“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed
by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Attributed to Mark Twain
Do these words stir a fire deep within you, awakening a spirit of wanderlust and travel? Maybe you were a gypsy, vagabond or hobo in a past life, but you think you could never afford to live the life of freedom you long for? Maybe you are a survivalist, or just want to drop out of society but don’t know how. Perhaps you are just sick of the rat race and want to simplify your life.
We have good news for you, you can, and we are here to show you how! The key is eliminating the single highest expense most of us have, our housing. We will do that by moving into our vehicle (see the pages How to Make A Camper Van and A Great Van Conversion) and “boondocking.” By that I mean living in your vehicle without paying for a campsite. Go to the boondocking page for a full explanation.
Let me prove to you right off the bat that you can
live the free life. Here is a budget (to the right)
showing just how little money you need to live and
travel full time. One column is for a $500 a month
and the other is for $1,000 a month.
Of course, at $500 per month this is a sparse life, but I am just
showing you that it can be done. In fact when I posted the $1,000 per
month budget on a yahoo group called VanDwellers, (everyone wanting
to live this life should join VanDwellers!! click here) the majority of the
responses were that they were living on much less. Several people
mentioned specifically living on $500 since that was what they received
in their disability check, so I know for a fact that it can, and is, being
done right now in March, 2012. For more info on budgeting, go to the
page on Money Matters. That still leaves us with the question, where will
the money come from? Let me show you some simple strategies for
living the cheap RV lifestyle.
1) Move Into Your Vehicle and Save your Rent/House Payment
You are probably working at a job right now and paying for an apartment
or house. The first thing you do is decide what type of vehicle you want
to live in and purchase it. Then you have a garage sale and sell as much of
your excess stuff as you can, and give the rest away. Then you move into
your vehicle (to learn how to convert a van: click here). Now this is very
important, you open a savings account and the money you used to pay for
your apartment or house and all utilities goes into the savings account
instead. The hardest part is that it will soon turn into a lot of money and
you will be tempted to spend it. Don’t do it! Leave it there unless it is a
total emergency. If you are currently paying $600 a month for rent and
utilities, then at the end of the year you will have saved $7,200. Now you
can travel for the next 7-14 months without working. Or if you work
intermittently, you can extend that even further. If you haven’t
considered it yet, Hartford home and auto insurance will cover your
van/RV if you haven’t researched insurance yet.
2) Alternate Work and Travel
(See Living in a VW Vanagon for a perfect example of this)
So, we take our $7200 and leave on our new life of freedom until we
need more money. Then, we choose a place we want to be for awhile,
stop there, and get a job paying as much as we can, but at least $7 per
hour . For that month we take home about $1000. We spend half of that
to live on, and now have $500 in savings. Actually, we should have more
since we won’t be driving much (some of us will ride our bike, scooter
or motorcycle which we are carrying on a bike rack or trailer). So we
can take that $500 and are off again. Or we can spend several months
at one place and then travel several months. Maybe you like to ski so you
spend three months at a ski resort working and skiing on the weekends.
Then you have the next three months off to do whatever and go
wherever you want. When you need to work again, you drive up to
Glacier National Park and get a job there doing dishes at the resort. You
spend your summer weekends hiking and taking pictures. Three months
later, you are free again. Or maybe you are a history buff. So you drive
to Gettysburg and get a job there. You spend your weekends exploring
the Amish country and Philadelphia. You then go to New England to
photograph the fall colors and spend a month exploring Washington DC.
When you need to work again you drive to Orlando or Miami, get a job,
and explore Florida. If you are adventurous you can work your way
down to a beach resort in Mexico where you work for the next three
months and surf, fish and snorkel on your weekends. Working in the
tourist industry you probably double your wage in tips and living in
Mexico is very cheap so you save even more than usual. Now you can take
the next six months off in the U.S., or maybe nine months off in Mexico
(see Jim Jaillet’s articles on traveling in Mexico and Central America.)
You keep doing this to your hearts content!
3) Live on a Pension
Or maybe you are like me. I took early retirement with a pension of
about $1100 per month and I don’t have to work at all unless I want to
for whatever reason. I am young and healthy so I am working as a
campground host in some beautiful places (see my article on
workamping). That way I can build more of a savings account or spend
more as I want. Many people have social security or disability checks
they live on.
4) Work While You Travel
With a little creativity you can find ways to make money while you travel.
The possibilities here are endless, only limited by your abilities and
imagination. With access to the Internet, many traditional jobs can be
done remotely as you travel. Here are some possibilities but they are
just to jump-start your thinking. There are many books and websites
with a huge selection of ideas:
- WorkCamp (Click Here for detailed information)
- Make crafts and sell them
- Buy and sell on Ebay
- Create works of art and sell them
- Handyman services
- House painting
- Animal grooming
- Auto detailing
- Knife Sharpening
- Web Site creation and maintenance
This life can be for you if you want it! We have shown that you can live on
very little, and four ways to make the little money you do need. So what
is holding you back? For most of us it is fear. Let’s address that and
show you a simple strategy to overcome your fears.
Overcoming Your Fears.
This is a tough one. Many of us live lives of quiet desperation, hating our
jobs, and just enduring our life. We meet our obligations and conform to
societies dictates. On the surface, all looks good. But on the inside is a
desperate but muffled cry for a life of passion, adventure and travel.
Summed up in one word it is a cry for FREEDOM!! This is probably
overstating it, but if you look at your life, you can probably find some
element of it in there. What holds us back? Why can’t we break out of
our rut into a new and exciting life? For most of us it is fear. An
unpleasant but acceptable present is better than an unknown and
dangerous future. So, how do you overcome your fears? Allow me to
lead you through an exercise to overcome a fear.
The first and hardest step is to take an unflinching look at ourselves and
identify the fears that hold us back. I will list a few possibilities, but
remember this is just a starting place, you must do the hard work of
finding your own fears.
- Fear of going broke and being homeless and penniless.
- Fear of being alone (see Traveling With Your Pets).
- Fear for my physical safety. (see Vandwellers Safety)
- Fear of failure.
- Fear that I’m not good enough.
- Fear of what others will think.
- Fear of the unknown.
- Fear that I’m Too Young (see Young Vandweller)
One fear I get asked about a lot is health, “How can I afford insurance
when I am living on a tiny budget?” First, many states offer Indigent
Care for very low income people. Do your research and choose a state of
residence based on their health care for the poor. Colorado has a very
good program. Second, if you distrust government health care, there is
some fairly low cost health insurance available with reviews and quotes.
Give thought to a high deductible insurance which will make the monthly
cost much more affordable. You can probably come up with the first
$3,000-$5,000 of a serious health problem if the insurance company
pays the next million!
After you have identified your fears, accept them, even embrace them.
They are a natural instinct given to us to keep us safe and from taking
stupid risks. They are a good thing unless we let them paralyze us.
When that feeling of fear and panic starts to well up from your gut,
take a really deep breath and thank it for the wise warning. Assure it
you will consider the warning very seriously. This may seem very “new-
agy” but try it any way.
Next, address the fears and find solutions. There are solutions to
every problem! On this page we have presented a solution to one of our
biggest fears, that we will run out of money and be indigent. We have
shown how little we can live on and how to make the money we need.
Start right now doing your homework:
- Record all your expenses so you know where your money is going.
- Decide what is really important and spend your money only on those
- Write up a detailed budget and follow it, or do something simple
like at the beginning of every month put cash in envelopes for each
category of spending.
- Start researching new ways to make money.
- Increase your work skills and gather the necessary tools.
Now, when that fear wells up again, gratefully embrace it and say.
“Thank you for the warning, but this is a safe risk. Look at my budget.
Here is my savings account for emergencies. This is how I will make
more money. Everything will be alright,” You may have to do this many
times, but eventually your fear will turn to hope as it embraces your new
life. Then, come, and join us as we travel the road of carefree destiny.