The answer to the question is actually simple: you travel broke!
Of course, this option sounds like a nightmare to most people, but it’s the method I’m using to travel across the country. Thing is, most of us would assume that if we were to set out on a moneyless adventure, we’d end up in a ditch somewhere starving to death in misery and destitution. The problem with that thought is that it isn’t true, especially here in America. Your main two concerns will be lodging and food. Both of these are easier to manage than you may have thought.
The first thing you may worry about lodging. On this subject, I’d like you to imagine a tribe of nomads wandering through the Sahara desert. Now I’d like you to imagine the look on their faces when one of their tribesmen says “Can we stay at a Motel 8 tonight?”
Obviously they would balk at the idea, because a tribe of nomads would likely understand mountains, rivers, lakes, and woodlands, and they would have understood that our evolutionary features are meant to tango with these geological features. Knowing this will show you that many of our modern amenities are not necessary. If you have a tent, sleeping bag and mat, proper clothing for layering, and just a little know-how, you will never have to worry about where you sleep. Of course, you’ll be cold sometimes, or wet, or otherwise affected in such a way that you will be miserable. However, if you are properly prepared, you will live and learn from the experience. As far as the law goes, I camp wherever I want, in the open or hidden, regardless of arbitrary rules and regs, and I have not once been bothered about it. I also keep a minimal presence, don’t start fires when I’m stealth camping, and I Leave No Trace, so that’s probably gone a long way in helping me.
As far as gear goes, you will need to spend some money on this unless you can trade for or scavenge supplies well enough. You need a shelter, sleeping bag and mat, and proper clothing at the least. I worked in call centers and Walmart for several months to afford these items. You can find work almost everywhere and if you aren’t finding it then you aren’t looking. You can clean a toilet or flip a burger, it won’t kill you and you aren’t a “slave to corporate America” if you are using the system to become free of the system. Corporate America becomes your slave at this point because it no longer owns you. The moment you decide to become self-sufficient and live off the land, you have taken the biggest step forward in freeing yourself from the binds of our modern society.
Finally, food. That’s an important thing, to stay properly fueled as you travel. You’d think that you’d need money for food, but you’re probably forgetting that America is the land of waste, where good food is thrown out by the bucketful. A lot of people look down on this, but I will be the first to tell you that you can have a great quality diet consisting of healthy, delicious foods, and you don’t have to pay a dime for it. So how to do this? Simple: find a Trader Joes, wait for a good time when nobody is watching (remember you aren’t the only one who does this so don’t ruin it for the rest of us with your carelessness), then jump in their dumpster and find all that good food that has past the expiration date but is still perfectly good to eat.
When you are in the wild, you may have to subsist on much less, not because food isn’t plentiful, but because you may not know how to find edible plants and wildlife. First of all, you won’t starve. Going hungry for a few nights or even a whole week does not constitute as starving. Additionally, being kind of hungry actually does some cool things to you. Your mind clears, your body adapts and begins to conserve energy better, and you begin to see colors differently. This change in perception is nature’s defense against starvation, as you can now distinguish, mostly from instinct, what plants around you are edible. Of course you should still not eat wild plants without some idea of what you’re doing. As Terry Pratchett said, “All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once.”
If things ever get really tough and you’re in a survival situation, and you can’t identify edible plants, just remember that most insects are edible. Avoid weird or bright colors, which may indicate toxicity, and avoid spiders. Otherwise, if you carefully over turn rocks and logs, collect a fair amount of beetles, grubs, and other creepy-crawlies, then fry them up in oil with some salt and cayenne pepper, and you’ve got yourself a nutrient rich meal packed with protein. You may be making faces at this thought right now, but if you find yourself in this situation, you need to overcome your sensitivity right away if you stand a chance. When it comes to survival you have only two choices available to you: adapt or die.
I will have more insights to come as I delve into this lifestyle and learn more about it. So far it has provided me with a level of wisdom and freedom I had not yet imagined. I know that this is the right path for me, and if you feel these ideas inciting wanderlust and adventure seeking in yourself, then perhaps you are a fellow gypsy like me. If you think you can’t do this, you’re wrong. Throw away your worldly possessions and join me under the vast blue sky in this big, beautiful world. I promise you won’t regret it.