March 2021 Cost of Being a Nomad

Long Pine Key campground in the Everglades National Park. Cost: $24.08 (including tax) with National Park Pass discount – a savings of $2.50. This was a really pretty campground which included hot showers.

We were still at Greg’s parents’ house during the first part of March. Since we were on the east coast and hadn’t had physicals in a while I made some appointments with the last doctor we saw (over three years ago) in Florida, our legal state of residence, and where we can use our health insurance. We had a van project underway so as soon it was finished we headed to the Everglades to kill time until our appointments.

One doctor’s appointment turned into multiple appointments – one of which was for the one-shot Covid-19 vaccine. Yay! Despite me having a few less than pleasant side effects (Greg had none) we are pretty happy our doctor offered us the immunization.

We are now camping out on a dead-end street across from our friend, Brenda’s driveway while we finish up our medical stuff. I am still waiting for referrals for more doctor’s visits so we have no idea when we will get to hit the road again.

Flamingo Campground in The Everglades National Park. The camping deal here was the same as Long Pine – except the hot water wasn’t working for their showers. But it was closer to a lot of the attractions we wanted to see so we spent 3 days here (driving back to Long Pine one of those days for a shower)

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 high-speed 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.
Camping at Mitchell Landing in Big Cypress National Preserve. Camping here is first come first serve and costs $24 a night. But the camp host never showed so we never had anyone to pay.

And our total expenses for March were…


Here is the breakdown of categories…

Expenses March 2020
Gas $347.48
Insurance/Registration $96.62
Maintenance $0.00
Repairs $0.00
Van Total $444.10
Life in the Van
Upgrade/Repairs to Upfit $118.46
Utilities $18.35
Camping $206.48
Household $0.00
Laundry $0.00
Showers $0.00
Tolls/Parking $0.00
Van Life Total $343.29
Phone $78.87
Mail Service $0.00
Communication Total $78.87
Food $281.56
Booze $75.27
Cleaning/Paper Products $4.79
Medicine Cabinet $14.50
Consumables Total $376.12
Drinks/Eating Out $34.20
Museums/Attractions/Music $27.58
Entertainment Total $61.78
Eyes/Feet/Doctor $24.00
Dentist $0.00
Health Total $24.00
Clothes $0.00
Gifts/Charity $8.75
Gear $116.15
Personal Total $162.59
*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.
Camping spot at Monument Lake in Big Cypress National Preserve. Camping here costs $28 per night.

We spent a bit on gas in March driving to Florida and then around the Everglades. We decided to call our trip to this National Park a “vacation” and sprang for camping which totaled just over $200 – not too bad for 10 nights.

Our van project was rebuilding our composting toilet. The homemade toilet which served us well for a while was failing (it stunk). I redesigned it in such a way that I thought would eliminate some of the odor over time (we will see) and added a larger pee container that is used with one of the expensive ($1000 plus) factory-made composting toilets.

Part of the gear expense was for a new tent – our old tent was coming apart. We like to carry a tent for several reasons – just in case something happens to the van and we need to live in it, in case someone has to spend the night in the doghouse (tent), a place to house guests, and to reserve a dispersed camping spot when we drive off during the day to explore. We have only ever used it for the latter. And since it can be a lot of work putting it up just to reserve a spot for a night or two, I got a (hopefully) easier to erect popup tent. Since all of our camping in the Everglades was reserved and paid for we didn’t have to use it and didn’t get a chance to see how well it works.

The build for our new composting toilet. We reused some of the parts – like the urine diverter – from our old toilet but bought all new wood and a new urine container.

A few stats you might be interested in

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

10 – nights inside a house
1 – night at Walmart
10 – nights in a Friend’s driveway
9 – nights at National Park Campgrounds (paid)
1 – night at a National Park Campground (free)

Number of gallons of water bought/acquired for the van: 25.

Number of miles driven: 1981  which makes our March gas cost about 18¢ per mile (the price of gas has gone up!)

We like to keep track of the value we have gotten out of our $80 National Park pass that we bought in May 2020. So far we have visited 14 national park sites, a BLM site, 2 National Forest sites, and received discounts on camping in the Everglades on our pass, a $466 value bringing our savings up to $386 savings so far!

To see all of our expense reports, click here.

If you are interested in reading other expense reports from nomads who really know how to live cheaply while still having a good time, check out the blog from our friends Mark, Liesbet, and Maya at Roaming About.

*All pics are click to enlarge.

Burns Lake Campground in Big Cypress National Preserve. Camping costs $24 a night here.
Sunset at Monument Lake in Big Cypress National Preserve.
Tortoise in our friend Brenda’s backyard.
Hanging out with Brenda and her neighbors.
Our spot outside of Brenda’s house.

5 thoughts on “March 2021 Cost of Being a Nomad

  1. I’m thoroughly impressed by all of your record keeping. I’m nowhere close to being this organized.

    I’m curious how long in advance you typically make your travel plans. Do you prefer to have a scheduled travel plan, or is it more of a let’s make this up as we go along deal? Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

    1. I’m not sure I am real organized but I am detail orientated.

      I do all kinds of different planning. For our trip to the Mexican mainland – where we spent 3 1/2 months traveling around – I spent a whole summer planning. I created a map with all the places I was interested in going to. There was no planned route and only a few dates where we had to be in specific places (meeting friends along the road and renting an Airbnb in Mexico City). Mostly we looked at my map and picked a direction changing that direction as other things influenced us.

      I did considerably less planning this past summer when our plan to drive to Alaska was cancelled due to the pandemic. I planned where we were going more as we went along – looking at an area maybe a week ahead of time and figuring out where we would go. Sometimes there is no planning at all – we find places by accident or someone tells us about something and we change course and go.

      We hardly ever make reservations so we are pretty much free to go in any direction at any time.

  2. A good month! Especially since you drove a bunch and stayed in paid campgrounds for 1/3 of the time. Those campsites in Florida look nice. I’m glad it wasn’t too hot for you yet as this time last year, it was already in the nineties in southern Florida.

    We stayed for one night at Monument Lake in Big Cypress National Preserve on our way back north when Covid hit. The camp hosts didn’t quite know what to do with the situation yet, so everyone who wanted to stay there got the first night for free. 🙂

    I’ll be late with our expense report again. We’ve been way too busy with “you know what…” and I’m behind with my Baja blogs too. Sigh. I’ll know what to do once we get to MA!

    1. The weather here in Florida has been amazing. Every time it seems like it will get hot it cools back down. Good thing as we will be here for at least another week and a half.

      I was quite pleased with the doing total – pretty good for a “vacation.”

      The camphosts at Monument Lake were pretty nice on our visit too. They gave us a discount even though I don’t think they were supposed to. We didn’t argue.

      I used to always be late with my expense reports (often combining two months). But I think I got a good system down now and can just pump them out.

      Safe travels on the rest of your journey!

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