Nomad Life & Expenses June 2022

Kitsumkalum Lake, one of the many bodies of water we camped next to in British Columbia. And one of the last sunsets we saw before the sun started setting after our bedtime. Photo by Greg.

We made it to Alaska! We took an unconventional route to get here. After leaving our friends, Doug and Jackie, in Seattle on June 2nd we drove to Port Angeles in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State and took a vehicle ferry to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Victoria is the capital of British Columbia. It lies in the southeastern corner of Vancouver Island. Our intention was to explore Vancouver Island for a couple weeks before taking another ferry up the inside passage of British Columbia to Prince Rupert. Bonus, we would be visiting sailing friends who live on a small island off of Vancouver Island!

Those couple of weeks turned into over 3 due to my new no-planning philosophy. Reservations for the ferry to Prince Rupert sell out in advance. When we finally made them we had to choose later dates. No problem. Vancouver Island was wonderful and we are now looking forward to returning eventually as we left much of it unexplored.

We used our Boondockers Welcome subscription a lot on the island. Not only did it give us more free options for stays we met lots of interesting peeps who gave us great suggestions about where to go on the island and on our journey to Alaska. And since we really had no plan that is just what we did – followed any and every suggestion we got. Most of them were great!

View from Pike Point in East Sooke, BC. We spent four nights in East Sooke at a Boondockers Welcome location. Our hosts were very accommodating. We had only scheduled for 3 nights but it was predicted to pour down rain the following day so they allowed us to stay one more. We spent most of our time in Sooke regrouping and catching up on things but we did go on one hike to this beautiful point overlooking the Salish Sea and beyond to Washington State.

We had just a couple of issues on this leg of our never-ending journey. The first was entering Canada. As we disembarked from the ferry, I remarked to Greg that this looked like it would be the easiest border crossing ever. We were one of the first vehicles off the ferry and I expected our entry into the country to be quick and painless. Not so.

We pulled up to the customs kiosk where a friendly customs agent greeted us. We handed him our passports. He asked us the usual questions. Did we have anything to declare – fruit, alcohol. Greg told him we had a couple of old apples, 17 beers, and half a bottle of tequila. Next, the agent asked whether we had a gun. No, we told him. Perhaps our emphatic No was too emphatic because then he asked us when the last time a gun was in the van. Never! He asked for our vehicle registration which I had to locate somewhere in the back of the van. While I was in the back he asked what we were planning to do in Canada. Tour around and visit some friends, Greg told him. Where do these friends live, he asked. Greg couldn’t remember. I yelled back to the front, Malcolm Island. Perhaps we had too many fumbles. Maybe he didn’t believe us about the guns. Maybe one of us was exuding guilt. Who knows. They asked us to pull over to the side and wait.

Another agent came up to the van. I tried to hand him our rotting apples but he told us to step out of the van and take the apples over to a small building, put them on a table, and wait. He then proceeded to enter and search the van.

Now we have had border and checkpoint searches before. But we have never had such a thorough search. Across the parking lot, I could barely see into the dim light of the interior of Ballena Blanca, but it was obvious that the agent was taking his time opening every cabinet door. I’m sure stuff fell on his head like it usually does to me when I open certain cabinets. Of course, I knew the search could only be so thorough without actually removing things from the van. I have managed to pack all kinds of stuff in that van. No nook or cranny goes unwasted.

After about 20 minutes or so he called us over. He asked where the half bottle of tequila that Greg had declared was. I replied that it was under the bed and that I could go get it for him. He said that wasn’t necessary. He told us he had found a full bottle of tequila. Yeah, oops. We actually had a full and a half bottle of tequila. Greg had forgotten about the full bottle of booze when he made our declarations and I hadn’t corrected him because I had already decided that this was going to be the easiest border crossing ever and I was sure that they wouldn’t check. I was fully prepared to relinquish the tequila or whatever needed to be done. But instead, the agent asked us if we had anything else to declare. We said no. Then we were asked us about guns again. “If I search this van I won’t find any guns, right?” “Right,” we assured him, “we don’t have any guns”. The agent gave us a stern talking to and told us that we didn’t want to end up on a list. He let us keep the bottle of tequila and we were on our way.

Whew. So glad he believed us because I lied. I had a bottle of mezcal hidden in the van for Greg’s birthday.

Greg with his illicit birthday gift, a bottle of mezcal.

Our second issue this past month was in the van troubles category. One morning the van started up with a very loud very awful noise. We had never heard a noise like this come from Ballena Blanca before. Greg looked at the engine, turned the van off, turned it over again, and the noise persisted. We were clueless. We were also in a spot with no cell coverage. Our only choice was to drive (or walk 4 miles or so) and hope the noise wasn’t Ballena Blanca in her death throes. We were on an island with few services but luckily this is the island where our friends live. We managed to drive to town and back into cell range with no problems. After having no luck finding a mechanic on our own we called our friends (who didn’t know we were there and whose house we weren’t supposed to arrive at until the next day). They told us to call Mike.

We met Mike at the yellow house behind the Burger Barn. As we pulled up he had an immediate diagnosis. We had a power steering fluid leak. Mike filled the reservoir and BB’s “death throes” faded away. Thank goodness. Mike didn’t fix the leak but gave us the rest of the bottle of fluid and charged us $20 (we were so happy we gave him $25).  Later that day we made a plan to get it fixed, hoping the leak would be slow enough for us to make it to Alaska where we’d take it to a Ford dealer. That plan hasn’t exactly worked out as we hoped (and is still in progress as we write this). More on this saga next time.

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 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.

And our total expenses for June were…

$2,673.20

Here is the breakdown of categories…

Expenses June 2022
Van
Gas $433.19
Insurance/Registration $81.80
Maintenance $0.00
Repairs $33.09
Van Total $548.08
Life in the Van
Upgrade/Repairs to Upfit $0.00
Utilities $0.00
Camping $41.67
Household $0.00
Laundry $0.00
Showers $0.00
Tolls/Parking $823.68
Van Life Total $865.35
Communication
Phone $122.52
Mail Service $0.00
Communication Total $122.52
Consumables
Food $455.77
Booze $286.60
Cleaning/Paper Products $11.30
Medicine Cabinet $37.27
Consumables Total $790.94
Entertainment
Drinks/Eating Out $173.82
Museums/Attractions/Music $40.51
Entertainment Total $214.33
Health
Eyes/Feet/Doctor $0.00
Dentist $0.00
Health Total $0.00
Personal
Clothes $27.10
Gifts/Charity $54.29
Gear $50.59
Personal Total $131.98
*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.

When we were traveling through BC we paid anywhere from $2.16 to $2.22 a liter for gas. At approximately 3.79 a liter to the gallon and considering the US dollar to Canadian dollar exchange rate this means we were paying around $6.54 to $6.78 a gallon. Gas is expensive in Canada. Of course, we saved some gas money by taking the ferry. But then again the ferry wasn’t cheap. The ferry to Victoria was $118 and the BC Ferry to Prince Rupert cost us about $640 US. So the ferries ended up being less of a cost-saving means and more of an experience and time-saving device. Just one of the bigger costs of adventure!

Food is also super expensive in Canada. I saw a can of refried beans for over $5. I thought I’d have to start soaking and cooking dried beans but eventually, we found a can in the $3 range (still expensive!). Considering our cost for groceries is 20% lower (due to the exchange rate) than what Canadians pay I don’t know how they afford to eat.

We knew that alcohol would be much higher than we are used to paying in the US but surprisingly it wasn’t nearly as costly as we expected.

I was surprised to find so much free camping in BC. But even the pay camping wasn’t nearly as expensive as some places in the US – especially with our 20% US discount (the exchange rate). Anyways the free camping and the Boondockers Welcome locations were one of the areas where we could make up for the high cost of everything else.

June Camping Stats:

We spent $41.67 camping in June.

1 – night in friends’ driveway
1 –  night at a Walmart
11 – nights at Boondockers Welcome locations
2 – nights in a Regional Park ($24.60)
1 – night at a Harvest Hosts winery location
5 – nights in free BC recreation sites
1 – night free island campsite
3 – nights inside friends’ house
1 – night at a ferry terminal ($17.07)
2 – nights free at a Provincial Park
1 – night at a free First Nations Campground
1 – night at a trailhead

Celebrating another month at Salmon Glacier in British Columbia.

* 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.

10 thoughts on “Nomad Life & Expenses June 2022

    1. We are glad not to be on it too. We are taking extra care with border crossings now to avoid the dreaded list.

  1. Ughhhhh. Every time we’ve crossed the border (coming back into the U.S.), agents have wanted us to leave the rig so they could come in and have a look around, but we’ve never been fully searched. Just open a couple drawers and make sure it looked normal. And even THAT always felt invasive to me. I cannot imagine having someone going through all my things and giving me the third degree. I get that they can. but man, does it feel wrong. I am sure you were happy to have that bottle of mezcal for a good strong drink when that was all done.

    1. Reentering the US is always the worst. And yes it does feel like an invasion of privacy. I mean it’s our home. But I was really just annoyed more than anything. And I do wonder what went through his head as he opened cabinets and saw all the stuff I had packed in them.

      The mezcal was well recieved when I finally gave it to Greg on his birthday – and obviously quite a surprise.

  2. Sorry to read about that terrible border crossing experience. But I’m glad everything worked out in the end and you managed to keep everything. Just a bit of a time sink.

    That glacier in the last photo looks incredible! And the campsites looked peaceful and nice as well.

    You racked up a lot of fabulous experiences last month and some of those come at a cost. Not a bad month if you ignore the ferry cost (and the alcohol cost). While your gas expense might seem high, I’m actually surprised it’s this low compared to the distances you covered. A van surely has better fuel economy than a pickup truck!

    1. Yes, it was mostly an annoyance. And of course while he was searching I realized he’d find the full bottle tequila so I was a bit worried about that.

      The glacier is Salmon Glacier. It nay be the coolest thing we’ve seen so far. We are off to find more glaciers as soon as we can hit the road again.

      Thankfully our gas milage isn’t bad. People who have driven those gigantic RVs to Alaska must be paying a fortune!

  3. Dear Duwan and Gregg
    Congratulations on another month !
    I love BC ! it is so beautiful, you guys are so lucky.
    Thank you for sharing your trip with us.
    Cheers,
    From C-Town

    1. Thanks Anya! I feel like we have barely seen any of BC. We will have to return because almost everything we’ve seen is awesome.

      Give Cabbagetown a big hug from us. We miss you all!

  4. Yikes that border crossing, seems like they are a lot more strict this year having to use the App and know what time you are crossing the border. Glad you finally made it and with the birthday surprise. 😉 Really enjoying your blog posts, I need to get caught back up. Big hug to you both, enjoy!! :*

    1. I think we only have to say what day we are crossing with the app – not the time. I think the app makes it a little easier.

      I don’t know if they targeted us specifically on the search or if it was random. I’ve been reading that people have been getting randomly searched.

      Yeah – glad I made it with the birthday surprise but I’m not doing that again. We could have gotten into big trouble!

      Big hug back to you. Thanks for recommending the blog to people. Always love hearing from you here! Happy travels and pet sitting!

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