Written by Nick Stollings
As the weather gets warmer, I can feel the urge to travel. Experiencing new places, new environments, new people, and a sense of freedom that one can only achieve through motion. Travel inspires us to be something different than were the day before; it allows us to break down the barriers that protect our often-inconvenient comfort zones and create new ones. There’s an entire world out there that needs experiencing, but travel doesn’t have to be a worldly pursuit.
One of the things I love about living in America is this notion of the proverbial road trip. This idea of hitting the road and seeing where it takes you isn’t really found anywhere else in the world. Made famous by writers like Jack Kerouac and others from the Beat Generation, the road trip has the power to be a life changing experience for anyone open to the experience.
For this generation, the road trip has transformed into something more permanent. More people are abandoning their apartments, their homes, and are converting their vehicles into modern living spaces with wheels. They sacrifice some of the amenities that come with a fixed location for the open road; the freedom to choose where to go and when to leave.
I tried open-road living myself a few summers ago, and here’s what I learned from the experience.
1. it’s environmentally friendly
My initial concern with taking to life on the road was my carbon footprint. I wasn’t willing to gain a newfound freedom at the expense of the environment. After all, the environment and the Earth were the reasons I was attempting to gain this freedom in the first place. After a little research, what I discovered was pretty interesting.
One person living in the average apartment for 12 months emits 3.4 tons of carbon dioxide, and driving 1,200 miles emits only .3 tons. It’s worth saying that living out of your car is different than the average road trip; there are plenty of stops, and the United States is only 2,800 miles from coast to coast.
2. it’s a freeing experience
There’s a great deal to be said about pursuing a minimal life. Sure, living out of your car means that you need to find places to shower, you trade your kitchen stove for a campfire, and you can’t fit a washer or dryer in your trunk. However, in losing these amenities you gain the realization that you don’t need them. Living comfortably doesn’t mean having a huge house or the highest paying job, it means being happy.
3. you get to know your own backyard
When I first started traveling, I dreamt of going to places like Greece, Egypt, Thailand, and other exotic destinations, but I forgot about those just a few miles away. For instance, I’m from Ohio and I live in Colorado, but I realized before I took to the road that I had never been to California. I had been to Rome, Amsterdam, and Paris, but I had never been to Los Angeles, San Francisco, or the Redwood Forest. Seeing those places so close to my own home and on my own terms gave me something no foreign destination could.
4. where you go is important
There’s a major shift in thinking for the millennial generation, and it’s the idea that location matters more than means. It used to be that you moved where you received a job; the location didn’t matter as much as the life you were able to build. The fact of the current economic situation is that it’s hard to build a life anywhere, so you might as well try to build it where you feel the most at home. All you have to do is get out and find the right place. Millennials understand this, which is why life on the road has become increasingly more popular.
5. you can make your money on the road
A major concern for a lot of would-be travelers is that they need to make enough money to sustain their adventures. Luckily, the Internet has made it possible to make a living on the road in a variety of capacities. In fact, just being on the move and having adventures can be enough to make money via social media. If your converting your car, take videos and post regularly about the steps you need to take to make it more habitable. If you’re hiking to a hidden hot spring somewhere, share it, post about it. As your number of followers grows, advertisers will take notice.
6. the essentials are your only expense
Although you’ll still need to make money while traveling, the number of expenses that require your concern decreases drastically. No more electricity bill, no more cable bill, and no more rent. The stress that comes with these bills no longer exists once your key turns the ignition and you start a new way of life. Even if your new life on the road isn’t forever, maybe it’s not even for year, the lack of stress could add double that amount to your life as a whole.
7. you get to know you
Everyone says that travel teaches you about yourself, but this is especially true when living on the road. When I stripped away the responsibilities of a life lived in a fixed a location, I was able to really understand myself as a person. When the stress of bills, a day job, and everything else is gone, all your left with is the present. It’s your decisions in the current moment that matter, not what you’re going to do in a month. The real you, your real desires, and the things you care about the most are revealed. It’s a learning experience that won’t be forgotten.