13 Aug Life on the Road with @sweatadventures- the good, the bad and the ugly
In March, my husband and I had a unique opportunity to take 2018 off — an accidental sabbatical as we like to call it. After many discussions and a lot of unknowns circulating, we packed up all our belongings in Portland, moved out of our super cute townhome off 23rd street and put everything into storage. Our goal was to travel full time until we figured things out.
What at first seemed like a huge defeat, was really a blessing in disguise. Since spring, we’ve split our time between LA and Kansas City with long road trips back and forth from those destinations. We even found time to escape to Bali, Russia, Croatia and Mexico.
Because I grew up in the Midwest, a lot of my friends think we are totally insane for living out of our 2001 Land Cruiser on the road. In fact, I’m not sure it’s something I would have really considered say two years ago. I’ve definitely gotten more adventurous over the years—I think living in the Pacific Northwest really opened me up to new experiences.
Despite what some think though, living out of a small space (with two dogs) on the road isn’t really as hard as it seems. We’ve built a really efficient vehicle that allows us to sleep comfortably and store all our things—two majorly important amenities. I wrote a detailed blog post on that here, if you’re interested to learn more.
Beyond that, I get so many questions, so I thought it would be fun to share some of the basics with you guys in today’s blog post. Everyone has their own style of road tripping or #vanlife. I want to share our perspective so hopefully others feel inspired to “get outside” and do the same! Because honestly, it’s way easier than it seems.
How do you decide where to travel?
The first thing that depicts where we go is weather. Since we want to sleep comfortably, we tend to choose warmer destinations in the winter and cooler destinations in the summer. Beyond that, we usually have a running list of places we’d like to visit so when the climate is right, that list comes in major handy. Instagram, Pinterest and Google images have been really helpful with inspiration – I think our list is never ending.
How do you find places to sleep? Especially safe ones.
If we’re visiting a National Park, we look for campgrounds in the area with nice facilities. However, we prefer BLM land or off the beaten path sites. Apps like Campendium or sites like Hipcamp + freecampsites.net help you find safe places to sleep and typically include user reviews + photos. Another safe bet if you’re in a bind is Walmart parking lots. Parking lots are well lit and safe. Some are even 24hrs. As long as there are no signs prohibiting overnight parking, you’re free to park on the perimeter and catch some z’s.
How do you cook on the road?
We have a Coleman classic two burner stove and love to cook dinners in our nonstick wok. We cook most meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and grocery shop every 2-4 days. We keep anything that needs to be cold in our Yeti cooler with dry ice or regular ice.
Is it hard to eat healthy?
No, it’s surprisingly easy to eat healthy on the road. We choose to cook most meals and don’t eat out all too often. Everything we keep handy doesn’t differ much from what we’d eat or keep around at home. For snacks, we love hummus and veggies, granola bars, jerky, hippeas puffs, trail mix, popcorn or even pistachios. For dinner our go-to is usually a salad and stir-fry. Veggie burgers are also easy to cook up in the wok. And I love to pre-make stuff like pasta salad or pinwheels for quick and easy bites.
Where do you shower and how do you stay clean?
When staying at National Parks, State Parks or KOA sites, the facilities are usually pretty nice. Showers are usually included in campsite fees or available for a small fee. If something like that isn’t available, we look for General Stores that have showers and laundry. Last resort, if we are super remote, is usually an outdoor shower situation in my swimsuit via a solar shower bag (like the one NEMO makes). I also keep Burt’s Bees cleansing wipes on hand to use on the reg after dusty hikes. Other people use gyms to shower on the road but I haven’t done that yet.
How do you keep your appliances charged?
We had a second deep cycle car battery installed with an inverter and outlets inside the cruiser so that we could charge our electronics at night without draining the main battery. This allows us to keep laptops, cameras, Garmin accessories and phones juiced up during multiple days on the road.
If you could add something to your experience what would it be?
I would say a little more space would be nice – specifically height on the vehicle. Right now we’re only doing 2-3 week stints on the road but if we did it for longer periods, a little more space would be nice since our eldest dog is 100lbs and a bed hog.
On road trips, how much time do you spend outdoors?
We spend a ton of time outdoors. Nature is really our living room if you think about it. When we’re not exploring, we’re cooking outside and hanging fireside (when permitted of course).
Is downsizing a big part of living a minimalistic lifestyle on the road?
Yes, you learn to do a lot with a little. By moving into such a small space, you’ll realize what is really important to you. You feel less inclined to buy unnecessary items and it feels good to purge items that no longer serve you. I’m a very organized human so living in a smaller space can be challenging but with less things, organization isn’t too difficult. Less clutter helps me think more clearly and have peace of mind. Sometimes simple is just better.
How do you decide what to pack?
Typically, I look at the forecast for where we’re headed. Packing in the summer is nice because your bag is lighter. You don’t have to pack as many layers. Although, I still come prepared because it can get colder at night or at higher altitudes. In that situation, I usually keep a raincoat and fleece stored away in the back of the car. Since we’re usually traveling between LA and Kansas City, I keep a bigger bag in the Thule with all my everyday stylish items. The bag I keep in the car is mostly filled with active wear, t-shirts and jean shorts. I also love a good pair of overalls! Shoe wise, I bring my Adidas slides, Teva’s, hikers and tennis shoes. My husband on the other hand, can live off wearing the same three outfits for several weeks. He’s on another level.
How do your pups enjoy road trip life?
It’s probably their favorite thing. When they see us loading up the car and packing up they get really excited. They love being in the car and they enjoy being outdoors. Our dogs are super chill so they mostly sleep in the back together when we’re actually driving to and from destinations. I think a highlight for me was when we were in Moab with them. We camped one night at Gold Bar along the Colorado River. Watching them swim and play in the sand was so freaking cute!
What do you do in your downtime on the road?
I think the obvious is that we spend a ton of time outdoors exploring and being active. But, if I’m not at a coffee shop working, we love to cuddle in the cruiser and watch Netflix. We’re currently catching up on Homeland.
I will say, this type of lifestyle gives you a clearer perspective on life. You encounter people who have a lot more than you, as well as people who have much less or nothing at all. You learn that in any unfortunate situation you may find yourself in, it could be worse. You also discover you can do more than you thought you could with less and be perfectly happy. All my nice things in storage? I honestly don’t even miss most of them. So much so that I plan to do a huge sale on Poshmark when I settle down roots after this adventure. Less stuff means more freedom! I’ve also learned that $$ doesn’t always buy better experiences. Many of our secret camping spots were free and had better views than our villas in Bali. Another big plus is that when on the road, Wi-Fi and cell service is weak. With those distractions gone, you’re left to make conscious decisions about how to spend your time. Travel is an opportunity for endless self-discovery if you’re open to explore.
Could you live life on the road or do you already? I’d love to know… comment below and tell me your thoughts.