Last Update: 10/28/2016

Pick Up Mail and Packages on the Road

US Air Force dropping packages by parachute. That’s one way to get your mail while traveling! Vanholio.com

Your van life is on the move – you’ve gone OTR. So where you gonna collect your mail and package shipments when just passing through an area? Vanholio’s got solutions!

Easy Situation — You Know the Carrier


Whether you’re ordering online, getting a bundle of mail forwarded by your private mailbox company, or Momma’s sending you her “special brownies,” you might well know ahead of time what carrier’s being used to ship.

USPS (United States Postal Service)


Get the envelope or package shipped to General Delivery at a town you’re passing through:

Your Name
General Delivery
Post Office Street Address
City, State, XXXXX-9999

Always use that 9999 as the +4 for your General Delivery post office ZIP.

You can also have your USPS mail automatically forwarded from your normal address to another address, including General Delivery at any post office. This works better when you’re gonna be in one location for a while. It’s a pain in the ass when you’re moving around a lot, honestly.

Canada Post does things basically the same way as USPS. Check their website for specifics.

UPS (United Parcel Service)


Have the shipment sent to a convenient UPS Customer Center or a The UPS Store location. The Customer Centers are the shipping depots, and they have limited locations and hours open to drop by. The UPS Stores have more locations and better hours, but they usually charge you $5 per envelope and $10 per package received (unless you have a mailbox there).

FedEx (Federal Express)


Like UPS, you get your package sent to a FedEx Distribution Center or to a FedEx Office location (used to be Kinko’s). Again like UPS, the distribution centers are more scarce and with scarce customer hours, but FedEx Office storefronts are more convenient. But unlike The UPS Store, FedEx Office won’t charge you for receiving your package.

Amazon.com


While not a carrier per se, Amazon.com now has the Amazon Locker service, where you can pick up and drop off Amazon purchases any time at their location. I haven’t used one, but looking the site, it looks like they leave your package in something like a bus locker.

Walmart, Other Retailers


Some retailers will let you pick up online orders at their retail locations. Vanholio orders stuff from Walmart.com, the picks it up from a store I'm passing by – all the fucking time. No shipping fee, neither.

Trickier Situation – You Don’t Know the Carrier


Sometimes you don’t know how an envelope or package is being sent until after the fact. Amazon.com, for example, usually uses UPS or USPS, but you can’t choose when you order. And sometimes they throw a curveball and do FedEx or even DHL. What then? Good news is usually you get a tracking number and carrier name. If they don’t tell you, ask! Not a whole fucking lot you can do otherwise.

Well, that’s not entirely true. In the case of FedEx and UPS, they’ll hold the package at their depot for a bit after a failed delivery attempt. You might be able to intercept it there before it gets returned to sender. USPS doesn’t hold shit – it goes right the fuck back.

USPS (United States Postal Service)


You can redirect most USPS mail or package that has a tracking number and hasn’t yet been sent out for delivery from the destination’s post office. But the fucker’s will change you $12.55! This magic service is called “Package Intercept.”

UPS (United Parcel Service)


Using UPS My Choice and the tracking number, you can change the package delivery address to a home address, UPS Customer Center, or a The UPS Store location.

Note that if the original delivery address was a commercial address (e.g., USPS General Delivery or your mailbox service), you can’t do that yourself online. But you can contact their customer service and they’ll do it manually. No biggie.

FedEx (Federal Express)


These fuckers are a bit different. FedEx normally only allows the sender to change the delivery address, so you’ll have to call the sender and get them to do it for you.

There is an exception: FedEx Redirect to Hold. This is an added-cost service option for the sender. If they’ve paid for it, the receiver can request to pick up the package at a FedEx Distribution Center or FedEx Office location.

Worry-Free Situation – Private Mailbox Services


If you’ve gotten your mail and packages sent to your private mailbox service, such as Traveling Mailbox (which I reviewed last week), they’ll usually forward them to you just about anywhere. You pick the destination and carrier.

Vanholio’s also been told that multi-location storefront mailbox services, like The UPS Store and Mailboxes Etc., can forward your shit to another one of their storefront locations, too. Not sure what the charge is, but likely reasonable.

International Situations? – Fuck if I Know


I barely touched on Canada Post doing General Delivery. That’s all I know. Vanholio sure don’t know shit about Mexico or anywhere else outside the USA.

If you, Dear Reader, would send Vanholio the info to vanholio69 AT gmail DOT com, I’ll do a followup post and give you credit. Inquiring van lifers want to know!!!

Hey, Beer Vanholio! He works hard on this blog.

Also See ...

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Last Update: 10/25/2016

5 Hard-Won Lessons of Urban Van Life

Van covered with graffiti wall for urban van life, not necessarily down by the river. Vanholio.com
"Graffiti van 2" by Sarah Joy (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Vanholio's real impressed with Simon Gooder's GoHobo post, "5 Things I Learned About Van Life (While Living in a Van)."

Vanholio don't urban stealth camp much, so he ain't got much to say on the matter. But I know that's what some of you do or wanna do.

Simon's experience has the ring of hard-won truth to it, so listen up! As he says:

Living in a van is not always awesome. But neither is living in a house. Actually, most of the time living in a van is awesome.

GoHobo.co is an outstanding site, filled with good info about all flavors of Alt travel. Check it out!

Hey, Beer Vanholio! He works hard on this blog.

Also See ...

Adventure Directory (Go Hobo)
/r/vandwellers (Reddit.com)
10 Ways to Shower if You Live in a Van
Read More »

Last Update: 10/21/2016

Greenhouse for Winter Van Life Warmth

Sketch of winter van life greenhouse garage to park van in to live down by the river — sketch by Vanholio!
Ol’ Vanholio was trippin’ ‘round the northern Rockies and got to thinking: What if I wintered here? How would I keep fucking warm? How could van life be more bearable in that cold? My genius idea was parking the van in a greenhouse, down by the river.

Greenhouse Winter Camping Proven Tech


If you’re stuck in a cold place this winter, this idea is damn solid. Ain’t never heard no one do it with for van life, but it’s been done for survival. Even by a guy who lived in a greenhoused tent through the Minnesota winter!

3 Methods for a Van Life Winter Greenhouse


1. Good Greenhouse Method – Go Simple


The most dead simple way’d be to park your van in a regular greenhouse. Don’t know someone with a greenhouse you can park in? You can buy a cheap portable greenhouse. (It’s a little short, but you can modify.)

Another easy option is to make a simple greenhouse tent with a clear, reinforced poly tarp. Hell, if you wanted to go cheap, I saw 4 mil 9x12 poly tarps at the Walmart pain area for $9.87! Duct-tape ‘em together! You could string them on rope or cable between trees, use some poles, or any other way you’d do a homemade tent.

Whatever setup you do, the inside air will be 10-20 degrees warmer on a sunny day (or more). And your van, as a big thermal sink, will be a tad warmer through the night.

2. Better Greenhouse Method – Add Mass


The greenhouse will be collecting all that good radiant sun heat through the day. But you want to keep it. To do that, you need mass. Now, the van itself will heat up and re-radiate some heat through the night.

But you can go a step further by putting black, plastic containers of water in the greenhouse with you. The sun’ll heat up that water in the day, and the water will slowly radiate back heat at night.

And if that’s unrealistic, put a bunch of dark rocks on greenhouse floor around the van. Let them bake up during the day.

A third option is making a south-facing cliff one of your greenhouse walls. That huge rock wall will collect a whole lotta goddamn heat and radiate back at ya through the night. Plus being on the south side of a cliff’ll keep you out of the north wind. Hell, it worked for Anasazi cliff dwellers!

3. Best Greenhouse Method – Add Reflective Wall


Your sharpest option is to make a van-size Kochanski Super Shelter. That’s the picture at top. Your south-facing wall is clear plastic. But your back wall is a reflective tarp. That’ll keep the sun’s radiant energy bouncing around in the greenhouse. It’s like an echo chamber for light.

If it’s super cold or cloudy, you can replace the sun’s radiant warmth with a fire outside the greenhouse. You can see that in the video below.

I’d also put a small reflective tarp, tin foil, or a rock or log wall beside the fire, opposite the greenhouse. That’ll bounce all the heat straight into your greenhouse tent. And do put in some black plastic water jugs or rocks in the greenhouse to keep that heat all night.

Hey, Beer Vanholio! He works hard on this blog.

Also See ...

Acclimatize for Warmth in All Weather
Live in a Greenhouse (Insructables)
The 2 Warmest Survival Shelters Anyone Can Easily Make (Survival Gear Authority)

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Last Update: 10/20/2016

Vanholio Is a Fucking Sellout!

Greedy van life sellout Vanholio represtented by a sculpture of a smiling, thumbs-up greedy capitalist with dollar sign tie. So much for the freedom of living in a van down by the river!
Say it: You’re a fucking sellout, Vanholio! It’s the goddamn truth. Vanholio’s walked back his promise to do no ads. Well, if you don’t like it, use a fucking ad blocker! Van life, even down by the river, costs some money. Don’t need much, but takes something.

Look, here’s my priorities for Vanholio.com:
  1. Have fun writing and promoting the blog
  2. Entertain and educate ya’ll about the glories of van life
  3. Add an income stream and avoid getting a regular job
That last ain’t been happening much. So here’s what I done:

  • Added the Traveling Mailbox and Amazon.com ads to the sidebar and posts
  • Linked the Vanholio Gear Shop in the menu
  • Put in the Beer Me! donation buttons in posts and on the menu
  • Linked CafePress Vanholio Merch on the menu and in a popup
  • Embedded links to Amazon items and Traveling Mailbox in posts

Update As of Jan. 1, 2017

I hope I ain’t gone too far. Vanholio hates spammy sites as much as the rest of ya’ll do. Sure don’t care to make Jeff Bezos more rich neither.

Even this here fairly cheap van life costs money. Living in a van down by the river just ain’t totally cash-free, dammit. But then, I’ve done worse for scratch.

Soon I’ll be puttin’ up of my ebooks for sale. Now those I’ll be proud to push! But they ain’t been writ yet.

Go, go ahead and gimme shit in the comments. It’s your big chance to give ol’ Vanholio what fer.
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Last Update: 10/18/2016

Traveling Mailbox Saves Vandweller $$$$

Traveling Mailbox Ad

Last week, Traveling Mailbox – a private mailbox and mail scanner service – saved Vanholio $170 by going above and beyond in customer service.

Their support guys sent me an email double checking that I really, really wanted to ship my package 2nd Day for mega-dollars. They held it up until I got back with them. And no, I sure as hell didn't want to pay $170 in shipping.

$170 Shipping? The Fuck?


Traveling Mailbox will accept packages on your behalf, besides just letters. They'll reship to you anywhere.

Now, normally I avoid doing this because paying to ship a package twice – once to them and once to me – is a waste of fucking money.

But I found myself recently in a trifecta of considerations:

  1. My purchase was back-ordered.
  2. The merchant couldn't say which carrier they'd ship by. (They switch up based on daily shipping prices.)
  3. My travel plans were in flux, so I couldn't predict a good receiving address on the road.

Sometimes you just gotta take it up the ass. Settled on the double shipping.

The package got into Traveling Mailbox last week. I knew I was going to be in Prescott last weekend. So I requested that 2nd Day forward to The UPS Store in Prescott. But damn, I didn't know it'd be $170 fucking dollars!

Kudos to Traveling Mailbox for the heads up. I have now redone my forwarding request for UPS ground shipping. Much more reasonable at $35!

Trustworthy With Big Checks, Too


Traveling Mailbox also done right by me with their check deposit service. If you get a check in the mail, they'll deposit it straight to your bank. Saves time over forwarding.

Last year, I got HUGE check in from a van I sold through a dealer on consignment. Gotta say: I was a bit worried having elves somewhere handle that one for me.

They deposited the check like they said. The money got into my account lickety-split. I've since trusted them with a few other checks. No issues.

Traveling Mailbox Perfect for Van Lifers


For $15 a month, you get a street address and mail scanning service. They'll scan your mail into PDFs so you can read them online. For small extra fees, they'll forward your mail and packages, and deposit your checks, plus other ad hoc services.

Vanholio ain't Consumer fucking Reports. I can't can't say Traveling Mailbox is the best in the business or anything.

I like their services, online tools, and quick support team; their prices are competitive; and they've always kept me happy. Check 'em out.

Hey, Beer Vanholio! He works hard on this blog.

Also See ...

How It Works (Traveling Mailbox)
BBB Business Review: Traveling Mailbox, LLC (Better Business Bureau)
Complaint Review: Traveling Mailbox LLC (Ripoff Report)



Disclaimer: Yes, if you click thru to Traveling Mailbox and sign up, I'll get a little affiliate commission. But everything I wrote above happened just like I said. I've been using the service more than a year and am happy with the company.




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Last Update: 10/16/2016

10 Ways to Shower if You Live in a Van

Man who lives in a van down by the river grimaces in cold shower. Vanholio.com
"Cold Shower" by sethdickens (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Lotta wannabe vandwellers worry 'bout how they're gonna wash the stink off. No problem. Easy really. Showers ain't hard to come by down by the river. Here's some options off the top of my head.

10 Vanlife Shower Options


1. Gyms / Fitness Centers


This is a popular option for your urban vandwellers and OTR types frequenting cities. Get you a cheap membership to one of the national gym chains. Then shower as needed. Get a workout, too!

Vanholio don't hang around cities much, so this option's kinda useless for me. But don't let that stop you!

2. Truck Stops


Your big truck stops – T&A, Pilot, Flying J, etc. – usually have showers for the truckers. They're pricey at about $10-12 per shower. Most of the chains have deals for free showers if you buy a lotta gas from them, so look into it.

Pilot's the only chain Vanholio's used, and only twice. But I can report that the showers were clean, fancy even, and Pilot provided soap and towels. At one place, a trucker gave me one of his free showers. I don't know whether he just thought Pilot are fucking shysters at $12 a pop or if I looked desperate. Free is free, so I just said, Thank you! Makes me wonder if you couldn't buy showers at a discount from the truckers direct, say offer $5 for the credit. Most of them have more free showers than they can use anyway.

3. Campgrounds and RV Parks


You don't need to pay for a site. While it ain't exactly kosher, hardly anyone will notice if you use a state, city, or county park campground's shower. This is a great deal if you've got an annual pass to cover the daily entrance. Plus some of your National Forest and BLM campgrounds have showers, though this ain't typical.

Small, private RV parks will often let travelers buy just a shower. The going rate seems to be $5. The laundry facilities are usually more-reasonably priced than a laundromat, too.

Some campgrounds and RV parks have coin-operated showers, which usually run a $1.00 to $1.50 for 4-6 minutes.

4. Swimming


Many a time Vanholio's taken a dip in a lake, river, or creek to clean off. I carry a bathing suit for the purpose, but I suppose you could go au naturale. Don't pollute with soap, though. I just use sand and clay to scrub off.

Sometimes public beaches have free rinse showers. Use them after your dip, or alone if it's too cold to swim.

5. Public Bathrooms


You can always get yourself a sponge / washcloth bath in a public bathroom anywhere. For privacy and stealth, a one-user bathroom is probably best. Don't be an asshole: Wipe up any mess you make.

6. Deodorizing Rinses


Vanholio started using this No-Rinse Body Wash he read about on some vandwelling forum. Works good. It's a deodorizing, moisturizing lotion you just spread on and let dry. I think they come up with it for invalids. It's really good when it's cold out 'cause I can just apply in the van.

I've heard some vanlifers do a similar thing homemade. One gal uses a spray bottle filled with vinegar solution. And there are always cleansing wipes.

7. Friends and Family


Visiting folks for dinner? Ask if they don't mind if you grab a quick shower. Most of your better people will oblige. But don't keep hitting up the same folks too often. You'll wear out your welcome.

8. Portable Showers


Lots of vandwellers have worked out one kind of shower or other. There're commercial products, like camp showers, and even fancier gadgets. One of the most clever ideas I ever heard was using one of those pressure canisters usually used for fertilizer, pesticides, and bug spray. You could even poke poke holes in the bottom of a plastic bucket, fill it up, and hang it from a tree branch.

9. Garden Hose


If you find a hose or can add a hose and spray nozzle to an outdoor tap somewhere, you've got it made. Put on your swimsuit, hose down, soap up, hose down again, and towel down. You're done. For your nethers, just shoot water down into your swimsuit.

10. Car Wash


I never tried this nor ever even heard it being done. But why not go to a self-serve car wash!? I'm talking about the kind where you drive into a bay and use a powerwash gun. Maybe the gun's too long or two high-pressure? Still think it could work in a pinch. Vanholio'd just use the water rinse – no car soap. I'd also probably go at night or sometime there wouldn't be many around.

Between Showers

Also, consider that with daily deodorant; washing your face, pits, and nethers; and changing your clothes regular, you won't need to bathe all that often. Good hygeine is good for you, helps relations, and hides you in plain site from the LEOs.

Hey, Beer Vanholio! He works hard on this blog.

Also See ...



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Last Update: 10/08/2016

Trim Pot Harvest to Keep Van Life Rolling

Vanholio cuts bud with scissors in a van down by the river
At $200-500 a day CASH, bringing in the weed is perfect work for the OTR van lifer — if you can get it. And if you can avoid getting fucked over.

Revelation!


You 420 types probably know all about this already. But the scales fell from Vanholio's eyes. And now I'm spreading the good word.

Few days ago, I was in Humbolt County, Calif., capital of U.S. marijuana cultivation. Despite cold, wet weather, the national forest campground was packed with hippie kids and others. Their camps looked more settled in than normal. Though that was odd.

Then when I was walking the dogs, the new hippie kids in camp asked, "Have you found any cutting jobs yet?" That opened up an interesting conversation, I tell you what.

Following is what I've learned since. But do your own research. What Vanholio don't know could fill a swimming pool.

Getting Hired


The Pacific Northwest marijuana harvest season runs from late September through mid-November. Hippie kids show up in towns all over Potland, camping out, shitting in the woods, wandering downtown with "hire me" signs. Supposedly, the cultivators come into town looking for workers, usually around the bars.

But I also heard it ain't that easy. Growers usually hire people they know, often locals or returning workers. Makes sense. They don't have time to fuck with some red-eyed trustifarian kid. They need dependable, hardworking people who'll bust ass to get a quality product in. No drama. Oh, and no narcs.

So the trick is getting known and trusted. How do you get that first job? Ain't that always the problem? But it's worth a shot.

Be cleaned up and sober, be friendly, and tell people you want trimming work. Do any other temp jobs you can find around town, even if they aren't paid, and work hard at them. People know people, and word gets around. That's the best advice I got!

What It's Like


From what all I can tell, trimming bud is shitwork. You'll work scissors for 14 hours a day or more, day after day. There'll be chit-chat and music to keep from going insane. One hopes. You'll likely be out at some "farm," maybe a shack in the woods somewhere. You'll try not to think about any "squeal like a pig" scenes.

Your boss could be paranoid about LEOs and the competition. They'll definitely be under a fuck-ton of pressure. Tends to bring out the asshole in people. Their shit will roll downhill, guaranteed.

But that said, the pay is fucking awesome. Been told about $200 a pound. A good trimmer can earn $300-500 a day. I've also heard it works out to about $15-20 an hour. And it's all cash, probably not reported to Uncle Sam. Not bad. Those who work the season sometimes earn around $10,000. That's near enough to carry you a year, if you live simple.

Legal? Maybe


Cultivating marijuana – and helping out – is an illegal felony under federal law.  But Obama's said he won't screw with the little people, especially in pot-legal states. Hillary or Trump might.

In California, the only legal cultivation is for medical marijuana. Only a handful of producers are licensed, and they can only do 12 plants. Most of your Humbolt County growers are illegal. But it's also the biggest business in the county, so the LEOs have a huge incentive to look the other way. On the other hand, I could see legal and/or established producers calling in local, state, or federal law dogs on upstarts. King of the Hill ain't just a kids game! People are shits.


UPDATE: Seems California has just expanded who can legally grow and how much under state law. Keep up with the latest at the California NORML website.


Oregon and Washington have licensed growers of both medical and recreational pot. But some cities have opted out, so be aware. And while pot prices are dropping, they're still high enough that I bet plenty of illegal farms operate back in the woods.

Bottom line is you're probably OK. But be wary and be informed. It's a developing situation. And it's always the little guy that gets fucked over, whether by the gov'ment or the bosses.

Hey, Beer Vanholio! He works hard on this blog.

Also See ...

With Harvest Season, 'Trimmigrants' Flock To California's Pot Capital (NPR)
Work in California Clipping Marijuana (Road Junky)
Carving Wooden Dildos for Fun and Profit

Read More »

Last Update: 10/02/2016

On the Trail of Nomadic Fanatic

Trippin’ around Washington State a week or two ago, Vanholio kept bumping into places Eric Jacobs covered on his Nomadic Fanatic YouTube channel. It was kinda badass!

See, when Vanholio was just a wannabe vandweller, planning and scheming to escape into van life, Nomadic Fanatic was my daily inspiration. Totally got a charge out of watching him, a regular guy – not some rich fucker – living a chill life on the cheap in beautiful places.

So as I was going through Mount Rainier National Park, I kept thinking “Rainier Beer,” Eric’s preferred brew. Stopped on the west side at Elbe Bar & Grill for a burger and washed it down with that light, delicious American adjunct lager, raising a toast in Mon Capitan’s honor.
Wynoochee Falls

Couple days later, I headed north on I-5 and U.S. 12, passing other places he’d talked: Olympia, Aberdeen, Tumwater Falls, Capitol Forest, Olympic National Forest.

But the place that pulled me in was his favorite (I think): Wynoochee Falls. Drove up there, walked the fucked-over campground, and took in the falls. Too bad it was overcast and in the low ‘50s. Would have liked a swim.

Found that pair of shoes by the falls (photo at top). Are those yours, Eric?

Thanks for all you do, Eric Jacobs, aka Nomadic Fanatic. Because of you, I Am Vanholio!, living in a van down by the river – the Wynoochee River.

Hey, Beer Vanholio! He works hard on this blog.

Also See …

Radio Nomad Episode 2 Vance Hollister (Enigmatic Nomadics Vlog)
Top 10 Question About Living in a Van
What If You Only Had Six Months to Live?

Read More »