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The New American Dream–How to Make it a Reality

For many millennials, the American Dream is not a white picket fence home with a spouse and two children, but a lifestyle of minimalism and adventure: living on the road.

Living on the road is exactly what it sounds like, a lifestyle of frugality and never-ending experiences. Your home is made of steel and wheels instead of brick and mortar. Why would someone decide to give up every day conveniences to live in a tiny box on wheels? Because that tiny box can offer a world of opportunities that your white picket fence home might not be able to.

In the past, there was one main path that most people would take when they graduated high school or college. They would get a job, settle down, get married and have kids, and then die. Exciting, right? Nowadays, many millennials are driving away from that path and opting for something with more exciting possibilities, like living on the road.

There are many reasons why one might want to adopt this seemingly radical lifestyle. It opens up a plethora of opportunities of things to do and places to see. You aren’t tied down to a mortgage, a 9-5 job, or any of those other typical responsibilities one might have. This lifestyle is particularly desirable for the adventurous, the outdoorsy, freelancers, and the can’t-sit-still type of people. “I have lived out of my backpack or car while working in different places due my strong interest for travel and self-discovery. I would carry a variety of items, usually the most utilitarian and simple, which gave me the freedom to focus my time on not things but experiences and memories,” said Hannah Bare, a Boulder, Colorado resident who has lived on the road on and off for a few years, “…it gives me freedom to set sail when I want, allows me to expand my horizons culturally, sometimes physically, and always developmentally.”

According to a survey of people living on the road by Wand’rly magazine, an online magazine for full-time travelers, 17% of the participants were writers and bloggers, 14% web designers, developers and software engineers, and only 0.6% photographers (which came as a surprise to me). 60% of those people were freelancers. Being a digital nomad, one could be making somewhere between $24,000-$84,000 a year. Careers like this make this lifestyle much easier to make a reality, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other options, like manual labor. However, many people are turning to the worldwide web for their main source of income while living on the road. The possibilities are endless.

Imagine waking up at the crack of dawn, making some coffee, and stepping outside in the middle of a national forest, a desert, or a mountain range. You can make anywhere your backyard while living on the road. There are also many benefits like saving money, having less mindless obligations, and less focus on material objects. When you only have so much space to live in, you are forced to live a more minimal lifestyle with less
things. This creates more of a detachment to the material world, and give you room to focus on whatever it is you are passionate about.

While living on the road, there are many less expenses than one might have paying a mortgage or rent. First and foremost is the vehicle you are going to live out of. Depending on how lavish you want to get, you could really live out of anything from an old hatchback to an RV. For some, more is less. With an RV you can have all the necessities at your fingertips like a bathroom and a refrigerator, but you have less mobility. You can size all the way down to a Volkswagen Vanagon and still have a sink, fridge, and Coleman stovetop. The options go far and in between, and there is an option for everyone. Living in something like a hatchback is possible when you have access to facilities at rest stops and parks, or even just the great outdoors. Some may even use natural streams as their showers. National parks allow you to camp up to two weeks, and big stores such as Walmart allow you to park overnight free of charge.

Then there’s the aspect of food- meal planning is essential if you are traveling to remote locations, but really the options are limitless if you have a source of heat, whether that be a fire or a Coleman stovetop. Stock up on pantry essentials like beans, nuts, seeds, pastas, etc. and all the fruits and vegetables you can when you happen upon a grocery store.

Before you make the leap to embark on this new lifestyle, it is probably recommended to give it a test run for a few months and see if it is the right path for you. Once you decide that you really want to do this, you have to downsize, significantly. Sell your stuff on Craigslist, have a yard sale, donate to Goodwill, throw it out; do what you need to do. Weigh the importance of your stuff, and remember that’s what it is, just stuff. Stick to the essentials of what you need to survive, and don’t look back.

When you’ve got your vehicle of choice packed up and ready to go, where do you go first? Some aimlessly meander, others rigorously plan, it really just depends on what works for you. Many use national parks as their main destination, explore the nearby towns, and then go from there. But in order to find out what you prefer, whether it be national parks, small towns, or big cities, you just have to get up and go.

Although the on-the-road lifestyle may not be for everyone, there is a reason a growing amount of people around the world are shedding their material possessions and hitting the road. “The experiences that I have gained from my time on the road have permanently changed me and I would not go back in time and alter them for any reason. These journeys pushed me further than comfortable, helped me challenge my fears, opened my eyes to immense physical and social beauty, and opened myself to some serious challenges,” said Bare. 

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