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Dublin: 20 °C Thursday 6 August, 2020

These brothers gave up their jobs to drive around America in a van

It’s called the Bro’d Trip.

ON 1 JANUARY this year, brothers Justin and Adam Fricke left their home base in Orlando, Florida — and any semblance of the traditional career path — for an 82-square foot sprinter van and a year of adventure.

“We’re two Floridian brothers fighting society’s natural pull to the post-college desk life,” they write on their blog. “Who says you can’t do meaningful work that you love and have fun doing it? We say you can.”

To prove it, they plan on stepping foot in all 50 US states over the course of their year-long road trip, which they dubbed, “The Bro’d Trip.”

After two months on the road — and 11 states checked off the list — Justin, 25, and Adam, 23, spoke to Business Insider about their new lifestyle: what it looks like, the reality of working on the road, and how they can afford it:

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Before The Bro’d Trip, Justin worked in commercial real estate lending. “I felt like I made it,”he writes of his job with a downtown office, consistent pay, and benefits — but he got a bit too comfortable and found himself settling for mediocrity.

“The Bro’d Trip is my way of getting comfortable being uncomfortable and taking a risk,” he writes. “I’ve turned in a pretty cool corporate job for a life of uncertainty, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Adam, having graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2015, didn’t need to experience cubicle life to know it wasn’t for him. While he came up with backup career plans in case The Bro’d Trip — which they’d been planning for two years — fell through, ultimately, he didn’t apply for any traditional post-college jobs.

“Since I’d been socking away so much money, I was thinking worst case scenario, I could put it toward additional camera gear or studio space and focus more on a freelancing career,” he tells Business Insider.

But when things started shaping up in the few months prior to the trip, that idea was scrapped for the time being and there was no turning back.

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“We saved for about two years while Justin was employed full-time and freelancing,” Adam explains. “And I finished school and worked part-time, freelancing as well.”

Their goal was to set aside about $45,000 before hitting the road. Living rent-free at home allowed them to build up savings relatively quickly and, “with the help of sponsors, we met that goal and then some,” Adam explains.

Their primary sponsors are outdoor apparel company Merrell and Enerplex, which sells solar integrated consumer electronics. “They see eye to eye with our vision and we align with their branding,” the brothers explain. “In return for product and a monthly stipend, we provide them with blog posts, photos, video clips, and social media posts that help them connect with their target audience.”

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In November 2015, Justin and Adam flew up to Rhode Island to purchase their new home: a 2008 Dodge Sprinter van, which they then drove 22 hours non-stop back home to Florida.

The van cost $21,000 — plus an extra $1,000 for renovations, which they handled themselves over the course of two months.

“We researched other van builds for months, pulling ideas to plan something that would be the perfect fit for us and our specific needs,” Adam says.

I did most of the math and measuring. Justin did a majority of the power tool handling. Although there was tons of trial and error, we found that between the two of us there wasn’t anything that we couldn’t work through.

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They put in their own flooring and walls, installed shelves, drawers, bench seats, a kitchen counter and a collapsible table, and built a freestanding bed frame that fits two twin size trucker mattresses.

They also mounted solar panels to the roof, which connect to a generator inside the van, to power their electronics.

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They thought of everything while renovating — which they documented in their YouTube vlogs— including a patch of grass to wipe off their shoes and a custom kitchen countertop to prepare gourmet meals.

They spend most nights in the van, sleeping on their 5-inch-thick trucker mattresses. While they’re always in search of free campgrounds, and will splurge for paid campgrounds once in a while, they have a reliable — and convenient — fallback: the nearest 24-hour Walmart, where bathrooms and groceries are just a few steps from their doorstep.

“We’ve also spent a few nights with friends, and even people we’ve met that have been kind enough to take us in, sporadically,” they explain. “We’re very grateful any time someone is willing to let us sleep in a spare bed, take showers, or do laundry.”

“Gas is definitely our biggest expense,” the brothers explain. “Food is another one, although we keep that really cheap. Splurging consists of one or two meals out per week — maybe more if we’re meeting up with friends — as well as beer.”

They expect their monthly costs to fluctuate a bit depending on where they are in the country. Alaska could be expensive, they note: “Gas on the Alaska highway has been known to get higher than $5 a gallon!”

They’re also planning on making it to Hawaii around September — the van, however, will likely stay in the continental US.

“We are all about budgeting and living within our means,” they explain. While the trip is still in its infancy phase, the brothers expect to at least break even, and likely even save money, at the end of the year.

In Orlando, they would expect to be paying between $1,000 and $1,500 a month for rent (they weren’t going to stay in their parents’ house for the long term): “Our goal is to cover all monthly expenses within that range — granted we’re still early in the trip, but so far it hasn’t been an issue. So instead of paying rent, we get to see the country, do activities we love, eat good food — plenty of Ramen, too — and do work that excites us. We think that’s a pretty sweet deal.”

They generate income by producing blog posts, video clips, and social media posts for their sponsors Merrell and Enerplex.

“In addition to our sponsors, we each have personal clients that we work with remotely,” Adam explains. “Justin maintains a few monthly writing gigs and I do video editing for a couple local businesses back home. That income is steady and separate from our trip account.”

They also do projects for various brands and businesses as opportunities arise. “We’ve already produced videos together for an up and coming jewelry company that we met during our stay in Nashville,” they explain. “Although it’s sporadic, these types of projects are icing on the cake!”

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The van life doesn’t come without challenges, which they quickly realized a week into the trip.

“No amount of research or planning can substitute for first-hand experience,” Justin writes on their blog. “We worried so much about preparing and leaving, that we didn’t give much thought to the trials and tribulations that we might face while adapting to a new lifestyle.”

These trials and tribulations have included readjusting to a less structured schedule, keeping their tiny space organized enough to live out of, and finding WiFi so they can stay on top of work. They’re also siblings, crammed into 82 square feet, which presents an entirely different set of challenges.

“This lifestyle is far from glamorous,” Adam writes.

It took me a full seven days to wrap my head around that concept. But once I understood it, accepted it, and embraced it, I began enjoying the daily struggles. I’m 23 years old and I get to do what many people can only dream of doing … I’m going to breathe in the freezing cold winds with a smile, choke down our tasteless dinners with gratitude, and continue jumping the hurdles that this journey throws at us.

The lifestyle may not be glamorous, but the views tend to be, such as this one of the St Mary’s River that they woke up to after crossing the Florida-Georgia state line.

At the end of their trip, the brother plan to create a “docu-movie” of their experiences, and potentially write a book or put together a photo series.

Read: 14 books that will make you want to travel

Read: This is how early you should book to get the cheapest flights*

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Business Insider
Business Insider is a business site with strong financial, media and tech focus.

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