MAK and Owen have been living on the road full time for the past three years. The couple enjoys a life of adventure by surfing, hiking, and climbing at new locations throughout the US. I have always been fascinated with the idea of packing everything into a van and living life on the road. Check out my interview with MAK and Owen to learn how they enjoy and survive a life of adventure on the road!
Tell us a little bit about yourself: who you are, where you are from…
Hey there! We’re MAK & Owen. We’ve been living on the road full time for the last three and a half years, but the idea to live this way comes from an extended road trip after college. Owen and I both wanted to take some time to see the country before we worked our way into our careers. It was Owen’s suggestion, and I was immediately on board! We spent the last six months of my senior year saving money and left just three days after graduation in the spring of 2012. That trip ended up lasting about six months where we nearly circumnavigated the US. When we ran out of money and had to return to Atlanta, Georgia we realized that we’d fallen in love with the movement of life on the road more than one particular place. We knew that we wanted to do it again, but we wanted to take the time to be sure that our new life on the road would be 100% sustainable. It took until 2016 to make that happen, but it was well worth the wait!
How did you come up with your idea to hit the road full time?
The original concept came from my (MAK) parents. They went on the road after college for a few months and camped the whole way. To this day they talk about how great that trip was, and Owen and I realized that we wanted to have an experience like that. The only difference is that we never really stopped doing it!
What was your motivation in doing this?
Owen and I are driven by our passions, which are surfing, hiking, climbing, and exploring places that are new and unfamiliar to us. Living nomadically was the best way for us to have access to all of those things on a regular basis!
How do you earn money to travel and live life on the road?
Owen and I own a graphic design business where we do Motion Graphics, Graphic Design, and Illustration. We also have a YouTube channel, run our blog BoundForNowhere.com, do freelance writing and photography as well as some social media work.
Walk us through launching the actual business.
We’ve gone on the road in the past just living on our savings. After six months of being on the road, we inevitably ran out of money and had to come off the road against our will. When we decided to go on the road for this 2.0 version we knew that we never wanted to come off the road against our will, so our plan was to build a business out of our existing careers that could sustain us remotely. We both transitioned from desk jobs into being fulltime freelancers after we had built up a client base that we knew could sustain us. For Owen, this process was a bit faster. He was able to go freelance in about 6 months, for me it took nearly a year.
What is most effective in finding new customers?
We’re really lucky to have some really loyal clients that come back to us time and time again. We’ve found that our business has grown since we went on the road through word of mouth! We also like to reach out to likeminded companies that we want to work with when we’re in their area. It’s a fun way to make connections and drum up some new business!
What lessons have you learned in living on the road?
It can be so hard to pick out just one lesson we’ve learned since going on the road. We’re learned countless things about people, ourselves, and cars but the one lesson that has stood out the most to us is the inherent kindness of perfect strangers. Time and time again people come out of nowhere and offer us their driveway for the night, internet, showers, meals and so much more. We have a completely renewed faith in humanity because of it.
Do you have any recent failures or wild success stories you could share?
As cliche as this may sound I think that the biggest lessons we’ve learned, actually went on to become success stories, but all started out as failures. The biggest one that comes to mind is that we chose our first vehicle poorly. We started out in a 1985 VW Vanagon. It was an expensive car to work on and never was 100% trustworthy. When you live on the road your car is your mode of transportation, it’s your house, your office, your bed, it’s everything. So when it stops working, everything stops working. Our first year and a half on the road was incredibly expensive because we were constantly pouring our hard-earned money into that van just to keep it moving. We should have recognized the signs sooner that we needed to move into something more reliable. Eventually, we got there, but that time made us so much better at staying cool under pressure from all the times we found ourselves broken down on the side of the road and better at diagnosing problems with our vehicle so we could be more self-reliant when we were out in the middle of nowhere. Full disclosure, it took 3 more tries to finally arrive at our current and most reliable vehicle yet! Each one of our vehicles taught us what we did and didn’t want going forward and got us to where we are today!
What is on your Podcast or Reading list?
- The Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko
- Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves by James Nestor
- Drive Nacho Drive by Brad and Sheena Van Orden
- Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan
- This is Love
- Radio Lab
- Love & Radio
- The Mortified Podcast
- Heavy Weight
- Infinite Potential
What resources have been most valuable to your journey?
Asking people who are doing what we want to do! We took a chance before going out on the road and asked people who we looked up to (but didn’t know) for advice. We were blown away by how open they were with their knowledge. We also turn to YouTube a lot for the more specific things. YouTube University is a real thing!
What has being a small business owner allowed you to do that you otherwise would not have done?
We get to call all the shots. We get to choose when we do and do not take on work. When we pull late nights and where our office is for the day. The biggest thing is that we got to choose to take two weeks off so we could hike the John Muir Trail (220 miles from Yosemite Valley to the summit of Mount Whitney) which was a major bucket list item for us!
What are your personal plans? Bucket list items?
There are so many, but more specifically we’re starting to set our sights on long term outside of the US travels. Thus far in our nearly 4 years on the road we’ve started in North America. We’re really content with what we’ve done thus far but are starting to feel the draw to the rest of the world. We don’t know where we want to start just yet but are looking at the Pan American Highway, Australia, Europe, and Africa. Mixed in there is a whole lot of bucket list items!
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a life on the road?
Start now, start simple, start cheap, just get started right now! I know it can be a daunting process to start but if you wait until you have “everything figured out” you will never get started. If you just get started you will learn what you need to learn as it happens. You just never want to live your life wondering “what if.”