Photo: Bow Lake in Alberta, Canada
Two years ago I participated in an online Q&A game via my blog. Because my life has changed so drastically since then, I thought it would be awesome to do it again. Here are the rules I posted two years ago:
You ask me anything. About anything. No question is too weird or strange or stupid or personal. Post your questions in the comment section and I will answer them ALL. It’s that simple! And hopefully fun.
You can ask as many questions as you’d like, and no topic is off limits. Here are the answers to the questions I was asked in 2011:
You asked, I answer! Part I
You asked, I answer! Part II
You asked, I answer! Part III
To get us started, below is a Q&A I did this week for an online publication called Sensa Nostra. They are writing a three-article series on tiny homes and home-free living.
Here’s what they wanted to know:
SN: You gave up a successful writing career in an office to live in an RV and travel the land. Was it difficult giving up all that you’d achieved in your job after working so hard to get there?
VR: On the contrary, I was excited to write for myself as opposed to a news organization or media outlet. I have a journalism degree, and I can write anywhere. I had stories to tell outside of my job and I wanted to write a book. I also never made an obscene amount of money as a writer or editor, so I was used to a very low-budget lifestyle. I felt I had little to sacrifice.
It was harder to convince my boyfriend to give up his job as an electrical engineer for a major biotech company. He has been there for more than 10 years and his income was much higher than mine. There was more for him to lose, and although we both wanted to travel, it was scary to make that jump. We delayed his quitting for several weeks simply because we kept getting cold feet. Once we made the leap, it wasn’t as bad as we imagined.
The experience reminds me of that Indiana Jones scene in the Last Crusade where Jones has to jump across a large chasm and there’s no way he’ll make it. It turned out that after he jumps, there’s actually an invisible bridge. In the same way, we didn’t end up falling into a terrifying abyss, but making that initial jump still took some nerve.
SN: Why did you choose to buy and live in an RV? Did you want to travel, or were you radically changing your life and choosing a minimalist path? Or was it a way to save money once you’d given up your job?
VR: This lifestyle was a dream come true for us. Yesterday, we spent 6+ hours on the Superior Hiking Trail, a 275-mile footpath in Northeastern Minnesota. One month ago, we were running in Alaska. In my old life, I would have spent those days at the office.
We wanted two things when we bought the RV: to travel freely, and to live minimally. Our 22-foot Rialta RV is tiny by most standard. Most people use this RV for day trips or camping, but not for living. I love it because it forces us to keep only what we need and use, and it encourages us to spend more time outdoors.
We also wanted a vehicle small enough to fit into a regular parking spot. We didn’t want to spend any time or money at RV campgrounds. Since we bought it, we have never paid to spend the night anywhere.
SN: Can you tell me more about your day-to-day life in the trailer? Did you expect to be living in this way when you first moved in, or are you constantly discovering many pleasant aspects of this way of life?
VR: We essentially drive from trail to trail. Both my boyfriend and I enjoy trial running, so we visit a lot of national forests, national parks, and state parks. He loves water and I love mountains, so we look for places that combine mountains with waterfalls/streams/lakes.
We have no set plan in our travels and no deadlines. Sometimes we are out in the wilderness all day, and sometimes we find a good wifi spot and settle down to catch up with the rest of the world. Because our wifi time is limited, I spend most of my time pre-loading articles to read later, downloading podcasts I can later listen to offline, or copying emails into documents I can access later. I type the responses when I have more time, and the next time I get wifi, I just send everything off.
We had no idea what to expect when we moved into the RV, so we are constantly learning and making new discoveries. It keeps us on our toes!
SN: Is this a short-term break, or a new way of life?
VR: I don’t see myself ever going back to owning or renting a home, or working a traditional job, but I would never say never. It’s a big world and I still have many more years to live and experiences to experience.
SN: Do you feel that your writing career has actually become even more successful since quitting your office job?
VR: Absolutely, a thousand times over. I finally have the freedom to follow my instincts, write about what I know and love, and dive into research and interviews that truly interest me. My writing has improved drastically, and it is much more personally fulfilling.
SN: What does ‘success’ mean to you? And what do you value most in life?
VR: I love this quote: “Success is the certain knowledge that you’ve become yourself, the person you were meant to be from all time.” – Dr. George Sheehan
To me, that is true success. The freedom to be yourself at all times, never compromising to please a boss or a spouse or society in general.
In life, I most value freedom. That doesn’t translate into everyone being jobless and traveling the world, but it has a lot to do with never feeling like you have to settle. Freedom means being able to construct and live your life on your own terms, whether that is raising a family, starting a business, or working in a career you are passionate about.
I spent so much of my life trying to live on someone else’s terms, and I think many of us do to some extent. Freedom means embracing your own path, whatever the cost.
SN: Have your values changed since moving into the trailer? Do you see the world from another perspective that you’d never previously imagined?
VR: I see the world with much more enthusiasm and excitement. My values–compassion, transparency, and selflessness–have deepened. I feel child-like in my ambitions, like the world is there for my taking.
I can read about a place that sounds interesting, and immediately GO there. I don’t have to put it on hold. I don’t have to ask for vacation time or permission from my family. I don’t have to write it down in a bucket list. I have the freedom to move and travel wherever my whims take me. I feel in complete control of my life–it is truly liberating.
SN: Why do you run? And why do you run ultra-marathons? Was this always your goal?
VR: I fell in love with running in 2007, and when I discovered trail running I never went back to road. I always loved long distances. Ultra running fits well with my personality. It requires a lot of drive, dedication, energy, and mental strength. I love things that are hard and demanding, but low-profile. I love being alone in nature, drinking in the mountains and pushing my body to its limits.
SN: Can you tell me more about barefoot running?
VR: I embraced barefoot running as a way to connect with nature. I love the feeling of mud, bark, soil, and grass under my toes. It goes back to that child-like freedom of running wild, with no cares in the world. It brings me back to that place of bliss.
SN: Are running, writing and living in a trailer all inter-connected for you? Does one influence the other?
VR: They are all things that I love, so in that sense they are inter-connected. I don’t know if I will always live in a trailer. I can just as easily live out of a backpack, or a van, or a bicycle. What matters is mobility and freedom. Writing and running I believe will always be a part of me.
SN: Are there any negative aspects to living your lifestyle?
VR: There are definitely inconveniences. Things like showers, laundry, and chores look very different than they used to, but I can’t say they’re negative. Is rinsing your clothes in a stream more negative than throwing into a washing machine? I think it’s just different.
SN: What does living in this way allow you to do that your old life never could?
VR: Travel full-time.
SN: What are your goals for the future?
VR: I would love to run across El Salvador next year, a distance of approximately 160 miles. I was born in El Salvador and I haven’t been back in years. This will be my way of coming back, making my mark, and reconnecting with a community long-forgotten.
I have a love-hate relationship with my cultural upbringing that drove me to separate myself from Hispanics in the past. My ex used to accuse me of thinking I was “too good” for my culture, but in many ways the cultural values I was raised with damaged me, especially when it came to the role of women and female expectations.
I was raised to be submissive and subservient, always sacrificing my own needs for the men around me. I was also raised to depend heavily on men, both emotionally and financially. My current boyfriend is my first “white” relationship, and the dynamic is very different than what I am used to, and to be honest pretty amazing.
I recently reconnected with my dad after a long time of not speaking. One of the first things he said to me was to thank my boyfriend for “taking good care of me” while I was away from home. I know this is my dad’s way accepting me and my new relationship, so I take it as a positive response. However, it also perfectly reflects what I was raised to believe: that I am useless without a man and incapable of taking care of myself. For the first time in my life, I now have the courage to believe otherwise.
Going back to El Salvador for me would represent a re-birth and a coming out. Kind of like facing an old bully that tormented me for years. I want the country to see who I am and what I have become–that I am so much stronger than they thought I could be and I have bigger balls than most of their men by doing something none of them have dared to attempt. I also want their women and girls to see an example of female strength, courage, and independence. I want them to know they can do whatever the hell they want with their lives.
SN: It’d also be interesting to talk about money – whether you have any, how you earn it and how you use it. And what your perspectives are on what we ‘need’ and what society says about it all.
We started off our travels with a small base of savings, and then I immediately started working on my first book. Now my book and other writings are my only source of income. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to support our simple lifestyle. I am working on my second book, but it doesn’t at all feel like a job. It’s a labor of love, and I’ve been lucky enough to work because something interests me, not because I need the money. This is the first time in my life I have been able to say that, and it’s a result of living simply, not being rich.
Got more questions for me? Leave a comment below.
Photo: Flattop Mountain in Anchorage, Alaska
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Check out my book: The Summit Seeker