Last Update: 1/30/2018

OTR Vandwellers Got Nomadic Territories

Map of Vanholio's Territory, mostly the Colorado Plateau

Now that Vanholio's pushin' three years as a vanlife nomad, he's staked out a home territory he wanders around. Talked to some other vandwellers, and they do the same.

Ya can see Vanholio's territory in the picture. Here's what some other vanlifers said when I pitched the question where theirs is …

Territories of 3 Vanlife Nomads

Kevin Venture of the Clear Adventure YouTube channel said:

Hey brother! Yes I do [have a territory]. It would have to be the west of the country. I am not a fan of the east as much. I prefer the large open spaces with plenty of BLM, also the warm weather in the winters. 🙂 [I do go as far north as] up to Alaska. I grew up there and want to visit again in the next few years. But mostly Washington state, Montana, border states.

Jamie Dimon of the Enigmatic Nomadics YouTube channel said:

I prefer the southwest, Utah's Mighty 5 and Baja Mexico, but if things go well I might start flying to New Zealand, Australia and shit like that.

Alan Christensen of The Rolling Steel Tent blog said:

With the exception of that trip to the Gulf [I took last year], I've stayed between the Front Range and the Pacific. That was always my plan. I spent the past two summers in southwest Colorado helping a friend build stuff, and I spend winters in the desert, but I still prefer to wander--assuming the weather is to my liking. I've seen the whole country. I like the West best. [For north and south, I range] border to border.

Alan Christensen's Territorial Movements on map, sept 2017 to january 2018

Most Kindsa Nomads Got Territories

I guess this territory thing don't matter a hill a beans. Just find it interestin'. It's the amateur anthropologist in me.

And it makes sense. Unless your vanlife nomad's got a big travel goal, it's a certain area that tends to have everythin' they's lookin' for.

Traditional nomad cultures got territories, too. They might move with the seasons, but only within a range that's got what they needs. Think a Mongolians travelin' around, ya know, Mongolia. Same with critters. I never did see a caribou wander inta Texas.

Vanholio's territory is defined by some secret sauce a climate, mountains and desert, culture, medical resources, public land, and more. The Colorado Plateau just hits all the right vanlife notes!

Mind you, I do leave my usual territory. Especially ta visit my people in Texas. But that's kinda like a vacation or whatever.

What's Your Territory?

Do you got a territory, too? If you ain't a vanlife nomad yet, where ya think yours might end up? Comment below.

Get mail on the road – Traveling Mailbox! (review)

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Last Update: 1/26/2018

Is Living in Your Van Illegal?

man in hoodie holds out hand, locked cuffs hanging from the wrist

Hell no,  livin' in your car, van, RV, tent, clay pot, or cardboard box ain't illegal. It's TOTALLY LEGAL. But The Man makes vanlife a hassle at times. Here's how and why.

Why Van Life Is Legal

No U.S. federal, state, or local law absolutely requires American citizens or residents to have a physical address, that is, ta own or rent real estate.

Vandwellers have all the rights and obligations as any other American.

We're required ta pay taxes and obey laws. We have the right ta vote, get federal and state benefits, own personal property, and generally pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

We can live in a van down by the river if we goddamn well please!

Why Do People Think Vandwelling Is Illegal?

For a good reason. Plenty a laws and regulations make being "homeless" – not havin' and sleepin' at a physical address – a boil on our ass. These laws make living in your vehicle illegal in effect. Assholes!

What? Am I contradicting myself?

No. We still have the absolute right ta live in our cars, vans, RVs, tents, whatever. We're just presented with certain problems that curtail our goddamn freedom. Big fuckin' time.

Problem 1 – Bureaucrats Want an Address

Try ta get a driver's license without an address. Try to get government benefits without an address. Try ta register to vote without an address. It's tricky.

Yes, you're entitled to these things without an address. In the case of voting and federal benefits, such as Social Security and SNAP, the government specifically requires the states to find ways to accommodate those without addresses, i.e., the destitute homeless. Usually states do so by lettin' the homeless use the address of a relative, shelter, or social services office.

Nomads with more means – vandwellers, OTR truckers, retired RV lifestylers, traveling salespeople – usually fudge by using the address of a friend or relative. Or we use the address of a private mailbox service, like a UPS store or a mail forwarder, e.g., Traveling Mailbox.

But of course, using a fudge address is technically illegal. There's always the risk some fuckin' bureaucrat will put your balls inta a vice over it. Not likely, they usually don't check, but it's enough to make ya nervous.

Problem 2 – Cities Don't Let You Park Overnight

OK, most of us fuckin' get that we can't park on private land without permission. But shouldn't we be able to park on public land, "the commons"? After all, we're co-owners.

That's where we get fucked over again. Plenty a cities got laws forbidding you to park overnight on particular bits a public land:

  • Can't overnight in parks
  • Can't overnight on busy streets and highways
  • Can't overnight in front of businesses
  • Can't overnight in neighborhoods
  • Can't overnight in government parking lots
  • Can't overnight by rivers and under bridges

So where the fuck are the public lands where you can park overnight? And with this fucked-up patchwork of laws, varying from town to town, how are ya supposed to know when and where you can park? You also got to worry about other laws, like no loitering.

Even when you're parked legally, the cops sometimes fuck with you anyway because ... because they can.

Yes, most national forests and many state forests permit dispersed camping, but that don't do you no goddamn good if you're in town or an urban vandweller. Not a lot of jobs in the forest!

Problem 3 – Parking Lots Are Usually Private

Most big parking lots are owned by stores or landlords. Huge mall and strip mall parking lots might feel like public space, but they're not. End a story.

Some, like Walmart and Cabela's, have vanlifer friendly policies, but that's rare. You can stealth, but you're always chancing getting chased out or worse by security or cops.

What About Our FREEDOM to Live in a Van?

Dictionary definition: "Freedom: the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint."

So while we have the right to pursue van life, we too often are legally hindered and restrained from doing so. A freedom is no goddamn use if ya can't exercise it!

From a practical, everyday perspective, while vandwelling is legal and our right, we have to break a lot of petty laws and regulations to do so. Exercising our freedom is being criminalized. And that's total goddamn bullshit!

Federal, state, and local governments are unreasonably tramping on our legal right to live in a van down by the river. But the governments' unreasonable constraints on van life won't change without a lot of lobbying and court battles. ... Who's got the time for that!? Who's got the money!?

Gettin' mail on the road? Traveling Mailbox! (review)

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Last Update: 1/23/2018

Starting Vanlife for About $100

inside of van with mattress, blankets, and curtains

Vanholio's rig is in the body shop. Meantime, he's livin' outta a rental Dodge Grand Caravan. Thought I'd show you how I took up and how easy it is.

Wait! What Happened to Your Van!?

Got stuck in gravel in New Year's Eve. When the tow boys winched me out sideways, they bent a frame reinforcer called a "torque box." Good news is it's covered by insurance. I'll get her back in about two weeks. Meantime, insurance is coverin' a rental vehicle.

Outfittin' the Dodge Grand Caravan Rental

Yeah, so I got two weeks or so ta kill in this thing. All I needed to do was throw up some curtains and put a mattress in. Pulled all my blankets, pillows, clothes, basic eatin' shit, and groomin' gear outta my own van before I dropped her off.

So what did I spend cashola on? A mattress (~$45), curtains (~$35), and 200W inverter (~$28). Coulda done it cheaper by scroungin' the thrift stores, too!

Makin' Curtains

looking through back window of van
Peekers can't see much through the back window
I went for curtains instead a Reflectix or whatever 'cause it's fuckin' cold at night. Like down into the high teens. Cost me about $35 ta get 8 yards (8 m) a polyfleece at Walmart, plus clothespins, binder clips, and cheap scissors ta cut it. (Already had some cordage on hand.)

You can see in the picture at top that I got a double line a cordage wrapped through hanger hooks, handles, and seat belt mounts. Since the roof is curved in, the lower line a cord pulls the curtains back in toward the sidewall.

Gettin' the Mattress Warm

The mattress is an inflatable twin mattress Walmart sells for $20. It ain't too bad, but it's kinda cold on the back in these winter nights. So I spent another $25 gettin' a quilt cover, an extra fleece blanket ta put under the quilt, and a fitted sheet to hold it all down. Sleeps warm now.

The mattress and that huge pile a blankets (plus Ms. Barkley) keeps me toasty down inta the teens. Foam mattress'd be better, though.

Keepin' Devices Charged

Got me a 200W Bestek inverter. It's the kind that fits in a cup holder and plugs inta a 12V plug. Has two USB ports, a 12V port, and two AC plugs.

Truth be told, I already had the inverter. But it were about $28 when I got her off Amazon months ago. Without my solar, I needed somethin' ta charge up the laptop, smartphone, and MiFi. This does the trick.

What I'd Add for Long-Term Vanlife

If this were a long-term gig, might get fold-out solar panels to charge up the gadgets at camp. Might also get a little cookstove and a pot or two. Definitely a memory foam mattress, too. That's about it. Those'd add about $200-300 to the bill, max.

Yeah, But What About the Cost of a Van?

Ya know what? Ya don't really *need* a van ta do vanlife. Any vehicle that you can stretch out in will work. I seen folks mod tiny hatchbacks and compact sedans to do that. So, yeah, if ya ain't gotta vehicle, you'll have to come up with some cash. Otherwise, I say start with what ya got. Then it'll only costa ya $100 or so ta get started.

But Your Setup Don't Look Like Instagram ...

Yeah, no shit. If ya wanna get a retro VW bus and line it with recovered barn wood and install a gourmet kitchen, it's gonna cost ya a shitload more ta get started. That's the price of kool. But if your goal is to hit the road, see the world, and live simple, ya don't need all that shit. You're basically just campin' long term in a Rolling Steel Tent. K.I.S.S.

Get mail on the road – Traveling Mailbox! (review)

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Last Update: 1/19/2018

What LA Federal Case Means for Vandwellers

cop writes ticket to van driver

No, it sure as hell didn't guarantee your rights to live in a van unmolested. Desertrain vs. City of Los Angeles only made the city rewrite their anti-vanlife ordinance. Now they fuck with LA vandwellers in new ways.

What Was Desertrain vs. City of Los Angeles About?

Los Angeles had an ordinance on the books since 1983 worded that it was illegal to live in your vehicle on LA city streets or city-owned parking lots.

In 2010, the city started getting a lot of complaints about folks living in their vehicles in residential and business districts who were making a mess. So the city started enforcing the ordinance.

A few cops went too far and fined folks who weren't doin' shit. Some were legally sleeping in their vans in private parking lots with permission. Some just looked homeless because they had lotsa personal belongings in the vehicle.

Homeless advocates helped a bunch a these cases come together and make a federal suit that ended up in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. (Read a lawyer's breakdown here.)

What Did the Ninth Circuit Court Decide?

It found the LA ordinance unconstitutionally vague. Basically, they thought the wording was too flimsy. No way cops or vandwellers could figure out what was and wasn't allowed.

Plus, the court found the LA cops were using the law as an excuse to harass anyone who looked like they lived in a van. And I'll add, looked like they was poor.

What Does the Court's Decision Mean for Vandwellers?

So we're cool now, right? No. The decision hardly meant shit for vanlife.

Cities can still make ordinances that you can't sleep in your vehicle or park too long wherever. Just like they can make you have plumping on a land and house you own outright.

That's what LA did. In 2016, they passed a new ordinance making it illegal to "live" overnight between 9 pm and 6 am in residential neighborhoods. They also made illegal to vandwell at any time "within one block, or 500 feet, of schools, pre-schools, daycare facilities, and parks." Think they got some rules about parkin' in fronta businesses, too.

Two other points:

  1. The Ninth Circuit Court's decision only applies in its district, which is basically West Coast.
  2. Redneck towns and asshole cops will still fuck with you. Might be illegal of 'em, but you got money and time to sue?

So … Is Living in Your Van Legal or Illegal?

As I wrote about in another post, living in your van is legal in principle. No law says ya gotta live in sticks'n'bricks. You're "free," so they say.

Federal land boondocking is still cool and easy. But cities? All kindsa petty ordinances and laws make everyday vanlife practices illegal in cities. It's fucked up and confusing if ya don't know the local laws. Just try dancin' around all them rules! Or if you're dealin' with asshole cops.

Get mail on the road – Traveling Mailbox! (review)

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Last Update: 1/15/2018

Newsflash – Starting an Online Business Is Hard

Here's a genius article: "Is the future of work necessarily glamorous? Digital nomads and ‘van life.'" The authors find vanlife entrepreneurs ain't makin' money.

Well ain't that a fuckin' shock! In the age of online work, digital nomads, vanlife, freelancing, and all the rest, most still struggle to start a business!

… many confessed that their activity was (until now) not really profitable, with their activities being financed through personal savings, family support or gift exchanges.

So these authors – fuckin' academics! – visited with digital nomads in a bunch a countries and all kindsa settings, and it turns out the young people aren't really makin' a livin'. That includes the vanlife bloggers.

Isn't vanlife lifestyle bloggin' supposed to be easy? Don't ya just take some cool shots of ya doin' yoga by a mountain lake, retro vanagon in the background, and the cash starts rollin' in?

Look, gettin' started in business has always been hard. Most fail. And when you're doin' something artistic, it's even harder. Suppliers always exceed the demand. I posted about this a couple weeks ago.

The authors conclude that it's still worth it to young graduates as some kinda learnin' experience. Well, sure. Takin' life by the nuts is always worth a try, especially when you're young and can make up your losses.

But only a dumbass thinks they'll just jump out there and make a million in vanlife blogging. Or any other kinda digital nomad business, for that matter.

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Last Update: 1/12/2018

What If You Only Had Six Months to Live?

van in the desert under the milky way

Vanholio ain't got much wisdom. But he's learned to ask hisself this question: If I only had six months to live, what would I do? Then I plan accordingly.

The power of that question come to me some years ago. I was going through a rough patch, a breakup with my ex. I'd always seen us together, growin' old. I didn't know what the fuck to do. Was totally fuckin' lost.

Then somehow, that question – What would I do if I only had six months to live? – came to me. The answer? Told myself I'd sell everything up, buy an RV, go sit my ass in Big Bend National Park, and write a novel. That was my guiding star.

After I moved out, I did something close. I stayed in my friend's country deer-hunting trailer for the summer. I wrote a crappy first draft of a novel. (It'll never see press. Trust me.) I was miserable after the breakup, but I was thrilled with how I was living.

That was a decade ago. And I went down some wrong paths since then. But that guiding star was always in my vision.

Today, the answer is almost the same: I'd travel and write. So I'm an OTR vandweller doing just that. It's a miracle life, this "living in a van down by the river."

What's *your* vision? What would *you* do if you only had six months to live?

Want to spend more time with family? Find a way to work less or maybe have longer vacations together, like going into teaching to have summers off.

Walk the Appalachian trail? Start backpacking on vacations and set aside money to take on the AP eventually.

Want to make sure your kids and SO have a house owned free and clear?
Prioritize your spending to pay that sucker off.

Want to work in your garden? Maybe look at going into market farming or community garden organizing.

In the real world, you might not bullseye your perfect vision. There's a whole lot of fuckin' considerations. But you can get damn close if you're honest about what you want.

What I found about getting into vandwelling and writing is that it wasn't that hard. Yes, I had to plan and make sacrifices. It took time to pull everything together. But the logistics flowed easier than expected once I set myself to reaching that star. It's bein' clear with yourself and makin' the fuckin' decision that's hard.

So I ask you: What would *you* do if you only had six months to live?

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Last Update: 1/09/2018

Made This Egg Salad Sandwich for ZERO DOLLARS, ZERO MESS!

closeup of egg salad sandwich

Two things to tell: 1. How to make a vanlife egg salad sandwich without no mess, and 2. How this particular sandwich's fixins cost me absolutely nothin'.

How to Make an Egg Salad Sandwich in the Van

Well, you *could* make it the usual way, in a bowl. But then you have to clean that shit out. No, this is better. Vanholio makes his up in a Ziploc bag!

ingredients for egg salad sandwich: bread, boiled eggs, mayonnaise packets, Ziploc
1. Gather your fixins. I usually do about 3 hard boiled eggs to 2 packets of mayo. Makes 2 sandwiches. But go to your taste.

hard boiled eggs broken up inside Ziploc
2. Put the fixins in the bag. Zip it closed so there ain't much air in there.Then gently work with your finders til ya get it as pasty as you like. Treat that huevo sack like it was your own, so as you don't pop it!

egg salad getting squeezed out of Ziploc onto bread
3. Cut or bite off one corner of the Ziploc. Then squeeze out the egg salad like it's frosting.

When you're done, just throw out the bag. Ain't hardly no cleanup, unless you made a mess with the eggshells.

How I Got These Egg Salad Fixins for FREE

Vanholio's been gettin' extra thrifty lately. It's that or get a real job ...

One thing I took up is usin' coupon apps on my smartphone. Two I tried so far and like are's app and Ibotta. Both let ya save digital coupons in the app. Then you redeem them by takin' a photo of your receipts.

(BTW, use this link to sign up for Ibotta, and you get a $10 signup bonus. Plus Vanholio gets a kickback. Or use this code when you sign up through the app: BTYJBXW)

They both got lots a good manufacturer coupons at Walmart and a ton a other grocery chains. But they also both got coupons on generic goods, like eggs, fruits and veggies, bread, etc.

Last week, had two generic Walmart coupons. One was for up to $2.50 in free eggs. I got 18 large eggs free. The other coupon was for $2.00 off any brand a sliced bread. I found a loaf a Walmart multigrain for $1.98, so that was free.

Email from showing rebate into PayPal account for items purchased

While I was there, I picked up two free mayo packets from the deli. I usually use mayo packets from Walmart or convenience stores so I don't have to worry about refridgeratin' a big jar.

Eggs, bread, and mayo all FREE! Well, I guess that Ziplock and season salt I used cost some, but I aint' complainin' none, I tell you what.
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Last Update: 1/04/2018

Goin'a Quartzsite? Oh Hell No!

It's that time a year again. Every RVer, rubber tramp, nomad, vandweller, and any other kinda vanlife scamp is showin' up at Quartzsite, AZ. But not Vanholio!

At my camp in New Mexico right now, I got four other rigs in view. That's four vanlife rigs too many! My prayer as I go to sleep is that they'll be gone in the mornin'. Either that, or I'll be dead. One's as good as the other.

Vanholio's a Loner ...

Like hell I wanna crowd up in some piece a shit bit a flat desert Arizona with four thousand or more! How's a man supposed to step outside and pee with all them folks around? Tell me that!

Vanholio didn't get inta this vanlife thing to mozy up with strangers – even strangers in vans. He's a hermit on wheels, yessir.

Goddammit, I never did go to Burning Man. And I never even went to Ft. Lauderdale or Padre as a youngun. I ain't fixin' to turn joiner now!

If I want to meet someone – anyone, even YOU – I'll do it one-on-one, where I can hear what the hell you're sayin' and look ya in the eye. And leave shortly if everythin' goes tits up.

'But I Wanna Go ..." You Say?

Mind you, I don't begrudge others their fun. If you're goin' to Quartzsite for the big RV show, Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, schoolie gathering, Escapees, or whatever, why, God bless ya. If it creams yer gravy, go for it. You can have my share.

OK, yes, Vanholio is an ornery ol' sorehead. Ain't I always told ya'll that? Ain't ya been listenin'? (Maybe not ...)

So to sum up what ain't worth botherin' over – I ain't showin' up in Quartzsite this month for no vanlife rendezvousness. Unless I change my mind.

Cover of "All the Whores I Knowed Before" a book by Vanholio! For sale on Click through.
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Last Update: 1/02/2018

Stuck on a Freezing New Year's Eve

Tire stuck in gravel
Sommabitch! Got stuck in stream gravel in Del Rio, Texas. Why does this shit happen to me? Has Vanholio got some kinda perverted talent for offroad driving? Like the time got myself stuck on a sand dune.

The sad part is it weren't even exactly offroad driving. Well, it was, but just for a second.

It was about 7:30 pm on New Year's Eve. Vanholio was headin' west, close to Del Rio. He was tired. It was foggy-misty and cold as fuck. He decided to check out this fishin' park near Sycamore Creek off US 277 in Del Rio. (It's a site I'd never explored but had marked on some time ago.)

I pulled in and saw a few picnic tables. But the paved drive kept on under the overpass. Wanted to see if there was campsites on the other side.

park road by Sycamore Creek, Del Rio, Texas
Gravel just past where you see
But just under the bridge, it turned to gravel and started down to the crick. Figured I'd better turn around. So I went to turn around one a the pillars. The gravel started feelin' soft.

Just as that thought came inta mind, I was stuck. Just like that. Front wheels diggin' down inta the gravel. Fuck!

Tweren't nothin' for it! It was dark, below freezin', and wet. Snow and sleet was potential. So I went to bed, figured I'd pick up at daylight.

Well, long story short, couldn't dig myself out. Too loose. Called AAA. Bein' New Year's Day, took the boys 'bout 3 hours to get there. No complaints, though. They ended up winchin' me out by a sideways angle.

US 277 overpass of Sycamore Creek, creek below and dark clouds
Cold day on Sycamore Creek
As I write this, Vanholio and Ms. Barkley are sittin' at Goodyear in Del Rio. The news ain't good. Alignment is out. Worse, the frame or somethin' is bent, and they can't do alignment till that's worked out!

How the fuck much is a second a poor decision gonna cost me! Godammit, fuck, fuck, fuck!!!

At least it's still driveable. I'll nurse her to Las Cruces, where Vanholio's got some business in a day or three. I'll find a body shop up there and do the deal.

Note to self: Don't drive when tired and/or at night and/or in poor visibility. Dumbass. USA, LLC

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