Is life about attaining financial security -- potentially giving up one's passions in exchange for a stable job -- or is it about taking risks to live the life you really want to live or never even imagined possible before? These are the questions that Canadian couple Mat and Danielle of Exploring Alternatives asked themselves before quitting their jobs, selling their house and embarking on a two-year-long journey in a converted van that has brought them to various places all over Canada and the United States. In the process, they've learned that life is not about stuff, but unforgettable experiences. Here's a recent video of the pair by Kirsten Dirksen of Fair Companies:
On their blog, Danielle recounts how both of them were interested in simple living from the beginning of their relationship. However, they got caught up in the rat race for a few years, chasing after money to pay off a mortgage and things to fill the house:
Somewhere along the way, we ended up doing the exact opposite of what we wanted. Instead of simplifying, we bought a house and spent months hauling furniture, paint and knick knacks into it to surround ourselves with stuff that we liked. Our bills went up so we got better jobs, started working more, and eventually all we did was work during the day and watch Netflix every night because we were too exhausted to do anything else.
Eventually, they realized they could not continue living this stressful lifestyle, and decided on drastic downsizing measures: selling everything and doing "tons of research" in finding alternatives and a vehicle that would best suit a still-comfortable and nomadic way of life. They are now able to travel on a budget that Mat equates to "the price of a cheap apartment downtown" (around $1,300). After a few modifications to the van, they travelled around for a year on money they had saved.
Here's the fold-out table that serves as their kitchen table, the sock organizer they use for various kitchen utensils. Amazingly, both of the couples' clothes and dirty laundry fits into one small container.
After that year, they returned to Ottawa for a while, and during this time, Danielle was able to find a job that allows her to work wherever there is an Internet connection, while Mat works on various creative design contracts. So after rigging up some solar panels, and finding the right mobile hotspot device, the couple is now able to work and travel at the same time (though they haven't had a cell phone for three years).
While van-life may seem too unsettled for most people, Danielle notes that they are not always on the move. Sometimes they housesit for a few months (there are a variety of online sites that help people find housesitting gigs) and other times, they go visit friends and family. In any case, they have been able to visit places and meet people they could not otherwise have encountered if they had kept on living their old lifestyle.
The couple say that the nomadic life does have its downsides, but nevertheless believe that this was the best choice for them, in balancing work with travel. In any case, we are hearing more and more people taking a similar road, changing their life perspective, downsizing and making the most out of life that they can -- albeit in an unconventional way. More over at Fair Companies and Exploring Alternatives, and to see more mobile living stories, check out this post.