How did you downsize your life from a
3 bedroom 2.5 bath house to 72 sq ft?
Just like most things in life, it was a process that we revisited many times. After several rounds of garage sales, donations, selling things on Craigslist, etc., we are down to a very small amount of stuff that we’ve stored in a friend’s basement.
What do you eat?
Food…good healthy whole, often organic and local, food. We have a 2 burner propane stove, a small grill, and we almost always have a campfire pit in which we can use our fry bake or Dutch oven. We have winnowed down our kitchen supplies to a few things that have multiple uses (e.g., a metal colander that can steam veggies, drain pasta, and be used as a grill basket). With these items, we can make everything from homemade soup and pizzas to brownies and coffeecake, and just about everything in between.
Do you ever see yourself going back to work at a university?
Probably not in the same capacity, though we enjoy teaching a seminar or being invited to give guest lectures. We enjoyed it for many years, we learned a ton, we have both great memories and not so great memories, and we thank that experience for leading us to many other wonderful life adventures. For now, we enjoy working seasonally in different parts of the country (such as the National Park Service and other places we can use our Environmental Education skills), and keep traveling!
Do you ever see yourself living in a house with a yard?
We don’t know. It certainly won’t be a traditional house, but will have space for a large veggie garden. It will probably be a tiny house with wheels and be smaller than 200 sq feet. Most houses seem way too big and there is too much to clean, maintain, and mow. Currently, we have the biggest front and back yard of anyone we know, and we don’t have to mow it. We have found better ways to spend our time...like hiking, paddling, cycling and volunteering.
Do you have children?
Not that we have to pay for, but we have hundreds of former university students that we call our kids and have visited them all over the nation. We’ve gotten the chance to meet their partners and their kids. It’s been fantastic to spend time and adventure with them!
How often do you see your family and friends?
We have family and friends spread all over the nation and world. We have actually had more time to spend with them now than in our previous life. In the past, we had short visits that we squeezed in between work. Now, we get to spend quality time with friends and family for a few weeks at a time...and we come with our own guest room and kitchen, so no need to make accommodations for us.
Have you ever run into any scary people?
Well, Shari was born and raised near Los Angeles, CA, Hutch lived in Boulder, CO and we have traveled all over the world, so we’ve met our fair share of unusual people. But, we haven’t had any run-ins on the road…not a single one. Almost everyone has been unbelievably friendly; our unique camper draws people to us and we end up having some amazing conversations with strangers. We have had one stolen bike involving a barefoot chase across a parking lot. The thief got away, but we got the bike back the very next day!
How do you deal with your mail/bills?
98% of what we get and need to deal with is online. The other 2%, Shari’s mom lovingly scans/mails to us. Online/mobile banking makes all of this possible, and we can deposit checks any where we have wifi or a 4G signal...even the front seat of our truck. If you have the funds, you can also hire a service to do this for you.
How do you deal with your taxes?
Just like everyone else. We complain about doing them, procrastinate, then get them in by April 15th. When you work in different states and have to claim income from them, it’s a bit trickier, but not so tricky that we would give up this lifestyle. Everything you need is online via the IRS and state websites.
How do you get health insurance?
We have a great plan with BCBSNC. The Affordable Health Care Act has really helped, too. We are definitely huge fans, despite the constant changes to the plans. Since we've lived this mobile, more active, lifestyle, we've needed very little healthcare as we are living healthier and with much less stress.
Did you win the lottery? If not, how do you make money?
No, we've never even bought a lottery ticket, but we feel like we have! Actually, we saved quite a bit of money before we left our jobs in 2012. We didn’t just wake up one day and hit the road, we planned for this new lifestyle. Also, there are a ton of different options for finding seasonal work on the road.
What's your monthly budget?
That depends on what we are doing. If we spend time volunteering on farms or at national parks, we don’t spend much at all. Lodging and/or most of our food is taken care of, we don’t spend much on gas, so it’s just the normal daily/monthly stuff like insurance, retirement contributions, etc.. This is a great way to stretch your budget. When we are on the road, we seek out as much free camping as possible and prepare our own meals. About $1000 a month per person will cover it if you are really on the move and staying in multiple campgrounds where you have to pay for a spot. If you are staying put and have a free camping spot, you can easily live on half that amount.
How do you save for retirement?
We each have a Roth IRA that we began when we were working full-time and still contribute to it regularly. We have retirement savings from our previous jobs, and we will have Social Security. And if we don't have those things when we decide to settle down, we will have bigger problems as a country than where to find a shower.
“Change is hard because people often overestimate the value of what they have and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.”
James Belasco & Ralph Stayer,
Flight of the Buffalo