Why should anyone else do this?

Two weeks ago, I answered the question “why do I ride?”

On that subject, I have to admit that I am not all that impressive as a cyclist. This week, the Freewheeling Freelancer was added to the open Facebook group, Bicycle Touring Websites. I already knew that there were many cyclists who ride more than I do. I was amazed at how many cyclists of all ages were riding around the world like cancer patient Walter Judson Moore, or toting their young families from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, like the Sathre-Vogel family (www.familyonbikes.org). Granted, most are touring (going out and coming home, with work or school suspended), but there are hundreds of cyclists out there who are living on the road, with small children, spouses, pets, etc. And some of them have been out there for years.

Some of them are following this blog, which I find very humbling.

Returning to the theme of why, let’s ask, “Why should anyone else?” Only I am not looking at just the question, “why ride a bicycle?” but the subject of this blog, “why live and work on the road?”

First of all, if you love to travel, then this life may well be for you. I mean travelling, not just being somewhere else. You have to be the kind of person who delights in the journey itself, with its setbacks and awesome moments of beauty. It helps if you don’t mind slipping the whole plan to stay someplace that has surprised you, or even change your destination. You don’t need to stay in a place that does not suit you, and you can tarry where you are welcome.

The Sathre-Vogel family (familyonbikes.org).

The Sathre-Vogel family (familyonbikes.org).

Second, you might want to live on the road if the job you love requires it. You could be a musician, a travel writer, a lineman working for the power companies, a freelance oil engineer, a merchant seaman, or a yachting pro. I hope to introduce you to some of these people in this blog, but we will have to see whose paths we cross, won’t we? Not many of these people ride bicycles, except for the travel writers and photographers who write for the cycling magazines. But they travel light, and many don’t “go home” between gigs, cruises, jobs, or missions.

Peter Spirito

Peter Spirito spent the late 70’s living in a trailer as a Union electrician working all over the country.

Others, like schoolteachers and missionaries, choose to live abroad, tied to one place for one or more years, but always moving on, and traveling during their free time. Some have a place called “home” back where they came from; some do not.

Third, you might have a hobby or a sport that requires that you travel to compete at the highest levels. Olympic and professional cyclists or other athletes come to mind, but so do randonneurs who seek to complete the full range of brevets in a year (visit http://rusa.org/ to learn about them). Such people are almost living on the road already, they see so little of their home bases. It’s not a great leap to organize one’s life to stay on the road, and not bother rushing “home” in between. Of course, there are a lot of variables in there, but you get the idea.

Fourth, if you have often thought seriously of selling your house, or giving it to your children, and getting out of the suburbs or the city, or wherever you feel stuck, you might want to look into living on the road. Mind you, this is not something to be done suddenly and rashly. It helps if you have already taken very long vacations or tours and enjoyed being on the road, perhaps even felt wistful about coming home. It is a big step to leave “home” behind. But there are ways short of selling your house to test out this idea.

2014-03-28 sleeping corner

My bed occupies what used to be my home office.

Personally, I have not burned my bridges behind me, yet. My son lives in the house, and he wants to keep my car as a backup vehicle.

2014-03-28 guest bunkbeds

The bunk beds opposite my sleeping corner

My apartment downstairs is a guest flat when I am gone, so he can host professional musicians who come to our city for concerts. This week I just finished converting it from a one-person flat with home office, into a three-bed bunkroom, with a drop-down secretary for a visitor’s laptop and two empty sets of drawers. With this arrangement, I could stay away indefinitely, without losing the use of my flat if and when I return.

If you are in career transition, this might be a good time to test living on the road. For example, someone recently coming out of the military or “retiring” after a career with a company could work abroad as an independent contractor for a year. There are many term employment jobs of three months or more in a wide variety of locations. Many of them should pay well enough to allow you to accumulate the necessary cash reserves to support a transition to life on the road after your assignment, especially if you train yourself to travel light. If you don’t like where you are working, you can use the time to figure out whether it is homesickness or a genuine dislike of your current location that is the problem. If culture shock and homesickness are not issues for you, you might enjoy living on the road.

Finally, living on the road involves meeting many different and interesting people. You will not always like them all, but if you like meeting new people and getting to see a new point of view, I cannot think of a better way to do it. Wisdom and peace can come of such experience.

Next week, another sea story. Meanwhile, please feel free to comment and to share your thoughts about the subject of living and working on the road.

Smooth roads and tailwinds,


4 thoughts on “Why should anyone else do this?

  1. Some will have a more difficult time with this than others. In my family, going away seems to be the natural state of things. Others stay in one location for generations, which has to be harder to “uproot.” For me, the questions are less about practicalities than about leaving close friends on the one hand and encountering the unwelcome unfamiliar on the other.


    • Calvin,
      Your point is well taken. Indeed, our relationships where we are must be part of the equation. In a way, that is why I see myself cycling through Charlottesville every so often (pun intended). It has been “home” for 25 years, so it is reasonable to put it on the itinerary between major treks.
      Thank you for the comment.


  2. Dear Jonathan,

    I do not have the Gypsy bug in me. The genes are said to be there – Hungarian Gypsies who traveled to Italy, according to my father.

    I thrive on order and a certain amount of predictability – not routine. I recall how much I enjoyed “getting lost” in the subway system in NYC with my then 10-yo son. I got a map first, made sure I knew how to get back to the hotel from any place in town, then I took his hand and we had an amazing adventure.

    I admire your tenacity and envy your sense of adventure :o)



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