And as part of the informal yearly review I’ve been conducting, there’s one last experiment from this year to report on.
For the first time since I hit the road, the majority of my income this year will have come from remote work rather than taking seasonal work-camping jobs. The biggest leap of faith I made this summer by deciding to boondock rather than picking a national park to work at was probably not about whether I’d enjoy boondocking (I was fairly certain I would), but rather would I be able to earn enough money from other sources to support myself.
Unless they were forced into the lifestyle by the loss of a job or some similar misfortune, most pre-retirement full-timers I meet already have a solid income source in place before they hit the road. In fact, six years ago when I first started entertaining the idea of full-timing, I didn’t know of any who didn’t (they did exist, but I wasn’t aware, not knowing where to look online to find them).
I was pleased to confirm after I hit the road that it was possible to make a living entirely from low-skill, low-paying work-camping jobs as long as a person was frugal, but ultimately I didn’t want to be pinned down in one spot for months on end working, I wanted more freedom to travel where I wanted, when I wanted.
It took years to build up my writing income to the point where last fall I decided it might be possible to go a summer without a seasonal job, and as I reported in the boondocking review post, I averaged $1,172 a month from my writing endeavors for the first nine months of the year when I was boondocking. Not quite enough to meet cost of living, but I’d already signed up to work at Amazon for the last three months of the year to cover the gap so that wasn’t a problem.
So how was it, having no boss for nine months in a row? Everyone’s experiences will vary of course, and I can only speak from my own personal experience. And in my experience, being an entrepreneur requires a surprising amount of effort.
For me, finding the willpower to stay on task was the hardest part.
I was boondocking in some truly great locations, all of which I’d never seen before, and without a hard deadline or dedicated work hours to keep me on track I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t do a spectacular job of it this year, although I did improve toward the end as I discovered what worked to keep myself on task. Namely: work needed to be the first thing I did in the morning, as if I got started on something else first I found it nearly impossible to switch focus later. It also really helped to block other distractions out when working, which often meant closing the blinds, taking a potty break before I got going, asking not to be disturbed if I was camping with a group, etc.
The second hardest part was the uncertainty factor (isn’t it always?).
The month “The Little Guide to Dreaming Big” launched, I made $2288.37. In April and May, I only made $1,500 total. I kept track of the hours I worked, and one month it averaged out to $26 per hour. One month it was only $8.61 per hour. It was nearly impossible to predict ahead of time whether I’d have a good month or a bad month. I had a good amount saved up from 2015 when my income exceeded my cost of living by several thousand dollars so I was never at risk of running out (plus I had my emergency fund and plans to take a job halfway through the season if necessary), but still I was always watching my bank account like a hawk and made it impossible to plan too far in advance as I truly had no way of knowing if I’d make it through the whole summer sans job.
All in all though, I consider this experiment a rousing success too. My goal had been $1,000 per month on average and I met that while still working less than 40 hours per week, leaving me more time to explore than I would have had I taken a job. Hopefully I can do even better next year and make it another nine months without working despite the lack of overtime at Amazon this year. Time will tell!
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