Hello Again! We’re coming at you from a Panera Bread in Happy Valley, AZ. We will be posted up here in town for the next day or two getting supplies and ourselves ready to start making our way North (our post on Wednesday will go through all of our upcoming plans). In the meantime, we thought we’d answer some of our most asked questions. If you have a question we didn’t answer, leave a comment and we’ll answer it there. So, without further ado…here’s our most FAQ’s:
What about all of your stuff?
Always a favorite! Basically, we don’t own “stuff” any longer. That sounds really hippy-dippy but it’s true. Sure, we could pay a ridiculous amount of money each month for a small room to hold things we collected throughout the years, but we didn’t see much sense in paying for a room to hold things we cared so little about that we didn’t need to see them for the foreseeable future. Before moving into the van, we probably did 10 “sweeps” through our house over a 3-month period. Each time we felt less attached to things we couldn’t bare to part with the sweep before, and we did that until everything could fit into a storage bin…and then, we went through that storage bin and I (Ashley) cried and cried at the thought of parting with all the homemade cards Sean had made me through the years, but nevertheless, we persisted and got rid of some very sentimental items. What was saved can fit into a shoe box (every last card made the cut haha) and we travel around feeling at home because we have that special box stored carefully under our bed. The gear and clothing we own now, are good quality, long lasting, and backed by the companies we purchased them from. We found that with less stuff, comes more happiness, more time, and better living.
How do you make money/afford vanlife?
Before we move into the van full-time, we worked as much as humanly possible together at a restaurant in Denver and we were able to save up $10,000 after all the van expenses and insurance were paid. We discussed what number we would feel comfortable going down to before finding temporary jobs and decided that $3,000 was the magic number. Once we get close to it, we will find restaurant jobs and work for 4-6 weeks, saving everything we make before hitting the road again. To make money last as long as possible, we try to budget and keep living expenses, like food, low. Usually coming in around $600 a month in expenses. One thing to note is, we aren’t miserly when it comes to money either, if we see something cool, we do it. Our motto is “thats what the money is there for”. Plus, we aren’t afraid to work hard so we can play harder + longer.
Where do you park the van?
Most people don’t know that we have never paid for camping or parking. We utilize free public land, typically managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). If you aren’t familiar, this land is scattered bountifully all throughout the southwest and offers endless amounts of monuments, parks, and dirt roads where you are free to pull over and camp. 90% of the time, there are established sites with fire rings for you to use. (READ: If you plan on using this land please visit the Leave No Trace site and learn how to not be a human piece of garbage when you are outdoors!) These sites offer boondocking camping and have no services (no bathroom, trash or water) but the sites have lots of distance between them, offer solitude, and give you a view of the backcountry that you just can’t see from a paved road. When we are traveling through cities, we check with the local Walmart or Cracker Barrel to see if they allow overnight parking (70% allow it!) and if that isn’t an option, we stealth camp. Which is just parking the van in a neighborhood and hoping no one notices this weird van that just came out of no where. 10 weeks in, we haven’t had to pay once or been unable to find a safe spot to park, so we’re stoked on that.
How do you go to the bathroom?
If we are camping on BLM land, then we go in the great outdoors! Meaning, we dig what is called a “cathole”: a 6-8 inch deep hole that we then go to the bathroom in. It is imperative that these holes are at least 200 feet (70 paces) away from camp, water sources, and trails to minimize our impact on the land that we love so much. Toilet paper get’s burned or packed out, which may seem gross but it’s better than destroying the land and leaving used toilet paper for animals to find. For a full lesson on what do with your waste when in the out of doors, read this. When we are posted up at Walmart, we use their bathroom, which can be awkward when the door guy sees you bolting in at 5AM and going straight to the bathroom, but that won’t stop us. Starbucks has been another great treasure, they open early and have a public bathroom policy. If all else fails or if it’s an emergency, we keep an empty Gatorade bottle in the van, which I can use too, with a Female Urinary Device (this one to be exact).
What if something happens to you?
Then something happens. Kidding, but I mean…not really. We are prepared as anyone can be: stocked outdoors first-aid kit, knowledge of poisonous snakes and insects and what to do in the event of a bite, and ability to stay calm in emergencies. Sure, we’ll probably get a satellite phone one day or another, but we take precautions before any hike or ride out to desolate areas. Like checking the van completely, stocking up on water, food, and emergency supplies. As far as a person bothering/hurting us…well, we just don’t see the point in worrying about someone driving down windy roads with endless turnoffs, looking for people in the wilderness to kill, because that seems a bit unrealistic.
What if something happens to the van?
With all the driving we do, van trouble is bound to happen! From big to small, cheap to expensive, it can and will happen. We’ve had a flat tire in a small town on a Sunday night to leaking antifreeze inside the van from a busted Heater Core. One time our brand new battery just stopped working at a gas station. We are pretty faithful to Pep Boys, so if we have a problem we try to make it to them. If we are out in the middle of nowhere, I have a copy of the Haynes Manual for the van (get yours here) and a full tool box so I can at least patch us up to get us to service for a tow or better, a mechanic. The key is to not freak out in the moment, but of course that’s easier said than done. Time has taught us that van troubles turn a trip into an adventure, and when you have that mindset, it’s hard to get frustrated in those moments.
How do you shower?
……..we don’t. In the past 65 days, we have showered 3 times, all 3 times we had a hotel room for the night and it would have been crazy for us not to shower. No shower, no shaving, no problems.
What if Rufio gets dirty or smelly?
Chances are if he’s smelly + dirty, then we are far worst so what does it matter? There’s dirt and sand and mud every where all the time and it makes us so happy. A month ago, Rufio rolled in what we assumed was mountain lion pee and oh-my-god did he stink, which made our blankets stink and us and it was, BAD. So the next rainy day, we found a pet store with a self wash station and had a BLAST (not Rufio)! More recently, he hardcore rolled in fresh coyote poop and quite literally mashed it into his fur and smelled like…poop. We were in the middle of the desert boondocking, so we just kind of washed off what we could and tried to forget what happened by the nighttime when we had to share a bed with him.
How long do you plan on doing this?
Ten weeks in, we feel more confident then ever about our decision to move into our van. To be honest, we don’t see an end in sight, or even how we could go back to living in “normal society”. We will of course have to stop to work from time to time and we are stoked at the thought of all the cool and unique jobs we will get to experience, but we think we will always be vagabonds of some sort. However, our favorite part about this new lifestyle is how quickly things change and plans get thrown out the window, so we try not to plan too far ahead or predict where we may be a year from now. Right now, all we know is that we want more travel and more adventure, and we plan on leaving ourselves open to experience both in any capacity!
We hope you enjoyed reading the answers to our most frequently asked questions and remember you can comment your question below if you didn’t see yours above. No question is off limits, so shoot!
Make sure to check back on Wednesday for a full blog on question #10: What are your plans for the future?