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One year ago I was living in Austin, Texas.
I was engaged to be married, had recently graduated from college, had a great job, and a great community of close friends.
Austin was great, and Alyssa and I were comfortable there because we had a strong community. We had so many friends who at any point would drop what they were doing and come to our need if we called them. Even though we rarely needed to call a friend at two am, it’s reassuring to know it’s possible, right?
We not only had our 2 AM friends, but we had mentors and random acquaintances we would see on occasion. In other words, there was a familiarity. We knew people. They knew us. Life was nice and comfortable in our little community.
Then we started traveling.
Have you ever heard the saying about how geography is a great test of friendship? No? Well, geography is a great test of friendship.
It seemed like as soon as we hit the road, our communication with 97% of our friends and family came to a halt. There were no Skype calls, no texts, no Facebook messages (with the exception of the lingering group message on Facebook). At first we didn’t notice our friends were missing. After all, we had just gotten married and started this entirely new life of travel. We were PUMPED. We were waking up every day to mountains and the ocean, who cares if we don’t have any missed calls from anyone other than our parents?
But then… it hit us. We missed our friends. We missed our community. We missed running into people we knew at Whole Foods.
There was a brief period where we hit a low point, because we realized it was just us. It was nice having each other, but we still felt a void where our friends used to be.
We felt a lack of community.
So we came up with a plan. Every month on the road, we would aim to reconnect with distant family, friends, or people we met online (eek! Scary, I know). We starting shooting out emails and texts to old friends and distant family, letting them know we were going to be driving through their town.
At first it was a bit awkward. Some of these people were very distant high school friends we had never really been too close with, and others were family members we had never met. What if they were weird? What if we didn’t get along? What if we are encroaching on them, putting them out?
These were just a few of the thoughts running through our head before we started our driveway stays. As it turned out all of our doubts were wrong. People were genuinely excited to have us (or else they were good fakers!). They loved seeing young kids traveling the country and we all had a great time hanging out, drinking wine, and sharing stories.
It seemed like with each passing “driveway stay” our community was beginning to strengthen again. However, it wasn’t a community of people all enclosed in a small, geographic location, but an outstretched community, brought together through whimsy, travel, and spontaneous memories.
Plus, in the process of reconnecting with all of these people while on the road, we began to save quite a bit of money staying in drive ways and on farms.
And if I’m being honest, part of the reason Alyssa agreed to the five night rule was because it WOULD save us money. I wanted to create the rule for the social aspect of hanging out with people, and she was thinking about saving money. This is pretty typical in our relationship. I plan our calendar, and she balances our budget. We make a good team.
Several months after implementing our five night per month rule, we found ourselves going outside of our original plan of only staying with family and friends. We began to stay with strangers across the country as word got out about the “crazy newlywed couple.” We received emails from people offering up driveways and a warm bed for us.
While living in Austin I couldn’t have imagined staying in a stranger’s driveway or home, but for some reason traveling helped push me out of my comfort zone. What other time in your life would you have this awesome opportunity to stay with strangers in such a cool way?
The emails we received would read something like this:
My wife and I heard about you and your wife’s travel and noticed on your calendar that you would be passing through (random town) in a few weeks. We would love to host you while you’re in town if you’d like. Let us know.
After reading the email I would do a quick online search and make sure they weren’t a creeper before saying yes, but most of the time when people reached out we would gladly accept their offer.
While we began to meet people from all walks of life, it made me realize how sheltered I had been in Austin. Unknowingly, we had built up this core group of friends who thought the same way we did and believed all the same things we believed.
Also, another strange thing began to happen while we were on the road. We started to meet fellow travelers, RVers, and young people who were living a life similar to ours. Back in Austin, I didn’t know anybody who lived full-time on the road. But once I put myself out there, I found an entirely new world of people who were living this awesome, unconventional life.
Now, as I look at the group of people I call “my community,” they are mostly RVers or entrepreneurs, writers, or international travelers. We aren’t all living in the same place, but I can call them or chat with them online at any time. Even though I lost my tight community of friends back in Austin, I found a new group of people who support my lifestyle and help encourage me to become better and not settle for average.
I have to say this is the best and worst thing about full-time travel. At first it can be really lonely. You might lose friends and relationships when getting started, but before too long you’ll find yourself being pulled towards people who are living a life similar to yours. You will find you have more in common with these people than you did with your old community, because they can understand what it is you’re going through.
As a bonus, staying in driveways or farms while on the road can save you A LOT of money. 🙂
P.S Here are a few of the people we stopped to meet on our journey! I couldn’t write this blog without showing off some of the driveways and people we stayed with.