The economy sucks. You’re stuck in a dead end job with no prospect of a raise, promotion or more interesting option on the horizon. Your dreams are all on the back burner. The talking heads are talking YEARS for economic recovery and you’re looking at your watch, wondering if you’ll make it until 5 o’clock, much less 2015.
If the economy isn’t the only thing depressed around your place, may I suggest that major life change may be just what you need? Why not jump ship on the whole sad mess and reinvent yourself by living and working on the road? It can be the point where dreams meet reality in lean economic times. Read on for six compelling reasons to join the gypsies and have the best of both worlds in ANY economy!
1 – It is an inexpensive way to live
Anyone who says travel is expensive is touring, not travelling. Those of us who live on the road know that it is generally FAR cheaper to travel for a living than to maintain the house, the cars, the toys and the insurance policies to cover all of the above in the “real world.”
When we hit the road we were shocked to discover that fully furnished apartments are available on every continent at rock bottom prices, just waiting to become “home” to us for three months in North Africa, or a few weeks in Prague, or a couple of months on the beaches of Cape Cod. A bargain hunter will discover a selection of family sized accommodations, ranging from a live-aboard sailboat in Barcelona, to third floor walk ups in the historic district of Marseille, by searching for “holiday homes” or “vacation rentals” on any search engine; here’s a hint: look for off season rates! Holidayletting.co.uk, for example, is one of our favorites.
Get local first:
An apartment seems like too much? How about starting out in a hostel? In almost every major city in the world a hostel is a great (inexpensive) place to hit the ground. They make an excellent base from which to explore your options in employment as well as longer-term accommodations. There are often local “deals” to be found that are not available on even the best bargain websites.
Home on Wheels:
Looking for the mobility of the hostel and the “homey” feel of an apartment but without the roommates? Consider an RV. There are more and more people discovering the flexibility and comfort of a life on the road in an RV. It offers the best of both worlds… so long as you don’t want to cross any oceans! (If you do, maybe a boat?!) One of the big benefits of a declining economy is that lots of “weekend warriors” are off loading their RVs and their boats for less than their market values, which means a nice selection at a great price!
The take-home message: There is no shortage of options, all of which are cheaper than maintaining all of the accoutrements deemed “necessary” to the First World lifestyle. It gets even cheaper if you’re willing to branch out into the Second or Third World where our dollar still goes a little farther than it does at home. In our experience, keeping very detailed records, it costs our family of six about half of our “real life” budget to live on the road and travel across three continents over a year.
2 – Travel deals abound
From flights to cruises, to resort packages there are “Deals” to be had everywhere. Why not make a clean break and get your vacation for the year while you’re adjusting to your new location of choice, lining up some work and savoring the victory of breaking free? A savvy traveler can easily plan an adventure of several weeks to several months, or longer, based around some of these deals and save a bundle “getting there.” Here’s an example from recent travel “deals” on the Internet:
One Way Flight from NYC to Cancun, Oct. 1: $97
Hostel downtown Cancun Oct. 1-14: $140 (lots in this price range)
Different Hostel Cancun Oct. 15-31: $140 (switch due to 14 night limit)
Total for your first month: $377
So, for less about half of the average American’s monthly rent you could easily break free, tour the city, and hopefully find work in one of the many service industries in which being a native English speaker is a boon! (Be sure to check out requirements for work permits in the country of your choice. The above is merely an example of what CAN be done with current deals, and not a recommendation!)
3 – In a tight job market temporary work is often available when “full time” jobs aren’t
Living on the road doesn’t have to mean leaving the country. There is plenty to see right here at home, where work visas and complicated paperwork don’t stand in your way. Lost your job? Job you hate? So quit already, go somewhere you’ve always wanted to be and find temp work!
Every major city has a temp agency (often several). Fill out an application and take whatever comes up. Step outside of your comfort zone and be willing to try something new, just for the adventure. You’ve got nothing to lose.
Become a Migrant Worker:
Okay, it doesn’t sound glamorous, but we know one couple that cycled the USA by summer and picked coffee in Hawaii by winter and had a great time doing it! There are olives to be picked in Italy in the fall, loads of fieldwork in California year ‘round, and all manner of farm work to be had worldwide if you travel with the seasons. Check out www.anyworkanywhere.com for lots of ideas.
An interesting twist on the migrant worker concept is becoming common in the tech industry where contract jobs are replacing full time workers across many sectors. Consider becoming an independent contractor and working while you travel!
What CAN you do?
Consider what you CAN do: speak another language? Play an instrument? Are you athletically gifted? You can turn a hobby or an interest into a job on the road… just ask our pirate friend Scott, who we met in Vienna, Austria last year. He currently lives in the Caribbean and just finished his instructor’s license for SCUBA. For a guy who left the southern US to become student in Moscow a two years ago, he’s not doing half bad.
If you can do anything that can be Internet based (consulting work, tutoring, writing enough to pay the bills, running your business remotely) then the “work” part of living on the road just got MUCH easier. You can work from anywhere, without a work permit, because you’re actually still working at home. Perfect. Get creative folks! There are thousands of people making this happen; you can be the next one.
4 – Adventure adds mystique and builds your resume
Contrary to popular belief, taking a year or two out of your career and hitting the road is NOT always a career killer. We were shocked to find a boss of seven years more interested in discussing our plans for a fabulous year in the world than he was concerned about the impact of our imminent departure on the company.
You’re likely to find your co-workers envious and, if you are smart, you’ll find ways to make that “time off” a resume builder. How, you might ask? Become fluent in a foreign language, take some classes and learn an entirely new skill set, or become involved in teaching what you already know. An intelligent, internationally minded, multi-lingual, culturally literate person is always in demand in every job market.
When you return, you’ll have something fabulous to talk about in your interviews and you’ll have made connections in other places that will make you a valuable asset in the, rapidly shrinking, business world. Instead of “hanging in there” in a less than great job, show yourself to be an aggressive, creative problem solver by turning a down economy into a fabulous opportunity. Who knows, you may even find, as we did, that your “year off” turns into a whole new life when you discover just how many ways there are to live life, and fund it, once you climb outside of that box.
>> Read 5 Reasons to Take a Career Break
5 – It Provides Flexibility
The economy is in flux, and the people suffering the most are those with the fewest options. Living on the road maximizes your options by reducing the “inflexibles” in your life and allowing you to be in the right place at the right time when an opportunity you like arises.
The key to this, my friends, is a priority shift. Work to live, don’t live to work. What are your “inflexibles?” Rent or house payments, car payments, debt of all kinds, actually, and the costs associated with maintaining all of that stuff that is tied to one location and can’t be moved easily. Who says you have to live life like everyone else? If you become flexible in your definition of what is necessary to live then you’ll find that working to provide that becomes easier than you might think.
Doing contract work while you travel (if possible in your industry) gives you the freedom to move with the work and make the most money possible while keeping expenses low. AND you get to enjoy the adventure of going new places, seeing new things and experiencing new cultures. Instead of being stuck with the “want ads” section of your local newspaper, the world’s job message boards online are your oysters. Go where you want to go. Do what you want to do. There’s no time like the present.
6 – It’s Fabulous in All Stages of Life
You don’t have to say it, I can hear you thinking it already… yes, you, the thirty-something who subscribes to BootsnAll to dream your way out of your desk job, two kids, and a big house in the ‘burbs lifestyle that you have a love hate relationship with. “That’s GREAT for the twenty-somethings with no attachments, or for a retiree, maybe… but not me… I’m stuck.” Says who? Says WHO?
They’re ALL Out There. Why Not You?
We’ve met all sorts on the road: Loads of the twenty-somethings with more dreams than sense but a joie de vivre that steals the show. There are the retirees, taking advantage of those golden years and living every moment with an appreciation for the gift of now that the twenty-somethings certainly don’t have.
And then there are the people like us: The thirty-somethings who woke up one morning and said “Wait as second… there has to be more than this!” There are a few of us out here too, folks who sold it all, packed up the four kids and hit the road, piecing together the funds to carry on through consulting work, writing, teaching, or whatever presents itself. We’ve found that even in this, the most “difficult” stage of life to live a free and adventurous life that it IS possible. And it isn’t just us.
My parents did it when I was a kid. We met a German family in Austria walking across the continent with two small children. We know of many on boats, or in RVs, or on bicycles. Some have one kid in diapers and a cat, others have six of school age; either way, it CAN be done.
Living on the road not only makes sense financially in these difficult times, it makes sense eternally if you have the soul of an adventurer and are a dreamer of big dreams. We get one spin around the sun on this little planet, one lifetime to spend as we wish. Why sell it short at any phase?
Read more about extended travel:
- 10 Free Ways to Discover Your World
- 11 Reasons to Stop Dreaming and Start Planning Your RTW Trip
- 10 Things You Should Know About Round the World Tickets
- The Art of Traveling in Developing Countries
- 8 Lessons to Learn from My Round the World Trip
All photos by Jennifer Miller