- Written by Brock Butterfield
Your Complete Guide To Life On The Road In A Van
John and Jayme from Gnomad Home just dropped a great little article on the ins and outs of Vanlife that's worth a read if you're still trying the make that decision on whether a van conversion or bus conversion is best for you.
These two have been living vanlife for quite some time now and the insight they provide in their article is a vault of knowledge for anyone that is completely new to making the lifestyle change.
Here's a quick preview of the topics they cover:
What is Van Life?
- Why Would You Want to Live in a Van?
- What Are the Challenges of Vanlife?
How to Live in a Van
- Converting a Van into a Mobile Living Space
- Where to Park Your Van at Night
- Bathrooms, Showers, and Laundry
- How Much Does Vanlife Cost?
- Making Money on the Road
- Getting Mail on the Road
- Insurance (health, auto, property, etc)
- Resources and Community on the Road
- Written by Guest Writers
Taking your pets with you on the road
Guest Writer: Angie Hill
What could be better for having the best pet-friendly travels on the road than a vehicle that comes complete with all the creature comforts of a house, but on wheels instead? Waking up in new locations for you and your pet to explore is what life’s all about!
One of the primary benefits of travel in a converted vehicle is that your pets can get some real enjoyment from the great outdoors during the day and then get to sleep in the same comfy spot at night; just like in a regular home.
Offering them that consistency is a super way to get your pet relaxed and at ease with this type of environment.
Travelling with your pets in a converted vehicle can also throw up some different challenges that you wouldn’t have to consider in a stationary home. This is all part of the ride though, and with the tricks and tips we’ve picked up to keep pets smiling, safe and content, you can use them to help you and your pets on your travels.
Top Tips for Travelling on the Road with Pets
1. A prepared packing list
Before you set off anywhere, set aside a decent amount of time just to go over all the things that you will need to pack for your pet. To help you out, we’ve listed the main ones already, and then you can add in more that might be relevant to you later on.
- Food and doggy treats
- Drinking water
- Travel food/water bowls
- Up-to-date ID tags
- Photos of your pet
- Copies of health records and vaccinations
- Carpet cleaner (just in case!)
- Some toys
- Any required medication and/or supplements
- Poop bags
- Pet insect repellent and sunscreen
- First aid kit
Read more on Woof Dog to pick up the supplies you need.
2. Research where to go
When you’re on the road with pets, you have to think about their needs as well as your own, but being pet owners, you probably put them first anyway! That’s great, and it’ll help you figure this point out more effectively.
Essentially, you just want to take the time to make sure that wherever you are headed has a lovely range of pet-friendly places for them to explore, as well as places to eat so that no member of the family is left behind.
3. Staying safe while driving
As tempting as it might be, you shouldn’t give in to the temptation of having your pet on your lap while you’re driving. At the same time, having a pet roaming about in the back can also be risky as they can cause a distraction.
You need to have total focus on driving for everyone’s safety, so pets should always be safely buckled up in an appropriately fitted, crash-tested seatbelt harness or alternatively, in a carrier that is fastened in place.
If your pet is new to all of this, it might be worth going out for a few small rides first of all to get them used to how it feels and then they’ll see this as normal routine when the time comes to go further afield.
4. Factor in more breaks
When you are eager to reach, discover and enjoy a new location, it can be really tempting to just keep on truckin’. If you need to stop for a quick stretch and a toilet break, your pet needs the same consideration as well.
Just factor in that they need some little walks and toilet breaks so that they can be great travel companions and make the most of your journeys together. It’ll help break up long drives and that way it won’t feel like your whole day has been spent behind the wheel.
5. Stay aware of the temperature
We all know about the dangers of pets overheating in cars, but even in your super comfy converted bus, the weather can become a little pesky if you’re not on top of it. Just bear in mind that you should keep an eye on weather forecasts and be aware of high/low temperatures where you are heading.
It might be worth just fitting a temperature gauge in your vehicle as a precaution. This will give you the opportunity to have peace of mind about the exact temperature in your vehicle. That way, you can rest assured that your pet will be perfectly comfortable while travelling, or while you’ve popped out for something.
6. Be an exemplary travelling pet owner
With the rise of digital nomads and people escaping standard homes to travel on the road more, so does the number of pet-friendly welcoming spots to travel to.
Policies are always changing and improving to help pet owners enjoy life with their extra family members who are by their side enjoying the trip with them. To keep this trend going, we all need to be the best pet owners we can and lead by example.
Stay on the right side of any leash laws that need adhering to, follow local pet guidelines, and always ensure that you pick up after your pets.
Hopefully, these pointers are useful for your future adventure and your pets can have an amazing time on the road travelling with you as a family!
- Written by Elizabeth Spencer
Breaking down on the road -
How to be Prepared
Contributing Writer: Elizabeth J W Spencer
Breakdowns in the bus are something all bus owners will have to deal with at some point.
Some of us are less prepared and capable than others but even if you are a diesel mechanic, breakdowns, flat tires or some other kind of roadside trouble could still find you. From our bus breakdown track record, you would think we didn’t do anything to prepare for engine trouble, but we had the engine looked over before setting out, we had a diesel mechanic spend hours teaching my husband how to do regular maintenance, check fluid levels and what problems to look for on this type of engine.
We also had spare parts galore with us on board, as well as all kinds of fluids and tools. Obviously, you can’t be prepared for everything, but we at least comforted ourselves by the fact that we tried. We didn’t have any extra fuel lines with us, which was a mistake!
So we set out from North Carolina and not two hours after we left, fuel was spraying out of the back of the bus. I wish I could say that this was the last breakdown on our maiden voyage across America but we broke down again in Nevada with the same problem. After the first breakdown we had taken the bus to Cummins engine dealer in Nashville to have them rework the spaghetti of fuel lines. The only good news with the second breakdown is that it was still under warranty from Cummins. They had put one of the lines in backward, which put too much pressure on the rest of the lines, and then it finally busted outside of Las Vegas. We are still novices at bus living but our crash course in bus breakdowns has us a little wiser on road trouble.
Here are nine tips to help you prepare for bus breakdowns.
1. Food and Drink:
Always, whatever you do, have good food and even better drinks with you on the bus. On our first breakdown we had beers and brats. On the second breakdown we had Moscow mules and a charcuterie board with aged meats and cheeses. These combinations of food and drink—as well as others—are a sure way to lift the soul in dismal circumstances on the side of the road. Be sure to stock that fridge before heading out.
For our next breakdown, I plan on having red wine and steak.
2. How to Deal with the Cold (or Heat) Off-Grid:
One major mistake we made in our build was not putting in a propane heater.
So, when we broke down in the winter in 25-degree weather on the side of the road for two nights, we weren’t prepared for how to deal with the cold off-grid. The first night we all climbed in bed together; my husband and I with the baby and even the dog! The baby and the dog thought it was awesome! I got every blanket, sleeping bag, and rug we owned to cover us and insulate the floor and doors. The second night we got a portable indoor propane heater to heat the place up and then we turned them off while we slept. I just wasn’t sure how safe they really were inside. Point being, if you are traveling in the winter, have an off-grid heat plan or be okay being cold.
I probably wouldn’t have been as worried about the cold but we had our baby with us so that seemed to complicate my worry.
3. Towing Insurance:
On the first breakdown we didn’t have any type of roadside assistance or insurance. That was a mistake for obvious reasons. Because we didn’t want to pay for a 50-mile tow, we tried to fix the bus on the side of the road. As soon as we got back on the road I called to get us roadside insurance from Good Sam in case we had any more trouble along the way. There are all different kinds of packages with Good Sam, but in light of the most recent breakdown, I got the Platinum Membership that included tires, roadside mechanic, 100-mile tow and lots of other perks. So, when we broke down a month later in Nevada in the middle of the desert close to sundown, Good Sam offered to either send a towing service or a roadside mechanic. Because we knew what the problem was and that the fuel lines really needed a shop to do an overhaul (again?!) and not just a roadside fix, we went with the tow. It was a 60-mile tow to the closest shop and I was so glad that we had the towing insurance!
4. Make Friends:
I can’t say this enough. You can prepare all you want but at the end of the day you will probably need some help out on the open road. During our first breakdown, where we were stranded on the side of the road, the nicest mechanic came out to help us at 10 pm at night and kept working on the engine with my husband until 3 am. It ended up that they needed a new part. The closest place where we could find the new fuel line was a three-hour drive away. We weren’t towing a car so we had to find transport to get the part. As luck would have it, where we were in Tennessee (TN) there weren’t any rental cars, taxis or Ubers. I couldn’t even get to another town to get a rental car without walking 50 miles. The nice mechanic from the night before said we could take his truck. I couldn’t believe that a stranger would let us drive their truck. We met so many other guardian angels out on the road—people that didn’t have to be nice to us—but were—and offered a lending hand.
5. Keep That Water Tank Full:
On the first breakdown we did have a full tank of water and on the second breakdown we didn’t, which was another reason we didn’t want to be stranded out on the road for a few days. The great thing about a bus is that if you do breakdown, you hopefully have most of what you need to wait for help or parts. There are things you can do without in a pinch, but water is really essential.
6. Embrace the Adventure:
When your bus breaks down it is going to be hard to remember why you ever had this ridiculous idea in the first place—what a horrible idea to put your home in a bus that breaks down! But most of us probably didn’t pick bus life for more dependability and certainty. Most of us probably picked a bus conversion for more freedom and adventure. And breakdowns and mishaps are just part of the bus adventure. I know it is expensive, time-consuming, and uncomfortable, but you are going places and taking risks, and this is just what happens.
7. Build in a Wide Margin of Error:
We quickly learned to not make any plans on our cross country road trip. When we first set out I told my grandmother we would be there on Tuesday in Memphis, TN. Well, we got there five days later due to the breakdown. From then on, I would just call people the morning we would be arriving in their town and see if they were available, we could park outside their home and if they wanted they could have dinner with us in the bus. Breakdowns weren’t the only thing that slowed us down though: traveling with a baby made for more stops, sometimes we wanted the freedom to relax, weather got in the way, campgrounds being full changed our plans, and regular maintenance on the bus would eat into more time than we were expecting. Even if you don’t breakdown, there are other reasons that you might want to change your plans as you go. As a bus dweller/traveler, you don’t want a schedule to take away from all the freedom that the bus affords.
8. Stop Before Dark:
This might sound ridiculous to some people, but after our first breakdown we decided that if we could stop before dark we would. If you breakdown (hypothetically) or get a flat tire it is much easier to deal with it in the light of day than on the side of the road in the dark (and less dangerous). Obviously, it doesn’t always work out, but we don’t keep pushing on if there is a place to stop before sundown.
9. Have a Breakdown Budget:
This is kind of like an emergency fund but specifically for when the bus breaks down. Some people need more money in their breakdown budget—like us!—than others, who can fix stuff themselves, so you can figure out how much you want to set aside depending on if you can do your own repairs and how much you travel. If you can, always set aside more than you think you need, and then you will be surprised when there is extra. We didn’t have this breakdown budget in place for our first road trip, but you had better believe it is a part of this year’s budget, and we are setting aside money for the next mishap every month.
Have you broken down in your bus? What tips would you share?
- Written by Patrick Schmidt
Thinking about buying a van, bus, RV or trailer to live in? Here are 5 ways you can start today, so you can accomplish your dream of traveling in a Tiny Home tomorrow!
Set a BIG Goal – Living in a Tiny Home in 1 year, 2 years, 5 years – break that down into smaller parts.
This is Plan A for what you want your life to look like. There is no Plan B, no other way you will accept your life to be in X amount of years.
Talk honestly with yourself “I want to be living in my own home, rent and mortgage free. How do I get from where I am, to where I want to be?” Break it down into manageable steps.
There are certain key items you will need in your life to achieve your dream. Our main focus will be making money and saving it, getting an education, connecting with people and learning how to ask for help, downsizing your belongings, while being flexible in your decision making.
Always remember the BIG goal, use every thought and action in your daily life lead you to accomplishing that goal.
What is the ONE THING you can do today that will allow you to sit behind that big steering wheel next year, asking yourself “Where do I want to go?”
If you want to make $50,000 a year, you need to earn $138 a day or $4,166 a month.
What can you sell 3 times a day at $46 to make an extra income to stash away in your bus piggy bank?
You can’t always change the amount you make, but can 100% control the amount you spend.
How can you make more money? Do you have items laying or standing around that you could sell? Do you have left over crafts you could finish and sell online? Are you able to pick up more shifts at your current job, or find a second part time job?
What about your savings, do you have a budget and an idea of what you earn and what you spend?
Savings – what do you spend your money on? Look at your daily and monthly income and outcome. Not buying that $5 coffee everyday will save you $150 a month! Not using that membership to the gym or whatever streaming internet service? Cancel it and put that money away towards your Tiny Living Fund.
Most plans to save $20 a day, or XX a month are hard to stick to, and might discourage you to continue, seeing “how little” money you have in your jar. Can you save $1 a day? If you want to live in a Tiny Home by next year, well, $365 won’t get you there.
But! It will get you into a mindset of saving and evaluating what you spend your money on and learning how to get into a saving mindset. Figure out you budget, live with less and research what you're buying. That WILL definitely come in handy when you are researching parts to buy for your Tiny Home.
The power is not in the dollar itself, but how you choose to use it.
Learn – Gather knowledge, Get an education
If you are building your own Tiny Home, throughout the build you will become a plumber, a carpenter, an electrician, a solar power and generator expert, etc etc…
If you don’t have the physical capability or knowledge about the process of building certain parts of your home, you need to hire someone to do those jobs. Do you have the money to hire professionals? How do you know you are hiring the right people, who will do a job well? You still benefit from knowing more about the process and what kind of work the professional will do and if what they are charging is reasonable.
Spend some time each day on YouTube watching Skoolie Build videos, travel Vlogs from folks like Jax Austin and The Frugal RVer and vehicle maintenance videos. Familiarize yourself with different terms you might come across, and pick up bits and pieces from how-to videos.
Read articles, like these
Go to the library and find yourself books on diesel engines, how turbos work.
Whatever you don't know, when you are getting ready to buy a vehicle to be your future home – learn about it! Even if you can’t remember that you need a 9/16 wrench for the air brakes, at least you have heard about it before.
Whatever you don’t know, learn it!
Even if you don’t understand a single thing you're reading, once you are in your bus, and your mechanic says something about the transmission fluid leaking, you might remember that the color of that fluid is RED, even if that meant nothing to you when you first read it. You at least have a basic understanding of some things.
Learn something new everyday.
Meet People – Voice your Goals and Plans – Network
Where will you be parking and working on your Tiny Home once you buy it? What stores will you be buying parts and tools from? Start heading over to those stores and introduce yourself to some of the folks. Talk to the person in the plumbing department, take a look through the lumber section with a person from the wood department. Get to know the folks you’ll be working with more closely once you get to a point of buying material to construct your new home.
Get the people around you to support you. Talk about your dreams and goals as if they were already real, because they are! Connect with others that are currently on the path that you are. Encourage each other.
Get on Instagram, find Youtubers, look through Pinterest and meet people who are doing exactly what you're doing. Many of them are in the researching stage, building stage, or traveling/home stage. You'll find examples and ideas about how you might want to build and decorate. Get ideas about HOW to do something.
Get involved in the community.
Do a search for “Tiny Home shows around me” and attend some local events to see what 250 square feet or less feels like.
Let yourself realize and see all of the success stories of people who are living this way, and have been living like this for a long time. People are doing exactly those things which you are aiming to happen in your life.
Change your life by changing your surroundings.
You too can do this!
Start Downsizing – Physical and Mental items
The most dramatic thing you can start today is downsizing. To some it comes easy to toss extra items, for others it is the hardest thing of all.
Ask yourself, do you really need 20 plates, 50 forks, 12 mugs, all your shoes, all your shirts? To change your life and move towards Tiny Living, you could get rid of one thing a day.
Personally, throwing away or donating items was the hardest thing about this process. I simply love stuff, and attach my emotions onto them. All of the things around me are intertwined with some kind of meaningful event or memory. Getting rid of them makes me feel like I will forget that memory - which has NEVER been the case. I am free'er and so much better off for having rid my life of so many belongings.
Getting rid of physical items works hand in hand to rid yourself of mental baggage. That was one of the major things I learned from reading Throw Away 50 Things. It’s not simply about the stuff itself, it's the mental attachment to the stuff. Rid yourself of either, and you can work on ridding yourself of the other.
That ties right in with working yourself into the community, talking with friends about your goals, and finding support through communication. Open up about your feelings, and talk about what you’re going through. Explain why you feel it’s important and necessary on the road and living in a Tiny Home, or any which way you want to live.
As exciting as bus life is and can be, it can also be very difficult, and WILL test you in ways you’ve not been tested before. Get yourself ready now, and use some of your time to seek out a therapist or counselor, and create deeper relationships with family and friends.
Get your mind in order before you do anything else.
Be flexible – OK with where you are RIGHT NOW
Will you accomplish what you set out to do, in the time frame you want and hope it to be done? Maybe. Maybe not.
Life gets in the way of living and accomplishing our dreams sometimes. The best piece of advice I can give you is go with the flow and be flexible. Stretch your body everyday, and loosen up that tight grip on your mind – where you feel lost and disappointed when you don't get your way or when it doesn't go according “to the plan.”
Mental attitude is key! Enjoy the time you have left at your 9-5, smile more, work harder, since you know better things are coming your way. What you are doing today does not dictate what you will do tomorrow. Small changes today lead to big changes tomorrow.
Bus Life is all about adventure and looking on the bright side of things – even as your home is getting towed because of engine failure. Some way, some how we will make it past this.
You have to let life happen, regardless of the plan
Maybe after a year of dreaming and planning you change your mind or something else happens.
One couple I met bought a bus, and after they ripped out the interior, life happened and they decided to sell it and buy an Airstream instead. They are happier now than ever.
Some folks lived in a huge RV and decided a custom built bus was more their style. Some people lived in vans for years and are now thriving in a brick and mortar house.
Some folks had a custom Tiny Home built for themselves, only to realize the builders built it too big and too heavy to actually be towed and used as a home. Years of time and thousands of wasted dollars, they're stuck in a temporary home because of all the issues.
Life comes at you fast, and a slow bus might just not be the way to go. And that’s OKAY. You’ve got to be flexible.
Try it out for yourself! Maybe you’ll enjoy it, maybe you won’t. But you have to try to find out!
It’s about the journey and not the outcome. If you feel great along the entire journey and don't make your goal the end all of your future, when you realize it may just not be the right fit for you, look back at what you accomplished, regardless of the final outcome.
What does this all amount to?
If you started out with goal setting and accomplishing little tasks to work slowly away at that goal, after 1 year or more, you have the potential of a large amount of savings.
You quite possibly have a healthier attitude and outlook on life, since you surrounded yourself with people who give out free, loving advice.
You possibly made new friends, and are not embarrassed to have them over to your home. You now have less clutter and useless junk around yourself, and through talking with a therapist, close friends, family members, you attract wonderful people into your life.
Start your adventure today! Save $5 and put it in your piggy bank, watch a video and/or read an article, say goodbye to those socks with holes and donate a book, plate, shoe or two, and by the time a year or two rolls around, you’ll be ready to accomplish that BIG goal of living in a home that you'll absolutely adore and LOVE.
AND! You are constantly open to learning new things and asking questions, becoming braver and smarter every single day.
I promise you'll find more joy and smiles in your daily life, celebrating new friends and new found confidence. All you need then is the right vehicle to drive the miles and deliver those smiles!
Your ideas and dreams, even without the Tiny Home, have entirely transformed your daily life. That by itself is worth having the dream for, even if the destination never leads to a physical bus for years to come.
Next goal! Perhaps you discover what actually IS YOUR THING! Wouldn't that be wonderful <3
If you do get yourself into a bus, it does become the same old thing except a different view. If you see life as nothing but roadblocks and challenges to overcome, I want to tell you that living in a bus is not any easier or more fun. It is actually extremely difficult. Flat tires, $250 oil changes, $450 tires, insurance issues, gas prices, etc etc.
BUT! I would not ever want to miss out on all the joy and happiness, and LOVE I have discovered since moving into my bus 4 years ago. It is all worth it, because I worked hard for this, and this is what I wanted my life to be like. I adjusted my attitude to recognize this as a journey of learning.
It’s never too late to live a life you love.
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