April 2021 Cost of Being a Nomad

Camping spot at Flamingo Campground in the Everglades. $24.04 with a park pass discount.

April didn’t go as planned. We came to Florida (our state of residency) in March to have physicals (which we hadn’t had in over three years). I figured it would take a couple of weeks to meet with our primary care physician, have referrals for the kind of tests you get when you are our age, get our blood work done, have our follow up and then be on our way. It didn’t go like that. The referrals took almost two weeks to get, our follow up appointment with our PCP was repeatedly canceled, there were follow up appointments for each of my referrals that either needed another referral from my doctor (whose office told me I had to see in person to get the referral – and whose appointments were repeatedly canceled) or needed to be approved by my insurance. On top of all this one of the follow-up tests my cardiologist wanted was the same test my mother had taken when she was being diagnosed with Cardiovascular Disease. She had a very bad reaction to the test and ended up with renal failure. Her health was destroyed and she died six months later.

The delays were bad. Florida gets hot in the spring. Although we had a good place to stay in the van at a friend’s house we really needed to get to cooler climates. But the worst of it was the worry about the test my cardiologist wanted me to take. I didn’t want to take it. I wanted to talk to my PCP about it but as I mentioned before my appointments kept getting canceled. I reached out to friends who had had the test done. I cried a lot, a whole lot. I finally met with my PCP and realized that I was going to have to call the cardiologist’s office and talk to them about it. I told them I wanted to take a different kind of test. And then that afternoon Greg and I left for the Everglades.

We had been dealing with doctor’s appointments for three and half weeks by then. I had decided to spend my spare time catching up and doing some long overdue maintenance on the blog. But the stress of the health saga had gotten too much and we decided we needed a distraction – so off we went to spend a few sweaty nights and adventurous days in the swamps of Florida. We returned a few days later for more appointments (Greg’s follow-up for his physical and a follow-up mammogram for me) and then we fled Florida altogether. There was a 6-day gap in appointments and a friend in South Carolina had offered for us to come and stay with them for a while if I needed to recuperate from any of my tests or any procedures the tests may result in. I told her we needed to “pre-cuperate.” Then I decided that 6 days (with two full days of travel) wasn’t enough and delayed my appointments for another week.

South Carolina was good. We got to see some of our very best friends as well as Greg’s son and daughter-in-law. I didn’t think about my health problems too much – although we did spend time taking our blood pressure and monitoring our heart rate (fun stuff when you get old). I practiced for my upcoming stress test with a vigorous walk around the neighborhood every day. And I got to do some much-needed work on the blog (I have a new design and am still working out some of the kinks so please excuse me if things don’t look quite right yet).

We are now back in Florida and ready to wrap this whole health saga up. I’m ready for the results and the recommendations. But whatever they are, we are planning to leave Florida by mid-month. It’s too hot and as travelers, it is less than ideal living in a van unless we are actually traveling. If there needs to be more tests or any sort of treatment beyond medicine or diet change we can come back in the fall.

BTW – I debated writing about this. I just don’t want to be one of those old people that talk about their health problems all the time but since this blog is a document of our life – and health could be a big deciding factor in our journey – I’ve included it. But honestly, right now I feel fine. Greg feels fine. We hope to keep it that way.

Ok – Florida hasn’t just been all doctor’s appointments. We have also gotten together with sailing friends a few times. We met Bruce and Michelle at Indiantown Marina some years ago. They are currently working on their boat in Indiantown turning her into a real home and getting her ready for big adventures. Here we are on the patio of the marina eating homemade van pizza.

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.
We also met up with friends Sid and Cate on Sid’s boat Quest. We met Sid our first sailing season in the Bahamas in 2012. We last saw him at his home in Montana this past summer. He had come down to Florida to do some work on the boat over the winter and he and Cate were hanging out on mooring ball at Sunset Bay Marina when we arrived in the area.

And our total expenses for April were…


Here is the breakdown of categories…

Expenses April 2021
Gas $384.31
Insurance/Registration $96.63
Maintenance $0.00
Repairs $0.00
Van Total $480.94
Life in the Van
Upgrade/Repairs to Upfit $0.00
Utilities $3.00
Camping $102.24
Household $0.00
Laundry $0.00
Showers $0.00
Tolls/Parking $0.00
Van Life Total $105.24
Phone $79.06
Mail Service $0.00
Communication Total $79.06
Food $219.36
Booze $96.86
Cleaning/Paper Products $5.32
Medicine Cabinet $6.38
Consumables Total $327.92
Drinks/Eating Out $81.05
Museums/Attractions/Music $0.00
Entertainment Total $81.05
Eyes/Feet/Doctor $108.42
Dentist $0.00
Health Total $108.42
Clothes $0.00
Gifts/Charity $12.71
Gear $50.26
Personal Total $62.97
*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.
We met up with Sid and Cate a couple of times – once for a sail in the bay and stay overnight on the boat.

I’m pretty happy with our total this month considering how much we spent on gas driving from one doctor appointment to the next in Florida and then on our big drive to South Carolina. We had a camping expense for our very much needed distraction returning to the Everglades. Our food total was down a bit – perhaps because of the dietary changes we are making. I am trying to drastically reduce my cheese intake and up our vegetable intake. Greg has gone cold turkey on the salty snacks that used to fill up his evenings. To keep his snack hands busy he has decided to take up knitting (a portion of the gear expense this month). We picked up burritos a few times coming home from doctors’ appointments and we ate out once with friends in South Carolina. And, of course, there were some doctor’s expenses.

It’s been a long time since I have taken a sunset picture from the cockpit of a boat.

A few stats you might be interested in

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

15 – nights in a Friend’s driveway
1 – night on a Friend’s boat
4 – nights at National Park Campgrounds (paid)
10 – nights inside a house

Number of miles driven: 2179 (this makes our April gas cost about 18¢ per mile).

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.

Camping at Midway Campground in Big Cypress National Preserve. $30 a night. We were heading for a cheaper campground in the preserve but we didn’t realize that they closed for the season starting April 16. We spent one night here and then headed down into the Everglades National Park.
On our trip to South Carolina, we had a small party of vaccinated friends at our friend’s house. L to R – Michelle (our host), me, and Lisa.
We lit a fire in the chiminea and broke out some guitars. L to R – Greg, Lisa, and Dan.
We also did a lot of relaxing on the porch in Greenville. David (our host in SC) plays some guitar while Greg practices his knitting.
Ballena Blanca sits lonely on the street. We stayed indoors while visiting our friends in South Carolina.

13 thoughts on “April 2021 Cost of Being a Nomad

  1. Dear Duwan and Greg,
    Hope your tests weren’t too awful and that you both have a free pass to keep on living’ the dream.
    ❤️❤️❤️ Meredith and Ed

    1. Thanks Meredith! Hope all is good with you and Ed. Everything is good with the test so far. Just waiting to get everything wrapped up so we can leave Florida, head north, and continue living that dream.

  2. I hope you can concentrate on other pleasing matters other than health woes. I think it comes with the territory as, in some ways, we are all like cars with a mileage limit before the parts start failing. Good luck trying to keep the rig running.

    1. Thanks. Our brief escape from Florida helped take our minds off all the medical stuff. Yes, we are trying to keep ourselves running. Hopefully with some care we can get a little more mileage out of these bodies.

  3. I feel for you with the doctor’s appointments. We have had more than our share and since Pat has had heart and vascular issues, be glad to lend an ear or share stories. BTW, you guys need to be around for Albino Skunkfest – I can put you both to work selling cd’s and set you up for tickets and camping. PM me if around! Miss you guys and hang in there…..the doctors really can save and improve lives….just be sure to share all the info you can and don’t hesitate to give your gut feelings about things! Prayers!!!

    1. We’d love to be at Skunk Fest Debbie but i checked the dates and I think it is doubtful we will be able to get there by then. Thanks for the offer of setting us up with volunteering and tickets. Perhaps we will be able to make it another time. Would love to see you guys again!

      You and Pat have been through so much. I’m so glad Pat had the opportunity to get the care he needed. Thanks for the advice. I may take you up on the lend an ear thing – we will see.

  4. This was a great expense month for you both! Especially since you had extra costs with fuel, doctors, and camping. You definitely beat us – by hundreds of dollars this time – for April. We spent $1,000 on just crossing the country alone! My blog will be late again, as I need to catch up on other news first, before I get into that road trip by rental car.

    I’m glad the tests are going fine. And hurray for a change of diet. Less cheese and more fresh veggies!! I’m sure it will make a difference. Periods of doctors’ visits are never fun. We go through this every time we visit the East Coast (and previously Belgium). On good years, it’s all done and over with within a week or two. Other years, it’s been multiple weeks – or months. Getting old (or having bad genes) sucks. Happy trip north!

    1. Yes, I’m pretty pleased with the month. We have crossed the country a few times at a rapid pace and it has always been expensive – but I know you had extra expenses on your trip.

      The diet change had been going well. We have been weening off the cheese and I had my refrigerator almost all cleared out of it until yesterday when a sailing friend gave us everything leftover in his fridge before he started his drive back home to Montana. Now we have another big bag of cheese!

      Hopefully, the doctors’ visits will be over tomorrow and we will be off. One of the worst parts of it was having no idea from day to day how much longer we would need to be in Florida. Next time I guess we will just plan for a couple of months and be happy if it takes less.

    1. Thanks, Linda. Yes, medical care is a mess. Hopefully, we will be out of its tangled web soon. It is a good incentive to stay healthy.

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