I quit my job, packed my car and left!

I lived a normal life just like most people in the world. I commuted to work, got stuck in traffic, had the “same shit, different day” feel, and worked the 8-4 Monday through Friday job. I also hated it! I felt stuck, angry, depressed, had anxiety and was filled with boredom. So I left! 

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Hello Mountains!!!!

I wasn’t an asshole about it. Instead of putting in my two weeks, I put in my six week notice. Even though I quit my job and left, I still did planning. I actually planned for six months. I needed money to do what I wanted to do.

I left May 30th, 2016 and drove! Drove across country. I am from the East Coast so it only makes sense I wanted to see the WEST!!!!! I went through 9 states (only counting states that I actually spent time in,) plus one country (Canada.) Went to 23 National Parks, 8 National Forests and 13 State Parks.

I did not have all of these counted before I left. I had a general plan and went with it. I basically did one gigantic loop around the West. Starting in Colorado, I went around Colorado, down through Southern Utah and Nevada, up the Coast of California but zig-zaged so I could also see all the National Parks on the East side of the state, Yosemite, Sequoia, etc. Went up the Coast of Oregon and Washington but also did the same thing where I could see the National Parks on the East side of the states (Crater Lake, North Cascades.) Went up to Canada and saw the Canadian Rockies. Then went down to Montana (Glacier National Park), Wyoming (Yellowstone), got smoked out by a forest fire, and then headed home through South Dakota. Then drove all the way back to Buffalo, my hometown.

As far as money went, I did not spend much at all. In three months, I got back at the end of August, I spent $5,000 and that’s including all of my bills. I still had my car payment, car insurance, student loans, etc. coming out of my bank account every single month.

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I even drove on boats and went to different islands off the Pacific Ocean!

I TRAVELED ON THE CHEAP!

How I did it: 

I lived out my car! I did not spend one dollar on sleeping accommodations. I am not going to say it was the most comfortable sleep I ever had. But I didn’t mind. Money was something that I didn’t want to spend any more than I had to, so it worked for me. And I didn’t have a big car either. I did this with a little Chevy Cruise!

What I did to make it more comfortable: 

My grandmother and I (she helped me a lot,) cut out memory foam to match the backseat of my car. It helped a lot so I didn’t have to feel my seat belts going into my back, and make the back seat more squishier!

And with a small car came very little space. I just brought the essentials. Clothes, maps, money, cooking supplies, food and hiking/backpacking equipment.

Food:

I ate just like I would in my home town, so as far as food went, for the most part, I would have spent that money anyway as if I was home.

What I did: 

I brought my pocket rocket (the best mini ultralight backpacking stove I ever had.) I had my stove, gas cans, a pot, a pan, a lighter and wala! Meals on the go.

I shopped at all the local grocery stores every week, just like any other normal person would and ate right out of the trunk of my car. It worked! I literally had the stove going right in my trunk. So I would just be standing up cooking right out of my car. It was safe. I felt around the flame to make sure nothing else would heat up. Did it for three months and never had a problem.

Where I slept: 

At the beginning of the trip, it was very hard for me to pick places to sleep. I did the cliche thing and did what everyone told me to do, Walmart parking lots!

I hated it! I did it for one night and never again!!!! Who is lurking around Walmart parking lots at three in the morning? Mostly weirdos and people I wouldn’t want to trust.

New Plan!

I used apartment complex’s. People live in these apartment buildings so these are mostly safe. It was my go to if I was in a town. I tried to stay away from cities. Most crime happens there. I also used trail-heads if I was in the middle of no where. Pick trail-heads that have backpacking because these trail heads other peoples cars will be there, so you won’t be sticking out like a sore thumb.

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Kayaking with Orcas this day

I don’t have money to travel: 

Most people think you need money to travel. You do, but you don’t need much. I spent less traveling than I would at home. At home I felt like I needed to buy things to make me happy, so I spent all my money on… I don’t even know where it went. It was just gone. I did not have a penny saved up and I lived pay check to pay check. Then………

I put traveling as my number one priority. Literally cut down on everything. I started only buying things that I needed. I switched my car insurance to a different company because it saved me money. Literally cut down everything I did not need. Netflix-goodbye. Gym membership-goodbye. And then all of the sudden, I started seeing my bank account go up? Do I really need this old TV I don’t use? Sell it!

It’s amazing what you see in your bank account when you put traveling as your number one priority. And I didn’t make any more money at my job. I made the same amount of money and was able to save more money than I could imagine!

And with that, I took the trip of a life-time! There are literally jobs everywhere!!!!! Right now, I just get back from my trip, and I am jobless, but I am very confident I will find another one, if not better! After a trip like this, you value your life a lot more and push yourself to do something even more amazing! Hell, I started my own business.

I don’t know if I’ll make money but whatever. It’s my own business. And I’m only bettering myself with it. My advice:

Live your dream! You only have one life. And it’s not much of a life if you do the same thing every day, year after year.

Step out of your comfort zone! You won’t regret it.

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So beautiful! Head to North Cascades National Park, it’s so amazing!

Everywhere I went to: 

National Parks: in order I visited

  • Great Sand Dunes
  • Mesa Verde
  • Arches
  • Bryce
  • Death Valley
  • Sequoia
  • Channel Islands
  • Yosemite
  • Kings Canyon
  • Lassen Volcanic
  • Crater Lake
  • Olympic
  • North Cascades
  • San Juan
  • Kootenay (Canada)
  • Banff (Canada)
  • Jasper (Canada)
  • Yoho (Canada)
  • Waterton (Canada)
  • Glacier
  • Yellowstone
  • Badlands

National Forests: (in order I visited)

  • Maroon Bells
  • Sequoia
  • White River
  • Gifford Pinchot
  • Siuslaw
  • Mount Baker
  • Snoqualme
  • Okanogan-Wenatchee

State Parks: (in order I visited)

  • Valley of Fire
  • Point Mugu
  • Pfeiffer
  • Julia Pfeiffer
  • Andrew Molera
  • Garrapata
  • Point Lobos
  • Natural Bridge
  • Cape Lookout
  • Oswald
  • Moran
  • Lime Kiln Point
  • Obstruction

States: (in order)

  • Colorado
  • Utah
  • Nevada
  • California
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Canada
  • Montana
  • Wyoming
  • South Dakota
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Hiking on an abandoned railroad bridge is always fun!

Thank you so much for reading and I really hope you enjoyed this article and will take a trip for yourself!

Sincerely,

Shelly/Livingonthedirt

About the Author:

Hi, I'm Shelly! A traveler, hiker and an outdoor enthusiast. My dream my whole life was to travel, so I stopped dreaming and started doing. I quit my job and I am currently doing whatever it takes to keep going. I'll pick up jobs along the way and do what it takes to keep being a full-time traveler! I can prove that you don't need to come from money or anywhere special to live your dream. You just have to have the power of your own life to finally say YES!

18 Comments

  1. Cautlin September 12, 2016 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    Hi Shelly! How long did it take you to find another job/career when you returned? That is my biggest fear!

    • shelly September 13, 2016 at 5:53 pm - Reply

      I just returned a couple weeks ago. I already found a lot of job opportunities, but I did not pursue any of them yet. So really I could already have a job right now, but I’m trying to work on my business. There are so many jobs out there. I honestly wouldn’t worry about it. I use to worry about that, but then you realize there are so many possibilities you can do if you really are in a pinch, and then can always work on getting yourself a better job.

  2. Cait September 12, 2016 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    That’s so awesome! You’ve been everywhere I want to go in the west practically! I plan to buy a fairly new hatchback next year and spend the next 4 years doing nothing but working and paying it off to go travel!

    • shelly September 13, 2016 at 5:54 pm - Reply

      That’s so awesome Cait! I’m so happy for you!!! Traveling is amazing and can’t wait to see you live your dream 🙂

  3. Michelle Mull September 14, 2016 at 10:52 pm - Reply

    Hi Shelly, I met you on the JMT the day you got your permit and decided to go. I think you are amazing and loved your article. I admire you and learned a thing or two from you. Important things. Stay the way you are! All the best to you in your future.

    • shelly September 15, 2016 at 3:31 pm - Reply

      Thank you Michelle! I am very happy that all three of you made it to the end! That feeling must have felt so incredible!!!!! I’m very happy I met you. All of you were very kind :). Hope the best for you three and let me know if you end up writing that book. I’ll purchase a copy!

  4. Melissa W September 15, 2016 at 6:02 am - Reply

    This is very inspiring! I really hope to be able to do something this adventurous. Can you tell me how you handled personal hygiene like showering? Thanks!

    • shelly September 15, 2016 at 3:41 pm - Reply

      Showering was a bit of a challenge but there are options, and if hygiene is something your worried about, you don’t have to. If I put showering as a priority, I could have showered more. My regular was showering once a week. Sometimes longer. But that was my choice. Showering takes a little bit of time on the road because you have to find them. You can go to campgrounds, recreation centers, conventional hot springs have showers (they want you to wash off before and after). Mostly, I always had baby wipes and I would wipe down every night before bed, so I kind of always felt clean. I took pride in my teeth (mouth was always clean on the road) and my feet (your feet are your best friends on the road.) Take care of your feet! So I always wiped down my feet before bed too. Anyway, I also had biodegradable soap. So pretty much wherever, trail-heads were my go-to since I was always at a trail-head. I would take a “shower” with my soap. I literally would pour a gallon of water on my head, scrub with my soap, and then pour another gallon of water over my head to rinse out the soap. After doing that and cleaning up with baby wipes, I felt golden! And I would do this often. Hope this helps. Just remember, there is always a way. And once your out there doing it, you naturally figure it out. Thank you for reading and hope you have a great day!

  5. Sai September 16, 2016 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Where did you take showers in the mornings??

    • shelly September 16, 2016 at 11:36 pm - Reply

      It wouldn’t necessarily happen in the morning. It would more or less happen when I would find a shower. I would take showers in recreation centers, campgrounds, and literally take my own showers with the biodegradable soap I would have. I literally would just pour a gallon of water over my head, wash my hair with soap, and then rinse it out again. I then would have baby wipes to give myself a “bath.” I hope this helps. Thank you for reading 🙂

  6. Lisa September 17, 2016 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    Wow,are we the same person?! I quit my job in April 2016 to go on a national park road trip! I visited most of the same places you did! That’s so crazy! I also planned for 6months and headed home to Maryland a few months earlier. I’m saving some more $$ to continue my national park road trip 🙂

    • shelly September 18, 2016 at 12:03 pm - Reply

      That’s awesome! I guess we are the same person because I was planning on six months also, but shortened my trip for a few reasons. But just like you, not done yet! Hopefully going on another adventure soon! That’s awesome that you did that. That was such a wonderful experience!!!!

  7. Luna September 19, 2016 at 2:50 pm - Reply

    Hello there,
    I was wondering if you had any trouble sleeping that whole time, whether due to comfort, noise, safety concerns- maybe just being nervous about who/what’s out there? Lol. Did you carry any weapons (you know, for self-defense)?
    Thanks

    • shelly September 19, 2016 at 6:39 pm - Reply

      At first it was a little difficult for me to sleep at night. I was squished in the backseat of my car so it wasn’t very comfortable. And I was a little uneasy of the night. But then I just got over it. I did the best I could to be prepared, and did the best I could to pick a safe place to sleep at the end of every night. I did have weapons, which did make me feel a lot safer. I had bear spray, a knife, an air horn, a beaken, and a whistle. I hope this helps. Best advice is to just be prepared. Prepare yourself with the right clothes so your not too hot or too cold, prepare yourself with a safe place to sleep, and prepare yourself with weapons in case something bad were to happen. If you do these things, you should be fine. 🙂

      • Luna September 19, 2016 at 10:31 pm - Reply

        Awesome, thanks for sharing! 🙂

  8. Michael paul July 22, 2017 at 2:26 am - Reply

    Hi Shelly, I’ve been ready to do this for years. Gone on a few short trips. Hilton head , key west , want to see the west coast but don’t want to go alone. If you ever want to visit southern Maine let me know. Would love to meet you. Wish there were more like you out there. Safe travels. Michael.

    • shelly July 23, 2017 at 12:21 am - Reply

      Going alone isn’t as bad as you think it is. I was really hesitant at first, but it ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever felt! I think you should go and give it a try. Thanks for the Maine invite! I’ll definitely let you know if I end up there. I’ve been wanting to do a canoe trip there! Love Canoeing. One of my favorite hobbies. Thanks for reading by the way and keep in touch!
      Livingonthedirt AKA Shelly

  9. eddie August 27, 2017 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    Im always amazed at all the different places….

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