The New American Dream, for Climbers // Jon McCartie

Welcome to the new American dream, climbing fans of Jack Kerouak.

Jon and his wife Erin are pioneering a new lifestyle for middle-class families who want to live on the road adventurously, comfortably, and sustainably.

They downsized to just the essentials, put their life on wheels, and took their kids on a never-ending adventure of exploration.

Check out their Insta for family adventure inspiration:
@jmccartie @emccartie



Jon McCartie

The World Beyond Your Doorstep


@jmccartie on IG: “Happy Monday! I’m working from the roof today.”

So we sold the house.

Everything. The new furniture we had just purchased a year before. The lawn mower. The mini-van. We bought a pickup truck, and a 5th wheel trailer.

After 9 months of planning, we set out for the trip of a lifetime. Destination? Unknown. How long would we be gone? Not sure.




We’ve been on the road almost a year now. We’ve been to New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona. This year, we’ll add Utah and Idaho to that list.

And in order to venture out into more remote places, we sold the big 5th wheel for a smaller travel trailer.

We’ve even added solar and a composting toilet.


Going back, my first trip to Joshua Tree National Park was in 2003. I didn’t camp much growing up, so I felt unprepared and nervous on my first outing. I didn’t own a tent, so I decided to sleep in my car that night.

A brief rain shower woke me up at 5am, and I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I climbed to the top of a nearby rock formation and watched the sun come up. I’d never seen anything like it before. I was hooked. The next day, my friend took me for some sport climbing nearby and I decided I needed to buy my own shoes and harness.

Fast-forward a few years and I was climbing v7 and making frequent trips to Yosemite, Joshua Tree, and Bishop.


Then along came the little ones.

My wife and I had our first kid in 2008, and I remember telling my wife that I didn’t want our outdoor life to change. So we dragged along our newborn on every adventure we could. But with the addition of kids 2 and 3, getting outside felt harder and harder.

Throw in a work-related move to Oklahoma (the land of crazy weather and few rocks) and my climbing shoes started gathering dust quickly.

Fast-forward 4 years.

We owned our own home, a mini-van, and a pool. But laying hold of the American Dream didn’t bring the satisfaction it had promised.

We still longed to see the world and to show it to our kids. That feeling of wonderment I first experienced in Joshua Tree still burned inside me and I needed more.


We knew we could make a few changes here and there: take more vacation time, longer trips on the weekend. But we also knew it wouldn’t be enough. We had to start from scratch.

Yesterday, at Saguaro National Park, my kids earned their 13th “Junior Ranger” badges. They’ve seen more of America than most people will see in their entire lifetime. I have added RMNP, Wyoming, and Squamish to my “places I’ve bouldered” list.

Most importantly, my family is a family again.

@jmccartie: Water and mountains and tiny homes. What a crazy year! #bestnineof2015

Back in Suburbia, our lives had become too busy to spend time with each other. Try as we might, we saw the time we had together as a family dwindling as soccer practice and dance lessons began to fill the voids in the calendar.

We’d hear from other families with older kids about how rarely they saw their kids. It was like seeing an oncoming train. So we got off the track.

Now, don’t get me wrong — living on the road isn’t for everyone. But *everyone* can do *something*.  


jon mccartie-1

If you feel like your calendar is running your family, you’re not alone. It’s an epidemic, but it’s curable.

A good friend told me once that the secret was needing to “say no to good things, so you can say yes to the best thing.”

Soccer practice, ballet, gymnastics — they’re not *bad* things. But (as you know), it’s easy for of these good things to eat up any margin your family has.

Maybe it’s time to step back and reevaluate where you are and how you got there. Whatever time you have left with your kids before they move out — it’s time enough. Cut back and get outside. Take a long road trip with your son. Take your daughter to the top of a mountain and let her see the world beyond your neighborhood. Sure, she may squirm at the notion of having to sit there — or worse yet, not having cell reception. Your kids may not be asking for your attention verbally, but they’re begging for it.

A life of adventure doesn’t end with kids. Instead they give you a chance to see the world through a new set of eyes.


One thought on “The New American Dream, for Climbers // Jon McCartie

  1. Pingback: US Climbing Events

Comments are closed.