as we wander » traveling adventures of monika and jonathan

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How did you guys meet?

We met in Redlands, California in a coffee shop in 2002. Jonathan was a barista, and Monika was volunteering before the shop’s grand opening. Jonathan had longer hair than Monika, and Jonathan remembers her wearing overalls. Ooooh, those were the days! They became good friends and wound up going to school together in Tennessee in 2006. They quickly discovered they were inseparable, and married in the spring of 2009.

What do you guys do for work?

Before we left on this journey, Monika was working as a graphic designer for an awesome publishing company in Chattanooga, Tennessee and photographing as much as possible when she wasn’t designing. Jonathan worked as a CCU nurse and loved to fix up old bikes and mopeds. We left our jobs to go on this adventure, so there’s not a ton of work happening. However, Monika has been taking pictures and doing freelance whenever she can, and Jonathan hopes to work a few travel nursing gigs before we are through with the trip. In the mean time, Jonathan’s exploring his skill at building things and writing. If you’re interested in hiring Monika for photography or design, visit her website at or email her at

You’re living the dream! How did you do it?

Thank you! We think you should go live YOUR dream too!
Once we decided this is what we wanted to do, we started saving as much as we possibly could. We figured out how much we thought we’d need to save, and how long it would take to get to that point, and set up a “leave date” with lots of items to complete along the way (like finding a truck, camper, renters for our home, etc.). We talked and prayed about it with our families and friends. We simplified our lives. Planted a vegetable garden and ate out of that. We picked up LOTS of little side jobs. We were very busy the last year before we left. We didn’t sleep very much and I’m not really sure how we made it! Lots of patience and prayer I guess. I think it’s like with any goal or dream. If you’re determined, you’ll make it happen one way or another.

Can I come with you?

It’s funny. We get this question a lot. Yes! Please come with us! Or meet us in a destination and we can all camp together. We’ve had the  pleasure of meeting friends in random places, say our new Canadian friends in Washington D.C. and some friends from college at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. So yes, please come! As long as you aren’t creepy. Hah. We love meeting new people and learning from each other. Lets explore a new place together! And if you’re friends or family…you REALLY should meet us somewhere. We love visitors. Hey, we even have a couch (albeit little) you can sleep on!

What’s your daily routine like?

Good question. Each day is so different. When we are going from place to place, some days all we do it drive, hike if we have a chance, eat, and sleep. Other days we are just lazy and read. If we are in a national park or some hiking mecca, you’ll be sure that we are out and about in nature ALL DAY LONG. And if we are visiting someone, we usually just spend the day(s) with them.

Does it get expensive visiting new places all the time?

Not really. We try spend money when we feel it’s important or it’s something we really want to do. We aren’t seeing places just to say we’ve seen them. You have to be very intentional when you’re living off savings! And sometimes, you just get lucky. When we were on Mackinac Island, a guy gave us two tickets to ride the ferry. And in Chicago, we ate a massive lunch for only $1 each (by following a dancing man holding a sign). Also, we’ve discovered little tricks like buying a season pass for the National Park System. It is only $80/per family, so we can get in to many places all over the country for free. We’re not sure who said camping has to be expensive, but we’ve learned to skip the commercial campgrounds (and most private ones too). $20-$40 a night is NOT OK when you’re doing it every night. So we often opt for the parking lot along the water or the free camp sites in the woods over the traditional sites. And sleeping in Walmart parking lots still seems a little sketchy. We do however try not to skimp on food. So much of experiencing culture is tasting the different kinds of food. Once again though, you have to be intentional, so when we decide to eat out, we try to pick a really yummy place. No sense in waisting money on mediocre food, right? Always ask the locals! Or refer to your trusty restaurant app.

Do you miss having a normal schedule, normal house, normal life? Will you every go back to a “normal” life?

Who gets to define what normal is?  Everyone has their own idea and for us, this adventure is just another chapter in our lives. We came into this agreeing that we’d probably come back after a year or so (or when we ran out of our trip money), but both being open to the idea of traveling for a really long time. We’d love to go abroad, live in Australia, go back to Costa Rica for a while, retrace some family roots in Denmark, England, and Hungary…who knows. This new way of life has become pretty “normal” to us now, and going back to a stationary home feels a little scary! Before we left on this trip I (Monika) was a little nervous, but now that we’re a few months in, the thought of going back makes me feel even more nervous! Funny how things work out. It’s all relative. Enjoy what you have right now. We’re just thankful to be seeing this beautiful country, spending quality time with our family and friends along the way, and strengthening our marriage in a way we couldn’t when we both were working more than full time.

  • steve - do you miss us yet? I feel this should be a FAQ:)September 18, 2011 – 12:45 amReplyCancel

  • monika - Yes Steve. We do miss you! Lots!January 27, 2012 – 2:48 pmReplyCancel

  • john uhelski - Can I take the Bug out for a spin this spring ? It seems silly to just let it sit here all the time you are gone . I sold the Volvo for $ 2500.00 , hate to see it go….. Drop me a line you two lovebirds ! Best, John U.February 5, 2012 – 2:15 pmReplyCancel

  • Jessica Cyphers - Do you do Web design work for others at all? (For pay, of course.) Or do you have ideas for how someone ignorant like me could teach herself? I guess I should just get into graduate school… Shucks. Anyway, love you guys! Also, you don’t have to be traveling to be wandering. All of life is a journey.February 8, 2013 – 2:28 amReplyCancel

  • monika - Hey Jessica! I do offer web design services. I sent you an email with more info. Thanks!February 8, 2013 – 11:00 amReplyCancel

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