May 2021 Cost of Being a Nomad

The grandson, Gabe, hanging out in Ballena Blanca.

There were three police cars. As van dwellers, we are used to interactions with the police. But the last place we want to encounter the authorities is at a friend’s house where we are staying.

As I mentioned before, our trip to Florida didn’t go as planned. We thought we could zip down to southern Florida, do some sightseeing, visit some friends, and get physicals in about three weeks’ time. But the physicals turned into more doctor’s visits, appointments got canceled and rescheduled, more appointments got added, and no one was in a hurry but us.

If we had known how long everything was going to take we would have found other accommodations and wouldn’t have imposed on our friend, Brenda, so long. I know she didn’t mind. She is one of the nicest people you’ll meet. But we like to give more than we get and by May we felt like we’d been camping out at the end of her driveway for way too long. Perhaps someone in the neighborhood felt like that too because they called the cops and told them that there were people living in a van across from her house. That’s when the three police cars showed up.

Brenda straightened the cops out right away. Actually, by that time it had gotten so hot we were staying inside her house and not in the van.

Everything about being in Florida had become stressful, the doctors’ appointments, the heat, the feeling like we needed to be somewhere else, the desire not to be stuck in limbo. We took off that afternoon and drove to the west coast where we were hopeful a breeze would keep us cool (it did) while we camped in Ballena Blanca. Then we came back, had a nice dinner out with Brenda, went to my last doctor’s appointment, and finally headed north to visit all those friends that we told we’d visit over a month earlier.

BTW – after all the doctors and tests, Greg and I both have a few health issues to address, nothing serious, and nothing that will be keeping us from the road any longer.

View from Brenda’s driveway where we were parked. Brenda’s street is a dead end and there are only two houses on her street so it is very curious who called the police.
Stress test on the treadmill. I passed with flying colors!

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.
Campsite at E. G. Simmons Park in Campground on Tampa Bay. ($18 per night for 55 and older).

And our total expenses for May were…


Here is the breakdown of categories…

Expenses April 2021
Gas $594.20
Insurance/Registration $91.79
Maintenance $0.00
Repairs $0.00
Van Total $685.99
Life in the Van
Upgrade/Repairs to Upfit $9.90
Utilities $4.81
Camping $54.00
Household $0.00
Laundry $0.00
Showers $0.00
Tolls/Parking $3.25
Van Life Total $71.96
Phone $79.06
Mail Service $0.00
Communication Total $79.06
Food $283.00
Booze $71.43
Cleaning/Paper Products $2.18
Medicine Cabinet $10.88
Consumables Total $367.49
Drinks/Eating Out $335.19
Museums/Attractions/Music $10.00
Entertainment Total $345.19
Eyes/Feet/Doctor $259.42
Dentist $0.00
Health Total $259.42
Clothes $0.00
Gifts/Charity $38.14
Gear $30.88
Personal Total $69.02
*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.

Trip to the west coast of Florida

That gas expense blew the budget for the month. We covered over 3000 miles in May. On the second we drove from Greenville SC, where we had escaped to our friends’ house in between doctors’ appointments, back down to Hobe Sound, Florida to our friend’s house where we had been staying during all our doctor visits. We made a weekend trip to the Tampa/St. Pete area, then back to Hobe Sound. When we left Florida we drove to Charleston, SC via Jacksonville, FL where we visited with a sailing friend and his family. We spent the weekend in Charleston with Greg’s daughter, son-in-law, and grandson then drove from there to Cabbagetown in Atlanta, GA to visit with friends. At the end of that week, we drove to Greg’s parents’ house in Stanley NC to help them with a few things. Then we went south again to Columbia, SC to visit more friends, and then north to Pumpkintown, SC to visit even more friends. On the last day of the month, we returned to Cabbagetown for another week in our favorite neighborhood before we seriously start heading north.

All this visiting meant our drinks/eating out expenses were a bit high – but totally worth it.

We also had extra expenses for doctors’ visits last month. And expenses for all the new drugs and devices we need to keep us healthy. Because of all our new drugs and devices, I built a new shelf in the van (Upgrade/Repairs to Upfit Expense) to house some of these new things.

After three nights camping at E. G. Simmons, we moved to this free camping spot by the fishing pier on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge that leads to St. Pete.
We were right on the water, the sunset was beautiful, there were plenty of other campers, and it was quiet at night.
Kanako and Robert. We met Robert years ago when we were sailing in the Bahamas. He and his wife Kanako and their two daughters live in Jacksonville so we try to stop and visit every time we drive through Florida.

A few stats you might be interested in

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

18 – nights inside a house
8 – nights in a friend’s driveway
3 – nights at a county park (paid)
1 – along side of a bridge
1 – night at Walmart

Number of gallons of water bought/acquired for the van: 15.

Number of miles driven: 3053 (this makes our May gas cost about 19¢ per mile)

One year’s total value we have gotten out of our annual $80 National Park pass that we bought in May 2020: $503.50. This means we saved $423.50 by buying the pass and got to visit some amazing public parks, monuments, historical sites, and more!

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 pictures are click to enlarge. Once enlarged they can be viewed in a slideshow. Hover over the pictures in tiled mosaics for captions. Click pictures in the tiled mosaic to see full captions.

Our visit with the grandson, Gabe

Birthday party with Cabbagetown friends

A visit with Tracy and Angie

In the mountains with Lisa and Dan

The new shelf I built for the van.
Ballena Blanca parked in our friend, Karen’s driveway in Cabbagetown.

9 thoughts on “May 2021 Cost of Being a Nomad

  1. I’m glad that your friend was around to straighten out the situation with the police. There’s a huge motorhome parked on the street next to my gym the last few weeks. Yesterday, I realized someone was living inside.

    How great that you got to spend time with your grandson.

    The photos of the pinata reminded me of an incident that happened at our school once. One of the teachers was teaching a unit on Mexico. One day, she brought a pinata to class, and for PE, she decided to have some fun with her students. Several of the kids took a turn, but the blindfolded students could not make a dent in it. Eventually, some of the kids got the idea that the teacher should try. The teacher’s boyfriend was there helping out and was the one raising and lowering the pinata. The teacher took the bat and promptly hit the boyfriend (accidentally, of course) in the head. sending him to the hospital. He recovered, but I was told that they broke up after that—not your usual breakup story.

    1. We were very glad that our friend was there too. Although we were living in the house at the time would have looked like we were living in the van since all of our stuff was in there and we were back and forth in and out of it a lot. We often times see RVs and Vans parked and speculate whether someone is living in them. This is called stealth camping. We hardly ever do this kind of camping.

      Good story about the piñata. They are really hard to break. Can’t imagine sending someone to the hospital trying to break one. What a bad day.

  2. I really enjoy reading your nomad stories and following your lives, being lived to the fullest. Thank you for sharing.

  3. It looks like we both had bad expense months in May, but we “beat” you again, going over $2,000! This year is a struggle for us to keep on track. Too many things not working out and too many extra expenses. Your fuel cost was high, but it allowed you to escape, which is nice and which is what we are greatly missing right now! Limbo has been lasting two months and counting.

    Yes, when meeting lots of friends, the eating out category climbs. But, so worth it. I’m glad you managed to visit so many people in May. Impressive! You’re making me jealous with all those photos of Ballena Blanca camped somewhere. An achy feeling is arising. We need to find a new set-up soon, or I don’t know what we are doing…

    1. No – you only “beat” us when you do better (have lower expenses). You pretty much always “beat” us.

      I hope things will get back to “normal” for you soon and that all those “extra” expenses will be behind you.

      We are so glad we got to finally do our little tour of friends and family but we are glad to be on the road again heading north to Massachusetts!

  4. I feel like a voyeur into your lives! I stumbled onto your blog just now, after falling down a rabbit hole in my research in preparation of a Cabbagetown neighborhood tour I’ll lead for some friends. One friend told me that there was an American Pickers episode recorded in Cabbagetown. I followed that rabbit hole and subsequently some trails that ended with obituaries for the two men who lived in and owned the house where the “picking” was done. Somehow I ended up here and I’m glad I did! Details! I love details! Yes! Let’s count everything because it is fun and provides context. I looks like y’all are living a fabulous life. Way to go!

    1. Thank you Lynn. Glad your rabbit hole led you here. Sometime this week i am going to publish a little blog tour of Cabbagetown.

      Have you seen the episode of Pickers? It was unfortunate that David couldn’t make it for the episode filmed at his house. He was quite the character, eccentric, cantankerous, and often very sweet. You will have to walk by his house on your tour. The outside still looks as it did in David’s last year’s. Hopefully it will stay that way for years to come. I never met Richard but heard many stories. The stories and people are part of what makes Cabbagetown special.

      Good luck with your research and tour. If you have any questions let me know and I can probably send you to someone who can answer them.

      1. We’ll definitely stop by 190 Powell Street on our tour and I’ll share what I learned about David and Richard (including what I found in “official” obituaries). The internet is wonderful and crazy: I found this entry about David–“At 20 years old he met his life-long love Richard Rowland, who was 17. From 1966 to 1971, David portrayed various characters on ABC’s daytime phenomenon Dark Shadows. David appeared in TV movies such as Nikita Khrushchev in Francis Gary Powers: The True Story of the U-2 Spy Incident (1976) and The Amazing Howard Hughes (1977), as well as miniseries such as Roots, The Rhinemann Exchange, and Washington: Behind Closed Doors.” The first sentence seems on target. The rest, “not so much”. I dug deeper and determined that someone had conflated the lives of David Thayer with the actor Thayer David!

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