May 2017 Adventures

May 2017 Adventures

In May I spent some time camping with my brother, found my favorite campsite so far in all of my travels, and played around with the drone and video editing. I went to Sedona, the Grand Canyon, further up the Colorado River, Horseshoe Bend, and Zion National Park. Wow!

MAP OF TRAVELS

May 2017 Adventures

I started out the month in Las Vegas. I’d been there to meet up with friends who flew down from Portland. I had a wonderful time with them.  I drove from Vegas to Sedona to meet my brother. On the way, I stopped for a night in Flagstaff. That city really has a pull on me. I like it a lot. It’s an awesome place to spend some time during the summer.

SEDONA – WITH MY BROTHER 

My brother, Brandon (@thetinglytraveler ), realized he had multiple sclerosis in 2015.  He was having a standard successful American life: a stable job that he was very good at and was promoted to manager, a nice house in Denver with a sweet garden, time and money for his hobbies

If I understand correctly, the biggest challenge he had (other than now M.S.) was all the stress at work. He was extremely loyal to his company, and thus ended up having a lot of responsibility and stress there.

After his diagnosis, he changed his life quickly. He Started eating healthier and running, and lost excess weight he’d been carrying for years. He found a wonderful girlfriend. He started thinking about how to reduce his stress at work.

House prices had went up a lot in Denver. Brandon sold his house in Denver and moved in with his girlfriend. Then, they sold her house. They both quit their jobs. They got a truck and a travel trailer. They’ve been traveling around the U.S. the last few months.

They expect to choose an area to buy some land and start a homestead. He’ll probably work more. I expect it will be in a technical role that he enjoys.

I’m proud of my brother, and I’m excited for them.

We crossed paths Sedona and camped together.  It was nice camping with them and catching up on their travels so far, trying to give each-other things that we no longer use and don’t need (neither of us were successful at offloading much of anything), comparing ideas of places to travel to, sharing some meals, going on a hike, and so on.

May 2017 Adventures

 

May 2017 Adventures

 

May 2017 Adventures - Sedona

 

May 2017 Adventures - Sedona

Remember that drone that Dan of Big Ox Little Bird gave me a few months ago? I had a heck of a time getting a charger and batteries for it. I’d gotten the charger after about a month, and one of the batteries I ordered didn’t arrive in Phoenix until after I’d left the city. (The other never did).  When my brother passed through Phoenix, he picked it up from me from my cousin before heading north to Sedona. So, I finally got to use the drone. It’s a lot of fun.

May 2017 Adventures - Sedona

This was the first video I recorded with it. I wasn’t even checking the exposure and the sky is all blown out.

We had loose plans to travel together for a while. We weren’t sure how long it would work out, as we have our own sort of speeds of movement, and they would need to go back to Denver fairly soon. We made plans to go up to the Grand Canyon next. I got itchy feet about a day earlier than they did, and headed up there. it was useful for me to go first as I could scope out potential campsites for them. Their trailer doesn’t have a lot of ground clearance, and their dog is scared of other dogs and people. So – I could go check what the roads were like and try to find a campsite that’s a bit secluded from other campers.

The next day, after they ran errands and started heading up, they had trouble with their trailer. Something with the wheel bearings – I believe not having quite enough grease and basically burned up. So they were stuck down a bit south of Flagstaff for a few days.

GRAND CANYON

I camped in the National Forest south of the Canyon. I ended up staying in 3 or 4 different spots. I’d drive over to the canyon each day, and then just go to a different spot. At the spots nearest to Tusayan, there was a lot of low flying helicopters, so I only stayed there one day.

I didn’t really like taking pictures of the canyon. It’s so huge that the other side is all hazy. When shooting with a wide lens, it’s basically all the same and just blends together and looks flat and boring. I did go shoot there during sunrise one morning. I didn’t think I got much of anything, but I did end up with one picture I really like (the first one).

May 2017 Adventures - Grand Canyon

May 2017 Adventures - Grand Canyon

May 2017 Adventures - Grand Canyon

 

May 2017 Adventures - Grand Canyon

 

May 2017 Adventures - Grand Canyon

After a few days, there was some cold weather approaching. I didn’t know when my brother would get the trailer fixed and head up, and I wouldn’t be of any help if I went back down there. I wasn’t crazy about the canyon, so I headed off to a really cool campsite that my brother found on Instagram

ALONG THE COLORADO RIVER

This was my favorite campsite of all my travels so far. It’s on some BLM land that goes right up near the edge of the canyon. It’s near the old site of Lee’s Ferry, and it’s quite remote. It’s only like 10 miles from Page as a bird flies, but it’s 50 miles of driving.

I stayed here for about two weeks. I ended up making 3 trips into page. One of those was an extra trip to go buy a 1.5mm hex key. A hundred miles for a $.10 tool.

Why? Well, I was flying the drone a lot, and realized it had a problem. The gimbal was shaking around a lot. With a little research online, I saw it was likely because of a certain set screw not being tight enough. I needed a 1.5mm hex key to tighten it. I have a ton of hex keys in various sizes. I had a 2mm, and I believe a 1mm. But no 1.5. I wanted to fix it while I was still camping out here because it was an awesome place to record drone footage. Tightening the set screw did fix the gimbal vibration issue. So, then I had to re-record all the clips I’d gotten so far.

I have a lot more pictures from here, and an incredible nice drone video, but I’ll save it for a specific post about the spot. Here’s a taste of it:

May 2017 Adventures - Colorado River

 

May 2017 Adventures - Colorado River

 

May 2017 Adventures - Colorado River

I was flying my drone a lot and one evening I was sorting through clips and editing them together. The way I had my van parked, the setting sun would shine in through a window and reflect on my computer screen, so I had my curtains up. Those curtains sort of blocked out my view of the sunset.

While editing, I glanced out the front windshield and noticed a bloom of color on the clouds. A brilliant pink.

I jolted out of my seat, grabbed my camera bag and tripod, and scurried over to the edge of this canyon. I only had about 5 minutes before it faded away

May 2017 Adventures - Colorado River

PAGE & HORSESHOE BEND

I shot there at 3 different times. Here’s a picture from the first time. Yep, looks just like all the other Horseshoe Bend pictures.

 

May 2017 Adventures - Horseshoe Bend

I wasn’t that crazy about this place. The view is nice. There’s just so many people coming in and out and taking the same pictures. It’s sort of a zoo. At one point while I was set up and shooting, an old Asian lady who couldn’t speak english thrusted her camera into my hands and gestured for me to take a lot of pictures at different zoom ranges. I think she was scared to go up to the edge.  That was actually kind of nice because she had a Sony a7 and I’d been wondering what it was like to use their electronic viewfinders.

ZION NATIONAL PARK

After a couple weeks near page, I figured I should get on into Utah. I’ve never been to southern Utah, and I’ve been looking forward to it a lot.

I drove back through Page and then to Zion National Park.

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

 

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

 

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

I drove through the park – on that road that goes through the south end. WOW! It’s an incredible drive. It’s a continual stretch of amazing views – literally the whole way, other than while inside the two tunnels you go through. The next day I hiked up Angel’s Landing.

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

 

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

 

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

 

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

I’ll probably have a bunch more pictures to share from Zion. I spent a couple days walking around the canyon and shooting.

PLANS FOR JUNE:

It’s gotten hot, and I’ve left Zion.  I’ll come back again at the end of the summer or in the fall. I have a loose idea of where I’ll go next – maybe something like what’s shown below. This whole stretch from Cedar City to Zion looks super remote. The towns on the way are extremely tiny. I haven’t researched actual places, so if you know the area and have any suggestions, please share them!

 

April 2017 Travels

April 2017 Travels

I spent most of my April in Arizona. A few incoming packages took longer than expected, and kept me near Phoenix longer than I wanted. I camped up north of Phoenix along Highway 87, and also near Sedona. Then I headed over into Nevada to meet some friends in Vegas.

Here’s everywhere I went in April (starting in Phoenix)

April 2017 Travels

SPOT WEST OF 87

(33.94633,-111.45529)

There’s a nice little group of spots to camp just a couple miles off hwy 87. I’ve camped here three different times. This last time, I went down to a spot that’s a bit off of the road and behind a hill. I’d never seen until midway through my second time camping there when I noticed that a few people went back there. It’s a little hairy getting there (the road is slanted sideways), and it’s really hard trying to find a flat spot down there.  But it’s nice though.

April 2017 Travels
You can see the van down there near the middle of the picture

April 2017 Travels

April 2017 Travels - Camping north of Phoenix April 2017 Travels - Camping north of Phoenix

April 2017 Travels - Camping north of Phoenix

April 2017 Travels - Camping north of Phoenix

PHOENIX AGAIN:

I drove back into the city to pick up a package, and stayed for a few days. I watched the last few hours of the Paris-Roubaix bicycle race online. That’s always a fun race to watch.

SEDONA

During two of my three vehicle living test trips, I spent time in Sedona. It was one of the places where I decided I wanted my current lifestyle. I’d been looking forward to going back. I tried to go camp in the exact same place I did the first time there, but it was occupied. I ended up camping in three different spots

1 – Southwest of Sedona: (34.68848, -111.86182). 

This is one of the spots that a guy at the visitors center recommended. It was ok, but not very good as far as campsites near Sedona go.

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

 

2 – West of Sedona – Forest Service Road 525c. (34.879, -111.94486)

This was close to the where I’d camped on the test trips.

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

It’s close to the Robber’s Roost – a cave overlooking the way into Sedona. Robbers and bandits, used to hide out here when they had some heat. From the cave, they could see people approaching from far away. Also, while in the cave, you can hear people from below very well.

Robber's Roost

Robber's Roost

 

3 – “Base Camp” – Forest Service Road 525 (34.82324, -111.90566)

I went into town in the afternoon, and didn’t leave until it was starting to get dark. I didn’t want to sleep in Sedona, so I came out to this spot – just about the first place you can camp on 525 when coming off the highway. Many people stop here and then find another more secluded spot somewhere along 525 or 525c and move to it.

I stayed here one night. Some balloons landed nearby.

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

 

4 – Forest Service Road 525 (34.8682, -111.90365)

Near the north end of where you can camp on 525 is closer to the hiking and biking action. A lot of the spots on 525 can hold many rigs and end up being communal spots. There were 3-5 other groups present while I was there.

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona
My campsite is in this picture, over towards the right

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

The weather was absolutely perfect in Sedona and I was enjoying being there. After about a week, I was getting itchy to move on though. I had plans to meet some friends in Vegas at the end of April, so I found a place to camp on the way there.

LAKE MOHAVE – Telephone Cove

(35.23068, -114.59371)

Telephone Cove has free camping. And others, I believe. It’s a pretty nice stretch of beach. The pictures below don’t show it, but it was a bit crowded here because there was some kind of boys’ camp going on at the other end of the beach.

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

Then I got itchy feet and drove to Vegas early.

LAS VEGAS

Parking lot behind the LINQ – (36.11835, -115.16655)

Street with parking near the Link/Ferris Wheel/Westin/Cromwell (36.11631,-115.16643)

I went out to Vegas 9 days before my friends would getting there. I’m not entirely sure why I went so early other than that I felt like moving on from where I was previously. I spent the first weekend at the strip and it was fun. I’m very used to going places and doing things by myself, but I’ve only been to the strip when it was with friends. This time, on my own, it wasn’t quite the same.

Camping on the Las Vegas Strip
This was a good place to park the van. It’s a big parking lot for the LINQ casino/hotel. It’s temporarily free until after they do some kind of construction project. There is a ton of security patrolling the lot and it’s well lit. You have to not make it obvious that you’re sleeping in a vehicle though or security will tell you not to.

After 3 or 4 days at the strip, I went and hung out around other parts of the city. Vegas isn’t all that nice. The UNLV Library is really really nice though. I go to a lot of city/county libraries, and sometimes there are too many bums there. Really stinky ones. At this library on UNLV campus, it was only students. Everyone’s clean. Everyone’s nice. The wifi is good. And it’s beautiful – I mean, just look at this place:

April 2017 Travels - UNLV Library

I think I’ll start hanging out around campuses more when I’m in cities.

My friends arrived the next weekend. While waiting for them in the airport cellphone lot, I did the following:

  • Ate dinner
  • Moved water from my big reserve jug to my smaller jugs that I normally use
  • Repaired my sandals (Sewed part of the velcro back on one)

Once my friends arrived, I drove them to their hotel on strip, and we hung out at the strip that night. The next day we went to their pool, walked around the strip, went to the pool again, and then went to Fremont Street to gamble a bit and walk around. I think we had more fun at Fremont street than on the strip. It’s smaller and sort of simpler. You don’t have to spend 10-15 minutes walking to go from one place to another like you often do on the strip. We also walked past what’s probably considered the normal end of the Fremont street area (on the east end) and continued. There are some fun weird/hipster type places there.

Downtown Las Vegas - Fremont Street - Zoltar Machine
On Fremont Street. (Downtown Vegas)

 

Downtown Las Vegas - Fremont Street - Zoltar Machine
My friend is a champion of making stupid faces

 

Downtown Las Vegas - Fremont Street - Gold Digger

The last day they were there we went over to a thrift store (a Buffalo Exchange north of the strip – it is a good one), and then back to some casino where we had lunch. Then they headed back home, and I was ready to get out of that city.

Wow. When I put all the places I went in one month into one post, it sure looks like a lot.

PLANS FOR MAY

  • Go meet my brother and his girlfriend in Sedona
  • Go to Grand Canyon
  • Go through Northern Arizona and into Southern Utah

Exploring Arizona 4 – New Friends

New Friends

I went back to camp at the same area as two trips ago – the place where it rained for two days while I was there. This time, I had 6 days of absolutely perfect weather there. Also, I met some new friends.

I had been wanting to find a place near Phoenix to camp – somewhere still down in the desert but not all messed up with trash, noise and shooting. I asked on the CheapRVLiving.com forums and members there recommended a place just southwest of Phoenix. I was excited to go there.

My mom visited Phoenix for over a week, and I stayed in the city then. After she left the city and I was ready to go camping, it was hot in Phoenix, so I decided to go up in elevation rather than the hot desert spot.

Campsite:

New Friends

 

Mom’s Advice:

My mom said I should post more pictures of myself here. I’ve been taking a lot of pictures, but never of myself. When I looked at my Instagram Feed after she asked, I noticed I hadn’t posted a picture of myself for many months. I suppose some pictures of me would make it more personal and more interesting. So, I took a few of myself on this trip. More coming in the future. My grandma once told me I could be a male model. She’s probably the most biased person in the world, and that was like 15 years ago.. Anyways,… here’s a start:

New Friends

New Friends

New Friends

The Weather

I don’t see how it could get any better:

  • ~75 degree highs
  • ~55 degree lows
  • Slight breeze
  • Sunny nearly all day every day

Bike Rides

I went for two bike rides along the Forest Service Road I was camped by. The road goes about 8 miles into the forest, eventually hitting a wilderness boundary and hiking trailhead. I rode out and back both times  and it was fucking amazing. I recorded some more footage with the GoPro. It really doesn’t do the views justice.

Someone recently asked if I record any different views while riding so I tried turning the camera around. It works pretty well, and now you get to look at my crotch a bunch 😛

 

New Friends from Instagram

I met a couple name Dan and Cindy and they camped with me for two days. Dan had sent me some messages on Instagram. Him and Cindy live in Tuscon and had a trip planned to go to Havasapai falls at the Grand Canyon. I was pretty much on their way, so they stopped to hang out a while.

You can find out a bit about them at:

I’m just going to post a picture of my journal entry from the day after we parted. My handwriting has really went downhill since I stopped working. I used to write a lot by hand at work, and since I quit, I’ve done very little. If I start posting journal tidbits like this regularly, that will give me a good reason to improve.

New Friends - Journal - Handwriting
The blurred part is nothing bad. It’s just something about them that I’m not sure whether they want shared publicly.

New Friends

 

New Friends

 

New Friends - Journal - Handwriting

 

New Friends

 

New Friends

Before Vandwelling: Test Trips

This post is a bit of background for some upcoming posts about Exploring Arizona. Arizona holds a special place in my heart and my imagination. In 2014 and 2015, I went on three vehicle camping test trips to help me decide whether or not I wanted to live in a van, two of which were in Arizona. I also took long scenic drives on backroads between Phoenix and Flagstaff a few times.

Approaching Retirement

At around age 29 I decided to ramp up the amount of my income I saved. This would allow me to retire much earlier than most people. At first, I expected to be able to retire by age 40. Then I reduced my spending further and thus saved more each year while also reducing my net worth retirement target. I ended up retiring at age 34.

I expect that over the rest of my life, I’ll spend my time in different phases that last  2-10 years each. Some of the phases I’ve had in mind are below Some phases could happen concurrently.

  • Living in a van and traveling around the western US
  • Living in other countries (Southeast Asia, and/or Latin America)
  • Living in a shack/cabin in a remote area with access to some kind of nice terrain (Mountains, coast, etc.)
  • Bicycling a ton
  • Living in a small town for a while
  • Living in a big expensive city by means of some uniquely cheap housing (like living in someone’s guesthouse in exchange for a bit or work or just so they have another person around)
  • Living on a sort of homestead/compound
  • Doing some entrepreneurial projects
  • Working some fun jobs
  • Improving the world in some way
  • Very deep/serious romantic relationship(s)
  • Bicycle touring
  • Slow travel internationally
  • …. and others

As I approached retirement, I wanted to decide which to do first. I’ll share in another post all the details about the various reasons I decided to live in a van. For this post, I want to describe the test trips I went on to get a feel for what it would be like to live in a vehicle.

 

Test Trip #1: Sequoia National Park

Starting in 2013, I traveled a lot for work. I went to different factories. Many of them were in small towns surrounded by thousands of square miles of farms. Or in medium/large cities that are also surround by thousands of square miles of farms. But sometimes I went to more interesting places. In the fall of 2014 I went to a factory near Fresco, CA. That’s close to Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks. So I made that my first test trip.

I worked there during one week. Tuesday through Thursday. Instead of going home after the factory visit on Thursday or Friday like usual, and flying to the next location the following Monday, I stayed out in California the whole weekend and on Monday flew straight to the next work location. This gave me 3.5 days to go do my own thing. I brought along my camping and outdoors gear.  I found a first-come-first serve campsite fairly high up in King’s Canyon that would have open spots when I could get there.

I had a wonderful time. Just driving through these National Parks is a treat – let alone camping and hiking there. Camping among 200 foot tall sequoia trees was wonderful. A hiking trail passed near the campsite and I explored it in both directions. I saw a bear while hiking. And more while driving. I was really cold when the temperature dipped near freezing overnight. The last day I went for a hike at lower elevation and drove through Sequoia NP again – through dropping temperatures and freezing rain. I had a splendid time.

Driving through Sequoia, there are a ton of places calling out for to you to stop and soak in the view

 

My original version of “Cowboy Cuisine”. It’s gotten a lot better now :-D. That’s tea in the bowl

 

 

This is the hiking trail near where I camped. I saw a bear within a couple hundred feet of here. It was running along and making a TON of noise in the brush and sticks on the ground.

 

Test Trips
Pretty darn nice place to sit and read Meditations

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips
My Campsite

 

Test Trips
My vehicle setup

 

Test Trips

 

View from high in Sequoia. Just off the road

Test Trip #2: Coconino National Forest – Near Sedona, AZ

In 2015 I started going to Flagstaff, AZ for work. I’d fly into Phoenix and drive up to Flagstaff for a few days. Some of my trips there were with another person, in which case we’d ride together from Phoenix to Flagstaff, and I couldn’t go do my own thing. My first trip there by myself was in April, so I made that my second test trip.

I drove up to Sedona, went to the National Forest Visitors Center, and learned about dispersed camping. I camped out on the Forest Service roads ~5 miles northwest of Sedona. Again, I had a wonderful time.

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

 

Hiking. This trail goes up the Mongollon rim and higher. And just on a walk, you can see many many different types of plants

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

I bought my van a few weeks after this second test trip.

Test Trip #3: Coconino and Tonto National Forests

I went back again in May and made and did the same thing. For my drive from Phoenix to Sedona, I went up highway 87 to Payson, and drove about 30 miles along a Forest Service/Fire road that traverses the top edge of the Mongollon rim. There are many campsites along the rim.

Test Trips
At the rim edge

 

Test Trips
One of the wonderful campsites along the rim. Past the edge you see in the foreground is basically a cliff of a few hundred feet

 

Test Trips

After my work week, I went to the same area near Sedona as the first trip, but it was cold this time. I went over into Tonto N.F. where I could go a bit further south and to lower elevation. I camped in a little valley south of Payson, I believe right here. That hiking trail up the road (Barnhardt) is pretty good.

When my days were up and I needed to head back to Phoenix, I drove over to check out Roosevelt lake, and saw the old native dwellings there

Test Trips

 

Test Trips
Entrance to this area (A National Monument) was free the day I came because there were a bunch of bees at the dwelling. You couldn’t go all the way up there though. Some rangers(? or I don’t know what?) were stationed on the trail as far as visitors are allowed, to stop them from going further. Since they had nothing else to do, I asked one of them about 50 questions. It was fascinating. And it was very impressive how they knew so many details about the people who lived here (and many times I asked “how do you know that?”).

By chance, I drove the Apache Trail to get back to Phoenix. I was just looking for a fairly direct route, and that’s the one. I was blown away on the drive! The Apache TrailI follows the Salt River from what is now Roosevelt Lake to Apache Junction (what is now a far east suburb of Phoenix). I assume the original real Apache Trail followed the river all the way. The road now goes over a pass that’s 500 or 1000 feet up above the river. I stopped many times on to take in the view, and to imagine myself back there, retired, camping, soaking in the area and letting days pass as they come with no schedule forcing me to push through the area in just one afternoon.

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips
What a nice place to camp, huh?

 

Test Trips

I made another trip or two to Flagstaff by myself in 2015. I was already busy building the van, so I went home to work on it rather than spend extra days in AZ. I drove the Apache trail again:

Test Trips
Roosevelt Lake

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

Result of Test Trips:

I could’ve easily done test trips in my car somewhere near my home. Since I was already traveling for work, I took the opportunity to do them in beautiful places. These three test trips all went very well and cemented my decision to build and live in the van as my first post-retirement phase of life.

About two years passed between my first test trip in California and quitting my job to travel full time. Over those two years I imagined, probably many hundreds of times, being free of work and moseying around the U.S. I imagined being able to settle in to camp for a week or more at a time. I imagined sitting around relaxing, reading, writing, hiking, watching the stars, and so on. In many of these daydreams, I was in Arizona. I was out near Sedona. And, most common of all, I was along the Salt River.

I’m writing this post from Fountain Hills, AZ, which is a Suburb in the far northeast corner of Phoenix. I’ve made two trips out of Phoenix so far. I’ll tell you about them soon. Can you guess where the first trip was?

Cost of Vanlife – my first six months

Cost of Vanlife

People often wonder how much full-time vandwellers spend. I’ll share my cost of vanlife over the first 6 months. My average monthly spending was $2,100. This is quite high for me, and much higher than I expect going forward. Control of ones finances is a critical skill in order to live the kind of life they want. I’ll be posting more on this blog about my spending, my income, and sharing some advice on how to move both of those in the directions you want, and most importantly, how to save your money (your life energy) and win your freedom.

Cost of Vanlife: my first 6 months of spending

I’ve read that it’s common for people to increase their spending for a while after retiring – particularly those who launch right into long term travel. Well, me too. I’ve been a naughty boy. The chart below shows how much I spent each month (the red bars) compared to how much income I had (the green bars, with income shown as a running 3 month average to smooth it out), and a running total showing the surplus/deficit I have (the light red area, which goes negative).

Cost of Vanlife

It’s not all that bad. I bought some expensive camera gear in October. I spent more than usual on gas in August and September. I spent more than usual on health insurance in September and December. If all goes as planned, my spending will be quite low in 2017.

Here are some more details on my spending:

Cost of Vanlife

Some of what’s in the “Essentials” category was not actually essential – like using a lot of gas. But to keep it simple I didn’t try to separate ‘extra gas’ from ‘normal/essential gas’.

Cost of Vanlife

The camera spending was a huge bump. If I hadn’t bought that, my average monthly spend would’ve been about $1,100.

The fixed costs were high in September and December from paying health insurance premiums. In September I paid for the rest of 2016, and those were expensive because my income in the first half of the year prevented me from getting subsidies. In December, I paid premiums for all of 2017. I (expect to) get a lot of subsidy because of my low income. Thanks Obama.

Cost of Vanlife

Looking forward, I expect lower spending on hobbies, gas, and fixed costs. I’m hoping to spent $500-$1000 in many months. Maybe even below $500 a few months.

Two Weeks in Seattle

Two Weeks in Seattle

Back in August I spent two weeks in Seattle. It seems July and August are the perfect time to go there. 

A week with an old friend

An old friend of mine from college live in a suburb south of Seattle with his wife, toddler, and purse dog. I spent a week hanging out with them / at their house. It was great seeing my old friend, getting updates, new stories, old stories I hadn’t heard, etc.

We spent a day doing tourist stuff. This was at the locks – there was some live music and sort of a car show

Two Weeks in Seattle

Gasworks Park:

Two Weeks in Seattle

Two Weeks in Seattle

Two Weeks in Seattle

Two Weeks in Seattle

Near the Space Needle:

Two Weeks in Seattle

Two Weeks in Seattle

We stumbled upon this outdoor movie set up and ready to go. We had to wait a bit for it to get dark and start

Two Weeks in Seattle

Two Weeks in Seattle

A week in the city

Then I spent a week on my own hanging out in various Seattle neighborhoods. I really like Seattle. It has some normal nice aspects cities can like being in good shape, relatively clean, feeling safe, having young people, etc. But one thing I really liked is that it doesn’t feel spread out. There is a lot of water that prevents this – the sound on the west side and lake Washington on the east. So all of Seattle that is ‘in the city of Seattle’ is between those bodies of water. Once I was in that area, there was very little reason to leave it. When I drove from one side of the city to the other, it took 15 minutes or less. Contrast this with a city like Denver that has no geographic boundaries. It has developed into a sprawl now covering hundreds of square miles. When I’m in Denver I end up with reasons to go from one side of the metro area to the other, and end up driving a lot.

After spending 10 days or so bumming around Seattle, I felt like I could spend an entire summer in the city without even leaving. The weather was nearly perfect while I was there. From what I hear, that perfection doesn’t last long.

Real estate prices are crazy there. I spent some time in a two million dollar house in Capital hill that was definitely nice, but that would cost $250k in the midwest. I also saw a basement studio apartment that was really small and not that nice, for which rent is about $1,000 per month. wow. So, I don’t think I’ll ever live in Seattle unless my net worth grows much quicker than I expect, or if I find some kind of alternative living arrangement. 

Given that I haven’t been there any time other than summer, I’m not even sure how much I’d want to actually live there. Anyways, Seattle is awesome during the summer. 

Volunteer Park

Two Weeks in Seattle

Two Weeks in Seattle

Two Weeks in Seattle

Parked by lake Washington

Two Weeks in Seattle

I spent three afternoons on Madison Beach.

Two Weeks in Seattle

Met a nice girl up here at Kerry Park

Two Weeks in Seattle

Two Weeks in Seattle

Two Weeks in Seattle

I had a wonderful time over these two weeks in Seattle :-D. Up next, camping and hiking in Olympic National Forest, and then on to Portland. 

The Last First Day, Camping in North Clorado

The Last First Day Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

July 18 was my last first day of being retired and traveling in the van.

(note: I started traveling full time in July 2016, and started this blog in December. I’ll be catching up on these trip reports for a while, so the post dates and dates of when I was actually there will me many months off)

 

I bought and started making my van into an Adventure Mobile in April 2015. Since finishing the van around March 2016, I’ve had a number of what felt like “First Days”. The first was moving into the van. I did that on March 25. Then I sold my house and drove the van out of St Louis for good – that felt like a big first day. Then I finished up some work in Iowa and could drive the van west to Colorado. Then I had my first camping trips (of this year) in Colorado. Then I had the van in and around Denver for 3-4 weeks – what felt like a transitional period.

I had my last day of work July 15. Within a couple days, I made my preparations to embark – to leave Denver and head northwest. This time, there would be no more going back to work. There would be no more ‘launch days’. This was it – this was the Last First Day.

 

 DRIVING NORTHWEST

I drove north from a Family member’s house near Denver and then west on Poudre Canyon rd. I went up to camp near Old Roach, in what I believe is part of Roosevelt National Forest. The drive up 103 (from 14/Poudre Canyon rd, to Hohnholz lakes) was wonderful. I loved it. It had a lot of open spaces and ranch land. I prefer that over dense trees you can’t see beyond.
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Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

 

Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

 

HOHNHOLZ LAKES

I wanted to jump in for a swim, but when I stopped at one (lake #2) it was cloudy and felt too cold, and the next (#3) had an extremely muddy and silty bottom and I just didn’t feel like swimming then. So I carried on into the National Forest  and found a camping spot.

Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

 

Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

 

Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

There was a mostly smoldering fire west of this part of Roosevelt NF. You can see the smoke in the picture above – straight ahead of the van at the horizon. The next day I drove through the smoke and saw some area that burned very recently.

The Last First Day Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

This place and this day felt like a dream come true. I guess that’s because it was!

 

 

Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

 

Heres a video showing parts of the drive:

 

 Campsite for the night

Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

When I laid down to go to sleep and turned the lights off, I noticed some lightening off in the distance. This group of clouds was lighting up at least once per second. It didn’t photograph well because the lightning was just within the clouds; you couldn’t see any bolts, and because there was a full moon.

Holmholz Lakes, CO, in Roosevelt National Forest

 

 SAND DUNES! In Colorado!

I never knew there were sand dunes in Colorado until my brother told me so. Actually, when I told him where I was going, he asked “oh, will you go to the dunes?”. I probably said “huh? What dunes? SAND dunes?”.

I camped just one night in Roosevelt NF and the next morning I drove west out of the NF land and south to the sand dunes. I was surprised by how sandy they actually are. The sand is fine, soft, and deep. I almost got the van stuck a couple times.

Driving to the Sand Dunes in Northern Colorado

 

San Dunes in Colorado

 

San Dunes in Colorado
Up next, Wyoming….

 

 

Camping in the Rockies & quitting my job

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado - Landscape Photography Sunset

This summer I spent a 5-6 days camping in a place that can hardly be beat. So nice, it helped inspire me to quit my perfectly good job!

(note: I started traveling full time in July 2016, and started this blog in December. I’ll be catching up on these trip reports for a while, so the post dates and dates of when I was actually there will me many months off)

I had taken the van out to Colorado once already, back in 2015. I was in the middle of converting it and brought a vanload  of stuff to store in a family member’s basement. We went up for a couple of camping trips while I was there.

Now in the summer of 2016, I ‘d finished converting the van. I went out to Colorado for about a month. This was my last month of work. I’d achieved all of the criteria I set for quitting my job: saving a certain amount of money, finishing the van, and selling my house. But I wasn’t yet mentally prepared to quit. I kept myself very busy while building the van and finishing the house. I also had a girlfriend who I chose to spend a lot of time with. So I didn’t let myself think much about the actual quitting. I just focused on whatever I needed to do next.

If I was going to keep working, my best option seemed to be to travel while doing so. I worked in manufacturing and traveled each week to one of our factories. This meant I had the opportunity to move the van and myself around the country. Each Monday I would fly from wherever I happen to be to the city I needed to work in that week. But I’d be on a short tether during the weekends. I’d have a couple days for camping but need to make it back to the airport the next Monday. I’d also have to plan where I would spend my weekends quite a while in advance for booking flights.

So, I wondered if I could still work some, but significantly lengthen my tether. Like, 2 weeks of tether. I’d worked for my employer for 11 years. I’d seen people work part time while on leave to care for a newborn. I’d seen people work part time when they had health problems. I had never seen a single person work part time just because they felt like it. Well, I asked anyways. I practiced the conversation with my boss and got my proposal very convincing. The same day my house sale finalized, I called my boss and proposed the change. I also told him I was so sure about this that I was either quitting or working part time. I didn’t give him the option of just saying no and keeping me at full time.

It worked!

We came to an agreement that I would work 2 weeks per month for at least 6 months. By the time my first week off came around, I had the van out in Colorado. I headed up into the mountains early in the week. I found a great camping spot a bit southeast of Jefferson CO.  I like open spaces and big views so I spent half a day hiking around the area and checking out all the possible campsites. This was the best one.

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado

Now I had time and a place to slow down my mind. Now I had time to think about what was important to me. I spent an afternoon sitting at the log pictured below,  looking out over the valley, reading, and thinking.

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado

While there, a line from Meditations came to mind. (The quote was actually about dying. But hey, it works here too)

You boarded, you set sail, you’ve made the passage. Time to disembark

It took less than two days camping here to decide to quit my job entirely. Why quit right after getting the nice part time arrangement? There were some logistical reasons. My work schedule ended up being mostly alternating weeks of working and not working. So I’d have 9 days off in a row. While in Colorado I started thinking about going to places in western Colorado. It’s a long ways to a major airpot from Crested Butte. I didn’t want to drive that much. But the main reason was that I just felt like it was time. I’d finished the van, I’d sold my house, I’d saved my money. I’d set myself up to travel full time. So now I should do it.

 

On the way out of the valley around Jefferson:

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado

 

At the campsite:

Vanlife: Wonderful campsite in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado.

 

 

Colorado Rockies Sunset Landscape Photography

 

This is a guy deciding to quit his ‘perfectly good’ job.

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado

 

Views like this from my table/desk have made me very happy my van has windows

View out the window of my self built campervan in the Colorado Rockies

 

My brother and dad came out for the weekend. I’ve camped with them more since I bought the van than all the rest of my life combined.

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado

 

 

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado

 

 

Landscape Photography - a sunset in the Colorado Rockies

 

 

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado

 

We went to Jefferson lake one morning and my dad fished while my brother and I walked around the lake.

Vanlife fishing at Jefferson Lake in the Colorado rockies

 

Here’s a video of the sunset one night. You can also see us setting up the fire ring and starting a fire, sitting around, cooking dinner, and settling in around the campfire. The next night the sunset was much better. I tried shooting another timelapse again, but forgot to hook up the external battery and charge cord to my GoPro, so it’s battery died.

Vanlife Manifesto: A strategy for Nomadic Vandwelling

Vanlife Manifesto. Written before buying and converting my van. Ideas and plans of how to live well in a van. A vandwelling projection.

32 is supposedly the age where creativity and output peaks. So maybe it is fitting that a couple years ago, at age 32, I drafted three manifestos to capture some of my life strategies/plans. The first is a Vanlife Manifesto: goals and strategy for how I want to spend my time while living and traveling in the van.

The manifestos are:
1 – Vanlife Manifesto:  A nomadic phase. Includes primarily Vandwelling, but later likely living in Central or South America and/or Southeast Asia. This manifesto is below
2 – Slowlife Manifesto: A “Settled down” phase.  Buy or build a small home or cabin. Dive into hobbies like gardening/permaculture, construction, fishing, building social capital, etc.
3 – Life Purpose Manifesto: This one is difficult to draft and is currently quite vague

 

VANLIFE MANIFESTO – EXPLORATION AND ACCLIMATION

 

PERIOD GOALS

  • Explore and learn about the United States (including our history)
  • Study and enjoy “nature”
  • Find good locations to settle in later
  • Meet people with similar outlooks and interests
  • See how little space and few things I need to live well

 

Vanlife Manifesto. Written before buying and converting my van. Ideas and plans of how to live well in a van. A vandwelling projection.

VAN (home)

  • Big enough to be comfortable enough to feel like an option for permanent living. (this may require buying a high top van in the future or adding a  high top to mine)
  • Able to go/stay in a wide variety of places.
    • Get to many remote locations.
    • Blend in while in cities.
    • Not restricted from going to certain areas by van size or type (I don’t mean parking garages here, I mean parks/forests or parts of cities)
  • Reliable – not needing frequent repairs
  • Relatively fuel-efficient, if possible
  • Equipped to allow living remotely for at least one week
  • Space for carrying hobby equipment
  • Not so expensive that it causes me stress
  • Clean and organized inside – so that when things are in their place, I feel calm and without urges to clean or reorganize

 

BELONGINGS

  • Low amount. High usefulness/quality
  • Things that serve multiple functions
  • Not so expensive that loss would devastate me

 

HOBBIES

(some are current, some are things I want to get into at some point)

  • Exploration
  • Sightseeing
  • Learning the history of areas
  • Learn about nature – plants, animals, earth, weather, survival
  • Photography (landscape, nature, wildlife, travel)
  • Fitness – running, strength, injury resistance, health
  • Hiking
  • Swimming / Snorkeling? / Surfing?
  • Bicycling
  • Animal watching/tracking
  • Fishing?
  • Hunting?
  • Pens and writing
  • Graphic design (on computer)
  • Drinking good tea
  • Writing/Blogging?
  • Reading

 

Vanlife Manifesto. Written before buying and converting my van. Ideas and plans of how to live well in a van. A vandwelling projection.

REMINDERS FOR MYSELF

  • Stay in good shape – don’t let muscles atrophy
  • Eat mostly healthy – find ways to make this work and to make it easy
  • Spend a lot of time with friends and family (because I may not want to travel while I’m settled down later on)

 

DO YOU HAVE A LIFE MANIFESTO?

For those of you dreaming of Vanlife, preparing for it, or currently living in your van, do you have a Vanlife Manifesto? If so, what does your have that mine doesn’t?

Need some inspiration? Here are 10 Famous Manifestos, and a short guide on How to write a manifesto.