They Sold Everything and Set Out for Life on the Road — Could You?

(Image:  Unsplash )

(Image: Unsplash)

The thought of packing everything up, getting rid of the stuff you don’t need, and hitting the open road for a period of months or years is probably one that crosses many people’s minds from time to time — or at least those of us who have been bitten by that little bug called wanderlust, anyway. It’s a tantalizing thought: no house or rent payments, nothing keeping you anchored to one place or another, and the freedom to roam as you please.

It’s also a seemingly-unattainable dream, the likes of which feels almost certainly impossible for most. After all, life on the road begs many questions: how will you earn a living? How do you make sure you don’t end up at the throat of the other person or people you’re traveling with? How could you give up all those material possessions or live in cramped quarters, relying on friends for favors when you stop in their towns?

As with any dream, there are sacrifices to be made if the goal is to make life on the road possible, and, even more important, sustainable. Do you think you’d have what it takes? A couple from Northern Michigan that I interviewed a few years ago thought they did, so they quit their jobs in Alaska, sold or gave away most of their things, and set out in a 98-square-foot-trailer-turned-tiny-house to see just how long they could make it a reality.

This was in the spring of 2015 and I don’t know if these two individuals are still giving it their best shot — their blog is no longer live — but when I spoke with them after they’d been living life on the road for about two months, I got the sense that they were going about it in all the right ways. Reading over the article I wrote about them for my hometown newspaper three years ago, I realized the blueprint they provided for at least giving life on the road a chance was a topic worth revisiting.

First things first: you need to be bringing in some kind of income to make this all possible. In the case of our two Northern Michiganders, he was (and still is) a one-man band capable of earning dough by playing concerts at venues all across the country while she pitched in by being his de facto band manager, cold calling places and forever trying to promote his music. Being a gifted musician certainly helps when attempting to live a mobile lifestyle, but it’s not a requirement.

Storage space will be at a premium regardless of which type of vehicle becomes your mobile home (Image:  Unsplash )

Storage space will be at a premium regardless of which type of vehicle becomes your mobile home (Image: Unsplash)

There are other ways to make a living without being handcuffed to a certain geographic location. Ideally, you would be blogging and/or Instagramming your adventures and getting paid as an influencer — someone who has enough of a following that companies pay them to promote their products on social media (but you already knew that). Coming from someone who knows a thing or two about just how difficult building a following can be, more realistic options might be freelance writing or graphic design.

With a reliable internet connection, the possibilities aren’t quite endless, but they are many. Find some other options here: Top 10 Jobs to Work Remotely.

Once you’ve figured out the income aspect, the next thing might be deciding what kind of truck or mobile home or van you’ll be hitting the road with. I told you earlier that the couple I interviewed transformed a 98-square-foot trailer into what was essentially a tiny house — that is, a space with a few cabinets/cupboards for storage, a foldable bed, and a shower. If that sounds like a difficult project or you have absolutely no experience working with your hands, take heart, friend, because these two admitted they had no such experience themselves. An excerpt from my 2015 article:

“We didn’t have any building experience prior to the trailer so that was kind of an adventure, a huge learning curve,” [she] said.

They were confronted with conundrum after conundrum, with the questions springing up: “How do we cut in and install a window? How do we wire electrical? Do we need a water pump for the sink? If we’re going to have a shower, are we able to cut in a drain?”

My 1,400-word article “Life on the Road” adorned the front page of the  Manistee News Advocate ’s Aug. 8-9 weekend edition in 2015

My 1,400-word article “Life on the Road” adorned the front page of the Manistee News Advocate’s Aug. 8-9 weekend edition in 2015

“We watched a lot of Youtube and looked at Instagram and Pinterest and a bunch of other social media avenues to find out what other people had done with their similar projects,” [he] said.

When all was said and done, the project lasted from November of [2014] up until near the time the couple hit the road at the end of May this year, costing to date around $9,000 with recent renovations.

Asked why they hadn’t simply purchased an RV or one of your more standard mobile homes, they told me that that route would have been too easy; they wanted a real adventure, to be something more interesting than two people who quit their jobs and started living out of a motor home. And props to them for making such a decision, but if you opt for the classic Volkswagen van, I wouldn’t fault you one bit.

With some type of income and your method of transportation secured, it’s time to start thinking about downsizing — getting rid of all the unnecessary items that simply will not be able to come with you along the journey.

Maybe you store some things in your parents’ basement, maybe you rent a storage locker, maybe you host a yard sale prior to setting off, or, as the couple I spoke to did, maybe you end up giving a lot of stuff away for free. After going through that process, they had a few thoughts to share:

“I think from the start of it, just downsizing was a really big hurdle for us because we had good jobs and we had a lot of stuff,” [he] said. “Getting rid of all of that was really difficult because you get attached to the things you have. Realizing it was all just stuff was a challenge.”

… “It’s definitely shifted our perspective on kind of the materialistic world we tend to live in,” [she] said. “It’s kind of helped us to shift our focus onto the things that are important instead of consuming.”

Once you take care of the preliminary stuff and actually get out there, making sure you don’t kill each other becomes one of the most vital aspects of making life on the road sustainable. It can be difficult to be around the same person or persons 24/7, which is why it’s important that you still manage to find time for yourself, even if you’re living in 98 square feet of space. A couple of suggestions would be taking a solo morning walk or splitting up and doing some exploring on your own in a new area — whatever it takes to get that alone time in, because you’ll need it.

There’s more that goes into living life on the road, of course — I mean, you’ve got to consider potentially getting sick and needing to visit a doctor, how you’ll handle health insurance, how you’ll manage to save money and all sorts of other things — but hopefully this has given you some insight into what it takes to make it possible. Life on the road can be more than a dream, but it does take some work.