October 2019 Cost of Being a Nomad

While we were at Greg’s parents’ house visiting and getting Ballena Blanca ready for travel we had a few chances to visit with many of Greg’s family. One such chance was at Greg’s Uncle Joe’s 80th birthday party featuring a bluegrass band, a hayride, games, a barbecue buffet, a pie bar, and best of all goats!

October found us back on the road again – well sort of.

After spending a few days at Greg’s folks’ house outside of Charlotte in Denver, NC transforming Ballena Blanca into a traveling van from a painting van, the rest of the month was suppose to spent visiting friends and family in North and South Carolina in between seeing the sights as we drove up the east coast to Maryland. Once in Maryland we would hang a left and head inland to Pennsylvania to visit my Aunt and her family. From there the plan was to cross the country to the southwest and warmer weather. But that’s not exactly how things worked out.

Soon after we left Atlanta Ballena Blanca developed a rattle. At first, it seemed just like occasional rough patches in the road but then the rattle persisted even on freshly paved roads. On a stop to visit some friends in Greenville, NC we took BB to the shop. We were told we needed a new torque converter, that it would be a 3 day wait for the part, 3 days for the install, and cost a heaping pile of money. We weren’t far from Greg’s parents’ house in North Carolina where we could stay without putting anyone out and unload the contents of the van for a stint in the shop so we decided to make a detour on our trip. Almost 2 weeks into our trip we were back where we started.

In Denver, we got another cost estimate (a tad bit cheaper) and another estimated wait (a good bit longer at two weeks). The garage told us we were good to keep traveling until the part came in. So we headed out again to finish our journey up the east coast skipping the rest of our North Carolina plans, picking up our trail in Virginia, before turning around again and heading back to North Carolina for Ballena Blanca’s repairs after a nice visit with family and friends in Pennsylvania.

A few notes before we get to October’s total:

  • All expenses are in US dollars.
  • We drive a 2015 Ford Transit Cargo Van up-fitted for living in.
  • We are vegetarians and we cook – eating little packed or prepared food.

Total Money Spent

Our total expenses for October were:

October: $2,455.08 (this number doesn’t include the torque converter repair – that’s coming next month.)

And here is the break down of everything in spreadsheet form:

Ok – it was a bit of a spendy month. Here is the part where I talk about how all this spending happened.

Van Living Expenses

These are all expenses relating to the van itself, living in the van, and traveling in the van.

The total of all Van Living Expenses for October are:


Here is a breakdown of some specific van expenses:

– Van Upgrades

These expenses are for things that improve the van. I am constantly thinking of ways to make the van more comfortable and more efficient.


While we were at Greg’s parents’ house (the first time) we did a little maintenance on the van. We refinished the floors and countertops, we waxed the van, Armor-Alled the van, etc. Small expenses. After we got on the road we noticed that our house batteries (the batteries 6-volt golf cart batteries that power our lights and fridge) weren’t keeping a charge. Time to replace. Not so small of an expense – $343.18.

Uncle Joe at 80 years old!

– Gas


In October we drove from Atlanta to Denver, NC to Greenville, SC to Columbia, SC to Wilmington, NC, back and forth along the coast between Emerald Isle and Surf City, NC to Greenville, NC to Denver, NC to Charleston, SC back to Denver, to Suffolk, Va to Assateague National Park in Maryland, and to Cambridge, MD. Google Maps says this all took 2209 miles.

All the little red dots are the places Google Maps says we traveled to in October.

– Insurance


Auto insurance went up !!!!???

From Greg’s folks’ house in North Carolina, we headed to Greenville, SC where we had a great evening eating, drinking, and catching up with Greg’s son, James, daughter-in-law, Taylor, and grand-Schnauzer, Gilly.

– Camping


I hate paying for camping but when you have the chance to camp with wild horses – well that’s different, even if it is $30 a night!

Here are our camping/sleeping stats for October:

19 – nights sleeping inside in a house
4 – nights sleeping in the van in someone’s driveway
2 – nights camping in a National Forest
3 – nights boondocking at a Walmart
1 – night parked at a visitor center
2 – nights paid National Park Campground

The Greenville Gang. Here are just a few of the peeps we saw when we were in Greenville. People often ask where our home base is. Of course, we don’t really have one. But if you consider home base where you have lots of friends and family, Cabbagetown in Atlanta is the most obvious answer but so is Greenville, SC. I lived in Greenville for 15 years and Greg for 5. We made many amazing friendships there and some best friends we come “home” to every year.

– Van Utilities

Here we include expenses for things like water, propane for our stove and heater, and expenses for maintaining and using our composting toilet.


10 gallons of filtered water.

From Greenville, we traveled to Columbia, SC where we stopped to visit an old buddy of Greg’s, Tracy, his wife Angie and their two kittens Mollie and Maggie. If Tracy had gotten a koozie stuck on his head I might have taken a picture of him too – but alas we just have pictures of adorable kittens!

– Maintenance and Misc.


Oil change, tire rotation, and a new battery for Greg’s key fob.

Our first stop after Columbia was just outside of Wilmington to visit with Greg’s Aunt Judy.

Groceries and Booze

This is food and alcohol we buy a grocery or liquor store as opposed to in a restaurant.

Food: $184.37
Booze: $89.18

Food went down considerably since last month – almost $100! I think this discrepancy is due to the food hoarding I was doing in Atlanta. Driving in the city is a nightmare so when I went to a store I’d stocked up so I wouldn’t have to go so often. Or perhaps food is cheaper outside of the big city. Or maybe it is just that I’m trying to lose all the party weight from the summer and have started intermittent fasting (skipping breakfast).

Our free campsite in the Croatan National Forest. This was our home base for a few days while we explored this part of coastal North Carolina.


This category is for eating and drinking out, live music, museums, and attractions.

Here is the total for everything in the Entertainment category:


This includes a little eating out, $127.96, a few musician tips and a red box movie, $7.87, and a donation to the Patchworks museum in Cabbagetown and entry to a turtle sanctuary in North Carolina (tell you all about that in another post), $50.62.

Mary builds a bonfire in her backyard in Greenville, NC. We spent a weekend in the van parked in Mary and Preston’s backyard, friends who we met on the road two years ago. This was our 6th state meetup with Mary (and 5th with Preston – Mary came to see us on the boat once while she was visiting her daughter in Florida)! In addition to Mary and Preston, while we were in Greenville met up with an old high school friend of Greg’s, Scott. Unfortunately, our visit ended rather abruptly when we decided to take Ballena Blanca back to Charlotte for repairs.


This category is for anything related to our health, dental work, medical issues, and just maintenance/medicine cabinet stuff.


Just medicine cabinet stuff.

Our van troubles and return to Charlotte just happened to coincide with Greg’s brother, Ken’s visit to his folks.


These are the same kind of household expenses that you might have even if you didn’t live in a van or on a boat. Like toilet paper, clothes, personal items, laundry, and phone/data plan.

Here is the total for everything in the Personal/Household category:


Did I mention it was a spendy month? Besides van stuff, this is where a good bit of spending happened. And here are a few of the big-ticket items:

Big expense #1. New tablet $235.94. The battery in our old tablet was dying. It was 4 or 5 years old. I suppose we could have looked into replacing the battery but sometime during the summer, I discovered that my phone plan with Google Fi offered a free wifi only sim card which I ordered right away. Any data used on this sim would come out of my data pool which I upped to unlimited with 22 gigs of fast data for $50 (phone and text are an additional $20). Our phone is our only connection to the internet when we travel and although we can tether other devices to it – it isn’t convenient. That idea of having a tablet with its own connection to the world wide web was very appealing! Read on if you’re interested in my solution.

I had to find an affordable tablet that took a sim card (not easy) and that was unlocked (really not easy). All the unlocked tablets I found on Amazon were non-US tablets with no warranty. I didn’t want to sink money into a device without a guarantee that it would work. I found an AT&T tablet at a reasonable price at Best Buy. But Best Buy said there would be a restocking fee if I returned it. The AT&T website said that you didn’t have to have an account with them to have the tablet unlocked. I didn’t trust this so I went to an AT&T store and asked. I was assured it was easy to get it unlocked but to be sure that Best Buy didn’t try and activate the tablet at the store (then I’d have to wait to get it unlocked). Once I bought the tablet I went to the website and started the unlocking process. The website informed me that it could take up to 24 hours to be approved – but after only a mere hour later I received an email with the unlocking code. We are now dually connected to the internet on the road!

Big expense #2. New camera $408.73. Obviously I love taking pictures and I have a nice camera but it’s not a really good camera. I spend a lot of time taking so-so pictures and processing them so they look good. Less work on photos makes keeping up with the blog easier and since we are currently still behind about 6 months – I need the help.

Negative expense – Last month when we got my new phone we sent our old phone in and in October I received a $26 rebate! Not much compared to how much we spent on the phone but I’ll take it and now I don’t have another useless electronic device sitting in a box in Greg’s parents’ attic.

After our van trouble brought us back to Charlotte we had a second chance to visit Greg’s daughter, Jessica, and Grandson, Gabriel, in Charleston, SC. We missed them on our earlier trip through the state due to a scheduling conflict (another set of Grandparents had already claimed the weekend we wanted to visit). This time we borrowed Greg’s parents’ car and zipped down to Charleston for the afternoon before heading back north. It may have been a short visit but trust me Gogo (me) and Goyo (Greg) were thoroughly worn out when it was time to go.


This category if for expenses outside of usual van travel expenses like the extra costs of traveling to another country, plane tickets, tolls, public transportation expenses, and parking.

October: $14.00

Toll to use the Chesapeake Tunnel Bridge from Virginia to Maryland.

Crossing the Cheasapeake Bay on the Bay Bridge Tunnel from Virginia to the Maryland peninsula. See where the road seems to disappear in the distance on the right side of the photo – that’s where the bridge becomes a tunnel and goes underground. This gives boats more opportunities to cross into the bay – either over or under the bridge/tunnel.

No Manches

We picked up this phrase while we were in Mexico and started to use it when our computer repairs came in about $1300. No Mances translates to something like “Holy Sh*t!” or “OMG!”

This category is for unexpected or unexplained expenses.


We have decided to put the van issue in the No Manches category. This was the cost of the estimate we received in Greenville, SC. This number will get much larger next month.

To see all of our expense reports, click here.

If you are interested in reading other expense reports from people living on the road, check out these links:

Far Out Ride
Roaming About
Just Call Us Nomads

*All pics are click to enlarge.

So what do you think? Do you track your expenses? How does this compare to your sticks and bricks expenses or your traveling expenses? Are our expenses less or more than you would have expected?

2 thoughts on “October 2019 Cost of Being a Nomad

  1. Despite all the van issues and the driving (over 2,000 miles, OMG!), it looks like you had a lot of good times with family and friends. So nice to have two “home bases” and enjoy the social times.

    I’m glad we’re not the only one with high van expenses. Hopefully, we are all done for a while. At least until next year! And, you guys should be all set with electronics as well now. 🙂

    Enjoy your travels and warmer weather soon!

    1. We have had a good time but I hate the stops and starts. Next month we will reveal the final outcome of our van problem (it wasn’t pretty).

      I hope your van worries are over for a while too and you are staying cozy warm in your van during this cold weather.

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