Joel is from Modesto, CA and came to Minnesota in 2011 to go to Minneapolis College of Art & Design and study comics. Sara is from St. Louis, MO and moved to St. Paul in 2002 to study Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Macalester College; she's lived in Minneapolis since graduating. Together they are creating comics to document this adventure (to be fair, Joel does the bulk of the work on the comics, but they write and brainstorm together). Joel loves: comics, podcasts, talking about what he heard on podcasts, and other introvert-activities. Sara loves: gardening + flora in general + the healing properties of plants, cooking, puppies (duh), and heartfelt conversations with friends she’s known for years or those she just met. We believe we are low-maintenance. We are selling most of our worldly possessions to go on this trip and don’t require a lot from our hosts. We hope to share a meal together (sans gluten if possible) and at the very minimum get to know what our hosts love (and don’t love) about the place they live!
What process did you follow to get to the point of knowing & believing that making this big life change was something you wanted & was possible to achieve?
We’ve always thought of doing a trip like this, where we could engage with more people around the country. Additionally, we knew we needed to do something big to create the change we wanted in our lives.
We of course talked about the financial feasibility of quitting our jobs and the emotional impact of selling Sara’s house, getting rid of most of our stuff, and leaving a community we’ve built over many years. We realized that through our savings, selling the house, and some extra monthly (and remote-friendly) gigs we have, we could financially take this leap. Beyond the finances, we tried not to overthink it. Ultimately we decided there is no time like the present to take a leap into building a different life for ourselves.
Is there a trip mission or vision statement?
In a time of fear, we are embracing the good in people and the stories that connect us.
What impact do you hope to have on others?
By staying with people we know and those we don’t (yet), we will be having many dialogues with Americans about how they live, create home, find their purpose, and approach work. By sharing these stories – and reflecting on them ourselves – we hope other people feel inspired to think about how they approach their lives, and we hope to keep a dialogue open about how we live and work in America. Sara also hopes that some people feel moved to examine – as she has in planning this trip – their own fears around “strangers” and the unknown.
What do you want to learn and understand about the places you visit?
We want to get to know communities and possibilities for building a life different than the one we have now. Logistically, we want to make sure there are possibilities for sustainable living and having communities where our creative and other talents can be put to good use. We are curious to meet people who are living in more unconventional ways. We want to meet the change-makers, builders, and big dreamers of different communities. Thus we have researched and hope to meet: urban and rural farmers, tiny home dwellers, people plugged into the gig economy, lots of artists and creative types, and people who love the life they’ve built for themselves.
What steps will you take to get to know the communities you are visiting?
We have done a bit of research on the places we are visiting, and are trying to balance what we know before we arrive with what we leave to chance and discovery. We also both have a different approach to learning about communities, and plan to have solo days to explore in our own way. Joel will likely look for artist types, libraries, bookstores, record shops, tacos, and nerd gatherings. Sara will likely look for gardener’s/gardening centers/farmers and try to connect with local nonprofits, particularly those focused on systems-change work. We plan to ask a lot of questions and talk to "strangers." We also would like to attend local events to get some of the flavor of the places we will be. And we will learn through our stomachs (#localfood)! Finally, we plan to process and reflect on our experiences by creating original comics during and after our travels!
How is this different from a typical road trip?
For one: we aren’t going back home at the end – home is in flux as soon as we leave Minneapolis. Instead of returning to Minneapolis, we plan to relocate to our favorite new spot from along the route. There is also more flexibility than a typical road trip. We have a tentative timeline of when we would like to finish, but have already discussed the possibility of going back on the road or spending more time in specific places if we aren’t sure at the end where we want to relocate. And we can change course at any time!
Though we are interested in some of our favorite parts of “typical” road trips – quirky stops along the way, meandering back roads, and small town interactions – we are more driven by learning about places & people than the “special attractions.” You can read more about our route here.
What if the first place you go turns out to be the place you want to stay? Will you stay the course the whole tour?
There is so much to learn from visiting 40+ cities and spending 3 - 5 months on the road – so there is really no way to know if the first place we visit would stay the place we thought we would end up. We think the whole adventure is worth completing even if we start to lean towards relocating to one of the places we visit part of the way through.
What is the vehicle you're using for the trip and does it have a personality?
We will be traveling in a 2006 Toyota Highlander currently at 84,000 miles that is – in Sara’s Dad’s words – “a comfortable touring vehicle” for our 10,000-mile route. Per the request of our friend, Elissa, we feel that we should share we casually refer to it as “HiLi” and will further brainstorm on a cuter name. Suggestions welcomed!
What are you most nervous about?
Sara: Annoying each other in the car.
Will you create a comic collection at the end?
To be determined! Some sort of book of writing with comics is a possibility/hope!
When does this journey take place?
This website chronicles our planning phase (early 2018), our months on the road (August 2018 - January 2019), and our reflections, experiences on transition, and life after the road trip. From fall 2019 onward, the website is managed by Sara, reflecting on what comes next as an individual navigating the unexpected and exploring what's possible.