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!