Interview with Sara Janssen

We talk with Sara Janssen about making a living on the road, stopping to make babies and settling down in Longmont, Colorado.

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The following is our complete interview with Sara Janssen who, along with her family, was featured in our How to Make a Living on the Road article.

Wand’rly:
First the basics please, can you give me you & your family’s names & ages?
Sara:
Matt (34)
Sara (35)
Bella (8)
Lucy (3)
Emma (2 mo)
Wand’rly:
I understand you’ve settled down in Longmont, Colorado. How long were you on the road for before making that decision?
Sara:
We were on the road for approximately 4 years, with a stop in the middle when I was pregnant with Lucy.
Wand’rly:
What was it about Longmont that made you want to call it home?
Sara:
We had a job opportunity that was too good to pass up, and we also had a lot of friends and family in this area. Longmont is a very family friendly and affordable city…close to the mountains, Denver, and other recreation. We love it!
Wand’rly:
Can you tell me what kind of work the two of you did while traveling?
Sara:
The first year of traveling our job was the Live Lightly Tour (website currently in transition / not up). We spoke at colleges, coops, and festivals and did demonstrations of the veggie oil system and gave tours of the inside of our “green” remodeled RV. I also did a lot of photo shoots for families and couples and Matt did remodeling work.

After the first year, I resumed working for my parent’s company…doing ordering, design, and marketing. I continued doing photography and Matt did veggie oil conversions and contract construction work.

Wand’rly:
Thinking of before you set off on your RV adventure, what kinds of and how much preplanning did you do?
Sara:
Here is the story of events that led up to us going on the road:

In the Summer of 2005, we were staying in a hotel for 4 weeks for business. We had a small suite that had a bedroom and a little kitchen. We realized while we were there that we were EXTREMELY HAPPY living in a smaller space. We liked knowing where Bella was at all times without searching. We liked that cleaning up only took a few minutes instead of an entire afternoon. It just clicked.

We talked about that for a long time and when we returned from our trip, we decided to sell our house (that we had just purchased a few months before)…and downsize everything. We spent entire weekends cleaning out our basement, selling things on eBay and Craigslist. Slowly, we came out from under our self-imposed weight of possessions.

In that time, we also had a strict budget and paid off all of our consumer debt (credit cards, cars, etc). It took one year…but by the end of that year, we had paid the debt, sold our house, and moved into a smaller apartment.

We were also reading a book called “Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical” by Shane Claiborne. In it, he talks about what life would look like if Christians actually lived out what Jesus taught. Shane and others live in a community called “The Simple Way”…and they “attempt to live like Christ and the earliest converts to Christianity, ignoring social status and unencumbered by material comforts”. This book was a major catalyst in our desire to make a change…

It was during that time that we discovered the Compact and also many blogs that were discussing simpler/greener living. We loved the freedom we felt in giving things away, helping others, and feeling the wonderful “light” feeling that comes with getting rid of things that you don’t need. The group of friends we had in Des Moines were also instrumental in our journey…so many wonderful, thoughtful families, encouraging each other to make slow changes.

The jobs that we had during that time were great for the pocketbook, but not so great for keeping our sanity. We made the hard decision to resign, move to Bozeman, MT and seek out a slower pace of life. It was a great time of reflection, rejuvenation, and searching out what God had for our lives.

Before we sold our house, we had purchased a gorgeous VW Westy and we had planned on traveling the country in it. We ended up selling it before we moved to Bozeman…but the traveling lifestyle was still calling to us. We were always talking about how we wished that we would have “just done it”.

We decided to follow our hearts. What is the worst that could happen by pursuing our dreams? Failure? No big deal…at least we can say we tried! And in the end, we’ll have no regrets.

Wand’rly:
Were there resources in particular that you found useful when preparing to live and work on the road?
Sara:
When we were first considering this lifestyle, there weren’t that many families out there doing the same thing. There weren’t a lot of blogs or message boards that we could read for inspiration and instruction. There were a few other tours out there at the time and we looked at their busses, etc…but that was it. The biggest help for us was usingDave Ramsey’s system to pay off all of our debt before going on the road.
Wand’rly:
What was the transition period, maybe the first few months or so, of traveling like? How did working from the road live up to your expectations?
Sara:
Like any life change, there was definitely a transition period. We had to figure out how to SLOW DOWN. We were not accustomed to the extreme freedom that comes with a life on the road. Once we let ourselves settle into a new rhythm and routine…life was great! However, it was a time of faith-building like no other. That first year, we did not have a steady income and our savings ran out quickly. We relied on God to provide our next paycheck and He never let us down! We always had just enough.
Wand’rly:
When you first set off, did you have a “just in case” type of nest egg, or did you just have faith that you’d be able to continue making a living while traveling?
Sara:
We did have a little savings…but compared to what I’ve seen others set out with, it was very minimal and in their eyes…RISKY 🙂 Like I said, it was a major faith builder and honestly, I might not do it that way again! I would probably have a bit more in savings. Now that we more experience, we know that RV’s are notorious for breaking down and needing to be repaired, even the brand new models. Having a repair budget is essential if you don’t want to go into debt.
Wand’rly:
Now that you’re back to having an address, have your careers changed again? Are you still doing what you were in the RV?
Sara:
I am still working for my family’s company and doing photography. Matt owns a property maintenance and lawn care business in Boulder, CO…so it’s quite similar to what he was doing on the road.
Wand’rly:
About how many hours a week did you both work when you were on the road? I know that travelers can have a wildly different work week from one to the next, but if you would say “on average”?
Sara:
I averaged between 20-35 hours a week. It’s hard to say for Matt, but when he was doing contract work it was 40 hours/week.
Wand’rly:
Did you ever have trouble staying focused on work when the world was basically your playground and there was always something new and exciting out your doors?
Sara:
Absolutely! 🙂 I did a lot of my work at night when the kids were asleep. This allowed us to explore the fun stuff during the day. There were times when we were parked in one spot for months at a time and it was a bit easier to focus and get on a schedule during those times. But when we were moving every 3-4 days, it’s definitely hard to want to work!
Wand’rly:
How did the two of you find new work?
Sara:
Matt’s job and consequent purchase of his company came from a family connection. My work has remained the same.