This month's installation of the Talking Travel series is with Tom, who around here goes by the name of Rhombus. When I stumbled across Tom's Travellerspoint profile a few months ago, I instantly knew he'd be an interesting guy to interview. Here's what he says about himself:
I'm 28 years old, I don't really have a fixed location that I call home. I've lived successfully out of my van for over 2 years. I've spent the last 8 years traveling throughout the US, usually on 1 to 3 month long road trips. I love playing outside, I'm independent, free spirited and carefree. I like to avoid responsibility. I can proudly say that I've lived my life how I want to live it. I'm in the prime of my youth, and I've spent it doing things I want to do. I have a lot of free time. I'm happy.
I just had to ask Tom more about life in a van. Read on after the jump.
You've lived out of your van for over two years. Why did you originally decide to start living out of your van?
There were a couple of reasons, one is that I was tired of renting. Paying money to a landlord every month was money I'd never see again. I could save that money for travelling if I started vanning. This all began as a big experiment, I didn't know IF I could pull this off, and knew that if I didn't like it, I could easily find more traditional housing. It turns out that I really liked it, and that it was suprisingly easy once you figured a few things out. The funny thing is, I have a brother who started vanning at the same time, so we could compare notes, and make improvements. We decided to start vanning independently of one another, and were suprised the other was doing it.
I also liked living on the edge, so to speak. It was the great unknown, to VOLUNTARILY choose to be homeless was kind of intriguing/appealing. It was good to shake things up, and try something completely different.
What's the hardest thing about living out of a van?
There are a couple of minor inconveniences. One is using the bathroom. When you gotta go, no matter if it's dark and storming out, you gotta head out and find a spot. In the fall and winter, it gets dark and cold early, so you've got to get used to dressing warm and reading with a headlamp. I'd go to sleep early, and get up early.
You've been travelling on and off for eight years. What keeps you going?
I love being out on the road, the journey I'm on is what I'm all about. I love exploring this world of ours, and I get a charge out it. It's addicting. I usually have 3 trips planned so it's pretty easy to get into research during my down time. This in turn gets me excited about the trip, and when I can finally hit the road, I'm at my best.
How can you afford to travel? What pays the bills?
My needs are very simple. I have only a couple of minor bills every month. I live fairly conservatively, I don't buy stuff; unnecessary clutter that needs storage. The few items I own are my toys that are going to get a lot of use. I don't need to upgrade these very often so most of my money can be used for what I want. I'm good at saving, and when I'm working, I know I'm working for my freedom.
At present, my work cycle has me working from May to Mid-September. I work LONG hours, and I work hard for my money, saving almost everything. This let's me have the freedom I want in the winter, living off of savings.
I know I'm not living a typical traditional lifestyle. It's not for everyone. I'm happy to say, I'm in the prime of my youth and living my life the way I want. I don't think many people can say that.
What was the favourite place you visited in 2009?
Wow. That's a tough one. I can't pick an absolute favorite. I can find good things about almost every place I visit for different reasons. Here are my top 3.
- Sitka, Alaska. I spent five months working and exploring this area. Awesome.
- American Southwest. Joshua Tree N.P. California, Southern Arizona, and Southern New Mexico. I love the desert.
- Jasper, Banff, and Kooteney National Parks in Canada. It's a beautiful place.
What are your travel plans for 2010?
I'm currently ski-bumming in Kellogg, Idaho till the end of February. In March, I'm going back down to the American Southwest for some desert fun. I'm driving back up to Alaska in April to work from May to September. Driving back to Michigan from Alaska hitting some National Parks along the way. In October, I'm going to drive around Lake Superior for the first time.
Check out these past interviews in the Talking Travel series: