On this extended “episode” of 67 Designs Customer Spotlights we’re taking a deeper look into the extraordinary adventures of Eric, Brittany, and Caspian Highland, collectively known as Hourless Life. Currently in Ecuador, this wonderful family is a year and a half into a 10-15 year plan for overlanding around the world in their 2021 Jeep Gladiator Sport S which has been methodically modified for this type of travel (click here for full build details). This is a glimpse into their nomadic lifestyle.
As children of immigrants and accustomed to traveling at a young age, both Eric and Brittany had an innate sense of wanderlust in common. Eric was born and raised in Seattle, WA while Brittany was born in Ontario, Canada but grew up in Texas. The two met in Corpus Christi, TX while Eric was stationed there during his active-duty time in the Coast Guard. Early life for Eric and Brittany as a couple was not so unlike many others. They worked long hours trying to get their marketing company off the ground, lived and worked out of their north Austin apartment, met clients at various coffee shops and restaurants, and were eventually working toward buying a house. The idea of living in a vehicle, traveling full-time and especially traveling around the world wasn’t even on their radar.
Eric first broached the topic of full-time travel around 2012 and didn’t have to try very hard to get Brittany on board. Their approach to such a drastic lifestyle change was not one of trepidation, but of eagerness. Daring to test the waters of this new adventure, they began the process of transitioning to life on the road including redesigning their multiple business ventures to become location independent and culling their possessions. In early 2014 they were ready to explore the U.S. in their new home, a 2004 40-foot Tiffin Phaeton diesel RV. With the right setup, they even had a way to include Eric’s four children in their adventures, which made for some incredible memories.
With so many wonderful adventures under their belt, the RV lifestyle was becoming the new norm for them. Never ones to become complacent, by 2018 Eric and Brittany began to wonder what might be next. How could they take full-time travel to the next level? By this time their son Caspian had been born and was a significant consideration for any future lifestyle changes. Eric and Brittany were just discovering the concept of ‘overlanding’ and were skeptical that it could be done intercontinentally with a toddler. After much research and thoughtful discussion, they decided that not only could it be done, but it might just be the best thing for them. Thus began the process of converting their Jeep Wrangler - once outfitted for rock crawling - into an overlanding rig, selling their RV, and moving into the Jeep full-time. Once they were equipped, they set out for interior Mexico to try this overlanding thing. After two months, they were convinced that not only was this the right path for them, they were also ready to go global.
As a disabled veteran, Eric had become accustomed to using the Jeep to get off the beaten path where his hiking opportunities were somewhat limited. He’d experienced enough offroading to become proficient at navigating challenging terrain, something that would come in handy as they began traversing the painstakingly treacherous roads of Latin America. It’s little wonder they settled on another Jeep for their global overlanding endeavor, although they did carefully consider every option before purchasing their Gladiator.
Once they had their overlanding vehicle, it was time to make it their home. They had very specific ideas about how they wanted to outfit the Gladiator for the type of rigorous traveling they were going to do and weren’t willing to compromise on quality. While they were prepared to fund the modifications themselves, 27 gear sponsors made sure they didn’t have to. The Highlands have built relationships with each of these sponsors in a unique and meaningful way. While their global travels were still just a dream, they met someone at a small event in Montana who believed in them enough that he would eventually connect them with a large sponsor. That eventually led to other introductions and the networking – and sponsorships – continued. “Our story with 67 Designs is unique and special to us. Because of 67 Designs’ reputation for quality, Eric wanted to use their mounting system for our Gladiator. He went through the regular customer service channels and got excellent product recommendations, then we placed our order online. Months later at Overland Expo, Eric met CEO Gavin Stener and they hit it off. At one point in the conversation, Gavin asked Eric, “What’s your last name?” Standing right there, Gavin went on his phone and refunded our order. There was never an official conversation of 67 Designs becoming our gear sponsor, but in that moment they did and we treat them with as much gratitude as we do every other gear sponsor.”
By their very nature, community has always been an integral part of what sustains them. Whether that comes from immersing themselves in the culture and people of whatever country they’re in or staying connected to the overlanding community. Meeting people and making friends is no different than it is anywhere else. Many times, their connections come via camping and being around other overlanders. Since their itinerary is fairly loose, they have the flexibility to take the advice of locals or other experienced travelers in guiding their next steps. But their lifestyle isn’t conducive to having a consistent, daily social network around them. It’s been their online presence that has steadily kept them plugged in. Staying connected to like-minded folks really began during their time traveling across the U.S. in their RV, when they connected with other people who were trying to combine travel with remote work, even sharing their experiences by teaching at organized events. Staying connected to the overlanding community has been no different. They recently presented at the annual Overland Expo West. While their primary goal is friendship, they are also very eager to share. Realizing their experiences have value and can not only inspire but also serve as a guide of sorts for others drives them to connect and share their experiences. They credit the many people along their journey who have given so much to them in their mission to give back to others. Although they utilize many different online platforms to share and stay connected, according to Eric the lack of a consistent social community is the biggest challenge to their lifestyle.
While they’ve already traveled to many different countries, Mexico is still their favorite. “The whole country is just alive in the most refreshing, inspiring way. I don’t think a day goes by that we don’t think about Mexico, and we’ll probably retire there.” Beyond their affinity for Mexico, anywhere they can learn about the ancient and indigenous cultures that made so much with so little has had a profound impact on them. Other cultures may not seem as robust by our societal norms today, but they have found that people in other places are not so unlike us. “They love their children, work hard, wield cultural knowledge in fascinating ways… it’s strange what uncovered assumptions we carry that only travel can reveal.”
Traveling full-time in another country while remotely managing multiple business ventures and raising a small child would be enough to wear anyone thin. After six years on the road, Eric and Brittany needed a revival of sorts to get back on track. It was during this process that they came up with not only their Hourless Life brand, but their family mission statement that to this day guides them in all facets of their life. “Our family mission statement is Love. Explore. Study. Share. Abbreviated, it spells LESS, which is a reference to all the things we’ve gotten rid of (and sacrificed) to undertake the unusual goal of driving around the world as a family.”
After almost a decade of full-time travel the Highlands will tell you that the rewards have been innumerable. The greatest reward from their global adventures is “receiving the kindness of others as we travel. It’s humbling to have people constantly go out of their way to take care of us, without being able to reciprocate at the same level. We’re so independent in the U.S. that it stills feels unnatural to be served so deeply and just accept with a thank you.”
Particularly rewarding has been the fruits of their labor in raising and educating little Caspian. It’s safe to say that not many American children will grow up with life experiences like his. While homeschooling is not so unusual in modern society, the Highlands are definitely taking it to another level. Oftentimes the lessons are through everyday conversations, mostly with his parents but also with friends and others he meets along the way, even learning to communicate in another language. “The most important lessons in life are the ones you can’t learn from a textbook. Flexibility, tenacity, open-mindedness, self-control, self-regulation…these are the types of character traits that travel is giving to Caspian.” Immersive learning experiences, along with simply being inquisitive and experiencing the learning process, promote a love for lifelong learning and yields perhaps a more fulfilling result than the modern definition of success. “It is easy to accept society’s narrative, beginning with the college + buy the house + make sure you’re ready for retirement narrative that many of us spend our whole lives chasing. I think in recent years, some people have begun to question whether that equation can yield the fulfillment it once promised.”
That’s not to say that there aren’t challenges to this type of approach. The close proximity this family of three are in on a continual basis doesn’t allow for much alone time. While Caspian doesn’t seem to mind, perhaps because that’s all he knows, sometimes it’s hard on his introverted mother who feels she’s at her best when she’s had some quiet, alone time to reset. Caspian is also getting old enough to remember good times they’ve shared with people they’ve come to care about and leaving those people has started to have more of an impact on him. And while Eric and Brittany are grounded in their educational philosophy, nagging self-doubt and comparison can be troublesome to a parent.
The Hourless Life journey has not been without its doubts. Prior to traveling to Mexico, well-meaning friends and even strangers warned of all sorts of terrible things that could befall them, particularly with a small child. There were many times that they wrestled with these things. As an only child, Eric had concerns for his mother and what would happen in an emergency. They still manage a lot for her from a continent away but have a good support system in place should further needs arise. Brittany admits that there will always be a reason not to go and in order to live this kind of lifestyle you simply have to manage what you can and keep the doubts in check or it will never work.
They don’t get many inquiries from folks wanting to travel around the world as they are, but they do get questions about full-time travel, traveling to Mexico, or even traveling the Pan-American Highway which was their topic of discussion at the recent Overland Expo. When traveling internationally they strongly advise adhering to best practices. “In general, border areas are home to desperate people, and they’re best navigated quickly and in daylight hours. We’ve never had any issues, but we adhere to these best practices religiously. In general, no matter where we are, we aim to get to camp by 3 p.m. every day. This ensures we have time to find another camp before dark in case Plan A doesn’t work for whatever reason.” Each inquiry is different but as far as traveling full-time, their advice is generally the same: if you want to, you can. With remote work and seasonal opportunities on the rise and improved, more accessible connectivity many of the previous barriers have been removed or at least reduced. They also hope they can be a positive example for raising a child while traveling.
Follow the adventures of Hourless Life: Their adventures are documented on many different platforms including, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit and Patreon. You can find everything at their website below.
This Customer Spotlight by Tricia Soderstrom.
This series was envisioned and created by Kate Della Pietra in the summer of 2020 when she worked for 67 Designs as a marketing intern.