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  • Writer's pictureErik Howes

Jeep Life, Part 1

Before my Jeep looked the way it does now, I had already been calling it 'home' for over two years. It was my humble 22 square foot tent on wheels. It was also the vehicle that, 5 years prior, had started my journey down this mobile, rent-dodging lifestyle.

At 21 years old I was struggling with finding some kind of 'meaning' and 'purpose' in my life. I was working as an assistant teacher at a school in Massachusetts, working with kids who had disabilities. I was depressed, and feeling lost. The kids at that school needed help. I wanted so badly to be there for them. But at that time in my life, I needed help as well. Driving my car was often scary; as I would regularly contemplate what it would be like to drive off the road and into a tree, as a means of ending this life I wanted to escape. Something had to change.

As winter came that year, I saw a job posting to be a ski instructor at a New Hampshire ski resort 3 hours to the north. Severely underqualified, as I had skied only a handful of times prior, I applied to the job and somehow convinced them that giving me 2 shifts a week was a good idea.

For the first month, I would drive 3 hours each way to the mountain and sleep in my tiny soft-top Jeep in the parking lot. The vinyl and canvas windows all broke in the first week from the sub-freezing temps. Moisture created by me sleeping inside formed icicles on the metal roll cage and snow would accumulate on me during the night from spindrifts coming through the huge holes in the top. Both the front seats were still in at this time. But every night I would fold them as far forwards as I could and carefully stack all my gear to create a lumpy mess of 'things' to lay atop. It was an incredibly uncomfortable arrangement- but it didn't matter, because every weekend was quickly becoming a life full of vivid experiences in what only a few weeks prior, was a sad and depressing existence.

The thrills from the shenanigans I got into that season played a part in saving me. Sneaking into the mountain resort's spa at night, jumping over that frozen fence to get into a hot tub full of bikini-clad ladies... Spending after hours on the indoor climbing wall and skiing at night by headlamp with my coworkers. For the first time in my life, I felt alive.

After a little over a month of living this 'weekender' lifestyle, the school I had been working at came to a close for Winter Break and I drove north for what was only supposed to be a little over a week at the mountain. But I never came back. I resigned from the school and spent the entire winter season up in New Hampshire with that Jeep. It was a winter spent chasing powder to ski and getting introduced to ice climbing thanks to International Mountain Equipment and their annual Ice Festival. That season was the most transformative of my life.

The spirit of adventure developed from that season has inspired the way I have built my life and has taken me on 4 cross country trips. It's taken me from the white mountains of the northeast to the sand dunes of southern California and a heckuvalotta places in between. It has given me the courage to find work and chase experiences all over the country. It's also allowed me to live a financially frugal life and pursue outrageous things (like converting a trolley to live in) and dabble with various other creative hobbies. Although my life, as well as that Jeep, look a lot different now; my bed isn't a lump of ski gear, and I have windows that aren't held together by duct tape. But it all started from and is the evolution of that first decision to just 'go for it' regardless of the situation.

If you've ever taken off for an adventure in your car, regardless of the setup... What kind of car was it? Where did you go? Tell me below in the comments. I'd love to hear your story.

-Stay Wild-


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