How a CMU alumnus lived in the woods for 39 days to pay off student debt
When Josh Colosky got a job at the Petoskey Brewing Company, he sold his car, donated most of his belongings to charity and moved to the woods for 39 days in an effort to pay off his student debt.
The 2015 Central Michigan University alumnus graduated owing nearly $60,000 after receiving a bachelor's degree in music.
Colosky said his plan is to pay off his student debt in six years by experimenting with different lifestyles that will lower his cost of living as close to $0 a month as possible.
The first step of the plan involved a small tent in the woods.
“When I was about to graduate in fall 2015, I was at crossroads with things,” Colosky said. “I was anxious and depressed thinking about how much money I owed. I just started to research different ways and lifestyles to help pay it off.”
Living rent-free saved Colosky more than $2,000 in 39 days — only $200 was spent on food, beer and his phone bill. He relied on his bike as a form of travel.
"We live in terror of the new age of student debt," he said. "I’d do anything to pay off debt while still experiencing adventure and travel."
Colosky said he didn't think much of the fact he was leaving half his life behind. The search for a solution to his debt and a new adventure was a form of comfort.
"I've always benefited from the thought make or fail,” he said. “You're always moving forward so long as the willingness to seek what's in the heart outweighs the fear of trying and failing."
Adapting to the lifestyle was not easy. He often woke to the sound of raccoons and bears outside of his tent.
“The first three days were hard. You’re lonely and in the woods by yourself. What got me through it was the image in my head of what I wanted and I’d be willing to do anything for it,” Colosky said. “I didn’t want my debt. I didn’t want to be stuck.”
Life in the woods became routine after a week. He would wake up in his tent, bike four miles to work, work for 12 hours before biking home with nothing but a hot shower on his mind.
The hot shower didn’t come for 12 days after his journey began. Colosky relied on Lake Michigan to stay clean. He’d jump off a 20-foot pier every night, wash and relax in the water before heading back to his camp.
“The first hot shower was the best in my life,” Colosky said. “I was working in 100 degree kitchens, biking four miles uphill every day and all of a sudden, I had a hot shower (at a nearby campground).”
When bathing in the lake, Colosky said he met several other travelers. Some were families; some were students stopping by for local music festivals. Colosky said after they heard his story, the travelers agreed on one thing: Colosky was a “dirty kid.”
Colosky said being a dirty kid is the newest form of being a hippie, the young adults not afraid to live in the woods and “get dirty for the things they believe in."
“I didn’t know if I fit that demographic,” he said. “I love to travel and get dirty, but I love a hot shower and being clean. I am more of a traveler who will do anything to pay off my debt, even if it means getting dirty.”
The next step of Colosky’s journey of paying off his debt while still experiencing adventure in the small space of a Volkswagen Westfalia.
The van is rent-free, mobile way to travel and work on his album in as he saves up money to pay off his debt.