Author Topic: Tips for rotational workers and hiker/climber/travel bums  (Read 5136 times)

Karl_H

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Tips for rotational workers and hiker/climber/travel bums
« on: November 11, 2013, 04:11:25 AM »
I will be switching to rotational work (4 weeks on / 4 weeks off) early next year.  This arrangement will likely last 1 to 2 years.  I would like to get advice from others, who have been in similar situations.

When I rotate off, I plan to either do long-distance hikes (e.g., Continental Divide Trail) or be a climbing bum at a premier climbing/mountaineering area (e.g., Yosemite).  I would like to travel to a new destination on each off rotation.  I can go anywhere in the world.  However, my employer will only cover travel costs up to the equivalent of a Brisbane, Australia - Houston, USA round trip. 

When I start rotating, I will not have either a permanent residence or a car.  I have friends scattered about, but none particularly close to my intended climbing/hiking destinations. 

I would like to minimize my travel and accommodation expenses.  I am generally comfortable sleeping in tents, huts, and vans/SUVs.  However, I do enjoy occasional showers and connections to the outside world (Internet).

Any tips? (on the following issues, in particular)
- renting campervans vs. buying a campervans and parking near airports vs. public transit/hitch-hiking/tent camping
- finding easy access/cheap, world-class hiking, climbing, and mountaineering destinations
- couch surfing
- lugging around/storing work clothes and laptops


« Last Edit: November 11, 2013, 04:16:56 AM by Karl_H »

1tolivesimply

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Re: Tips for rotational workers and hiker/climber/travel bums
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2013, 07:38:29 AM »
I currently have that schedule and have traveled a lot while on days off for the last two years; I understand everyone is different, but, to tell you the truth, it gets really really old after a while. Some months, I just want to go back home and not know anything about airports, airport security and planes until it is time to head back to work, keep in mind that going on a month long trip on your days off means being 3 months away from home.

I live in Colorado, where we have awesome hiking/climbing/camping areas, I've mostly visited cities overseas so I've stayed in hostels/couch surfed for the most part. I do have where to store my work clothes in the host country, so I just carry a small bag & laptop on my trips.

In summary, plan your trips for the first few months off, hopefully, you are better than me about it, but, I'm sure at some point, you'll just want to go home.

Have fun!

StarryC

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Re: Tips for rotational workers and hiker/climber/travel bums
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2013, 11:14:08 AM »
It sounds like you plan to not have a "home" during this time, right?  You'll spend a month on the oil rig or whatever, and then a month traveling.  Therefore, you won't ever pay "rent" on a lease.  I think you will have to spend more than most on temporary housing/rental cars/internet, but make up more than enough by not paying anything 1/2 the time.

I think you need to get a small storage unit near the work location so that you can store your work stuff without hauling it all around the country.  And store any camping/hiking/ adventure gear you aren't using this time.  I also think a tablet would be great in this situation.  Maybe a 7inch, but even a 10 inch iPad- that would be your computer when you are out and about but is lighter and smaller than a laptop.  For internet, I'd look into FreedomPop or some other 4G "hotspot" or data plan that allows data to roll over.  When you are at work, you don't use it at all, and all the data rolls over to the "off" month when you can use 2 months worth. 

I do think if you need a break, want to go "home" for one break you could probably find a corporate rental or even a monthly hotel to do it. 

My tip is plan way ahead:  In Oregon, there are yurts on the coast that get booked up about a year in advance.  I'm sure that the cheaper accommodations also go pretty quickly in popular mountain bum areas. Especially during holiday weekends and summer!


the fixer

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Re: Tips for rotational workers and hiker/climber/travel bums
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2013, 12:53:08 PM »
Pick places that are not famous. It's pitifully easy to be a dirtbag climber in El Rito, NM or even the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. If you want to live in a campground in Grand Teton National Park (or any national park, really), good luck. I suspect you may have similar challenges in Yosemite.

I think you have a great plan, though, it's just a matter of sorting out the details. Enjoy!

Richard3

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Re: Tips for rotational workers and hiker/climber/travel bums
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2013, 01:07:25 PM »
"Only" a Brisbane Australia to Houston Texas round trip? That pretty much covers the entire world unless Brisbane - Houston is some secret super busy cheap route I know nothing about. You could easily get to Thailand (great climbing, super cheap, also scuba) or New Zealand (which is basically one big national park with the best hiking infrastructure in the world). I suspect you could get to LAX with money to spare too (most AU-US flights land there) which means most places in the Western US are within one flight (pacific northwest is great in summer at least - I've never been to Colorado but really should if everything I hear is true)

Campervan rental in the US was expensive when I did it and the facilities are geared at the big RVs. If I was going that route I would buy a small self-contained RV and park it near whatever airport I was flying out of and back into (ideally at a friend / friend of a friend's place).

the fixer

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Re: Tips for rotational workers and hiker/climber/travel bums
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2013, 04:02:54 PM »
Oh yeah, one basic piece of advice about getting around the US, in case you don't know already: get a vehicle large enough to sleep in but not a vehicle that requires hookups and such. Sleep on the side of the road in national forests or BLM land. This is what the forest service and BLM call "dispersed camping," camping and sleeping anywhere within 100 feet of a road. The agencies' policies on this are that you can do dispersed camping anywhere not explicitly prohibited (usually by signage). This allows you to drive around and not pay for campgrounds, RV sites, hostels, or motels except when you occasionally want to.

I've done this quite a bit, and never got in trouble. I heard a story from another couple living in their van that they once tried to park and sleep somewhere they weren't allowed, and it went like this: some authority figure (cop/security guard) came up to the vehicle as they were getting ready for bed and told them they can't camp there, but told them where they could go instead. So even in that scenario, this isn't something to be afraid of.

You can also park and sleep for free in most Walmart parking lots. The advantage of this is you get access to a bathroom and running water. The disadvantage is a lack of seclusion/privacy. It's kinda awkward cooking breakfast with a camp stove in the parking lot in the morning.

Karl_H

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Re: Tips for rotational workers and hiker/climber/travel bums
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2013, 05:39:58 AM »
Thank you all for the advice thus far! 

To obtain more location specific advice, I have created a short list of potential "4 week trips".

- Visit family in Boston / Hike northern Appalachian trail / Rock climb at the Gunks / Ice climb in Vermont
- Hiking/Mountaineering/Climbing in the Darran Mountains/Fjordland and Southern Alps, New Zealand
- Hiking/Mountaineering in the Himalaya, Nepal
- Hiking/Mountaineering in Patagonia, Chile
- Hiking the northern part of the Continental Divide Trail (Canada to Wyoming) / Climb the Grand Teton or the Wind River classics
- Rock climbing in the Southwest US (Hueco Tanks, Indian Creek, Red Rocks, etc.) / Hike the Grand Canyon
- Alpine climbing in the Alaska Range (Ruth Glacier)
- Hiking in the Brooks Range, Alaska
- Climbing/hiking/mountaineering on the US West Coast (Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Smith Rock, Mt. Hood, Sierra Nevada)


Intermaggio

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Re: Tips for rotational workers and hiker/climber/travel bums
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2013, 05:55:03 AM »
Hey Karl- sounds like a pretty sweet arrangement! I'm coming to the end of my first major solo road trip, and I have some thoughts for you.

-Hitchhiking and Couchsurfing are fun, but both require time and effort. Hitchhiking is always an adventure- I did somewhere around 3,000km in my three months in Europe, and it really requires letting yourself go, and being prepared for the worst. Couchsurfing isn't so crazy, but it can be very difficult to find a host in major tourist cities, and in remote locations. The ideal places to couchsurf seem to be medium sized cities, as they have the best combination of available couches and lack of visitors.
-If you're hitchhiking/couchsurfing, you'll probably be shocked at the generosity you find. I've had a guy drive me 60km out of his way to drop me off at my destination, I've had countless free meals, and just generally met a ton of interesting people. I hope you have an opportunity to hitchhike/couchsurf, as it really is a one-of-a-kind experience.
-Pack light. Like, really light. Two pairs of quick-dry pants (I recommend full length NOT convertible to shorts-- you can just roll the legs up if you want shorts, and you won't look like a fool), two quick-dry shirts, a single pair of shoes (aside from your climbing shoes), 3, maybe 4 pairs of socks if you can't get away with sandals, tiny traveller's towel, a lightweight/compression jacket, and sleeping bag if absolutely necessary, a nice smartphone to act as your computer, and toiletries-- that's really about all you need. I packed far too much for this trip and have regretted it since. You can easily wash your shirts, pants, and socks in a sink or shower, and the shirts and pants should be dry by the morning. The socks you may have to hang for a while, hence 3-4 pairs. A light bag will make your trip a million times easier.
-If you're going the hitchhiking/couchsurfing route, look into camping/squatting in the area you'll be in- oftentimes, you can walk <100 meters into the woods and be invisible to anyone outside, which means a free campsite for the night!
-Try to reduce the amount of crap you own to a level that will allow you to store it for free with friends and family. I had a 10'x10' storage unit for my business, and all my personal crap, and was able to reduce it a bit, and then store it between my friend's house and my dad's house. Just make sure your stuff does't overstay its welcome.
-Challenge yourself to see how little you can spend-- between couchsurfing, hitchhiking, and eating groceries, I was mostly spending under $15/day (10 Euro) in western Europe, in some of the most expensive places to travel in he world (Barcelona, Paris, Rome, etc). I didn't suffer from it either- I learned new tricks like emergency peanuts, eating foods like bananas, red peppers, and salami, which all require no refrigeration, are delicious, and together provide a relatively balanced diet (I went heavy on salami as I need about 3500 calories a day just to maintain weight on the road).
-Stay in touch with your friends at home, but don't be too glued to your phone-- you might consider deleting/not installing the Facebook app so you aren't tempted.

Above all, don't sweat it when shit goes awry. It'll take a lot more than a lost day of climbing to kill ya, so roll with the punches, enjoy your amazing opportunity and don't be afraid to take a break at home if you get road fatigue.

Have fun!

sunflower_yellow

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Re: Tips for rotational workers and hiker/climber/travel bums
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2013, 08:05:26 PM »
I've lived the nomadic life for extended periods of time.  My best piece of advice would be to pare down your belongings to the ABSOLUTE minimum.  More belongings = more things to keep track of/ worry about/ pay to store.  A few changes of clothing, a toothbrush, a Steripen, and whatever rack/ rope/ pack you need.  Seriously, keep it to a minimum.  Stuff will accumulate, and if you start with nothing, you'll take a good long hard look at adding anything to your kit.  It's always harder to pare down once you're hauling around a ton of gear.  Start with nothing and add on only when you must.

And I second the idea of getting a smallish vehicle you can sleep in.  It keeps the camping costs down and gives you SO MUCH flexibility.  Weather sucks and want to stay somewhere dry before you hit the trail?  No problem!  Just stay under the radar, pull into a parking area long after dark and get out at first light.

If you are planning on staying in more or less one place at a time for an extended period of time, you'll likely run into other dirtbags so you won't lack for partners.  A smile, the ability to listen, and a six pack goes a long way.  If you're doing any technical climbing with a new partner, don't forget to take all the usual precautions (talk through communications before you start climbing, observe them belaying someone else, use your powers of observation and don't just take their word as to their experience, etc etc etc).

Last but definitely not least, try to keep a journal every day.  Doesn't matter if you wrote down what you had for lunch or how many miles you covered or the grades of whatever climbs you did - one day, you won't be living like this, and you might need those memories.

If you have specific questions, I have done #1, #2, #3, and #6 on your list, the last four as a nomad.  If you're going to be in the northeast and want beta, send me a message - that's where I'm based.

I live vicariously through folks like you - best of luck!

dude

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Re: Tips for rotational workers and hiker/climber/travel bums
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2013, 06:16:03 AM »
Pick places that are not famous. It's pitifully easy to be a dirtbag climber in El Rito, NM or even the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. If you want to live in a campground in Grand Teton National Park (or any national park, really), good luck. I suspect you may have similar challenges in Yosemite.

I think you have a great plan, though, it's just a matter of sorting out the details. Enjoy!

First off, I'm psyched to find out there are fellow climbers out here in MMM-land!  I've spent many days in the Tetons, and there are definitely camping options there, so long as it's not Jenny Lake.  The Gros Ventre campground has always had site available when I've been there.  Also, of course, there is the AAC Climber's Ranch, where many a climbing dirtbag has taken up residence, and it's pretty cheap, there's hot showers, and a communal cooking area -- and plenty of like-minded people to partner up with for climbing objectives.  Also check out California's Sierra Nevada -- there's a lifetime of killer climbing there, and options for cheap stays in and around Bishop/Lone Pine.  Let me throw out Alma, Idaho, too -- City of Rocks.  One of my favorite climbing places.

Your rotational existence is what I aspire to in (early) retirement!  3 months at a cool climbing location every year, with a yearly Caribbean stint for diving.

dude

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Re: Tips for rotational workers and hiker/climber/travel bums
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2013, 06:27:18 AM »
Oh, and let me second Richard3's Thailand recommendation.  Amazing place.  Once you get to Railay Beach -- by boat as there is no vehicle access -- you need no car, hostels were as cheap as $6/day when I was there in '06, or you could have a nice private cabana (no a/c, but a fan) for $20/day.  Food was dirt cheap -- full entrees could be had for @$5 (and you can buy sticky rice and fruit from kids and other vendors on the beaches for pennies). And the climbing (sport) is right there on the beach.  Highly recommend a stay here if you can swing it.  Dirtbag climber's paradise.

Left

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Re: Tips for rotational workers and hiker/climber/travel bums
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2013, 06:44:30 AM »
buy a gym membership to a national (do they have international chains?) for the quick shower, place to rest (for about $1/day, its something to consider?)
i know not mustachian to need to buy something... but it's a place with a standard that should be clean/quite/has a shower and maybe a "food court" for something different to eat
« Last Edit: November 14, 2013, 06:49:52 AM by eyem »

Karl_H

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Re: Tips for rotational workers and hiker/climber/travel bums
« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2013, 04:29:31 PM »
Thank your for the tips and guidance!

Your comments will be parsed into my end-all-be-all planning spreadsheet! I may PM some of you for more site specific beta on the places that you have been to, when I start detailed planning for each individual trip. 

Now, the hard part will be getting and staying in shape for these adventures!  I currently live & work on a Pacific Island (high-crime city with no established climbing areas and only a few established hiking trails). 

the fixer

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Re: Tips for rotational workers and hiker/climber/travel bums
« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2013, 04:59:22 PM »
If you're interested in climbing Gannett Peak in the Wind River range, let me know. That's on my bucket list.

And if you plan a trip to the Pacific Northwest, DEFINITELY get in touch. There's lots of stuff I want to do around here, including Mt Hood and Mt Olympus. Also planning on getting better at ice climbing this year and doing some of the slightly more technical routes on several of the volcanoes, like the North Ridge route on Baker and the Kautz Glacier route on Rainier.

Oh yeah, and Patagonia is awesome! I was there last December. Basic beta:
- Torres del Paine: do the circuit, not the W. Most of the W has been badly impacted by fires, and although pretty, it's nothing like some of the portions of the circuit on the back side. If you just do the W you'll be pleased, but you're missing out. People there will tell you you can drink the water in the park without filtering it. Trust me, don't listen to them, but you should be fine drinking tap water in that part of Latin America.
- if you like eating jerky or peanut butter on the trail, bring it with you; it's hard to find PB and impossible to find jerky. We managed to find salami in Argentina.
- Practice your Spanish, at least using podcasts or movies. The people online who say you don't need to know the language must not be Mustachian. I stayed in a hostel in Puerto Natales where we had to speak Spanish to the hostess. The cheapest places to eat, grocery shop, and buy other supplies don't have English speakers in them. Even if you're good with Spanish, try to find some audio/video with Chilean speakers to get a feel for it. Chilean Spanish is very hard to understand if you're not used to it.
For a ballpark budget, my wife and I spent about $1000 each over 2.5 weeks, including the $140 reciprocity fee Chile charges Americans. That also included a fair amount of eating out when we weren't backpacking, and paying for some unexpected gear issues (a foam sleeping pad and renting a tent, mainly).