7 Lessons Learned from Living on the Road

08/23/2011

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For five months my partner and I have been on a perpetual vacation, living off-the-grid in our Toyota 4Runner as modern vagabonds of the American West. That’s right, we said goodbye to the house, ditched the trailer and downsized to a truck (AKA our teeny tiny house), pictured above in central Nevada.

Camped out in New Mexico

Our makeshift RV
Michael removed the backseat and outfitted this 4-wheel-drive SUV with a cozy sleeping platform, privacy window shades, and a Thule roof box we affectionately call “upstairs.”

Sunrise at the end of the road (Carrizo Badlands, California)

Boondocking
We carry with us a large cooler of fresh food, a box of dry food, and two 6-gallon water containers so we can be boondocking out in the middle of nowhere for a week or two without having to resupply. 

Inspired by Leo Babauta’s 38 lessons learned, I wanted to create my own message for anyone inspired to travel the way we do. Here are the 7 most valuable lessons I learned from 5 months of living on the road:

1. You don’t need as much stuff as you think you need.
Really. If you have very little stuff it’s easier to move, clean up, pack up, and keep important items at arm’s reach.

2. Go slow.
There’s no reason to rush. Don’t make concrete plans. Engage with where you’re at rather than worrying about where you gotta be next. If you have stumbled upon someplace pleasant, stay an extra day or two. Why not?

3. Go the opposite direction everyone else is going.
OK, so we have our biases (my sweetie and I are both rather introverted) but I think everyone could appreciate the outdoors a little more if they had it to themselves. We often pass up campgrounds and weekend crowds to make use of remote dirt roads and startlingly quiet public lands.

4. Leave a place better than you found it.
Carry out an extra bag of trash, even if it’s not yours. It’s good for the ecosystem and your karma.

5. Be nice to strangers.
Ask questions. Talk to the locals especially. They often have the inside scoop on the places you’re headed, and maybe even a good story or two. On the loneliest highway you never know when you might need their help.

6. Reward yourself with small pleasures.
When you are away from modern conveniences for so long, it’s important to treat yourself well. For us we splurge on good, healthy, fresh food at the grocery store (and a fair amount of chocolate too). We also figure in plenty of leisure time for reading books.

7. Get creative.
Get lost. Make it up as you go along. It’s not about where you’re going, but how you go.

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