Karina Chronicles

How to Live a “Real Life” on the Road

Even when you’re traveling you can live a ‘real life.’ Summer Grimes tells us how.

Summer Grimes is a writer/editor in Minneapolis who curates Birds in Fox Dens VintageHere, she writes about navigating life and travel as a broke insomniac who wants to see the world with her sidekick Edie, look less homeless along the way, and make you laugh. Facebook & Twitter? Let’s!

By the time I’m settling into my background-check-pending Minneapolis apartment, I’ll have been living in a state of transience for five months. What sort of transience? Well, in one episode, I was en route for a cross-country move to South Carolina when I got re-directed to Michigan. I had just spent three sweaty hours packing up my car, the veil of romance I’d ascribed to my nomadic lifestyle wearing thin as a woman on the street gave me a $20 bill after not-quite-falsely assuming I was homeless.

I find myself using the term “real life” a lot. Someone will say, “Man you guys are working so many hours!” and I’ll respond, “Yeah, we don’t work this much in real life.” I bought a full-priced dress at Anthropologie (which I quickly returned) and justified it, saying, “I would never do this in real life.” I also don’t do the following:

  • eat like this in real life
  • sleep like this in real life
  • dress like this in real life

Driving the 1800 miles “home” this week ~a pit-stop on my way to Michigan, the final episode of this gypsy series~ I realized…

Crap, real life has been happening this WHOLE time. Now, don’t get me wrong; I am in no way filled with regret at how my time was spent, but armed with my present knowledge, there are a few things I would do differently. I recommend the following steps on

How to Live “Real Life” on the Road:

Treat the Meanwhile like it’s more than that

Real life is a conglomeration of some sort of routine that, for most of us, involves (in no particular order):

  • work
  • food
  • sleep
  • exercise
  • leisure

Establishing a realistic routine as soon as possible helps keep a check on reality and reduces feelings of loneliness and anxiety that often come with long-term travel and displacement. Maybe you can’t meet your usual work-out mate for spin class or your sister for happy hour, but you can go on a walk after dinner every night and you can read a book anywhere.

Don’t Procrastinate

It’s something nearly everyone battles, but procrastination is possibly an even bigger enemy when you’re living a life like this.Time doesn’t pass the same way. It elapses in a murky haze where you can’t decide if it feels like you’ve beenhere forever or if you can’t believe you’ve already been here for two months.

Each place I lived, I had a mental and sometimes physical list of things to do and see. This to-do-or-see list will remain just a list if you do not accomplish or schedule every item on the list within the first ten days of arriving. That sounds extreme, but even though it’s all I could talk about, I never rode the streetcar or had an Original Pimm’s Cup in New Orleans. However, in a shorter period of time, in Arizona, I saw Suguaro National Monument, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon because I put them on my calender and stuck to that schedule. That might sound unromantic, but the alternative meant not seeing this:


1+1 still = 2 wherever you are

A dollar is still worth a dollar, a calorie is still a calorie, an hour is an hour, and one pound still weighs one pound. I fell into a bad Starbucks routine the last nine weeks of displaced living and I find myself wondering what I have to show for it beside the absence of nearly $200. I also gained and lost at least 100 lbs, 4 lbs at a time. Don’t put long-term goals on hold, whether they be savings, fitness, career, or hobby-related.

Put a Damper on Social Networking

With an endless barrage of social media sites from Twitter to Instagramalerting you every 12 minutes concerning your back-home friends’ goings-on, it’s all too easy to:

  1. Feel left out
  2. Avoid getting involved in what’s happening in real life in real time in the community around you

Kady and I had the unique privilege of meeting Roxie and Lisa, two readers of Hobo Siren and A Lady Reveals Nothing. Better than any hotel concierge, they took us to their favorite sites and restaurants, and now we have lifelong friends (and beds to sleep in if we’re ever in Tucson).

These are just a few tips that have been helpful for me.

What advice do you other hobos have for keep a check on “real life”?


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