Last summer, my boyfriend and I quit our well-paying jobs, chose not to renew the lease on our apartment, packed our lives into a 10×10 storage unit and took off across the country with nothing but a Subaru, our dog and a 2 person tent (you can read about our adventures under the Two and a Half BAMFS in Banff tab).
For years, I had scrolled jealously through the feeds of wanderers on Instagram. I had longingly devoured articles with titles like, “Why You Should Quit Your Job and Travel the World.” I saw all these people, these perfect internet people, living the dream, living my dream. I saw that it was possible. For them.
“I could never do that.” I would scoff to myself.
There were a million reasons why I couldn’t. I was a broke college student, a broke young adult, I had a life, a job, family and a dog counting on me, my boyfriend, college to graduate from, careers to start. We were too young, the world was too vast and scary.
As I scrolled through my Instagram feed with my increasingly long list of “can’t”s, I started to see all these beautiful images of Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta.
I had graduated from college and still had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up and was working an unsatisfying job, my boyfriend had decided college wasn’t for him and was working a manual labor job.
Slowly, an idea began to form in my mind.
Maybe quitting our jobs to travel the world was too lofty, but maybe it didn’t have to be the world. Maybe it could just be Canada.
Once I got up the courage to have that first initial thought of “maybe I could”, every “can’t” started to melt away.
If we pinched our pennies and saved, and weren’t paying rent on an apartment, we’d have enough money to spend a few months on the road. We could camp and sleep in our Subaru to avoid paying for lodging. And Canada wasn’t that vast and scary, was it? Even at 21, it seemed attainable.
And what was the worst that could happen? We’d break down, we’d be stranded, we’d have to go live with my parents for awhile.
Once I actually let myself start to believe that I could live my dream, nothing else was that scary. Saving money came easily. Quitting jobs we weren’t passionate about wasn’t hard. There were more apartments we could rent when we came back. Our friends and families understood; we weren’t leaving forever. Just the summer.
So, we packed our 1998 Subaru Outback to the brim and headed North. I don’t think it occurred to me until the first night we were on the road that we were truly homeless. It was a little scary, but also exhilarating.
We were on the road for over 40 days and didn’t pay for a single night of lodging. We slept in our car, pitched our tent or stayed with relatives every night. A couple grand got us through the summer, including unforeseen expenses, and held us over until we found jobs upon our return in August.
Was it all rainbows and butterflies?
The radiator in our Subaru started to go on the fritz several days into our trip. We ended up having to replace it in a parts store parking lot in the middle-of-nowhere Montana and the car continued to overheat every time we’d go less than 25mph for the rest of the trip.
We found ourselves in a town called Fort McCloud, Alberta and realized our credit cards didn’t work outside the US and that Canada has hardly any free camping. We called my dad in tears in a Tim Horton’s parking lot. After buying donuts and poutine with the last of our Canadian cash, we headed back to America after less than six hours and changed trajectory.
One night, after scouring the Washington and Oregon coasts for hours looking for an open campsite, we ended up sleeping (or at least parking for the night) in a Fred Meyer parking lot and brushing our teeth in their bathroom.
Showers were not plentiful. I did an 11 day stint without bathing and had to get pretty creative with trial passes at gyms to get clean.
Some nights were terrifying. Some nights were cold. Some nights were hot. I was grumpy at times. He was grumpy at times. The dog was grumpy at times.
Our tire went flat on a 4wd road, we almost got stuck more times than I can count. We got eaten alive by mosquitoes and ate hummus for at least 1/3 of our meals.
We found ourselves in Redding, CA in August and the heat was oppressive, even at night, the car was protesting, the dog ran through a burr bush and had thousands of burrs stuck in her fur and we were homesick. We cut our trip a few weeks short and lived with my parents until we found a new place to call home.
The worst happened.
It wasn’t that bad.
The trip was actually the best experience of my life.
We saw amazing things, we bonded, we laughed, we turned our Subaru into a home.
We lived our dream.
I chose to be homeless because it was my dream to cut my ties and just go.
I’m telling you this story, not because I want to be another one of those perfect internet people who are living your dream life. I don’t want to be another “can’t”. I want to motivate you to find your “can”.
Whether your dream is to travel, or to pursue a freelance career, or to publish a book, my advice is this: find your “can” and just do it.
Things will go wrong. It won’t be what you expected. But if you’re living your dream? That’s all any of us can ask for.
Here’s a picture of Lake Louise. This was the start of my “can”. I never made it there, but was that really the point?
Just do it, you won’t regret it. I promise.