Author Topic: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?  (Read 28321 times)

Uncephalized

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Hi all,

Some of you may remember recently that my wife and I were looking for a house in the Tempe area. Well, we've put our house-owning plans on hold for a while, in favor of a more awesome, more-ambitious, and ultimately IMO more-badass idea: move into a travel trailer and live as wayfarers. The idea is to just roam around North America, experiencing all the culture and sights and wonderful natural landscapes this great continent has to offer. We'll do this until we don't want to anymore (which might be never, who knows?) or until circumstances align against us and we can't manage it for whatever reason.

The main reason we want to do this is a fairly obvious one: it sounds freakin' awesome! We found that as we talked more and more about buying a house here we got less and less excited about it. We really don't want to be tied to Arizona, and especially not to the Phoenix area, long term. We DO want to travel and be free from the 9 to 5. Since we are young and not rich yet, the solution is simple: live in a very small, cheap space and pull it with us wherever we feel like living! The more we talk about THIS idea, the more excited we get about it. We've been thinking about it for a few months now.

Other important motivations include:
-More personal freedom and responsibility over our daily schedules and activities.
-Spend more of our days together, which we really value and enjoy. Right now we don't get anywhere near as much time in each other's company as we really like--before I got this job we spent 20+ hours together, every day, and that was the way we liked it. Now we miss each other all the time. :-(
-Spend MUCH more time outdoors and in motion
-Migrate freely to avoid seasonal extremes or for any other reason, as we desire
-More time and freedom to pursue our passions and hobbies--writing, inventing, programming, art, crafts, etc.
-(Hopefully) smaller environmental footprint and waste stream, which is more in line with out political and social values
-Visit friends all over the country as a natural consequence of our roving about
-Destress! Unplug from the ridiculous pace of consumer society
-Perfect setting to practice survival and wilderness skills as desired--hey, you never know. :-) Also, living mobile makes you naturally more resilient to local disasters and so on.

And the list goes on--you get the idea.

Anyway, I was wondering if anyone around here has ever done something like this, and if so, what words of wisdom you might have for us. I've been reading cheaprvliving.com and cheapgreenrvliving.com for ideas, as well as some other sites that I've seen linked to, and ERE--any other resources people are aware of that would be helpful?

Our current plans:

-Obtain a travel trailer and suitable tow vehicle. The trailer we are totally in love with is the Cricket (crickettrailer.com), which is a funky popup made out of structural aluminum foam-core panels and beams, and looks a little like someone artfully crushed it with a giant vise. We like this trailer for many reasons--it is small and very light (~1300lbs unloaded) for its size, so we can tow it with a relatively small, efficient vehicle. It has a folding couch/bed, a small table, a kitchen sink/cabinet area, operable windows and vents, 12V deep cycle battery and power system, and a shower area with a portable toilet. It has everything you NEED and pretty much nothing you don't, and it's small enough that we'll want to be outside most of the time except for sleeping and washing, which is a plus. The major downside is the price (~15K equipped), but this is a reasonable number if we use it for a couple of years or more, since we will be saving so much money on living expenses and rent/mortgage that we would otherwise be paying.

We are not totally decided on this trailer, but it's the one that I keep coming back to as the best bet for light weight, compact size, efficiency and capability. Everything else I've seen is bigger, heavier, more expensive or doesn't realy seem livable long-term. I really like that the Cricket is always ready to go and requires nothing but a quick pop of the top to set up. But if you think you have a better option, let me know! I'm looking for input.

-As for a vehicle, we are thinking a Forester or maybe a four-cylinder double cab Tacoma with a full-height bed cover. This mostly depends on how much gear we decide we need to take. The Tacoma is slight overkill as far as towing capacity (the 2400lbs rating on the Forester is more than adequate), but we may just need the space afforded by the truck bed/cover to keep everything we need with us. We plan to get the trailer first, and take it camping using our current pickup (a v6 Tacoma, which we will be getting rid of in favor of a smaller, more efficient tow vehicle, but right now it's what we have) to get a feel for how much we will need to bring before we decide on a final vehicle. Again, advice is appreciated.

-We have a whole list of gear, which we are trying to keep reasonably minimal, but again, any suggestions from experienced people as far as what you consider essential would be great. We're planning to get a 12V compact freezer, and use a cooler or two with ice as refrigerators, and use a 2-burner propane camping stove for cooking. I won't go through the whole gear list unless someone wants to know.


-As for making money, my wife is starting to make a pretty decent income reselling antique and vintage jewelry online. I have been taking over the "CFO" role for her, which is her definite weak point, and helping her to leverage her skill at finding amazing deals to resell into a more profitable venture. So we are planning on continuing with that as we travel. It's mostly online anyway, and we can use a mail forwarding service to receive parcels as needed. We actually expect that traveling to different markets regularly will be a boon to our income, because we can take advantage of price differences in different markets, and be traveling merchants! Jewelry is also very compact and portable so it works out on multiple fronts. I expect I will be helping her with her finances and logistics part-time. I also would love to find some freelance writing, programming or engineering work as we go, especially tele-commute stuff, so we'll see what I can pick up in that regard. I also have a possible opportunity to go in on a development project with a buddy of mine in the near future, which would be awesome--and we can move our trailer to wherever that is located if needed. We shouldn't need to make a ton of money to fund this lifestyle so I'm not too worried about it. We are also, of course, saving as much as we can before I quit my current job to give ourselves as good a headstart as possible.

-We also have a whole list of activities and things to do on the road, including volunteering around the country for Habitat for Humanity or possibly WWOOFing (which in particular would lower our expenses, given free room and board with most of organic-farm arrangements).

That's it, in several Brazil-nutshells! Advice, criticism, and thoughts are all appreciated greatly, unless you're a meanie-head in which case you can GTFO. :-)
« Last Edit: January 04, 2013, 11:22:04 AM by Uncephalized »

totoro

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That sounds pretty great!  I looked at your link to the cricket and it is funky.  It does not look like it would be warm in winter though.  We have considered a camper van and travelling around using recreation centres for showers and cafe washrooms.  I like a camper van because it is pretty easy to set up and parks anywhere.

Nords

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Anyway, I was wondering if anyone around here has ever done something like this, and if so, what words of wisdom you might have for us. I've been reading cheaprvliving.com and cheapgreenrvliving.com for ideas, as well as some other sites that I've seen linked to, and ERE--any other resources people are aware of that would be helpful?
Take a look at
http://vagabondians.com/
He also occasionally posts to Early-Retirement.org as Dixonge.  I'm not sure whether or not he's a member here.

travelbug

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We are looking at a similar-ish vagabonding experience but with two small children in tow and through Asia to start with, so no caravan, but that may happen when we arrive in the USA and Europe. Definately on the cards.

My parents have been travelling around Australia for seven years in a caravan, they call them grey nomads here, and the one thing I would point out from their experiences is that if your caravan is your home, it would be really annoying to have to fold back up your bed before you can eat/do stuff on the table.

It would be OK for a short time period, but something to think about if you are in it long term.

Have fun, it sounds great!

happy

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 I spent a year travelling around Europe in a VW Combi van , a not uncommon thing for Aussies to do in the 80s. We didn't need much stuff...personal possessions were about a back pack full ( same as if we had been youth-hosteling it) and a few cheap extras like pots and pans...

We had vague plans, about where we were going and what we didn't want to miss, but otherwise were pretty laid back and tried to go with the flow, and get tips from fellow travellers.

It was great and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. For me personally 10 months was enough, I was ready to head home by then, felt the need for more structure and missed home, family and friends. At one point I was somewhere where there was a TV screen and an Australian voice/program came on and I burst into tears, after not hearing our dulcet accent for so long.

arebelspy

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I won't go through the whole gear list unless someone wants to know.

Yes please! (If you have it typed up already so it's not too much work.)
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with two kids.
If you want to know more about us, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

AlexK

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Before you take the plunge buy a used trailer at a good price and try it out for a few weeks. That way if it's not as fun as you thought you can sell the trailer and be out nothing. You will meet people on the road, look at their rigs, and decide the best one for you if you do like the lifestyle. Right now you don't know what features are important for you and which aren't.

I had never seen the cricket trailer before. It looks very interesting and light. We had a Casita 17' which was about 2300 lbs. My truck (4 cyl Tacoma) is rated to tow 3500 lbs and it struggled up some grades at <35 mph but handled fine otherwise. We never used the AC, heater, microwave but loved the bathroom and shower.

One thing you can't do easily with a trailer is explore dirt roads for nice free places to camp. If you come to a locked gate or something it would be a major hassle to turn around. A camper van would be better for this.

Uncephalized

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That sounds pretty great!  I looked at your link to the cricket and it is funky.  It does not look like it would be warm in winter though.  We have considered a camper van and travelling around using recreation centres for showers and cafe washrooms.  I like a camper van because it is pretty easy to set up and parks anywhere.
Well, it is made of foam-core aluminum panels which actually have pretty good insulative properties. If you also cut some window covers out of Reflectix or similar material and cover the windows at night that will stop a lot of the heat loss out of the windows. It's also <100 sqft with a low ceiling, and we will have three warm bodies (me, wife and 65-lb dog) inside at night to warm the place up. Also, blankets. Also, sweaters. So I'm not too worried. Anyway, if it gets too cold where we are we'll just go live in Tucson for a few months and hang out with our families. :) Also, we'll have a propane-powered catalytic heater. Not planning on wintering in Alaska or anything.

We thought about a camper van but for us the flexibility of being able to unhitch and go drive into town for a day trip or whatever without lugging around our whole house is appealing. Still an option though.

Take a look at
http://vagabondians.com/
He also occasionally posts to Early-Retirement.org as Dixonge.  I'm not sure whether or not he's a member here.
Thanks! Bookmarked for later perusal.

We are looking at a similar-ish vagabonding experience but with two small children in tow and through Asia to start with, so no caravan, but that may happen when we arrive in the USA and Europe. Definately on the cards.

My parents have been travelling around Australia for seven years in a caravan, they call them grey nomads here, and the one thing I would point out from their experiences is that if your caravan is your home, it would be really annoying to have to fold back up your bed before you can eat/do stuff on the table.

It would be OK for a short time period, but something to think about if you are in it long term.

Have fun, it sounds great!
In the folding-couch version of the Cricket (the one we're considering; there's also one with a larger, fixed bed), the table is on a swinging arm and AFAIK can swing out over the bed or the couch. So it shouldn't be much of an issue. We are also planning on having a lightweight folding camp table and some sort of awning with us that we can set up outside if the weather is good, that we'll use as our main workspace. There's a kitchen counter too so it's not like we'll need to put the bed up to make breakfast or anything. I also tend to think that you can used to almost any kind of minor inconvenience if you just deal with it for a while.

I hope you have a great trip too!

I spent a year travelling around Europe in a VW Combi van , a not uncommon thing for Aussies to do in the 80s. We didn't need much stuff...personal possessions were about a back pack full ( same as if we had been youth-hosteling it) and a few cheap extras like pots and pans...

We had vague plans, about where we were going and what we didn't want to miss, but otherwise were pretty laid back and tried to go with the flow, and get tips from fellow travellers.

It was great and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. For me personally 10 months was enough, I was ready to head home by then, felt the need for more structure and missed home, family and friends. At one point I was somewhere where there was a TV screen and an Australian voice/program came on and I burst into tears, after not hearing our dulcet accent for so long.
This is basically what we are thinking--we're planning to have no plans! That's part of the attraction. Downsizing our stuff to fit comfortably in a tiny trailer and the back of a pickup/station wagon is definitely going to be one of the biggest challenges, but it's its own reward IMO as well. We're well on our way and have been donating, selling and throwing out bags and bags of stuff the last few months. It's very cathartic, actually. You don't realize how much stress it's causing to own all that junk until you don't have to look at it anymore and you can walk across your whole floor in a straight line.

As for being homesick and lonely, we will be wandering around our home country. We've got friends and family all over the continent to visit and stay with, so I don't think it'll be a problem like it might be if we were going abroad. Also, I'm hoping to meet lots of interesting people on the road!

I won't go through the whole gear list unless someone wants to know.
Yes please! (If you have it typed up already so it's not too much work.)
Your wish is my command. :-D I'll post it in a little bit.

Before you take the plunge buy a used trailer at a good price and try it out for a few weeks. That way if it's not as fun as you thought you can sell the trailer and be out nothing. You will meet people on the road, look at their rigs, and decide the best one for you if you do like the lifestyle. Right now you don't know what features are important for you and which aren't.
We could do this, but at the same time it might be better to jump in the deep end and force ourselves to get used to the lifestyle. Test driving too much when we are used to living in the relatively opulent luxury of a single-family home might just make it more likely that we talk ourselves out of the experience of a lifetime. It's all about hedonic adaptation, baby!

I had never seen the cricket trailer before. It looks very interesting and light. We had a Casita 17' which was about 2300 lbs. My truck (4 cyl Tacoma) is rated to tow 3500 lbs and it struggled up some grades at <35 mph but handled fine otherwise. We never used the AC, heater, microwave but loved the bathroom and shower.

One thing you can't do easily with a trailer is explore dirt roads for nice free places to camp. If you come to a locked gate or something it would be a major hassle to turn around. A camper van would be better for this.
I can see how that might be a problem in certain situations. The trailer is so light you could unhitch, drive around it and drag it around by the tongue with two people, then rehitch and go, though (not convenient, but accomplishable). And it's got 10.5" of ground clearance and electric brakes so the actual dirt-road driving itself shouldn't be a worry. But yeah, as with any vehicle I'm sure there will be the occasional place we would like to go and can't.

Uncephalized

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This is no particular order; the list is in early stages. Anything with a question mark is something we are considering or think we might want to get after we leave. Obviously we will usually have access to civilization so obtaining essentials won't be an issue.

Things to bring with us:
Trailer (duh)
Truck or competent towing vehicle - Forester? Tacoma?
durable clothing (Icebreakers) for outdoors/casual
National Parks pass
Camping tent?
Inflatable watercraft? (kayak, raft, etc.)
Small cache of art supplies
Car tool kit
Crafting tools
Emergency Supplies:
-Gas
-Water
-Food
-First Aid (incl EpiPen)
Baking Soda
Vinegar
All-purpose soap
Camp chairs
Folding camp table
two-burner camp stove
Dutch Oven
Frying Pan
Cooking Pot(s)
Eating Utensils/Dishes - 1 set each, maybe 1 extra
iPad
ultrabook
Phones
Flashlights (LED)
Toiletries
Clothing: Layering and versatility are important! (style and function)
Winter gear--heavy overcoat, boots, hat, gloves, socks, long underwear…
Frisbee
Deck of cards
Ukulele
Coffee Press
Medical Documents, important legal documents (photocopies)
Passports
Bicycle(s)? (roof rack)
Camelbaks (one each)/day packs
Clothesline
Lightweight dog dishes (water & food)
Extra glasses ("woods" pair & nice pair)
2 sealing travel mugs
Super cooler for fridge
Several 5-gal buckets
towels, sheets and pillows
Toilet/shower tent for "outhouse" in good weather
Multi-tool/Swiss army knife
Sheath knife, 1 each
Lengths of rope & cord
Hatchet or axe
Saw
Fire Tools (firesteel, tinder, maybe a firepot)
Storage Bins (large and small) for bulk food and gear
Small selection of books/reference material
Small hunting rifle and cleaning kit
Ear and eye protection
Small, durable jewelry case
Folder/binder for important documents
12V Fan
12V radio/speakers
12V RV refrigerator (use as freezer)
Reusable shopping/tote bags
Rechargable AA & AAA batteries, charger
Knife sharpening kit
Chock blocks for trailer
Pressure cooker
5-gal bucket clothes washer
cellular WiFi hotspot (or use phones?)
catalytic space heater
shade awning

Bakari

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I bought a camper van more or less on a whim when I was 18 (only reason I got my driver's license), and have lived in RVs ever since.
My (ex) wife and I bought a bigger class C RV to replace my van, which we lived in at random places on the street for half a year, then moved into a mobile home park.
Then we joined a traveling carnival in the mid-west, after that drove to NYC, where we got a job as a bike messenger (among other things) and stayed for about a year before driving back across the country, attending Burning Man, and then coming home to CA.
Upgraded the class C for a travel trailer, in which I still live.

My first tiny bit of notoriety came from Faircompanies.com doing a short video about my RV:
http://faircompanies.com/videos/view/living-small-when-home-is-a-150-square-foot-rv/
or http://youtu.be/EJc8973GURk

Which, incidentally, was Kirsten's first interview with someone who lived in a tiny house, which then became her specialty (and the topic of her first full length documentary!)

That video is indirectly how I ended up getting in touch with Jacob of ERE, which in turn is how I found MMM.
I had quite a few people track me down on Facebook with RV living questions, so I wrote a blog post to answer the most frequent questions I was getting:

http://biodieselhauling.blogspot.com/2012/03/minor-celebrity.html

I've also written about installing 12 solar (MUCH easier and cheaper and more cost effective than a inverter / grid-intertie system, and down right easy in an RV, which already has a 12v system and batteries built in:
http://www.instructables.com/id/NON-grid-intertie-independant-solar-photovoltic-/

and the changes I made to my tow vehicle to get mid-size car level mileage out of a 3/4-ton V8 (bio)diesel truck:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Vehicle-efficiency-upgrades/

The only immediate thing I see from your first post that you may want to reconsider is the refrigeration.  For portable refrigeration, propane is more efficient than 12v.  If you expect to have access to 120V (grid) power most of the time, the best compressor models are better than any portable.  The exception is the SunFrost 12v, but they are around $2000 and come in very limited size options.


Put some serious thought into the trailer vs motorhome thing: if you plan to stay mostly in one place for a long time, yes, being able to unhook is very nice, and you get more useable space inside, generally a nicer place for the same cost.  But if you expect to be mostly on the road, having a trailer does kind of suck much more often than you would think.

In case you didn't know, WalMart has a policy that truck drivers and RVs can stay the night in any of their parking lots nationwide, regardless of whether you buy anything there or not (unless the individual store has an unusually small lot and is completely full of paying customers).  When we traveled we generally stayed 6 nights a week in WalMart parking lots, and then one at an RV park where we could dump holding tanks, fill fresh water, use 120V power, etc. 
The cost of fuel just about balanced out not having to stay in hotels or campgrounds...

Feel free to PM or email me any questions you may have about RVs or the fulltiming lifestyle, whether technical or personal or whatever - I'll get back to you eventually, though not right away, as I am working 7 days a week at the moment.

Its an awesome plan, and I wish you the best of luck.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2012, 09:46:24 AM by Bakari »

Emerald

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2012, 04:06:32 PM »
You may want to look into volunteering at state/national parks.   There are many opportunities available.  Also, check out the workcamper web site.  At the very least, you can find free camping in exchange for part time work. 

PM me  if you want more information.  I'm a volunteer coordinator at a federal lake.

Uncephalized

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2012, 04:55:02 PM »
Cool, Bakari, I'll check out your links.

The only immediate thing I see from your first post that you may want to reconsider is the refrigeration.  For portable refrigeration, propane is more efficient than 12v.  If you expect to have access to 120V (grid) power most of the time, the best compressor models are better than any portable.  The exception is the SunFrost 12v, but they are around $2000 and come in very limited size options.
I expect to be running off 12V almost exclusively. I will probably want to eventually install a roof-mounted or separate ground-based PV panel (which we could set up when parked) to continuously charge our batteries. I'll look into a propane freezer--do you have any brand/company recommendations or should I just ask Google?

Quote from: Bakari
Put some serious thought into the trailer vs motorhome thing: if you plan to stay mostly in one place for a song time, yes, being able to unhook is very nice, and you get more useable space inside, generally a nicer place for the same cost.  But if you expect to be mostly on the road, having a trailer does kind of suck much more often than you would think.
The current idea is that we will be driving around until we find a spot we like, then park it for as long as we want to stay. I don't want to be driving to a new place every day or even every week--I anticipate using the trailer as a mobile base camp and exploring a given area thoroughly before moving on. But it's definitely something to think about.

Quote from: Bakari
In case you didn't know, WalMart has a policy that truck drivers and RVs can stay the night in any of their parking lots nationwide, regardless of whether you buy anything there or not (unless the individual store has an unusually small lot and is completely full of paying customers).  When we traveled we generally stayed 6 nights a week in WalMart parking lots, and then one at an RV park where we could dump holding tanks, fill fresh water, use 120V power, etc. 
The cost of fuel just about balanced out not having to stay in hotels or campgrounds...
I was aware of the Walmart parking lot thing, but thanks for mentioning it. I anticipate that we would use parking lots as stopovers if we needed it, but I'm hoping to find more rural/outdoors/camping situations the majority of the time. We still have a lot of research left to do as far as figuring out where we can stay and for how long, though I know that a lot of BLM land allows free "dispersed camping" for up to 14 days at a time, at which point you have to move a certain distance away from your last site.

I have this vision of spending a week at a time in an idyllic mountain meadow writing and playing and thinking, rolling into town every once in a while to hang out at local coffee shops, meet people and resupply, then heading back out into the outdoors. I know it probably won't be like that most of the time but that's the dream. Of course my wife's perfect vision is likely a little different than mine. Or a lot. :D

Quote from: Bakari
Feel free to PM or email me any questions you may have about RVs or the fulltiming lifestyle, whether technical or personal or whatever - I'll get back to you eventually, though not right away, as I am working 7 days a week at the moment.

Its an awesome plan, and I wish you the best of luck.
Thanks, and I may take you up on that.

You may want to look into volunteering at state/national parks.   There are many opportunities available. Also, check out the workcamper web site.  At the very least, you can find free camping in exchange for part time work. 

PM me  if you want more information.  I'm a volunteer coordinator at a federal lake.
Cool. Workcamping is definitely already on our list of things to try, along with WWOOFing which also often comes with free room and board AFAIK.

--------------------------------------

So I think my biggest question right now is this: how do you go about not paying, or paying extremely little, to park your trailer, if you don't want to live out in the middle of the Nevada desert? I can see staying at RV parks occasionally but honestly, we're both introverts and prefer solitude 90% of the time, interspersed with occasional socializing. I suppose there are probably lots of places you can go to get away from people for cheap or free, but I don't really know how to go about finding them...

bogart

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2012, 07:08:43 PM »

we will have three warm bodies (me, wife and 65-lb dog)


I'd think carefully about the implications of undertaking what you are considering with a dog.  I camp in a travel trailer (a few weeks at a time) both with and without ours (2 ~65 pounders), and pretty consistently leave them at home in the summertime -- it's just too risky/complicated to negotiate leaving them in vehicles in the heat (I don't leave ours in the camper; if you are willing to, that may simplify things -- but there's still heat to consider, especially if you're not planning to use a/c.  I'm not saying it's impossible, but there are clear potential complications.  And while your dog may be an absolutely unflappable saint who can be tied anywhere and would never harm a flea, you will likely encounter other dogs (and other creatures) not all of whom may be so sanguine.

tooqk4u22

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #13 on: September 20, 2012, 07:51:11 AM »
IIRC many fed parks don't allow dogs on trails and such, so that could be limiting.

JohnGalt

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2012, 08:37:50 AM »
Do you have an estimated budget?  I'm very intrigued by the idea of something like this - but have a hard time estimating what my monthly or annual expenses would be.  I'm sure it's highly variable based on how you go about it, but I'm always curious to see what other people spend or think they'll spend. 

Kriegsspiel

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #15 on: September 20, 2012, 08:43:10 AM »
http://www.tosimplify.net/

Another blog about a guy who lives in a RV.

Mrs MM

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2012, 09:06:12 AM »
This sounds Excellent!  It is my post-kid-Retirement dream.  I was just wasting time looking at Casita trailers online yesterday.

I'll have to hold onto this thread (and the biking around the US thread) until then.  :) 

Keep us posted!

jbhernandez

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #17 on: September 20, 2012, 10:43:52 AM »
While Bakari is the resident expert, and BTW, I've read just about everything he's written everywhere with all his pseudonyms.

Here's some of the links I have about this topic. Like Bakari mentioned seriously think about van vs. trailer. If you are going with a van, then check out the sprinter vans. Lot's of stuff on the net about it. You can check out one couples setup at http://sprinterlife.com/

I picked up a Kindle book on the subject of living in a trailer at http://www.amazon.com/Long-Honeymoon-Anecdotes-Airstream-ebook/dp/B0061SB982/


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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #18 on: September 20, 2012, 10:52:17 AM »
My two cents:

Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tylz5sfCAOc

& then watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjiQFCunJqk

(His website: http://tynan.com/)

I see it as a decently mobile/cozy/do-able route, would love to hear other's thoughts on this particular vehicle and style of life, especially considering there will be 2 people living out of it.

Best wishes! It's good to dream :)

jbhernandez

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #19 on: September 20, 2012, 10:58:50 AM »
My two cents:

Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tylz5sfCAOc

& then watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjiQFCunJqk

(His website: http://tynan.com/)

I see it as a decently mobile/cozy/do-able route, would love to hear other's thoughts on this particular vehicle and style of life, especially considering there will be 2 people living out of it.

Best wishes! It's good to dream :)

Yep. Tynan is another one. He likes the Volkswagen based Rialta. They are definitely priced right, although they have very small gray water tanks.

Uncephalized

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #20 on: September 20, 2012, 01:54:15 PM »
I'd think carefully about the implications of undertaking what you are considering with a dog.  I camp in a travel trailer (a few weeks at a time) both with and without ours (2 ~65 pounders), and pretty consistently leave them at home in the summertime -- it's just too risky/complicated to negotiate leaving them in vehicles in the heat (I don't leave ours in the camper; if you are willing to, that may simplify things -- but there's still heat to consider, especially if you're not planning to use a/c.  I'm not saying it's impossible, but there are clear potential complications.  And while your dog may be an absolutely unflappable saint who can be tied anywhere and would never harm a flea, you will likely encounter other dogs (and other creatures) not all of whom may be so sanguine.
IIRC many fed parks don't allow dogs on trails and such, so that could be limiting.
Good points, both. I know BLM and national park lands both typically allow dogs at least in most areas (Grand Canyon allows them only above the rim, for instance), and obviously private parks and campgrounds are at the discretion of the owners. We are not going to have A/C, but we are planning to move around the country and up and down in altitude as necessary to avoid the worst of summer heat and winter cold, so he shouldn't be subjected to any real extremes. He's pretty hardy in the Phoenix heat (he just lies around a lot, LOL) and that's about as bad as it gets anywhere--he does spend extended periods outside even in the highest summer and as long as he's got water and shade he does fine.

I would be fine leaving him in the camper as long as we had some suitable combination of open windows/vents, shade, cross-breeze or fan, etc. He's a good watchdog and we both feel much safer having him around. If he did get eaten by a mountain lion or something, well, that would be very sad and I would miss him. But it wouldn't be any worse than him getting run over on my street, or stolen, or dying of some disease, all of which could happen right now, so we're really just trading one set of risks for another. We run into plenty of threatening stray dogs as it is just going for walks in our neighborhood, and honestly I'm more scared of a loose pit bull than I am of bears or other wild carnivores--wild animals are typically pretty shy except in certain high-use areas where they are used to eating human food, and where we would hopefully be more aware and cautious.

He is pretty calm, friendly and well-behaved--and is only getting more so as he gets older--and loves going on drives and exploring, so I'm not worried on that score.

Do you have an estimated budget?  I'm very intrigued by the idea of something like this - but have a hard time estimating what my monthly or annual expenses would be.  I'm sure it's highly variable based on how you go about it, but I'm always curious to see what other people spend or think they'll spend.
I'm working on the budget as I research the best services and gear to obtain, and as our plans evolve--I expect our biggest expenses to be food and vehicle costs, followed by insurance and internet/cell phone. Everything else should be cheap, free or optional.

I'd expect a reasonable monthly estimate would be $350 for food including the dog, $400 for fuel and repair/maintenance fund, $50 for vehicle insurance, $125 for health insurance (HSA-eligible HDHP), $90 for phones and cellular internet access, and another $150 or so to cover incidentals like stopping for food on the road, occasional campground fees, etc. That totals under $1200, which is a number I think we can easily exceed in income between the two of us, on average. Anything above that would obviously go mostly into emergency funds and savings/investments, with maybe a little (5% or so) siphoned off for "fun money" to go to the occasional nice restaurant, hotel night or whatever we feel like doing. We will have some money saved up ahead of time as a cushion to land on in case things don't work out as well as we hope in this regard.

http://www.tosimplify.net/

Another blog about a guy who lives in a RV.
Cool, read through that a little bit. I like his RV. :) My wife doesn't though. She really wants a trailer!

This sounds Excellent!  It is my post-kid-Retirement dream.  I was just wasting time looking at Casita trailers online yesterday.

I'll have to hold onto this thread (and the biking around the US thread) until then.  :) 

Keep us posted!
I think so too! It's our pre-kid-honeymoon dream. :) Who knows, maybe we'll even end up having little nomads while on the road, if we really like the lifestyle. I will absolutely make updates as they occur, though it will be some months I'm sure before we make serious headway. I'm also still in the midst of a major product redesign at work (luckily coming close to the end!) so I would feel bad leaving before that was finished to the point I could hand it off, even if we were all ready to go before that, which we probably won't be.

Here's some of the links I have about this topic. Like Bakari mentioned seriously think about van vs. trailer. If you are going with a van, then check out the sprinter vans. Lot's of stuff on the net about it. You can check out one couples setup at http://sprinterlife.com/

I picked up a Kindle book on the subject of living in a trailer at http://www.amazon.com/Long-Honeymoon-Anecdotes-Airstream-ebook/dp/B0061SB982/
Those two seem pretty awesome. Looking forward to reading through their stuff, and thanks for the book rec.

My two cents:

Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tylz5sfCAOc

& then watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjiQFCunJqk

(His website: http://tynan.com/)

I see it as a decently mobile/cozy/do-able route, would love to hear other's thoughts on this particular vehicle and style of life, especially considering there will be 2 people living out of it.

Best wishes! It's good to dream :)
Done and done. Cool setup! He's most definitely a bachelor, though, LOL. Love the gold-tint tin roof. :D

Uncephalized

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #21 on: September 24, 2012, 11:46:41 AM »
So I showed my wife what a Sprinter van looks like (luckily there's even one right around the corner from our house, so we walked over to look at it), and we talked about it a little bit, and now we're on the fence about whether we want to go with a van or a trailer. Both options appeal for different reasons, but I think I'm leaning towards getting a Sprinter and DIY-converting it to a camper van. Sounds like a really fun project and learning experience, too.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2012, 05:35:38 PM by Uncephalized »

Forcus

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #22 on: September 24, 2012, 01:42:43 PM »
I only had time to skim but I would heavily advise against any sort of pop up camper for this type of living. I think after a few days of stopping, cranking, sleeping, cranking, and getting back on the road, you might be tired of it. The best bang for your buck would probably be a 90's gas or diesel truck, and a late 90's / early-mid 2000's travel trailer (can go older on both if they have been taken care of). The Sprinters are nice, but expensive, and a little narrow (but the extended roof is very nice, for being able to stand up).

Search "boondocking" and try rv.net for alot more info. The rv.net site is more camper specific but there is tons of information from people who roam full time and also are "migrant".

jbhernandez

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #23 on: September 24, 2012, 08:10:23 PM »
So I showed my wife what a Sprinter van looks like (luckily there's even one right around the corner from our house, so we walked over to look at it), and we talked about it a little but, and now we're on the fence about whether we want to go with a van or a trailer. Both options appeal for different reasons, but I think I'm leaning towards getting a Sprinter and DIY-converting it to a camper van. Sounds like a really fun project and learning experience, too.

The Sprinter vans are definitely sized right and get great gas mileage to boot!

kdms

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #24 on: September 25, 2012, 05:41:39 AM »


I would be fine leaving him in the camper as long as we had some suitable combination of open windows/vents, shade, cross-breeze or fan, etc. He's a good watchdog and we both feel much safer having him around.

We've also travelled with our pets (three cats) and we've got a hard-sided travel egg that only weighs 900lbs empty (Trillium Trailer, also known as Escape Trailers, and the Outback).  One of the things that we've learned is that when you leave a pet in a camper, there are do-gooders out there who will do anything to rescue a 'pet in distress'.  One of our cats is very friendly, and very vocal.  In 2002 we parked on a side street in Tofino, BC in order to go on a whale-watching/hot springs tour, and we left our cats in the camper with food, litter, open windows (it wasn't warm in the slightest and the breeze was chilly) and in sight of the local RCMP detachment.  Before going on the tour, we walked into the police station and told them who we were, pointed out the camper, and told them that there were three cats inside and what we'd done to make them comfortable.  They said thanks, and have a nice trip....

When we got back, we were flagged down by an officer who was outside the detachment, and he thanked us for checking in before we left....they'd had five good samaritans asking them to break into the camper to rescue our loud-mouthed cat who talked to everyone that walked by.

Check your insurance....it may or may not cover damage caused by good intentions, and if your dog is a good watchdog (and that means he barks?) a note on the door with your contact details might be in order.

offroad

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #25 on: September 26, 2012, 08:04:16 AM »
see the cheap RV living blog and forum.  much discussion like this site.

http://www.cheaprvlivingforum.com/

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #26 on: September 26, 2012, 05:09:02 PM »
Take a look at
http://vagabondians.com/
He also occasionally posts to Early-Retirement.org as Dixonge.  I'm not sure whether or not he's a member here.

I much prefer:
http://www.vwvagabonds.com/jova.html

Of course, after awhile they took the natural route of people traveling like this, and switched to bicycles  :) 
Have you considered that? 

Uncephalized

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #27 on: September 26, 2012, 06:22:08 PM »
Take a look at
http://vagabondians.com/
He also occasionally posts to Early-Retirement.org as Dixonge.  I'm not sure whether or not he's a member here.

I much prefer:
http://www.vwvagabonds.com/jova.html

Of course, after awhile they took the natural route of people traveling like this, and switched to bicycles  :) 
Have you considered that?
Haha, I'm not really up for an extended bike tour, and my wife is afraid of bicycles. I think we'll stick to motorized transport for now. :) Walking is my favorite form of self-powered transport, anyway, followed by paddling a boat. Bicycling is a somewhat-distant third place (I know that's blasphemy on MMM!).

I have been entertaining myself, though, with designs for a lightweight electric trike with two seats and a cargo rack, for zipping around at medium distance and speed on errands.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2012, 06:23:40 PM by Uncephalized »

Russ

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #28 on: September 26, 2012, 08:10:01 PM »
Re: Sprinter Vans. I'd way rather live in a van than a trailer. Besides the aforementioned "setting up camp" every night, vans are way stealthier in a urban environment. Say I want to visit Chicago but don't have any friends there to stay with. It would be way easier and cheaper for me to park my van in the 'burbs and sleep there incognito than to find somewhere that will let me pop up my trailer.

vern

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #29 on: September 26, 2012, 11:15:58 PM »
A good overview of the Winnebago models...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSWUWPx2VeQ

(I couldn't resist.)

Sparky

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #30 on: September 27, 2012, 02:06:34 AM »
Related to the article in its own way.

Setting up and taking down your lodging is something you'll either not mind doing or absolute hate. It can be a real killer in the mobile lifestyle. Try this for an experiment in your own home. Get a tent, sleeping bag, stove and all your personal belongings and go 'camping' in your living room for 2 weeks. Pack up everything every morning and set it up at the end of the day after working/driving/cycling for 8 hours. If after 2 weeks your not bothered by it in the slightest, you'll be fine.

Rather than that, the next worse thing about living life as a vagabond is always having to learn the 'lay of the land on where all the cheap places are to eat. It drives me nuts and I have spend a huge portion of my day looking cheap food in every town I pass by.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2012, 02:18:18 AM by Sparky »

Bakari

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Re: Moving into a travel trailer and vagabonding--anyone done this sort of thing?
« Reply #31 on: September 27, 2012, 09:02:32 AM »
The RVs I've had (a camper van, class C motorhome, and trailer) didn't need anything set up or taken down.  There is always the option of setting up jacks, awning, slide-out room, etc if you will be in one place for a while, but its perfectly possible to live in with everything in travel mode.  You just have to put away dishes or anything that might fall over before you drive - and I hear some people like to keep their place clean and everything put away all the time even if it isn't mobile (I am not one of those people)

When I've traveled, I always still got groceries at supermarkets, which is almost always cheaper than even the cheapest place to eat out.  Its one area that is more convenient than the traditional way: instead of driving a car to the market, putting food in bags, in a cart, then in the trunk, unloading them, and then putting them away, you just put the food directly in the cart, walk outside to your house in the parking lot, and put it directly from the cart to the fridge. Done!

Uncephalized

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The RVs I've had (a camper van, class C motorhome, and trailer) didn't need anything set up or taken down.  There is always the option of setting up jacks, awning, slide-out room, etc if you will be in one place for a while, but its perfectly possible to live in with everything in travel mode.  You just have to put away dishes or anything that might fall over before you drive - and I hear some people like to keep their place clean and everything put away all the time even if it isn't mobile (I am not one of those people)
Haha, we either. Maybe it'll teach us some tidier habits, though!

I'm basically envisioning a setup where we have everything we need inside the van, and can accomplish all of our daily tasks like cooking, working at the computer, cleaning up and so on in "mobile mode", but we'll also have a folding table/chairs and some sort of shade structure that we can put out to make an outdoor living space when we'll be somewhere for a while and want to stretch out a little and get comfy.

When I've traveled, I always still got groceries at supermarkets, which is almost always cheaper than even the cheapest place to eat out.  Its one area that is more convenient than the traditional way: instead of driving a car to the market, putting food in bags, in a cart, then in the trunk, unloading them, and then putting them away, you just put the food directly in the cart, walk outside to your house in the parking lot, and put it directly from the cart to the fridge. Done!
Yep, that's the idea. We'll be keeping our Costco membership and shopping for food regularly both there and at the local groceries just like we do now. We will have a freezer and either a refrigerator or a super-cooler regularly restocked with ice. All the comforts of home with less hassle!

Stacey

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We may be ditching the apartment and hitting the road next Spring.  It'll be three of us (two adults and a two year old) and are just starting the process of figuring out what sort of vehicle to get.  We were originally thinking of just camping in our tent - because we're crazy.  But after a few weekend camping trips with our son, we realized that we'd be much happier taking a very extended road trip (minimum of three to six months) in a large van or an rv.  I'll check back in when we're further along. 

What are you thinking of doing for your residency?  Will you keep your current residency or be changing to a new state?  That's something we have to figure out.  We don't own a home here and don't have family where we currently live, so we're not sure if we should keep everything registered to our current address (that will not be ours anymore).  Any thoughts on that?  I've heard some folks get a residency in South Dakota - but I'm not sure that's worth it for us since we aren't planning to perpetually travel.  However, we also don't know where we'll end up living once we're done being on the road.  We're hoping the travels give us some clarity on that front.

Bakari

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I never thought about residency per say, but travelers should find a friend or relative they trust to forward mail to (so that person can open it for you, and read or scan and email anything important). 
Register to vote by mail, and when that shows up, have them forward it to wherever you are at the moment. 
You pay state taxes on whatever state you earned particular income in (assuming you ever stop long enough to have a temp job).
Other than that, I'm not sure what "residency" means or why it would matter.  We kept our old driver's license and the original plates on the RV, and no one ever cared (including when we settled into a long term RV park and got jobs).

As to what kind of RV to get, if you missed it, thats a section of my mini RV living guide: http://biodieselhauling.blogspot.com/2012/03/minor-celebrity.html

Uncephalized

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We may be ditching the apartment and hitting the road next Spring.  It'll be three of us (two adults and a two year old) and are just starting the process of figuring out what sort of vehicle to get.  We were originally thinking of just camping in our tent - because we're crazy.  But after a few weekend camping trips with our son, we realized that we'd be much happier taking a very extended road trip (minimum of three to six months) in a large van or an rv.  I'll check back in when we're further along. 

What are you thinking of doing for your residency?  Will you keep your current residency or be changing to a new state?  That's something we have to figure out.  We don't own a home here and don't have family where we currently live, so we're not sure if we should keep everything registered to our current address (that will not be ours anymore).  Any thoughts on that?  I've heard some folks get a residency in South Dakota - but I'm not sure that's worth it for us since we aren't planning to perpetually travel.  However, we also don't know where we'll end up living once we're done being on the road.  We're hoping the travels give us some clarity on that front.
We'll probably set up mail forwarding through a state with no income tax, like NV or WA. We'll use that as our business address as well. We'll probably only be voting in federal elections while on the road anyway so I don't care what voting district we're in. I don't have any emotional attachment to being an AZ resident. I don't feel bad about not paying any state taxes since we won't be living in any particular state. :)

I never thought about residency per say, but travelers should find a friend or relative they trust to forward mail to (so that person can open it for you, and read or scan and email anything important). 
Register to vote by mail, and when that shows up, have them forward it to wherever you are at the moment. 
You pay state taxes on whatever state you earned particular income in (assuming you ever stop long enough to have a temp job).
Other than that, I'm not sure what "residency" means or why it would matter.  We kept our old driver's license and the original plates on the RV, and no one ever cared (including when we settled into a long term RV park and got jobs).

As to what kind of RV to get, if you missed it, thats a section of my mini RV living guide: http://biodieselhauling.blogspot.com/2012/03/minor-celebrity.html
Bakari, there are very inexpensive mail forwarding services (just a few dollars a month) that will give you a permanent address and will send your mail on to you whenever you ask them to, which is what we're planning to do. You can ask them to throw away all the bulk mail and other junk so you only get first-class mail. And you don't have to worry about your parents getting tired of doing the work to forward mail for you, or sneaking peeks into your private letters (hey, some people are nosy!).

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My first thought was, man, that's a lot of stuff you're bringing, but I guess it depends on what you're used to.

My brother's currently doing a hybrid version of this -- travelling with a little car and a tent and very few possessions, but planning to hunker down for a few months in the winter somewhere warm-ish with cheap rent. The tent thing lets him stay in primitive/wilderness sites for nearly free, and to get off-road into the deeper regions of national parks. And his daily living and travel costs are so much lower that he can afford the apartment thing. Personally, I'm thinking he'll get bored after three months in one place, but we'll see.

Uncephalized

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My first thought was, man, that's a lot of stuff you're bringing, but I guess it depends on what you're used to.
What on our list would you toss out, if it was you going? Conversely what, if anything, would you bring that I haven't listed? Perspectives are good! Keep in mind that this is everything we expect to need/want to have with us for a possibly several-year odyssey.

Also, depending on what vehicle/camper situation we end up with some items will or will not be included--like the shower/toilet tent, depending on what the toilet situation is in our vehicle.

Quote from: Gerard
My brother's currently doing a hybrid version of this -- travelling with a little car and a tent and very few possessions, but planning to hunker down for a few months in the winter somewhere warm-ish with cheap rent. The tent thing lets him stay in primitive/wilderness sites for nearly free, and to get off-road into the deeper regions of national parks. And his daily living and travel costs are so much lower that he can afford the apartment thing. Personally, I'm thinking he'll get bored after three months in one place, but we'll see.
That sounds cool, but a little too unstable for me and my wife in terms of living conditions. We like to be able to retreat to "our space" and have a semipermanent home environment, even if we are pulling it around with us wherever we go. :)

paddedhat

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Just to reply to your title. One source I read, after the last census, claimed that there were about  700,000 Americans living this lifestyle. That said, there is an unbelieveable amount of resources online answering every question you could possibly have. Most of the info. is going to be geared toward older retired folks, but there is definitely a smaller, but very real mass of folks out wandering while doing everything from IT work, writing/performing music, working online for real bricks and sticks companies, to those who run with the carnies, or follow the crops to harvest everything from beets to tobacco. The biggest online Rv community is rv.net. It is highly commercial and geared toward the mainstream, but full of good info. if you put some effort into finding it.  The biggest "full-timer" blog compiler is hitchitch.com. Don't blow through this one quickly and get turned off by all pics. of the grey haired elders in front of their wheeled whales. There are some real alternative folks there, once again ya' got to dig. Blogs are great because, once you find a fellow traveller, they frequently have a list of other blogs from like minded folks.
     I typically spend my summers dragging a modest travel trailer around North America. If I were in your shoes, knowing what I know now,  and had to make a few quick decisions, I would do the following.

#1)  Find the nicest white, eight cylinder,  Chevy or Ford work van that my wallet could handle. Unfortunately, you need to divest yourself of the notion that fuel economy and your lifestyle are compatable. You can pursue your dreams at 12-14MPGs, which is twice what you would get with a wheeled whale of a motor home. You aren't going to make it happen with a four cylinder Subaru or Tacoma. Unless you wish to exist at the backpacker level, you simple can't drag what you need to be comfortable, and do so in a light, four cylinder vehicle. Many have tried, 99.9% are shopping for a bigger vehicle in a few months.  DON'T fall for a Sprinter!  unless you have $40K to toss at a new one. Once you get down below the $10K point with these things have at least a quarter million miles on,can rust and rot if driven past a salt shaker, and can drain your wallet in a heartbeat with mindblowingly expensive repairs. There are millions of Chevy and Ford work vans rolling this country for a reason. they are cheap, durable and hold a ton of crap. You need one, I have one in the driveway for my construction business. There is nothing that is a better value for this mission. You will need a reasonable amount of space to pack your personal life, your business and a dog into. A station wagon or a mini truck will get old, real fast.
#2)  Find a nice 17' Casita brand travel trailer. This is the most desirable of the fiberglas "white egg" trailers. They are fully self contained, durable, and have a cult following. there are blogs all over the net from folks that love them, and live in them full time. The beauty of these is that you can buy a nice used one for  $8-10K, use it for a year, or two, and sell it for most of what you paid for it. This is a rare feat in the RV world, most RVs depreciate faster than rocks tossed off a cliff. You might have to hunt for one, and be ready to buy as soon as you determine that it's worth the money. It's nothing for a seller to get rid of a good used one in a day, and have a few back up buyers lined up.
#3)  Establish a permanent address in a state that caters to full time RVers, and has companies that offer RV mailing services. South Dakota is probably the most desirable, and America's Mailbox is a highly rated service. The point is to establish a permanant residence in a cheap, hassle free state and have somebody at your "home address" to get your mail, call you when you get mail, and deal with it. They can toss the junk mail, scan the important stuff, and forward your business packages to wherever you want. South Dakota has no income tax, vehicle inspection, or other BS to deal with, and welcomes the addition of full-timers to their state. Other states vary from neutral on this, to outright hostile.  Having an legitimate address makes life a lot easier for a wanderer. You get stopped by a cop, you can legitimately say, "we live in Rapid City, South Dakota, here is my SD driver's License, and my SD registration for both vehicles. We are traveling artists who return home at the end of our sales tours".  This goes a lot smoother than. "Well sir, I am actually a vagrant of sorts, the address on my license is my friend's house, she forwards my mail every so often"
From a business standpoint, this will also make you far more legitimate to your customers and suppliers. I have done business on the road, and shipping, mailing and recieving stuff "general delivery" at an unknown post office can go really well, or be an absolute disaster. You can run into everything from postal employees who won't cooperate, to suppliers who ignore your request to send you something by mail, and attempt to send a UPS package to general delivery at a post office. That doesn't work. Customers will find you far more legitimate if they think you are a solid business at a sticks and bricks location. They don't need to know that "1501 Main st. Rapid City" is your mail drop, and you have only been there once in your life.

Hope this helps? Enjoy the journey.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2012, 06:34:04 AM by paddedhat »

Uncephalized

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I typically spend my summers dragging a modest travel trailer around North America. If I were in your shoes, knowing what I know now,  and had to make a few quick decisions, I would do the following.

#1)  Find the nicest white, eight cylinder,  Chevy or Ford work van that my wallet could handle. Unfortunately, you need to divest yourself of the notion that fuel economy and your lifestyle are compatable. You can pursue your dreams at 12-14MPGs, which is twice what you would get with a wheeled whale of a motor home. You aren't going to make it happen with a four cylinder Subaru or Tacoma. Unless you wish to exist at the backpacker level, you simple can't drag what you need to be comfortable, and do so in a light, four cylinder vehicle. Many have tried, 99.9% are shopping for a bigger vehicle in a few months.  DON'T fall for a Sprinter!  unless you have $40K to toss at a new one. Once you get down below the $10K point with these things have at least a quarter million miles on,can rust and rot if driven past a salt shaker, and can drain your wallet in a heartbeat with mindblowingly expensive repairs. There are millions of Chevy and Ford work vans rolling this country for a reason. they are cheap, durable and hold a ton of crap. You need one, I have one in the driveway for my construction business. There is nothing that is a better value for this mission. You will need a reasonable amount of space to pack your personal life, your business and a dog into. A station wagon or a mini truck will get old, real fast.
#2)  Find a nice 17' Casita brand travel trailer. This is the most desirable of the fiberglas "white egg" trailers. They are fully self contained, durable, and have a cult following. there are blogs all over the net from folks that love them, and live in them full time. The beauty of these is that you can buy a nice used one for  $8-10K, use it for a year, or two, and sell it for most of what you paid for it. This is a rare feat in the RV world, most RVs depreciate faster than rocks tossed off a cliff. You might have to hunt for one, and be ready to buy as soon as you determine that it's worth the money. It's nothing for a seller to get rid of a good used one in a day, and have a few back up buyers lined up.
I'm really having trouble with the notion that we can't pack everything we need into a travel trailer and the back of a truck. I'm pretty sure we can. You really think we need a cargo van full of stuff AND a trailer? Or did you mean that we should go with a big cargo van OR a 16'/17' trailer? I think plenty of people live long-term in a single large van or a trailer pulled by just a truck. If I'm driving a cargo van AND pulling a trailer, man, that sounds like a lot of stuff. Part of the goal of the whole trip is to learn to get by with less stuff!

The impression I get about Sprinters is that there are simply a lot of lemons, and repairs are very expensive, so some people have a perfect, wonderful experience and some get totally screwed. We don't want to take that risk since the outlay for our vehicle is going to be a pretty big chunk of our net worth, so we're looking at other vans and trailers again.

We have been looking at the Casita trailers pretty seriously. I think they're well thought-out and and the availability of a complete bathroom is a definite selling point. I think we could get by just fine in terms of storage space/stuff-hauling ability with a 16' Casita, and a V6 Tacoma double cab with a shell cover. Great, reliable truck with a 5000 lb towing capacity, reasonable mileage (~20 MPG, probably a few less while pulling a trailer I'm sure) and plenty of cabin space and comfort for 2-plus-dog even on long hauls. Honestly that sounds pretty luxurious. The shell cover would allow us to keep plenty of stuff in the back, safely out of the way of weather and casual thieves.

#3)  Establish a permanent address in a state that caters to full time RVers, and has companies that offer RV mailing services. South Dakota is probably the most desirable, and America's Mailbox is a highly rated service. The point is to establish a permanant residence in a cheap, hassle free state and have somebody at your "home address" to get your mail, call you when you get mail, and deal with it. They can toss the junk mail, scan the important stuff, and forward your business packages to wherever you want. South Dakota has no income tax, vehicle inspection, or other BS to deal with, and welcomes the addition of full-timers to their state. Other states vary from neutral on this, to outright hostile.  Having an legitimate address makes life a lot easier for a wanderer. You get stopped by a cop, you can legitimately say, "we live in Rapid City, South Dakota, here is my SD driver's License, and my SD registration for both vehicles. We are traveling artists who return home at the end of our sales tours".  This goes a lot smoother than. "Well sir, I am actually a vagrant of sorts, the address on my license is my friend's house, she forwards my mail every so often"
From a business standpoint, this will also make you far more legitimate to your customers and suppliers. I have done business on the road, and shipping, mailing and recieving stuff "general delivery" at an unknown post office can go really well, or be an absolute disaster. You can run into everything from postal employees who won't cooperate, to suppliers who ignore your request to send you something by mail, and attempt to send a UPS package to general delivery at a post office. That doesn't work. Customers will find you far more legitimate if they think you are a solid business at a sticks and bricks location. They don't need to know that "1501 Main st. Rapid City" is your mail drop, and you have only been there once in your life.

Hope this helps? Enjoy the journey.
The mail forwarding service is definitely in the plans. SD sounds like a pretty good option in terms of convenience.

Definitely helpful. Thanks for the perspective.

Bakari

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Still haven't decided yet, eh?

Here is a bunch more for your consideration:

http://ecomodder.com/forum/showthread.php/whats-best-rv-motorhome-aerodynamically-13149.html

I agree with you, there is no reason to have extra "stuff" to carry around with you.  The only thing I ever needed more space for than would fit in the built in compartments was bicycles, and a bike rack took care of that just fine.
Regarding the full bath - don't skimp on that.  You will appreciate it if you are planning to full-time long-term.  One with a real door, a shower, and preferably built-in holding tanks.  The shower doesn't need to be a separate thing though, a lot of compact designs make the entire bathroom waterproof and just put the drain in the floor, so the bathroom itself is the shower enclosure.  I've lived in a van with no shower at all, and only a curtain for the porta-potty, and those were without a doubt the worst aspects of it, much more so than the lack of space or appliances

paddedhat

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I think that the Tacoma and the Casita would probably be an outstanding combination. The van would have two big advantages, depending on your perspective. First a good used van can be had for about 1/3rd of a good used 4 dr. taco. Second, if the jewelry business involves a lot of bench time, it would be nice to have a van with a dedicated work area, instead of having to turn the dinette into the jewlery shop every time you need to get some work done. The Taco wins in a lot of other areas, from being a cool ride for the two of you and the dogs, to resale value. I'm just happy you are heading toward the more practical end of things, as the initial concept of a little Subaru and a teckie pop-up camper probably would have you two ready to give up in a few months. Two little space, a few dogs, a girl, and a business will get old in a hurry if you don't have enough room to think and you are stuck in the rain for a week. BTW, when it comes to the difference between a cargo van and a four door Taco, they are a lot closer than you think. The mileage, particularly towing, will be real close, and the size and weight aren't that different. I have owned both, and now that the Toyotas are no longer a small truck, it comes down the details. It's no longer a matter of "I can't see myself in a giant van", when the Toyota is only a few inches smaller, the same weight and gets lower highway MPGs.  It's all a matter of what works for you, and you really won't know that answer until you hit the road and gain some experience. the good part is that you can't lose buying a Casita or a Tacoma. If you buy them right, you should be able to dump either one with very little lost, in a year or two. Hey, don't forget to have fun, safe travels, the hat.

Uncephalized

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Still haven't decided yet, eh?
Yeah, we've got at least a few more months of saving up to do before I'll feel OK about quitting my job, since we're going to have to lay out quite a bit of cash to get started and we don't want to spend all our current savings unless we have our backs up against the wall. So we're just researching away, hoping to get as much useful info and make the best decisions we can once it's time to start making large purchases.

Quote from: Bakari
Here is a bunch more for your consideration:

http://ecomodder.com/forum/showthread.php/whats-best-rv-motorhome-aerodynamically-13149.html

I agree with you, there is no reason to have extra "stuff" to carry around with you.  The only thing I ever needed more space for than would fit in the built in compartments was bicycles, and a bike rack took care of that just fine.
Regarding the full bath - don't skimp on that.  You will appreciate it if you are planning to full-time long-term.  One with a real door, a shower, and preferably built-in holding tanks.  The shower doesn't need to be a separate thing though, a lot of compact designs make the entire bathroom waterproof and just put the drain in the floor, so the bathroom itself is the shower enclosure.  I've lived in a van with no shower at all, and only a curtain for the porta-potty, and those were without a doubt the worst aspects of it, much more so than the lack of space or appliances
Cool, I'll check out that thread. I am coming to agree that a "proper" bathroom is pretty important too--one of those modern conveniences that really makes life better instead of just more complicated and expensive. Plus it will make any guests much more comfortable, I'm sure.

I think that the Tacoma and the Casita would probably be an outstanding combination. The van would have two big advantages, depending on your perspective. First a good used van can be had for about 1/3rd of a good used 4 dr. taco. Second, if the jewelry business involves a lot of bench time, it would be nice to have a van with a dedicated work area, instead of having to turn the dinette into the jewlery shop every time you need to get some work done.
Luckily the jewelry business is based on buying and reselling vintage pieces rather than making the jewelry itself. My wife does make some handcrafted jewelry but only as an occasional hobby, so we don't need a dedicated workbench space just for that.

Quote from: paddedhat
The Taco wins in a lot of other areas, from being a cool ride for the two of you and the dogs, to resale value. I'm just happy you are heading toward the more practical end of things, as the initial concept of a little Subaru and a teckie pop-up camper probably would have you two ready to give up in a few months. Two little space, a few dogs, a girl, and a business will get old in a hurry if you don't have enough room to think and you are stuck in the rain for a week.
The Cricket trailer was part of what inspired us to even think about this trip in the first place. We saw it and just started talking and thinking about it more and then eventually realized we really wanted to try out mobile living. But I figured that it might not be the best option for full-timing, which is why I came here to ask the very smart Mustachians for help. Which you've all come through with, in a big way, so thanks, everyone!

It's just the one dog, by the way. He is a biggish fellow, though, at ~65 pounds. He definitely needs his own seat in the truck. :D

Quote from: paddedhat
BTW, when it comes to the difference between a cargo van and a four door Taco, they are a lot closer than you think. The mileage, particularly towing, will be real close, and the size and weight aren't that different. I have owned both, and now that the Toyotas are no longer a small truck, it comes down the details. It's no longer a matter of "I can't see myself in a giant van", when the Toyota is only a few inches smaller, the same weight and gets lower highway MPGs.  It's all a matter of what works for you, and you really won't know that answer until you hit the road and gain some experience. the good part is that you can't lose buying a Casita or a Tacoma. If you buy them right, you should be able to dump either one with very little lost, in a year or two. Hey, don't forget to have fun, safe travels, the hat.
Yeah, we actually have a Tacoma now, a 2000 V6 extended cab. It's a GREAT truck. I would just keep it and use it but we really need the extra cab space for traveling comfortably. I payed less than blue book value for it, and given it's in fantastic mechanical shape and has all kinds of extras installed I can probably sell it for $500-$800 more than I bought it for last year! That will put about $8K, more or less, towards the purchase of the truck upgrade + trailer or a van. I expect a Tacoma in the range of age, mileage and options I'm looking for to run about $12K-$14K ('00-'04, V6, <150k mi, double cab, tow package & shell cover).

I'm not against the idea of a van at all. A truck + trailer is definitely going to be longer per usable square foot, and harder to park, than a van/RV, when the trailer is hitched. The big advantage comes in being able to unhitch and drive the truck separately, IMO.

I'm not sure how to actually go about buying a used van in my area. I need to do some more looking around, but part of the problem is that they tend to be commercial vehicles and so they're often not on the common consumer vehicle trading sites.

Anyone have recs for where to look for vans? Ebay Motors has a lot but many of them are across the country...

Den18

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A lot of great information here already and I second cheaprvliving.com. Check out the forum if interested, it is very active.

More good reading here: http://tynan.com/living-in-a-small-rv-introduction

needmyfi

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Also consider a small Airsteam from the 60s.  Built to last.  Under 5k, about 2000 lbs for a 17 footer and no depreciation.  It wil sell for the same or more than you paid for it years down the road. Good luck.

Boston Blackie

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We've been practicing the RV lifestyle for the past 5 years in a Class B+ motorhome and a trailered motorcycle for local travel. While this has been limited to 5 or 6 weeks per year, we've determined that full-timing is definitely in our future.

I agree with other's suggestion that you give it a try before committing. We've learned that it is necessary to be comfortable while you're out and about, such as making sure that your living quarters can be warmed appropriately on cold nights as most trailers and motorhomes have very little insulation.

We're currently debating the pros/cons of continuing on in an upgraded motorhome or switching to a travel or fifth wheel trailer. My wife is enamored with the Airstream trailers, although they're a bit pricey, while I'm leaning more toward a Class A toy hauler. It's anybody's guess right now which will win out.

mm1970

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This was pretty cool to read. My neighbors have a Ford based Sportsmobile camping van.  And I see a Sprinter on my Sunday walk.

They don't live in the van, but they do go on 2 week camping trips with 3 girls, 6,4 and 1.5.

I have a coworker who lives in a converted bus.  He just recently found a space to park it near one of our work buildings.  The landlord is charging $200 a month I think, and he's got a nice little lawn area too. 

Uncephalized

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Update!

After a lot of consideration we decided that we wanted to do a van conversion--in large part because we think it will come out cheaper than getting a separate tow vehicle and trailer, allowing us to do more of the work ourselves to save money. Since there are two of us and a dog and we're considering full-timing, we wanted to get an "extended" length cargo van for the couple extra feet of interior space, which makes the vehicle big enough to include a bathroom. And we've found our van! It's a 2008 Chevy Express Extended 2500 cargo van, which at 20.5 ft is short enough to fit in a large parallel parking space. We're paying more for a newer van ("only" 6 years old, LOL--newest car I've ever owned!), about $10K out the door, but I think this is wise considering that a) it may be our house for quite a while and b) it's also going to be our main transportation, so frequent breakdowns and repairs would be a huge pain in the butt.

We got it professionally inspected, and it needs new front hubs (apparently a common failure point on late-model GMs), which is a simple DIY repair plus a couple hundred bucks of parts; and a couple of indicator/license plate light bulbs need replacing, which I'll obviously do myself as well. Other than that, it's in excellent mechanical condition at 112K mi according to the mechanic, still young for these vans, which by all accounts are quite durable.

We just got our cashier's check from the bank to go pay for it, so my wife is going to go over and do the paperwork this afternoon, then I'll go over with her to pick it up after work! I'll post some pictures tomorrow since it'll probably be dark when we get it home.

We're planning on a full DIY conversion, completely finished on the inside with a fiberglass wet 3/4 bath (my dad's a swimming pool contractor and has the equipment already so he'll help with that) and built-in cabinets/closet/kitchen area. Right now we're thinking of doing a lofted bed over a low-ceiling sitting area in the rear, and leaving the front area full-height for standing to cook, etc. The bath will be behind the driver's seat and will be pass-through so you can get to the front without going outside. There will be a small fridge, sink and cook top; no microwave or oven. I've got a couple CAD files with my planned floor layouts that I can post up later. Lots of other planned improvements including a propane system for the stove and catalytic heater, full insulation, and a solar panel and decent-sized battery bank for extended boondocking ability. Not to mention figuring out what size water tanks and where to put them... so much to do!

I'm getting excited! It's the first real step! I need to figure out how tall of a high-top we want to get now, though--I want to make sure there's enough head room for moving around the bed, and also get as much storage space squeezed in as possible, without making the whole thing ridiculously tall.

Russ

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Right on, thanks for the update! I'll be interested in seeing your floor plans once you post them up

Uncephalized

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So here's the current iteration of our floor plan:



It might look a little confusing, but the floor level and all the doors are on the left side drawing, and the loft level (at the height of the van's original roof, before we raise it) is on the right. The dashed lines on the right-hand drawing are just the outlines of the major floor-level features. I'm sure this will evolve somewhat as we go (and I didn't include the planned small cabinets over the kitchen counter), but I think it's a good start.

This design allows you to pass through the bathroom to get to and from the front seats. Main entrance to the living area will be from the right-side cargo door, with the rear doors used as needed for loading or whatever. The driver area is totally separate from the living space via the front bathroom wall, which should cut down on heat gain/loss from all the front glass as well as provide good privacy.

There is room to stand up at the counter, in the entryway, and in the bathroom. The rear area will be crouching/sitting room only, at about 4'6" height, because the bed will be directly above it, occupying the remaining height to the roof. The 2' x 3' table will thus be set at kneeling/sitting height, Japan-style, and will fold up to the wall when the extra space is needed. The table and built-in cabinets cover the rear wheel arches.

I'm considering adding a removable panel to the bed, in the area near the kitchen counter, to allow a little more room to maneuver in the kitchen space. The panel, when removed, would fit against the back or side wall of the bed, which would still be big enough for one person to nap on it that way. The bed also has a full-length cabinet/cubby for blankets, books, etc. to have handy without having to get up and down.

Main planned storage areas are over-cab in the high top, next to the fridge under the kitchen counter, kitchen overhead cabinets, rear built-in cabinets/closet, and bedside. We're also planning to put in some magnetic knife/tool racks in the kitchen and over the table, as well as various hooks and loops and whatnot wherever they fit best.

This weekend I replaced a couple of burned-out bulbs (signal and license plate lights) and put in a new air filter, which were recommended at the time of inspection. My new wheel hubs will hopefully arrive this week, and then we'll be ship-shape as far as vehicle repairs go. Then the real fun begins!