Nomad Life & Expenses January & February 2024

Sunset on the farm in Snow Camp, North Carolina.

The start of a month of house sits

We rang in the New Year in Mexico City, mostly recovered but still feeling the effects of whatever bug we had caught. Three days later on  January 3, we flew back to the US. We picked up the van that night from the hotel parking lot where we had left it during our stay in Mexico and drove to Greg’s mom, Dossie’s house north of Charlotte.

Back at the end of November/beginning of December, we booked a month of house sitting in January through our Trusted House Sitters subscription*. All the sits were within 2 hours of Greg’s mom’s house. We wanted to be close if she needed anything.

The first sit was in Asheville, NC. We were pretty excited about this one because we love Asheville. It was located just a short walk from the business district in West Asheville. We have friends in the neighborhood who we haven’t seen for years. But we ended up not even letting them know we were there. We were still feeling sluggish from whatever bug we caught in Mexico. Luckily the house we were in was very comfortable and the cat, Rosie, we were sitting for was super easy to take care of. She had a kitty door she would come and go from and every morning she would come back from her night adventures outside and curl up next to me on the bed.

Rosie in Asheville, North Carolina.

Next, we moved to Belmont, North Carolina. Belmont is only about 30 minutes away from Greg’s mom’s house and we thought this would be a good opportunity to visit her and help her with things around her house. Except when we booked this sit we forgot to ask how long the dogs could be left alone (it turned out, 2 hours) and although the pet parent was fine with us taking them to Dossie’s house, Dossie didn’t think her dog Penny would get along with them. So I stayed at the house and Greg spent a few afternoons at his mom’s. Luckily the dogs, two toy miniature schnauzers, Brady and Baxter, were delightful. When the older one wasn’t curled up next to me while I studied Spanish they were both playing, running in the yard, and playing tug-a-war with each other. They both settled down in the evening and slept in dog tents overnight which were zipped up until Greg let them out in the morning. After their morning potty, they’d come running into the bedroom and jump on the bed where I was still sleeping as to say, it’s morning! Come on, get up! It’s time to play again!

Baxter and Brady running in the yard.

The farm sit

From Belmont, we headed north to a farm in Snow Camp, North Carolina. At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this sit. We had never taken care of farm animals – except for one indoor outdoor pig. But I had saved it in the THS app because the dates almost matched up with the Belmont sit. The homeowner saw that I saved it and reached out to invite us. I showed the listing to Greg. He said that he always wanted to do a farm sit. OK, alright… I asked the homeowner if we could come a day early to line up with our previous sit. After a little back and forth we decided on dates that could better accommodate everyone’s schedule.

The house we were staying in looked like an old antebellum home – except it was actually fairly new. It had a lot of big rooms, decorative molding, high ceilings, and a private suite where we stayed. A rich guy had it built, got caught cheating on his wife, went broke, the bank took possession of the house, and it was eventually sold to our house-sitting hosts.

Our charges were two dogs, 18 chickens, 4 geese, 2 ducks, 2 donkeys, 1 goat, and 8 cows. Our chores of feeding and watering the animals, letting the ducks and chickens out of their enclosures in the morning, and getting them back in at night, only took about 20 to 30 minutes in the morning and evening. Luckily we weren’t instructed to do any mucking.  It was all pretty easy — until things went wrong.

It was January and all the standing water outside froze overnight. This included all the animal water troughs and buckets and the hose (which we were vigilant enough about draining) used to fill up all the watering containers. We had to break the frozen water up with a pike, haul fresh water to fill the buckets, and figure out how to unfreeze the hose. I tried various things to thaw the hose before I remembered the pumphouse. There was a heater in the pumphouse to keep the well from freezing up. I stuck the house in there and the next day it was thawed.

But that wasn’t our only farming challenge. The cows were running out of hay. Our host told us to keep an eye on the hay and let them know when it got low. When it did they would call a friend to come and put out another gigantic round hay bale. By the time this happened, their friend couldn’t come for 2 days. And all the hay would be gone by the next day. So we offered to try to do it ourselves. Greg has driven a tractor before and after discussing the process with one of our hosts on the phone, he thought he could do it. The worst part for me was opening the gate so Greg could drive the tractor into the pasture. I’m kind of scared of cows, but I needed to keep them back while Greg drove in. Luckily I realized, as I was taking pictures, they didn’t like my phone. When I held it up, they backed away. We did this twice and the second time a cow got through the gate, but using the phone trick I was able to chase it around the tractor and back into the pasture.

I don’t think I’d like to be a full-time farmer, but our little experience was fun and rewarding. And I’d recommend this farm sit to anyone wanting a little peace, relaxation, and an occasional challenge.

One more quick sit

From the farm, we drove to Columbia, South Carolina where sat for a sweet cat, Bennie, for 5 days. There I started working on the plan to sell the van. We had originally thought we were going to store it while we spent 6 months in South America learning Spanish. But after thinking about it some more, and no longer being in a hurry, we decided to sell it.

Booking sits in Colorado

Since selling the van would essentially leave us homeless, I decided to line up another string of house-sitting. But the southeast where we were didn’t have enough sits in a concentrated area to make that possible. I started looking for a location with a lot of sitting opportunities and a good market for the van. I settled on Denver – a good long way away, but closer than my first option, Seattle. I created a spreadsheet with sits, color-coded to match up sits back to back, and started applying. It was a little worrisome at first because in the Southeast we had been getting all the sits we applied to. Not so in Denver. I was starting to question how easy this was going to be. But eventually sits started rolling in and we were booked through April 25.

By the time our last sit in the Carolinas ended, Greg’s brother, Ken, and his wife, Shirley, had relocated to South Carolina a couple of hours away from Greg’s mom. It was time to get back to our normal lives and start working our sell the van/fly to South America plan.

My house-sitting spreadsheet. Each sit starting on the same date is the same color. The last day of each sit is a different color depending on the color of the sit that begins on that date.

Visiting friends and family one last time

But first, we had to do one last round of visiting friends and family in the Southeast and address a few issues with the van. We saw David and Michelle in Greenville, then went to Greg’s mom’s where we took the van to our favorite Ford Dealer in North Carolina and left it for about a week. We borrowed one of Greg’s mom’s cars and drove to the Charleston area to visit with both Greg’s kids, his daughter and son-in-law, and of course, the grandson, Gabriel. Back at Greg’s mom’s house we retrieved Ballena Blanca and said our last goodbye to Dossie and her dog Penny. We zoomed through Atlanta, squeezing in a quick party, and then spent the weekend with our friends in Peachtree City before making a long haul to New Orleans to visit my niece.

Driving to Colorado

Towards the end of February, we were on our way to Colorado for our first house sit. Being winter we were worried about the cold, so as we traveled north we booked spots in campgrounds and at Boondockers Welcome hosts where we could plug in our little space heater. We traveled slowly taking 6 days to get to our last camp spot in the Denver area. As I drove those last miles up Highway 25 it was snowing. We had spent the last 12 years avoiding snow and I think I had just forgotten about the concept entirely. We were now purposely driving right into it. The road was slick and it was late. We pulled into Chatfield State Park Campground, just southwest of the city after dark. We plugged in our little heater and snuggled up under all our covers.

The next day we would go to our first sit with the sweet and lovely big-eared Stella.

Snowy highway driving into Denver.

The Expenses

Welcome to the return of the Expense Report! To catch up, I am reporting on two months at a 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 South Carolina 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 South Carolina where we are residents. 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.
  • 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 January were…


And February were…


Here is the breakdown of categories…

Expenses January & February 2024
Van Jan Feb
Gas $152.63 $515.19
Insurance/Registration $85.46 $85.46
Maintenance $95.88 $14.46
Repairs $0.00 $123.61
Van Totals $333.97 $738.72
Life in the Van Jan Feb
Upgrade/Repairs $62.95 $81.39
Utilities $0.00 $0.00
Camping $30.00 $72.44
Household $0.00 $0.00
Laundry $0.00 $0.00
Showers/bathroom $0.00 $0.00
Tolls/Parking $0.00 $0.00
Van Life Totals $92.95 $153.83
Communication Jan Feb
Phone $124.15 $124.15
Communication Totals $124.15 $124.15
Consumables Jan Feb
Food $443.85 $442.88
Booze $119.82 $187.26
Cleaning/Paper Products $23.79 $4.82
Medicine Cabinet $57.70 $36.38
Consumables Totals $553.27 $671.34
Entertainment Jan Feb
Drinks/Eating Out $8.44 $567.97
Museums/Attractions/Music $0.00 $121.04
Entertainment Totals $8.44 $689.01
Health Jan Feb
Eyes/Feet/Doctor $242.16 $3.00
Dentist $0.00 $0.00
Health Totals $242.16 $3.00
Personal Jan Feb
Clothes $76.96 $0.00
Gifts/Charity $0.00 $51.09
Gear $43.19 $95.95
Subscriptions $30.00 $136.41
Personal Totals $150.15 $283.45
Traveling Life Jan Feb
Storage $40.00 $40.00
Accommodations $0.00 $0.00
Transportation $40.90 $0.00
Laundry $0.00 $0.00
Traveling Life Totals $80.90 $40.00
Jan Feb
Total Expenses $1,677.88 $2,585.43
*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. These are expenses for hobbies, computer devices, books, kayaks, bikes, etc. They are the things that make us not quite minimalist.

It is interesting to see these two expense reports side by side. Obviously, we traveled more in February which meant a whole lot more spent on gas (January: $152.63, February: $515.19). For maintenance, we did an oil change, $95.88, in January before we started our long trek across the country. And in February, as we were traveling to Denver, we were hoping an octane booster would solve what we thought was an engine knock problem. We tried 3 treatments ($14.46), but the problem ended up being something else. In February we had our tire sensors repaired, $123.61. Yeah! no little tire light on the dash anymore!

We spent some time in January and February getting Ballena Blanca ready to sell. We had to replace the van’s water pump and water filter. We bought cleaning supplies and new fuses. This all totaled up to $144.34 in Upgrades/Repairs category for Life in the Van for the two months. Camping reservations and fees for using electricity at Boondockers Welcome locations for our trip to Colorado totaled $102.44.

Our food expenses were $324.81 for January and $442.88 for February. Unfortunately, these are pretty consistent averages now. Only 3 years ago, we were spending in the $200 range every month. Alcohol was a little lower in January, $119.82, compared to February, $187.26, most likely because we were still feeling poorly after our sickness in Mexico.

In January, we ate out once, lunch at Whole Foods, $8.44. But in February we spent a lot going out with friends and treating our family, $689.01. Our entertainment expense in February was for a Colorado State Park Pass, $121.04. I thought it would be a value since we were going to be spending so much time in the state and would have dogs we could hike with. It didn’t quite turn out like that. I now consider this as more of a donation to Colorado State Parks.

January, contact lenses, $242.16. February, reading glasses, $3.00.

We have been working on our traveling wardrobe, convenient items that store and wear easily, and basic things we need to replace, so we spent some money on new clothes in January, $76.96. The expenses for gifts, $51.09, in February, were for the postage to mail a gift, $7.09, $4 for the tooth fairy because they were short on cash, and $40 for a dinner out for my friends, Liesbet and Mark, from Roaming About who are traveling in South America. You can read their blog, here, and if you feel so inspired to buy my frugal, adventurous, traveling on shoestring friends, a meal out, scroll down the sidebar and click the donate button. Gear for January was for an exercise band, and for February gear was for $95.95 worth of snacks and drinks for our impromptu party in Cabbagetown.

January subscriptions ($30) include the NY Times and Patreon. February subscriptions ($136.41) include Netflix, the NY Times, Adobe Photoshop, and Patreon, and a yearly subscription for my friend, Holly’s Substack, Holly Starley’s Rolling Desk. Holly, a fellow nomad who we met in a National Forest in Arizona writes about traveling, writing, and the interesting people she meets. Our Patreon is for our traveling journalist friend, Michael Fox. Michael, who we met in Mexico, is a documentary filmmaker, podcaster & musician who reports on stories from Latin America.

After years of resisting, we now have storage until, $40 a month. The $40.90 transportation cost in January was for our checked luggage when we flew back from Mexico.

Map of our travels

The Plan

The plan is coming together. We have sold the van! We have booked a flight to Cartagena, Colombia. We will spend a week in Cartagena sightseeing and then fly to Medellin where we will start Spanish lessons. We have 4 weeks booked in a room in Medellin. And that is as far as I’m willing to plan right now.

Right Now

Here we are in Denver with our first house-sitting charge, Stella.

We are on our last house sit with a sweet low-maintenance cat. We are tying up loose ends before we leave the country. We leave on Friday and after a 16-hour flight, we will arrive in Colombia on Saturday morning. I’m a bit stressed. I don’t really like deadlines and miss the life we had where we often didn’t know where we would sleep each night until a couple of hours (or less) beforehand.

*Trusted House Sitters has worked well for us. It is based on an equitable trade. We get housing, a break from the road and to visit places we might not have ordinarily gone, and the hosts get 5-star pet and house sitting (check out our reviews!). If you are interested in this kind of trade, click this link for 25% off a subscription to Trusted House Sitters. We will also get 2 free months!

3 thoughts on “Nomad Life & Expenses January & February 2024

  1. Wow, you guys! I’m out of breath reading all this. So much went through my head as well. What’s a dog tent? Stella looks cute. I’d love to do that farm sit one day. So awesome to combine house sitting with visits to friends and family.

    Yes, February’s expenses were much higher than January’s, but I’m sure that had to do with some of January going to your Mexico expense report and all the driving, visiting, and treating in February.

    Thanks again for your generous donation. We enjoyed a super meal (Korean food) with it in Chile. Yes, I still remember! 🙂

    Happy prepping and safe travels. We will remain in touch! Xox

    1. Hey Liesbet! A dog tent looks like a miniature tent. You can put a dog bed in it and zip it up when the dogs are in it at night. It is collapsible, so it is to move around – unlike a crate. This was the first time we had seen one. The dogs loved them.

      The gas was expected for February, but eating out has gotten so expensive! I will be glad to soon be in a place where our eating and drinking out dollar will go much further.

      I’m so glad that you had a good meal on us!

      Just two more days and we are off!

  2. Fascinating post and way of life, Duwan. Glad you were able to work the house sits in around family commitments. Smiles when I read you were at Chatfield as it’s just 2 miles south of our house! We live just up Wadsworth at Ken Caryl. I hope your South American adventures go well and that you become proficient in Spanish.

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