How were you able to travel full-time and buy land in Hawai'i? Three possible responses
Before we were the Holy Women Icons Project, we were a family who quit our comfortable life in order to do something more adventurous and fulfilling. In June 2015, we quit our jobs, sold our historic home, and hit the road in a 140 sq. ft. camper. In February 2017, we moved into a “tiny house” on an acre of land on Hawai’i island just a few blocks from the ocean. When people find out what we’ve been up to, they often wonder how we did it. There are three possible responses to this question, each with varying degrees of accuracy.
Possible response #1: Anyone can do it!
You can do it, too, if you’re willing to make some trade-offs! Some people assume that it costs a lot of money to travel full-time, but it really depends on how you do it. If you want luxury hotels every night, I’m sorry to break it to you, you’ll be spending wads of cash. Even a nice campground every night would be prohibitively expensive for most people. So, what did we do? For part of our time, we did a work-exchange program through the Forest Service. As campground hosts in Vermont and Virginia, we got a free place to set up camp, free utilities, and reimbursements for propane in exchange for a few hours of work a day cleaning fire pits and bathrooms. There are hundreds of opportunities available at volunteer.gov.
For the rest of our time traveling, we got creative. We did pay for campgrounds sometimes, usually at state parks with pretty cheap rates. Otherwise, we practiced what is called “dry camping,” or “boondocking.” In the western part of the United States, the federal government owns vast swaths of land that you can camp on for free. Just no electric or water hookups, so you need to be strategic. We also spent a lot of time in Wal-Mart parking lots, since they allow you to stay overnight for free. In parts of Montana and Wyoming, people set up here for days at a time.
Our kind of full-time travel was on the cheaper end, but we met people who had gone for months at a time without paying for any lodging! Bottom line: Full-time travel can be done as cheaply or as expensively as you want.
What about Hawai’i? Same principle. Some of the land here is laughably expensive, and some of it is surprisingly cheap. We bought a lot that was within our budget (and that cost less than the land we had been looking at in North Carolina) and built the biggest house we could afford, which turned out to be just over 500 square feet. Our area has no mailboxes, trash pickup, or public drinking water, hence the affordable price.
So, can anyone do it? Sure, you just have to be flexible, creative, and find ways to live within your budget.
Possible response #2: NOT anyone can do it because, privilege. Duh.
In order to travel full-time and build a house in Hawai’i, we gave up some comforts: a steady and disposable income, fast internet, a mailbox, trash pickup, and, sigh, a nice big gym with child watch. But, let’s be honest, we also have tremendous amounts of privilege that allowed us to even contemplate such a life. We both have Ph.D.s and had teaching jobs that enabled us to save money. Elizabeth’s father helped us with some of the down payment on our big house, which we bought at the bottom of the market and sold, for a big profit, in a competitive market.
Our economic and educational advantages were brought about largely by our Whiteness. Throughout our history, people of color have been consistently and systematically denied the same access to education, housing, and wealth that White people have. The racial wealth gap is most definitely a thing, and it has negatively affected PoC for generations. Without equal access to good education, well-paying jobs, or inherited family wealth, people tend to fall into poverty. And living in poverty is actually very expensive.
Further, people of color are far more likely to be viewed with suspicion or through the lens of negative stereotypes than White people. This can jeopardize their safety when traveling. Sure, we’re queer, and there were a few times we did feel unsafe, but as two female-presenting, not super butch people, we could hide our queerness if necessary (or people did it for us! Are we sisters? Are our husbands in the military? Are we mother and daughter?!). For other, more obviously queer people, the threat of violence is still very real. And PoC certainly can’t hide their skin!
So, can anyone do it? No. We worked hard and made sacrifices, but we also, through no work of our own, got a head start. We’re highly educated White people. Not everyone is so embarrassingly privileged.
Possible response # 3: Anyone SHOULD be able to do it, if they want to
Here’s the ethical question. Should people be able to pursue a fulfilling life? Traveling full-time in a camper does not appeal to everyone, and it is not really feasible for large families, people with certain disabilities, or people with really stinky farts. But, it does seem reasonable that people should be able to reflect on their lives and explore the world in any way that they want to. To that end, we support the following things that, in our minds, would bring about a more just and enjoyable world.
A universal basic income: If you’re not familiar with the concept, a universal basic income (UBI) is pretty much what it sounds like—a government program where every adult citizen gets a monthly or yearly stipend. Free money? Pretty much. A pie-in-the-sky pinko lefty idea? Not really. Some form of a UBI is supported by thinkers on both the right and the left.
Having a guaranteed monthly income (proposals are generally about $800-$1000/month) would both lift people out of poverty and free people up to pursue their passions. Want to go back to school but worry about supporting your family? UBI! Want to travel for a year? UBI!
A universal basic income is meant to provide a minimal amount of financial security. Some people would use it as their only income and choose not to work. Others would find that it is not enough for the kind of life that they want, so they would continue to have traditional jobs. A UBI would give you more flexibility if you wanted to change careers or take time off from working.
Single-payer healthcare: As healthcare costs rise, and as the fate of Obamacare hangs in the balance, the idea of single-payer healthcare grows more popular. By ensuring health coverage for every person, a single-payer system eliminates costly premiums and divorces health coverage from employment. How many people have stayed at a job longer than they wanted because of health insurance?
Obamacare was a step in the right direction. Without the subsidies it provides, and now that we’re in Hawai’i, without the Medicaid expansion, our family simply would not have health insurance. It’s time to ensure that all people have equal access to quality, comprehensive, and free (or at least heavily subsidized) healthcare.
Other Policies: We support other policies, such as a living wage, generous and federally-mandated paid family leave, free or heavily subsidized child care, and high-quality free public education, through college, that would round out the benefits given through a UBI and universal healthcare.
And finally, we’d like an end to capitalist heteropatriarchal white supremacy. Is that too much to ask?
Imagining a Better World
The Holy Women Icons Project holds up revolutionary women who had the courage to imagine a better world. We hope to continue their legacy by advocating for equal access to education, fair wages, paid time off, low- or no-cost healthcare, and a universal basic income. We are imagining a world in which people are free to pursue their interests, to explore the world, and to live vibrant, fulfilling lives.