A lot of people ask me,"how can you do this?" How can a 30(something) year old quit her job and travel the country for 16 months or longer? I compiled a few things that you might find helpful if you wanted to do something similar with your life:
I have always managed to live with whatever salary I made out of college. I worked hard and after 15 years of saving, I could finally afford to do it. Most of the money I saved was within the last seven years of working in advertising sales. I was fortunate enough to live under my means and save a majority of it to be able to not have a job for a while. I played corporate dress up to be able to live in the dirt.
I am not married with kids
Let’s face it; it would be a little hard to leave your partner and kids to travel alone across the country. Life is a little less flexible when you have little ones running around. However, I think it’s the best vacation you can give to yourself and to your family to travel the USA and explore what’s in your own backyard with the vacation time you do have.
Trailer/Motor home vs. Tent
There are benefits to traveling with a trailer as well as just having a tent. Last year, I traveled the country with a 4x9 teardrop trailer. It came in handy when it rained and for safety and security reasons. However, I find that it’s much easier to travel with a tent and a portable stove. If you are looking for attention, the teardrop is the way to go. You won’t be able to drive to any campsite unnoticed. If it’s friends you are looking for, they will come to you. You will have an instant camp buddy when you travel with a teardrop.
You can go to more remote sites with a tent, it’s less expensive in gas and it’s easier to get around. If you travel with a trailer, you have the convenience of a bathroom, safety and shelter from the weather. It all depends on what suits you.
You must be ok with dirty
If you have a problem with dirt in your fingernails, things going wrong, being outside, trees, fresh air, a wet dog, animals walking in your campsite, bugs, simple meals, talking to strangers, getting lost, making your own bed every day, missing a shower(s), not watching TV, not wearing makeup, not having cell reception, being cold, being hot, being alone and the possibility of being struck by lightning or attacked by a bear…this might not be for you.
Let people know what you are doing
Once you decide what you are going to do, tell people about it. Most likely, they will tell you what not to miss, where to go and if you are lucky, perhaps they will know someone who knows someone who will help you out with a place to stay, ride to the airport, a dog sitter, or a hot meal.
Have an open mind and go with the flow
So what if you miss the largest picnic basket, there will always be a house made of corn to explore. Be sure to allow enough time each day to take side trips. You never know where it will take you when you pull off to get a free glass of ice water, as an example. I never made one reservation at a campsite. Not even Yellowstone. If you have a tent, you will most likely luck out with a spot somewhere.
Keep in Touch
You will miss your loved ones and they will miss you. Be sure to connect when you can. Documenting your trip is also helpful so they can see what you are up to. If you are not able to get online for a few days, be sure to tell your mother that you are ok. Trust me on this one.
Meet new friends online
I have met some people online that are now a big part of my life. All it takes is saying yes. You will find some amazing people out there willing to help you on your journey. Besides meeting a new friend, most often you will have a free place to stay, a hot shower and a good meal. However, trust your gut and say no to something that doesn’t feel right.
The last thing you want to do is to sit there in the middle of your adventure wondering what to do. This is your time to learn about YOU. Take advantage of the time to explore. Get lost. Set goals for the amount of time that you are able to take. Also, be flexible if you decide to change your direction. Keeping an open mind is essential. Do what YOU want to do. Try not to get wrapped up in what people want you to do. Remember, it’s YOUR time, use it however you want.
Bringing a pet
I have had a dog each time I’ve traveled. For me, I can’t imagine doing this without a dog. It does have limitations on what you can do. There are trails you are not able to go on with a pet. It’s essential that you take your pet everywhere you go, when you travel with one. Many times, the weather was too hot to keep my dog in the car, so be aware that your plans may change if you decide to bring a furry companion.
You don’t need that much
Everything I need fits in my car. You won’t need nearly as much as you think you will. I have a small bag with clothes for summer and a bag for winter clothes. Easy. The essentials I have for camp are my tent, tarp, sleeping bag, stove, coffee pot, flashlight and chair. My luxury items are coffee, bug spray, tea, lip balm, computer, phone, camera and iPod. That’s about it. I have not had a campfire at camp so far and I haven’t stayed in the same site more than one night. It all depends on how much you want to settle in and stay. For me, I am going somewhere new each day without a plan. I tend to be fine with that schedule.
Soak it up
It goes fast. Enjoy each moment. Be sure to take pictures. Document where you go and what you do. Who knows… it just might change your life.