How To Take A Year Off And Travel The Country For Only $180 Using Social Media

Geek!This is Amy Bugbee’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

My husband Shane and I set out on a year long road trip with $180 in our pockets, we had no savings account, no credit cards, no back up, our only safety net was the Internet. WIth our dog and turtle in the back seat of our Chevy Blazer, we left with a few blankets, a bag of baking gear, a suitcase full of clothes, and most importantly, one laptop computer, an HD video camera, and a donated digital audio recorder. The recorder was given to us by a supporter we met at a podcasting meeting we found on Meetup, so we were already putting social media to the test.

A journey such as this is not for everyone, but for the adventurous few who dare, it is possible to survive for a full year on the road using nothing but technology – and a little elbow grease. Our plan was to use the Internet to find work, shelter and conversation.

In addition, we planned to give people an outlet to speak their mind in the videos we were posting, bring more voices to the Internet, and promote any businesses willing to help us out.

The first rule of the road was Craigslist. This is where we found the most work and the most support, second was our “friends” on MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. I even used eBay to auction my cookie baking service around Christmas and had a great time whipping up cookies all afternoon for a nice lady in the Chicago suburbs. We also contacted other bloggers, vloggers, and various Internet personalities that might be willing to barter some promotion, this garnered mixed results, some were helpful, and some were not, and don’t even get me started on Adam Curry! We really wanted to use Couchsurfing.com, unfortunately the fact we were two people with a dog and a turtle was a bit more than most folks wanted on their sofa, it would probably work much better for a single traveler than our hoard.

We contacted a variety of businesses and offered to promote their gear if they would send us some, to this end we acquired shoes, clothes, baking mixes, and even a waterproof laptop case from Otterbox. Along the road other needs popped up, like car repairs, dog sitting and food, and typically with a quick Internet search and few emails everything was taken care of, in exchange for their service we made video commercials and posted them online. Once when we were nearly starving in St. Louis, we called a local BBQ stand and asked to come in and film an episode of our Internet TV show. The owner pumped us full of delicious meat and side dishes and then sent us off with a case of BBQ sauce and probably half a pig. We felt a little guilty about the royal treatment we’d received, but in the end the man was thrilled with the business our online video brought him, and he still emails us to this day!

To work our way across the USA we used the “Gigs” section of Craigslist, that’s where people post for temporary odd jobs such as raking leaves or help moving, and many of the people we worked for were supportive of our project and offered us food, shelter, gas, and even doggie vitamins. In the course of our trip, I worked cleaning houses, mowing lawns, and even spent a day at a gun show. Shane fixed gear plumbing in Knoxville, and we both worked as ranch hands in New Mexico and bottled rum in New Orleans. The other section we used with great success was “Barter”, there we posted ‘Will Trade Wife” or “Will Trade Husband”, these were for non-sexual trades of labor, cookie baking, and fix it help, most people found these posts amusing and it lessoned the fear of allowing strangers in one’s home. Perhaps our most important Craigslist barter of all was in Portland, Oregon when we traded our Chevy Blazer for an old RV, from which I am currently typing this article.

For places to stay, we usually posted in the “Community” Section under “Local News”, “General”, or “Politics”. Since our road trip was following the election year, we would ask if anyone out there had an interest in being a part of an Internet TV show about the election. We also stayed with many online pals, it was exciting to meet many of our “friends” in person for the first time, and many of the people we met hooked us up with their friends all across the country.

On the days we had no money and no place to go, technology helped us in another way, we would find a Kinkos that was open 24 hours and take turns working and napping in the truck. Kinkos is a giant corporation built on computer technology, it is a great hub for small business owners to appear more legit via telecommunications, teleconferencing, digital copying, and they seemed rather used to weirdos milling about at all hours of the night.

Technology is an ever evolving matter, so one must also be willing to adapt to the changes. Much of what we began the year with changed drastically over the months. Our website upgraded three times, changing Word Press templates that adapted to the crossing over of more bloggers to vloggers. The way in which we uploaded our videos changed too. We began the year using lulu.tv, who was paying us a small amount per month to post videos. After a few months, they dropped out due to funding issues and we began manually posting on several websites, including Blip, Revver, and YouTube. About halfway through our trip we discovered Tube Mogul, which automatically placed our videos on every website we chose with just one click.

During the year we also brought technology to other people, we set up an old chum in Chicago with streaming radio, convinced a gal in Mississippi to do a regular blog, got tons of friends to join various social and video networking sites, and the rum distillery we worked at, bottling the best Cajun Spice Rum in the world, is now doing their own Internet TV show. Even some of the subjects from our videos hooked up together from across town and across the country.

In the end, we made it the entire year by utilizing technology and the Internet. We lived below the poverty line for certain, but the dog and turtle didn’t seem to notice, and Shane actually put on a few pounds from all the great meals we shared with fine people. It brought us all a lot closer together, and we have a world of new friends from sea to shining sea, most of whom we manage to keep up with through email and social networks. It just goes to prove, there is nothing more broadening than travel, and nothing so grand as technology.

Now, get going!

We used a MacBook laptop, Sony HD Handicam, Edirol recorder from Roland, and Shane’s homemade stabilizer bar.

71 thoughts on “How To Take A Year Off And Travel The Country For Only $180 Using Social Media”

  1. this is so, so awesome, you guys are inspirational! thanks for sharing the story, Chris. I’m reading ‘Small is Beautiful’, and this fits with the idea of ‘economics as if people mattered’.

  2. What an awesome way to work your way around the country. It makes me wonder how long you could do this before you had to settle down and get a more orthodox kinda job. Secondly, why not write a book or do a full length documentary since there’s already tons of video footage.

  3. I had the pleasure of meeting the Bugbees along the way and I’m better for it. They were living on a wing and barely a prayer but they made it. Let’s hope that something more will be seen fro them in the future.

  4. My husband, crazy dog and I had the great honor of hosting these folks for a few days (via the ‘will trade wife’ ad on craigslist) and I can tell you their spirit and resourcefulness are completely inspirational!!! It was amazing to actually meet folks ‘livin the dream’ across the country and even better to hear stories of people across political, class, social, race, & gender lines coming together to help out folks they didn’t even know. They certainly gave me some of what I asked for in trade: hope in humanity.

  5. This is the most inspirational story… It proves that people are not bad and mean, and most people have good intentions and want to help other people. It also proves that anything you want to do is possible, it just takes a little work. I can’t wait to travel across the country, and this definitely makes me believe I can do it too.

  6. one of my closest friends, called me one day and asked if i’d like to have someone interview me about my art. this ‘someone’ was the bugbees. they had been staying with him for a few days and were on their way through to san francisco. they came to my house and hung out and we talked about my then current body of work. they were awesomely kind and i even had a chance to show them (in my opinion) one of the most powerful places in oakland. more people should have such ambition.

  7. Wow, you guys have some serious balls. I think I’ll get off the couch and go outside. It’s funny how people can manage to get by on wit & skill. I think I’ll quit my job too, before I get laid off I might as well live a little. I learned a lot from this article and it doesn’t look so scary out of the box now. thanks

    DuI

  8. Thank you for this very inspiring blog! I’ve always wondered how you folks did this work, and now it doesn’t look so hard–And thank you for your work!

  9. They folks travel around the country covering local stories and how these stories represent the struggle in American life. Truly real, informative and inspiring.

  10. That’s a great story! I’ve always wanted to travel around the country like that but I don’t know if I would have the guts to do wat you gus did!

  11. wow! shane and amy and chyane and myrtle are the rockinest team of freewheelin journalists around!!!! when i grow up i want to be just like ’em!
    i’ve really enjoyed all the great media y’all have produced over the year!
    thanks!
    xoxox
    skinnychef

  12. A year at the wheel crew are amazing people. They are really nice and actually care about there audience. Ive had the pleasure of meeting them in texas, and i watch all there stuff. If anyone deserves this equipment, its these guys. Dude…. Your michale graves.

  13. I found [email protected] on Mobilebroadcastnews, and watch all the video’s since then. They are inspiring, show many different aspects of their country and people . What I didn’t know is how little they started out with and much of their travels that followed in detail prior.

    For those that started out with near nothing & the resourcefulness they have clearly shown, on an adventure that enabled themselves and others to express themselves to the public (at large) who usually do not, I say thumbs up, 5 stars, give them the gear!

  14. I have been keeping up with the Bugbees for some time now. This style of documentary is helping to keep the technological revolution alive. Give the media back to the people who make a difference in the way it is perceived and by the way the information is raw and unadulterated opposed to the way most journalism is everywhere else. It is refreshing to see people in smaller and larger communities be able to practice their right of free speech on racy subjects and non racy subjects with out being censored or feel inhibited by big brother so they monitor their thoughts.
    Awesome job for providing the outlet for voices who want to stand up and speak out to be heard.

  15. i have never seen video blogging, podcasting and incessant on the go journalism done like this. a year at the wheel wasn’t only a creative and unique project but it was an inspirational project. in times so dark they helped shed light with truth and hope.

  16. it’s amazing how networking free places can get you across the state and be able to put together not only a community but spread awreness like a wildfire. shane and amy were a pleasure to have in our household. they taught us a valuable lesson. you can get by on very little and also they taught us how to take a chance. a year at the wheel is a project that should go down in history. creative and original.

  17. Finally, TRUE journalism straight from the mouths of American citizens, unfiltered and uncut.
    I love the DIY approach these folks take and the sometimes unusual people they find along the way. They pull no punches and never quit.
    We need more! This stuff may be unorthodox, but it’s fresh, new and HONEST.

  18. Amazing fortitude, endurance, and willpower. You guys have it all. How wonderful to be able to travel at will, courageous to meet so many strangers. Great job..

  19. I LOVE THESE GUYS. A YEAR AT THE WHEEL IS WHAT MEDIA SHOULD BE AND HAS BEEN MISSING. THEY EVEN HAVE A COOL DOG AND TURTLE, THEY MET CRAIG FROM CRAIGSLIST. HOW COOL IS THAT?

  20. I’ve been friends with Shane on myspace for a while. The videos they post give me the inspiration to travel a little. I even bought a rubbing of the memorial from the Jones town site to help them on their way. I think they are doing good for all of us, from doing burn outs in the General Lee to going to the house that inspired A Christmas Story.

  21. I love you both so much… I wish more people had the guts to do what you have done and how you live. I really hope you win the contest. You deserve it!

  22. shane and amy bugbee stopped at our place for a little bit of east coast hospitality .we had a blast and got to see a year at the wheel be shot on digital camera,cheers to shane and amy for showing the underground what some people really think about the world and everything around them in this society….jmg

  23. I had no idea you had such little money! You guys are the epitome of resourceful. I’m glad Ryen and Ricky and I could provide a night’s stay in Las Vegas. Best of luck on the rest of your travels!

  24. I know of no two others that personify the fusion of human emotion and passion with technology to form a whole new creature. These two stayed at my place on the journey for a day and I wish it could have been longer just to hear and with the beauty of technology “see” more about their fascinating trip to document the real faces, vices and voices of America.
    I find it almost selfless that these two had the courage to face all obstacles or hardships, a test of survival just to document all of those Americans who are the real voice of this great nation. I personally feel they passed that test and exceeded all possible expectations.
    We need more americans like these two.
    I feel they have done amazing things with what that had and I would like to see them have the opportunity to make a good thing better.
    Thank you Shane and Amy.
    Eric Freeman
    http://www.myspace.com/darklord10000000

  25. well ive known shane and amy for many years now and they have always been nonconformist. i think thats awsome. they do what they want when they want and answer to no one.i wish i had the balls to do that. every day i go to a job that i hate with people i hate. they have done many things from videos to comic books and i think this is their best effort to date. you go guys!!!

  26. i think that it a great idea to do what they have done. ive seen some of the video clipes and they are great. cant wait for the book.they really deserve to win 4 sure!

  27. Hey … this is great! I have been on the road on and off for 4 decades doing it by thumb, living in a school bus, pickup truck with camper and now conversion van. As always, networking is the name of the game. You are showing us all how to do it in the Internet age. Many good ideas here. I will definitely be checking some of them out myself. I have solar panels, an inverter and aircard, so can put these ideas to work right away. Good luck and rave on!

  28. I’ve seen some of the video’s and it is very interesting to find out about all you cannot see alone,at home…and it is really cool to see someone you’ve met,or know personally,hundreds of miles away,in a video online.I’ve been a subject in some video-histories,and have a bunch of cool grateful dead stuff i share pics of,on myspace,and i tell how i aquired it,on video shot by enthusiasts just like these folks!…They’re welcome to camp out here….

  29. I’ve known Shane and Amy for more than 10 years. They have always been totally inspirational to me! From their background in small press to their Year at the Wheel project. Shane & Amy (and the dog & the turtle) were in Austin during SXSW as part of the Year at the Wheel project and I wish they could have stayed forever. Great conversation, incredible adventures and wonderful people!!

  30. Awesome trip for nearly nothing. What a wonderful way to see the great U.S. Have followed your travels and every day seems like an adventure. Did you feel like Davey Crokett at times? Your mom must be proud.

  31. YES!!! Your doing it!
    I’m 54 and I have returned to school to update my tech skills in media arts. I spent 8 years working with horses and people in Montana and then 8 years doing digital graphics, (computers and people).
    My current fantasy is to combine the two experiences by spending at least 30 days at a time on horse back in wilderness areas in Montana. By using satellite up links, art, photography, video and journalism, I want to attempt to communicate to the larger culture the importance of maintaining wilderness and the experience of wilderness to the greater culture.
    You have provided the example thank you.

  32. It’s inspiring to see things like like this being done even as the promise of a “citizen journalist” watchdog blogosphere has degenerated into basement dwelling hacks commenting on tabloid celebrity news. A Year At the Wheel is what the media revolution was supposed to be. Shane and Amy lead the charge…

  33. We would just like to say this is a great read. We greatly appreciate A Year At the Wheel. They have done some amazing things for us, for Pitbull knowledge,etc. Thank you kindly to Shane and Amy for everything! You are both awesome and we appreciate you guys!

  34. Shane & Amy are to of the greatest people I’ve known. While they were at my place, Shane put together a book for me using the print on demand company lulu.com Just another great thing this couple has done over the past year!

  35. We had the pleasure of hosting Shane and Amy for a few days. What a wonderful trek. Oh, and thanks for the Salsa guys. We’re still working our way through it. Hottest stuff around. Well…. aside from your trip!

  36. Shane and Amy stayed with our family for a few days in Monterey, California. It was an incredible opportunity to get to know people who we might otherwise never have known, and hear their stories, and the stories of people they’d met on their trip. It was an inspiration to me to hear about all of the things they’ve done, and how they overcame all of the obstacles they were faced with. I would definitely encourage anyone who wanted to do something similar to give it a shot. And, who knows? Maybe I’ll convince my husband to do it one year. It would be a great homeschooling opportunity for our boys!

  37. These guys are tenacious! I work at Miro, which does video distribution, and these guys have done a really good job of getting the word out about what they’re doing and engaging folks to help them. More power to them.

  38. Whatever project these folks take, they dive right in… and you can always bet it’ll be a wild ride.
    Following A Year At The Wheel I can see it’s been a long and crazy road for them, living through some very skinny times to get the word of the people out TO the people. They didn’t give up, even when they didn’t know how they could make it longer.
    They won. They stuck it out, documenting the whole journey and everyone they met along the way. They tested the waters in the biggest election year I can remember, and held a mirror up to our faces so we could see what our brothers and sisters across thr country were feeling. They invited us outside of our comfort zone, not just glossing over the details but showing the gritty face of underground America and allowing them a voice, many for the first time.
    Kudos to Shane & Amy Bugbee for a courageous journey that ultimately benefited us all.

    Thank you guys!

  39. Awesome article. Flux did a an excellent job on a documentary footage of the 2008 Rainbow Gathering. It still recieves awesome ratings and hits on YouTube. Top notch.

  40. I was lucky enough to have these 2 awesome people stay with me during their trip, which resulted in some great conversation and debates. Their “Foward focus” attitude is what made their entire project so appealing. I cant wait to see their finished product…

  41. I have the excellent good fortune of having become friends with these nomadic chroniclers and have to say they have my highest respect and admiration for not only getting into the heads and hearts of a diverse American population — but not killing each other during the voyage. These folks are the Studs Terkel of the documentary world as far as I’m concerned… And Amy? Shane? All I have to say is “tater tots!”

  42. I think it is incredible what you have managed to accomplish under these circumstances. It takes a lot of heart to pick up where mainstream media has let us down. And here you are pushing it to the limit, maximizing every resource you can and documenting these important things. I hope the spirit of good karma keeps with you on your journey.

  43. Meeting Shane and Amy was the highlight of my year. Ah, the stories. And knowledge of the Net … whew! So inspiring. Because of them, I got a Roland recorder I can’t live without. A full out recording studio in the palm of my hand. In 1960 I moved to San Francisco’s North Beach to be join up with the beats. I was attracted from my small town, San Luis Obispo, from a news article about Howl, and the trial for obscenity. The photos of “beats” called to me. I was an art student. Shane and Amy told me they hadn’t read “On The Road,” because they were saving it until the end of their trip. For me, when I tried to read it at age 20 I got about five pages. Why, because I was on the road. The title was it for me. Shane and Amy left my home giving me a double dose of road talk. Wanderlust sparked in my like a dormant pilot-lite. I made two fantastic road trips because of them. Never had more fun in my life. In beat jargon, on the road means going out and meeting people, and interacting with them, not sightseeing. Not a vacation, but a job, or a lot of jobs. The other thing beats did, unlike hippies, was record everything in photos, journals, and bar napkins. This sent me into a lost journal, that will now be published as a book. All because of Shane and Amy. Far out man. Dave

  44. Shane and Amy continue to inspire me and hopefully many other people around the country. I don’t see how anyone who meets them could not be inspired. I just want to know… when are you moving to NOLA???

  45. Yeah, these guys were in town a while back, kinda in the beginning stages you know. Hung out with alot of the kaos folks and what not, Good people all around, and they’ve been supporting kaos radio for a long time now. Most likely the only myspace profile that mentions us that have nothing to do with us! I remember my first impression of shane was listening to his interview he did with Corbin Dart of the crucifucks, i never thought i’d meet the guy, and i’m glad i did! Keep it up you crazy fuckers…..

  46. Shane and Amy have been great supporters of KAOS and Black Bedtime Stories. I was so happy that they chose to stop off in my small Texas hill country town. I felt like I could have kept conversing with them forever.

  47. Having actually pursued a bachelor’s degree in journalism and seen how the traditional “track” of a writer/documentarian/multimedia journalist can quite often disappoint, I can’t offer enough superlatives for what Shane and Amy have done. They address serious issues that are off the beaten path yet of tremendous importance, and give the “softer” stories an edge and meaning that won’t get lost in the editing bay of the corporate newsroom. And they’ve done it strictly on their own terms: No bosses, no agendas from high on, and most definitely no compromise. Shane and Amy’s projects are admirable in their missions and enviable in their quality. Continued good luck and safe travels.

  48. I was lucky enough to have the Bugbees on one of my internet radio shows, and they are true free thinkers and citizen journalists. Attempting what they’ve succeeded at would wipe out lesser folks. I know it sounds a little cliched, but they are Rock Star Journalists without the gargantuan egos. Much respect and thanks for what they’ve accomplished. Cheers!

  49. Exciting and very creative. Creates additional hope for all of us who feel restricted by the unsustainable patterns of our contemporary Western worlds. My feeling of optimism is increasing as I extend my main-stream media diet and start looking more at what others are doing. Looks like there are some technologies I should get more familiar with. Holding light and love for you and others exploring the edges…

  50. This is simply amazing. My BFF, Amy, and I had been plotting something of a course to travel across the US for a month over the summer. (Mainly because we need to stick to our money making teaching/advising/course development gigs during the semesters).

    I’m sending her this link NOW. I think it’s definitely eased the tension in our plans to document things as well. Oh boy… this is AWESOME!! I’m so excited, I may just scrub the details and just see what we can roll with!

    I think this is my favorite post. *insert cheesy grin here*

  51. Go straight to the source; that’s how to do it. If more people started talking with their neighbors and getting problematic or concerning issues outward it would create a movement that effects change(s). In this nation, citizens’ voices and actions make a difference. The Bugbees have exposed this truth and paved the way during these times..
    I will await for your book & movie release.
    I send my positive energy out to yours..
    Best Wishes!

  52. This is an amazing story. I am trying to decide if by the time my kids are all grown and gone,I will be too old to have a similar adventure. I would so love to just go. Please keep us posted on a movie…

  53. My wife and I did what you are doing in 1996-1997 all over the world (although we had a decent budget) and wouldn’t trade it fo the world. Congrats —

    BTW, there are many things to do for free in Chicago — I hope you got to take advantage of most.

Comments are closed.