October was filled with friends, family, and a few costumes!
I started out the month house-sitting for Jasmine by myself in Cabbagetown while Greg drove Ballena Blanca to North Carolina to see his parents. While in North Carolina Greg managed to get his parents, two children, their spouses, and his grandson all in one place. It had been a long time since that had happened. They had a nice lunch out catching up on everyone’s busy lives. Because it is easier to get an appointment for the van at a Ford service center near where Greg’s folks live, Greg stayed a little longer and took the van in for some repairs.
On Greg’s way back to Atlanta he made a few stops in Greenville, South Carolina where we have friends. A couple of those friends, Steve and Lu, are some of my good friends from back in the day when I bartended at a music club in Greenville. I hadn’t seen them in a very long time until we reconnected at the beginning of this year. I saw Lu, who is an artist, on an open studio tour when I was in Greenville in January. I fell in love with her recent work – but of course, living in a van, we have no room for art. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t still buy art – for other people!
My niece’s wedding was coming up, and since she and her fiance are already established they requested no gifts (only money for a honeymoon or for the house-buying fund). I decided to ignore that request and commission my friend Lu to paint them a portrait. Lu made the painting a priority and by the time Greg was driving back to Atlanta, it was finished. He stopped by their house to pick it up and had good a visit with our old friends. While in Greenville he also stopped by to see our friends David and Michelle (who’d we’d both soon see at the wedding).
Back in Cabbagetown, I was hiding from the social scene. The trip from Alaska and having Covid had worn me out. But once Greg returned we embraced as much of Cabbagetown as we could. We spent a day with Debbie and Anne at Porch Fest, had dinner with Wayne, listened to music in the park, watched The Wizard of OZ in the park, had a small jam session at Karen’s house, had dinner out with Paul, hung out with an old college friend, Natalie, and her husband, Andy, visited Ronnie and Marshall, went shopping with the girls for wedding clothes, hung out with Richard, walked Jasmine all over Atlanta, worked on van projects, ate dinner at Anne’s house, ate out a few times with Debbie, and ran out of time to see all the people we wanted to see.
When we left Cabbagetown we were headed to New Orleans for my niece’s wedding. Our first stop was just south of Atlanta in Peachtree City to visit my old college friend, Natalie. She and her husband had moved to the Atlanta area from St. Louis just before the pandemic started. It was a hard time to be in a new place and not know anyone. I had my first chance to visit with her in January when I was on my way out west. I was super happy we could reconnect this time I was in Atlanta so that she could meet Greg and we could introduce her to some of my Cabbagetown friends who I knew she’d fit right in with. We spent a great evening and morning with them at their house before heading to our next stop on the way to New Orleans.
Although my niece, Ariadne, and her husband, Ian, are not native New Orleanians they have embraced everything the city is about. Ariadne works as a writer and ghost tour guide. She combined those facets of her life into her first published novel called Ash Tuesday. Ian is an actor and works in radio. Together they are crazy creative. Check out this parody video they did called Avacado Mountian.
So they weren’t going to have just any ordinary wedding. On their wedding website, people were instructed to, “Please dress wildly, weirdly, and exuberantly within our theme of ‘Garden of Love.'” And so we tried to comply. Although we had over a month’s notice, with all of our traveling, being sick, van projects, and visiting with friends, we were down to the wire on getting our costumes together. The girl gang helped me find something in Atlanta a little over a week before the event and Greg was still knitting his New Orleans Gnome costume while I drove Ballena Blanca to Louisiana.
It was a lovely, beautiful, and super untraditional wedding with readings, singing, costumes, a tree, dancing in the street, a Second Line, lots of music, and a killer reception.
After the wedding, we were on our way to Texas to meet up with our traveling friends, Mark, Liesbet, and Maya. But before we got to Texas we had one more family stop in Louisiana to visit Greg’s brother Booper (Ken). We had a good lunch with Ken at one of the many establishments where he entertains the crowds with his guitar picking.
Then we were on to Texas. Mark, Liesbet, and Maya are nomads like us. They have traveled by boat and van, and have hopped around the country house-sitting. We have now connected on the road with them in 7 US states and 2 Mexican States. But we won’t be running into them anymore any time soon. They are off to South America.
So it was amazing good fortune that we collided with them one more time while we were on our way west and while they were waiting in Texas for the boat that would take their truck camper to Cartegena, Columbia. We spent a week doing nomad stuff, like figuring out where we’d sleep each night. We followed each other from free (with a permit) camping in a county park, to camping at a boat ramp, at a rest area, at a brew pub in Houston, to finally our last night together on a beach in Galveston. We ate dinners together, went on walks, explored Houston, and had good conversations and a few laughs.
We spent our last day together on the beach, then the next morning on October 31 we left to drive to Austin, Texas for our next house sit. And then, in about a week our friends’ camper, Thirsty Bella was on a ship to South America and they were in Cartegena waiting for it to arrive and to start their next adventure. I’m so excited for them! If you don’t follow them already, check them out on their blog, Roaming About.
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 October were…
Here is the breakdown of categories…
*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.
Ok, this isn’t actually all of our expenses. I left out the expense for my niece’s wedding gift (the painting and cash). I also left off the price of replacing the camera I broke when we were in Alaska. It’s a Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV and it’s expensive. I sent the broken camera to Sony hoping it could be fixed, but there was too much water damage. I told them to keep it. So while we were in Texas, I found a Best Buy that had one in stock and we went and bought it. If you are curious as to how much this camera set us back, you can check the price at Best Buy here.
Even with my non-reported expenses, it was kind of a pricey month. The whole time we were in Alaska and the whole trip back to Atlanta the van was making a knocking/clicking sound whenever we went down rough roads or around corners. We finally decided we’d risked it long enough and took it in to be looked at. Turns out it the seals at the end of the sway bars were shot.
We also did a few more improvements to the van. For a while, we have been battling bad smells when we open our homemade composting toilet. I designed this toilet myself but unfortunately when we built it we didn’t include a fan. The solids in a composting toilet don’t smell if you keep them dry. I was hoping that only using a cover material to soak up the moisture would do the job. It doesn’t. A fan seems to be key. So I spent some time and after a lot of research and shopping I came up with an idea to add one. It looks a little cyberpunk but so far it is working.
My other big project was a shopping project. You would think that shopping on the internet makes everything easier but when you are trying to find the right product with the best reviews and the right specifications to work in a van, it can be exhausting. We wanted a vacuum cleaner. Floors get super dirty in a small amount of time in a small space. We sweep as best as we can but a vacuum can get into all those weird nooks and crannies where dirt accumulates. After all my research we decided to buy a Ryobi cordless hand vacuum. It uses a rechargeable 18-volt battery just like our other tools and stores nicely in a new space we made for it in the van.
Lots of other little expenses added up quickly last month. New clothes and butterfly wings for my niece’s wedding. Mail expenses to get our absentee ballots to Cabbagetown and back to Florida fast. And, of course, when we see friends and family there is always extra eating and drinking out.
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.
The Camping/sleeping Report
Here are our camping/sleeping stats (all camping/sleeping is free unless otherwise indicated):
17 – nights house sitting*
1 – night at a friend’s house (inside)
2 – nights at a rest stop
4 – nights at an RV resort
3 – nights at a county park
1 – night at an Army Corps of Engineers boat launch site
1 – night at a Harvest Host location
1 – night on the beach
1 – night in the driveway of a house sit
* During this time, Greg spent nights visiting with his parents in North Carolina
Map and Miles
We are still at our house sit in Austin, TX. We move to another house sit on Saturday. We will be there until the 20th and then we are going south. Maybe not right away – I want to finish some more blogs about Alaska. But the winter plans are – Mexico! We hope to travel south of the border for 5 or 6 months and drive all the way to the Yucatan Penisula, maybe even Belize. But right now we’ve been doing more van projects, practicing our Spanish daily, and playing with cats a lot.
4 thoughts on “Nomad Life & Expenses October 2022”
Champion update! (that’s an English/Irish word for Fantastic). Smiled all the way through. Next time you’re in Cabbagetown let me know; I could join you for lunch.
Thanks John! Sometimes I worry about these long updates becoming tedious. But I did have a lot of fun pictures!
We’d love to have lunch next time we are in Atlanta. We’ll make a point of it.
You sure had a busy – and relatively expensive – month. But so much fun! After you felt better. It was awesome to meet up again and hang out for a week. Our (hopefully not final) goodbye! As you know, the three of us made it to Colombia, but the camper is not leaving until the 16th or so. We hope. Dropping it off was eventful – they didn’t let us take our propane tank!!
I love the photos you selected for this post and will borrow some for my expense report, which I’ve been wanting to write and post for over a week! But now I’m sick and bed bound.
Enjoy the rest of your house sits and your winter in Mexico!!
The van seems to be your highest (recorded) expense and I hope she’ll behave now.
Yes, it was – especially hanging out with Thirsty Bella and crew. I’m so glad we got to see you guys one last time before you took off. Hopefully it won’t be the last time. I had several final goodbyes with Ellen – and now it looks like we’ll see her (and Scott) again in Mexico. You never know…
I think the van will have low expenses for November since we’ve not really gone anywhere and are singed up for house sitting now until the 27th.
I hate that you’ve been sick. Hope you’re better now and can enjoy Cartagena.