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.
So while living in different places for weeks or months—in apartments, homes, or on a certain someone’s boat—I love sharing that which helps us sustainably thrive along the way. Just in case it helps someone else, too.
But First, A Disclosure
I’m not a writer. I’m not a photographer. And saying “I” all the time does not feel right. So please forgive me as I write, photograph, and learn how to share on this site. My goal is to share what has helped me, without telling you what to do. And so, here, I shall practice…and revise as I improve. XO
They Thought It Was Crazy
When I was a child, family and friends 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 of watching television. I thought the adventure would be divine.
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 work odd jobs on the road (as well as stop 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
Humorously, as I grew up, my travel gear and plans often felt chaotic. After extensive planning and packing, I'd arrive at a destination and continue to spend endless time sorting through my things, only to feel lost and unprepared for what was ahead.
I came to realize: I had acquired too much stuff and it was cluttering up my ability to think and proceed smoothly.
Immigrant Grandparents to the Rescue
Thank goodness I’d witnessed my immigrant grandparents live a simple life and own minimal personal belongings. Their example reminded me that it was okay to choose simplicity, so I could be free of so much.
This was such a relief to reflect upon, 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, to have my bag perpetually packed, ready to roam.
So I Slowly Simplified/Downsized My Life
One of the first steps I took on this journey was small: I chose to eliminate junk mail. It was ecologically concerning to me 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. 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 quickly wanted to take action. So I…
determined the number of days I thought I’d need to travel to, sort through, and distribute everything in my storage units
predetermined all 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 the inner city kids who were my movers (who were so happy to take home as many items to their families as they could fit into their autos).
I was able to decide and watch what happened to my things. As I wanted it to happen. And I was gifted with witnessing the unexpected joy (or shock) that others experienced in receiving them. I’ve taken care of this chore while I’m still alive (so others don’t have to, and so others can enjoy these items now).
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, I prefer to travel slow and lodge by the month (if a monthly discount is not listed, I always send a message, asking if a monthly discount is available). And 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).
These opportunities can make it easier to venture affordably and to experience new cultures, which can bring deeper awareness and meaning to life.
Professional Experience (aka That Thing Called Mindfulness)
I spent my youth caring for children and elders, working 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 emotional and physical struggles in work environments, just as clearly as what we can see in our personal settings. As one might imagine, most never discussed these struggles, and people visibly suffered. I know this all too well, myself, due to the heartbreak of some of us in our family not feeling safe around others in our family, due to their lifelong emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive behaviors.
Realizing that none of us are alone in this, even though we can feel alone, I was motivated to train as a Certified Trauma Specialist, Certified Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Advocacy-Based Crisis Counselor, Certified Peer Counselor, Mind-Body Medicine Professional, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction/MBSR Teacher, Personal Wellness Facilitator and Health Coach, and earn 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 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).
When 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/s 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 allowing something far more special to cross my path.
A realigning of the stars, if you will. Then I thank my lucky stars.