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A few months before hitting the road last year, Alyssa and I went for a walk around our apartment complex in Austin. We were talking about the future and getting married, traveling, and how much of an adventure it was going to be. As we talked, I was pumped about the next year of our lives. I felt like a lucky guy. I was about to marry an amazing girl and go on an epic honeymoon. Although as much as I didn’t want to see any of the negative side of things, I felt something tugging at my heart, so I had to bring it up.
We stopped, and I took her hand.
“Babe, I can’t wait to go on this adventure with you and start our lives together. But I’m telling you right now, the biggest challenge we’re going to have on this trip is enjoying it.”
Most people would have looked at me in confusion. We were about to be married and go on a seven month honeymoon! How on Earth would the greatest challenge be to enjoy ourselves?! But she understood, and I didn’t have to explain to her in more detail the reason why it would be hard to enjoy ourselves, but I do want to share it with you.
Why would traveling the country in an RV for seven months be hard to enjoy?
I’m an entrepreneur. Having this kind of mentality means working hard and CONSTANTLY thinking about “what is next”. I’m relentless about achieving my goals and that means sacrificing time that nobody else will put in. So I knew that being on the road would be no different. I would feel pressure to sit inside all day and work, instead of enjoying what was right outside of my window, which could be something like the Pacific Ocean or snow capped mountains in Washington.
The problem was we were going to have to keep our nose to the grindstone if we wanted to make enough money to fund our journey. Our sponsorship only covered 1/3 of our expenses and we were going to have to make the rest up on our own. It was going to take a lot of work and sacrifice to make this happen, but I also knew I would never again have the opportunity to take a 48 state road trip with my newlywed wife.
So I became intentional on finding ways to be happy, while not sacrificing my work ethic.
Here is a list of the 12 best ways I’ve found to be happy while trying to make a dream happen.
1. Write down all of the things you’ve sacrificed in order to get to where you want to be. It’ so easy to forget all you’ve done to get to this point, all of the late nights and times you didn’t go out with your friends. Remember all of the moments you wanted to quit, but instead you leaned into the resistance and kept going. Alyssa and I sacrificed our jobs, security, and a lot of relationships to pursue our love of writing and film making. We constantly remembered how much we gave up in order to travel, and it helped us be content in the moment.
2. Write down all of the people who have helped you get here. One of the best ways I know how to be grateful is to remember all the people who have went out of their way to help you. Practicing this is also a great way to realize that nobody is a self made man, and we all have had people who supported us along the way. We stayed 70 nights with strangers, friends, and distant family while traveling across the country. If it wasn’t for them, we couldn’t have made our trip happen.
3. Write down all of the embarrassing mistakes you’ve made, and the valuable lessons you’ve learned from them. After moving into the RV I flooded it, broke our stairs, and backed into a parked car. Looking back at all of these things, I can now laugh about all of them. Why? Each one of them has given us an amazing memory and has taught us a valuable lesson. Case and point: Don’t go more than three days without dumping the grey tank, or the RV will flood.
4. Think back to when you were first getting started on this journey (or skill) and how far you’ve come. When Alyssa and I first started looking at RV’s we had no idea what we were getting into. We didn’t know the first thing about RV’s, but after spending almost a year in one, we can hold our own in the RV community. Both of us write for a couple different RV related websites and while we are far from experts, we know how to dump a tank, unclog our toilet, and throw together the best tasting popcorn of your life (slightly unrelated, but it’s so good!).
5. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, even people who you feel like you’re “ahead of.” Theodore Roosevelt once said that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” This couldn’t be more true. One of the first RV related sites I came across after we started RVing was GoneWithTheWynns. They caught my attention because they were a younger couple who wrote and made quirky videos. I was instantly hooked on their content and after getting over my initial excitement, I felt pretty depressed. I realized my website was nowhere near as good as theirs, and it was going to take me years to become that good at video editing. By comparing myself to someone who had been practicing their craft for years, I put myself in a place I didn’t want to be in.
After learning this lesson the hard way, I found a good alternative to this was to remember that everyone has to start somewhere. So instead of comparing myself to others, I started to focus on becoming a little better everyday. Plus, once I quit comparing myself to The Wynns I became online friends with them and now see them as mentor-like figures.
Nothing good will ever come from comparing yourself to others.
6. Take intentional time to rest. Alyssa’s and my first three weeks on the road were exhilarating. We were RVing and on our honeymoon! Everyday we were waking up with different scenery and our pace was impossible to keep up long term. We were making 5-6 drives in our new 29 ft. RV and before long we hit a wall. I’m not sure if it was because we had been in the desert for weeks or it was the constant go-go-go, but once we hit California it took us a week or two of putting work to the side to really regain our energy. We realized the only way we could keep traveling was to take intentional time off, even if it was once a week or a nap in the afternoon. I learned that even a 20 minute power nap around lunch time could help my mind slow down enough to make it through the day.
7. Read a book. I read for 20 minutes every morning, typically a book that is self help of some kind. Reading these types of books is similar to having a great conversation with someone. I find that a good book can be your best friend, if you don’t have a great circle of people to hang out with. If you’re the average of the five people you hang out with, then the best way to lift yourself up is reading books from people who are smarter.
8. Quit saying yes to everything and limit what you take on, this allows you to do a better job and not get as stressed. This is the key to being happy while you’re hustling for your dreams. If you say yes to everything and take on more than you can handle, you’re going to crash and burn. It’s only a matter of time. By knowing how much you can realistically handle and only accepting that much, it will allow you to do your best work and actually enjoy the process.
9. Mentor others where you have already been successful. Giving back is one of those rare things that allows us to shift our focus from ourselves to others, and it’s a wonderful feeling. I don’t take enough intentional time to do this. One small way Alyssa and I have been able to do this is through our blogs and exchanging emails with people who want to start RVing. We’ve truly enjoyed talking to people who are living full-time on the road or are thinking about taking the leap. It inspires us just as much as talking to them.
10. Exercise. I’m such a hypocrite even writing this, but exercise is so important to being happy while you work. On the days where I gather up the motivation to work out, I feel so much more driven. I feel myself reverting back to my sports-like mentality where I feel like anything is possible. Regular exercise will also help you get great sleep at night, which will help you be more rejuvenated and productive when you wake up. (I should really go exercise today… 🙂
11. Keep your friendships alive. The One Thing by Gary Keller is a great book that talks about focusing on the things in your life that matter. This is what he said about relationships:
“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – Work, Family, Health, Friends and Spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the Air.
You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.
But the other four Balls – Family, Health, Friends and Spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these; they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for it.”
In my last post, I talked about how we struggled with losing and finding our community when we started traveling full-time. Being able to maintain relationships while pursuing a big dream can be one of the biggest difference makers.
12. Have meaningful conversations with people who are smarter than you. It’s proven that when having meaningful conversations with people that our bodies release oxytocin, a chemical that essentially makes us feel good and be happier. I was fortunate that I married a girl much smarter than me, so I get to have these conversations every day. If you haven’t been so lucky yet, try to be intentional about meeting with mentors and friends who challenge you to think big.
Eight months later, I can truthfully say we enjoyed our time on the road. We loved RVing, even through all of our adversity on the road (being struck by lightning, leaks, driving the RV through Manhattan). We had an amazing time through the good and the bad, and we worked really hard in the process. We managed to publish (collectively) well over 100 blogs, film an entire documentary, and completely fund our entire 7 months on the road through sponsorship, guest blogging, our GoFundMe campaign, and staying in a lot of driveways. We also edited videos and worked at 48 different businesses across the country. Toward the end of our trip we traveled nearly 15 days out of the month and rarely had an off day, but somehow we managed to find time to smell the roses and intentionally go on adventures.
While we were on the west coast we went and visited Hearst Castle, an amazing estate standing on a hill that overlooks the ocean. While we were in Montana we drove up to Glacier National Park and drove the Going-to-the-Sun Road. In Vermont we spent the night on an Apple Orchard, and then picked apples the next day (I ate a TON of apple cider donuts, my new favorite).
Between working our butts off and honeymooning across America I’ve learned the importance of intentionally being happy while hustling for a big dream.
My big dream in 2014 was to work an hourly wage job in all 48 states (Hawaii is in a couple weeks and Alaska is in April!). Instead of waiting until completing the journey to be happy with achieving my quest, Alyssa and I threw caution to the wind without sacrificing our work ethic.
I no longer feel the unnecessary pressure to put my happiness on hold, until my dream or goal comes true. Because I’ve realized that when you put off happiness, you will just keep raising the bar and you never actually give yourself permission to be happy. Taking the time to be happy while you hustle for a dream is the best way I know to live a meaningful life and not put off joy for another day.