Sometimes plans fall apart.Vacations get delayed because savings accounts are slim or you end up toiling away at jobs you hate just to get by and eventually quit to follow your passion.
For Jami Krause, that day came sooner than she expected.
At 28, she dumped her boyfriend, turned her back on her job at the American Bar Association and decided it was time to start living out her dream to travel the country—by bike.
“I decided that even though I had debt that I should still do it,” Krause said. “I was ready to take a leap because being cautious wasn’t going to get me what I wanted.”
So she took her passion for ballooning — that is, the art of making just about anything out of multi-coloured tubes of elastic — and decided it was her ticket to freedom.
Several months into her journey, she’s pedaled 1,000 miles over more than a dozen states and managed to stay afloat by earning cash from balloon gigs, relying on the kindness of strangers, and a whole lot of budgeting.
Krause carries everything she needs in a pair of panniers on her vivid yellow touring bike and a basket. That's it.
To pare her belongings down to the bare minimum, she sold off all her furniture on Craig's List, gave away some things that wouldn't sell and sublet her apartment to a friend.
'I went on a selling frenzy,' she says. 'There was stuff I wanted to keep so I set it aside in storage, but I donated a lot to charity.'
Luckily, ballooning is a pretty cheap hobby to pick up.
Krause can find bags of 100 balloons for less than $6 from distributors.
But since she can only carry so much on her bike, she purchased tons of balloons back home and left them with friend, who periodically ships them to wherever she is on the road.
travelling the country by bike sounds romantic but the reality can be a little disappointing--especially when you're confronted with endless miles of 'suburban sprawl.'
As a backup plan, Krause takes commuter trains when roads become unsafe for her to cycle, she says. Tickets cost around $10 and it's pretty easy to load her bike on and off.
'Sometimes it can be an entire day's journey for me that I'm cutting out, so it's not a huge expenditure,' she says.
Krause set up a website before hitting the road so her fans and family could track her trip along the way.
It's also a great way to show her talents off to potential sponsors and score work.
'I've made about $1,200 so far but I could have been a lot more aggressive,' she says. 'I'm investing my money now and will try to get more sponsors later when my portfolio is stronger.'
Just in case she falls ill or injures herself, Krause pays for a $100/month high-deductible health insurance plan.
She spends most of her budget for emergencies on bike repairs and maintenance along the way, which has set her back about $250 so far, she says.
That's chump change compared to the price of gas these days.
Nearly every morning before she hits the road, Krause throws together a quick balloon 'outfit' for her helmet.
It's a huge conversation starter and often leads to offers for free lodging and, more often than not, free beers.
Most of the time, Krause manages to wash her clothing at hosts' homes or at laundromats. But she's had to wash her clothes by hand a number of times on the road, she says.
'I've helped out with folding in return for getting laundry done at a hostel,' she says. 'But sometimes I have to rinse my bike shorts myself since I only have two pairs.'
There's a huge subculture of balloon artists out there and Krause isn't afraid to tap total strangers for advice on where to score ballooning gigs or tips on where to busk.
'Most of the money I've made has been from networking with other artists,' she says. 'I use BalloonHQ to find artists in whatever town I'm travelling to and see if they're available for coffee.'
Krause will set up shop at parks or anywhere busking is legal. She often attracts small crowds that multiply over time and her customers always leave happy.
She can create whatever they dream up--from vampire fanged giraffes (no, really) to mutant reptiles.
'When I was in Hampton, Mass., I went to a Chalk Day festival and twisted balloons for, like, two hours,' she said. 'I had a line of kids the entire time. I made $150, which was pretty awesome.'
Sometimes Krause scores freebies for her balloon work and often trades them for a drink or even a meal.
'One time a hotel owner gave me a 10% discount for making balloons for his kids,' she says.
And as a 'Thank You' to generous lodging hosts, Krause often whips out her bag of balloons and goes to town.
'It makes me feel like less of a free-loader,' she says. 'I like making things for people. It makes me feel better using balloons to sort of pay for lodging.'
On a recent stint in Brunswick, Ga., Krause seized the opportunity to check out her liberal hostel's clothing-optional lake.
'I went skinny dipping for the first time!' she says. 'It was totally a hippy place.'
When one of her earbuds was damaged, Krause saved $25 on buying a new pair by fixing it up with the supplies she had on hand--in this case, her balloons.
She's used the foot-long strands of elastic as head bands and for easy repairs on her bike as well.
Other times, she lucks out and scores free meals at hostels or with her hosts.
'I try to pick up breads that won't get crushed too easily on my bike,' she says. 'I'll make sandwiches and end up stopping at a lot of gas stations throughout the day.'
Krause carries a tent and sleeping bag on her at all times and camps out a lot on the road to cuts costs.
'I stayed in a horse stall at a county fair once in Ohio,' she says, but typically she'll camp out behind churches or anywhere it's free and legal.
'I only pay when I have other people to camp with,' she says. 'I shared a campsite with a couple in North Carolina and it cost, like, $10-$15 once it was split.'
After randomly striking up a conversation with an Amish farmer, Krause was offered dinner and a place to sleep on his family's farm in Pennsylvania.
'I don't have any photos but just picture three adorable little Amish children with balloon animals,' she says. 'I made one a cow, one a dog and one a chicken.'
Krause came across a pretty unusual hostel in Brunswick, Ga. For $25 a night, she got to sleep in her very own tree house in the forest.
'It was like a Tolkien novel,' she said. 'You wake up and you're looking right into the forest. They're like little huts scattered throughout the forest.'
Krause often uses cycling-oriented sites like Warm Showers, which connects her to hosts that open their homes (and bathrooms) to touring cyclists like herself.
After riding 50 miles on a daily basis, a warm shower is all she really needs.
'Sometimes people offer accommodations inside or let you pitch your tent in the backyard,' she said. 'But usually they give you a meal and that's been helpful cutting down food costs.'