Nomad Life & Expenses May 2022

Having fun at Fort Stevens State Park.

May was full of adventure, great friends, good food, van problems, the Pacific Ocean, a couple of new states, and spending lots and lots of money. So much money I started to wonder where it was all going. In order to stop wondering, I decided to start tracking it again. So here is my first expense report for the first time in almost a year. It isn’t pretty.

Money is one of the worries I have been trying to put aside. So we splurged a lot in May. But we also had many unexpected expenses. The month started out in Big Sur (see our post about our journey up this amazing coastline here). There is no way to spend any amount of time in this area without paying for camping. So we did for four days. After Big Sur, we spent a bunch of time visiting friends. Our first stop was a quick one to see our friend Tina Louise in the San Fransisco area.

(All pics are click to enlarge. Once you have them enlarged you can view them in a slide show. Also, you can hover over the pics to see captions.)

We love seeing our friends along the way. As a bonus, this means that we don’t have to worry about accommodations, where to find a laundromat, or paying for showers. But it does mean we do more eating out (we love to treat). And we always try to bring friends some sort of small gift – chocolate usually goes over well.

Visiting friends is also a good opportunity for us to stay put for a little while and address problems with the van. And we have had quite a few problems. While we were in Big Sur we realized that our solar panels were no longer charging our battery. Our lithium batteries were doing ok just being charged by the van’s alternator when we drove. But we knew down the road we might be driving less and would need power from the sun. At our friends, Beth and Toms’ house in Lake County, California Greg spent a day tackling the problem. We worried we’d have to buy a new solar controller but in the end, it just ended up being a fuse.

I’ve known Beth for a long time. Way back in St. Louis she dated my brother. She became a good friend of my mother’s and now is a good friend of mine. A true family friend. We had a good time exploring with Beth (while her partner, Tom, mostly stayed home taking care of their many furry babies), eating out, thrift shopping, and finding other fun things to do. You can read about our trip to the Lunchbox Museum with Tom and Beth, here.

Back on the road after our stay with Tom and Beth, we visited King Range on the California coast and Redwood National and State Parks.

From Redwood, we continued north leaving California, and entered a brand new state, Oregon! In Oregon, we stopped a Harvest Hosts location, Freed Estate Winery, where we spent the night and purchased our end-of-the-month celebratory wine. From there we drove on to our friends, The Third Street Thugs’ place in St. Helen, Oregon.

You might remember these friends from many of our previous blog posts back when they called themselves Scamper Squad. They are sailing friends we met in Indiantown, FL. After they sold their boat they went traveling in their Scamp trailer. We caught up with them on the road a few times in 2020 at Yellowstone, Glacier, and Theodore Roosevelt National Parks. We also caught up with them over the holidays during the 2020/2021 holiday season. Now they have a cute little house in a lovely little town.

We had a fun time with The Third Street Thugs going out and about exploring, having happy hours, and eating good food. Staying put for a while, once again, also gave us the opportunity to do some work on the van.

Our fan vent had been broken for some time. We had tried to fix it a couple of times to no avail. So we decide to replace it. Big project. We researched and bought a new brand, tore out the old one, and installed a new one. It went well. We also fixed our broken back door. Way back at the end of the previous month we were on a super windy beach and our back door got stuck open. We eventually got it closed but broke some door hardware in the process.

After we did all the repairs we felt comfortable with doing on our own we took Ballena Blanca to a Ford dealership to have the brakes looked at. The van’s brakes seem to wear out yearly. And they are not a cheap replacement. While the van was at the shop they told us we had a transmission leak, needed new sparkplugs, and had two recalls that needed to be addressed. We left the shop with a $2071.92 bill.

At the end of our stay with the Third Street Thugs more traveling friends showed up. You might remember Liesbet, Mark, and Maya most recently from our travels in Baja California.

From Oregon, we continued north to another new state (Washington!) – ever closer to Canada and our ultimate destination this summer – Alaska! But first, we stopped to see another friend in Seattle. I knew Doug way back when in another life when we were both in the punk rock scene in St. Louis. We hadn’t seen each other since we were just kids, about 40 years ago. It was just a quick visit to see Doug and meet his wife Jackie and then it was a new month and we were on the road again.

May Expenses:

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 $110 plus tax for two people which gives us unlimited calling and text (in the US, Canada, & Mexico) and up to 50 gigs of high-speed internet per person. Our data plan works internationally at 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 tablet 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.

But how about those expenses. Here’s the total…


Here is the breakdown of categories…

Expenses May 2022
Gas $577.77
Insurance/Registration $81.80
Maintenance $1,868.96
Repairs $280.07
Van Total $2,808.60
Life in the Van
Upgrade/Repairs to Upfit $303.55
Utilities $15.38
Camping $185.48
Household $0.00
Laundry $0.00
Showers $7.75
Tolls/Parking $0.00
Van Life Total $517.58
Phone $122.52
Mail Service $0.00
Communication Total $122.52
Food $428.78
Booze $235.92
Cleaning/Paper Products $46.88
Medicine Cabinet $74.08
Consumables Total $785.66
Drinks/Eating Out $344.01
Museums/Attractions/Music $5.00
Entertainment Total $349.01
Eyes/Feet/Doctor $0.00
Dentist $0.00
Health Total $0.00
Clothes $26.78
Gifts/Charity $106.59
Gear $70.08
Personal Total $203.45
*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 and interesting, and 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.

Like I said. It wasn’t pretty.

Seeing Sea Otters hugging might make it all worth it. What do you think?

May Camping Stats:

First our camping/sleeping stats (all camping is free unless otherwise indicated):

2 – nights in a National Forest Campground ($35)
2 – nights in a State Park Campground ($70)
1 – night in a parking lot
11 – night in a friend’s driveway
8 – nights in friends’ house
3 – nights in a BLM National Conservation Area Campground ($12)
3 – nights in Redwood National Park/State Park Campground ($68.48)
1 – night at a Winery (Harvest Host)

Where we traveled:


Other possibly helpful or interesting numbers:

Number of gallons of water bought/acquired for the van: 23.

Cheers to the end of another great month!

It is quite possible that I will be sharing this post on My Corner of the World. Check out this blog hop to see what people are up to recently all over the world.

8 thoughts on “Nomad Life & Expenses May 2022

  1. Thanks for the info on your dentist. It hadn’t occurred to me to try a Mexican dentist. I’m having a crown done in Chicago for almost the same price as you had a bunch of stuff done at Bernal.

    1. I’m glad you found the info useful! We are in the southwest often so it’s easy to go to Los Algodones for the dentist. We really like Bernal. And not only is it cheap to go to the dentist in Mexico, it’s always fun.

  2. You had a wonderful and varied May. And, the expenses – other than the van – were okay. Having fun is so important. Mark and I need to find a better balance between frugality and fun. I recently did an interview about vanlife on a budget and my answer to the question about the most expensive category is “the vehicle” (camper, boat). Maintaining that – and I’m not even talking about fuel – is not cheap. But I’m sure it’s cheaper than a house. 🙂

    Thanks a lot for letting me borrow your extra SIM card. It’s been super useful, important, and a life saver.

    1. Yes, I think it is cheaper than a house – and a house doesn’t go anywhere.

      You know it is hard not to want to eat and drink out all the time after being in Mexico but it is so super expensive – especially here in Canada. But we have to splurge sometimes, because sometimes it adds to the experience.

      I’m sorry I forgot to link to your expense reports this time. As soon as I get a chance I will add it.

      So glad the sim card is working out. And that we are on track with the data now. I don’t think we will run out.

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