We’ve all dreamed of radically reinventing ourselves and living life on our own terms. Dave Thorsrud found creative solutions to the very real hurdles.
Cubicle life drove Dave Thorsrud to the open road — and he’s still on it.
by Chris Taylor
In his life as a human resources manager for a major insurance company, Dave Thorsrud spent his days trapped in a cubicle, hemmed in by flow charts and PowerPoint presentations and depressed by the predictable path stretching out in front of him. He realized that if his own life were a story, he wouldn’t read it. Or if he did, it would bore him to tears. “I could have gone on indefinitely,” says Thorsrud, 37. “But I wanted something that was more memorable.”
As is often the case with such reevaluations, this one stemmed from heartache, first a divorce, followed a year later by the death of Thorsrud’s father — “potent reminders,” he says, “of life’s fleeting nature.”
If he was going to break out of his rut, he knew he had to engineer a dramatic overhaul. He sold every stick of furniture he owned, dropped the lease on his Philadelphia loft, bought an old conversion van that had been fitted with a bed, and with about $60,000 in the bank, adopted the life of an American nomad. Now one week he might be mountain biking at Oregon’s Mount Hood, the next he’s canyoneering at Arizona’s Coyote Buttes. His goal, as he proclaims on his website, Livesinavan.com: “a life less predictable. I’m on the hunt for great experiences, memories, beautiful stories.”
All that sounds well and good, but making it a reality was tricky. By cashing in stocks that had accumulated during the five years at the insurance company, he walked away with enough cash to live cheaply on the road for a year and buy his $8,500 RV. But most important, he made his vagabond existence self-financing by tapping skills from a prior job, taking on occasional software-programming gigs.
His office: a laptop, a T-Mobile account so he can connect at any Starbucks, and a cellular modem for when he’s in the wilds. He is never farther than one or two hours from a FedEx/Kinko’s and uses his brother’s address in Oregon for the IRS. (His brother, who cosigned a bank account, deposits his freelancing checks for him.) Thanks to rolling gigs and a leaner lifestyle, “I have more money in the bank now than when I started,” he says.
He’s already made this work for 11 months, although he’s considering staying part-time at his girlfriend’s place in San Francisco, just for an occasional sense of home. “It might make this all more sustainable,” he says, “something I could do with my life indefinitely if I wanted to.”
1. TEST-DRIVE YOUR NEW LIFESTYLE: “Before I left in my RV, I lived for a while with very few possessions in my apartment,” says Thorsrud, “and then went on the road for a couple of weeks to see if this was something I could stick with long-term.”
2. HIRE A DIGITAL CONCIERGE: It’s a relatively cheap way to keep your new lifestyle low-stress. Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, recommends Asksunday.com: “A 24/7 virtual assistant can handle everything from travel arrangements to tech support for $60 per month.”
Read the rest of Men’s Journal’s Change Your Life package here:
This article originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of Men’s Journal.