Today we have a guest post from my friend, Greg Rose. He and his wife, Angie, are in the midst of an amazing trip throughout many of the most beautiful places in North America. And they are doing it very inexpensively! This is a perfect example of how you too can travel extremely well for very little money. Read their story and get inspired!
Hello! We’re the Roses: Greg, Angie, and our dog, Kipper. We had always dreamed of taking the great American road trip so, after almost 20 years of talking about it, we’re finally doing it! We quit our professional lives, bought a camper van, and, on June 21, 2011, we packed up our dog and left home in Austin, TX to head west. So far, we’ve travelled over 15,000 miles all over the western US and some of Canada for less than $75 per day.
Sounds simple, right?
It is to a certain extent but to do it on our meager budget, with no income, for a year, took some planning. Angie had a contract job so we knew when that was going to end and that dictated our departure date. We decided to go for it and committed ourselves to a plan about a year prior to her last day. You could do this in much less time. It just depends on how complicated your life is. First thing we did was start looking for the right vehicle and figuring out how much we could spend on a year- long jaunt. We looked at 4 or 5 different vehicles and ended up choosing the oldest, simplest, and least expensive we could find!
How much do you need?
Our little pop-top camper van, “LeTigre”, is pretty lo-fi. It’s based on a Chevy so getting parts or having it worked on isn’t a problem. It features a bed, basic kitchen, little couch, and that’s about it. Maybe you don’t have money for a camper van or maybe you need more features? You could easily do this kind of trip with your car and a tent, a mini-van, a full-on Winnebago, or even a bicycle. We went simple and cheap so we could spend a little more on other things. Once we had the vehicle, we could really start figuring out what we could afford to spend per day for a year of travel.
Dollars and cents…
I won’t go into too much detail here but I can say it involved spreadsheets. Angie happens to love spreadsheets, I know, weird. This skill came in pretty handy but you don’t have to love spreadsheets to plan your budget. We spent a lot of time looking at gas prices all over our loosely planned route to figure out an average price per gallon. We also researched camping fees in national parks, state parks, and private campgrounds. We took into account that we would be doing some free camping and staying with friends and family along the way. Also included in the budget were groceries, dog food, propane, vehicle maintenance, insurance, etc.
Once we started planning our escape, we began to experience the emotional roller coaster that comes when you’re doing something out of the ordinary. It was mild for the most part but occasionally the reality of being unemployed, leaving home, and living in a van for a year sounded down-right stupid. While most of our friends and family were totally supportive and excited for us, we did get the occasional naysayers: “that’s crazy”, “what about money”, “where do you go to the bathroom”, blah, blah, blah. Don’t let those dissuade you. You get over the anxiety very quickly once the trip starts and pretty soon being on the move becomes the new “normal.” We absolutely love it now, every day is different!
What about all your stuff?
Ahhhh yes… the stuff. Since we had a year to get ready, we managed to purge tons of dead weight. We actually moved twice in the year prior to our departure. You don’t have to move multiple times but, in our case, it was easier to go ahead and rent out our house and move to a smaller cheaper place. We ended up doing this twice and, each time, we got rid of more stuff. We used craigslist, Goodwill, a garage sale, and gave belongings to family and friends. We even managed to make some money for the trip! The less stuff you have, the easier this undertaking will be for you. If you don’t own a home or aren’t tied up in a lease, you could do this trip at a moment’s notice. In addition to purging our belongings, we had to purge our mail, bills, etc. We canceled as much as we could, set up electronic statements for everything else, and automated all our bills online. Simplify as much as possible!
So, how’s it going?
Well, in a word, fantastic! We left June 21, 2011 and got back to Austin on December 2, after 167 days on the road. For starters, we’re still married! We’ve been to New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Alberta, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, and some of these states two or three times. More importantly, we’ve met and befriended so many wonderful people. So far, we’ve stayed under budget at $70 per day. That’s food, fuel, camping, excursions, and whatever else for two adults and a dog. We’re currently staying with friends in Austin, saving money, and planning the eastern leg of our journey while we wait for the weather to warm up. One thing we’re discovering is, because of our national park system, the western US is much simpler to plan a road trip. There are only a handful of national parks in the eastern US. It will be interesting to see if we can maintain our budget once we start out again. Stay tuned, you can find us at On The Road With The Roses.
Don’t wait! Start planning your own epic road trip!