This week Passion Passport is featuring the on-going journey of the traveling duo known as Hair Ventures. In part one, Meg introduced the inspiration behind her move from Ohio to China. She then took us back to the night she met her future husband. Jonathan went on to explain how they afford to travel as a living. In our final piece, Jonathan offers their doing van life on a tiny scale, on a tiny budget.
We’ve now been living in our small, 22-foot motorhome (it’s billed as a B+ motorhome, but in North America is considered a tiny RV) for 12 moths. We started from zero experience. And I mean, zero experience. I have no technical or mechanical knowledge. I am terrible at DIY and repairing, replacing, fixing or building anything and we have no camping, hiking, or outdoor-living experience. But, trust us, it can be done. It really, really can be done.
Don’t be afraid, embarrassed or self-conscious when you start out. As with everything in life, everyone has been in the same boat. Our first night in Milton (our RV), we nervously parked up at a Walmart, walked in, and asked ‘permission’ if we could stay – now, we don’t even bother with Walmart. (Lowe’s and Home Depot have free wifi in their parking lots. All of them.). And if not, streets. Those places where normal people park. Just find a quiet side street, close your blinds/curtains, keep noise to a minimum, and don’t overstay your welcome.
The Internet is full of useful information about van life on a budget. This may seem obvious, but connecting with people through Instagram has been unbelievably helpful. There are a lot more people out there doing the same thing than you would expect. Also, Atlas Obscura and roadtrippers are worth looking at – who wants to drive for an entire day seeing nothing to get to your next location, when you can stop and see something completely weird and random? If you can think of a question, search for it on YouTube – someone will undoubtedly have already answered it. And made a video to show you.
Planet Fitness has been our best decision (in terms of N. America). Being able to work out has been great, but more importantly being able to shower more than a military shower, and not having to worry about our seemingly tiny grey tank filling up, has been indispensable.
Traveling with pets
We bought Gogi (our dog) a cool mat at a Camping World in Arizona, and this has been our second-best purchase. We get a lot of crosswind in Milton, and with our solar panels now we’re able to leave a fan on for him. But having something cool to lay on, even when we’re driving or he’s sleeping, keeps him very happy.
Staying under budget
Why tip a server 20% when you can get your food to go, and eat in your own personal dining area, with as many drinks as you’d like, for a fraction of the price?
Bring your bike
Bikes. I cannot say enough how happy we are to have bikes. Because we’re able to park up pretty much everywhere (due to Milton’s smallish size), we can just pop out and cycle around the city. Much easier than trying to walk or rely on public transport.
Revamping/remodeling. This was always our plan, and when I look back at Milton as he was when we got him, it’s sort of unbelievable. Our remodel may not be up to professional standards, but Milton feels like a home, our home, and when you’re on the road full time you can’t beat it. Remodels can be as cheap or as expensive as you want, e.g. just covering the upholstery makes a massive difference. And that is easy – all you need is some material and a staple gun.
I think this is one of the most commonly asked questions. We cook whatever we want as we have tons of space in Milton – we have bottles and bottles of vinegars, spices and oils. We do not cook any differently than we would at home. I think the most important thing for your kitchen is buying quality. You don’t have the time or space to scrub a pan or let things soak, so if you buy high quality pots and pans (1 big & 1 small of each) and one helluva good knife, you’re set.
Make sure everything has a place. Meg rolls her eyes at me for making cubbyholes for EVERYTHING, but it helps. When we get up in the morning it takes no time at all to get going, because we know where everything goes, tuck it away and hit the road.
Go smaller. We were worried that Milton might be too small – if you don’t include the cab, it is about 90 sq feet (8 sq meters), so our living space is small. A tiny house to the extreme, really. But he’s ours, and other than possibly having a permanent bed, we wouldn’t change a thing. Plus, we still have loads of unused storage space.
Solar panels and an inverter. You’ll never need to pay for a campsite again. Enough said.
And finally, don’t worry, don’t stress, don’t over-plan, it will all work out. Planning too much simply tends to create problems rather than solve them, and if you keep planning you’ll never get around to the doing.
Continue to follow Meg and Jonathan’s budget van life adventures at www.hairventures.com or via Instagram @hairventures. Have you embarked on a life-altering journey? Are you thinking about one? Tell us on Twitter, using the hashtag “YourJourneyAwaits.”