This is Edward Mjelde, and he lived out of his SUV while working as a regional sales manager.
Enjoy his amazing story that he is allowing us to re-share with you today.
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This Guy Lived Out of His SUV While Working as a Regional Sales Manager
I started living out of my SUV after I finished a big adventure…
My name is Edward Mjelde. This is a detailed story of how I secretly lived out of a 2014 Ford Escape and traveled over 65,000 miles in nearly two years while working as a Regional Sales Manager.
I finished walking coast to coast across the United States without rides, over 5,000 miles by foot.
I walked from Cape Henlopen, Delaware to Point Reyes, California following the southern route of the “American Discovery Trail”.
To visualize how many miles I walked, the distances is nearly equal to the distance between California and Norway as the crow flies.
…By the way, I grew up in North County San Diego, California and my bloodline is Norwegian…
On my walk, I focused on the essentials and traveled lightweight.
My base weight was about 12 pounds.
My journey across the country took me 13 cumulative months of walking… a total of nine pairs of worn out shoes.
The last 2-3 months of my walk I carried flashcards to prepare for my new job
During my winter break, my Dad suggested the idea that I could work for the family company.
My Dad has always been a hero and role model and my family is important to me. I liked the idea, so I started to prepare.
I had an extreme focus on keeping my gear lightweight/low bulk. Flashcards are not lightweight or low bulk, but they work for me, so I carried them…
The new job was important.
One week after finishing my walk I took out a loan for an SUV, I planned to live out of it. Not the first time I had this idea.
I started thinking about moving into a vehicle back in 2008, when I took all the seats out of my Chevy Astro Van and put carpet down to make a mobile hangout room.
Then in 2009 for the sake of adventure and to save money I moved all my possessions to a small storage unit, bought a cot, and slept on the beach cliffs in Carlsbad, California. I had a perfect spot where nobody went and the waves would crash against the walls, always just missing me in its spray. The nights I spent on the beach were beautiful and meaningful, I fell in love.
During this time I was going through college and was a manager at a restaurant. I earned my Bachelors in Business from Cal State San Marcos (CSUSM) in 2012.
Two weeks after my walk I was working at my family’s manufacturing company. I began on the assembly line.
The company is called AquaStar Pool Products. We are a leading pool product manufacturer in the swimming pool industry. Everything we do is done in-house: tool making, molding, assembly, warehousing, and we even own a state-of-the-art hydraulic laboratory for product testing and development.
We are proud to make our products in the United States!
When I wasn’t working I was having fun exploring the SUV life, finding the best areas to park that I could get away with.
I lasted two and a half nights in this spot with a perfect beach view before being woken up by the police and told to move along. I started to learn what spots worked and which did not.
Money started coming in. With income, I was able to buy a few things to keep organized, comfortable, and pay my loans.
I never like to admit it, but I was broke. I finished my walk with $3 dollars in my pocket and all I owned to my name was a set of worn out backpacking gear. Upon finishing my walk my Dad gave me a $300 dollar gift. I coasted on that till my first paycheck.
I never told my Dad how broke I was and had no intention to do so. I don’t think he ever knew how much that gift helped out.
During the day everything would stay in my trunk, but at night I would transform my vehicle into a bedroom.
It would take me 3-5 minutes when things were orderly to get everything set up.
One minute video on how I would set up my vehicle at night:
And I took my showers on the beach and later at gyms.
The first gym I belonged to Vertical Heaven in Ventura, CA didn’t have a shower…I ended up using the cold outside showers at the beach. Though, later I would belong to a network of climbing gym owned by TouchStone Climbing Gyms in Northern California… and they had excellent warm showers and always well kept facilities.
As time went on I got a promotion to Regional Sales Manager.
I had an idea that this promotion could happen and I worked to make myself a candidate for it. However, during the process where I was being considered for the job it was found out that I was secretly living out of my SUV, it was questioned whether or not I was fit for the job.
The promotion hung in the air and I couldn’t be more pissed that I was being judged for my lifestyle. People knew of my past history and free nature… If I was doing well at my job, what did it matter how I lived?
I enjoyed living out of my SUV, I enjoyed the freedom it provided me. I wanted to continue living out of my SUV, I didn’t care if it even cost me one of the best promotions of my life. I stood firm in my position and my stubbornness upset people.
In time, things would cool down, my lifestyle was accepted and was never further discussed. Later, after several successful projects I received the promotion… however, it was given to me with skepticism and a heavy eye was placed on my development and sales performance.
I was now in charge of a seven state sales territory!
Most of my time was spent in Northern California between Sacramento and San Francisco. In California and Nevada I was only in charge of the northern parts of the states.
Clean cut and ready to represent my family’s company.
There was a small celebration and I was set off on my own in Sacramento.
Sacramento became my home base.
For the first few months, I worked hard and spent a lot of my free time with friends.
For two months I paid for access to a living room, a couch to sleep on (when I was in town), and an anytime access place to work. I continued to store nearly all my belongings in my vehicle.
Once when I had a better grasp of my job I left and quickly became fond of spending my time and nights outside again.
I started getting ideas for places to sleep…
As a Sales Manager my car was often packed with product displays and literature. Sleeping outside was sometimes a must.
To open up the possibilities I bought a hammock. On the first night with it I slept under a bridge several stories up.
I had never done anything like this before, it was exhilarating!
The view from the hammock at night.
I posted this picture on Facebook, a few days later I got a call from my boss, the National Sales Manager, asking what I was doing. He said he had gotten a call from one of our customers saying that I had posts on my facebook of me camping out during the weekday.
I told my boss the truth, I was doing this all on my own time and he believed me and understood. Really awesome boss to have.
But… he told me it is important to consider my image in all forms of contact, business and personal.
….Wanting to succeed at my job and release some of the negative pressure I was receiving since the discovery of my lifestyle…..
I started to be quiet.
When anyone would ask where I lived… I DO NOT LIKE THIS…. but…I started telling white lies. I also became far more quiet about my living situation with those during work and in my personal life.
Regardless of the way I lived, I made sure it didn’t effect my work. I was always pushing hard for the company.
I was getting better at it too…. I learned how to save room on my sales trips by using strict planning.
And by minimizing my use of hotels, I was able to save the company a lot of money and was more convenient for me.
There is nothing like traveling and feeling like you are still at home. There was nowhere to rush back to, I could roam free with my hustle.
It allowed me to be closer to where I had to be at in the morning and to travel long miles without having to find a hotel.
The best part was it also gave me a fun task to explore the new areas I traveled through to find interesting places to sleep and explore. What else are you going to do living out of a car?
Even though I would check into hotels occasionally…
I started to make my bonus and used it to upgrade the place. I got a new backpack, climbing shoes, and a computer…
I upgraded my igloo cooler to a Yeti and even did an Ikea project in the back of my car…
To get rid of the old plastic drawer I had used for months and replaced it with a locking drawer.
This plastic drawer worked well, but the biggest problem I had with it was its modular design. The joints would often come unhinged and the weight of the items stored were not well supported. I had solutions to these problems, but thought it was a move towards greater utility and class to welcome in the locking drawer.
In time my setup became like a modern home, everything included, except a bathroom.
By the way, the bathrooms I used were public. I often peed in bushes.
In Sacramento, I found a railroad bridge that I would spend many of might nights under.
Not many people ventured down the train track to where I was and perhaps homeless avoided it because of the loud trains.
The noise didn’t bother me though, I loved it.
I learned to enjoy the sounds of passing trains on my walk across the country.
With the hammock attached to the bridge’s supporting structure I was also able to feel the vibrations when trains passed, it would rock and massage me to sleep. It was great.
I had a lot of good nights sleeping under the bridge, there was something enchanting about the area.
After many nights of sleeping in a hammock it’s nice to spend a night on the floor. I always tried to vary it up.
I started to go there just to hanging out and relax…
My favorite thing, was that just a little down the rail, I could hang my hammock up over the river and have a perfect view.
If you compared my story to Aladdin, the river would be my palace view… you could even see the city of Sacramento clearly at the end of the river.
I’d wake up to fishermen, paddle boarders, canoes and kayakers coming underneath me, most people would never see me up there.
I loved the graffiti… too bad I never caught anyone doing it.
*Glow was added to accent hammock.
I began to refer to this place as my second home.
I was often traveling for work….
Most of my time was spent traveling and most of my travel happened because of my job. I would often be somewhere different every weekend.
Might as well make the best of it!
Wherever the sales life lead me I found the coolest places around to spend my weekend.
When you spend every weekend exploring, you can see a lot of places…
My favorite spots to stop for the weekend quickly became hot springs…
Spencer Hot Springs, Nevada
I would often visit springs on my route during different times of the year to observe how they would change during the seasons
Kirkham Hot Springs, Idaho
CORRECTION: Bottom date should read “September 27, 2015”
Spencer Hot Spring, Nevada
Deep Creek Hot Spring, California
Little Hot Creek- Mamaoth Lakes, California
Kosh Hot springs, California
Hunt Hot Springs, CA
I’d like to cool off and admire waterfalls and watering holes…
Lake Tahoe, California
Tumalo Falls- Bend Oregon
Alamere Falls- Point Reyes, California
One of the few tidal falls on the west coast.
Horsetail Falls- Desolation Wilderness, CA
Somewhere off a long backcountry dirt road, Oregon
In the winter I would enjoy the snow…
Sawtooth Lake, ID
Yosemite Valley, California
El Capitan- Yosemite, California
The coldest night in my hammock so far… Welcoming in the sun!
I would go exploring the differences in cities…
State Capital, Boise, Idaho
And check out the abandoned places….
I find a particularly attractive beauty in-between the line of what man has made and what nature has shaped.
Abandoned Motel- Highway 93, Oregon
Keeping my step as I cross a bed of upright nails…
Scary Farm- Camarillo, California
I would make stops at all sorts of cool places of interest…
SkinWalker (Sherman) Ranch- Ballard, Utah
Do you see the camera watching me…
Interesting one to look up on Wiki…
Bishops Castle, Colorado
Echo Drive-In- Roosevelt, Utah
Cheveron 31 E Oil Plant- Maricopa, California
Surprising no “No Trespassing” signs or anything…. Twenty minutes after exploring I was discovered and quickly escorted out.
Shoe Tree- Middle Gate, Nevada
Manitou Incline- Manitou Springs, Colorado
South Tufa- Mono Lake, California
Bonneville Speedway- Wendover, Utah
On those rare days where I was lazy, I’d just relax in a parking lot.
Resident Evil 5, back grocery store parking lot
Some nights I’d venture away from the car for good views….
Cascade Open Space Preserve- FairFax, California
And then some nights I would get so tired of driving I would just park the car and sleep where I landed….
Off the side of the road- Somewhere, Utah
Rest stop, Utah
And when I was in the city I would find places to park on slow and dead end roads…
And in large parking lots behind stores.
Hammocks though, quickly became my favorite way to sleep…
San Francisco, California
One weekend I gave myself a single task… to seek out the best place to sleep with a view of San Francisco… this is where I wound up at.
I was always dreaming of different places and ways to rig it up…
Sometimes I would go to sleep and wake up in stunning places…
Sometimes i just slept in random places where I expected few people would go…
San Jose, California
This town lets travelers sleep in their park.
I always had fun…
Redwood City, California
And had comfortable nights.
Lake Tahoe, California
If I wasn’t ready for bed, I’d stay up and read or study…
Sit back and unwind….
But eventually morning would come and I would have to take on the day.
Mornings always started with a good breakfast…
Morning chicken sriracha quesadilla before the climbing gym.
Sometimes when it was rainy or cold, I would even cook inside my car.
Don’t worry, I was very very careful.
But I would also eat out a lot too… My favorite dish to order out is Pad Thai drenched in Panang Curry sauce…
FORGIVE ME FOR TAKING PICTURES OF MY FOOD
I would order this plate all over the country. I was determined to record my experience at each different Thai restaurant and understand the many different ways the dish can be prepared.
The majority of my daily exercises was from practicing my balance on the slackline…
Pipe Works- Sacramento, California
And rock-climbing at the gym….
Which would often be my place to shower.
You’d be surprised by the people I would meet while doing these actives…
On a trip to Puerto Rico
Some might think that this lifestyle would be pretty lonely….
But I traveled with an open heart and found beautiful people who understood me….
San Rafael, California
Who wanted to explore….
Spencer Hot Springs, Nevada
See my favorite places….
Bishops Castle, Colarado
It was always nice to have company over at home
…Who would join me at the ends of the earth.
Devils Punch Bowl, Nevada
Gotta to get corny with it…
I found love.
I was very lucky and deeply appreciative.
Sure there were challanges….
And tough times…
Fell off wrong on the climbing wall and strained my ankle….
And I wasn’t always that lucky…
Broken window- Dog Patch, San Francisco
Sometimes I was really unlucky…
Where did the deer come from!?
But I always tried to make it work, whatever it took, just like everyone else…
Patched window using a clear acrylic board. Had to wait to when I had a pause in my schedule to bring it to the shop.
Rental Car…I lived out of this car for over a week while my vehicle was in the body shop…
Sometimes the best solutions were the unconventional ones…
For example, when no shower could be found by the end of the day, I would take my showers outside with my pump shower… often finding somewhere for privacy… this night using the covering of an empty dumpster stall.
I am always exploring with my options.
There was a strong duality between my work and personal life…. That I never came to terms with…
On a flight across the country for a Trade Show.
At the end of 2015, my region showed the highest growth in our company. I felt I was on my way to becoming a great Sales Manager.
Me and my Dad. Best guy I know.
But in my personal life I had evolved into a total street rat…
And no one knew about this dichotomy… I started to feel like a phony and misunderstood.
Las Vegas, Nevada
I hated being someone who suddenly became about playing the part and looking good rather than saying and being what was honest.
Glass of milk before bed, Sacramento
I wondered if a job like this was right for me…
Second Home, California
Or if my choice to live out of my SUV was driven by my urge to return to the wild…
Highest Mountain in the Rockies
Mount Elbert, CO
(Taken on my walk across the country)
Should I plug into my career as a sales manager…. did I find value and meaning in doing so?
Yes and no… these were tough questions… Twenty-Seven years old and the last prime years of my youth right in front of me… Good paying job that I value and am doing well in that requires my total devotion and dedication….
I thought about it for a long time, and then I pulled the trigger… and took a chance….
Las Vegas Skyline, Nevada
I quit the best and highest paying job I ever had…
Getting poured on while walking the beach in San Francisco
and finally felt at peace internally, I instantly knew I made the right decision.
KirkHam Hot Springs, Idaho
I love AquaStar and didn’t want to leave, but the only position available was on the assembly line… sooo I took it.
And the extreme pay cut that went with it… *sigh*….
As time went on, I found my way to becoming head of Technical Support and even get to assist in our laboratory.
I love science!
And now I am even planning another long adventure for 2017! Couldn’t be happier.
Pacific Crest Trail- Tahoe, California
(Taken on my walk across the country)
This is the end of my story.
Let me leave you with a picture of this happy guy I found walking in Colorado.
He claimed to have walked all around the US, wearing the same pair of cloths for years, repairing it with scraps and pieces of material he would find.
He was out sharing the message to be positive, be true to yourself, and chase your dreams.
Our big thanks to Edward for letting us share his story!
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