Imagine taking all of your stuff and condensing it down so you could comfortably live out of a Ford Focus (the station wagon model for those of you who are wondering). Now imagine doing the same for your significant other so he/she could join you in that Focus. And, let’s throw in a puppy while we’re at it. Could you handle it?

Brandon Carter, the latest addition to our Customer Service team did exactly that for just under 6 months. He, his girlfriend Alex, and their adorable pup Huck took on approximately 22,000 miles during their adventure. They created a blog: Dog In a Focus documenting their experience. I don’t know about y’all but the fantasy of living out a #vanlife has definitely crossed my mind. As soon as I heard about Brandon’s adventure, I pounced on the opportunity to chat with him and learn more.

The whole idea for this adventure was conceived from a mutual desire to break free from the status quo. Brandon and Alex were on track to the traditional definition of success – great jobs with a clear path to promotion, enough income to consider buying a home, a social life with no shortage of weekend fun, but they weren’t satisfied. They knew there was more out there. A move like this takes a lot courage and careful planning which was exactly what they did.

For about a year before embarking on their journey, Brandon and Alex turned all their attention towards making this pipe dream a reality. Weekends going out to bars and clubs were replaced with backpacker’s pantry meals and backpacking trips in the northern Beartooth Mountains near Yellowstone National Park to acclimate to living out of a backpack and off of a MSR Pocket Rocket stove. They started getting rid of all their non-essentials and stalking Google Maps to plan their route.

When the time finally came to head out of Billings, Montana and onto the open road, the stoke couldn’t be any higher. All those days of careful planning and budgeting were coming to play. The dream was now the reality.

It’d take several posts to cover all their stops – and for all those details, I highly suggest scoping out their blog! Throughout all of their destinations there no shortage of adventure and the kindness of strangers they encountered. Learning to push out of the comfort zone, whether through that first shower at a truck stop and night sleeping in the back of their car or brush with an alligator while hammock camping led both to redefine their values.

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Reflecting on his journey, Brandon says, “Our whole lives we accumulate this stuff and that stuff is what we create our identity on. When you get rid of the stuff you can boil it down to the marrow of who you really are. Then it’ll kinda hit you that everyone everywhere is in the same situation and no one gets out of life alive.” Through the trip he learned the importance of appreciating the journey. There is so much more out there than just the destination. Opening yourself to recognize this turns little everyday things into something so much more meaningful.

As far as how we got lucky enough to have Brandon join the team at ACK, well, part of their journey was entertaining different options for cities to move to. Austin came out on top and because of his extensive camping experience, Brandon has a profound appreciation for the gear we carry. When walking through our warehouse, Brandon sees things like the drybag he and Alex used to wash their clothes in or the seam sealer that saved their tent’s life.

While settling in Austin, they could have jumped right back into the corporate world, but instead chose to follow passions. Brandon wanted to work for a company who would appreciate that his resume included living out of car while traveling cross country. Here at ACK we truly do appreciate it – Brandon’s intimate experience with some of the gear we carry and extensive knowledge of all the best camping sites across the nation provide a tremendously valuable resource to our customers.

When it comes to talking with others about the experience and whether or not they should do something similar, Brandon says, “If there’s anything I could ever recommend it’s throwing all your shit away and going out and finding life ‘cause it’s out there. “ I’ve dabbled in this before and couldn’t agree more. While this kind of commitment isn’t for everyone, there is something special about letting go of the possessions that “define” you and replacing them with experiences.

Now, since it wouldn’t be a true “Getting to Know Us” interview without this, I had to ask about which sauce Brandon would like to be dipped in. His response? “Tabasco! It’s my favorite 😀 ”

Devyn, forever in awe of my incredible coworkers