Whether you’re backpacking through the Philippines, or on a road trip through the USA, life on the road can be a never-ending adventure filled with obstacles, challenges, and excitement. So for those of you with wanderlust: dreaming of living full-time in a van, RV, or backpacking around the world–here are ten tips to live on the road.
Tips for living on the road
- START WITH A ROUGH PLAN
You don’t have to plan out every detail but it’s a good idea to have a general idea of where you would like to go and what you’d like to see. Think about what region of the world you would like to explore and what time of year you want go. And as you travel and talk to people, take recommendations from locals and change your plans as you go. If you have a rough plan, you can create some structure while also opening yourself up to flexibility for things to change. Half the fun is seeing and doing the unexpected. Just plan for it.
- PLANS WILL CHANGE- JUST ROLL WITH IT
Like we said, life on the road is an adventure. And adventures wouldn’t be adventures if everything went as planned. Things will change, planes will get delayed, cars will break down, and you just need to chalk it up to part of the fun. At worst, it’s a good story to tell friends and family one day. And laugh. Nothing is funnier than an awful situation. Throw your hands up and just laugh. It will help. Promise. Unless, of course, you’re in danger- don’t laugh, seek help, please don’t laugh.
- LIVE OUTSIDE MORE THAN INDOORS
If you live in a 15 foot, like us, you will have no choice but to get outside to stretch the legs. But even if you’re not camping, life on the road is meant to be enjoyed outside. Bring your rain gear, snow gear, and SPF sunscreen to make sure your travels go well. Fresh air helps you relax, and connecting to nature makes you feel alive- at least that’s the case for us. Being close to trees, water, flowers…whatever it is, it brings a sense of peace that you can’t find elsewhere. So we plan a lot of our activities around the need to be outdoors.
- IF YOU’RE A COUPLE, PREPARE TO COMMUNICATE…A LOT
Traveling with your significant other can be a wonderful experience, and it can also become a challenge when you have differing opinions. Compromising is probably the most important communication tool while living on the road. If one person wants to lay at the beach while the other wants to go on a hike, part ways for a few hours so both can get their needs met. It’s ok to take time apart- it will help you both regroup and also help you enjoy spending time together. If you’re traveling full-time, trust us, you will get annoyed with each other at some point. But that doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong, you just need some time apart.
- MAKE SURE TO MEET PEOPLE ALONG THE WAY
Traveling full time, whether it’s camping or backpacking, there are times you will get lonely. Humans are social beings, and talking to strangers is really fun when you’re in a new place. You’ll be surprised what you’ll learn about the world, others, and yourself, just by having conversations with people from a completely different walk of life. There’s also a universal language of kindness that can be found anywhere in the world.
- YOUR VEHICLE IS YOUR BEST FRIEND, TAKE CARE OF IT
If you are traveling via bus, van, or RV, your single most important tool is your vehicle. Make sure it is a priority to take care of it! Routine oil changes are a must, but also get the engine checked, rotate your tires regularly, and if you hear a sound or if it’s acting funny, take it in.
Check engine lights are no longer a “someday” priority. It’s a must fix now. When you’re traveling long distances it’s important to have your vehicle in tiptop shape. No one wants to break down in the desert or in the middle of a cornfield with no service.
If it’s not a useful item or a sentimental gift for the van, we get rid of it!
- ONLY BRING WHAT YOU NEED
We live very tiny, so everything we own has a function in our lives. If it’s not useful, we get rid of it. Downsizing took a few months, but now, we only travel with what fits into our 15 foot teardrop and truck.
While backpacking internationally, we took a five pound pack on our three-week trip to Hawaii, Bali, and Japan and it was the best decision we’ve ever made. Bare essentials could fit comfortably into our packs and exploring was easy. Every taxi we hopped into, flight we took, or long walk to our hotel, we could carry everything on our back no problem.
Traveling light frees up time, space, and also gives you a sense of freedom to explore the open road. Highly recommend traveling light when you live on the road!
- PLAN TO STAY HEALTHY- BOTH MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY
It is so important to stay physically and mentally fit while traveling. If you’re grumpy, tired, and “hangry” (hungry + angry), your travel experience will not be the best. When living on the road, you’re going to be more tired, hungrier than usual, and have expectations about how things “should” go. It’s important to plan to take extra good care of yourself. We go into a lot more detail in 10 habits of the healthy traveler but the gist is, self care is even more important living on the road and often overlooked.
- DON’T GIVE ATM’S YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY
If you’re traveling within your home country, use a debit card and get cash back when you’re low on cash. This will give you the upper hand when running into those pesky toll roads. If you’re backpacking internationally, try to change money over at the airport or at a currency exchange place. ATM fees can add up to take away 100’s of dollars so a little planning can give you money for a nice dinner out on the town.
Plus, if you are traveling internationally, you might find yourself in a town with ATMs that don’t accept your type of bankcard. We made the mistake of assuming there would be an ATM that would accept our cards in Kyoto Japan, and Ubud, Bali…only to spend a few nights hungry and trekking around the city looking for eligible ATMs. Always have a little extra cash reserve that could carry you over for a few days.
- ENJOY YOUR AMAZING ADVENTURE
Life on the road has been unexpectedly wonderful. We had planned a 9-month adventure, but now have decided to continue traveling long-term. Life on the move is wonderfully fun, thrilling, exciting and it’s something we are endlessly grateful for. Living on the road means you’re saying yes to see where the world takes you. You’re saying yes to living a life of the unknown. And you’re saying yes to adventure.
Happy Traveling Everyone!
Happy Camper Wives
Valerie and Jessi are lesbian adventurers roaming the United States in a teardrop camper trailer, living minimally, meeting interesting people, and learning about the meaning of life. Get excited to explore the world as they see it - living to the fullest, cooking delicious food, and documenting their adventures.