The American Field Trip
We’re the Bowman family: David, Madison, Graham (5) and Margaret (2). Before leaving to live on the road and visit all the U.S. national parks, we’d lived in New York City for almost 5 years.
Though we loved the city, we also wanted to travel and see the States, and we didn’t want to put that dream off for another time. So in April 2017, we packed our bags, rented out our apartment and hit the road.
When we left our New York City home in April 2017 to travel full time around the U.S., we knew we wanted to develop as many streams of income as possible.
We’d been used to making money in a traditional way: full-time, salaried jobs.
Our plan for making money while living the van life was to work freelance, but as any freelancer knows, that kind of work is often feast-or-famine.
Our income still varies widely month to month, but there are a few stable sources of cashflow that keep our bigger bills (health and car insurance) covered, and ensure we have something to fall back on in an emergency.
Here’s what our income streams look like:
We own our home in NYC and have been renting it out since we left. The rent covers the mortgage and utilities of the home, with enough left over to cover our health insurance.
Before leaving home, we saved enough cash to cover the cost of buying and building out our shuttle bus so we wouldn’t go into debt to do it.
For several years, we’ve been investing whatever money we could into commodities trading, and in an emergency, we can access that money to cover gaps in our income.
We’ve shied away from paid partnerships with companies that would monetize our travels, but a few times on our trip, we’ve teamed up with someone who can provide us a comped service in exchange for making content about our experience.
David sells his photography online and has licensed some of his photos from our trip for use by other companies.
The bread and butter of our income is David’s freelance work. He worked as a graphic designer in New York, so he has connections from that job as well as from people who were in his program in college.
He’s gotten some jobs from a service called Upwork, but the majority of his clients came from networking with people he already knows. We built a small, separate office space for him in the back of our bus, so he has an isolated place to go and focus on work.
While some of our income is passive, David’s freelance work sometimes requires him to put in long hours.
Generally I put our two kids to bed at night and David starts work in the early evening, putting in 4-5 hours before he goes to bed each night.
When he’s up against a deadline, we stop wherever we are and he dedicates a few days or weeks to work to get on top of things. Because he’s a rockstar and handles so much of his work at night, and because our schedule with kids requires us to turn in early anyway, it doesn’t usually conflict with our daytime adventuring.
We feel extremely lucky/blessed/privileged to be able to do this trip. There are so many ways to make full-time road life work, and we love how creative the van life community is in figuring out ways to make money from the road, but we also think it’s really important to recognize that we’re all very fortunate to be able to choose this lifestyle.
We count our blessings a lot and hope this info helps other families think through how they could make their dream come true.