May 2020 Cost of Being a Nomad

Our new National Park pass!

We are National Park Citizens again! OK, really we just got a new $80 park pass but in getting it I felt somehow relieved and whole once more. We had been without a pass for nearly 4 weeks. And I know you must be thinking, “But weren’t all the National Parks closed down due to the virus?” And the answer is yes – which is part of what made it so hard to get a pass.

National Park passes are good for more than National Parks. They also allow us free or discounted access at other Federal recreation sites such as hiking trails in National Forest (which often cost money these days). And since our pass was expired when we were in Sedona, we ponied up $15 for a week’s trail pass. (BTW – we probably could have gotten around paying – many of the parking lots at the trailheads didn’t have pass machines but the value we were getting out of the forest with two weeks of camping and all the trails was worth it to throw the forest a little extra support.)

So it was a big relief when we got our new park pass at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. And now that parks are opening back up after we subtract the $35 entrance fee for Bryce, we only need to hit a couple of more National Parks (or three more National Forest hiking trails) to break even.

But you didn’t come here to read about me going on and on about my park pass. You want to know how much money we spent last month!

Campsite at Prescott Basin in the Prescott National Forest.

Notes about us, some of our expenses, and our rig:

  • All expenses are in US dollars.
  • We drive a 2015 Ford Transit Cargo Van that we upfitted ourselves to live in. Currently, the van gets about 17 miles to the gallon.
  • Our van is registered in Florida as a standard cargo van. Our van insurance is through USAA.
  • We are vegetarians and we cook – eating little packed or prepared food.
  • We get our health insurance through the ACA exchange in Florida. Our insurance is very basic and is mostly good only in Florida where we are residents, but hardly ever visit. Our costs for health insurance are one of the few things we don’t include in this report.
  • Our phone plan is with Google Fi. We pay a monthly fee of $70 plus tax which gives us unlimited calling and text and up to 22 gigs of highspeed internet, after which it slows down. Our data plan works internationally with no extra cost. With Google Fi we can make phone calls over wifi from our phone, tablet, or computer. The plan provides an extra sim card for our table at no extra cost. At any time we can switch to a metered plan which costs $20 a month for phone and text and $10 for each gig of data we use.
  • We receive our mail through St. Brendan’s Isle in Green Cove Springs, Florida. We pay $11.99 per month for the basic service plus an extra $7.99 to have the envelopes scanned and small additional fees to have the envelopes opened and the contents scanned. There are additional charges if we want anything sent to us on the road. We keep $100 in an account with the service. When this runs low they charge us for another $100.
  • Our dentist is in Los Algodones, Mexico. If you would like to read more about our experience with our Mexican dentist, click here.

And our total expenses for May were…


Here is the break down of categories…

Expenses May 2020
Gas $182.31
Insurance/Registration $57.61
Maintenance $0.00
Repairs $0.00
Van Total $176.46
Life in the Van
Upgrade/Repairs to Upfit $25.49
Utilities $14.65
Camping $0.00
Household $5.07
Laundry $27.50
Showers $8.00
Tolls/Parking $0.00
Van Life Total $80.71
Phone $77.18
Mail $110.00
Communication Total $187.18
Food $279.46
Booze $201.48
Cleaning/Paper Products $21.00
Medicine Cabinet $17.18
Consumables Total $519.12
Drinks/Eating Out $0.00
Museums/Attractions/Music $95.00
Entertainment Total $95.00
Eyes/Feet/Doctor $0.00
Dentist $0.00
Health Total $0.00
Clothes $213.74
Gifts/Charity $0.00
Gear $5.48
Personal Total $219.22
*Utilities include our water, propane for the stove and heater, and items that are required to run our composting toilet.
*Gear is anything we think we need but probably don’t. These are the things that make our life more fun, interesting, keep us entertained and informed. Our NY Times subscription goes here. As well as expenses for hobbies, computer devices, books, kayaks, bikes, etc. These are the things that make us not quite minimalist.
Boondocking site in the Prescott National Forest East.

The biggest thing that drove our expenses up this past month was my new hiking boots. They cost $184.57. I know that’s a lot! But they had two main features I was very interested in. First, they don’t look like normal hiking boots. I wear these boots almost every day for not only hiking but walking around town. I wanted boots that looked cute! Second, they are high tops. I have gotten so tired of kicking rocks up into my boots. These fit snug around the ankle – and so far, no rocks!

Old boots on the left. New boots on the right. The new boots looked much nicer before I wore them one time.

Our gas expense went up a bit this month because we did lots of driving around in Sedona to get to trails and then made a big leap when we left Sedona to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. We also spent a good bit of money stocking up on our favorite cheap alcoholic drinks at Walmart before we skipped over to Utah. Utah has some odd liquor laws and the booze prices at Walmart in Arizona were cheaper than we’ve ever seen anywhere.

Of course, we had the extra expense for the national park pass and our mail service expense kicked in this month.

Our boondocking site off of Forest Road 525 in the Coconino National Forest near Sedona.

One expense that I want to mention although I haven’t included in my spreadsheet here is in the Gifts/Charity category. We received a relief check due to the pandemic but gave most of it away. We gave a big chunk to a family member who was unemployed due to the virus. We donated to a GoFundMe started by the restaurant that Greg’s son manages. They are using the money to feed first responders in Greenville, SC. And we used another large portion of the money to support small businesses in Cabbagetown (the neighborhood in Atlanta where we used to live) by buying gift certificates from those businesses for 34 of our Cabbagetown friends and people who have helped us on our journey over the years. All totaled we have given away $1,845.00 so far.

We are living in troublesome times. The news is depressing and scary. But we hope that we can spread a little goodness, share some abundance, be an inspiration, and that our tales, flowers, and birds put a little brightness in your day in these arduous times.

Sunset on the Coconino National Forest.

A few stats you might be interested in

Camping totals (all camping is free unless otherwise indicated):

30 – nights in a National Forest
1 – night in a Walmart parking lot

Number of gallons of water bought/acquired for the van: 39

Number of times we kayaked in May: 1. We have used our kayak 17 times since we bought it which brings our cost per trip down to $29.65.

Number of miles driven: 1061 (this makes our May cost per mile 17¢)

Our new friend Holly!
Greg and Holly playing some tunes.
Our campsite near Sedona.
Sunset near Sedona.
Duwan at Bryce Canyon.
Campsite in the Dixie National Forest near Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

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


Cute animal of the month! I think this little guy is adorable! He’s a Plateau Fence Lizard.

*All pics are click to enlarge.

So what do you think of our expenses this month? Would you pay almost $200 for a pair of hiking boots?

12 thoughts on “May 2020 Cost of Being a Nomad

  1. I absolutely *would* spend that kind of money on a good pair of boots, and I have. After working on a surveying crew and spending 40 hours a week on my feet in all kinds of conditions, it is money well spent.
    btw, what kind are those you picked?

    1. They are Danner Explorer 650s. I know good boots are probably priceless. But, ugh, I just went to the Danner website to see exactly what they are called and now the price is marked down to $102.00!

  2. God bless you guys for your kindness and generosity!!! and while I’m at it, thanks for sharing your journey and inspiring us all to get out into nature and to help our fellow man when we can!
    Love you two!!!

    1. Thanks Debbie! There are so many people who have supported us over the years by giving us work or letting us stay in their homes – without them, this journey might have ended long ago.

      And, of course, there is all the encouragement we get from people who continue to read our blog. We appreciate and love you and Pat too!

  3. When you spend as much time in hiking shoes that you do, a good quality pair is worth the money. Always enjoy reading expense reports to see how little it takes to live the nomadic lifestyle. I love that Sedona location.

    1. Sedona was great. We stayed there for two weeks which is a long time for us but the view was great, we had a good internet connection, and there was so much wildlife (especially flowers).

      I just hope these boots hold up for a long while. I think that has been the most I’ve ever spent on a pair of footwear.

  4. I totally see the worth of good hikers. In the future, check out They do closeouts so, they’re hit and miss but, I’ve found good stuff there just enough times that they are relevant. I always try to have a pair of shoes “stashed” away for when my current pair wear out. If I see a really good deal on good shoes, I’ll go ahead and buy them and put them aside until I need them.
    Are you guys generating any income right now? I’m not trying to be nosey but, wondering. Do you have a fund for replacing “home” when the time comes. I’ve wondered about leasing but, that would add in a huge fixed monthly cost. The more I read about your adventures, the more attractive it looks.

    1. Hey Bob! We have a little bit of income right now. Greg has a small payout from a pension and I have some investments that generate income. And we have money saved up from working summers in Cabbagetown. We have enough income right now to meet our monthly expenses and money in the bank in case something big goes wrong.

      Greg will be able to start drawing social security next year. Then we will have plenty of money to pursue this lifestyle. And if we decide to settle down again my investment money can be put back into a house.

      We will have to talk more in depth about all of this sometime.

      Wish I had room for a pair of backup boots in the van. It’d be a really good idea! Thanks for the tip about

  5. I’m so glad you made it to Bryce Canyon! If only Best Friends Animal Sanctuary would allow volunteers right now, so you could go there again. Can you believe it’s been exactly one year since we adopted Maya?

    Great expense month for you guys. Hopefully, this is now the new average. 🙂 I’m sure the hiking boots are worth their money, if they’re comfortable. I wouldn’t spend that much on a pair, unless I really was in need of one. I usually order them online and wait for a drop in price when possible. But, this is not always possible.

    I loved Coconino National Forest near Sedona. Spectacular views! And our NP pass expires in September too. We barely used it! Just with my parents in Acadia NP last fall and a couple of National Forest trails. We wanted to use it in the Everglades, but Covid prevented that. The only day we visited, the park was free and no guides/employees were present… Not sure whether we will be able to use it again before October…

    1. So glad we got to Bryce too! It was our first time. We had never gone before because it was always too cold and before you knew it we had to head back east. Of course, this year we won’t be heading east until fall. And because of the virus Bryce didn’t seem to have the crowds we expected. It was a good visit.

      Yes, I figured you wouldn’t spend that much on boots. The price on the boots I got just dropped about $70. Too bad I needed them when I did.

      We spent two weeks in the Coconino NF. The view was fantastic, we had good internet, and great weather!

      We probably could have gotten away without getting a park pass at Bryce. Everyday except for that first day we were in the park in the morning before they started checking passes. And the park we are in right now, Great Basin doesn’t charge a fee. But I know we will need the pass eventually.

      You guys will have to hit the road again before September! I think we might be in New York state in September – that might be a good excuse to get out – to come hang out with us!

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