Next up in my Extraordinary Series is Eric and Brittany from Hourless Life. They are doing something very different from the average family – they currently live and travel in their Jeep full-time with their son.
Yes, they live full-time in a Jeep!
This overlanding family is driving across the world in their Jeep. Their plans are to visit South America, Africa, Europe, and all the way to Asia. They plan to see as much of the world as they can.
They have been full-time traveling since 2014, first by RV, and have been on the road ever since. Now, they are getting ready to drive around the world in a Jeep Gladiator truck.
In this interview, you’ll learn:
- How they live in a Jeep with their son
- How they afford to travel
- What overlanding is
- Where they sleep, cook, and use the bathroom
- What an average day living in a Jeep is like
- How much overlanding with a family across the world will cost them
- Their tips for traveling with a child
This is a great article to read whether you are interested in overlanding with your family, or if you’re more interested in RVing as well. Both are great options depending on what you are looking for.
You can find Hourless Life on Instagram.
Please enjoy this interview. I really enjoyed reading it and learned a ton – so I know you will too. Enjoy!
Related articles you may be interested in:
- How This Couple Does Van Life with A Baby (and a dog!)
- 11 Reasons to Choose RV Life
- How To Make Money While RVing
- How Much Does It Cost To RV?
- Full-Time RV Travel With 3 Kids
How this family lives and travels the world in their Jeep.
1. Tell me your story. Who are you and what do you do?
We are Eric (50), Brittany (33), and Caspian (4) Highland. Our personal travel brand is Hourless Life. Eric and I started traveling full-time in February 2014 and have been on the road ever since. Internet access and intentional planning allowed us to take our first small business on the road, to support our travels.
At first, we lived in a 40-foot Tiffin Phaeton RV that was 10 years old when we bought it. We found a great deal and were able to pay in cash, avoiding a monthly loan payment. While the living space seemed small after our two-bedroom apartment in Austin, that RV eventually came to feel like a behemoth.
We sold the Tiffin in December 2018 and moved into our Jeep Wrangler. We were taken with the idea of international overlanding, which we define below, but we didn’t know if we’d really enjoy the overland lifestyle.
So we started with the Jeep we already owned and took it 2,000 miles through the interior of Mexico in early 2019. That experiment was a smashing success and confirmed international overlanding would be our next big adventure.
We’ve been working towards the goal of driving around the world ever since then. We bought a 2016 Winnebago View for the rest of our time in the U.S. and absolutely loved it. But we just sold it in March 2021 to fund the build-out of our global vehicle, a Jeep Gladiator truck.
We’re living in our Jeep Wrangler right now, traveling throughout the southwest.
2. How do you afford to travel? Do you work online?
Our financial situation has changed drastically over the past decade.
Eric retired from the military in 2010 after 20 years of service, so he has a pension. However, we didn’t feel it was nearly enough to live on, so we continued to work for others before launching a boutique online marketing agency in January 2011.
That first year in business, we had one client. Off to a smashing start, right? We continued to work day jobs to support ourselves.
Fast-forward to 2012, and we had moved across the country from Seattle to Austin, so Eric could work for the state government. When the job didn’t meet the ethical standards he expected, he resigned and we were adrift. We decided it was time to throw ourselves into self-employment and see if we could keep ourselves afloat financially.
We set a modest goal of earning $2,000 in the next month, which would cover our expenses at the time. If we couldn’t hack it, we’d get “real jobs.” In addition to picking up any marketing work we could, we worked gig jobs during SXSW 2012 and I provided childcare to a couple of local families. We were hustling hard to pursue our own company and give ourselves runway to succeed.
For the first six months, we kept setting short-term financial goals. We’d meet one small goal, then set another. After six months, we realized we didn’t need to keep track anymore. We were doing it. We were working for ourselves!
Our online marketing agency turned 10 years old this year, 2021. But along the way, we’ve had several other business projects. We founded a blog about the city of Austin that accrued more than 2,000 articles, had a team of writers and photographers, and was very well respected in the community.
We founded a Jeep club with a recurring membership model and product sales. We had two travel lifestyle blogs, related to our RV and off-roading adventures. And over the years we went into business with others at least twice, with varying levels of success.
Our philosophy was that client work, our primary source of income through our marketing agency, could vary in constancy. So the more sources of income we could develop, the more financial safety our family could achieve.
We couldn’t believe it when we achieved five figures of personal income per month. But that income came at a cost, and eventually the pressure of all our simultaneous projects began to take a toll on us personally.
At the end of 2019, we made some big decisions.
First, we understood we wouldn’t be able to rely on Internet connectivity outside the U.S. like we were used to. Because of that, our business commitments that required 9-5, Monday-Friday online access needed to go away.
Second, we realized we didn’t need as much income as we once thought. Through consistent downsizing, tiny living, and traveling outside the U.S., we were surprised to find we could live on Eric’s military income after all, supplementing with blog income.
So 2020 was a big pivot year for us. We sold our beloved blog about Austin. We handed off our Jeep club. We made sure the daily tasks for our online marketing agency were outsourced. And we combined our two travel blogs into one new brand: Hourless Life.
Hourless Life is now our family’s personal brand. We earn income from affiliate partners, an ad network, and donations from our community. We also launched our first YouTube channel, which Eric is focusing on this year.
It is exciting to take all the lessons we’ve learned over the past 10 years of self-employment and focus them into one project.
3. What is overlanding? Can you explain more for a reader who may be brand new to the word?
Overlanding is self-reliant, vehicle-based adventure travel, often over long distances for extended amounts of time, crossing international borders.
Overlanding is not about getting to Point B as quickly and painlessly as possible, but about the journey along the way.
There are many discussions about what is and is not overlanding. You’re an RVer when you drive an RV, which makes it simple to recognize! It doesn’t matter where you go with your RV or even how often you drive it.
Overlanding is more about a lifestyle and what you do, not about the vehicle you drive, which can make it difficult to define.
4. Why did you decide to start overlanding with a family?
When you have wanderlust, it never seems to go away. As your comfort zone enlarges, you keep trying to find ways to push your personal boundaries and feel that thrill of unfamiliar territory.
We started traveling full-time by RV in February 2014. At the end of 2016, we had a baby on the road (not literally) to keep things interesting. In 2017, we left the safety of private campgrounds with full hookups and started wild camping with our 40-foot Class A and a 100-watt solar panel.
By the time 2018 rolled around, our fifth year on the road, full-time travel in an RV was our new normal. While we still loved seeing new places, the RV lifestyle had lost its sparkle—and it had definitely lost any sense of personal challenge.
It was during this time of antsy-ness that I stumbled on The Overland Podcast (no longer active) and an interview with the Snaith Family. This family, originally from the UK, left their home country with two young daughters to drive around the world in a large box truck. The living space inside their box had similarities to RVs in the United States, but it was built on a heavy-duty chassis with higher clearance that could handle rugged off-road terrain.
They left the UK, shipped their truck to Canada, drove down to the tip of South America, shipped their truck to Africa, drove around several south African countries, shipped their truck to Australia, shipped their truck to Asia, and then took a pleasure drive back to Europe. All this in four years with two elementary-aged children
When I first started learning about international overlanding, I was so intrigued but couldn’t imagine doing so with a little one (Caspian was one year old at the time). But once I heard what the Snaiths had accomplished, I had no excuse.
Before I even finished that podcast interview, I decided I wanted to drive around the world.
5. Tell me about where you live! What vehicle do you plan to use to overland the world? Where will everyone sleep?
At the time we first learned about overlanding, we had a 2014 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon we used for fairly extreme off-roading. When we got into overlanding, we decided to take what we already owned, in order to test the theory that we would even like overlanding across borders.
Adding a roof top tent, fridge, and a few other things, we took that Jeep 2,000 miles through interior Mexico (2019) and 2,000 miles down and up the Baja Peninsula (2020). As of March 7, 2021, we moved into our Wrangler full-time.
But as of June 2021, we’ll start building the vehicle that’s going to take us around the world. It’s a 2021 Jeep Gladiator Sport S with Max Tow Package. This trim of the Jeep Gladiator has the highest payload capacity. Since it will be our home, we’re sensitive to how much cargo we’re able to safely carry over many years.
Over the truck bed of our Gladiator, we’ll have an Alu-Cab Canopy Camper, which is made in South Africa. We’ll enter through a door at the rear, and then Eric and I will climb into a pop-up tent to sleep.
The bottom part of the habitat, which is the bed of the truck, will be lined with Goose Gear cabinet storage. At night, we’ll have sleep deck plates that connect to the cabinets on each side, creating a sleeping platform for Caspian. At first, he’ll only need one deck piece in place because he’ll be able to fit across the truck bed. As he grows longer, we can add more sleep deck plates to give him more room. Eventually, he’ll have more room to sleep than we do upstairs!
Other options many years down the road (remember, this is a 10- to 15-year trip) are for Caspian to sleep in a small ground tent, or even a hammock if he’d like more privacy. Many international overlanders use ground tents or hammocks exclusively.
6. Where do you hope to travel to?
We plan to drive across all six habitable continents.
By September 2021, we hope to start six months in interior Mexico. We’ll use the length of our visa to plan our route through Central and South Americas. That leg will begin around February 2022.
At that point, there are no real time constraints set on our travels. We’ll move according to countries’ visa lengths, what we want to see, and which countries we fall in love with.
But eventually, we’ll ship our Gladiator from South America to South Africa. We’ll probably do another multi-month stay in that country, to plan our route up the continent. We’ll travel up the eastern side of Africa, explore Europe, then head across Asia.
At that point, we’ll likely ship our Gladiator back to the United States. Australia has stringent and often expensive import rules we’d like to avoid. So it will probably make more sense to buy a vehicle in Australia to explore with, then sell it before we leave (or even ship it back to the United States to sell!).
7. I know everyone is wondering – how do you use the bathroom, take showers, and make meals?
Yes, these necessities are always top-of-mind!
We have three bathroom options. First, the hole and shovel, which is our go-to when we’re off the grid with no one around. Second, we have a Thunderbox toilet we can put in the woods or inside our walled annex if other people are around. The Thunderbox stores flat, but unfolds to a full-height toilet with a bag for waste inside. Third, we stay at state parks or other locations that have a bathroom.
We do not carry a shower with us, though there are camp shower options available. Instead, we typically shower at traditional campgrounds or friends’ houses. There are other options, including gyms and truck stops.
Mali Mish, an inspiring family that’s been traveling full-time since 2008 with three kids, books Airbnbs just to shower. They don’t sleep inside. They say this method is often cheaper than booking a campsite, and the bathrooms are almost always much cleaner. I’m going to try this method when we go abroad again!
I’m really happy with my kitchen setup. It’s minimalist, but completely functional. I have a two-burner Jetboil stove, ARB fridge, and the typical frying pans, pots, and utensils. We definitely don’t go hungry!
I typically grocery shop for three to four days at a time, though I’ve fit a week’s worth of food in the fridge before.
8. What’s an average day like for you living in a vehicle?
We are finding a new rhythm right now as we transition to living in our Jeep Wrangler. Soon, everything will change again as we move into the Jeep Gladiator, build it out for a couple of months, and then head into Mexico.
But during this moment in time, our rhythm is to wake up somewhere around 6 a.m. When I can, I go downstairs from our roof top tent first to have some quiet time, maybe do a little work, and ideally make a cup of coffee! Shortly after 7 a.m., Caspian is usually ready to come down for breakfast.
Our mornings are usually leisurely, as we eat, clean up after the meal, and pack up. But it isn’t hard to be out of camp by 9 a.m. We have a good system.
From there, we usually do one of two things. Either we travel to a new destination, where we find another campsite and set up, or we find a local coffee shop to get some work done. Eric might need to edit a YouTube video for our channel, or I may have a freelance writing deadline I’m working towards. We hand Caspian off accordingly! He has the best time for sure because it often involves playgrounds, skate parks, and donut shops.
On travel days, we’re constantly visiting national parks, finding places to hike, taking neat off-road routes, or stopping at must-see places that have been recommended by friends. We rarely drive farther than 100-150 miles in a day, leaving lots of time to explore.
On work days, we avoid long drives afterwards. Like any type of full-time travel, you really can’t push yourself too hard, or the lifestyle becomes unsustainable.
We have dinner by 5 p.m., usually at camp, but occasionally at a restaurant in the area. Caspian is in bed by 7 p.m. when possible. Eric and I might talk around a campfire before bed, read (me), join discussions in travel rooms on Clubhouse (Eric), or wrap up work projects.
9. How much will overlanding with a family across the world cost you?
Our current daily budget as full-time overlanders in the United States is $93.
This includes gas, food, camping, and any other supplies or purchases. The only things it doesn’t include are vehicle insurance, my life insurance policy, and monthly subscriptions like Netflix.
We don’t anticipate any major income changes this year, so we’ll take that same budget around the world. It will be even easier to live on $93/day outside the United States. Free camping and showers are easier to find in Mexico, food is less expensive, and gas is usually about the same.
The beauty of vehicle-based travel is you can make simple lifestyle changes to save money. If you don’t have money for gas, then stay in an area you like for a while. If you don’t have money for camping, then find free options. If you don’t have a lot of money to eat out, then don’t.
We aim to expand our YouTube channel, my freelance writing, and blog income in the months to come. So that additional income will give us a buffer and the ability to pursue extra fun activities.
There was a time I wouldn’t have been able to fathom living on this budget, especially as a family of three. But the key has been to simplify and learn—through travel experience—what we genuinely need for a full life.
10. How is traveling with a child? What tips do you have for someone who wants to travel more with their children?
Traveling with a child is an incredibly enriching experience.
We are fortunate that Caspian was born into full-time travel and doesn’t have anything to compare it to. He never had to adjust to the lifestyle. He is used to long drives, long hikes, new friends, and constantly changing scenery.
He is incredibly flexible, in ways many adults (me) aspire to.
If you want to travel with your kids, but aren’t sure where to start, then begin incrementally. Don’t start with a two-mile hike; start with half a mile. Don’t drive 250 miles in one day; drive 60. Keep it fun by playing to your child’s interests. It’s like a workout routine—you build endurance gradually.
Most of all, be sensitive to your excuses. When Caspian was born, Eric and I had been traveling full-time for almost three years. It never occurred to us that we needed to stop traveling full-time because we were having a baby. On the contrary, rather than settling down, his presence in our lives pushed us farther outside our comfort zone because of the life we wanted to build for him.
Before Caspian came, we set a goal that he would hike one mile for each year of life. So even though he didn’t walk until 15 months, he ended up hiking a mile while he was still one.
And each year he added a mile, until just a couple of weeks ago when he hit his four-mile milestone long before turning four-and-a-half years old. Neither Eric nor I have a background in hiking, so this activity can be just as challenging for us as it is for Caspian. But it’s an activity we’ve all come to appreciate.
11. Lastly, what is your very best tip (or two) that you have for someone who wants to start overlanding?
Start with what you have and just go.
Don’t get caught up in the gear nonsense that stems from advertising and social media. You don’t need all that to take your first trip, see how you enjoy it, discover your personal style of overlanding, and build from there.
Find an active community you enjoy traveling with. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel when overlanding veterans are happy to teach from their experience. Overland Expo is the best place to find a wealth of classes (they even have a track for parents and kids now), but there are other great ones like Northwest Overland Rally in Washington state (also lots of excellent classes) and Roof Top Tent Rally in Virginia (known for really fun community).
We take our dreams very seriously. Life is too short to do otherwise. Happy trails!
Are you interested in overlanding and driving around the world?
AWESOME interview of a wonderful family who are such an inspiration! Was great to hear from B atho I have been following them for years. Am really excited to read about their Mexico travels in the Gladiator!! Roll on!
Drip Naija says
It’s been long I’ve been hearing about overlanding but today I have its full understanding in your article. Thanks for the Information and enlightenment.
Joseph Long says
Michelle, You are an inspiration. Based on your link regarding blogging I am considering opening my own blog on home improvements. I love your sense of adventure but be careful the areas of some of the continents you visit. I was in the military for 34 years make sure you check with the State Department to determine any ‘hot-spots” in the countries you intend to travel.
Great interview, one of the best family’s out there!! Thank you for sharing with us all! 🙂
Great interview. They sound like such a lovely family. Thanks for sharing Michelle 🙂