By Rebecca Drew
THESE TEEENAGE sweethearts with more than 158K followers on Instagram ditched their post-grad jobs in LA for a 100K-mile life on the road in their 42-year-old bus called Sunshine that has been their home for six years.
Incredible pictures and video show Kit Whistler (30) and J.R. Switchgrass (31) from Florida, USA, relaxing on top of their VW camper, making music around the campfire and enjoying a dip in crystal clear open waters. Other idyllic shots show the pair working hard on the farm and J.R. attending to Sunshine’s engine.
The couple who met at school have been living life on the road since 2012 and in this time have been across America eight times, crossed over into Mexico and into Canada and have visited 50 of America’s 58 National Parks. Kit discussed where the idea to go travelling and their Instagram handle @IdleTheoryBus came from.
“When we graduated from college, we spent a year traveling in the bus and working on farms. Then, thinking we’d need to grow up and ‘get a real job’, we moved back to L.A. and spent two years working in the city. But we felt trapped doing that, and eventually it became obvious that it was time to head back out,” she said.
“We haven’t modified the bus much, so all of the interior functions are standard. We just put a two-burner camp cook stove on the counter and a solar panel on the roof. The pop-top, bed, cabinets, all came in the bus, so she transitioned easily from our car to our home.
“Our first year living fulltime on the road, in 2012, we set out with the intent of purposefully doing nothing. So, we decided we’d travel, live on the money we had till it ran out, and figured we’d settle down somewhere and get a job. But, until then, we figured we’d allow ourselves to simply be.
“Idleness is the word we use for doing nothing, and our idle theory is to spend a fair amount of time idling. Now, by idling, or doing nothing, I don’t necessarily mean sitting there physically doing nothing. What I do mean by idling is wandering without a purpose.
“I wanted to experiment with how we’d begin to define ourselves if we weren’t chasing a career path. So, we called our blog Idle Theory Bus, and shared our experiments in travelling while simply being.
“Eight months after we left, our savings ran out and we had to find jobs. Somehow, we’ve managed to scrape together work as we’ve travelled, and we’ve been working hard at finding a balance between work, leisure, and idleness ever since.
“As we travel, we stick to forests and deserts where we can spread out and camp and write and create undisturbed. That or we’re in small farming communities, counties where there are more cows than people. That’s where we get odd jobs and work harvests. We move around with the seasons, south in the winter and north by summer.
“We follow agricultural crops and do seasonal farm work as we travel, and so we refer to ourselves as modern-day hobos as well as artists. We’ve worked on goat dairies, we’ve butchered chickens, we’ve harvested wine grapes and peaches and apples and chestnuts. We like that we can work a job, save our money, and travel for a bit with what we’ve saved up.”
For the couple, life on the road can be turbulent at times with its own unique ups and downs but as Kit explained they work through each issue that might arise together.
“Our lives are, in turn exhilarating and devastating, with cranium-cracking highs, and chin-scraping lows. There is no middle ground in our lives, because we live with relatively little security. Everything is always changing. We have each other,” she added.
“A lot of people assume we’re on some sort of luxury permanent vacation, which honestly we probably perpetuate because we share J.R.’s photos and they’re colourful and full of wonderfully wild places. But this is no vacation. This is our life. We work, we play, we laugh, we cry. We fight badly and one of us sleeps outside in the tent. We make up and we go for a hike and that afternoon we see a bald eagle and life seems so grand, like we’ll never grow old and we’ll never die.
“We think our lives are incredibly glamorous, because I guess we love the dirt and the expanses of space and that we wake up to a different view every day. It’s about our values, and I really value beauty and change. I guess if there’s anything I despise, it’s apathy and boredom. I can say without hesitation that our lives have not been boring, not in the last five years they haven’t.
“But to most people, we’re living the dirtiest, coarsest life you could, given we live in the developed world. We live without heat, without A/C, without running water. We pee on the ground most days. Sometimes in a jar. Everything we own is in the bus. There is no storage unit or house somewhere, no garage full of stuff. J.R. owns four t-shirts. We’ve gone six weeks without a shower.
“We’ve learned to be happy without needing a lot. It’s a backwards approach to happiness…instead of wanting more, we’ve adjusted to expecting less. There is a modesty in that approach that works well for us, an anecdote to today’s fast paced, overworked, more-is-more culture.
“On a more pragmatic note, I think we’re incredibly grateful that we were able to escape a debt, consume, repeat cycle that exists in the modern developed world. Though we don’t own anything, I’m honestly not sure we would even if we lived a more “conventional” life. At the very least, we’re not paying into someone else’s dream at the expense of our own.”
Both Kit and J.R. work as seasonal farm workers wherever they go but Kit is also a writer and J.R., a photographer. Kit discussed reactions from the public and shared her advice to others.
“I mean, look, we share what we’re passionate about and what speaks to us, and if that touches someone else or ignites a passion in them, if it makes them cry or laugh or changes their life, well, all the better. We create to share because it’s what we love to do, but if someone else can glean insight from that, even better,” she said.
“We get a variety of reactions to how we live. Some people are envious and wish they could do what we’ve been doing. They’re inspired and excited and want to take a photo with us or the bus, “I’ve always dreamt of doing that,” they say. Or “I wish I was brave enough.” To which I say be brave! You must leap to live!
“Some people say, “Do it while you’re young,” which I find somewhat cynical, because I think you’re never too young to change your life and that some of the youngest people I know are old.
“Others are appalled when they see all the stuff in the bus and hear our story. They assume we’re societal parasites, that we don’t contribute, that we’re selfish. We’ve had people say horrible things to us once a lady told me “it’s people like you freeloaders who are ruining America.” I said: “Maybe we’re just breaking down the false illusion of the American Dream.” She didn’t know quite what to say after that.
“That’s one reason why we don’t have many things on the outside of our bus…with such a varied reaction, we’ve found that staying stealth is good. It just looks like we’re driving around an old rusty bus. Then, when we get pulled over by the cops, we can just say we’re on a road trip.
“To people who want to live this way, I’d say do it. Just check your expectations, and allow yourself to do it your own way. There are a million ways to create a life that’s beautiful, so many diverse paths to the same lovely end.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/idletheorybus/?hl=en