Veggie-Oil Voyage

One couple promotes simple living across America.

By Rachel Mosteller

Matt and Sara Janssen know a thing or two about living simply. Thanks to a long-term business trip to Coralville, Iowa in 2005, the twosome realized they could happily survive on fewer material items than they owned. They slowly began to downsize their life, eventually selling their 1,600 square-foot home and resettling in a 385 square-foot apartment. Currently, 30-year-old Sara, 29-year-old Matt, and their 3-year-old daughter, Bella, are traveling around the country in an RV powered by corn oil for what they’ve termed, their Live Lightly Tour. Plenty caught up with Sara to discuss her new lifestyle, her plans, and her RV.

What was the biggest change you noticed when you simplified?

Whenever we’d go into our big house, all we’d see is everything that needs to be done—the lawn needs to be mowed, this needs to be fixed and cleaned. It was just overwhelming. We didn’t have a lot of time because we were working so much, so it just added to our stress. Once we moved into a small apartment, all those things went away and we had time to focus on family, hobbies, and Bella.

Why go through this entire transformation of simplifying?

The culture of America is to buy and consume. That’s what you see. If you go anywhere, [the impulse] is to buy, buy, buy. For us, simplifying is a matter of sanity. Getting back to not having a TV on at night meant we had more time to spend with Bella, and it made us go outside our house more. We spent more time at coffee shops chatting with friends, and at fountains with family. It just totally changes your perspective on life when you don’t have so much chaos around you. 

How long will you be gone?

We’re planning on a year, but we don’t really have a time frame, and that’s the exciting part. It’s open. If we find something along the way that interests us, maybe we’ll come back to it.

Why are you doing the tour?

Our goal for the tour is to bring awareness to sustainable living, show people a veggie-oil system, and show them transportation alternatives. Within the green-living realm, transportation is a huge question; what are you doing to help the earth because gas is nasty and expensive? 

How do you get the oil to power the RV?

We go to restaurants and knock on the back door, talk to the managers and say, “Hey, we have an RV that runs on veggie oil. Can we come in and fill up on it?” They often look at us strangely and it’s clear they don’t understand. Then they come out, look at it, and usually say yes. We have an on-board gathering and filtering system and we just fill up. It is like an elephant with a hose out of the front. 

What do you think stops people from simplifying their lives like you did?

Part of it is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of getting rid of stuff they might need someday. A lot of people find comfort in their material possessions. It is so deep-rooted that they don’t realize attachments they have to possessions, the stability of a full-time job, a house that their parents expect them to have, the car that their friends expect them to drive. There’s a fear of not impressing people, or a fear of failure. I always ask people: “If you want to do it, if you have a desire in your heart, if you want to travel one day, then why don’t you do it right now?” What’s holding them back is that they might fail. I say, “So what, then you go back to your nine to five job.”

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Poorly written and very superficial article, but it's fantastic that 'simpler' lifestyles are getting some publicity.

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