I don’t set out to deceive.
When I’m in front of an audience, the minute hand of the clock swooshes around with barely enough time to make my main point. On social media, limited attention spans and the competitive atmosphere of it all force me to abbreviate even more.
And before I realize it, I’ve built a community with a constant stream of newcomers who have no idea how this whole thing started.
This is us. Eric + Brittany + Caspian Highland. We are getting ready to drive around the world…”hourless life social media, nov. 20, 2020
If you found us through a mere hashtag, those words may make you quit scrolling for a second. What thought crosses your mind? “I’d love to do that. I wonder if I could?” Or maybe, “Some people have all the luck.”
Either response is missing something important. Eric and I didn’t just wake up one morning with the inclination, money, and knowledge to attempt a global overlanding journey. No, this has been ten years in the making.
More than that, back then we didn’t even know this was something we wanted to do. Stumbling upon the dream itself was part of the process.
So before you go and think, “I can’t.” or “I totally can!,” let’s talk about THE LONG GAME.
2011: Self-employment (sort of, not really)
The year we got married, both Eric and I were working for other people in Seattle and just barely getting by. We were emerging from a dark season, rebuilding all parts of our lives–from family relationships to credit scores.
I made a simple sandwich for Eric to take to work every day, wrapped in aluminum foil with a Sharpie-branded message on it. We hardly had any furniture in our one-bedroom apartment and slept on a futon.
We didn’t see each other much because we usually had different days off, plus Eric took every overtime shift he could. When we did have the rare day to spend together, we didn’t have money to spend on entertainment. We would lay out on a picnic blanket in the park or wander through a farmers’ market.
Through it all, we clung to each other and the dream we had: co-founding a business we could work on together.
In January 2011, we founded a boutique online marketing agency called Knektion, LLC. Knektion offered customized social media marketing services and consulting to small businesses.
We had one consulting client that first year, as we continued to work our normal jobs. Off to a blazing start, right?
2012: Self-employment (do or die)
December 2011, we moved to Austin. After a nine-month application process, Eric had secured an amazing executive position within the Texas state government. It was the perfect vertical move after 20 years in the United States Coast Guard, along with a salary that blew our minds at the time. Time to go fancy-suit-shopping.
A mere two months into the job, Eric handed in his resignation. What should not have been a political position, was. He had no interest in playing that game at the expense of taxpayers.
So there we were: shaken. We’d just moved across the country for a job and now we had a pit the size of the Grand Canyon in our stomachs. What the heck were we going to do?
The answer was fairly obvious: it was time to go all-in with our dream of self-employment. We set a modest financial goal: we had to make $2,000 in the next month, or go get real jobs again.
We worked random gigs during SXSW 2012 and took everything else we could find to hit that first financial goal. And we started hustling with Knektion. We were out almost every night at local networking events. Eric taught about SEO and social media at coffee shop gatherings and co-working spaces. We weren’t paid to teach, mind you–we were just trying to get our name out there.
Every couple of weeks, we would set a new financial goal: make $XXX by this date or throw in the towel. But after about six months, we didn’t have to set those little goals anymore. We weren’t earning much, but we were paying our bills. Our dream had become a reality.
In addition to Knektion, we also founded a blog about the city of Austin called The Austinot. This website was supposed to be a showcase for potential online marketing clients, to show them what we could do with SEO, social media, and content creation.
But to our surprise, The Austinot quickly began to gain a large readership. We started publishing articles four days a week, with a podcast on Fridays.
What a thrill! We were making a living working for ourselves, and we were doing it together.
Mid-year in 2012, we got serious about the idea of traveling full-time in an RV. But we were just getting started with our business and that lifestyle still felt like a far-away dream.
2013: Contemplating homelessness
We take our dreams seriously. From a financial standpoint, we realized early that two things needed to happen in order for us to travel full-time:
- Our social media clients had to trust us. They had to know us well enough to believe we’d continue to do good work for them while traveling.
- The Austinot needed a team of writers who could continue to put articles together in Austin. Eric and I could do everything else remotely.
So we worked toward both those things and they were in place as we welcomed the end of 2013.
The final push to make our dream a reality? We did not renew our apartment lease. If we didn’t have an RV to live in by February 2014, then we would be homeless.
2014: Full-time travel
February 21, 2014 is our nomadiversary. On that day, we moved into a 40-foot diesel motorhome, after selling most everything we owned.
We’ve been traveling full-time ever since then.
There wasn’t any dramatic transition as we left Austin. We were so ready for our new lifestyle, which we’d been actively dreaming about for two years (and thinking about for longer). We were blissfully happy to be able to work full-time for ourselves AND explore the country at the same time.
Before we got on the road, we started a new blog to document our travels, called RV Wanderlust.
2016: Let’s have a baby
We have four grown children who are mine through marriage. As of this writing, our two eldest sons are serving in the United States Coast Guard, our daughter has given us our first grandchild, and the youngest is pursuing a medical degree. From the time we started RVing, they joined us whenever they were out of school to live the nomadic life.
In 2016, we grew our family. Caspian Theodore was born on Dec. 3, 2016, and he’s filled our lives with joyful noise ever since then. He doesn’t know life apart from full-time travel.
Looking back, I couldn’t have been more dumb where business was concerned. For whatever reason, I thought I’d be able to continue working like normal while taking care of a baby.
As the months went on, Caspian slept less and demanded more active attention. Juggling his care and business commitments was creating the most crippling stress. Eric and my relationship took the hit.
The best I could do was maintain. We weren’t building or innovating our businesses. We were coasting on the wave of past success.
During my pregnancy, we bought a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and Eric started a Jeep blog called Jeepsies. Because, really, you can’t have too many websites…
Oh, and Eric started Coast Guard Jeep Club in 2017, quickly growing it to 1,000 members in 49 U.S. states and other countries.
2018: This thing called overlanding
Okay, just as a reminder: it’s now been almost six years since we started working towards full-time travel and four years since we made it happen.
We entered 2018 with five business projects between the two of us:
- The Austinot
- RV Wanderlust
- Coast Guard Jeep Club
We were making good money. We could eat out whenever we wanted, without really thinking about how much we were spending.
But as far as dedicating time to seeing our businesses thrive, while also making family the first priority, it wasn’t working. Unfortunately, tackling the solution to being so overextended seemed harder than the day-to-day push to maintain.
On the positive side, we radically changed our style of travel in 2018. For the previous four years of travel, we stayed in campgrounds with full hookups almost all the time (electricity, water, sewer). But I’d grown tired of seeing our friends camped on the edge of a canyon in the Badlands or beside a remote lake in Montana.
It felt like we weren’t reaching the potential we had as full-time travelers–almost like we were cheating ourselves.
So we bought a 100-watt solar suitcase and went wild camping. We were thrilled to mark 22 straight days with no hookups in Moab. By the end of the year, we had racked up 105/365 days of dry camping.
I was energized to welcome even greater possibilities. When I stumbled on a new word, “overlanding,” it instantly piqued my curiosity.
DRIVING THROUGH OTHER COUNTRIES…THAT SOUNDS SO COOL. BUT IT HAS TO BE SINGLES AND COUPLES. THERE’S NO WAY PEOPLE OVERLAND WITH KIDS…RIGHT?
When I Googled, “overlanding family,” I found a podcast episode that changed my life.
Before I’d listened to the full episode, I was thinking, “They drove all the way around the world with two little girls. I can definitely do it with my one little boy. We should do that.”
Skipping ahead a little bit: on the same day in May 2018, I told Eric what overlanding was AND that I wanted to drive around the world. He had some questions, but he was open to the idea.
We decided to outfit our Jeep for overlanding with an iKamper roof top tent, ARB fridge, and friend-made cabinets. By October, we were at our first Overland Expo and were two months into planning our first international overlanding trip.
We decided to overland through the interior of Mexico. It was a foreign country and definitely qualified as international overlanding. But it was also distantly familiar, since Eric’s mother was born in Mexico and Spanish was his first language.
In fact, we decided to make Puebla our southernmost destination, where we could reunite with Eric’s uncles, aunts, and cousins who he hadn’t seen in about 30 years.
We went a step further. Even though this was an experiment, testing whether we even liked international overlanding, we decided to sell our RV.
YEP, LET’S JUST GET RID OF OUR HOME, LIVE OUT OF OUR JEEP, AND GIVE THIS WHOLE OVERLANDING THING A REAL TRY.
It seemed like a great idea.
2019: My, how we’ve changed
Two thousand miles through interior Mexico later (while potty-training our two-year-old), we dubbed the experiment a smashing success.
Seriously, we loved Mexico. We loved everything about our time there and, more importantly, we loved overlanding through a foreign country.
My husband, who once called himself a “steel and concrete guy” and wouldn’t be caught dead in the wilderness, living out of a tent underneath the stars…who would’ve imagined?
Be careful; this is what travel can do to you.
While we were in Mexico, our friends put their Winnebago up for sale. We weren’t planning to buy another RV so soon, but it was the exact make and model we wanted when the time came.
Plus, this baby was a wild camping dream with 420 watts of solar panels on the roof, an expanded battery bank, and the maneuverability of the Sprinter chassis.
We couldn’t pass up the opportunity. When we got back to the States in March, we bought it and named it Basecamp.
At this point, we knew we were going to drive around the world. But we didn’t want to leave the country until our son Silas graduated high school in May 2021. So 2021 became our year of departure.
Time to set new goals to make it happen.
This transition was going to be our biggest yet.
2020: Burning it all down on purpose
Hello, 2020. We all know how that turned out.
But back when it was just a normal year, full of possibility, we overlanded 2,000 miles through the whole Baja Peninsula in Mexico.
I didn’t talk about it much in all my blog posts, but that trip was a challenge. I was still working, five days a week. Grabbing every spare moment when I wasn’t taking care of Caspian (read: bundling up at 5 a.m. in the cold and working outside, working almost every night after Caspian went to bed).
Besides the cold weather, what made it a challenge was the poor Internet coverage in Baja.
Eric and I already knew our international travel goals were going to require a huge change for our businesses. There was no way we could be online during regular business hours, or even commit to being online at specific times. We couldn’t structure our travel around Internet anymore.
We set some business goals for 2020, but I wasn’t sure I could go through with them.
COVID-19 and shelter-in-place happened. We landed in Seattle to take care of Eric’s elderly mother, who was living at home by herself. It was a difficult season, but it was also beautifully orchestrated for our family’s good.
I HELD MY BREATH AND PULLED THE TRIGGER ON THE CHANGES THAT NEEDED TO HAPPEN IF I WAS GOING TO ACCOMPLISH MY DREAM OF DRIVING AROUND THE WORLD.
We sold The Austinot. We handed leadership of Coast Guard Jeep Club to others. We leaned on our friend Joleen to manage Knektion clients day-to-day (she started working with us in 2019). And we started consolidating RV Wanderlust and Jeepsies into one new brand.
On Nov. 14, 2020, we officially launched Hourless Life. On Nov. 30, 2020, our new website went live, including the best of our Jeepsies and RV Wanderlust content.
All of these changes meant a sizable drop in income. They also meant a huge increase in freedom, focus on family, and presence in the moment.
When we started traveling in 2014, we thought we needed to earn a certain income. We wanted a certain “quality of life.”
We now know how little money we actually need. Because quality of life now means less stress, more time to pursue personal interests, the ability to unplug from social media, and spending time with family without constantly thinking about all the work that needs to get done.
2021: The beginning
The year 2021 is a beginning for us, but that beginning has been a decade in the making. Our long game.
I have one point to make. We’re normal people, like you. Our story is long and twisty.
Yes, we’re going to drive around the world.
Yes, you can do it, too. If you want. But if it takes two years, or ten years, to make it happen, then don’t give up.
And if driving around the world isn’t your thing, then find your thing and pursue it.
I’m rooting for you.