5 Life Lessons I Learned While Living on the Road
Note from Eric Handler, Positively Positive’s publisher and co-founder:
Adam’s (the author of the below blog) new feature-length documentary “I’m Fine, Thanks.” is going to be AMAZING. It’s a collection of stories about life, the choices we all make, and the paths we ultimately decide to follow. Yes, I was interviewed for it so I am a little biased 🙂
Check out the trailer and you will see the documentary is life-changing and groundbreaking. The film has already been shot. To make it the best it can be, I personally invite you to join me in Kickstarting it with funding (as little as $5). Every dollar will help get this film finished and in theatres. There are many great rewards for giving. This is a great opportunity in which we can pledge to inspire people to live wide awake and to their full potential. Please hurry, there are only a few days left for them to hit their goal! And by the way, Kickstarter also happens to be one of my favorite sites.
By Adam Baker
Over the last four years, my young family has lived a big chunk of our life on the road.
In 2009, we sold our possessions, paid down our debt, and set off to backpack Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand with our one-year-old daughter. The next year we returned to the U.S., but found ourselves back on the road touring the country in our new (to us) R.V.
And finally, I recently went back around the country on another road trip—this time with a film crew of five—filming a documentary on the issue of modern-day complacency (including an inspiring visit with Eric Handler, co-founder of PositivelyPositive!).
The truth is…life on the road is a roller coaster. It’s full of extreme ups and downs.
My wife and I have experienced some of the highest highs while traveling as a young family. And, on the flip side, we’ve hit some major hurdles that forced us to learn some life lessons more quickly than we would have liked!
Here are a handful of those life lessons I learned while living on the road:
#1) The key to life is flexibility.
Flexibility in attitude.
Flexibility in lifestyle requirements.
Flexibility in relationships, money, parenting, traveling, and business.
The more you can adapt to the situations in life the more powerful your highs will be and the more quickly you’ll be able to bounce back from the lows in your life.
I wish I had known this earlier in life. I learned the hard way. I was forced to learn patience and flexibility as we backpacked around foreign countries with our young daughter. I had no choice but to learn!
Having recognized this earlier—I could have saved a lot of stress and turmoil early on during our time on the road.
#2) Most things are way easier than you think.
People ask me all the time how we travel with kids.
The truth is simple: it’s not nearly as hard as everyone makes it out to be. We just went and did it. It’s that simple.
This was confirmed again and again on my most recent road trip where I interviewed over sixty people on the topic of complacency. In front of the camera, they all said the same thing:
“It was far easier than I thought to change my life path.”
Our brains, our fears, our stresses, the people in our life—all these forces are telling us this thing we want to do is more complicated than it really is. We’ll avoid change as much as we can!
But I’ve learned that—nine times out of ten—that change, event, or activity is way easier than you think!
#3) Landmarks are cool, but people are amazing!
When we first started traveling, our list of what we wanted to accomplish was a simple series of bullet-pointed places. Things, landmarks, restaurants, sights, and tourist attractions.
And, look, I’m not hating on tourist attractions or landmarks. Many of these sights have been very fun. But it’s not what we remember most.
What we remember most is the people we met.
I remember sitting on a couch in Australia and being taught the rules of rugby by a group of local guys. I remember being picked up at the New Zealand airport by strangers willing to host us for a few weeks and show us around. I remember the reaction of the women in Thailand when they saw a blue-eyed, curly blonde-haired, little girl walking around.
Now when we hit the road, I worry far less about the sights (although we do still see some) and I worry far more about getting to know the people we meet along the way!
#4) Your clutter expands to the boundaries of your life.
Life on the road requires far less stuff. Less clutter. Less things.
And you know what? That’s one of the best benefits of traveling!
Courtney and I learned that we needed almost nothing to stay happy and safe. Leading up to our first backpacking trip, we sold everything we owned down to two backpacks. Milligan, our daughter fit in the back of the smaller one (it was a backpack/carrier hybrid) and I lugged around a huge second backpack.
We had no idea how we’d pull this off when we started, but as we started selling layer after layer of our life—we found it to be refreshing, thrilling, and easier than we thought (see a pattern?).
We have more things in our life now, because we’ve allowed our boundaries to grow. When we bought the R.V., our stuff swelled to fill it. When we moved into a rented house, our stuff swelled once again.
We’ve found the best way to control our clutter is to downsize the actual space we live in.
Live IN less—and you’ll live WITH less. Giving you more money, time, and energy to pursue things you’re passionate about.
#5) If you aren’t careful—you won’t enjoy the ride.
The one thing we did (in several cases) was travel too quickly.
At times, when we weren’t careful, we’d simply zip off to the next location.
“What’s next? What’s next? What’s next?”
Many people live their whole day-to-day lives like this—especially when stuck in complacent careers and life paths. They’re always running on the wheel of life and never take time to enjoy it.
You’d think that since we’ve spent the majority of the last four years traveling we’d be free from that trap. But that’s not the case.
It’s easy to get stuck in the same “What’s next?” pattern when traveling. Often times we’d be so worried about the traveling itself, that we didn’t stop to fully enjoy the ride we were on.
My life lesson here was the realization that no matter what you do in life, you’re always going to have to remind yourself to slow down and enjoy the process.
When I feel myself falling into this pattern, I don’t ask, “What’s Next?” but instead, “What’s Now?”
Overall, my family’s choice to spend the last few years living primarily on the road has been a fantastic one.
Nothing has taught me more about life than the open road.
And no matter where we find ourselves in the next few years, my life is better having learning these five lessons.
What have you learned from traveling or living on the road?
Adam Baker is the founder of ManVsDebt.com and the producer of the new documentary “I’m Fine, Thanks.” He’s been featured in USA Today, Psychology Today, CNN Headline News, and online on MSN, Fox Business, Time, The Huffington Post, CNN Money, and The New York Times. For more on Adam follow him on Twitter.