ABOUT this adventure:
When I was a child, my parents took us on the road—full-time. And frugally. Words cannot express what a gift that was. So after attempting to adhere to a conventional life off the road, I’m so happy to be roaming free once again.
As someone who’s worked as a health professional, who’s a celiac, and who’s been a crisis counselor, I can’t help but travel plant-based, GF, and trauma-informed. My boyfriend (a certain someone) loves to join in, too.
I’m sharing what we encounter on the road, and what helps us sustainably thrive along the way, in case it also helps another. Because no matter how we each travel through life, I love that we can still mindfully venture together.
They Thought It Was Crazy
When I was a child, nearly everyone we knew thought it was crazy that my parents wanted to take us on the road full-time. They were convinced that we, the children, would be deprived of an education, friends, and television.
My parents figured out how to exchange what they had for what they wanted. They saved money, had a small sabbatical stipend, and they planned to have fun working odd jobs on the road (plus stop for a bit, to complete some Ph.D. classes).
Our household possessions were stored in the basement of our home, behind a locked door. The rest of the house was rented out.
My parents hooked a 16-foot travel trailer onto the big blue station wagon…and off we went, rolling down the road.
We saw every historical site possible. We formed diverse friendships with other children (that, back then, we could have never experienced in our hometown). And we learned that the giant box in the living room need not be so giant.
Over the years, my parents also tossed us into the wilderness for weeks at a time, and eventually overseas to be with family.
Taking us on the road was one of the wisest decisions my parents ever made. It was the best classroom ever. We thrived in that healthy excitement.
I remain forever grateful to have been exposed, at such a young age, to the world out there. I wanted much more of it, and for human growth, I can see why one needs much more of it.
Then There Was a Glitch
As time went on, I noticed that after extensive planning and packing, I'd arrive at a destination and spend endless time sorting through my things, only to feel lost and unprepared for what was ahead.
I came to realize: I had accumulated too much stuff and it was cluttering up my ability to proceed smoothly.
Immigrant Grandparents to the Rescue
Thank goodness I’d witnessed my immigrant grandparents live a simple life, owning minimal personal belongings. Their example reminded me that it was okay to choose simplicity (aka minimalism), so I could be free of so much.
This was such a relief, because after living in a variety of homes, I could see that acquiring things—even the homes/items we’re taught to idealize—never brought me lasting fulfillment. In fact, all I really wanted was to be free of them, to have a bag perpetually packed, and to be ready to roam.
So I Slowly Simplified/Downsized My Life
One of the first steps I took on this slow journey was small: I first eliminated junk mail (I’ve also since placed my cell number on the free do not call registry). It was ecologically important to me and something I could work on each day when I sorted through my mail (it felt cathartic).
I then began to slowly sell, gift, and donate items (that I did not absolutely love) from my closets, drawers, and cabinets. Unexpectedly, the more I cleared out, the more I wanted to clear out.
Finally, near the end of this simplifying/downsizing project, one of the most difficult challenges for me was to clear out my two storage units. I’d had them for more than fifteen years (through several moves) because they were holding items that I just wasn’t sure what to do with. Each time I thought about these storage units, I felt a heavy weight on my shoulders and a little sick to my stomach. Emotionally, I truly couldn’t decide what to do with it all. Then, once I realized this situation had cost me more than $20,000 in storage unit fees (which I thought was a complete waste of money), I was immediately motivated to take action. So I…
determined the number of days I’d need to travel to, sort through, and distribute everything in my storage units
determined all the service facilities I’d need each step of the way (storage unit staff, a locksmith/lock cutter, mobile shredder truck, auctioneer, non-profits, the dump, shippers, movers, etc.) and their hours of operation
reserved flights, rental vehicles (SUV/moving van), hotels, and assistance
stocked up on food and supplies each day before heading to the storage units, so I could spend as much uninterrupted time there as possible
realized it would be wise to take beautiful photos of every item I loved (so I could look at the photos if ever I missed the belongings)
gifted family items to family (shipped one box, dropped off 5+ large boxes)
auctioned off/sold all remaining items possible
gave away items to individuals who expressed desire for them
donated items that didn’t/couldn’t sell
took items to the dump/scheduled items for trash pickup (that were too worn/broken/unwanted)
Then I sold my home and auto.
I cannot begin to describe the sense of gratitude that all of this brought. Gratitude for no longer feeling that weight on my shoulders or that sick feeling in my belly. Gratitude for no longer having to worry about having (sorting, organizing, cleaning, caring for) all those things. Gratitude that others actually wanted my things, including city kids who were my movers (who were so kind and happy to take everything they could fit into their auto).
I was able to decide what happened to my things. I was able to watch what happened to my things. The gift of witnessing the unexpected joy (or shock) that others experienced in receiving these items was immense.
I’m so relieved to have taken care of this chore while I’m still alive, so others can enjoy these items now, and so others don’t have to take care of this chore when I’m no longer on this earth.
This experience has brought a sense of freedom that I have longed for…for as long as I can remember.
Financing a Travel Life
Thankfully, witnessing my parents finance full-time travel with a limited income showed, first hand, that this is possible.
A cautious child, my early habits (working, budgeting, saving) also reinforced that even with a small income, one could do nearly anything. And that later, when one has a more substantial income, it's meaningful to live beneath one's means.
For me, this means I enjoy:
researching extensively (to determine all possibilities one can choose)
planning carefully (to find the best rates)
respecting the math (to remain fiscally responsible)
For instance, when we’re not on my boyfriend’s sailboat, I like to travel slow and lodge in apartments by the month (with 50% monthly discounts). If a monthly discount is not listed, I always ask if a monthly discount is ever available—and I let them know that I completely understand, if not. Monthly lodging in destinations like Stockholm, London, or Paris can actually be more affordable than the monthly expense of living in North America (one just has to add up all of their costs to verify).
We can also house sit for free, choosing the properties and pets we want to love (I consider this a form of volunteer work on the road). And one can even volunteer in other ways, which can include free lodging.
Opportunities like these make it possible to venture affordably, experience new cultures, and really get to know local communities, which can bring compassion and deeper meaning to life.
Professional Experience (Supporting Others)
During my youth, I cared for children and elders, worked as a summer camp counselor, and in boutique retail. I later produced national events in the tech world and volunteered in public television, radio, and in community journalism. Yet, I’ve felt most grateful when able to provide support on a deeper level.
It all started while witnessing others experience struggles in work environments just as clearly as what we see in personal environments. As one might imagine, most never discussed these struggles, and people visibly suffered.
I know this well, myself, due to the heartbreak of witnessing and enduring long-term abuse and due to the cruelty that is directed at victims when they try to protect themselves from abuse. Realizing that none of us are alone with life’s challenges, even though we can feel alone with such trauma, I was motivated to further understand those who repeatedly harm, what they direct at their victims (too often, undetected), and how that long-term abuse harms us all. Then, to support others, I trained as a…
Certified Peer Counselor (to help others who have also been abused and are now healing from its PTSD trauma)
Certified Wellness Facilitator
Personal Health Coach (specializing with severely ill patients with diabetes and heart disease)
This training made it possible for me to volunteer with mental health practitioners and assist clients experiencing crisis, as well as volunteer with medical doctors and assist patients in need of making critical dietary and lifestyle changes.
These experiences touched me profoundly and still remind me of how rare it is to find someone who isn't in need of such support at some point in their lives. Everyone has their story, everyone has their trauma, and nothing is perfect regardless of where we're located.
The one thing that wove itself throughout this most meaningful work was practicing a skill called mindfulness. It was taught throughout most of my trainings, so that I could share it with clients, but I first had to practice it myself. I'm still in awe that when I take mindful action in a challenging moment, the calm it brings allows me to handle the next moment with more ease. And when I forget to do this? It's my reminder to practice (I'm reminded to practice a lot).
If Something Still Goes Wrong
It can be a painful feeling, planning for a special experience but instead suffering through something unforeseen. And, sometimes, I don’t process things mindfully enough to feel as good as I want to feel.
In these moments, I try to look for the meaningful lesson that the experience has taught me.
And if that doesn’t help me feel better, I have fun telling myself that the very thing that went wrong could have been some kind of universal intervention, ultimately protecting me from something far worse that could have crossed my path...or that it occurred to allow something far more special to ultimately cross my path.
A realigning of the stars, if you will. Then I thank my lucky stars.