Two things happened recently to inspire this post:
- Shacky and I just hit our 50,000-mile mark of full-time travel and dirtbagging North America in our little RV.
- I stumbled across a Quora question about what it feels like to quit your job, throw caution to the wind, and travel.
No two journeys are exactly the same and as expected, I found that my experience was different from many of the commenters. Here’s what it’s been like for me:
More than any other time in my life, I am social. For years I’ve identified as an introvert and although I still do, I have fond myself easily slipping into some of the benefits of extroversion. You know like, real friends. A tribe. Actually wanting to sit around chatting with people. It was a little confusing until I realized that I don’t actually need to label myself as intro/extro. I can just do what I do and be who I am.
This is the opposite of what some other travelers reported in the Quora question (loneliness, isolation). I feel this is because we have focused a lot of our travels on people. Instead of only bucketlisting destinations, we made lists of people to meet, mostly Facebook friends we felt a connection with. I copied down the names of everyone who invited us to their homes, and plotted our route to see as many people as we could. Then we met their friends and families and soon an entire network opened up across the country that we never would have uncovered from our cozy little home in California.
As easy as it is to sugarcoat the glamour of our lifestyle, in reality it can be pretty scary. Pre-dirtbag days, it was hard to remember the last time I had really been afraid. My life was very routine and there was nothing to really there to trigger fear. Now I’m averaging about one fearful incident every couple of weeks. It’s not always life-threatening of course, but rather those little situations that force you outside your comfort zone and there’s some problem solving involved.
The most common culprit that elicits fear for me is weather. In the RV, you can hear and fear almost ever aspect of the elements. Sometimes being in the RV is scarier than being outside. The winds feel strong (we’re tipping!), the hail sounds louder (it’s cracking the windows!), and the heat feels deadly (the cat is panting!). Adaptation and problem solving are keys we can’t afford to travel without.
We have also learned not to turn on each other, as people tend to do when they’re stressed or hot or hungry. We are a team and our only hope of ever solving anything is to put our heads together and push in the same direction.
Chores take no time at all. When we go camping, we sit around and watch our friends set up their tents, haul out their luggage, set up their little camp stoves. We don’t have to do any of that. We are where we are and what’s in the RV… that’s all we have in the world. I can clean our “house” in ten minutes, tops. We have two bowls, two plates, two sets of silverware. Sometimes a little extra for a guest. There’s no planning ahead for groceries (who knows where we’ll be?) and certainly no buying in bulk (who has the space?). This is a very liberating feeling. There’s no fluff. No time-filling details. No busywork.
Another benefit of the lack of busywork is that there’s more focused, fulfilling work. Real work. The kind of work that produces results, like published books (my particular chosen focus) or music or artwork. Imagine having all the time in the world to create something. No pushing papers, no filing the day with meetings, no chipping away at emails. It’s just you and a blank canvas and all the freedom in the world. It’s every bit as glorious as it sounds.
The downside to all this freedom is that sometimes the options seem limitless. At any given time, there are one hundred things I want to do. I have learned to focus them into seasons and years. I can do anything, but I can’t do everything at once. I can’t be on every trail and I can’t run every race. Instead, I create challenges for myself, like climbing the four highest peaks in the Continental USA in three weeks, or writing a book. Upcoming challenges include thruhiking several longer trails and writing a second book. If I’m not intentional in my goals and planning, it’s easy to get flustered and lose track.
What is dirtbagging NOT like?
For us, it has never been boring.
It has never left us in need.
We have never been unloved.
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