Family Vagabond Adventure – A Roof Over Your Head – Ch. 5 Cont.

Hotels/Motels

FVBHotelMaybe you have a little bigger budget, or maybe you’ve racked up a ton of rewards points and hotels are more your style? It is possible to live fulltime in hotels and motels around the world, with the cost of a night’s stay varying widely across the globe. Some areas, and brands, may cost you more per month than your current rent or mortgage, while other areas of the globe would be significantly less. It all depends on where you plan to travel.

Last year we spent a number of nights in cheap motels, bridging the gaps between housesits. As I stated in the earlier chapters, we primarily used the Priceline mobile app and more importantly, we used the Priceline Express Deals. I would say, on average, our nightly stays were around $45 per night. So, $45 x 30 night = $1,350 per month. That’s actually $450 less per month than my monthly rent and utilities in Lititz, PA. Not a terrible savings.

If you’re going to go this route I suggest sticking to a brand, set up a rewards account with the brand and I would use the brand credit card for all stays and food purchases on property. This will keep a steady flow of points flowing into your coffers. Many brands, like Marriott, have properties of varying tiers, meaning they have a lower, less expensive brand and then the higher end properties that will cost you more points per night for a stay. For instance, a night at a Courtyard is typically around 15,000 points, while a stay at a full service Marriott would cost closer to 35,000 points per night.

If you’re concerned about how your travels impacts the environment, then book your hotel stays through Trip Zero. Trip Zero will calculate the carbon footprint of your travels and when you book your stay through their website, they will off set your carbon creation by investing in reforestation projects, methane offset projects and renewable energy projects on your behalf, free of charge. That’s right, it won’t cost you a cent and you can feel good knowing you’ve reduced your travels impact on the globe. They use the Expedia network, so you will find the same prices you would find on other hotel booking sites.

Air B&B

66I love disruptive technology and services and Air B&B, like Uber, is one of the biggest disruptive services of the last 20 years. Air B&B allows home owners to become hotel owners, whether they want to rent out a room in their house or rent out the whole thing. I’ve seen Airstream’s rented out in backyards. I’ve seen houses with skateboard parks. Micro houses to mansions, Air B&B has changed the game.

The website is easy to navigate and allows you to filter for the amenities you’re looking for in a great vacation stay. The price slider allows you to stay within your budget and the scheduler makes it easy to see if the property is available during your time frame.

In complete transparency, we never used Air B&B once. We tried to use it in Portland, OR in the first 2 weeks of our road trip, but we didn’t have much luck. The above mentioned Airstream was in the backyard of a cat owner’s house, they were fearful of our bulldog and the skate park house was suddenly unavailable during our time frame, even though the scheduler said it was available. The next few times that we tried to use Air B&B, we had trouble finding a reasonable rate. On a budget, it’s hard to beat cheap hotels, but if you’re looking for a unique experience, Air B&B can probably fill that want.

Corporate Housing – Extended Stays

Usually easy to find, but sometimes a little on the pricey side. Focused on Corporate travelers, needing a furnished place to stay for extended periods of time, these property owners know that a Corporation is most likely footing the bill, so they can jack up the price some over a traditional hotel stay. There are websites completely focused on this sector of the traveling population. Firms that will help you find corporate housing are in abundance, but it is possible to find them without much help and I certainly would not pay anyone to find me corporate housing.

We’ve seen many corporate housing listings on Craigslist, some of them extremely reasonable, though you should probably take a look at the place for yourself before entering into an agreement. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
We never actually acted on any of the corporate housing listing on Craigslist or anywhere else for that matter. What I know about it comes from the planning portion of our trip. We spot checked cities all over the US for possible spots to stay to save money. It helps, I guess mentally, to have a couple cities in your pocket that you know you could stay for less when no house sits are available.

One brand that we are very familiar with, that caters to the corporate traveler, but is usually a good deal, is Extended Stay. We spent many nights in this brand and in fact found it many times on the Priceline, Express Deals page. They’re especially nice because they come will a kitchen, which really cuts down on the food budget. It’s always cheaper to hit a grocery store, then hit restaurants night after night, so having a kitchen is bonus points. The sleeping arraignments very from property to property, but usually you will get a Queen Size bed with either a pull out couch or a pull our chair. We actually travel with a Twin Size air mattress, which makes either arraignment above work for a family of 4. You won’t get daily housekeeping services in these brands, without paying for it, but you will get a free breakfast, which we would factor into our stay decisions. Not having to pay for a meal a day, can save a lot of the course of a year.

Couchsurf

travelingchimps.comCan’t say I have ever tried this. I think it would be a little tough to show up at someone’s house with a wife, 2 kids and a bulldog, but I love the idea and if I was a lone traveler, I would absolutely give this a try. The way it works is, you register on websites, like couchsurfing.com, you can host folks on your couch or find a couch for your travels all over the world. Fairly simple and cheap, like free cheap. Great way to see the world on a shoe string budget and or bring travelers through your home to inspire your own travels.

Now I’ve heard some horror stories over the years about couchsurfers being murdered, but back up to the Safety chapter, this is far and few between and really you are just as likely, in fact probably more likely to be killed walking across the street to your hosting couch then by your host.

New to couchsurfing? Most major cities have weekly meet ups that give you an opportunity to ask questions about hosting and traveling. Set up your profile today and give it a try, it’s free to set up a profile and you never know what kind of adventure it could bring to your doorstep?

WWOOF – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms
Have a green thumb? Or would you like to learn more about organic farming? Then this might be a creative way to put a roof over your head and some food in your belly. The way it works is, you trade your labor on organic farms, all over the world, usually around 4-6 hours of work for a nightly accommodation and food.

IMG_4012You can find opportunities on wwoof.net, then join the corresponding WWOOF organization for that country or area. I would say this is the negative piece, if you wanted to use WWOOFing to travel around the world, you would end up having to join a bunch of different organizations, which cuts into your travel budget, but may not be a terrible investment, especially if you spend a little longer time at each farm.

So, you get to travel the world, meet people, and learn a trade you could use for yourself or one day start your own organic farm. Sounds pretty good to me.

More of Chapter 5 next week!!!

Follow along on our adventure at Facebook http://www.facebook.com/travelingchimps Twitter https://twitter.com/TravelingChimps YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/user/travelingchimps and now on Pinterest at: https://www.pinterest.com/travelingchimps/

Share This:
Facebooktwitterpinterest

Family Vagabond Adventure – Housesitting – Ch. 5

A Roof Over Your Head

As I stated above, probably numerous times, we set our adventure into motion by Housesitting, but there are a number of creative ways to keep a roof over your head on any budget. Let’s start with the Housesitting and dive into the others as well.

Housesitting & Petsitting

BuberHousesitting is watching over people’s properties while they go on vacation or other extended trips form their home. Typically you would stay rent and utility free for the length of the housesit. Some folks just want the security of knowing someone is watching over their property, other folks need someone to watch over the property because the area, while completely safe, may have some interesting characters in the town that would help themselves to the property if they knew no one was home for an extended time. Others may need you to take care of their furry friends, scaly friends or swimming friends, this would typically qualify as a Pet Sit, but the same rules apply. You stay rent and utility free in exchange for caring for their pets. We actually do a combination of both and enjoyed them equally.

So, the number one question we get about our travels is, “Where do you find these housesits?” And the answer is, “the internet”. Where you can really find anything. You can even use that smartphone we talked about in the last chapter. A quick Google search will show you numerous online sites specializing in connecting housesitters with opportunities. Most of the sites are pay sites; however the cost usually is in the neighborhood of a Priceline Express Deal for a single night’s stay, or around $50 a year. We used a few sites, but really had the greatest luck with Trusted Housesitters, with opportunities all over the world, literally, Housesitters America and Housecarers.

This is how it works. You set up a profile, talk about yourself and your story, add some pictures and start applying to posted housesits. In our case we are a family of 4, road schooling our kids in a Hybrid. I actually think the fact that we are a family plays well to most home owners. I think people see us as safe, we’re not going to throw parties and torment your neighbors. Last year we actually had to turn down opportunities because they overlapped with housesits we had already agreed to. Depending on your strategy, the longer the housesit the better. So, if you knock down a 3 month housesit and someone asks you to do a 3 week housesit in the middle, you’ll probably want to turn down the 3 week sit.

A note of caution, try to be flexible. We did have a housesit fall through at the last minute, the women was unable to get time off from her employer, not a huge deal, but it would have kept us out of a hotel for 2 weeks, which helps out the wallet tremendously. Also, this has never happened to us, but I have heard of it happening. You lock down a 3 month housesit and the owner decides to come home a month earlier. Kind of sucks for your plans, but it is their house and they have a right to come home if need be. Again just be flexible and roll with the punches. There’s a reason for everything and maybe your loss of a roof over your head for a month could turn into a new opportunity for 3 more months, you just never know.

travelingchimps.com

The first house we ever housesit in Happy Camp, CA

I’ve also seen people, families, and couples start housesitting/pet sitting businesses. I’m really not sure how successful this can be with so many free opportunities out there? Maybe some people feel it’s more legitimate if they pay for the service? Maybe they expect more from a paid service? I’m not really sure, but you will see it as you start digging around on the topic. We felt like it was more than fair to stay rent and utility free, that’s a ton of savings to fuel the adventure.

So, what do home owners expect of you? Pretty much take care of the place like it’s yours. In other words, mow the lawn, weed whack, water the plants, water the garden, change the HVAC filter, feed the pets, medicate the pets, but please only medicate them with their prescribed treatments. If you’re handy, it couldn’t hurt to do a few things around the place to fix it up like paint, lube the door hinges, and fix that light switch that doesn’t seem to turn anything on.

Here’s the link to the corresponding podcast: Episode 5 – How to be a Housesitter

More on keeping a roof over your head next week.

Follow along on our adventure at Facebook http://www.facebook.com/travelingchimps Twitter https://twitter.com/TravelingChimps YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/user/travelingchimps and now on Pinterest at: https://www.pinterest.com/travelingchimps/

Share This:
Facebooktwitterpinterest

Family Vagabond Adventure – Travel Tools – Chapter 4

Travel Tools, Accessories & Games

Cell Phones & Service

Traveling ChimpsI would recommend having a decent smartphone, like an Apple iPhone, or Samsung Galaxy. This will give you access to apps like Priceline and Google Maps, while you travel and they also have nice built in cameras. You’re going to want to take a ton of pictures. Whether you’re writing a blog, posting your travels to social media or just want the pictures for yourself, a smartphone is a tremendous way to accomplish a lot, with a small tool.

Depending on where you are traveling, make sure to check your phones coverage. You’ll need an international plan if you are planning to leave the U.S. and the current go to provider is T-Mobile. Though this changes almost monthly, so do your homework. It may be smarter to bring an unlocked phone with you and buy a local SIM card for the country you are in. GSM type phones and unlocked phones, is the technology used at a greater frequency outside of the U.S.

A quick word on purchasing a smartphone. If you actually do the math, it is much cheaper to buy the phone outright, rather than rolling it into your monthly bill. You will probably pay at least double, if not triple what the phone cost over the course of the locked in 2 year contract. I know that it is a larger upfront investment, but financially it is a good hack.

And don’t forget good old Skype. It runs on the internet and is free to call from Skype user to Skype user. We use it a lot to meet with homeowners virtually during the house-sit selection process. More on that to follow. Remember even though you may have an international plan, the person you may need to call, may not and Skype is a solid solution.

Travel Apps

Traveling Chimps

Grand Canyon – North Rim

A must use tool, is Google Maps, a free app that can be used on all smartphones. Google Maps turns your phone into a GPS and will give you multiple routes to choose from. The best part is, it will alert you to traffic issues and even suggest alternative routes to get around the trouble. Unless you have an affinity to using old school methods, like road atlases, then Google Maps is a must.

Another great GPS for your smartphone is Waze. We’ve been using Waze more and more. Mostly because Waze will warn you of police activity, speed traps and cameras on stop lights. Its one short fall, for us, is you can’t put in a destination greater than 900 miles from your current location and we have completed some very long road trips. Waze knows about this and are working to correct the problem. Also, if you are traveling international, you may incur data roaming charges for using the app outside of the U.S.; however you can pre-load your trip on a Wi-Fi connection before setting out on your adventure. Keep in mind though, that you will not receive real time updates, including optimized routes and police activity.

If you have no internet, then this is the GPS app for you. It’s called Here and it works in over 100 countries. You can find nearby dining options, hotels and turn by turn voice guided directions with no data charges. Not a bad solution and one I will be trying out on my next adventure.

Another great app, unrelated to road trips, is TripIt, which takes all of your travel itineraries and organizes it in one view by trip. For instance it will take your air travel, hotel reservations and rental car info for your trip, which you forward your confirmation emails to their server and displays it in a usable way, based on time.

The most used app on our travel team at the moment, is Duolingo! Want to learn a new language fast? Then this is your solution. It’s available on Android and IPhone and get this, it’s free! We have been working on Spanish for about a month now with tremendous success. Just 10 minutes per day and it feels like you are playing a game. You will learn to write, read and speak 20+ languages and look for other learning courses with Duolingo soon.

Wi-Fi Service

Traveling ChimpsWi-Fi selection is going to come down to how often you need to use it and where do you need to use it? You may even want to look at apps like, Wi-Fi Finder, which will show you open Wi-Fi connection in your vicinity and best of all, it’s free. But let’s explore a few current options. Remember that Wi-Fi providers and their solutions change very rapidly, so like cell phone providers, do your homework.

A great solution for folks who don’t need constant internet connection is Skyroam. It works by daily rental. You purchase unlimited internet connection for $9.95 per 24 hours. You can either rent the hotspot from them or you may purchase one from them.

One provider you may want to stay clear of is Xcom Global. They work in much the same way as Skyroam, but tack on additional fees like, $30 shipping and handling on the hotspot, a $30 surcharge for each additional country beyond 2 plus a $50 cancellation fee when you’re done with your service.

Your best bet, much like cell phone coverage, is to buy an unlocked hotspot and buy a local SIM card for it. See the trend here?

A note on Wi-Fi service. It’s getting better. I was actually surprised at the coverage across the U.S., even in some very remote areas, but there is not 100% coverage and in some spots, you may get service, but it could be very slow. Something to keep in mind when the internet is part of your job. I spent a month in the Northern California town of Happy Camp, relying on my Wi-Fi to do my computer consulting gig. I was able to make it work, but it was very frustrating to say the least. Experiment with the placement of the Wi-Fi itself. I found that placing the unit in the kitchen window seemed to get the best signal. Keep this in mind when putting down roots for an extending amount of time.

Accessories

Traveling ChimpsWhen you travel with electronics, you need a ton of cables. It’s hard to use Google Maps with a dead phone, Make sure you have a charger. We used standard wall plug chargers in our hotel rooms, and USB/Cigarette lighter chargers for the car. Ours has two USB plugs that connect to a plastic charger which you plug into the cigarette lighter. We also used a 6’ auxiliary cord with a 1/8” plug to connect our phone to the cars audio system to listen to music, podcast and Google Maps.

Depending on where you plan to travel, you may need a travel adapter kit. Many countries power girds run on different voltage than the U.S. grid and the plug end vary greatly from country to country. Some adapters are even sold as an all in one unit, charging multiple devises at once with multiple plug adapters to cover most countries you find yourself exploring. They have built in surge protection and most charge via USB cables.

Sometimes clean cloths can be few and far between, making your vehicle, let’s say, not so fresh. The biggest culprit? Dirty underwear, who wants stinky underwear? That’s right, no one! That’s where antimicrobial underwear come to the rescue. There are a bunch of companies making these underwear these days, just do a quick Google search. These garments are made out of special material and a coating that is breathable, quick drying and odor reducing. They come in a bunch of different styles for men and women, boxers, briefs, thongs and full cut, to point out a few. Believe me, you’ll be comfortable and your family will thank you.

Traveling with kids? Then you’ll need some distractions! We allow our kids to bring tablets with them and we download shows, movies and educational apps on Wi-Fi at out hotel and many of the apps work offline. One non electronic game we have been playing in the Honda is, Travel Scavenger Hunt. Each player selects 7 cards and the first person to find all of their objects on their cards, wins the game. “I see a Post Office” or “a fire hydrant.” It makes the time fly by and occupies the little ones, and the not so little ones for a little while anyway.

Here’s the link to the corresponding podcast: Episode 4 – Travel Tools, Accessories & Games

Follow along on our adventure at Facebook http://www.facebook.com/travelingchimps Twitter https://twitter.com/TravelingChimps YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/user/travelingchimps and now on Pinterest at: https://www.pinterest.com/travelingchimps/

Share This:
Facebooktwitterpinterest

Family Vagabond Adventure, Homeless By Design – Chapter 3

Homeless by Design

Traveling ChimpsSo, you have made the decision to travel full time. You gave notice to the landlord, or sold your house, if you owned. The next step to whittling your things down to a manageable payload is to clean out and get rid of non-essential materials. We have become a Nation of hoarders, saving everything and filling our homes with knickknacks and chachkeese. “Capitalism and Marketing have us working jobs we hate, to buy shit we don’t need”, to paraphrase Tyler Durden in Fight Club, but it’s very, very true. Now is a great time to recognize this truth as you clean out and break the Capitalist cycle. You can’t take any of it with you and as much as Marketing doesn’t want you to know this, materials have no true merit on the person you are, stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. Plus it’s the Jones who are going to be wanting to keep up with you, once you start traveling full time!

So, what to do with that house of stuff you have collected? There are a number of things and some of them will help you earn additional funds to finance your travels. One man’s/woman’s junk is another man’s treasure. First start to organize all of your goods, by making piles of things you would like to sell, items you would like to donate, and items that you could never in a thousand years get rid of, which hopefully is not a household worth.

Where to sell all your stuff? The best place I have used is, Craigslist. It’s free to list items, it’s easy to use and there is no transaction fee. You simply list the items you want to sell in your cities location, write a nice description, post some pictures and wait for buyer responses, via email. A couple of things to remember, kind of like a yard sale, people on Craigslist are looking for deals. You will probably get pennies on the dollar for most items, but the important thing is, you’re getting money for things that would otherwise continue to sit around collecting dust. Remember this the first time you buy a great beer on the road, you bank rolled that beer, with Aunties old lamp.

Traveling Chimps

Sunset at Torry Pines, CA

A couple of notes on Craigslist. These tips can cut down on the amount of questions you get about your sale items, and you will get questions. If you are selling a piece of furniture, any buyer is going to want to know the measurements of the piece, add this to the item description. They’ll want to know if it will fit in their car, they’ll want to know if it will fit in the room they are trying to furnish and they’ll want to know if they need a second pair of hands to move it. If you have a particularly heavy piece, you may want to call that out to the buyer, or be prepared to help lift.

In most cases, during our Craigslist sell off, buyers came right to my house to pick up items. I had most of the items in my garage, to cut down on strangers needing to come into my living space and I will tell you that I sold hundreds of items and never felt uncomfortable or threatened by a buyer. A few buyers asked to meet at a neutral location, if it was an item I didn’t have multiple buyers interest in, I would ablige their request, but I would only walk items across the street to the gas station. Transporting items longer distances starts to dig into your profits. We’ve all heard stories about people murdering or robbing people through Craigslist, I’m not 100% sure they are real stories, many of them may be urban legends. You can’t live in fear of potential violence, if we all did that, no one would leave the house. Just be smart about it.

Never take a check, cash only! If someone hands you a check, by the time you cash it and it bounces, they’ll be long gone with Aunties old lamp and there will be no beer bought with that transaction.

Make sure you upload at least one picture. Posts with no picture see far less traffic. Plus you can cut down on the amount of people who come to look at an item and then don’t end up buying it. The picture may tip them off that the item is not what they are looking for before they tie up any of your time browsing.

Traveling Chimps

Torry Pines, CA

Another great way of selling your house of stuff, is with a good old fashion yard sale. See if your neighbors are interested too, neighborhood yard sales typically draw more buyers and you can share the cost of a newspaper ad, though a free Craigslist ad, is probably just as efficient. That’s all I used. Depending on where you live, there may still be some newspaper readers though and the price has got to be low these days.
I would leave my yard sale set up in the garage and periodically post a Moving Sale by appointment on Craigslist. I had some success with this tactic as well and increased the chances of selling off some additional items.

Inevitably there will come a day when you either have run out of time, or the Craigslist buyers have dried up. In my case I still had quite a bit of items left in my garage store, that I needed to get rid of. I accomplished the final clean out like this.

In the months leading up to our Vagabond adventure, I had started volunteering at our local homeless shelter, The Water Street Rescue Mission in Lancaster, PA. Inspired by a recent visit with a dear friend in San Diego, who introduced me to a few of her Street Neighbors, I began serving food at the shelter once a week.

We combed through all of our clothes and anything that had not been worn in the last year, went into a box for the Homeless Shelter. We ended up bring around a dozen boxes over three trips, or about ¾ of all of our clothes to the Mission. Not only did it clean out our material belongs, but it felt good knowing someone else would get some use out of items that would have otherwise collected dust.

The remaining materials from the garage sale were loaded into a rental truck and I took them to the local Goodwill donation center. Now I’m on the fence with this decision. I had all but ran out of time and needed to get the stuff out of the garage. I think that if I had more time to research this, I may have found a better organization to give the remaining items to, but I ran out of time. I trucked the stuff to Goodwill. A young guy, working for Goodwill, helped me unload the items into the donation center, where they would be set on the shelves and sold, at a deep discount, to folks who can’t afford to buy items new, so not a terrible way to clean out the rest of the garage.

Traveling Chimps

Historic Route 66 in Barstow, CA

Any items that you just couldn’t get yourself to dispose of will either need to come with you, depending on your travel story, you may be able to bring some things, for instance RV’ers would probably have some room, especially if the goods are usable in the living quarters. If you don’t have this option, you will need to store your stuff with friends and family or rent a storage container.

A point on storage containers. Make sure you really can’t live without these things. Depending on how long your adventure last, you could end up paying thousands of dollars to store items that on your return are no longer needed, wanted, or may be out of style, or technologically inferior. The point is, the rent on the storage container digs into your monthly expenses, and could influence your sleeping arrangements on your adventure, depending on your budget.

Address & Mail Service, best states (TX, SD)
Depending on your travel planes you may need to find a permanent address. If you are planning to stay in each destination city for longer periods of time and you plan on traveling directly to each city, with little time between having an address, you may be able to pull off using your address in each city. However, if you plan on being slightly more mobile, you may benefit from having a permanent address in the U.S. We spent quite of bit of time traveling between house sits on our adventure, with very few locations lasting more than 3 days, mostly 1 day.

State-Homeschooling-Laws-MapThere are a number of things to ponder here when picking a home state like, homeschool laws, taxes, and vehicle registration rules. There are a few states known for their advantages to full time travelers. During our research we found that two states stuck out to us, the great state of Texas and the state with a ton to do, South Dakota. Very similar advantages in both states. We ended up “moving” to Texas and here’s why.
One of the biggest concerns for us is homeschooling laws and standardized testing. In the homeschooling/unschooling community, states are ranked in a red, yellow, green fashion, see the picture. As I’m certain you can imagine, the red states have more stringent requirements and the green states are much more relaxed, with yellow falling somewhere in between. Texas is a great big green state. There are no annual standard testing requirements and they give parent autonomy over curriculum, making them a perfect state for our adventures. The last thing I want to do, is have to fly back to TX every year to subject my kids to standardized tests.

Next, taxes! Texas has no income tax. Kind of a no brainer why this is an advantage. Depending on your occupations and living situation, you may still need to file a federal tax return each year, but you’ll never file a Texas return. Now take all this money you’re saving and keep on seeing the world with it!

Traveling Chimps

Del Mar Dog Beach, California

Vehicle registration, if you have a car, truck, motorcycle or RV. Texas will allow you to register your vehicle, and will mail you the license plates and registration. Now they do have an annual emissions test, but you don’t need to get that done until you drive your car into the state of TX, and at that you get 10 days to get it performed. They will also allow you to renew your registration via the internet or mail, a huge plus. You don’t want to have to reroute your travels to TX every year, or so, to deal with vehicle registration.

Now that you have a registered vehicle, you can use the registration to get a driver’s license or photo ID. Now in TX, you’ll need to actually go to TX to get the license, though they will allow you to renew the license once without returning to the state for a new photo. Depending on when you are reading this book, double check these rules, they do change from time to time. We were fortunate in that TX was on our route around America, so once we entered El Paso, TX we stopped at the DMV and then took the car to an inspection center to get the emissions test and now were full-fledged Texans.

So how do you “move” to Texas, South Dakota, or any other state you find advantageous? You join an RV Organization, like Escapees. Escapees has locations in both TX and SD. They provide, through their properties, permanent street address for their members, with an annual mail forwarding service agreement and you’ll need to keep an open balance to pay the cost of mailing your mail to you, anywhere in the world. They have a verity of packages, the basic package, which we use, allows us to call during business hours and have our mail forwarded to us. The upgraded packages include mail scanning to your email and the ability to ask the customer service rep to check your mail box to look for specific pieces of mail, allowing you to know if an article you are looking for is there before paying the postage to have it mailed to you.

Planning Your Adventure

Traveling Chimps

Imperial Beach San Diego, CA

We live in unique times. Gone are the days of road atlas, star navigation, and a complete need for travel agent to book our adventures. Now we have Google Maps, Global Positioning Systems and online travel booking sites, like Priceline, Travelocity, and Expedia. A simple Google search and we can find endless articles about places to visit, things to do when you get there, and the best restaurant, bars and hotels in the area, usually with a top 10 list. I know because I’ve written a few top 10 lists myself.

Now that you have all this cash from selling off your material life, it’s time to map out your adventure. I’m sure by now you have a pretty good idea of where you want to start. With every sale on Craigslist you must have been pondering the great unknown and feeling the excitement for adventure grow inside of you. For my family it was the Great American Road Trip. I had taken many RV trips around the Southwest as a kid and I wanted my children to experience its beauty and culture. My wife, who grew up in Boston, had never been past the Mississippi River and really had only ever been to Orlando, FL, Chicago, IL and the states that make up the Northeast.

We had booked our first housesit in Happy Camp, CA, a three week house sit in Northern California, also known as sasquatch country. More on finding housesits later in the book. We left Lititz, PA on a clear cold spring morning, two weeks ahead of our housesit with a rough outline of our route to the Pacific Northwest and healthy dose of excitement and a sense of opportunity. Plus we felt pretty cool for actually putting into motion this epic adventure.

Traveling Chimps

Courtyard of a cheap motel we booked on Priceline near the Mexican boarder

We used a number of tools on our trip, both during and prior. We set a few rules, we would drive no more than 5 hours per day, it’s tough keeping kids from whining on a drive over 5 hour. Actually it’s hard keeping kids from whining on any length trip. Our kids used iPads to occupy themselves. We would load apps for education, and download movies and shows while on a hotel internet connection. We did use a Wi-Fi hot spot, mostly because I needed it to work, but we allowed the kids to use it some too. One side note on Wi-Fi, I was shocked at how good the coverage was across the US. Even in the middle of nowhere Montana, in most spots, the thing worked. We used a company that no longer exists, that uses the Verizon network at a fraction of Verizon’s cost. I guess that’s why they’re no longer in business?

We mapped out a route from Lititz, PA to Portland, OR using My Scenic Drives, a great online tool that allows you to set rules, set points of interest and create driving itineraries. We followed that route, to some degree, but didn’t get too hung up on each day’s destination. Most night we would use the Priceline app to find low cost stays and that would dictate each night’s actual destination. If you use the Express Deals section, you can find deeper discount. The catch is, you book your hotel stay without knowing the brand of property you will be staying at. What we found though, is if you read through the descriptions on the regular Priceline properties available in an area and then look at the descriptions of the properties in the Express Deal section, you can usually figure out the brand of property ahead of booking it. We were almost always right.

Another nice feature of the Priceline app is filter setting. We travel with our 7 year old Bulldog, Brutus. The Priceline app allows you to easily find pet friendly hotels. Make sure that you actually check the hotel website out for any pet fees, etc. Many hotel, like Marriott, say that they are pet friendly, but when you check in they will charge you $75 – $125 per night for your furry friend. Not really pet friendly in my book. Some brands charge nothing for pets, some as little as $10 per night, but I would say most are around $25. As you use the brands, you’ll quickly learn all the ins and outs of pet policies.
We also used roadtripper.com, a website that can be used to map out your trip and find lodging, attractions and weird stuff along the way. We used it mostly to find weird stuff, like the poop statue in Chicago, IL. Ever been to an outhouse that Abe Lincoln may, or may not have used? Ever found the MIR Space Station in a tourist town in Wisconsin Dells? Ever find a field full of elk in Illinois? If you’d like to, then this is your site. It also has a blog with articles about destinations, to spark your wanderlust and a mobile app you can use in your vehicle.

Here’s the link to the corresponding podcast: Episode 3 – Homeless By Design

Follow along on our adventure at Facebook http://www.facebook.com/travelingchimps Twitter https://twitter.com/TravelingChimps YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/user/travelingchimps and now on Pinterest at: https://www.pinterest.com/travelingchimps/

Share This:
Facebooktwitterpinterest

Family Vagabond Adventure, Learn the Art of Full Time Travel – Chapter 2

Budget

Learn the Art of Full Time Travel

Red Wood Forest – California

Budgets are a personal thing. Some travelers may be independently rich, retired on Social Security, or completely broke with just a backpack full of everything they own. The good thing is there is a way to travel and see the world on limited budgets and certainly with unlimited budgets. I can’t say that I ever really had a chance to travel at the luxury level, so I probably won’t speak too much about it, however I have had the fortune of being a business traveler for many years. I learned a lot about travel and travel rewards programs that I will share in the coming chapters of this book.

I would classify my family’s road trip around the U.S. as a moderate travel budget. We spent the bulk of our nights living for free as housesitters, and nights between housesits we either stayed with friends or stayed in cheap motels, usually around $40 per night on average. We stayed for as little as $10 a night at a casino in Nevada and as much as $100 in the oil rich section of Texas, between El Paso and Dallas. All the contracted oil field workers have driven up the price of lodging in this neck of the U.S. Though I will say, that was the only place we couldn’t find a place for under $60 in 38 states.
We would keep our meals low budget by hitting grocery stores/farmers markets and keeping a box of food under my wife’s feet. If you’re going to travel with kids, you’ve got to have a bunch of food on hand or things can get real grumpy, real quick.

Most Americans have very little savings and live paycheck to paycheck, making traditional travel and vacations tough to fund, without going further into debt. The focus of this book isn’t to travel like you are on vacation, spending money like it’s going out of style and trying to get your money’s worth in a short amount of time, but rather to travel moderately, smartly and in which a way that can be sustained for weeks, months and years. The shoe string and moderate budgets are probably the most common budgets, and this includes retired folks on a fixed income. I’m focusing on this demographic because that’s what I know. Luxury Travel I don’t really know, other than some extravagant business travel at times and I’m sure there are plenty of blogs and books out there with folks that really know this market, I’m not one of them.

Learn the Art of Full Time Travel

Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco, CA

First of all when making the decision to jump into full time travel, don’t do a Pros/Cons list. It’s easy to make these list and easy to find a million excuses not to jump in. Focus on these lists, and you will never leave the house. Plus you’ll find out pretty quickly that all of the things you thought you know will go out the window in the first week or so. Including your preplanned routes, etc. More on that to come.

Now for the “real” first thing you should do, write out your current monthly expenses. Don’t be scared by your list of expenses, the next exercise will show you the true potential of traveling full time. Now subtract out all of the expenses you will no longer need to pay once you eliminate the rent or mortgage, the cost of rent or mortgage, utilities (Water, Gas Electric, and Waste), land line, internet service, cable television. My savings was around $2,000 per month. My worst case scenario would be to not have a house sit for a month. In this case I would need a cheap motel each night for a month, meaning I would need ~$1,500. Still $500 less than my rented townhouse. Not bad and should probably ease your fears a little, right?

Any remaining items on your list you will need to cover each month, using savings, retirement, social security and continued income. This could include, cell phone, Wi-Fi hot spot, health insurance, life insurance, car/RV payment, auto insurance, school loans, credit card payments, fuel and food. You may not have all of these, just listing out the possibilities. You may find substantial savings in some of these categories depending on where you plan to travel. For instance buying local health insurance in most counties is much less than U.S. health insurance. Also, you may be able to use some of the money you are saving each month to pay down student loans and credit card debt. Hopefully many of you don’t have this debt, but chances are most of us do, I know I do.

Learn the Art of Full Time Travel

Sea Lions on the Pacific Coast Highway – California

You now have a monthly budget to follow so you’ll now need a way to manage it. I actually kept my local PA bank, but make sure your bank offers online banking. I can’t imagine that there are any banks these days that don’t offer online banking, but make sure. It’s tough depositing a check in PA from Guatemala! Use bankrate.com to compare banks, it’s also a great way to find auto loans and credit cards.

If you’re planning to travel internationally, make sure you understand your banks fee structure on international transactions. Your bank may charge you per transaction on any purchase made outside the country. It may be a small fee, but over time it can add up to big bucks. For U.S. readers, and I realize that not all of you are, you may want to consider a Charles Schwab account, which refunds any international transaction fees to you, saving a lot of money over time. For readers from other countries, do a little digging, I’m sure there must be a similar offering in your home country.

We utilize an app called Mint, which is available on Android and iPhone, and tracks all of your bank and credit card accounts in one spot. You can set up budgets by category, making it easier for you to track how you are doing against your new budget. Your banking transactions load into the app and are auto categorized, though you have the ability to re-categorize any transaction as you see fit. More on other travel hack tools and apps to follow.

I hope that you have found through this budget exercise that you really do have options and I hope that you have found some savings that have inspired you to make the plunge into full time travel and homelessness by design. I can’t speak for all of you, since we all have different cost of livings, debt levels and geographic variation, but we found that eliminating a good chunk of our monthly expenses and hitting the road full time was doable, exhilarating and over all a cost savings.

Frequent Traveler Programs, stick to brands (flight, car, lodging)

Learn the Art of Full Time Travel

Pacific Coast Highway between San Fran and LA

What I learned from my business travel days, is that brand loyalty has its benefits, especially when you’re not footing the bill. I would consistently use the airline, American Airlines, the same hotel brand, Marriott and the same rental car company, Hertz. However; this loyalty was based on my company paying the bills, nowadays, you will find me on Frontier Airline, Choice Brand Hotels and Dollar Car Rental or using sites like skiplagged.com, that allows you to book flights using your connecting flight as your final destination, it’s a little bite risky if the weather is bad, you could end up getting diverted to your booked final destination via another connecting location and you probably don’t want to check a bag, unless you can talk the ticketing agent into checking your bag to your connecting location.

The benefit of brand loyalty is the rewards programs, and as you escalate a brands program, usually in a Silver, Gold, Platinum format, you unlock additional benefits and savings as well as the rate at which you collect points. For instance at Marriott, anyone above the Gold level receives free internet service in their room, as well as access to the Concierge Club, where you can typically get free breakfast and in some cases free dinner. The benefit of loyalty with the airline is, the ability to check bags for free, board the plane ahead of the crowds, and access exit row seats during online check in. Also, free upgrades to first class, become more frequent as you work your way up through the program.

An additional note about Frequent Travel Programs, you may be offered free magazine subscriptions for unused points, very common with Delta Airlines program and some programs, like Marriott, may send you a catalog of goods that can be purchased with your points. They offer televisions, spa packages and golf clubs to name a few examples. Not a terrible use of points in some cases. Can’t say I ever bought anything from the catalog, but I was able to book a very nice room, for a week, at the Marriott Vacation Club at the Marriott World Hotel in Orlando, FL just outside the gate of Disney, saving my family a ton of cash. The price you pay for spending most weeks away from my family, not so sure that’s the best trade off?

Make the most of your purchases, credit cards

Learn the Art of Full Time Travel

Swiss Family Robinson – Disneyland – California

Most brand loyalty programs, like the Marriott and American Airlines rewards programs, have their own credit cards, which allows you to earn more reward points with your daily purchases, that can be traded for free hotel stays or airline tickets. Many of the business travelers I knew, would pay for meals outside of the hotel with their Rewards Credit Card and then charge meals to their room when eating inside the hotel. Nice little trick to rack up additional points on your meal purchases. A similar approach can be used with Airline Reward Credit Cards. Use these cards for daily purchases and earn frequent flyer miles that can be traded in for free flights. Sometimes using the Airline Rewards Card to purchase flights will come with the benefit of lower cost or additional point generation to be used on future frequent flier trip bookings.

There are folks that spend a tremendous amount of time learning the ins and outs of credit card and points programs to maximize their benefits and in many cases travel for free most of the year. The forums at Nomadic Matt and Zero to Travel Podcast have sections dedicated to this topic. Rolling Stone recently did a piece on a gentleman, who has been manipulating the airline industry points system since the age of 16 years old. He now spends most of his time traveling around the globe from airport to airport, though it kind of sounds like he rarely leaves the airports. I recently read a similar story about a girl who lives on a train, traversing the US constantly. People have creative ways to put a roof over their heads. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Find a way that works for you and ride it till the wheels fall off.

Here’s the link to the corresponding podcast: Episode 2 – Learn the Art of Full Time Travel

Follow along on our adventure at Facebook http://www.facebook.com/travelingchimps Twitter https://twitter.com/TravelingChimps YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/user/travelingchimps and now on Pinterest at: https://www.pinterest.com/travelingchimps/

Share This:
Facebooktwitterpinterest

Family Vagabond Adventure, Learn the Art of Full Time Travel – Chapter 1

Family Vagabond Adventur

Traveling Chimps

Navajo Bridge, Arizona

I opened the wooden door and stepped into the darkness. This wasn’t your typical darkness, this was real, middle of nowhere, not a city for hundreds of miles darkness. I looked up at the desert sky and the Milky Way showed itself like I have never seen it before. I literally could see every star in the galaxy! The feeling you get when you can see the sky the way our ancestors had seen it and even navigated by it. The wide expanse. The infinite reality of the universe. We’re talking monkeys on a rock, flying at thousands of miles per hour around a nuclear explosion and how did I get here? Well that started months before I got to this hipster motel in the middle of the Arizona desert.

It started like most things in the modern world, with a Google search, creative ways to save money. Somewhere on the pages of top 10 lists my wife found Vagabonding. “Vagabonding?” I said. “Yeah, actually I had written this down years ago as a possible business idea.” She said enthusiastically. “So, how does that work?” I questioned. She buried her head back in the Google pages. Really what we found is there are many ways of going about vagabonding, you could couch surf, RV, housesit, train ride, backpack, hike, run or fly around the country or around the world.
20140519_131347

We chose to start our adventure by Housesitting around the United States in a Honda Insight, hybrid that gets ~ 44 miles to the gallon. We began the adventure in February of 2014, by selling off, or donating to homeless shelters, pretty much all of our possessions, not a bad way to put some cash in the old bank account! And for the first tip of the book, we used Craigslist to sell all of that stuff. In March of 2014 we traded in two aging vehicles for our Hybrid and packed that sucker to the brim with 4 family members, a bulldog and what remained of our personal items. Each of us got a duffle bag and a backpack, if you could fit it in those two items, you could bring it with you and we drove out of Lititz, PA on a cold spring day headed for our first housesit in Happy Camp, CA a 3,000 mile trek across America. This adventure and the rest of that road trip around the U.S. is documented on our vagabond family blog The Traveling Chimps, www.travelingchimps.com you’ll find blogs about places we visited, thoughts on vagabonding and links to all of our social media outlets. Check it out and please do not hesitate to send us questions, we love sharing our experiences and helping others in any way we can.

I have created this book to share the tricks, ideas and mistakes, and there were plenty, we made on the ultimate road trip around the U.S. so you can do it too, or some version of it.

Life Style Design

20140519_154207

North Rim – Grand Canyon

Why? Why would you want to travel the country, the continent or the world? Well, there are many answers to that question, but for us we wanted to retire now, why wait till you’re old and can’t do half the stuff you want to? Let me tell you a story, we drove from Barstow, CA, through Las Vegas to the Grand Cannon in Arizona. We got to the North gate after two days in the car, I grabbed a beer from the lodge and we walked out onto the deck to one of the most amazing views in the world. I drank my beer and started taking pictures of the Grand Canyon and all its glory. As the buzz from my surroundings and probably the beer kicked in, I struck up a conversation with an older man, from Pittsburg, PA, who sat in an Adirondack chair on the deck of the lodge, hooked up to an oxygen tank. He asked me if I thought he would have trouble walking down the hiking trail to the mouth of the canyon to get a bird’s eye view. I told him I would scout it out for him. What I found on my short hike was a dirt path with a lot of roots, rocks and steep inclines, probably not the best place to walk for an older man hooked up to oxygen. I reported back to the man with my scouting report. He seemed disappointed and he said he had waited his whole life to come to the Grand Canyon and now he couldn’t enjoy it to the fullest. I felt for him, I really did. It hit home with us. You can’t wait to retire to see the world! Yes, you can, but many people won’t have the health or the mobility to get the most out of the experience. I pondered this thought later that night as I gazed at the Milky Way from my hipster motel in the middle of nowhere Arizona.

Types of Travelers

DSC06270

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Hominids have traveled for millions of years. I guess you could say that travel is responsible for the Out of Africa theory? Man originated in Africa and moved out to populate the rest of the Earth. There is no right or wrong way to go about traveling, what works for you, you should do, just make sure you do it, it’s good for your soul. Here are the types of travelers you will encounter on the road, you can choose to emulate these or create your own hybrid.

The Amazing Race – These are travelers, who like the hit television show, see how many countries they can hit and how fast? It’s certainly cool to tell people how many countries you have visited and actually I get impressed sometimes by the amount of countries folks are able to rack up. My only issue with this approach, is that you don’t have time to immerse yourself in the culture and really dive into what countries and their cities and towns have to offer, but if your time is limited and you want to get the most bang for your buck, then this is your travel type.

The Weekend Warrior – These travelers are in abundance and typically stay local using road trips to see surrounding areas near where they live. Though I know some folks who take multiple 3 day weekends during the year and fly to destinations for the weekend only. Again probably not the best way to immerse yourself in culture, but you can certainly get a feel for a place, especially with a good local tour guide or friend. Plus it sounds cool to come into work on Monday and tell everyone you spent the weekend in Costa Rica.

The Vacationer – The biggest of the travel types. Most 1st world countries offer some sort of vacation or paid time off benefit to attract and retain employees. At a minimum full time employees will get a week to two weeks of vacation time per year, with many people traveling to a destination for the whole week, like Disney or a Beach within driving distance of their home.

DSC06328

Badlands, South Dakota

The Slow Traveler – The type of traveler that this book is really focused on. A slow traveler spends quality time in each destination, weeks, months or even years. Immerses themselves in the local cultures and really gets an understanding of what drives the people and may even pick up on the language. In my opinion, slow traveling is the best form of travel, but it takes some planning, commitment and a nomad sense of being. It also requires a location independent job or a good chunk of savings. More on all of this in the pages to come.

The Hub and Spoke – What I have found, on my time here on this great planet, is that the cost of living in the 1st world is very expensive and monthly expenses make it difficult to find the funds to travel on a regular basis or even once per year on your paid time off. A growing trend is to move to developing country, where rent is extremely low and use this new location as your launch point or hub, like the wheel of a bicycle, to travel to other locations. Living in your hub 1-6 months per year, you’ll have a place to bring all your souvenirs back to and can keep your stuff safe, in many cases for less than a storage container.

Full Timers – Usually full timers are retired folks who spend all of their time traveling in an RV from camp ground to camp ground, but really there is no age restriction. Many of them employ a Hub and Spoke approach and will spend 1-6 months at one camp ground, usually working at the camp ground for a free stay or a low hourly wage and then traveling to other locations from their hub. There are large communities and organizations that support full timers, with legislation, health care and mail services, like Escapees, which we will talk more about later in the book.

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Expats – An expat is anyone who moves from their home country to live full time in another country. In many cases expats move to a new country for an employment opportunity. For instance, my father was an expat. He was born and raised in Altoona Pennsylvania and moved around the U.S. as he made his way up the corporate ladder. In 1993 he took a position with a U.S. based cable company in Prague, Czech Republic and worked there for 12 years before retiring. After 2 years of retirement he re-entered the cable industry with a 2 year position in Zagreb, Croatia. His business and personal life took him on trips throughout Europe and there are probably very few places he didn’t get to experience.

Snow Birds – Typically retired folks who spend the warmer months in their home town and the winter months in a warmer location. The stereotype would be retired people going to Florida for the winter, but Snow Birds could go anywhere, not just Florida. This approach is similar to the Hub and Spoke method, but focuses on finding a comfortable temperature year round.

20140416_151126

Happy Camp, California

Like I stated earlier, there really is no right or wrong way to travel. All of these travel types are travelers, no matter what one type of traveler may say about another type. You’ll find, like in any community, some types will act like their travel type is the dominant and if you’re not traveling their way, you’re not doing it right, or you’re not hardcore enough. It’s silly, we’re all travelers. We’re all trying to get out there and experience this great world and the great people and cultures that make it up. Everyone has their preferred methods, different budgets and goals. There is no right or wrong way to travel, just travel!

 

Safety

One of the biggest mental barriers or resistance to traveling the world is safety. I hear it all the time, “you really want to go there? It’s dangerous there, someone will kidnap you or you’ll get blown up.” Yes, things do happen all over the world every day, from hostage situations to shootings and terrorists activities, but really the world has never been a safer place to live. Now I’m not suggesting that you travel to war zones, like Afghanistan and Iraq, though I bet you could find a great deal on an apartment, if you’re willing to take the chance. Don’t think I would want to try that one out with my family in tow though.

Last year I asked our Twitter followers if they would drive from the U.S. to Costa Rica or anywhere in Central America. The response was mixed. Half the folks thought I was crazy and it seemed that the biggest concern was southern Mexico, where drug cartels rule and many people, including a guy who quit his banking job in Westchester, NY and was riding his motorcycle to South America, when he was reported missing. They later found that man dead, near his motorcycle in a remote town in Mexico. The other half shared stories and websites with me of folks that had done just that, drove from the U.S. to Central America.

What I do know, is that you should visit the places of your dreams; you really do only live once. Get out there and see it, touch it, smell it. Safety is a relative thing. For instance we have been spending time in Washington, DC, so far this year there have been 102 homicides and the year is only half over. Now imagine you are from Switzerland, where crime and homicides are very low, and you’re thinking of visiting DC on your next travel adventure. Your friends in Switzerland may be giving you the same line I hear all the time, “You want to go there? You’ll get shot and killed.” The point is, your home country may be just as, or even more dangerous than, the places you want to visit. Many countries still hold stigma from past leaders, or events that we are now many years removed from, but the stereotypes or perception is that these events just happened and these places are still dangerous, do your homework.

Fear is good. Be mindful of your surroundings, There are people who will prey on travelers and not all of them will be violent, in fact most will not be. From the taxi driver over charging you from the airport to your hostel, or the landlord over charging for your apartment because you are clearly from another country. More to come on overcoming these challenges later in the book.

Theft is probably the biggest concern you should have. Watch your bags and especially watch your wallet and backpacks. Keep photo copies of your passport, insurance documents, driver license, etc. separate from the originals, just in case. Watch out for pick pockets! Many work in teams, one will distract you by trying to sell you something, while his/her teammate grabs your belongings from behind you. They are super good at these tactics and you probably won’t even feel them pick pocketing you. It won’t be till later when you reach for your wallet to pay for a beer, when you notice you’ve been had.

Use the U.S. Department of State’s website to find travel restrictions and warnings for U.S. travelers oversees. You can find these listings at: U.S. Department of State Travel Alerts & Warnings. I’m sure other countries have similar websites for their citizens as well. Remember though that these are just warnings, it doesn’t mean anything is going to happen to you.

Here is the link to the corresponding podcast: Episode 1- Learn the Art of Full Time Travel

Follow along on our adventure at Facebook http://www.facebook.com/travelingchimps Twitter https://twitter.com/TravelingChimps and YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/user/travelingchimps



Share This:
Facebooktwitterpinterest