How I Went From A Six-Figure Salary to Sleeping in My Car – And I Couldn't Be Happier

The position I held at my company got eliminated, and with it, my sense of stability. In the months since I’ve also spent a lot of time traveling, camping and meeting all sorts of amazing people.

When I moved into my last permanent residence in 2014, I firmly believed it would be my home for many years to come. My West Hollywood loft was cute, cozy and quiet, and given where I was with my career at the time; everything was falling right into place.

Just one month later, it seemed like everything was falling apart. The position I held at my company got eliminated, and with it, my sense of stability.


It’s not always easy to see the forest through the trees. Photo: @elisabethontheroad / Instagram

As I nodded my head in agreement to the countless people who tried to console me with “everything happens for a reason," I secretly wanted to scream in their faces.

At the time, I didn’t see it, but looking back, it was truly a blessing in disguise. This job—and the nearly six-figure salary that it paid me—was the driving force behind my identity. It didn’t satisfy me on a personal level, and I only stuck around for the money.

And that should never be the reason to stay at a job.


Sometimes you have to stand alone to find yourself. Photo: @elisabethontheroad / Instagram

In the months since then, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, learning, stressing and becoming a better human. After my salary had been chopped in half, I decided not to look for a new job right away.

Instead, I’ve also spent a lot of time traveling, camping, pulling all nighters and meeting all sorts of amazing people.


Taking the leap can lead to big rewards. Photo: @elisabethontheroad / Instagram

I made some budget cuts, ditched town, and visited friends all over the country. I went on road trips in my home state of California. I inhaled fresh mountain air in Alberta, went skinny dipping in Georgia and marveled at the way the stars lit up the night sky in Death Valley.

I spent more time on my photography and started documenting these adventures on my blog and Instagram.


All the feels at all the places. Photo: @elisabethontheroad / Instagram

I have always been passionate about sharing stories and pictures from my travels, but I never thought about pursuing it as a career. That is until I realized it was what I truly wanted to do.

But how was I supposed to take the next step when so much was holding me back?

One by one, I starting removing things from my life, whether it be bills, clothes or shallow people.


“Let it go!” Photo: @elisabethontheroad / Instagram

With the money from my freelance blogging jobs to support myself, I’ve been able to scrape by. Earlier this fall, I took things one step further and decided to move out of my apartment.

I still don’t have another living arrangement lined up, which is both terrifying and thrilling.


Here’s something else that’s both terrifying and thrilling. Photo: @elisabethontheroad / Instagram

My parents aren’t ashamed of the fact that their 32-year-old daughter is technically homeless; rather, they support my decision to pursue my dreams.

While many of my friends are buying houses, getting married and having kids, I’m the one asking to crash on their couches and store things in their garages. Not only do they welcome me with open arms, but I think many of them are envious of the freedom I have.


Who wants to be tied down when the alternative is THIS? Photo: @elisabethontheroad / Instagram

When I travel to take pictures, I’m either sleeping in a tent or in my Jeep. Sometimes I’ll split a cheap motel with friends, but I’m generally not in a comfy bed when I’m on the road. I keep baby wipes and plastic utensils in my car, and I no longer bother fully deflating my sleeping pad.

While on the road I’ll sometimes go a few days without showering, and on a bad day my diet consists of gummy bears and leathery beef jerky from whatever gas station I visited last.


You never know where the road — or river — will take you. Photo: @elisabethontheroad / Instagram

This fall I booked a job with the official tourism board of Hawaii and I stayed at some very posh hotels, but as of now, I’m not consistently getting offered gigs like that. I know it will change, but until I get to pick and choose my travel assignments, I’ll be keeping it simple and living a nomadic lifestyle.

When you have your own pillow, snacks, and electronics, sleeping in an SUV really isn’t any different than your own bedroom. Having everything you need right there with you can feel incredibly liberating, and I honestly couldn’t be happier about where I am in life at the moment.

Follow Elisabeth on her travels @elisabethontheroad on Instagram

For more stories like this, check out 7 Tips To Make A Career Out Of Travel, as well as The 10 Excursion Essentials I Always Pack.