Homeless by Design
So, 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.
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.
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.
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.
There 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!
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
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.
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/