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Well, I think a lot of great stories start with a healthy dose of desperation and wall-hitting, and that seems to be the way of life… I just feel like I didn’t properly wrap up our story last fall before we left, and I know that’s kind of a blog-killer, but since I’m not really writing for numbers these days, I thought I’d just jump right back in- even if a little abruptly.

We had an incredible summer living mostly outside last year. We had been living in a very romantic cabin all winter, complete with woodstove and old barnwood floors…. Romantic from the inside…aaand until the snow melted. Ok, the truth about our little cabin was that it was actually an add-on to an old barn. In a horse pasture. In a gopher slum. And there were definitely horses. And the gophers definitely snuck into the house whenever they had the opportunity. And I think our cat, Banjo, was generally discouraged, for he did nothing about it… The drier the Montana summer got, the dustier my dishes became (and by ‘dustier’ I really mean covered in horse manure), until we were pretty much over it. And after a couple months, things started getting desperate.

“Babe, we have to get out of this rental.”

“Agreed”

“Also, I think we should go to Europe.”

“That sounds amazing.”

“I think if we get a camper, we can go to Europe.”

“…please connect those two ideas for me.”

So here it is- our {almost} fail-proof plan on one way you can get to Iceland:

Become homeless for the summer if you are currently renting. Epic, right? But seriously, if you have not yet taken on a mortgage, you’re fairly flexible. So if your little wanderlusty heart is as desperate as ours was last summer, here’s how you can make it happen.

Collect a ton of stuff and sell it on Craigslist. You have to start making surplus money somewhere, right? The whole point is to not spiral gloriously into debt. (Though you still might have a little. Europe is expensive, but with better planning, I think we could have done the whole thing debt-free. Next time.)

Then plan the dates of your travels and start hitting up couchsurfing.comĀ There is absolutely no reason why you should spend hundreds of dollars on hostels and hotels when the whole point is to BE where you are traveling. Instead, find a nice older lady in Amiens, France who is an amazing tour guide, buy her some bread and wine, share a drink, and sleep on her guest bed, and be oh-so-thankful that you aren’t paying anyone to let you sleep off your jet lag.20130915-133802.jpg

Buy a $500 old moldy camper off of Craigslist. (We love Craigslist) So here’s how we did it. We found an old camper in Idaho Falls, a few hours away from us. We made a weekend camping trip out of the journey, so if we didn’t buy it, it wouldn’t be a huge disappointment. Who am I to ever turn down a chance to glimpse the Grand Tetons? K, so maybe if we had seen just how nasty this camper was when we bought it, maybe we would have hesitated. All the mold was still covered by the siding… But I’m glad we didn’t. We drug ‘ol Baxter home behind our Subaru Impreza (right?!) and then asked each other, “What did we just do?” Well, what we did was renovate that old thing nearly completely over the course of a month and a half. And then we put all of our stuff in a storage unit and lived a life of utter, unplugged simplicity for the rest of the summer. Yes, our cat lived happily with us. Luckily we lived in an area where there was lots of State Land close to our work places so we didn’t have to pay ANYTHING for part of the time, and then the rest of the time we just chose to camp at some of the most epic camp spots we could find… By the end of September, I was truly sad to leave those campfire-lit Montana nights and get ready for our big vacation-we felt like we had been on one all summer!

IMG_1076Oh yes, sell said renovated camper for a hilarious amount of money. (Like I said, we love Craigslist.) And before anyone starts thinking, “And THAT’S why you don’t buy anything on Craigslist.” Let me just say, don’t screw anyone over on Craigslist. It’s mean and selfish. We told the buyer everything about the camper and even did a mold test with him to make SURE we were selling him a renovation that we were proud of. And we were proud. So there you go- what’s your talent? What little crafty crafty frugal business idea can you come up with to make your little dream come true? Not only did we make money off of that camper, but we also saved almost a $1000 in rent during that time. And we had an amazingly aesthetic summer…

Then do more scrimping and scrounging and saving and selling and.just.go. The timing will never be perfect for a trip like that. You really do just have to risk a little and live some life… IMG_1593 IMG_1726

We chose to backpack and camp as much as we could to offset costs. For example, the one place we decided to spend money was to rent a car in Iceland. It wasn’t that crazy expensive, but renting and paying for lodging would have been out of our means. So we drove and cold-camped! Did you know that you can camp just about anywhere in Iceland as long as it’s out of the view of someone’s home and you don’t light a fire? Public land or private- as if Iceland couldn’t get any better… But when we were traveling from Paris to Toulouse…IMG_3006 IMG_2057

We also decided to hitchhike and meet some people- thus saving hundreds in rail tickets… I wouldn’t recommend hitching just anywhere in Europe, but France is considered one of the safest places to hitch and also one of the most culturally acceptable places. We only had to wait more than a few minutes once on our trip, and we had the fantastic opportunity to get picked up by an older Belgian couple in a European RV (hilarious) making their way over to Portugal. She was a lacemaker (classic) and he didn’t like listening to the GPS and following directions (also classic). We may possibly have ended up a dirt road slightly high-centered.

So that’s kind of the quick version of how we got to Europe. I will admit it really helps to know people over there or have family over there. Don’t be afraid to email that person you met on a plane once, or that exchange student you haven’t talked to in years. Or look up those long lost relatives you know you have somewhere. The opportunity is fun both ways and most people love sharing a bit of their national pride with other travelers…just pay it forward. Maybe become a couchsurfing host in your own city…

What are some other innovative ways you’ve managed to jump the pond?