Michelle hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail last year…
On the trail, people make friends quickly. Plus locals and day hikers leave “trail magic” for the thru-hikers: coolers of beer, cash, fresh baked cookies. Some even show up to cook a fresh meal for the hikers. It’s sounds like a little stretch of utopia.
Michelle’s tumbler from the trip has more pictures and stories.
Here are Michelle’s answers to my money questions for her:
1) What was it like to sell your stuff and take to the trail?
MV: Selling a huge chunk of my stuff in order to simplify and raise money for the trail was fantastic. It definitely helped in the sort term because we were able to leave less stuff in a friend’s basement while we were gone and now trying to live a simpler life, I am glad I don’t have all of that stuff that for whatever reason I had previously.
2) Is there anything that you regret getting rid of?
MV: You know, for the majority of that stuff that I got rid of I have no regrets. I don’t even remember what the bulk of it was. I will say though that I wish I would have given my sister my sleeping bag and my rain jacket. I sold those in order to be able to afford a better and lighter sleeping bag and rain jacket, but a year later when my sister is in the market for those things I wish I had them for her.
3) Has your approach to buying things or your attitude towards ‘things’ in general shifted since that experience of getting rid of most of your stuff?
MV: Absolutely. I’ve always tended to spend money on experiences rather than possessions. But with traveling, especially overseas, I had a habit of buying a lot of souvenirs and I have a knack for accumulating stuff from thrift stores and used bookstores. But now, after spending four months of literally having carried everything I needed to survive outdoors over 2,500 miles across three states, I find myself feeling really overwhelmed by the stuff I have in my apartment. Most of it is just kitchen stuff, books and clothes but it feels stifling. I really don’t buy anything other than food and I save my money up for trips- whether they be weekend trips, week long trips, or overseas trips. And of course there is the occasional gear purchase but honestly I take a good hard look at anything that I might buy and generally the thought doesn’t even cross my mind.
4) Fill in the blank: If I was rich I would ___________
MV: …live in a sweet van, travel the world and eventually open a bed and breakfast focusing on community, organic gardening and cultural exchange
5) What are you saving for?
MV: Short term: an upcoming trip to Nepal. Long term: enough money to hike the Continental Divide Trail and then travel to Central and South America for hopefully a year or more.
6) What is something that you consider a staple but others might consider a luxury?
MV: My Achilles heel is definitely food and I spend a lot of money on organic food which really adds up. I buy pasture raised eggs, goat yogurt and other items which can be definitely considered luxury items but I tend to justify these purchases with sayings like, “it’s better to pay the grocer than the doctor.”
7) Do you have any budget or saving tricks?
MV: Having clear goals and keeping in mind my personal values helps me to stay in line with what I actually want out of my money… for the most part. It was pretty easy to save money and simplify when I decided that I was going to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
8) What is the last thing you bought?
MV: Two quart mason jars for a class I took on fermenting vegetables.
9) Fill in the blank: I _____ my money
MV: I need to keep a better eye on my money in order achieve my financial goals and travel dreams .
10) How do you balance travel with things like paying down debt or saving?
MV: Spending money on experiences is way more important to me than anything else… even paying down debt. I will never regret for a single second that I got rid of most my possessions, got rid of my job, and hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. I want to live life to the fullest and feel deeply about my days and I don’t want to wait until I retire to do the things I dream about doing. I am lucky because I have a lot of freedom and being part of the generation of millennials who gradated from college in a bad job market, I don’t have a lot of things tying me down. Paying down my debt is very important to me but I don’t want to put my life on hold in order to do that sooner rather than later. I want to take the middle path of being financial responsible and truly living my life now and indulging in my wanderlust.
Thank you so much, Michelle. This is giving me a little wanderlust, too.
If you want to be interviewed here send me an email Julie@TheMonied.com – it’s fun!