ABOUT this adventure:
I was so fortunate to experience full-time travel as a child. After working as a health professional and crisis counselor, I'm so grateful to be roaming free, perpetually, as an adult.
I try to venture mindfully. Along the way, I share the affordable travel tips, sustainable packing and eating, plus the mindful travel moments that can help make this possible for just about anyone.
My boyfriend (a certain someone) loves to join in this adventure. He worked for the America’s Cup, captains and races yachts, climbs and skis mountains, teaches kiddos, and loves to bike and walk everywhere possible.
Everyone Thought It Was Crazy
When I was a child, nearly everyone 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.
I still smile about the television concern, because it was my dear grandmother who shared that.
But my parents figured out how to exchange what they had for what they wanted. They saved money, had a small sabbatical stipend, and they looked forward to having fun working odd jobs on the road (and stopping 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.
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 found that I’d arrive at destinations only to spend endless time sorting through my things (while feeling lost and unprepared for what was ahead).
It became clear: I’d accumulated all kinds of unnecessary stuff that 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 truly choose the simplicity (aka minimalism) that I’d adored from the past, so I could be free from so much in the present.
This was such a relief, as after living in an variety of homes, I had already seen (over and over) 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 be ready to roam.
So I Slowly Simplified (then Downsized)
One of the first steps I took on the journey of simplifying and downsizing my life was small: I started eliminating junk mail (I’ve since placed my cell number on the free do not call registry). It was ethically and ecologically important to me to do this and something I could work on each day when I sorted through my mail (it felt cathartic).
Then I 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. However, once I realized this situation had cost me more than $20,000 in storage unit fees (which I thought was a shocking 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 owning (sorting, organizing, cleaning, caring for) all those things. Gratitude that others actually wanted my things, including the kind young helpers.
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 that others experienced when receiving these items was immense. I’m so relieved to have taken care of this now.
This experience delivered 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 use my favorite travel tips to travel slow, and lodge in apartments by the month (with 50% monthly discounts). 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). And if one just needs a room (not an entire apartment), travel is even more affordable.
We can also house sit for free, choosing the properties and pets that we want to love. I consider this a form of volunteer work and community-building while on the road.
Speaking of volunteer work, one can 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.
During my youth, I cared for animals, children, elders, campers, and worked in boutique retail. I later produced national events in the tech world and volunteered in public television, radio, and 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, in broad daylight), and how that long-term abuse harms us all. Then, to support others, I trained to be a…
Certified Trauma Specialist
Certified Domestic Violence (including Child Abuse) and Sexual Assault Advocacy-Based Crisis Counselor
Certified Peer Counselor (to support others who have also been abused and are now healing from its PTSD trauma)
Mind-Body Medicine Professional
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Teacher
Certified Wellness Facilitator
Health Professional (helping severely ill diabetic and heart disease patients follow their doctor’s orders)
along with earning a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition
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 life. 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 training, so that I could share it with clients, but I first had to practice it as a student, 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).
And When I Don’t Process Something Mindfully Enough
It can be a difficult feeling, planning for a beautiful experience but instead experiencing something unforeseen. Naturally, I don’t always 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 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...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.