From Suburban to Nomadic Living: 3 Steps to Create Your Own Reality

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Shorter Version

Est. Reading Time: 8 Minutes

I’m writing this article while looking out at a desert landscape. It’s a wide-open, dusty plain, peppered with browns and greens, cradled in a circle of mountains surrounding us in all directions.

I sit in my retired ambulance turned mobile tiny home. The wind blows through our windows as my cat, Diego, positions himself to catch the scent of every passing breeze.

Talking about this is what I do for work. This is my home and my reality. And I built all of it. With a lot of help from my partner, that is.

If you’d told me two years ago I’d be living in a retired ambulance and traveling the country, I wouldn’t have believed you. Now it’s my mission to tell you that soon, you could also create your own reality and align it with your needs and wants in life.

So How Do You Create Your Own Reality?

First, I’ll acknowledge that not everyone’s dream life involves living in 50 square feet and going (nearly) off the grid. My partner and I have the financial privilege of holding stable jobs for several years, saving to buy a house, selling that house, and using the proceeds to pay off our student loan debt.

Depending on your situation, your reality may need to look different from ours. But you can always break free from “reality” as we know it if you truly want to see change and find fulfillment. And you can do that by:

  • Deconstructing consensus reality
  • Getting really curious about what behaviors and narratives do and do not serve you
  • Dreaming bigger than you “allow” yourself
  • Owning your life, by growing in self-awareness, throwing off external expectations, and reminding yourself that this life is yours

Create Your Own Reality by Defining “Reality”

Before we can talk about how to create your own reality, we first have to define what “reality” is.

Reality is 100% subjective. Everything that we define as “real” is only so because we decided that it is as a society or culture. A term I like to use to talk about this is “consensus reality.”

Here’s a great definition, albeit from Wikipedia:

“Consensus reality refers to the agreed-upon concepts of reality which people in the world, or a culture or group, believe are real (or treat as real), usually based upon their common experiences as they believe them to be; anyone who does not agree with these is sometimes stated to be ‘in effect… living in a different world.’”

Reality is in the eye of the beholder. You create it. So let’s help you do that for your own life. Keep reading the actionable steps below.

Skip to Actionable Steps

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Actionable Steps


Get super curious.

Question. Everything. Ask, “Why do I believe this?” Or, “Why do I do it this way?”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with holding a certain worldview, so these questions aren’t to convince to you “change” anything. They will, however, help you discover the inconsistencies between what’s important to you (your values) versus what beliefs you actually hold or actions you take. If you need to change to come into greater alignment with your values, these questions give you the opportunity to do that.

How I Became Curious

Three years out of college, I’d already had four different full-time jobs in the nonprofit communications industry. I took what would be my final job in that field, as a Marketing Manager for a large nonprofit organization. As I was jumping around to different jobs, I thought I just needed to work with an organization with different values, or that I needed more of a challenge. At this job, I felt like I had an important title — one that pointed to my “success” in “climbing the ladder.

For the first six months, I would cry every morning on my way to work. I couldn’t quite pinpoint why I felt so heavy. Sure, the workload was HUGE, but I was doing good work with a great team — why did I feel this way? I got desensitized to it eventually and just went about my life with my head down as much as possible, to get through work and back to Netflix at night to escape the overwhelm and ignore what I was feeling.

Changing Plans

A year later, I made a 5-year plan: I would stay at that job, gain valuable skills, and then quit to become a remote digital marketer. It wasn’t until a year and a half at that job when I actually asked myself… Why would I stay at a job that makes me feel totally numb and stressed, and drains me of the joy I used to have? Why am I (quite literally) ill all the time, not to mention having some weird medical issues that a person my age should not be having?

By the end of that second year, I had submitted my resignation. Instead, I was going to take a part-time job working as an outdoor educator at a local organization — taking people on hikes and kayaking — exactly where my passion lies. To make ends meet, I also drove for Lyft and worked at Starbucks. It was an exhausting time of life, but I was full of joy.

All of a sudden, my life didn’t look conventional anymore, and it didn’t look like anything I could have imagined. It certainly made people ask questions and treat me like I was “lesser than,” especially as a barista. But it was aligned perfectly with my passion for the outdoors and for customer service.


Dream bigger to create your own reality.

You’ve probably heard responses to your dreams before, like, “Oh, that’s so unrealistic,” or, “Well, that’ll never happen.”

Here’s what I have to say to that — and similar phrasing is used in magickal circles as well as in activism: Dream of the future that you want, and keep dreaming it. That’s the only way you’ll ever get it.

Whatever you want the future to be, ask yourself, “If that dream is 100% possible, then what else would I want?”

Here’s where I started in my own journey. We’ll pick up from the point in my story where I left my full-time job to pursue my true passions.

What Else?

I didn’t know I was asking myself the “what else” question at the time, but my partner, Anthony, and I started to dream bigger together. It was as if my constructed reality had started cracking, and I could now reach in to pull the edges of the box apart, to reveal even more.

As we both realized how much more “me” I was working several part-time jobs and loving them all, we started talking more about what was important to us individually, and as a couple. The first thing we realized?

We love our families, and we want to be close to them.
Anthony revealed that he was not a fan of suburban life.

That revelation from Anthony is what sent what was left of my constructed reality tumbling to the ground. This house, the china cabinet filled with EVERY type of glass for any beverage you would want (and multiple cheese trays), the kitchen we remodeled specifically for hosting, and our very “adult” matching bedroom furniture set, were all that I had built to showcase and “prove” my adulthood. What would happen if I tore it all down?

In the words of David Plotkin in his book Soulcraft (approximately, I can’t find the quote online), “It’s like there is a storm approaching that you know is just for you, and you know you have no choice but to walk out the door and directly into the tempest.”

And I sure felt like I was in a tempest. I knew that something wonderful was waiting on the other side of this wall I’d built out of paint and green lawns and cheese boards, but it was an incredibly painful process to actually tear down this reality.

This is all to say that dreaming bigger isn’t always pleasant — in fact, it can be the complete opposite. But in the end, Anthony and I became snowbirds, traveling back and forth from my family in Pittsburgh, PA in the summers and his family in Phoenix, Arizona in the winters. We’re currently about to head back to Pittsburgh for the second time. A year ago, we bought Arnold the Ambulance so our home could move with us. It’s the best dream we could have created together (though we aren’t stopping there!).


Own your life to create your own reality.

When I say “own your life,” there are a few things wrapped up in that.

Committing to painful self-awareness. Good god, get a life coach and/or therapist. Had I gotten those earlier, things would have been more easeful — not easy! Having a true partner to help light your path for the journey is something valuable beyond measure. Anthony, as my life partner, cannot offer an external or unbiased perspective because he’s in it with me. This is SO important because a) you have to grow a lot of humility to admit you need guidance AND that your previous version of reality could have been “wrong.” That’s tough. And b) having someone else point out lingering inconsistencies in your actions and beliefs, and nagging “shoulds” or socialized expectations, is the way to make true, lasting transformation happen. This is a painful, vulnerable process that will make or break the construction of your own reality. You can read my starting steps to “adventurous living” here.

Throwing off external pressures and expectations. As you build this new reality for yourself, you’re going to hear responses of fear from others in your life. People want to know the plan. And sometimes building your own reality requires more uncertainty and trust in your adaptability.

Sometimes you won’t have a clear plan. Sometimes your new lifestyle won’t be palatable to your parents or their friends. It really freaks people out to hear that you’re doing something unconventional. Learning to delight in that comes with time. Remember that you don’t have to have a conversation with someone about your transitions if you don’t want to. You don’t have to prove yourself or validate your decisions. And you will have to repeat yourself over and over again…so again, it would be so helpful for you to have a coach and/or therapist on your side to help build your confidence in holding your ground.

Reminding yourself that your reality is up to you. Making changes toward the lifestyle you want takes time, commitment, and consistent awareness. Regularly, I remind myself of my autonomy by doing a check-in with myself every morning. I go outside whenever I can, to remind myself that I’m in a community with and not exploitative of, the natural world, something important to me for breaking out of a colonizer mentality. I speak out loud about what my intentions are for the day — what I want to do, how I want to show up, and what I want in my bigger dreams. Then I commit to maintaining visibility of the path forward, reminding myself that every step forward is my choice alone.

By committing to moving forward in conscious alignment with what is important to you and with your bigger dreams, you are taking ownership of your reality.


Determine what’s next.

Next up, my partner and I are traveling for two months on our way back to Pittsburgh, PA. We look forward to building our unity with nature, educating others about their potential for transformation, and our connection with family.

What’s next for you?

Please leave any questions, or your own experiences, in the comments! I’d love to write followup articles based on what you need to make transformation happen for you.

To your adventure!

Coaches For All Your Self-Improvement Needs!

About the Author

Beth Zabiegalski

Beth Zabiegalski

Human Potential Coach, The Heart Wants Adventure

Beth is an intuitive and nature-based coach, certified by the Human Potential Institute and credentialed by the International Coach Federation. She earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism at West Virginia University, then left her career path in nonprofit communications in late 2017 in order to pursue her passion for the outdoors. In addition to becoming a coach to help other 20-somethings realize their lives’ true adventures, Beth is now a certified Wilderness First Responder (NOLS) and a Level II River Kayaking instructor (ACA).

Beth lives and travels in a retired ambulance (now mobile tiny home) with her husband and her cat, and she enjoys hiking, knitting, connecting with the natural world, and creating all-natural cooking recipes. 
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