Money on the Road

June 21, 2017

Money on the Road

So a few days ago as I was scrolling through Instagram a question came up on the Vanlife Explorers page asking, “When you meet someone that’s miserable and stuck in the 9 - 5 grind what the best reasons you could give them for quitting and joining the van life community?” 

My reply, “Because waking up and doing something different and exploring somewhere different everyday is the best way to recharge your soul. Plus I've never seen my dog happier hopping in the van and excited to see where he got to explore that day too.” End of story for me. That reason in itself is enough for me, but getting to that point is a whole other hurdle, which was very apparent in many of the comments below and it got me stuck in the same weird loop I always do reading the comments. 

The questions is, “How do you make money on the road?” I think time and time again the question is “How?” and I almost feel more often than not this is what everyone dreaming of vanlife is trying to figure out. Reality is that there is not one answer at all and some of the comments below really stood out for me. 

The consensus I always read is, “Just do it?! Buy a van and just go!” I’m sure you’ve read that too and thought to yourself, “Wow thx!” Super helpful right? Reality is that we all have very different skill sets, very different comforts and very different goals for taking off, so that is why there is no one answer. 

The main things that normally stands out for anyone doing it, is that we all wanted it so we made it happen. Whether we saved for years to be able to take off, maybe we have a job that we can take us on the road, or maybe we just live simple and didn’t have lots of debt so taking off wasn’t such a big change anyways. Whatever it was, we figured it out. That right there I think is the key. 

The journey to taking off is sort of a creative adventure in itself and if there is likely one thing most van folks have in common is that we can be resourceful when needed and could likely problem solve our way out of any situation. I think anyone traveling on the road for a while would agree with that and this also includes how to make money. Like I said before there is no one way to keep the van life rolling on, but I can bet if you have those skills you’d make it work and could figure it out. 

For myself I work half the year and travel the other half and that is how I choose to live my van life. For me personally there is no need to work on the road as I work my butt off in the summer to live comfortably the rest of the time. If you follow lots of FT van life folks I think you'll find a majority are working picking fruit, at a summer planting camp or on farms right now living in their vans to support themselves the rest of the year. Plus many of those van folks working on those farms don't have instagram accounts, they are off the grid just doing their own thing. 

To get to me being able to travel that long it didn’t come over night at all. It actually took 8 years of hard work to get to that point. I am saying this because it goes back to my point, if you want it bad enough you’ll make it happen and for most that doesn’t come quickly. Many people worked to pay of debts, save to buy a van and had a solid saving before even leaving. It takes time and planning. I know when people just say take off an go that is where the eye rolls comes from, because it sometimes takes years. 

I was lucky enough to start a business and after about 3 or 4 years I started to see the potential that it would allow me for traveling and I worked my ass off to make sure that actually happened, but even with that potential I still took baby steps. At no point will I sell it all and take off. I didn’t even buy one of the fancy cargo van’s or a camper van. I have a crappy old Pontiac Montana I converted. I wrote all about why I chose that van here. I even made you tube videos so you could do it too. 

Basically I didn’t want to invest tons of money and end up not enjoying it after only a few weeks, don’t kid yourself it isn’t all rainbows and sunshines. I wanted to be sure I LOVED it. I wanted to have a solid income to either have on the road, or in my case work the summer to have before taking off. I wanted to know that my choice to take off wasn’t going to be one I loved at the time, but financially regretted later either. Making money is harder these days. And back to my point … all of these things took 8 years to make happen, but this was MY choice.

If I didn’t like those certain comforts and admittedly was a little younger it wouldn’t have even crossed my mind. The early 20s me would have taken off in a heart beat, I know I could have found work on the road and the stories I would tell. The pushing 35 year old me however took the boring route, but when I’m on the road I don’t have a single worry of how to pay for something if I hit a hurdle and I personally sleep much better at night this way. 

Regardless of how you get to vanlife and if you’re still in the dreaming phase just take the right steps for you. You don’t have to take off for the rest of your life, or even a year. Honestly being on the road for 3 weeks is a blast, so start there, see if you LOVE it and I bet you’ll work your ass of to make the trips longer and longer. You’ll meet people along the way, build relationships and who knows, maybe you will be a van lifers writing your own story. Maybe you’ll be picking fruit in the summer, maybe you’ll go back to school and start a business you could take on the road, or you find a job with a company that would allow you to work remotely. Whatever it is I just hope you will all get to enjoy a new adventure in a new place everyday as well and once you do, you’ll be hooked too. You’ll find a way if you want it bad enough.

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