Resources for working & traveling on an extended roadtrip

As I am getting ready to embark on an “extended roadtrip” of sorts, one of the biggest components of making it all happen is research.

Jon and I have been spending countless hours of the internet compiling information we might need on the open road.

In my experience, traveling usually requires two things above anything else: an open mind and resourcefulness.

If you are resourceful, chances are you are able to find solutions to almost any imminent problem using the tools you have at hand. If you are lost, you look around and collect clues to help you be found. You are a likely survivor. Also, an open mind is probably the best thing you can have while traveling.

While reading John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley In Search of America, who coincidentally travels America in a 3/4 ton truck and camper trailer, makes a powerful statement that rings true for all adventurers:

“A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip, a trip takes us. Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip. Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the-glass bum relax and go along with it. Only then do the frustrations fall away. In this a journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”

This journey definitely has a personality all its own: I’ve never traveled with a boyfriend before. I usually do all my traveling solo. This poses unique challenges and opportunities such as, “Where do WE want to go?” and “Do you they offer employee housing for the BOTH of us?” But biggest of all, “How are WE going to make money?”

In any case, we’ve been hitting different resources to prepare ourselves for what’s out there, even though both of us are completely willing to live at the edge of our seat and go with the flow.

Here are a few resources we’ve been using that we hope will come in handy. The rest will be up to the trip to decide.

1. A good old-fashioned atlas

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2. Roadtrippers.com

This app allows you, through Google Maps, to explore different breweries, campsites, kitschy All-America spots and more through a series of filters. It’s very comprehensive and we will definitely be using it!

Roadtrippers

3.Β  Harvest Hosts

This is similar to HelpX or Workaway, but is great for RVers. You have to join for a small fee ($40 for 12 months), but once you do, you can access a list of prospective “Hosts” like winemakers, farmers, museums and other attractions that allow you to stay on their property for 24 hours for no cost. In return, you should make a small purchase from your host in order to thank them kindly for their hospitality. It’s a win win for everybody! It sounds like a great way to meet people on the road and support local business at the same time.

4. CoolWorks.com

Their motto is “jobs in great places,” and it’s very true. You can browse this FREE resource for jobs by state, season or national park. They have a Help Wanted Now tab in case you’re hard up for cash and on the road at that very moment. You can work at Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon or a series of amazing fisheries, wildlife sanctuaries, white water rafting places or resorts for a season.

Coolworks

5. Backdoorjobs.com

Perfect for the traveler with a short attention span like myself, this is a website similar to Coolworks in that you can access a list of short-term adventure jobs. There are plenty of environmental sustainability projects to choose from, campgrounds you can counsel at and an array of volunteer and paid positions to peruse.

Backdoorjobs

Now you can’t say that your dream job isn’t out there waiting for you!

In any case, I’m sure there will be more resources out there waiting for us as the time for our trip is upon us. I just have to keep an open mind and hopefully the resources will keep flooding in.

Finding the perfect vessel

It’s official: I have itchy feet.

The only thing that makes my feet even itchier is being in a relationship with a guy who loves to travel too. At the drop of a hat, we can see ourselves anywhere at anytime. We both are aware of our freedom and the excitement associated with the open road.

Jon and I are both living in Chicago in our studio apartment. It’s a nice neighborhood and we both have good jobs. We go out to eat, get dressed up and relax just like any other normal people do.

But after a few months of hibernation after Hawaii, we both put on a few extra pounds and missed our Vitamin D. I have become increasingly burned out with work, as well as him. There’s nothing quite as exhausting as working as a server in the restaurant industry 5-6 days a week, 8 hours a day. Dealing with people in general is exhausting. Most days, we like to come home from work and just zone out.

I know this is not my personality. I typically enjoy talking to and meeting new people. But when people start talking AT you, it becomes tiring, mentally and physically.

In any case, Jon thought of an idea which I think is a good one and we’re going to try it out together. The traveling couple.

Since both of us work jobs in the hospitality industry, our schedules are pretty flexible. The industry is almost always looking for help considering the transient nature of the business. Both Jon and I have wandering attention spans and get burned out quickly. Plus, we very much enjoy leisure time.

Since our time together, we average about 3 months of work and 1 month off. This gives us enough time to save money for our next “jaunt.” I enjoy the change of scenery, and most of all, I enjoy that sweet month off.

We decided that instead of getting ourselves into a lease, furnishing a place and making a life every where we land, to instead be turtles and live with our house on our back.

For that reason, we spent weeks searching for the perfect vessel.

The romantic idea in which we put into fruition is that we would like to travel and be free agents. We want to be able to go wherever, whenever, within reason.

Both of us have never seen many parts of the United States, Canada or Mexico. So we decided on an extended road trip. This trip will be comprised of work and play. It’s going to start off with camping around various places in the United States for a few weeks, possibly a month. We are going to blow off some steam, camp, fish, hike, and reconnect.

From there, with the help of websites like www.CoolWorks.com and www.WorkingCouples.com, we plan to find seasonal work, preferably jobs that offer employee housing (many of them do), as our perfect vessel can be lived in, but is a bit tight for full-time usage. If we had to, we could, as it’s fully functional.

About our setup

The per-requisites for our vessel became clearer as our dream unfolded. This was our wishlist:

Something small

Has to be relatively stealthy (We want to off road and “boondock” meaning going off the grid for a week at a time)

Good on gas mileage (HUGE!)

Must be attached to or BE and everyday vehicle (We were looking for a Vanagon, but those are very hard to find in the Midwest!)

Affordable (Under 10K)

Relatively new with good resale value

Must have cooking space, shower and toilet,self-sustainable

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As we looked, we discovered the RV world. We looked at and test drove Class A, Class B and Class C motor homes. We popped our heads in pop-ups and considered just roughing it in the back of a van with camping gear. Until we found what we were looking for.

We stopped by the Airstream dealer one afternoon on a whim, as a previous lead that day didn’t pan out. Then we saw it:

Our 2006 Northstar 850 SC Truck Camper!

Our 2006 Northstar 850 SC Truck Camper!

This camper is perfect for many reasons. It was within budget, a relatively decent year (2006), had one previous owner who took immaculate care of it and had every basic amenity we needed. PLUS, it looks stealthy enough on the back of a truck, is completely self-sustaining and would allow us to live in it for weeks, maybe even months at a time. Not only that, but if we ever wanted to, we can leave the camper behind and take our “every day” vehicle, the truck, out for a spin when need be.

Here is an overall view of the layout:

Kitchen, toilet/shower combo, dining area, bed. What else do you need?

Kitchen, toilet/shower combo, dining area, bed. What else do you need?

The inside of spacious enough. When it’s traveling, you fold it down, but when it’s time to get in and live a little, you crank up the ceiling, or pop it up, for extra head space. The unit also has an outdoor awning so we could set up a barbeque and some chairs for a nice evening under the stars.

I tried to capture a few photos, not all of them great. I’ll be updating more with time, but here are some preliminary ones:

From the outside looking in. Notice the awesome USA stickers. I want to fill that thing OUT!

From the outside looking in. Notice the awesome USA stickers. I want to fill that thing OUT!

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Jon checking out the storage under the bed

Jon checking out the storage under the bed

The toilet/shower combo.

The toilet/shower combo.

Hello, new lifestyle

Hello, new lifestyle

In any case, there are many new things to learn with this new lifestyle. Jon and I are studying up about waste removal, water tank capacity, electricity and power. It’s definitely going to be a learning curve, but a very fun one, I think!

We purchased a Ford F250 3/4 ton truck with 4 wheel drive and an off road package. The vehicle is used, a 2004, with about 150,000 miles on it. It has a 6.5 foot bed and extended cab for extra storage space (hello charcoal grill!) Pictures of that and the complete, put together vehicle soon to come.

I am excited for this journey on the open road. The only plan now is to head west. We both love the idea of a week or two of remote camping and hiking in Colorado (and places along the way) before trying to find some work. Oh yeah, and hot springs. We both want to find some hot springs. Shouldn’t be too bad, right?

Good times ahead, me thinks

Good times ahead, me thinks