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When I was in my early twenties, I traveled alone, with only a backpack and a wanderlust dream.
I dropped everything to travel to New Zealand and Australia for half a year. After a six-year slog through college, the last thing I wanted was to get a “real job,” and planned to work part-time to sustain my grand adventure. This was before there were such things as social media and digital nomads, so I waitressed, taught English, and made sheep whistles.
The whole transition took less than a month because I didn’t own anything, had already quit my crappy waitress job, and literally had nothing to lose. It was the kind of freedom that a wealthy person has even though I wasn’t rich, and it was one of the richest experiences I had had at that point in my life.
Now, as a mid-career professional, chasing my wanderlust dreams was so much harder after years of building a life around a suburban lifestyle with a home, husband, careers, and attachments. With some serious planning however, we were able to transition from our suburban sprawl to a wanderlust lifestyle within six months.
If you are thinking about leaping into a wanderlust lifestyle, or are in transition, don’t fret about how long it might take you. Everyone is in a different position and has different needs. Approach it in steps and it will happen for you. If you need a resource to help you, sign up to receive our Wanderlust Transition Plan.
Make a Decision and the Universe Conspires
We made the decision to RV full-time in one discussion, after a period of chaos, and right before having to furnish our new house. You can read that story here.
A week later, for the first time in all the years I watched House Hunters, a couple was buying an RV to live in full-time! An internet search revealed that Nikki and Jason from Gone With the Wynns, were young, accomplished, and really knowledgeable about RVing. Then I came across Chris and Cherie from Technomadia, and Nina and Paul from Wheelingit. I was giddy with excitement that others in our age range were making full-time RVing work as a lifestyle. I had an incorrect perception that RVing was something you do in retirement. I showed Bryce all their websites and it was as though the universe was conspiring with our decision, and putting things in front of us to help make it happen.
Turn Your Dreams Into a Project Plan
I’m a project manager and Bryce is a financial analyst, and we love all things spreadsheets. Through a series of planning meetings, we built this massive, ten-category spreadsheet that we fondly referred to as the “OWL” (Operation WanderLust). It was so thorough that we thought others could benefit from it if they were planning a travel lifestyle. Now, it’s become the Wanderlust Transition Plan, which you can access at the bottom of this post.
We ran the transition like a project, using Agile project management methods, which even included weekly sprints and an actual Kanban board to visualize our progress. This method enabled us to hit most of our targets and leave on time.
The Wanderlust Dream Phase
We started developing our plan by visualizing our travels. This is an important step because how you envision your travels will influence how you’ll build your plan. Chances are you’re already dreaming. Additionally, spend some time thinking about how you’ll spend your day. Will you do touristy things, backpack, read books in a hammock, cook in, eat at local restaurants, etc.?
The more you think about and get excited about your dream, the easier it is to build your plan and budget. It’s not about needing to know everything in advance, because there will be surprises. Instead it’s about turning your dreams into reality. The more specific you can be, the more likely it is that you’ll create the experience.
Finances and Employment
When I went to New Zealand, I planned to teach snowboarding at Coronet Peak to cover my expenses. But that year, the season was so bad that the ski area closed almost as soon as it opened. My plan evaporated like a weak little snowflake on a warm spring day. That’s how I ended up making sheep whistles (I mean, c’mon sheep whistles?). This is why it’s important to have backup plans and ideally some savings for the inevitable hiccups along the way.
Some people wonder what the heck they’ll do to make money, especially if you’ve been working a “regular job.” We were stuck in the mindset that we could only be financially secure working our corporate jobs (we worked for the same company). It wasn’t just our main source of income, it was also a large part of our identities as Bryce worked there for nineteen years and I, eleven. However, in our short time on the road we’ve met so many enterprising full-time RVers running their businesses and making money. It’s been a truly inspiring experience. A great resource for this is The RV Entrepreneur podcast.
It was not really possible for us to continue working our jobs remotely, and we were ready for new challenges and change. The good news is that a growing number of employers are becoming more open and willing to employees working remotely. With the ability to work from just about anywhere with good internet connectivity becoming a reality, employers NEED to consider remote workers to compete with what else is possible. But if you can’t keep your current employment or don’t want to, have no fear, there are more opportunities than ever to work remotely.
Bryce and I are using funds from savings while we develop longer-term income streams.Bryce is chasing a long-time passion of learning how to trade options and developing investing strategies. Additionally, we’re working toward monetizing our blog and leveraging it for other opportunities.
Lastly, I’m building a remote project management/training business for creative people and small business owners who need support to finish their projects. Want to work with me? Click here.
Housing and Possessions
We rented out our house because we owned it for less than two years and would have lost money on a sale.
Even though our property doesn’t have a positive cash flow, we’re continuing to build equity and hold an appreciating asset (fingers-crossed!).
In New Zealand, I rented a room in two different flats, and lived out of a car for a while. In Australia, I lived out of a tent for one month. Today, I live in an RV which is the best of both traditional and camping worlds. Different scenarios work for different people. Check out the Wanderlust Transition Plan for more on residential decisions like selling your home, and/or if you rent or plan to live in different places while you travel.
Then there’s the important step of purging your possessions. This can be an emotional experience for people, but for me, everything had this heavy energy that weighed me down. I was happy to sell stuff on Craigslist, donate, and have garage sales. I was trying to give people things just to get rid of it, “Oh hey, want this free lamp and side table to go with your picture frame?” For Bryce, it was the exact opposite. He agonized over the heavy decisions of what to keep and what to save. We know people who similarly placed possessions in storage and we know people who got rid of literally everything—kudos to them for having the courage to cut themselves loose from all that stuff!
Pets, Internet, and Health Insurance…Ay Yi Yi!
The number of things to think about and decisions to make can feel daunting at times. What would we do with our cats (we took them with us)? What about health insurance (we changed it after four months)? And what about internet connectivity (we got an unlimited Verizon plan)? On and on the questions continued, and for every new question we resolved, it felt like three more popped up. We went through periods where it felt like a big black hole that we’d never come out of. This doesn’t even include the RV purchase phase. If you are planning to buy an RV, check out this post on heathandalyssa.
This is why a project plan can be really powerful. Putting things into categories helped us work methodically through the plan, while tamping down the feelings of overwhelm. You can’t control everything, but having a plan for many things can set you up for success and lessen the pain when something doesn’t go right.
A Note About Community on the Road
We found that building relationships on the road is vital to our emotional health. We’ve made many connections and developed lifelong friendships by joining the Xscapers (a membership club for working RVers) and attending their convergences. Additionally, joining some of the RV-related Facebook groups has provided many virtual relationships. I have formed great friendships with people I have never met in person, but do plan to meet on the road. I wish I had joined those groups before I hit the road because I would have learned so much more, earlier on. Check out the RV to Freedom, and Make Money and RV groups on Facebook.
The Miscellaneous Category
Our plan’s last category is “Miscellaneous” for the unique situations that people have. Perhaps you have grandkids and want to spend time seeing them while also visiting exciting places on your full-time travels. I’m a volunteer big sister with a nearly five-year relationship with my little sister. She and I planned to maintain that relationship on the road and we chat by phone or video every two weeks. I also visit her when I make trips home.
If you’re a parent, you might be looking for the kids category. We debated adding it, but we don’t have kids and don’t feel qualified to talk about something we know so little about. It’s a big category for sure, and we know full-time families who have this category wired. Check out Crazyfamilyadventure and Ditchingsuburbia to learn all about how they travel with kids.
Wanderlust Wrap-Up—Yee Haw!
Whew! It can be overwhelming to think through everything, and frankly you don’t have to. We may be a tad detailed in our planning, but that works for us. Hopefully we’ve provided you with some things to consider and a tool to help you stay organized. Please take what you find valuable from our plan and use it to assist in your transition.
If you get overwhelmed with this process, you can email us for support.
Lastly, we’ll be writing more in-depth posts for each category on the plan—so please stay tuned.
Now, go chase those wanderlust dreams!
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