The reasons behind us three 20-somethings going on a road trip across the United States were complicated. We were uncertain about where our lives were headed and we felt suffocated by the constraints of city life. Our conclusion was to go on this road trip because what we did know was we wanted to climb as much as our bodies could handle, discover what the rest of the United States had to offer, and make a difference by being positive forces in the climbing community and beyond through the connections we made in person, or through our blog and videos.
After a little over 2 months of being on the road, we are having difficulty doing everything we wanted. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to write meaningful blog posts, make professional-grade videos, climb until our fingers falls off, meet all of the interesting people around us and then still watch an episode of the Sopranos at the end of it all. We realize the Sopranos are going to have to go (sorry, Tony) but we still feel that we need to reassess our priorities in order to make this trip as successful as it can be. We came on the road because we didn’t know where our lives were heading, but now we we’re not quite sure where this road trip is heading. We each have a lot of thinking to do…what exactly do we each want out of this?
We’ll get back to you on the conclusions we reach. But while we all mull that over, I wanted to bring up an article that all this internal anxiety reminded me of: What Is It About 20-somethings? from the NY Times Magazine.
This article assuaged my fears that I, along with a few others I had discussed my sentiments with, was alone. It showed me that what I was feeling was quite common and, apparently, a growing phenomenon in our culture.We have many friends asking the same questions, some that keep a public blog of how their search is going (Austin & Emily with Tacos A’Muerte, Steve & Angie with The Stangie Travelogue, Liberty & Max with Tents Are Hard and Blochead) and others who do not (Stephanie Kramer and Tzveta Petrov, just to mention a couple), either way they found traveling as the answer. (By the way, friends, if you have a chance – I would love comments about how your travel experiences have been and why you started your journey in the first place.)
As far as I can tell, this state of uncertainty knows no age limit. For me, this road trip, The RV Project, was the cure for my inner turmoil. Although travel might not be right solution for everyone (and obviously didn’t solve all of mine immediately) I know that it could be the right medicine for at least a few.
Unfortunately, going on a road trip does not just mean leaving your doorstep. Parting with the lives we had made in the Bay Area took a painstaking amount of preparation and a few stars aligning. For those of you who ever dream about going our way, but aren’t sure you can make it a reality, here are our top 5 hurtles that you need to be prepared to cross no matter where you want to go. The sooner you do these, the better.
1.Commit. When it comes to leaving your current life to travel, you have to commit mentally and financially.
- Mentally, you have to start realistically thinking about how you are going to make this trip – road, around the world, or otherwise – feasible.
- I found that I needed to really light the fire underneath me. I quit my full-time position so I would no longer have the financial means of supporting myself in SF. After that, I was forced to break the lease on my apartment and focus on making The RV Project an actuality.
- Financially, you need to start a travel budget. If you already keep a budget, it should be easy to adapt to your travels. If not, start one…immediately. If this alone is too great of a challenge, you should seriously reconsider traveling in the first place.
- You will need a certain amount of money to gather the makings for your trip, which will differ depending on your plans. Because of all our film and computer equipment, we needed to purchase a trailer and a car that could tow it, along with a lot of bits and pieces we didn’t think of initially: car and trailer insurance (or travel insurance for those leaving the states since finding health insurance for visiting the US is a lot easier than finding it for travel), two deep cycle batteries for our electrical needs, a solar system to help charge the batteries during the day, and the list goes on. Just to give you an idea, the truck and trailer combo alone cost us over $20,000. There are much cheaper and way more expensive options; just make sure you do the research beforehand so you know what you are getting into.
- Use all your resources. That cousin in Utah that you have not spoken to in years might have a travel trailer they want to get rid of. A friend or acquaintance from the climbing gym probably has a tent or gear they no longer need. Don’t be shy about asking for what you need. It could save you loads in the long run.
- Write down a solid estimate of how much you will be spending per month. There are the biggies such as groceries (don’t forget the hidden monster, alcohol), gas, and camping or hotel fees. Don’t forget sneaky, but necessary, monthly costs such as health insurance, laundry, prescriptions, and the inevitability that you will want to eat and drink outinsome instances.Make your best guess and then add at least 15% for unanticipated expenses such as the gas you will burn going to/from crag or the grocery store (which might be ½ an hour away from where you are camping).
- Now that you know how expensive your trip is going to be… Start saving money (if you haven’t already) and set a realistic target. I found it was easiest to put away a certain amount from each paycheck.
- Figure out a way that you can make money on the road. It’s always good to have a back-up plan in case you end up blowing through your savings (or don’t have enough savings to begin with). Life in San Francisco did not promote saving so I had virtually no reserves, but the ability to work organ donation shifts remotely from the road. This gave me the potential to go on this road trip, but it’s been more difficult than I had hoped to find stable internet and cell phone reception. Keep in mind that even the most popular climbing areas are often very remote. For instance, it’s about 26 miles or 45 minutes from Hueco Tanks State Park to the nearest Starbucks in El Paso.
- You can almost always pick up work wherever you are staying. They don’t often pay per hour, but you can at least cover your housing costs. For example, at the Hueco Rock Ranch you can be a Ranch Rat, or at Miguel’s you can serve up pizzas to the sport climbing masses. I would recommend calling ahead before you arrive at your location and seeing if there is work for you.
So the ball was rolling, but now there was even more to do…
2. If you’re traveling with others, create a joint bank account for all of your communal food, gas, and other expenditures. If you’re traveling by yourself, it’s still wise to have an account that is dedicated to your trip so you can easily account for the money you spend.
- Make sure your bank, or the bank you are signing up with, will waive the ATM fees that you will unavoidably amass.
- For weekend trips, you can keep the gas tab straight in your mind. But when traveling, you should think of your travel partners as roommates rather than just companions. You have to split the bills and we found this way was better so that we would not have to deal with splitting hairs later. Don’t let yourself become another exampleof the saying, “friends and money don’t mix.”
- Added bonus to opening an account with your traveling buddies: y’all get to concoct a narrative of your choosing as to why you need a joint bank account with two guys and a girl, two girls a guy, or whatever the combination your travel posse turns out to be. We knew we would have a grand time as soon as the three of us walked into the Mechanics Bank in the affluent hippie suburb of Kensington, California… Guess what our story was?
3. Budget. This bears repetition because it’s incredibly important and I know most of my friends do not keep any semblance of a financial plan. This can be fine when you have a full time job and minimal unexpected expenses, but on the road…it’s a necessity.
- Then re-budget after month 1 since there will surely be spending that you did not foresee. This should give you a truer estimate of your spending on the road, as long as you have found your groove. To give you an idea, we have been spending about $2,000 total per month.
- You will spend the majority of your money on food and gas; we’ll go over creative ways we have found how to save money in a later post.
- Mint.com is an exceptionally useful FREE online resource for helping keep track of your budget. You put in a little effort in the beginning by connecting your various accounts with your Mint account and then it does the work for you by monitoring what you spend in specific categories that you can edit to your satisfaction. For the three of us, it was constructive to use Mint to create pie charts of our spending per month to visualize where our money went.
4. Be prepared to purge. Get rid of all that extra baggage that you can live without.
- Store what you will need in the future (thank you, Momma and Poppa), trash what no one will ever want or need, and give the rest to Goodwill. Travel trailer + three people with big personalities = not much space left for anything else.
- Indeed, it’s painful to get rid of that [insert hoarding item of choice] you seemingly can’t live without, but let me assure you, the want for extra space will rapidly supersede the want for your extra baseball hat once you get on the road.
- Plus, you will likely accrue swag wherever you go, and if you’re in a pinch, thrift stores are everywhere across America.
5. Always remember the BIG picture. This is probably the most difficult one of all and is certainly easier to write down rather than implement. If you want to go on the road, you have to be sure of it. This includes the need to leave your romanticized vision behind long before you leave your doorstep – don’t expect everything to go great.
- Yes, it’s a paradise vision, but life on the road is still life, which carries moments of ecstasy along with total bummers. After about 2 ½ months on the road, we have had to deal with sickness, car trouble, injury, crappy weather, and clashing with companions, just to mention a few. Not all your problems will be solved by going on the road.
- Take it all in stride and always keep in mind why you started off on this exploration in the first place, remembering that titanic problems often seem insignificant the next day.