The van/equipment, expenses, and original plans…
This post is for those interested in logistics and plans. For those of you just interested in hearing stories and learning about travel destinations, skip ahead to the next blog post!
The van and other equipment:
I am traveling in a 1980 Volkswagon Vanagon equipped with a fridge, sink, and stove-top. The back bench folds down into a bed and there is a second larger bed that folds out when the tent top is popped up. I added a deep cycle battery charged off of either electric or the alternator while driving. This powers lights, phone/laptop chargers, fans and heaters, and can even run the fridge. There is a water tank underneath that feeds the sink as well as a propane tank to run the stove or as an alternative power source to cool the fridge. In case of emergencies I packed extra phone batteries, a burner phone, a roadside emergency kit filled with flares and first aid equipment, a small selection of tools, a solar powered lantern, and a self-jump kit in case the battery dies.
You may have noticed a big essential the van doesn’t come equipped with… a bathroom. Gas stations, truck stops, and grocery stores have compensated for restroom breaks. Showers are found at generous new friends’ homes, dance studios I visit for training, beaches or parks with facilities, and on desperate occasions by sneaking into campgrounds at night. I stocked the van with ‘adult washcloths’ for refreshing between showers and brought along a pop up tent with a ten gallon solar heated water bag to use while dispersed camping- free camping outside of any type of campground or facility.
Many people use the excuse that they can’t travel because it is too expensive. Well I am here to say that it doesn’t have to be. Now this is not the most luxurious of lifestyles by any means. But if your dream is to see the world there are ways to do it without breaking the bank.
Food- Cooking over eating out is key. Splurging here and there is okay and a great way to meet people and check out the local culture. However the more I cook for myself the less money I will spend in this category. Rice, beans, sandwiches, soups, and fresh fruits and veggies make up the bulk of my food supply. Nutritious and cheap!
Water/Propane- Running the fridge full time off the propane while using the stove about 1-2 times per day will leave me filling the propane tank every 2 or 3 months. This typically costs less than $10 dollars. Water can be filled from any hose or other water source for free.
Sleeping Arrangements (roughing it)- This category can make or break you. Most people take to hotels or campgrounds when traveling which can run you anywhere from $30-$100+ a night. Some campgrounds do offer free primitive camping but most require a permit to be attained in advanced. Walmart and Cracker Barrel parking lots are great legal alternatives to catch a few hours of sleep. Bonus- they have a restroom open 24/7. Casinos and most bars also allow overnight parking although these locations require a bit more discretion. With prior arrangement churches can be a safe overnight parking place as well. There are also other crafty, but not so legal, ways to get a free nights sleep. Think boat docks at local marinas and back parking lots at crowded hotels.
My favorite sleeping arrangement however is slipping out into the abyss for the night. National Forests are a legal option, however any mountain, forest road, or open trail into a prairie will do.
Sleeping Arrangements (a bit more cozy)- Now and then its nice to get out of the vehicle and have a more steady home base. Couchsurfing and volunteer-for-board websites work great for this. Accommodations can also be found on websites where people rent a tent space, parking spot, private room, or entire home to travelers, a slightly pricier option yet still more efficient than campgrounds and hotels.
I began my planning by searching weather across the country throughout the year and cross checked that with festivals and other events I was interested in attending. From there I searched national parks, funky towns, and weird road side attractions to help chart my path. I trained as a dancer at my university and so the placement of different dance companies I would like to visit influenced the flow of my path as well. Now, I’m 100% certain these plans will change as I go** but to start the path is as follows:
February: Rainbow gathering in Florida/ Mardi Gras in Louisiana
March: The Natchez Trace from Louisiana through Mississippi/ Visit communes in Tennessee
May: Tennessee/ Possible music fest in Alabama/ Georgia
June: The Carolinas/Kentucky
July: Pit stop back home in Chicago/ The Dakotas/ Montana
August: Wyoming/ Oregon/ California/ Possible fest in Nevada
September: Festival in New Mexico/ Arizona
** I am already considering drastically changing this after just a few weeks in. I may head to California this spring and chart my way back through the Northern States before heading southwest. Only the future will tell (:
***For those of you who haven’t been following along, these plans only lasted until April. After that I ditched all plans and let life chart my way. Its almost comical how different my journey turned out compared to my original plans. I charted north to Alaska, spent a month and a half traveling the Oregon Coast, and then spent the remainder of my time thus far circling from spot to spot around California. The future truly is the only one that knows what is to come.
And the part that seems to give people the most enjoyment… my travel buddy Captain Morgan!