↣ What about those who don’t travel?

After all this positivity about travelling, we need some bad points! Here is a short interview I conducted with a friend who has never travelled and has no interest in doing so…

Q – What is your main reason for not travelling?

A- We could never afford it as a family when I was much younger, Devon was as far as we got, but we learnt to enjoy and love it even though it was all on a tight budget. It taught me to appreciate what you have and not keep longing after things out of your reach. Being old enough to travel if I wished to now, when given the option to go abroad I decline, not because I don’t want to see the world but because I have no reason to. I am perfectly happy at home and I have all I want right here.

Q- Are there any instances when you think ‘wow I’d love to see that?

A- I mean yeah, things like the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls look amazing, but I just can’t imagine myself going there, it costs a lot and I would only take photos of the exact same thing I can find on the internet, I can’t see any reason to necessarily go there myself

Q- A lot of people consider travelling to ‘enhance their perspective’, would you agree with this?

A- Absolutely not. Just because I have never been abroad doesn’t mean my perspective isn’t broad, I am immensely happy and get enough variety in my life just by staying at home. Being able to catch a tan on a tropical beach is not going to make me wiser.

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↣ The Mindset of Travelling

Purely by following that too-many-social-media-links path, I stumbled up on ‘Helen in Wonderlust’ at http://www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk. She describes herself as a ‘thirty-something UK based adventurer and travel blogger… with a special place in her heart for Africa’. Helen recently mused on her blog that, when returning home after travelling, she found it increasingly difficult to cope with ‘the norm’ and she struggled to find happiness when not out travelling. She wrote on her blog, that she found that it was the mindset that accompanied travelling that made her happy, not necesarily just the travelling itself. Here are her ’17 Travel lessons for everyday happiness’ :

1) Be nice to, and about people

2) Don’t waste your time on people who don’t deserve it

3) Take a social media Sabbatical

4) Don’t compare yourself to others

5) Don’t look in the mirror too much

6) Exersize (but pick one you really enjoy)

7) Find beauty in the ordinary

8) Do the crappy stuff first

9) Live in the moment

10) Be grateful for what you do have

11) Accept change and face your fears

12) Give yourself a break

13) Do what you love and do it often

14) Be open-minded

15) Go outside

16) Listen

17) Follow your dreams

And I think all of us have to admit that it’s hardly difficult to implement that into your every-day life, and when you try and look at yourself from an outsiders perspective and compare yourself when you’re on holiday and yourself when you’re at home, they are probably different people. And it’s probably the 17 points above that you adhere to when on holiday for a week but forget when you’re back at home doing the school run before work kicking yourself for forgetting to put the bins out, putting off going to the gym and finding youself in the middle of pointless family feuds.

Having said that, it’s all too easy to say that ‘if you just change your outlook, you’ll be much happier’, for example, one of the lessons above is ‘take a social media sabbatical’. Yeah it’s all very well and great but it might mean you miss the planning of a social gathering, you get looked down on becuase you are ‘ignoring people’. Often, there is a very fine line between putting yourself first and being selfish.

So why do people travel? Because they enjoy the ‘me’ that they become when they are travelling, they enjoy that feeling of not checking facebook, feeling a warm sunbeam on their face, breathing in the sea air and forgetting their arrogant boss. We all enjoy escapism, we all enjoy a week where we can be ourselves and have no worries. So that’s why people travel, to have a well-earned break from the norm.

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↣ Love with a chance of drowning

Torre De Roche’s epic adventure across the Pacific Ocean in a boat, with serious seasickness was motivated entirely by one thing. Love.

The ‘Hello Giggles’ lifestyle blog summarized the book better than I could have :

Love with a chance of Drowning introdues us to Torre, an Australian graphic designer who has just embarked on her own adventure and realized a life-ong dream : coming to the US. The plan is to stay a year and then return home to her family Down Under. But, like with all the best journeys, there are some detours and suprises up ahead. 

First Suprise : a chance meeting at a bar turns into love. Enter Ivan, an Argentinean with a secret. 

Second Suprise : that secret is his plan to sail the Pacific. Solo. Until he asks Torre to come with him. 

Third Suprise : Torre, after much worrying and analyzing and in spite of her fear of deep ocean water, suprises herself and agrees to accompany him on the voyage. 

Torre, when in Aus, even though she loved it and she loved her family, wanted just to experience something new and exciting for a while, this came in the form of going to stay with a friend in America. However her motivation for travellling substantially changed when she met Ivan, and she conquered her fear of water all in the name of love, just to be with him for a few month to travel accross the Pacific, from America, back to her homeland of Australia, via beautiful, weird and wonderful places.

The end of the book however, is not all the happiness and light that is presented through the rest of the novel. Ivan is a free spirit, but almost too free, all he wants is to endlessly trail the ocean for the end of his days. To the extent which he actively minimises all human interaction and avoids any sort of comformist behaviour eg. watching the TV or having an email account. Torre remarks the ocean to be his ‘first love’ and her his second. But for Torre, this outlook is incompatible with her family and friend orientated life, she loves to read blogs, write endless emails to her friends at home, ring her parents and generally enjoy a bustling social life. And in the end, they compromise, and they settle down in Australia, but periodically take out the boat ‘Amazing Grace’  for their own little private adventures.

So why did Ivan travel? – To seek seclusion, his own ocean-bound bubble away from the distateful world that he saw on land, to ‘run away’ if you like from comformity and standard living. He had fallen in love with the ocean and he wanted to spend the rest of his life with it, but the only thing that could shake him from his reverie was to fall in love even deeper with the woman of his dreams – Torre.

Why did Torre travel? – It could be said that it was all for love, but then she didn’t go to America for love, in fact she went to America telling herself not to foolishly fall for a tall dark stranger in a bar. No, I think Torre travelled to experience something greater than herself, to seek adventure in a brand new place which coud exicte and leave her awe-struck, to feel the wonderful freedom of being somewhere new and wonderous.

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↣ ‘The Wild’ – From lost to found

Recently, cinemas have been showing the film version of a book called ‘The Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed. The film featured Renee Zellweger but appeared to not make much of a scene on the cinematic critic’s eyes, so much so that it never even screened at any of my local cinemas so was unable to see it. However I did read the book, a few months before it was made into a film and enjoyed it immensely. It is the true story of Cheryl Strayed, originally Nyland, who changed her name in commemoration of her life-changing trek along the 1,100 mile Pacific Crest Trail. Her story is a sad one, having lost her mother, drifting away from her husband and falling into the arms of the wrong man, leading her down the path of drugs, Cheryl decided to travel, by foot, to see what she would find and learn. As the book title suggests ‘A journey from Lost to Found’, travel saved Cheryl Strayed. It enabled her to be humbled by the world, honoured by the kindness of strangers and, being so distanced from her previous life in Minnesota, she was able to see what really was important, and the hike enabled her to start her life afresh when she returned.

Cheryl’s view on her hike is this :

“It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B.

It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.”

So, to relate it to my question ‘Why do people travel’, for Cheryl it was about getting back to basics and feeling at home. She was able to find out who she really was and what she was capable of doing when her body was pushed to the maximum. Through the hike she endured 50 degree heat with no water, thick snow on the Sierra Nevada, trekking for days without shoes as one fell off a mountain when she was hundreds of miles away from the next point of civilisation and extreme, harsh conditions. However the one constant for Cheryl throughout her hike was the support and kindness of complete strangers, of the many people she met on her journey, only once did she encounter danger by two men in a truck. I think this may be something worth noting about travelling, when at home we see so much negativity around the world, so much pain and destruction, through the media and news, through friends turning bad, snide comments and resentment. But when travelling, there is little of this, the temporary nature of travelling naturally means that the point at which relationships are able to turn negative are eradicated. You can have a best friend that you see every day but after a week they drive you mad, but you have to live with it. But when travelling, if you are only in a place for a few days, there is no time for bad vibes to form between people. On the face of it, this is good, because it enables someone to remain happy, but when you think deeper – isn’t that just selfish? You are running away from everyone and everything purely to escape negativity, isn’t that rude? And ignorant? Yes, good things exist in the world, but so do bad things, and as the song goes ‘gotta be cruel to be kind’. You shouldn’t travel just to run away from ‘bad things’, UNLESS, it is temporary. In Cheryl’s case, her journey lasted only three months. Strayed found that when her hike came to an end, she had come to terms with aspects of her life that had previously weighed on her, and the three months she spent hiking the PCT allowed her to start putting these events behind her. Escaping negativity as a temporary measure allows someone to put things into true perspective, are the things you worry about really that important? If you really think about the issue are you able to resolve that, in the end, life is short and you have to let it go? I think this is what happened with Cheryl Strayed, she found that even though the love of her life (her mother) had died, she had to just take some time to find closure, to move on.

For Strayed, she travelled for a short stint to act as a marker of her turning her life around. She likens travelling as a forced sense of reality :

“The thing about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the thing that was so profound to me that summer—and yet also, like most things, so very simple—was how few choices I had and how often I had to do the thing I least wanted to do. How there was no escape or denial. No numbing it down with a martini or covering it up with a roll in the hay. As I clung to the chaparral that day, attempting to patch up my bleeding finger, terrified by every sound that the bull was coming back, I considered my options. There were only two and they were essentially the same. I could go back in the direction I had come from, or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go.”

Travelling forces you to take the long way round, the least agreeable option, to breach your comfort zone. And how are we to know what we truly are capable of as a person if we don’t take those uncomfortable options sometimes?

“I was amazed that what I needed to survive could be carried on my back. And, most surprising of all, that I could carry it.”

In a world of continuously improving technology, of a pressure to wear designer clothes, have the latest iPhone and keep a wonderful house, we have increasingly become materialistic. I think a lot of people focus an awful lot on what they own, but not what really matters. And it is only in extreme conditions that we can appreciate this. I saw a programme on TV where a man that had cheated on his wife alongside the time when his son was taken and murdered, and through tears he told his wife ‘I was bored! Nothing happened with our lives, I felt like I was stuck in a rut and needed a way out, so I chose her because she was young and pretty and exciting, but now (our son) has gone, I would give anything for that routine every day, that blissful continual cycle that was out lives, I would give anything to have that back’. Here, the man has found himself bored, so sought a way out, but in doing so, lost what was really important – the love of his wife and the presence of his only son, and when that was gone, he realised his selfish arrogance. So back to travelling, perhaps that’s why people find travel appealing, because it breaks the mould, it gets rid of doing the same old thing day in day out, and lets people do what they really want to do.

But, some may say, travel is all very well and good, but it comes at a cost, a financial one. It’s expensive to travel!

But is it? Cheryl Strayed lived on less than $100 a week, perhaps meagerly, but she enjoyed it, she cherished each and every day, and she learnt much more than she ever could have staying at home. A british man (Graham Hughes, pictured below) has recently become the first man in the world to travel to all 201 countries in the world, without a plane, taking buses, taxis, trains and his own two feet to travel 160,000 miles in exactly 1,426 days – all on a shoestring of just $100 a week. ( Read more:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2239087/Graham-Hughes-British-man-person-visit-201-countries-WITHOUT-using-plane.html#ixzz3d3IBGyy9 ). Similarly, adventurer Will Hatton has been on the road for the last seven years and blogs about his experiences over at http://www.thebrokebackpacker.com , living on under $100 a week.

Finish line: Graham Hughes yesterday trudged into Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to end the epic four-year journey that began in his hometown of Liverpool on New Year's Day 2009

So doesn’t that prove that travel is actually no more expensive than staying at home? Well, of course, it really isn’t as simple as that. Travelling means you don’t get all the things the rest of us take for granted – a guaranteed shower and bed, a mum on the other end of the phone to make you feel better, pointless arguments over the TV remote but to name a few. But… you do get a wealth of experience, knowledge and contentment from seeing all that the world has to offer. And financially – don’t forget that living at home provides most people a stable income, with a pension plan, taxes to pay, and nice things to spend your money on. Travelling can make this hard – professions have to be compatible with travelling to really make it work. I spoke to a couple, Jorge and Jess Gonzalez who have been travelling in their VW for a few years, and are both graphic designers, so their travel route depends on the locations of work placements, enabling them to seamlessly combine travel and income. There are arguments for every side really.

“That my complicated life could be made so simple was astounding.”

 

And there it is – is life really that complicated? We believe that it is, but when we are able to see that these complications consist mainly of whether our Amazon Prime order arrived too late and which car we should blow £10,000 on, we can see that the complications arise entirely of our own choices. We don’t need Amazon Prime or a new car to be happy, really, do we? Although it might help.

And when Cheryl’s journey had ended and she had to go back to facing the normality of every day life again, she writes philosophically of her return :

“It was all unknown to me then, as I sat on that white bench on the day I finished my hike. Everything except the fact that I didn’t have to know. That is was enough to trust that what I’d done was true. To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was, like all those lines from The Dream of a Common Language that had run through my nights and days. To believe that I didn’t need to reach with my bare hands anymore. To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. That it was everything. It was my life – like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me.
How wild it was, to let it be.”

The thing with travelling is that ultimately, we have to face those things like paying bills and organising which home to send our senile relatives to. Travelling is not a permanent escape, it is not a means to an end either. It is a bridge. It is a bridge that fills us up with knowledge and stories and passion, that then afterwards lets us follow our dreams and do what we really want to do.

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↣ Travel as a mid-life crisis

My most recent book has been to read ‘Mission Mongolia: Two men, one van, no turning back…’, in which travel is being used as an extreme act of ‘escapism’ as a mid-life crisis. Geoff and David were made redundant by the BBC and, in an act of madness some might say, took the plunge to leave their loved ones for a few weeks and blow some of their redundancy package in the name of charity – by driving 8000 miles in a van costing under £1000 from London to Mongolia, with the aim of leaving the van behind with the communities in Mongolia and giving them much needed support and resources.

mission mongolia

I think it’s quite fair to say that this trek was appealing to the two men mostly because of the adventure it would give them, if the same thing had been offered to them but only to drive to Land’s End, the trip wouldn’t have been quite to enticing. I am now about 2/3rd’s of the way through the book and the two men are currently traveling through Siberia and Semey (formally Semipalatinsk , in the Kazakhstan part of Siberia, bordering Russia), encountering all sorts of people and learning a lot along the way.

In the previous books that I have reviewed, some might have called the people travelling selfish, take Cheryl in ‘The Wild, Christopher McCandless in ‘Into the Wild’ and Wilma in ‘Surf Mama’ and it could be said that all of these people were selfishly motivated, travelling only because they felt ‘let down’ by the society that the rest of us thrive perfectly well in and using travel just as a way to escape reality. However I think the same really cannot be said for David and Geoff on their Mongol adventure, their motive for travelling is totally selfless, spending a lot of money, being away from their families and putting themselves in sometimes serious danger all for some charity work. These men aren’t travelling to ‘find themselves’, they are travelling simply for the adventure, enjoyment and fulfillment that they will get when they finish their epic journey.

mongolia

 

In simplistic terms, to answer my question, ‘Why do people travel?’, this book responds with ‘For fun’. Perhaps the fact that it is for charity was almost a pleasant by-product and excuse for the two men to have this adventure. At the beginning of the book, the men are a little lost, a little unsure of what to do with their newly retired state, and travelling has helped them regain a sort of direction and purpose to life.

So is that why people travel? Because following that road means you can determine what road you really want to be on.

I hope to finish this book in a few days and will be reporting back!

Clarissa

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↣ What is it stopping people from travelling?

There is a definite unanimous answer to the question ‘Do you enjoy travelling and visiting new places?’. And the answer, in short – is yes! Apart this is from the final answer on the table where the answer is ‘indifferent’. This is a stark contrast to the rest of the replies and when their reasoning is read, the opinion appears to be justified. There is something about travelling that means you have to have a certain ‘gusto’ and desire to learn which allows you to enjoy travel. The other unanimous reply appears to be the thing that stops people from travelling is the lack of finance/time of work available to them. Is this in response to the recession? Have people been forced to change their dreams and admit defeat as it were because there just simply aren’t enough pennies falling in the rainy days money box? However these people also seem to share the ideal that they would love to be able to travel more, but realism has got in the way. One response included the line ‘…I’m aware that this isn’t much of an excuse!’. From this I can see that there is a real desire in most people that makes them want to learn, discover and explore, but our society has made it nigh on impossible.

Do you enjoy travelling and visiting new places? Would you travel more if you could?
Yes Absolutely. Life in general stops me – my job, my family, money, time… I’m aware that this isn’t much of an excuse!
Yes I would love to travel more, and think I will continue to travel. There are no barriers currently stopping me from going away as I am currently a university student working part time. I have plans to go away for seven weeks this summer. Upon commencing full time work in September I doubt I will be able to do this as I wouldn’t want to lose my job.
Yes Yes
Yes Cost
Yes Yes. lack of annual leave and money.
Yes I would love to travel more often both abroad and in the UK, but I’m limited by the amount of holiday I can take, and the availability of my friends – as you get older you get far far busier! There are also practicalities – money, transport (I don’t currently own a car and rail is incredibly expensive!). All that said, I do still make time a few times a year to get away.
Yes Yes; it’s called work, life and needing to earn money. Otherwise I would travel as much as possible
Yes Yes. I am a teacher however and it is expected to travel as I have to go at certain times. Also we have a little girl under 2.
Yes Yes, money and holiday time with work limits my travelling.
Yes Yes, a bit more restrictive when you have children. Dependent on when my husband can get the time off work. We are also building up a small holding so time is limited to when we can go.
Yes Yes, visit different contries with different cultures and way of life
Yes Work commitments
money
pets
Yes Money, young children
Yes Money!
Yes Yes, restricted mostly by the time available.
Yes Yes, if it wasn’t for work!
Yes Would like to travel more. Lack for funds & time due to mortgage etc make it harder. Note they are a higher priority at present.
Indifferent No. I don’t like going abroad because of the food and I find it too hot. Last time I went to a resort in spain I got food poisoning so I don’t want to go again because it ruined my holiday.
I travel every few months to our cottage in Norfolk, which me and my wife really enjoy. Its quiet, the local pub does really good food, and we know people there now that we’ve been going for a few years.
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↣ How often do people travel?

The results of my questionnaire proved varied, but there were predominantly a few things that everyone agreed on. My first question ‘how often do you travel per year?’ was answered mostly with ‘a couple of times a year’. This invokes that interest in travel is high, and people generally want to go as much as possible. But what does this mean? Are people escaping something? Looking for something new? Or just constantly needing a break? This question was then broken down to ‘How often do you travel within your home country?’ to which again the most common answer was ‘every couple of months’. From this I can infer that people are very interested in their home country and are perfectly happy that if they find themselves unable to afford a holiday abroad, are willing to explore their home country. Reasons for both of these answers will be explained and analysed on the next post.

How often do you travel per year? How often do you travel within your home country?
Typically once a year, though not for the last few years Once a year
Couple of times a year Couple of times a year
Once every couple of months Every couple of months
Once a year Every couple of months
Once a year Couple of times a year
Couple of times a year Every couple of months
Couple of times a year Every couple of months
Couple of times a year Couple of times a year
Once a year Couple of times a year
Once a year Every couple of months
Once a Month Every couple of months
Once every couple of months Every couple of months
Couple of times a year Once a year
Couple of times a year Once a month
Couple of times a year Rarely at the moment, but used to be a couple of times a year and I hope to return to that pattern soon.
Once a year Every couple of months
Once every couple of months Couple of times a year
Never Every couple of months
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↣ She explores…

she exploresThe founder of ‘She explores’ is a wonderful woman named Gale Straub, her own words are much better than mine so here is a quote of hers:

She isn’t me.  She is the novel outdoors woman:  curious and ready-to-go; invariably planning her next endeavor.  You could just as easily find her climbing in the mountains as rediscovering her home town. 

She explores with an eye for color, an appreciation of technique, and a pull towards what’s next.

 Let’s went!

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Gale has been travelling with Jon Gaffney aka @thevanman since August 2014 on the North American road in a Dodge Sprinter van. She has created the ‘She Explores’ page which inspires women all over the world to travel, it is a collection of women who are all passionate about life on the road and living freely. I was lucky enough to get a response from Gale when I emailed her and her insight is amazing.. here we are!

Q)  What made you decide to travel? What influenced that decision?

A) I was looking to make a life change. I hadn’t taken many chances in my life thus far and I always wanted to take a long road trip and photograph the country.  When I made the decision to travel with my boyfriend, I was 26 (almost 27) with a good job in a field I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay in, no mortgage, no kids, no car.  I had nothing holding me back, so when my boyfriend brought up the idea of long term travel I was on board.  Just needed to save up some money first.

Q) Were your family and friends supportive in the decision that you made?

A) For the most part, yes.  I’m at an age where a lot of my friends and family are getting married and buying houses and having babies.  I think it was tricky for some to wrap their heads around wanting to quit their job and live out of a van.  Those closest to me weren’t surprised because they knew something had to give in my life – I worked a finance job at a cubicle every day, but I’m pretty visual and driven by more creative endeavors.

Q) Would you say that you are happier now living life on the road than before when you lived a more ‘normal’ life?

A) Yes, but necessarily for living on the road.  I feel like I have more control over my life direction.  Before leaving my 9-5 job, I wanted to travel, but more than that, I wanted a lifestyle change.  Even when I stop living on the road, I won’t go back to a busy city or a cubicle job.  This, more than anything, has made me happier.

Also, I would never recommend that someone take a road trip or travel if they’re not comfortable with who they are first.  I know some people try to escape themselves through travel or new relationships or the like.  I say it all the time – you can and will take yourself with you on a road trip.

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Q) What would you say has been the best experience of travelling?

A) Three things: 1) Growing & gaining confidence as a photographer 2) Getting closer with my boyfriend 3) Meeting new, likeminded people.

Q) What has been the worst experience?

A) Missing family.  It’d be nice to have it all, but of course that’s impossible.

Q) How do you get by financially, is it tough to get enough money? Or did you save up enough before leaving?

A) I was an accountant in my previous profession, so I made sure to save sufficient funds for my travels.  It wasn’t easy – I saved for 15 months before turning in my resignation and I was systematic about it.  My boyfriend and I have also started a consulting company in the last couple months.  We are setting ourselves up for life after the road trip and learning how to work as we travel.

Q)  Do you prefer to go it spontaneously or do you always know what you’re doing and where you’re going?

A) We have a general idea where we need to be and when (for work and play), but we are pretty flexible.  It would be difficult to keep a strict itinerary while traveling – you can’t plan for everything!

Q) Do you want company on your travels? Do you think it’s doable on your own or is company a necessity?

A) I’m in a committed relationship so I never thought about road tripping solo.  Otherwise I would likely have traveled with my twin sister.  Although I enjoy my alone time, I think this expereince has been enriched through sharing it with someone special to me.

Q) Do you think that there is a certain level of happiness and fulfillment that can only be achieved by travelling?

I personally do not believe you need to travel to see something new every day.  I think it’s all about changing your perspective intermittently and having an open attitude.  I believe travel enriches your life, but I know that everyone is different and happiness is relative.  I also think that some people compare themselves to others and wonder why they aren’t “happy”, but no one really knows what’s going on in someone’s life.  My advice is to work towards being content (about yourself, your life, your goals) and worry less about being happy.

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Reading Gale’s inspirational tale restores hope and faith into me. One of her notes included saying that you cannot travel unless you are sure of yourself, because you cannot leave yourself behind. And I guess that’s all a part of travelling, having the confidence to be ready to leave, to accept yourself, to be the kind of person you are ‘happy to be on the road with’.

I’ve been writing this essay, reading books, finding articles, watching films, having long and deep wondering conversations about travel with anyone who will listen. And this is something that makes me happy. I may not actually be travelling but right now just talking about it makes me joyous, but I feel that a lot of other things are also capable of making you this happy – it might not be travelling or anything to do with it.

Perhaps the question is not ‘is there a certain level of happiness that only travel can achieve’, but instead to wonder why it is that people travel at all.

 

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↣ Idle Theory bus // the off-grid nomads

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Q) What made you decide to travel? What influenced that decision?

A) The two of us met in high school. We talked often of escaping our suburban roots. We hated the dull uniformity and monotony of the strip mall culture. Often, we sat on the beach, looking at the wide open promise of the ocean, and dreamt we’d become pirates, sailing the wild seas to nowhere. Rachel read and admired the Beat Poets, a group of societal dropouts and free thinkers, from an early age. Their freedom, their anti-corporate and radical lifestyle always inspired her to live Real, to live Now.

Really, though, what drove us to move out of our paths of career-bound members of average society, was the crash of the economy in 2008. We watched as our parents and the corporations on which they based their decisions, lost what they had built in the housing boom. So many people had worked so hard in the seemingly secure net of the “safe” careers only to see the banks take away their dreams. We realized that every lifestyle, including the cubicle 9-5, has inherent risks, that nothing escapes the real world of gain AND loss.

Why do something you despise, or feel indifferent to, for years, when in the end, you could lose it all anyways? We decided to do what we wanted now, while we were healthy and young and full of passion. Who wants to wait until retirement to see their dreams realized? So, without much thought, with a gut intuition and $5,000, we moved into our bus, Sunshine.

Q) Were your family and friends supportive in the decision that you made?

A) Our choice to live nomadically was not something that most of our friends and family could identify with. We were raised to graduate school, get a college degree, and enter the work force. Our parents did not pressure us to study something in particular, or push us down a particular career path. But, it is safe to say that we were expected to have careers. It has been a journey for our parents to understand why we have decided to live so unconventionally. However, they have always loved and supported us. They wanted to see us happy, but for awhile

Rachel’s father in particular has been upset that she has not used her college degree to further her life. He paid for her education and would love to see some sort of a return on investment. He is beginning to realize that many of my goals are being met through my nomadic lifestyle, but it is so far removed from his own reality that he cannot conceive what it’s all about.

Our parents worry that we put ourselves in high risk situations by trekking into remote and off the grid locations, outside the realm of society. We gently remind them that driving down a highway is one of the most dangerous things people do. We remind them that driving on the freeway is something they do every day and we never do (we stick to back roads.) Sometimes it is hard for people to see the risks inherent in normal, everyday activities.

Many others, though, have told us how inspired they are by our life. They also wish to simplify, be adventurous, be bold. They have expressed desire to rid themselves of so many material possessions and try new things. We tell them that they can. We are not special; we just realized what it was we wanted and did it. Far too many people are trapped by debt, by status, by fear. Anyone can live the life they dream; just raise some expectations and lower others.

Q) Would you say that you are happier now living life on the road than before when you lived a more ‘normal’ life?

A) Today, we are more joyful and free than we ever were participating in mainstream society. We acknowledge, however, that there are many paths that could have led us to this same fulfillment and contentment. It has been freeing to let go of things. Overconsumption is rampant in industrialized nations today, and living in an 80 square foot bus really limits how much stuff we have. The less money we’ve had, the happier we’ve been. We are poor in money but rich in life and skills. This idea of happiness through experience is a transformative one in our generation’s definition of “the good life.”

We are definitely on a constantly changing path to Truth and Happiness. Traveling is not necessarily the only path to change and growth. It has been effective and correct for us, but people living stationary can be on a path to joy and freedom as well.

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Q) What would you say has been the best experience of travelling?

A) We have really been humbled to experience the wilder spaces that remain in North America. Most of our time is spent in places where little human development exists. We sleep down faint dirt roads where coyotes howl as they wake in the moonlight and the stars glitter silvery against a black sky. Bear scat is a common sighting. We bathe in cold gurgling creeks. We pee on patches of grass. We are cold when it’s cold and hot when it’s hot. We are not cushioned from the elements, and that is the most electrifying part of being alive. Modern buildings separate humanity from the Real World in which we reside. Our bus is primitive enough to let us be part of our surroundings. We rise with the sun and sleep with the darkness. We finally feel like physical beings. We are not always comfortable, and that has made us incredibly happy.

 Q) What has been the worst experience?

A) Before initially moving into the bus, we were faced with a grave decision. James had acquired and been at his dream job, making films, for one year. Moving to the road would require him giving up what he had worked so hard to accomplish. We spent a lot of time with the decision to leave, and decided in the end, that the road was where our hearts were. It just felt right. We believe we made the right decision.

We have also struggled with interpersonal relationships with family and friends. On the road, it is incredibly difficult to maintain correspondence with people from our previous lives. Camping and living in wild places that are off the grid and out of service makes us hard to reach. We also do not have money to make it to important life events, such as weddings, birthday parties, funerals, and graduations. Some of our friends have been understanding of the limits of our nomadic lifestyle, but many have not. Some relationships have suffered, others have died. We have found that some people simply “get it” and others do not. People who are wanderers understand. It is difficult sometimes for others to empathize with how we’ve decided to live.

Q) How do you get by financially, is it tough to get enough money? Or did you save up enough before leaving?

A) We saved half of our income the year before we hit the road. We didn’t exactly plan to; it’s just, when working fulltime, what is there to spend money on? The easiest way to have enough money always is to constantly need less. Most of what people spend money on are unnecessary luxuries. We do not need much, so we do not require much money. Simplify and your financial life will become simple. Also, we are prepared to do any job. No matter how tough, even if it is low pay. On the road, you can’t be choosy about getting an income. No job is below you, because when you need money, you need money!

On the road, our main income has been James’ film gigs, which he gets through contacts. We also do a wide assortment of odd jobs, such as housecleaning, chicken butchering, and event set-ups. We find these jobs by asking around in small towns.

Farm work is a crux of our travels. We love the work because it fulfills our bodies, minds, and souls. Every few months, we stop and do farm work in exchange for fresh, delicious, nutrient-dense food and a place to stay. Truly, we have fallen in love with farming and dream about buying land and homesteading in the future.

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Q) Do you prefer to go it spontaneously or do you always know what you’re doing and where you’re going?

A) Spontaneity is a rule of the road. Tomorrow can only be planned loosely, for life always has a curveball to throw. We have an idea of where we want to go in the big picture. Day to day, however, we are free to stop when something captures us. We’re fin with continuing down the road if our original destination has a bad vibe. If a road beckons, we take it. If a rare bird appears on a trail, we’ll watch it the entire afternoon. If today happens to be the Sheep Festival of Idaho, we stop and eat lamb.

The beauty and magic of life is that it does not fit into a plan. Anyone who actually believes they know where they’re going is a fool. We can only surmise in life. Being open to change and resilient to life in its many forms is the most valuable skill anyone can have, on the road, or not.

Q) Do you want company on your travels? Do you think it’s doable on your own or is company a necessity? 

We like to joke that the two of us are really one person. We’re never more than a few feet apart. We cannot imagine embarking on this particular journey without one another. We are truly on this journey together, and have brought each other to realizations we never would have had on our own.

That being said, we have met many people traveling solo. There is something beautiful to be said about walking your own path, about finding yourself unencumbered. Both of us traveled alone for stints before hitting the road together, and there are so many people you can connect with on the road. Traveling alone, you will come to know yourself intimately, and being comfortable in solitude is an invaluable skill to gain.

 Q) Do you think that there is a certain level of happiness and fulfillment that can only be achieved by travelling?

A) Living nomadically is not an end in and of itself. It is a step on a journey towards happiness and fulfillment. It is obvious to say that we began traveling because we were dissatisfied with the conventional lives presented to us by our society. But we could have found other ways to explore alternatives. Just like anything else in life, you can travel the world and never truly see the places you visit. Life on the road is not about capturing photos or seeking thrills. Life on the road is an attitude of openness and humbleness. It is a willingness to learn. It is self aware and self critical. It is a struggle to find authenticity in an increasingly shallow world.

One of the reasons that we hit the road was to learn our place in the world. The suburbs do not lend themselves to true culture or connection with each other or the planet. Perhaps, if traditional cultures were more intact, people would not feel the need to escape their place because it would feel like theirs. Currently, very few of us have deep roots in a place or any sort of a meaningful connection to a “homeland.” We are on a search for something lost that we never had. This puts travelers in a difficult position.

Traveling has been the absolute best decision we’ve made so far. But it is not the only way to achieve happiness or fulfillment. As we are currently thinking, perhaps that can only come from deep connection to and community with our real, true, and changing Earth.

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Yet again I have found myself dumfounded by the generosity and kindness of all these interviewees that I am reaching out to. These people are only responding to me due to a little message I sent to them on Instagram. It seems like the worry that there are no nice people left is uncalled for, I have found many! Rachel and James here have been exceptionally generous in their sharing of stories and the time it took them to write me these answers. They are the most off-the-grid travellers that I have spoken to and their conversation has been a new experience for me to find out about. As I said on my response email back to them, they remind me a little of Chris McCandless in his early days of travelling when he wrote “Tramping is too easy with all this money you paid me. My days were more exciting when I was penniless. I’ve decided I’m going to live this life for some time to come. The freedom and simple beauty is just too good to pass up…”. That line rung in my brain when I read their journal pictured above “Lucky, lucky we are, to have no money for swimming pools, but all the time in the world for waterfalls”

It seems like a phenomenon forgotten by the modern man is that money is not a necessity to be happy, we need not be doused in designer gear and sipping expensive cocktails from shishy bars. We can be just as happy without all that, as Rachel and James wrote, if we have all the time in the world for waterfalls – who needs a swimming pool?

For them, living nomadically is not a means to an end, it is not something which they do, it is something that is done to them. Travel teaches them and betters them and makes them happy, and if they are happy, then who should be able to stop them? It is important to note that, just like most of my other interviewees, they completely accept that travelling isn’t for everyone, and they disagree that happiness and fulfillment is mutual to travel, they just insist that it is right for them.

Thankyou so much to the Idle Theory Bus for this wonderful Q&A, they are wonderful wonderful people who deserve much more media attention. The news is all full of hurt and war, and not good-doing inspiring people like Rachel and James.

You can follow their travels across America at http://www.idletheorybus.com/

Thankyou!

Clarissa

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↣ Live. Work. Wander Travel Q&A

1.       What made you decide to travel? What influenced that decision?

Since about 2011, we’ve taken long road trips around the US. Often times these trips included a few days where we had to stop sight-seeing and hunker down to do some work. Given the industry we are in — design — all we needed to work was a good internet connection and a laptop. So we would stop in a hotel for a few days (we didn’t have a van or RV at the time) and we would work. One day in early August 2013 we were working at our office in Austin, TX and Jessica mentioned living on the road full time at some point in the future to cut down on our expenses and pay down our student loans. Shortly thereafter we discussed not waiting and starting in December 2013 when our lease was up. So, on August 24th we bought our van and began making preparations to live on the road full time.


2.       Were your family and friends supportive in the decision that you made?

Very much so. When we told our family, they were very excited and supportive of our decision. Our friends were also supportive. Jess and I have always had a pretty non-coventional approach to…pretty much everything and so, it wasn’t a surprise to our circle of friends and family when we told them what we wanted to do.

3.       Would you say that you are happier now living life on the road than before when you lived a more ‘normal’ life?

Absolutely! There are a lot of things about this that are considerably harder but overall, the benefits far outweigh the costs.


4.       What would you say has been the best experience of travelling?

We’ve had quite a few experiences that will be memories we’ll have forever. From the friends that we have made along the way to dramatic vistas we have seen across the US. But one experience sticks out above the others thus far. There is a musician that I’ve been listening to for a few years who is based out of a tiny town in West Texas called Terlingua. He plays folksy, Bob Dylan style music but with a little more Texas influence. One day, when we were traveling through Terlingua, we stopped at one of the few stores in that town and I noticed a familiar face on the porch drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette. I approached him and asked “Are you Jim Keaveny?” And he jumped and said “Holy shit! I have a fan!!” and we sat and talked for a little while. He then invited us to his house for a party he was throwing for the release of his new album. Of course, we said yes. Now, you have to know that any party where the directions to it include “drive until you see an abandoned country store behind a row of mail boxes, drive 1 mile until you see 2 white rocks with the words ‘snake river’ on them, then go exactly one mile after that and turn at a stack of rocks and cacti and you’ll be at my house” is gonna be an awesome shin dig. And when we got there it didn’t disappoint. A bunch of cowboys outside drinking, smoking, and listening to live folk/cowboy music being played by completely hammered musicians. It was amazing. We met a lot of great people that night. And the scenery was incredible. A billion stars lit up the dark West Texas night and the lights from the stage cast long eerie and beautiful shadows across the desert landscape while painting it in purple and blue and green. We will never forget that night. It’s what makes Texas great. The hospitality, the big sky, the music, the desert. Epic in every way.
5.       What has been the worst experience?
Our first three months of our journey were spent in New York City. On the way there, the motor in our camper blew and the cost to replace it and a host of other things that were falling apart was $20k. The repairs took 60 days. And this winter in NYC was the worst they had had in 20 years. 80 inches of snow. And it was NYC. Our least favorite city in the country. We were there for work for 90 days on a contract at an ad agency. We slept on couches, a really disgusting bed in Bushwick, Brooklyn, air mattresses, the floor. It sucked. When we finally left NYC, the song “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show came on the radio and we sang it aloud while holding hands. The song is about a man leaving the hardships of life in North East US and is headed to the South. He is looking forward to the Southern way of life. We are from the South and so we felt a strange connection to this song like we never had before. There is a line in that song that goes:

I gotta get a move on before the sun
I hear my baby callin’ my name
And I know that she’s the only one
And if I die in Raleigh
At least I will die free

 
And when we sang that line we wept together because it so encompassed how we feel in big cities especially in the Northeast. It feels like the canyon the buildings make are closing in on us, like we are cattle being herded ever faster in one direction at the pace everyone else chooses for us. It was a terrible experience both emotionally and financially. But it also made our passion for living this life that much stronger.


 6.       How do you get by financially, is it tough to get enough money? Or did you save up enough before leaving?
We earn as much or more money as we did when we were stationary. We have always been freelancers and the majority of our clients are in different states. So all we need is an internet connection and laptops to make money. We didn’t have too much in savings before we left since our income situation was going to be pretty much the same.


 7.       Do you prefer to go it spontaneously or do you always know what you’re doing and where you’re going?
It’s pretty spontaneous. Other than when we need to be in a city to complete a contract our adventures are very much spur-of-the-moment kind of things.


8.     Do you want company on your travels? Do you think it’s doable on your own or is company a necessity?

Absolutely! We invite people often. And some people request to come along with us. But we have to be careful about who we allow since being in a small space together can really push the limits of any relationship especially a new one with someone you may not know very well.

As far as requiring company, I think that’s up to the individual. You experience things differently when you do it alone vs with another person vs with a group. Traveling alone sometimes limits what you feel comfortable doing, so that’s one great benefit of traveling in a pair or as a group because it opens you up to even more experiences. But traveling alone also gives you perspective and personal enrichment you may not be able to get when you are traveling while worrying about the needs of others. One more thing to consider here is that traveling alone in a space where you live full time on the road doubles your daily chores. It’s nice to have a partner to help split the duties of loading/moving stuff around, setting up camp, making a fire, doing laundry, etc etc.


9.       Do you think that there is a certain level of happiness and fulfillment that can only be achieved by travelling?

We don’t think so. We believe we are all very different people with different priorities, different beliefs, different likes and dislikes. We are all at different places in our lives too. Some folks get a lot out of traveling. But what they get also differs from person to person. Some people want experiences, other want stories, others just want to buy the things you can get in other places. And some folks just don’t like it. And that’s fine. For us, traveling has been key to our joy, fulfillment and happiness. It has allowed us meet so many people and experience so many new things. We have a motto we live by: Open minds. Open roads. For us, those two things are essential to each other. But we would never ever presume to know what leads to happiness or fulfillment for some one else. We would however advise that when someone is ready, to give travel a chance and see what they take away from it. I haven’t always been this way. I used to hate traveling but as I’ve grown older, that preference has changed dramatically.
I have to say… These people seriously are my inspiration! The way they just went for it and lived out of a van and are so admirably sophisticated and wonderful just leaves me awestruck… I’ll be analysing their response in a few days!
Clarissa
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