Life is a Highway: Interview with Kristin Lajeunesse
When T.O.F.U. last heard from you, you were six months into living in a van and travelling across America to eat at as many vegan restaurants as possible. Obviously, you’re no longer on that journey. So, in five steps, how did you go from the van to where you are now?
True. And great question. I ended up spending another 12 months in that van + 4 months in a sublet in NYC in order to complete my goal of eating at every single vegan restaurant in the U.S. I’m happy to report that I completed the mission. w00t! Since then… here’s the quick and dirty version of the 5 steps that followed the formal trip to where I am today:
- Hosted a closing-out/end-of-trip bash in NYC; raising just over $13k for Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.
- Moved to Chicago and traded free housing for free marketing consulting with Upton’s Naturals.
- Once Upton’s contract ended, stayed in Chicago before spending 7 weeks in Fargo, North Dakota; 3 weeks in Seattle, Washington; 1 week touring Alaska (my 50th state!), and 5 months in Hawaii (Big Island and Maui).
- Finished writing my first-ever book: A memoir about the 18 months I spent living and traveling full-time in the van.
- Returned to Chicago, Illinois after spending the holidays with family in upstate NY. Now, reporting to you from my temporary sublet in Wicker Park (Chicago) where I’m focused on the book launch promotional strategy, freelance communications work, and my business and lifestyle coaching business.
Personally, I’ve always felt strange coming off a tour, and I know a lot of my friends have experienced the same thing. So, do you miss life in the van? Any plans to go back to that or perhaps another nomadic choice in the future?
Post-tour blues are definitely real. But I’m not sure mine were due to finishing the trip, per say but more so what I was planning to do with myself at that point. Unlike others who may plan for the time away or have a job or family to come back to, my life plan was totally up in the air.
As the tour wound down, I didn’t really have a game plan for how I was going to earn a living (I’d been living off of donations for 2 full years at that point). I didn’t have a solid business model in place, not sure where I was going to live or travel to next. That’s when I put a call out on Facebook to see if any businesses would be up for a marketing/housing trade. I got lucky with Upton’s and then found a great place to stay after that. From then on out, I attempted to listen to my intuition and move forward with business ideas that would come to me in the middle of the night, when I’d try to sleep but was sweating over bills and being able to feed myself.
To answer your question though, I do miss van-dwelling on occasion. But I also like having my little spaces/rooms here and there that I’ve had since.
I’ve kind of remained nomadic since leaving the van life behind; moving to or exploring a new place every few months. And that seems to be exactly the right thing as a happy medium.
Next up, I’m planning to explore other parts of the world via vegan travels. I’ve got Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Berlin in my sights; though I won’t take action on that until 2016. The rest of the year is entirely dedicated to gaining momentum with my business and promoting the heck out of my book.
I suppose the near-future end goal is to land some kind of sweet job that will pay me to travel the world reporting, TV-style about vegan food. 🙂
Describe an average day for Kristin while on the road versus one in the past month or so.
Average on-the-road day = Wake up around 8:30AM, drowsy after another sleepless night filled with “what if someone tries to break into the van” semi-dreams; Scan email inbox; baby wipe my armpits; walk into the Walmart or Gas station or nearest coffee house to pee, brush teeth, and wash face. Head to nearest coffee shop to answer some emails and get started on or finish up a blog post. Head to next food destination; eat; post to social media what I’m eating; drive to next destination. Depending on length of drive either head to another coffee shop to do more writing and/or plan out next leg of trip -or- eat and social share again. Find safe-ish location to hunker down for the night. Close up the van by drawing together the blackout curtains around the windows; try and get some rest (~ 10-11PM).
Average recent day = Wake up around 6AM, shuffle through my morning routine (meditate, drink a few glasses of water, read, journal, stretch/exercise, and make breakfast smoothie). Work on freelance/paid items for 3-5 hours. Lunch break. Work on more paid stuff for 2-3 hours. Go for a walk while listening to the latest podcast episode of Smart Passive Income. Arrive at destination (usually a coffee shop) and sip a latte while reading a chapter from Money: Master The Game by Tony Robbins. Head back to my place and either take a nap or get ready to go to a ballroom dance lesson. Meditation + bed by 9-10PM. <-- This is my early week routine. Toward the end of the week I have a little more time to work on non-paid projects, like book promo and tour planning.
The eighth issue of T.O.F.U. includes a couple of articles on how to make the jump to start a vegan business and do something for a living that matches your ethics, which seems like something you’ve accomplished. Can you provide some background on one or two of the tougher moments since you hopped in the van that led to you questioning your decision? What do you attribute to allowing you to push past those moments?
This is a tough question to answer because even though while living through the journey I had no plan set up for its end, I somehow was never super worried about it. I just knew things would work out. Now yes, I’ve been struggling financially since the trip ended, working out exactly how I want to earn a living and what that looks like. But to be honest, the work that I’m doing now kind of came about organically as a result of the road trip.
Shortly after the trip ended I was contacted by an employee of Farm Animal Rights Movement. A few weeks later they were offering me a job for an incredibly ideal remote position. Other consulting work came about because people wanted to know how to turn their passions into profitable careers too. So, I started charging for that time and working out ongoing contracts with some of them.
One night when trying to sleep last winter I was rocketed out of bed with an idea to create my own online training course on marketing and business management. That experience ended up pulling me through one of my toughest financial strains since the trip ended.
So, you see – things come about… sometimes more readily than others. But I feel confident that if I continue moving in the direction of what FEELS right, things will continue to fall into place. It’s when I experience resistance that I know I need to move in another direction. And that’s okay too. 🙂
Have you found that leaving your steady job has created new possibilities that you would not have had if you had stayed?
Oh yes, absolutely! Had I not left my 9-5 job, I wouldn’t have been able to travel full-time for the past 3 years. I wouldn’t have been offered the remote freelance position I currently have with Farm Animal Rights Movement. I wouldn’t have the ability to pick up and go, attend events, and speak at veggie festivals (as frequently) if I still had a traditional 9-5 job. I wouldn’t be able to take afternoon naps, keep my own schedule, take more time for lunch, or “leave” early. And most importantly, I wouldn’t be able to work from my bed in my PJs all day. 🙂
Along with these possibilities, what are some of the ways in which you find your lifestyle has been limited by this decision?
Though I’m still building my consulting business—and truthfully, still deciding exactly what I want that to be and look like—I’ve definitely struggled financially the entire time I’ve been self-employed. I don’t have much in the way of savings and am very, very aware of each and every penny that comes my way. I am also responsible for my own health insurance and any research involving retirement and savings (sometimes that’s kind of built-in to “regular” jobs).
Even though some of these creature comforts are not currently accessible (I haven’t had a hair cut in over 6 months) at this moment, I do — as cliche as this might sound — feel freer than ever before. The simplicity of being able to dictate my own daily schedule and travel when I’d like (as money allows, of course) is so incredibly freeing. Granted, keeping myself accountable and on-time for work can be a challenge at times, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
What can people expect in the forthcoming book, and what should they look out for in the future from you?
Since the book shares the same name as my road trip project: Will Travel For Vegan Food, many assume it will be a travel guide or restaurant resource of some kind. It’s actually a memoir about the 18 months I spent living in the van. It’s many stories, and personal history, I’ve never shard publicly before. It includes a detailed recount of how and why the trip began, stories of people I met on the road (including some romance! w00t!), and more importantly, some huge life lessons I took away from the journey. That road trip quite literally changed my life in every way, and my hope is that the book reflects that experience while inviting the reader to step into THEIR own as well.
Since the trip ended I’ve been making moves based on my intuition and passions. As such, what I’m feeling for the rest of 2015 is a huge push around the launch of the book, a book tour (details TBD), dozens of speaking gigs, and closing out the year with a more clearly defined business model around how I intend to become a millionairess. In 2016, I’d love to take the Will Travel.. project abroad. I’ve got my sights set on Nicaragua (stay tuned for business + yoga retreats led by me and one of my yogi friends), Costa Rica, Thailand, Bali, London, and Berlin.
Ultimately, my aim is to be able to give to and provide for others in the ways in which near-strangers supported me during my travels. More than anything I wish to positively impact the lives of millions of people, while maintaining a mobile lifestyle, and having the financial freedom to do so. How that will take shape? Only divine timing will tell. 😉
Find out more about Kristin, the Will Travel For Vegan Food project, and her new book through her website.
You can purchase the book here.
Photo credit: Phillips Payson