After 2 Years of Vandwelling

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What can I say? It’s been 2 years, 3 if you count the planning faze. I’ve traveled around the continent. Twice. Over 100 000 KM on the odometer, a bunch of breakdowns, my highest highs and my lowest lows. It’s been a hell of a ride, but for the benefit of many out there I thought maybe I’d summarize a few thoughts on what it’s meant to live, travel, survive in a tiny rolling home for all this time.

First of all its important to understand that you travel to experience, and when you travel full time it’s like taking your life and pressing fast forward. I’ve experienced more in the last 2 years than in the decade leading up to it. I didn’t realize this would be the case at first, and honestly it wasn’t. It took some serious adjusting to turn my life into the chaotic whirlwind of new experiences that it is today. In part documenting every step not only for myself but for thousands of strangers on the internet pushed me in the right direction. It was also a necessary byproduct of a life of uncertainty. Working freelance, in new places, on a tight budget, forces you to open yourself up, to look for new options, to challenge previous practices, and come out the other end a changed person.

One of the fundamental traits of our subjectivity is the innate ability to normalize our surroundings. Whatever chaotic world we live in, no matter how bizarre and exotic it may seem to others, we somehow find a way to turn it mundane. This is what happened to me. After two years, I had become accustomed to a nomadic life, to solo travel, and to the uncertainty that came from travelling in an old beat up van. This was a blessing but also a curse. As much as I appreciate how invaluable this experience is, and how useful it’ll be in my future pursuing all my lofty goals, it simultaneously drained the excitement from my travels.

Compounded to this was the reality of prolonged solo travel, which teaches you a lot about yourself, and the world around you, but if not checked will sometimes result in acute social anxiety, which is fun. Maybe for some loneliness would be the biggest issue, but I’ve always found there to be overwhelming opportunities for social stimulation. In fact after a while it becomes too much. I believe this social exhaustion to be closely linked to loneliness, a form of social disorder shaped by being fundamentally alone. You’re always around people, but no one is familiar, and even though you behave as yourself, and don’t put on an act for strangers, it’s still alienating to lack that familiarity that comes from old friends.

There’s a lot that pushed me to change my life direction, but there’s plenty I’ve gained from this experience too. It’s been 5 years now since I last held a regular clock in and clock out job. For 5 years I’ve done work I’m passionate about. I’ve woken up at 7 am every morning excited to get to work doing what I’m passionate about. Whether that be editing videos, shooting weddings, fixing engines or driving hundreds of miles, I’ve pursued only what I’ve been passionate at. Despite the financial pitfalls and difficulties, I’ve succeeded mainly in developping a set of skills, a reputation, a body of work, and a career path solely focused on the passions of my life. This has opened more and more doors for me, the right kind of doors, the kind of doors I would’ve killed for a few years ago.

I look back on the person who set out on this adventure, how naive he was, and how much harder all of this was for him. I’m grateful for this road less traveled, it has help me build a life I love.



Fabulous Free* Camping!

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Many people ask us how we make money on the road, and the truth is it’s tough to make as much being nomadic as you did while stationary. For that reason we’ve had to make every dollar go as far as we can make it. One of the biggest ways we do this is by saving some serious money on camping. First and foremost I’d like to emphasize that a completely off-grid system like we’ve got makes these campsites a lot more enjoyable. Secondly I’d like to also emphasize that free campsites are worth the detour because of the comfort you feel not stealthing it and being able to fully enjoy the area you’ve driven so far for. Lastly, I’d like to clarify that we bought a Keep America Beautiful Annual Pass, which is well worth the money. With that all cleared up lets get to the list!

BLM Land

Hanging in the mid west? We’ve got some good news. BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) is all around and has really relaxed camping regulations. 14 days of free camping, with campfires often allowed (but don’t leave them unattended). BLM asks that you move at least 30 miles between 14 day stays and don’t camp within 200 yards of any water source. True boondocking spots are out there a plenty but if you’re looking for a safer route, BLM also offers over 400 camp sites, you can check on more rules and locations on their website

Free Campsites is an amazing resource to find and share free campsites around North America. These spots range from permit holders (in blue) cheap pay sites (in red) and full on free camping spots (in green). The website outlines a lot of other great camping resources on this list as well so it’s one of the first spots I check when I’m planning my route. You can read up on all the free camping you can find on their website

National Interagency Parks Pass

* I know this one isn’t technically free but hear me out. If you’re traveling for any extended period of time, like we are, it’s well worth the investment to get an Annual National Inter-agency Park Pass. It runs you 80$ but will grant you unlimited entry for your vehicle and occupants on all the National Parks (you’ll probably be visiting anyways). Do the math and you’ll find 3-4 national parks and the pass has already paid for itself. Now here comes the good stuff. With this pass you’re also granted unlimited entry to National Seashores, National Forests, National Reserves (many of which allow 14 day free camping) Basically anywhere controlled by a federal body that would usually charge a daily entry fee will wave their fees with this pass. In addition to this, many national parks that charge overnight camping fees will chop their fees in half (but not all so please check ahead of time by calling). The governing bodies are as follows: Bureau of Land Management Bureau of Reclamation  Fish and Wildlife Service  USDA Forest Service  National Park Service  US Army Corps of Engineers

Water Management District 

Heading to Florida? Don’t despair, there’s free camping everywhere! Check on the districts’ websites where you can reserve a free spot in a huge number of amazing dispersed camping spots. They have a variety of wild to semi hooked up sites with plenty of trails, rivers and lakes to check out, not to mention beautiful springs!
Northwest Florida WMD,   Suwannee River WMD   St. Johns River WMD    Southwest Florida WMD  South Florida WMD is a database very similar to and is searchable and savable by GPS coordinates which helps to be more exact about your camp sites. Really basic website but rich database, worth the search.

Crown Land 

Travelling in Canada? there is an absolute mountain of Crown Land in Canada. So much so, that if you’re not in an urban center, you’re pretty much guarrantied to be near some Crown Land. Camping is free for Canadian residents for up to 21 days at a time and non residents can purchase a permit which varies in cost and regulations per province. Check the provincial website for more details.

So there’s definitely some options beyond Walmart’s parking lot, and there’s plenty of spots out there to get into nature and really enjoy the camper half of your van. As we continue to research and find more information, we will pass it along to you! If you have more resources PLEASE share them with us in the comments, I’d definitely appreciate that!

12 Ways to Make Money on the Road

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Probably the most popular question I get about living in a camper van is how I make money on the road. I think people are looking for a quick answer that will somehow make this whole process a lot easier and suddenly have them making fortunes while chilling on the beaches of Big Sur. The truth is it’s damn hard to make money without a stable address, and it’s even harder without a stable internet connection. Know that for me, I make about 15% as much on the road as we did while living in an apartment. Once you understand the difficulties, let’s get to some solutions. A lot of these suggestions are going to be photography based, sorry about that, but it’s the pool of knowledge I’m drawing from. First off, not paying rent can be really cheap, and it’s a good thing because you’ll still be just as strapped for cash in the van as you were before. So here’s a list of opportunities, I’ll be as specific as I can, that’ll help you make ends meet on the road:

  • Seasonal Work: This can range from ski instructor to tree planter. My advice? Go for adventure and go with the weather. Try and find 1-3 month contracts that involve doing something really wild. Tree planting is a big one for me because it involves being out in nature and meeting other adventurous types. To find some seasonal opportunities start here.
  • Google Photographer: Google offers a street view program that allows photographers to contract out to businesses all over the world and “street-view-a-fy” their shops. You’ll need a good tripod, and a rig for taking photo spheres, as well as a good DSLR and a high quality fisheye lens. These can be big financial hurdles for those not already shooting, so keep in mind it’ll take a while to pay off all that gear. You can check out their application here.
  • Tour Photographer / Videographer / Reporter: got a real taste for music? A flair for concert photography/videography/reporting? This may be the job for you! Get in touch with your local music media authority and pitch to them your portfolio and your travel plans. The cons here are they usually don’t pay all that well and this work can be very demanding. On the other side if you’ve got a real passion for this band you’ll get unprecedented access and have a really great time.
  • Airbnb Photographer: Airbnb is a service that allows people to list their spare bedroom or their whole house when they’re off on trips. Your job as an Airbnb photographer will be to deliver consistent and high quality images of these listings. Airbnb has a fairly robust photographer dashboard that will help you get assignments and book shoots throughout your travels. These don’t pay luxuriously well on their own, but they’re relatively easy once you get the hang of them and if you book enough in a day, you’ll only have to work 1 day a week! You’ll need a fairly new camera and an architectural ultra-wide lens as well as a quality tripod, and maybe a flash. To apply check out their site here.very few listings on wheels usually
  • YouTube: This is a long game kind of idea. It is possible to make money off YouTube but you’ll need upwards of 5000 subscribers before you start seeing any meaningful income. This is a great option because the possibilities are endless, I’d really suggest doing something you love here because if your heart isn’t in it you won’t get far. Monetization through Adsense seems to be the most popular option.
  • Website or Blog: Are you a great writer? Got something that needs saying? This might be your option. The possibilities here are endless, you can make quality prose with good research and insightful interviews or you can write clickbait articles with reposts from reddit, honestly it’s up to you. Whatever you do try and make sure it fills a niche not already filled. This is a really long term plan, you’ll be lucky if you see anything from your blog in the first 6 months. Again monetization through Adsense tends to work pretty well.
  • Etsy or Shopify: Are you a creator? Got an idea that you can sell? Try selling off your creations on Etsy, Ebay, Amazon or Shopify. These websites can have great returns and you can really start pulling in a lot quickly if you get lucky. It’s important to keep to something manageable on the road and keep up to date with trends and marketing strategies here. In line with the doctrine of #LivingSimply try to keep things manageable for you on the road. It might not be feasible to sell handmade wedding dresses while living in a ’87 Westfalia. Producing digital goods like ebooks or photography or selling something that can be produced and shipped independent of where you are like a print service.
  • Apps: try your hand a creative programming and design an app. Sky’s the limit but I suggest keeping things simple, games and small resource apps are a safe bet and creating a free app then drawing income from ad revenue is also an option. Look into app design for iOS devices on Swift, it’s usually the easiest place to start.
  • Stock Photography: You’re already travelling and taking pictures, might as well use that to your advantage. Build a robust and extensive library of images or video on the road. Keep in mind the stock photography and videography market can be really tough, generally speaking you’ll make 95% of your income from 5% of your images/videos. It’s really important to stay on top of trends and see what’s selling and adjust accordingly. Keep in mind you’ll need release forms from any models in your images and sometimes even from property owners. Start with Getty Images or ShutterStock.
  • Busking: It’s an oldie but a goldie. Showcase what you’re good at and on a good day earn some serious coin. This depends hugely on your skills, charisma and personality type as well as where you are. I don’t advise busking in State Parks but that’s completely up to you.
  • Elance: Got some tech skills? maybe you can put them to work for you on the road. Marketing yourself as a freelance tech professional isn’t always easy, doing it on the road can be even harder. Websites like Elance and Upwork take a lot of the marketing out of the equation.
  • Ride Share: going from one place to another place? Cool so are other people! if you put up ads in the local craigslist or kijiji these people could give you moneys to hitch a ride. Besides it’s always good to meet new folks!