A Nomadic Experiment: Why I decided to take an indefinite leave from being an engineering project manager to live life on the road

Subaru Outback Vanlife in Tonto National Forest, AZ
“Panda,” the Subaru Outback, in Tonto National Forest, AZ

I once had a friend ask me, “If you had all the time and money in the world, how would you spend your time to be happy?”

The immediate answer that popped into my head was, “Travel the world!”

But before I could answer, my friend continued, “The typical answer is to say you want to travel, but when I hear that answer, it just means that you don’t really know what you want to do. Traveling is what people do to get the mental space to find out what they really want.”

I thought about it for a little longer and thought about how I already spend my free time and what really excites me...the answer was surprisingly simple—I love going to the gym. When I’m not at the 9-5, I’m at the climbing gym. I always look forward to seeing my friends there and pushing my physical limits every day. I’m lucky that my local gym has everything I need to work on the things I love—climbing, lifting, calisthenics, and running.

But, is that it? Is going to the gym daily all it takes for me to be happy? Is that really it or is there something more?

From an outside view, one might think that I should already be happy. I am physically healthy and fit, I have made over 6 figures annually and have no debt, and I have loving friends and relationships. However, despite all this, why do I feel like something is missing?

The honest answer is that I do not yet know the answer. 🤔

BUT, being curious by nature, I’m not about to just sit around for the answer to magically come to me! If I don’t know the answer, then perhaps it’s time to take time off to get the mental space to find out. 😏

On December 13th, 2019, I officially started an indefinite, unpaid leave from working as a full-time engineering project manager in the San Francisco Bay Area. I also decided to minimize and rid myself of all physical burdens by donating, selling, and disposing of all my extraneous belongings. I moved out of my house and transferred the remaining items I own into a Subaru Outback that I have named “Panda” (pronounced “Panh-daa”). 🐼

At 31 years old, and free from the responsibility of having a job and a rooted home, I took off to begin my journey...

Now, two months later, Panda and I have driven across the United States, from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., and back. We’ve traveled over 13,000 miles, hitting up climbing gyms and meeting up with a couple friends along the way.

US cross country road-trip route
13,000 miles through 16 states. Yup, that’s a lot of driving...

Prior to my departure, I had promised a few friends and coworkers that I would blog about my journey. However, I haven’t had as much free time as I had originally envisioned to do so. My time has been spent instead on driving, taking in all the new local experiences, and adjusting to living a nomadic life.

At the current moment, I’m back in sunny California, and honestly, I’m a bit tired of all the traveling. 😅 I intend to take a break from all the driving and spend some time reflecting and finding my mental space without travel. And, to keep my previous promise, I intend to finally start updating this blog.

To tell the truth, I don’t really know what to write about so I will just be answering any questions I’ve gotten so far such as:

As I mentioned to friends before I left on my journey, I intend to blog about my experiences living life on the road, but this will not be a travel blog about random experiences I have. Rather, it will focus on topics readers are curious to know more about. So, if you (yes, you) have anything you’re specifically curious about, please let me know in the comments below or send me a message here. I will try my best to answer in a future post.

Thank you to everyone who subscribed to be updated on my journey. I truly appreciate that you have found my nomadic experiment interesting enough to follow. I hope that my future posts will continue to be interesting and perhaps even useful if you’re thinking of taking a similar journey. Or, if you simply just want to know how to set up a vehicle for an epic road-trip, I’ll be writing more on that as well.