Okay, some of these tips apply to vans only and some of them are general and could apply to those traveling in motor homes too. Generally speaking though, I’m writing this post with the assumption that you don’t have very much money to be wasting on things like campgrounds and motor home parks and the like.
Your first task is before you leave.
This is kind of a no brainer, but you don’t really get it until you’ve been in the van a week or so and things are out of their boxes and being used. Then you really start getting ruthless about the clutter, and you fill up a trash can in the Walmart parking lot with all the junk that you THOUGHT you couldn’t live without.
For my part, I carried more than I would have liked, because of the toy business. I had a scroll saw, wood, and toys taking up a lot of space. If you have an internet job or another way to make money, you won’t be as cramped as I was.
I had a long full sized van, which, unfortunately for me, being six feet tall, did not have a higher ceiling height. I took out all the seats, except for the 2 front seats and one of the captains chairs in the second row (for my young son). And later on, in Florida, I took the front seat out as well.
I built a raised wooden bed, that was roughly twin sized. A mattress would have put us too close to the rough, so I used a thinner pad. The bed was raised for storage purposes. Behind the second row seat that I left in, I built a kitchen counter-ish area with a bowl built in for a sink. I bought a plastic set of drawers to store food and kitchen items. I also had several large rubbermaid containers filled with toys and stuff for making toys and clothing.
Once you are on the road…
Do Your Reconnaissance
This is one thing that I really regret not doing properly. Seeing as how you have no money for things other than food and gas, you need to take full advantage of public facilities. We found some cool places on our travels, but we could have found many more if I hadn’t been so shy.
You’ve gotta talk to people. Be discreet, don’t tell them you are living in your van (unless you want to), but ask them where stuff is. I spent several weeks in the town where I am living now without knowing that there is a lovely park tucked back away from one of the main roads…with a POOL! There is also a park in the next town over that has a concrete pad with fountains and spraying stuff for kids to play in. These things are HUGE when you have no place to live.
When you don’t have a home, you need way more things to do. You can play inside the van some, but not very much-it’s cramped, it’s hot, your mother gets very cranky when you crawl on her. You don’t have a yard, there’s precious little house work to do, you just need a place to hang out.
So ask where the cool stuff is around town and outside of town. The more people you talk to, the better stuff you’ll find. Don’t rely on your GPS. It’s great for finding Walmarts and McDonald’s, but lousy for parks and creeks and stuff that really matters.
In Florida, someone told me about these awesome springs that I never would have known about otherwise that were a half an hour or so away.
Buy a GPS
Huge. You may be adventurous enough to want to go without one. After all what does it matter? You have nowhere to be.
Trust me. It matters. Buy one. They have to be the best thing for nomadic living since the invention of the cart.
Don’t Drive if you Don’t Have Money to Fill the Tank
I don’t care where you are. If you are running out of gas, stop driving if you don’t have money to fill the tank. I ran out of gas twice, because I didn’t have any money, and I thought I had to get somewhere. Running out of gas is a big pain. Oh yeah, and if you can afford it, get triple A. If you can’t afford it, beg your concerned relatives to buy it for you. It would have been handy for me.
Be on the Lookout for Temporary Work
You need extra money. Trust me. The van will break down right when your business is at it’s slowest. I did farm work, and it was a great experience.
Well, I’m out of time for today, but that should give you a start. Before I went out into the world in my van, I scoured the internet for information on van living. It’s there, but I promised I would add my experiences when I took the plunge.