Dalene and Peter Heck sold their home in 2009. Today, they are homeless by choice, spending their time and money traveling. To make it happen, they use websites and resources like Couchsurfing, Craiglist and the TrustedHousesitters.com to find places to stay in exotic locales.
While there have always been stories of people taking off from home in search of adventure, the web has made a traveling lifestyle easier than ever. Young wanderers use laptops and smartphones to stay connected. Retirees take to the road under the aegis of the "home free movement."
It's enough to make anyone dream of ditching their day job and exploring the world full-time. But how to start? The Huffington Post spoke to several modern nomads for tips on long-term travel in the digital age.
Why Leave Home? Gary Dunn, a Chicago native turned New Yorker, had a job on Park Avenue -- but he "hated the corporate rat race." With his wife, Dunn started searching for alternatives. Soon, the Dunn family, including the couple's three children, had traded city life for a series of house-sitting gigs. Today, Dunn runs the Caretaker's Gazette, a print and online housesitting resource, from Boerne, Texas.
Peter Heck and Dalene Heck, a couple working in Alberta's oil industry in the 90s, began traveling after the sudden deaths of Peter's mother and Dalene's sister. "We came to the conclusion that life is far too short to not be doing exactly what makes us happy," Dalene explained.
But tragedy or dissatisfaction isn't required for a life of travel. Photographer Moustafa Cheaiteli was raised on the Ivory Coast; after attending university in Spain, he became a marketing consultant in his native country. But in 2009, he decided to give up his relatively secure corporate lifestyle to travel across the Sahara Desert and document the adventure, a project he now calls "Sahara Dreaming." "I thought about how lucky I was to be able to leave Africa and get a proper education and come back, and now that I was back I wanted to follow my passion for photography and travel. I wanted to combine those things and do something from within me and at the same time make a difference to those around me," Cheaiteli said.
How To Start: The Hecks recommend housesitting as an easy way to travel the world on the cheap. Caring for a house while the owner is away is light responsibility for rent-free living. Many even provide small stipends for food and other expenses. Long-term housesitting opportunities can be found on websites like Craigslist or HouseCarers.com, or in publications like Gary Dunn's Caretaker's Gazette. Cheaiteli recommends Couchsurfing.org for shorter-term stays. The website connects would-be nomads to hosts willing to let travelers sleep on their couch.
Of course, it's important to remember that your safety isn't worth a free night's stay. Travelers should be careful when using these sites and check references or other user reviews before planning to stay in a stranger's home.
Where The Money Comes From: The Hecks sold everything they owned to begin their travels, but no such drastic action is necessary. Dunn used his savings from his corporate job in New York to support his wife, dog and three kids while they traveled, and the family took several jobs within the United States and gigs in Namibia and India to further fund the adventure.
Cheaiteli, who hadn't been working long when he decided to travel, started with little money. But couchsurfing, he said, can be done on a tight budget. "Food is cheap, and people's hospitality is beyond amazing," he said.
A Common Mistake: Dunn warns would-be travelers to embrace humility. "One of the most common mistakes is to be too narcissistic and demanding" when applying for a house-sitting or caretaking job, Dunn said. "For example, by saying, 'I want a great property on the beach and I have two dogs who must accompany me and I want a salary and airfare paid for.' Property owners are not just looking for someone who wants a free vacation."
Favorite Places: The Hecks say Turkey stole their hearts. "We've spent six months there total, and loved every minute of it. The people there are the most hospitable and generous we have ever met anywhere else in the world," Dalene Heck said.
Cheaiteli recommends Algeria, especially the town of Constantine. "[Constantine] is basically a bunch of cliffs in Algeria which are connected by different bridges. It was a breathtaking sight. I expected sand dunes, desert and oasis in Algeria, but not this," he said.
On Taking The Plunge: Cheaiteli advised those hopeful but hesitant to consider making the jump. "There's something beautiful in both the world I saw on 'Sahara Dreaming' and in the outside world that I'd like to share with people. Through sharing experiences, you see things in different ways," he said. "So many people discouraged me from crossing the desert -- my dad, my brother. They thought I had a good job and that the trip would be expensive, dangerous, but I decided to go for it. ... So my advice is to go for it, follow your dreams."