilderness. This 9-5 wasn’t what I wanted, and it’s not what Gennai and I had talked about.
Later that day when we were getting groceries I made my proposal to Gennai (not that kind of proposal). It was the “lets live together on the road” proposal. I told her I want to convert the Element we are already driving to a “tiny camper” and hit the open road. *crosses fingers*
Her reaction is not what I expected. I thought I would need to convince her. Instead she was on board from the start. Just one more reason to fall more deeply in love with her.
Becoming Part of a Movement
People all over the world are ditching what they own to live smaller. There’s even a documentary called Minimalism on Amazon. There are women minimalizing clothes and shoes with a system called 3-33. More families and millenials live in multi-use apartments or in co-living spaces. And there are thousands of people joining the #vanlife movement and living in campers or converted vans.
Tiny house shows are taking over HGTV. Some of them are as small as 90 square feet. One show asks “could you live in just 200 square feet?” I measured the space in the back of the Element. Twenty-four square feet. Could we do it? Could we leave everything behind and live the life we really wanted? Gennai looked at me, smiled, and said “challenge accepted”.
Taking the First Steps
We made a big decision, we chose to embrace the minimalist lifestyle.
Why not convert and condense the necessities of life? How much of the things we owned did we really need? They sell pots in 22-piece sets. How many times did we use all 22? Could we do everything with just one or two? Did we need a setting of plates for 12 if we never had any one over?
We simplified our diet, exercise routines, and clothes. We each picked a simple color palette and only packed clothes that coordinated. We went through everything we owned and sorted it into three piles; 1. take in the car, 2. leave in storage, or 3. donate/sell.
We started minimizing our budget, cutting any unnecessary costs. A whole new world started opening up for us. We are starting two things at this point. The first is that we are going to be building our tiny camper the back of the Element. This will be something that we post more about in the next few weeks here on the blog. So check back in for more information on how that plan came about and what it will look like once we are done.
The other thing is cutting down to the bare essentials of what we needed to have for living not just life, but life on the road. Oh and did I mention that that Clara would be joining us for the entirety of the trip?
Designing our Future
Gennai and I were thinking the same way. We finished our first day planning the interior of the Element. We hit some trouble when we realized we both had a different picture of what the “tiny camper” should look like. When we came up with a good compromise we started splitting up the other tasks of getting ready to go somewhere.
Wait, where did we want to go? And how long should we spend in any place that we get to? These were hard questions to answer. Certainly we would need places to go and things to see. How did we choose and how did we keep things under control?
How could we live like we are talking about, in the outdoors of America to start with, and still have power to charge the few electronics we needed to do the work we had planned out? Solar is cool and would be fantastic. I don’t know everything about making it work for us though so there will be a learning curve there.
For another thing, the outdoors are fantastic and gas costs plenty to get to the great places. Campsites are expensive though. Cheap ones are $15 – $20 a night. There has to be an alternative method for living in nature and still being frugal about it.
Why try Life on the Road?
Since we decided to live on the road, lots of people have told us that we are living their dream.
This wasn’t an easy decision. We had jobs. We have a mortgage, student loan payments, and credit cards. But one day, we started wondering why we were spending all our time working for other people at jobs we hated. Wasn’t there supposed to more to life than this?
We are raised to believe that we have to earn our freedom. That we have to invest tens of thousands of dollars in education. That we have to spend years working for someone else fetching their coffee and making their copies before we can start to make progress in our own careers.
That we then have to spend decades working almost every day, working overtime, skipping vacations and family events to prove our loyalty to someones else’s company—to making someone else rich.
And only then, after fifty or sixty years, do we earn our freedom. By that time, many of us will have chronic illnesses. It will difficult to travel the world like we always dreamed of when our joints hurt and we become exhausted after a few hours of walking.
We had agreed to become slaves. We kept ourselves chained to these ideas. We stayed polite and obedient to our bosses and accepted whatever mistreatment they handed out. We put our dreams on hold for countless other people.
So whose life were we living? If we spent our whole lives believing that we will finally be free after retirement, were we giving up on ourselves? Were we failing ourselves? How do we know we will actually get the chance to live the life we want?
Would I be more proud on my deathbed telling my grandchildren that I never missed a day of work and made my boss very wealthy? Or would I rather tell them that I spend my life living my dreams with the one I love, traveling the world and being the person I always wanted to be?
Living a Legacy
What legacy to did I want to leave? We remember great explorers like Columbus (despite his crimes) but no one remembers John The Clerk who worked fifty hours a week for fifty years until he died.
A legacy is more than just blood. Not all of us will have children. In fact, millennials are putting it off longer and longer. We are becoming entrepreneurs at record rates. We are becoming digital nomads and vanlifers and minimalists. Our priorities are changing. And sure, a lot of us will fail. Not every entrepreneur is successful. And maybe future generations will look at us as foolish.
The more we looked at it and the more we thought about what we are trying to accomplish, the less we used the term “trip”. It became more about talking about how great our new life was going to be. Sure there are hard parts to it too. We have to fund it somehow and we have to keep living healthy. Otherwise, why do it?
But we believe in freedom and we believe in our dreams. We believe in being true to ourselves. We believe that our lives belong to us. At this point who knows what will happen and where all of this will lead us. Which is kind of the exciting part of this new world we opened the door to. I feel invigorated knowing that we have a way forward and that while the path is a bit hazy at the moment, it will get clear as we travel it. Some people would let that scare them away from their dreams.
We believe being stripped of materialism is a good thing. We believe discovering who we are on the road and in the wilderness is a better way to live. We want to know who we are when nothing is left but us. And then we want to come back and share our knowledge, our revelations, our photography, and our writing. We are reborn in the wild that is left in the world. And through that, we find the wilderness in us.