June 2021 Cost of Being a Nomad

Ballena Blanca’s spot in Cabbagetown.

On the road again!

We finally started heading north after the first week in June. Our journey out of the south might have started way sooner but we wanted one more week in Cabbagetown (which still wasn’t really enough to do all the visiting that we wanted to do). So we decided to stay through the Cabbagetown Reunion Festival (more about that in our next post). There is nothing better than being in Cabbagetown and spending the day wandering about from a festival in the park to friends’ homes to wherever the wind blows us. Unfortunately, because we spent so much time in steamy Atlanta and were hot to get to cooler climates we ended up skipping a few more friends we wanted to visit after we left Cabbagetown. But eventually, the chilly fall air will send us back south and we will swing by those spots on our quest to stay warm.

This summer we have pointed Ballena Blanca in a new direction – the northeast. I have never been further north than New York City and Greg’s travels north were either a very long time ago when he was a child or for business back in that other life years ago. Heading to this region of the country would allow us to drop in on some of my family in Pennsylvania and visit my Aunt Eunice, check a major national park, Acadia, off our list, and chill out in Massachusetts for a couple of weeks while we housesit the lovely dog, Maya, for our nomad friends, Mark and Liesbet. You may remember Mark and Liesbet from when we traveled with them late last year and earlier this year. Since spring they have been staying temporarily at Mark’s parents’ house in a room above the garage (where we are now with Maya). And are currently visiting Liesbet’s family in Belgium.

After leaving Atlanta we stopped briefly at Greg’s parents’ house in North Carolina before hopping on a small portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway en route to my cousin’s house in Pennsylvania. We spent 4 days visiting with family before heading east and landing in New York State where hung out in the Hudson River Valley for a while.  Eventually, it was time for our housesit and we drove to Newburyport, Massachusetts to reunite with Mark and Maya (Liesbet was already in Belgium).

Traveling in the northeast is very different from traveling in the west. There isn’t much free camping in this portion of the country and the pay-camping can be ridiculously expensive. We have resigned ourselves to paying when it isn’t too costly and to take advantage of the few free options when they are convenient – Walmarts, National Forests, and our Boondockers Welcome subscription*. But all this takes more planning. Out west we could head off in almost any direction and know that there will be someplace we can stay nearby. Here, we have to figure out where we are going each day and how long we are going to be there to reserve Boondockers Welcome sites or a spot in a campground.

What we have been doing has changed a bit too. The northeast is also more densely packed and unlike in the west where we have enjoyed time just roaming out in the natural world, here we have spent more time exploring history, visiting museums, and going on tours.

Friends in Cabbagetown

Our visit to Cabbagetown was way too short. Although we had many offers to stay in people’s homes we stayed in the van in a friend’s driveway. It is just so much easier for us to stay in the van. We don’t have suitcases so moving our stuff and keeping it organized in someone’s house can be difficult. Sometimes we lose or forget things. But it’s always nice to know we have the option to stay in a friend’s home and if it had gotten unbearably hot we might have used it.

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 posted online where we have the option for 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.

A trip to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens

We seldom spend the money to visit botanical gardens but in Cabbagetown we are lucky, our friend Debbie is a member of the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and always has free passes. Every time we go I am reminded of how outstanding these gardens are.

And our total expenses for June were…


Here is the breakdown of categories…

Expenses June 2021
Gas $493.93
Insurance/Registration $91.79
Maintenance $568.06
Repairs $0.00
Van Total $1,153.78
Life in the Van
Upgrade/Repairs to Upfit $0.00
Utilities $0.00
Camping $165.25
Household $0.00
Laundry $0.00
Showers $0.00
Tolls/Parking $12.00
Van Life Total $177.25
Phone $79.06
Mail Service $0.00
Communication Total $79.06
Food $282.98
Booze $136.39
Cleaning/Paper Products $16.06
Medicine Cabinet $41.39
Consumables Total $476.82
Drinks/Eating Out $197.88
Museums/Attractions/Music $261.68
Entertainment Total $459.56
Eyes/Feet/Doctor $223.63
Dentist $0.00
Health Total $223.63
Clothes $36.07
Gifts/Charity $11.72
Gear $85.36
Personal Total $133.15
*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.

It wasn’t a very thrifty month.

We needed to have Ballena Blanca’s front brakes replaced. It was expensive. But they wear out. And we have to have them.

Gas was a big expense. Gas prices are higher and we drove a lot of miles – all the way from Atlanta to Newburyport, Massachusetts. We also did lots of driving while we were visiting the Hudson River Valley.

And, of course, there was that camping expense we don’t usually have. We paid for nine nights of camping which averages to $18.36 per night – not too bad. If you spread that cost over the whole month it’s $5.51 per night – better than rent.

We spent a bit of money on Entertainment. There was some eating out while we were in Atlanta and we ate lunch out a couple of times while we were in New York State. On our journey from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts we visited lots of museums, old houses, and took an excursion on a steam engine train. But our biggest (and totally worth it) expense in Entertainment was our new National Park pass! Greg turned 62 in June which made him eligible for the lifetime senior pass. Yes, we have bought our last park pass. For $80 we get all the benefits of free entry to national parks and other federally managed attractions as well as a new bonus! Half-price camping at federally managed campgrounds. For life! In June we already saved $20 on camping and will be saving even more on the eight nights of camping we booked in Acadia National Park later this month. Those eight days would have cost us $240. We are saving $120.

Health was mostly up because Greg got another year’s worth of contacts. I will also need to have an eye exam and buy contacts in the coming months. I miss my younger eyes.

A couple of lost and broken items accounted for most of our gear total. I also bought another patch to go on my exploring hat. And, of course, our NY Times subscription and knitting supplies.

The biggest surprise expense was the toll to cross the Hudson River. There are five toll bridges in the Hudson Valley. In order to skirt them, you would have to drive all the way to Albany (a bit out of the way). When we approached our first bridge I saw that the toll was $1.75. Ok, I thought, we can handle that. But no…if your vehicle is taller than 7’6″ (we are about 9′) the toll is $6! I realized then that we’d have to plan our crossings carefully. In the eight days we spent in the valley we crossed the bridge twice.

A few things we didn’t spend money on – water and laundry. Staying at pay campgrounds has the small perk of free water. And visiting friends and family for the last four months means that we haven’t had to pay for laundry either.

I imagine that the expenses will continue to rack up. We have decided to splurge while we are in the northeast. We have our eight nights in Acadia and a Puffin Tour scheduled. We are meeting a friend in Boston and have booked an Airbnb for six days. No doubt we will try to pack a lot in those six days and won’t hold back too much on the spending. After that, we will head to Vermont for maple syrup, cheese, chocolate, and whatever other food and drink the state is famous for.

Camping spots along the Blue Ridge Parkway

We decided to take the scenic route on our way to Pennsylvania and spent three days camping on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The campsites were $20 but on day two Greg got his senior pass so we only paid $10 per night on the second and third days.

Surprise expense! Crossing one of the bridges across the Hudson River. $6!
We had a nice brunch out at the Egg’s Nest in High Falls, NY.

A few stats you might be interested in

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

7 – nights in a friend’s driveway
3 – nights in a National Park campground (paid $40)
7 – nights inside a house
5 – nights at Boondockers Welcome locations
6 – nights in a state park (paid $125.25)
1 – night in a National Forest

Number of gallons of water bought/acquired for the van: 31.

Number of miles driven: 2385 (this makes our May gas cost about 21¢ 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.

* Boondockers Welcome is a subscription service. For $30 a year (the fee is now $50 – we are locked in at $30) we can request to spend the night in driveways or on the property of other Boondockers Welcome members. It is a great free way to have a safe place to park while you travel and a great way to meet other interesting travelers. Click here to learn more about Boondockers Welcome.

** All pics are click to enlarge.

Ballena Blanca at the Mills-Norrie State Park Campground in NY State. We paid $125.25 for 6 days – about $21 per night which included the campground fee and some service charges. Hot showers were available!

A stop at the Germantown Library

We had lousy internet at our campsite at Mills Norrie State Park in the Hudson River Valley so one day while we were out we stopped at the Germantown Library. There was an outstanding display of yarn art on the library grounds.

Our last stop before we arrived at our housesit was in a National Forest in Vermont. It wasn’t really scenic but it was free and we arrived late and left early.

6 thoughts on “June 2021 Cost of Being a Nomad

  1. There are always going to be months when unexpected expenses come fast and furious. The cost of traveling anywhere right now is crazy, especially when most of us are ready to go somewhere. Airfare is nuts, hotels expensive, renting a car is outrageous, and gas is at $4.45 per gallon where we live. Yipes ! We’re biting the bullet on a lot of things.

    1. Wow! $4.45 a gallon! I was expecting gas to be teal expensive in the northeast so we have been surprised that we can still sometimes get gas for under $3.

      Comparatively we l guess we are still traveling on the cheap. I hope that everything can get back to normal for everyone else soon.

  2. My whole family is in the northeast so we are more than familiar with the crazy costs involved in traveling up there. I was actually just thinking the other day about how we need to dig out our toll transponders (E-Z Pass) once we get back to the east coast because that’s a part of life we haven’t had to deal with in a very long time. And yeah, camping costs and gas costs and everything else… It’s not ideal for fulltimers, that’s for sure. On the other hand, you can drown an awful lot of sorrows in the magical goodness that is Vermont’s maple syrup. 🙂

    Congrats on the Lifetime Pass too. That thing is worth its weight in gold!

    1. I am so looking forward to that maple syrup!

      We have been so spoiled by the free and inexpensive of the west. Being here in the northeast is like a splurge.

  3. Love that yarn art! What are you waiting for, Greg!

    Welcome to the Northeast… I think that’s the answer to why our expenses have gone up. Especially compared to Mexico. It’s awesome that you now have a lifetime NP pass and that you’re locked in at $30 for Boondockers Welcome.

    Thank you so much again for taking care of our lovely Maya. We hope the weather clears up for you two soon and that all your upcoming adventures in Acadia and Boston are a blast! See you again in a couple of weeks!

    1. The yarn art was a fun surprise. Can’t wait until Greg is at that level of needle work.

      We got to fill a cart full of food from Aldi yesterday. Maybe that will help with July’s costs.

      You are welcome! We really enjoyed getting to be a part of Maya’s pack. It is sunny this morning. We are off to Acadia!

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