Megan & Michael are the creative force behind FreshOffTheGrid.com. Undoubtedly one of the best, if not THE best camp recipe and lifestyle blogs on the internet. From August of 2015 to September of 2016, they traveled the country in their Ford Focus hatchback reminding us that you don’t have to break the bank on the perfect rig to travel full-time. I’m delighted that Megan & Michael took the time to share with us some insight into their time on the road. I hope you’ll find their words of wisdom and stunning imagery as inspiring as we do.
What prompted your decision to travel and live full-time out of your vehicle?
There were a lot of different inputs that informed our decision to travel full time. From the first day we met, we bonded over our mutual desire to see the world. We were very inspired by the concept of “slow travel”, which was introduced to us in the book Way of the World. We wanted to be able to really explore and absorb the places we visited. Something that just isn’t possible with only 2 weeks of paid vacation a year.
We were also feeling very dissatisfied with our desk jobs in Los Angeles, and found ourselves yearning for an alternative to the daily 9-to-5 grind. We had become trapped in a circular routine. We spent all our time working so we could pay for our apartment, so we could have a place to sleep, to allow us to go to work the next day. It felt like we were playing a game we could never win. So we starting thinking about how to create our own game. A game we felt enjoyable to play.
What do you both do for a living? How do you fund your lifestyle?
We run a camp cooking website called Fresh Off the Grid that aims to elevate people’s outdoor experience through food and drink. We develop recipes for camping, along with skill guides and gear reviews of outdoor cooking equipment. We are able to make some money off of the website, but we also do a lot of freelance work for outdoor and food brands.
Making money on the road is not as easy as people make it look, and it took us a very long time before we started breaking even with our monthly expenses. What really funded our lifestyle for the bulk of the trip was our own personal savings. Coming up with a detailed monthly budget and saving accordingly was the single most important thing we did to fund our full time travel.
What was life like between deciding to live on the road full-time and setting off to do it?
We were filled with nervous-excitement. Quitting good paying jobs, giving up employer provided healthcare, and leaving a rent-controlled apartment was not something we did lightly. Doubt about whether we were doing the right thing was ever-present. It was a big step for us, a pivotal moment in our lives. We were taking out a big bet on ourselves. This is as close to all in on something as we’ve ever been. We hoped it would work out, but ultimately we had no way of knowing. But we were excited for it all the same. We were really looking forward to the road ahead of us and excited to be starting a new chapter together. We knew there would be challenges, but facing them was all apart of the journey.
What are few of your favorite pieces of everyday gear?
Dutch oven – A cast iron dutch oven is by far the most versatile piece of camp cookware you can own. Sautée, stew, braise, and bake. When you learn how to cook in a dutch oven, there’s a whole new world of camp food available to you.
AeroPress Coffee Maker – As serious coffee drinkers, this was our preferred brew method during the trip. Two cups in the morning, and a cup in the afternoon, our AeroPress is one of our heavy rotation pieces of equipment.
Insulated Coffee Mugs – We started with enamelware mugs, but we hated having to gulp down our coffee before it got cold. These insulated coffee mugs from Snow Peak were expensive, but vastly improved our coffee drinking experience.
IKEA Foam mattress – When you’re traveling full time, it’s very easy to become chronically fatigued. Night after night of less than restful sleep can take its toll. That why we invested in a nice foam mattress that we cut to fit inside of our car.
What are some of the challenges of full-time travel?
Micro-decisions. When you’re traveling full time you spend a tremendous amount of mental energy making basic decisions most people don’t even have to consider. Where are we sleeping tonight? How are we going to get there? This campsite is self-register, do you have any singles? Where are we getting water from? Where is the nearest bathroom? When you’re traveling everyday, these are decisions you have make over and over again. You spend a lot of energy figuring it out once, just so it can become useless knowledge tomorrow. It can be exhausting. When you have a well-established routine at home, these things don’t require any thought. But it is easy to get bogged down with all the very little details when you’re on the road.
What have you learned about each other as a result of spending so much time together?
Good communication is not something you magically achieve, it is a process you need to practice every single day. Traveling with (or without) your significant other can be stressful, but add in extremely cramped quarters and limited ability to shower, and it becomes more important than ever to have clear communication. The most important thing is to keep trying. Try to have the productive and respectful conversation. The car is barely big enough for the two of us, there’s no space for an elephant to fill the room between us.
What has surprised you most about this lifestyle?
The nomadic life can be very liberating, but it comes at the cost of feeling part of a community. We didn’t realize how much our close circle of friends really meant to us until after we left. As we travelled from place to place, we found ourselves feeling like perpetual strangers. We met a lot of interesting people along the way, but our wandering lifestyle prevented us from forming lasting connections.
But we found an unlikely solution in social media. By connecting with other travels on Instagram, we were able to stay in touch with a lot of people we met up with on the road. In fact, we’ve “met” a bunch of fellow travelers on Instagram and now are good friends in real life.
What’s the biggest misconception about your lifestyle?
That life on the road is not the same thing as “they lived happily ever after.” Life on the road is still real life. Gas, groceries, health insurance, etc still cost real money like it does for everyone else. While we have some flexibility in our location and can pursue the things we want, we didn’t win the lotto. The reality is that we still spend a lot of time working and trying to make ends meet, only now we’re our own bosses.
What are you most excited about for the future?
Building a sustainable location-independent career that allows us the luxury to travel when we want to or stay in one place. Life on the road was liberating in some ways and confining in others. What we hope to achieve in the future is the financial stability and flexibility to allow us full autonomy over our day to day lives.
You can find Megan & Michael and their phenomenal library of camp recipes at www.freshoffthegrid.com.