RV Parks: The FUN Kind

Part 5

A Bunch

We spent far too much time talking about Trailer Parks (as in manufactured home parks) and not enough time talking about Trailer Parks as in RV CampGrounds and Resorts. So back to the fun. 

Locating Amazing places to vacation on the cheap (comparatively) is made easier by the existence of entire networks and associations of RV sites. Here are a few to consider whether you’re considering a summer vacation or a longer season of nomadic living. 

The US 

Nobody does RVing like the United States with over 13,000 privately owned RV parks and over 1,600 state parks that cater to RVers in the USA. Available for drop in or with reservations, you can easily use these locations to stay for a relaxing breather or as a way to work your way across the country without having to sleep in a new bed every night. 

Membership campground networks like Thousand Trails operate via joining the club. You pay a joining fee and typically annual fees as well. Then you get a timeshare arrangement for you and your RV. The two largest chains of campsites or KOA (Kampgrounds of America) and Jellystone (after the famous yogi bear). The Good Sam Club is the largest association of RVers who maintain a list of independent campgrounds they endorse. Which can be very helpful. 

Each of these outfits has better coverage in some areas than others so it’s quite possible you will need more than one association if you really want to be choosy in how you get where you want to go. 

On that topic, you can find online directories of RV campgrounds and resorts through:

CampRate

MobileRVing.com

Reserve RV

RoverPass

RV Parks & Campgrounds

RVParkReviews

RVThereYet

The Dyrt 

If you intend to go off grid though, you won’t have access to wifi at all times. (Although some of the above operate as aps which may have “offline mode.”) If could be a good idea to seek an old school printed directory (you know the kind that are chronically out of date). 

Woodall’s Campground Magazine is the Gold Standard for RV lifestyle information. Equally as revered is Trailer Life Magazine. Before you become a “full-timer” you’d better spend some time reading up on “the life.” 

European Networks

The  Caravan Club is huge, with over one million users. Use them for mainland locations. 

Called Reisemobil-Stellplatz in German or Aire de Camping-car in French this more recent upstart operates in Germany, France, Norway and the Netherlands. There will be a language barrier for us Americans but google translate can get you quite a ways if you’re willing to take a chance.

In the UK you’ll get better results from Camping and Caravanning Club, a non-profit association of campgrounds with over 100 locations.  Pic Link https://www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk/dist/images/Camping-and-Caravanning-Club-Logo.svg 

RV Parks: New Uses & Abuses

Part 4

A Bunch

While the reputation of trailer parks hasn’t improved recently there is a new use for manufactured home communities as temporary housing. 

Emergency Shelter

We already talked about the Company towns you can find near Amazon warehouses in Modern Nomads. However, hurricane Katrina created a use on a whole new scale. 

FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has begun employing whole villages of Manufactured homes after fires, floods, tornados and hurricanes. You might find it ironic to bring in more trailers after a tornado if you read Part 2 of this series. 

Retirement Villages

As a result of HOPA (Housing Older Persons Act) quite a number of 55 and over manufactured home villages have popped up. These are nicer, and newer facilities that offer additional resources for the unique needs of senior citizens. 

However, placing a government endorsement on something generally doesn’t make it more desirable. Just think of other government housing projects. It could be argued, due to the large swell of population reaching senior status, that the government is still using manufactured home communities as temporary housing and in a macabre way. As in, why build too many retirement villages when we won’t need them in another few years. 

You Already Own a Manufactured Home, er, Investment 

Another recent issue, one government and Wall Street have collaborated to create, is massive corporate investment. As of 2019, over 100,000 mobile home sites were owned by corporate investors like  Carlyle Group, Apollo Global Management and TPG Capital. Why blame the government? Well Fannie Mae facilitated this to the tune of $1.3 Billion. 

Ultimately…

Just as there is a place for all different levels of other products depending on the priority of the buyer, there is a space that Manufactured Home fit in the financial ladder of individual and family dwellings. And if there is a need for these homes there is a need for them to have a habitat. 

Be it ever so humble mobile home parks aren’t going away anytime soon. So if you live in one, hold your head high and make the best of it. If you live near one, try to give folks a break. We’re all just doing our best. 

As for True on the Road Living See our next and final installment in this series of Mobile Living. 

RV Parks: International RVing

Part 3

A Bunch

We’ve discussed RV’s and trailers in the US quite a bit. Let’s check around the world and see how it’s handled internationally. Is there reputation better, worse, or just different.

The UK

You probably knew that trailers are called Caravans in the UK, but did you know they call trailer parks “halting sites?” They call a manufactured home a “static caravan.” In the UK and most of Europe, the issue is illegal halting sites. We’ve mentioned Romani and Irish Travelers before, but since the 1970’s there has been steady growth of “free spirited” individuals who take to the open road, often stopping where they’re not really licenced to be. 

As in the US, “caravan parks” are used for senior living. Unlike the US, there are quite a number of “resorts” that employ static caravans for folks on holiday.

To find a great place to RV in the UK the nonprofit Camping and Caravanning Club has been around for 100 years with more than 100 campsites. 

Europe 

In the Netherlands and Germany (as well as many other countries) there are places where you can set up a “permanent” or very extended stay situation for your trailer or manufactured house. In France, however, the legal limit on living in an RV is three months–even on your own property. The work around is that they are pretty loose when determining what constitutes a house (a shed with electricity might work). 

Careful when you search Camp in Germany.

Unofficial, or less-than-legal campsites are a problem in Germany as well. Their term for an illegal halting site is “wagon fort” (Wagenburg).

Obviously anything European is either really old or completely modernized. A new built RV park will be up to the latest environment standards. One resource for finding just the right place to take your RV in Europe is  Caravan Club with over 2,500 CL’s (certified sites). Germany and France have been trying to catch up to the US in stopover campsite networks, called Reisemobil-Stellplatz in German or Aire de Camping-car in French, these are comparable to the US KOA type facilities. 

Australia & New Zealand

Australia like the UK, has traditionally used Caravans in their “holiday parks.” This fact is changing as the popularity of cabins increases. In New Zealand they might refer to them as a motor camp, which rarely exists without also allowing tent camping. Most camps allow you to stay overnight or long term. 

Mobile Living: Modern Nomads

A Bunch

We’ve written about RV & Trailer Parks in our mobile living series, which have quite the reputation that we’ll dive into in an upcoming post (in a lighthearted manner of course). Let’s take a quick detour with a look at nomadic life past and present  to provide little context.

The History

Mobile living has been a thing, long before it was a thing. While it has become increasingly popular among adventure hearted North Americans and Europeans, nomadic tribes have existed around the globe since long before written history. From certain native tribes in North America to Bedouins in the Middle East to the Horse People of the Step, groups have thrived on the go. 

Those Who Remain

Many of the ancient nomadic communities still exist in some form today. According to Matadornetwork.com there are seven nomadic communities going strong. 

The Kocki people of southern Afghanistan herd sheep, goats, and camels.

The Bedouin roam the Negev desert (semi-anuually) as they have for thousands of year, although their numbers are drastically reduced. 

The Sami people of Northern Scandinavia (and a bit of Russia) rely on Raindeer and dogsleds to live and get around. Laws in place help them maintain their lands although modern life is encroaching. 

The Maasai people herd livestock in the Serengeti and Rit Valley of Kenya and Tanzania. 

The Mongols are famed for having once ruled all of China and giving birth to other other nomad conquerors like the Kasaks and the Huns. They still reside in and herd sheep, yak, goats, horses, camels and dogs inNorthern China and Mongolia. 

The Gaddi people are seasonally nomadic, choosing to winter in villages where the Himalayas meet India, then spend summer driving flocks of sheep, mules, and goats through grazing land. 

The Irish travelers, sometimes called Tinkers, or worse. Their communities not only move, but they’re spread out across Europe and even the US. Unlike most modern versions of ancient nomadic groups Travelers keep animals but not for their primary income. They are often skilled tradesmen who locate to regions where construction jobs are plentiful. Their language doesn’t officially exist in a written form, to learn Gammon (or Shelta) it might be easier to learn Irish Gaelic, Hebrew, Greek, and English first as they’re all present to some degree in the language. 

The Modern Resurgence

The primary cause of mobile living was scarce, or seasonal, resources. To a degree that hasn’t changed. The biggest employment trend identified in the last few years was the reality that most of us won’t keep a single career path for a standard 30 years, which means by default, a lot of relocating to seek a greener work pasture. 

Some folks pursue a career where frequent relocating just goes with the territory. The military comes to mind. Promotion opportunities come open and if you want the promotion you move. There’s another group of jobs that are often in demand in many locations making it easy to shift without leaving your field. Nursing and welding to name two. There’s a third type of frequent job-related mover that almost never gets mentioned in posts like this one–project experts. 

Project Experts

Project experts include CEO’s, consultants, even athletes and coaches, who take a position to fix what’s not working at a company or on a team. The authors once knew a phone system installation technician who became an expert at installing a new phone technology in large businesses and schools. This expert lived on a 35 foot boat and sailed it to a new part of the country every couple years, doing the same role just with different employers (all of which were near water of course.) 

Other Reasons to Live on the Hoof

Not everyone chooses a nomadic life for economic reasons. Some simply have a wandering spirit. Gypsies have a long tradition in the US and in Europe, where they are sometimes called travelers. Many of these groups refer to themselves as Romani. 

Gypsies are often associated with confidence scams and theft, which would explain the need to relocate often. Some of this reputation is likely our predecessors being suspicious of anyone new to town. 

Another group of modern nomadic people would be carnies and circus folk. These are again communities with a deep culture entirely unique from the society at large, despite near constant interaction with that larger culture.  

However, it’s increasingly true that some people like a complete change of scenery every few years and their choice of housing accommodates that preference. These are often minimalists who value making memories over acquiring objects. As the US and European infrastructure road infrastructure has grown more robust, many young adventurers have turned their “gap” year into a gap decade, choosing not to “settle down” until they find someone they really want to start a family with.

Joining these young wanderers at the many RV Campsites and truck stops on major freeways and minor routes are seniors who either choose to snowbird, or who realized they could retire a little sooner if they chose a mobile life over an expensive retirement center. These mobile communities exist informally in one place, and then another, only consistent in the fact that they move on when the weather changes or another opportunity pops up somewhere else. 

Amazon’s Company Towns

One famous example would be the villages of mobile trailers and RV’s outside small towns and cities where online retail giant Amazon locates their large warehouse and fulfillment centers. According to socialist website jacobinmag.com Amazon has brought on as many as half a million new employees during the pandemic. 

They often go on mass hiring sprees of temporary workers around holidays. Because these employees are hired quickly, local infrastructure often can’t house them in a traditional manner. Of course the holiday hires needn’t bother putting down roots as they won’t be staying long. All this has created a need for infrastructure that supports housing you can take with you when it’s time to move on. 

Amazon has created an almost “open ranger” working class of seasonal employees who will be unemployed a lot of each year. Though some employees are okay with that–at least for now.

10-4 Good Buddy

That leaves the biggest category of modern nomad, the long haul trucker. Only in the last few months have OTR (over the road or long haul) truckers seen the kind of praise usually reserved for first responders. The pandemic and economic downturn as well as supply chain issues at ports, have given Americans their first real taste of socialism with its inflation and bare shelves. That’s elevated the public opinion of truck drivers as essential workers. 

Anyone who drives long routes, whether for a major logistic company or as an owner/operator, is a true modern nomad. Semi trucks, or 18-wheelers as they are often called in the states (Loris in the UK) have an entire infrastructure of their own supporting their needs. 

The Trucks themselves come with a built in camper unit, called a sleeper. The roadways they travel have the modern equivalent of a watering hole every few dozen miles (depending on how busy the route is). 

These truck stops act much like a gas station that caters to cars, but they sell diesel instead and are designed for the wide truck turning radius, and due to a truck’s size, they offer extra large parking lots. 

They’re also sell food, both hot and cold, like a gas standard station along a freeway, but they offer a lot more. Sometimes they even have honky tonk bar, or liquor stores, for drivers who are going to stay for a while. Nearly all have showers and laundry facilities available so you can clean up while waiting for the next set of gigs to be assigned to you. 

Truck drivers are modern nomads that provide a much-needed service for our society and unlike many modern nomads that forgo having a family, many truck drivers are enduring long periods away from their families in order to be on the road. 

We salute you modern nomads, whatever your reason, and until your wandering comes to an end we wish you fun adventure, good weather and safe travels. 

RV Parks: Intro to Living Like the Other Other Half.

Part 1 (Link to Part 2)

By A.R. Bunch

What comes to mind when I say RV Park? It’s probably a range of things from fond memories visiting senior relatives on summer break, to scary, eye-soar, down by the train tracks where that weird kid in grade school went until he dropped out in fifth grade to get a job. 

Whatever you think about them, there is probably a trailer park that fits your opinion–or even a few that do. Why is that? Why is there no national organization of trailer park owners trying to improve the image of trailer parks everywhere? 

It’s one of the oldest forms of mobile living, long before it was “fashionable.” Is the idea that someone who lives in one automatically poor, a correct and fair assumption? 

This series in our Mobile Living Category takes a closer look at the RV Lifestyle.

First some distinctions and definitions.

Marium Webster defines a trailer park as an area equipped to accommodate mobile homes, which is simple and straightforward. We get a little bit more detail from this definition, courtesy of yourdictionary.com “An area containing mobile homes for rent or places to station them if owned; normally providing utilities and services.” 

Park

The use of the word park is pretty intuitive as a trailer park can be thought of as a parking lot for less than permanent houses. 

Trailer

The term trailer could mean anything that gets towed behind something else. There are cargo trailers, cattle trailers, and even trailers for camping. The trailer in “Trailer Park” is in reference to a mobile, or manufactured, home (see our post on the difference between mobile and manufactured homes).

In a sense, these trailers only get towed onto and away from the park. The Brittish call them caravans, which is an okay term, except it conjures up images of a wagon train crossing the plains, or perhaps camels carrying spices from far away India. 

Regardless, these abodes are less than permanent and more than truly temporary. They are almost disposable when compared to a “regular” house on a permanent foundation which is meant to be repaired for at least 30 years. 

Because they are cheaper to make, and cost less to buy, trailer parks cater to cost conscious buyers. This means trailer parks are high density and low barrier to entry. Expect speedbumps and unattended children. That said, many are well maintained with a strong sense of community among residents. 

Recreational Vehicles

Since RV stands for recreational vehicle, and there are many kinds of recreational vehicles you’d guess there are a variety of definitions of RV Park. But everyone assumes you’re talking about the type of vehicle in which you’d live temporarily for the purpose of recreation. Think a step up from a tent, and it probably includes wheels. So the obvious distinction between a trailer park and an RV Park is the length of time someone is intended to (allowed to) stay.

However, it’s not quite so easy. 

The blog site NW Adventure Rentals splits the RV site category three ways.  

RV Campgrounds

Pretty obvious; it’s rustic and low frills. Often called glamping, this is your chance to get back to nature without roughing it–too much. In terms of living, your stay is meant to be short–a few days to a week. It might not include power at the site, and no hookups for water or sewer, though you will often find a dumpsite for emptying your tanks. 

Definitely check before booking, what size of RV they’ll accommodate.

RV Resorts

On the other side of the equation is an RV resort. As the name suggests, the frills set them apart. In addition to the main hookups (H2O/sewer/power) you might have cable TV, and WiFi. The community amenities upgrade from shower & dumpster, to propane refill stations, swimming pools, club houses, laundromats, and more. You may have fewer trees, but you’ll gain space between each pad and the pads themselves will be level (which saves a lot of time and effort.) 

Definitely check before booking, what age of vehicle they’ll allow. Many restrict to less than 10 years old. 

RV Parks

Hitting the sweet spot in between resorts and campgrounds, RV Parks offer the most critical amenities of a resort, but in a more park-like setting. You can anticipate paved roads, and graveled, level pads, along with a nicer feeling of privacy. Many still have age restrictions on your vehicles and some have size restrictions as well. 

This is where the waters get a bit murky. There are RV parks, and quite a few, that allow tenants to stay long term. Living in an RV Campsite would be like camping through the winter, not very exciting. Living in an RV resort would be like living in a hotel year around–way too expensive. But an RV park? To quote Goldie Lox, it’s just right. 

So the big difference between a trailer park and an RV park is probably in practice more than by anyone’s intent. Trailer Parks want mobile or manufactured homes, which are meant to move less and live more. RV Parks get recreational vehicles which are designed to move more and live in less. (There is also a difference in their official paperwork which is a topic for another post.)

What’s the allure? 

Well it’s not just sketchy people who end up living in trailer parks, or long term RV park reputations. A lot of seniors choose to live there in order to stretch their retirement income. A lot of singles chose to land in a park after divorce. It’s a way to financially recover and it’s an okay standard of living when you’re middle aged and living alone. 

One could see a young married couple buying a mobile home in a park as a transition away from apartment living. Sometimes where the work is, isn’t a place you intend to live forever and the housing market is in decline. It’s a smart idea to keep housing less than 30% of your total income and if you’re starting a family that can be tough to do.

An RV could be extra appealing to contract workers who relocate every couple years, despite being highly educated, experienced and well paid.  

It may feel strange to buy a home and then rent the land under it, but it’s an option. It’s also odd to think about moving and taking your home with you, but it’s one way of doing things. 

It also lacks the investment benefits of a standard home as manufactured homes seldom go up in value. In the case of an RV, the loans can be spread over 15 years which also makes them more affordable than a standard car loan. 

We’ll dig deeper into this question in our next installment, “RV Parks: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.”

PS – A Second Opinion

If you want to get very granular about the differences between RV Parks and Mobile Home Parks MHU (Mobile Home University) is your authoritative source. 

Other Relevant Posts: See Mobile Living Part 1 & Mobile Living Part 2.

Are Female Truck Drivers the Answer?

Clearly there is a worker shortage in many fields and as truck drivers are a crucial link in the struggling supply chain of goods to customers, there is a huge need for truck drivers in general. As an industry they are trying to hire ten thousand drivers immediately.

Even before the global pandemic logistics companies were being squeezed and they were running out of drivers. One reason is the number of accidents caused by tired drivers, or those suffering heart attack or stroke while behind the wheel. As a result, new health standard made trucking an industry likely to retire you at an earlier age. While the average nurse is over 50 the average truck driver is now 46.

New Truck Drivers

The average age of someone becoming a truck driver is 35, and a number of them are women—more than ever before. It seems many men have left the profession before the pandemic have yet to return. ZipRecruiter says that 83% of drivers are men probably because women don’t consider it a good industry for them, but this may be subject to change.

It isn’t just men leaving that creates extra demand for drivers. Home delivery is up as much as 43% over pre-pandemic days.

One of the main reasons that women might be attracted to the job is that it is fairly well paid. While many careers still require a college degree in order to achieve a well-paid position driving truck falls more into the category of a trade, where a short time of special training and a couple certifications can get you started and additional certifications along the way will open doors to increased opportunity. In other words it can be a faster change than say joining the medical field.

Another reason is that traditionally female dominated industries, like supermarket, retail jobs, and restaurant jobs were hit hardest by the pandemic which put a lot of women into the job search right when trucking needed to hire. The economic instability created a good environment for many people to consider a change of industry.

Yet another reason for women to switch to truck driving is that women already filled a bigger percentage of other CDL (commercial driver’s licence) positions. For those women who already drive minibuses or coaches, a truck isn’t that big a leap.

Short Haul vs Long Haul

Traditionally, male and female workers have shown different priorities in job selection. For example, women doctors are sometimes hesitant to pursue medical specialties, like plastic surgery, instead choosing to stay with family medicine, in order to leave the door open for family planning.

So as women enter trucking driving they are opting for short haul jobs, which keeps them near their families. It’s also a more competitive arena.

Long haul, or OTR for over the road as it’s often called, can make more money and is better suited to Owner Operators. The downside is that your are gone from your family most of the time. In other words because it’s lucrative but difficult and uncomfortable so it attracts drivers willing to buy their own rig instead of working as an employee.

The net effect is that it’s unlikely for women see the most money in their industry. Situations like this are what skew the statistics and make the pay gap between men and women seem larger than it may actually be.

It’s not just family consideration at play in their preference for local routes. While many women are adventurous and tough female truckers rated their safety as 4.4 out of 10 (which may be thought as the equivalent to “fairly unsafe”) in a recent survey. Long haul routes carry a greater potential risk and may be less desirable to anyone who is motivated by security. We’re not saying women are risk averse as a gender, actually statistics indicate it. Women get in fewer accidents which is attributed to a more cautious approach to driving, which is correlated to a lower tolerance for risk in general.

While there is no reason a female truck driver couldn’t do the OTR work they may not find it worth the money.

The Bad News for Any Driver

The bad news is that driving all day is a sedentary lifestyle, sitting in one position all day may lead to blood clots. It can also lead to injuries and fatalities due to accidents of some sort. Not everyone is well suited to driving for ten hours in a 24 hours period, and it’s easy to lose focus. Not that the truck driver is to automatically blame. Driving carries the risk of getting in a wreck so the more you drive the more likely you are to be involved in one, and the more likely you are to be injured in one.

Less drastically, It’s also quite a lonely job with irregular hours. Drivers are more likely to smoke or be obese but there are fitness companies out there which market themselves to truck drivers.

Still the Trend is Changing

In most employment fields, women are growing in numbers and trucking is following suit. Sexual harassment may be a problem since they are still a minority and it’s been a male dominated occupation for a long time. A smart trucking company would implement some training and policies to insulate themselves from potential actions taken by their employees.

A smart female truck driver who became an owner operator or one who took on OTR routes consider taking some self-defence.

Most female truck drivers we’ve talked to tell us it’s not too bad if you have a thick skin and set boundaries. They do not feel they are treated the same as men but acknowledge that it is getting rapidly better.

The practicalities of driving a cab for women is a trending topic of discussed online. It’s no longer difficult to find decorations that might appeal to women to customize the cab. Many designs can be seen on TikTok and Instagram.

As a side note, women are also applying for jobs such as driver managers and have excelled as CDL trainers. Some female truck drivers do earn an income north of six figures.

Time will tell if they take on training for specialty endorsements like hazardous waste or oversized loads in larger numbers, but it’s it’s likely that the trucking industry as a whole is heading toward a 50/50 workforce.

Campers and Adaptions

If you wish to take to the open road a camper is a great option as you are not hampered by locating a suitable hotel every night. You can stay a lot of places, but officially, it’s advisable to sleep in a registered camp site It’s safer, and has a few amenities like showers and shore power, maybe even a place to empty your wastewater. Of course, if you got too tired to drive, in a pinch you could pull off at a Walmart and park overnight.

Well Known US Campers

Any talk of campers wouldn’t be complete without mention of Winnebagos. Winnebagos have been going since 1958 and have variants such as Journey, Farza, Adventurer and Vista.

Vista, for example, is a four-person Winny with two double beds, toilet and even a shower.

The Winnebago Solis is for more glamorous camping, what with its insulated walls and a plumbed-in wet bathroom. For this design it has a sleeping sofa rather than the usual bunk area.

Well Known European Campers

1961 Bedford Dormobile

Alternately, would you choose a European model like a Dormobile? The Dormobile company started in 1956, just after the VW camper known as “The Camper Box.”

The Dormobile had an estate car roof (AKA a sunshine roof) which could be extended to give two extra berths.

There have been conversions of Land Rovers by a Colorado company into campers but they aren’t Dormobiles themselves.

The reason Dormobile created campers is because they were exempt from purchase tax as long as they had cookers and the most basic washing machines.

The Dormobile had a lifting roof that was side-hinged, slightly resembling a Jack-in-the-box. It was made of a plastic canopy sometimes with red stripes, the top had two windows for ventilation. The inside looked reminiscent of the curve of a wheel’s spokes with two large poles or struts keeping the structure. It allowed for an extra meter of interior space even if it’s only purpose was to sleep in.

Before putting the roof down, you had to remove the mattresses from the bunks, otherwise the roof wouldn’t fit right. It sounds awkward, but no doubt you got used to it.

Another plus point was the 4-wheel drive which is unusual in a camper. It was definitely designed as a vehicle which was not afraid to go off road. This could come as a surprise given its streamlined shape.

Conversions

With enough money you can convert vans and SUVs into campervans. There are two ways to do this-one is to just use the space as is, the second is to create an “extension” part like an overhanging caravan, also known as a pop-up.

Though the first of these is easier and creates less disruption you will be hard pressed to find a place to fit in a bathroom! What you end up with is a table and chair area in the back which can be turned into a flatbed at night.

When creating a conversion use lightweight materials. Because of the need to store away tables/chairs/mattresses the active storage space is only available when its being used to camp in not when packed up to travel.

But as conversion is so complicated, most people tend to like the specialized vans. After all, why mess with mid-century design? And if you don’t like vintage, choose an up-to-date version.

Virtual Travelling in 7 fun steps.

With a lack of movement and everyone stuck indoors now is the time to take a virtual journey.

Here’s How:

Your starting point is a map, (you can’t use Sat-Nav yet). Choose a map of a place you’ve never been, either a country or a state. We recommend starting with a pencil at first but as you get more experience you can switch to a highlighter. A word of caution, you’re going to be ruining this map for other things, so pick one with that in mind. Don’t worry, that map shall not have died in vane—this is an excellent creative exercise.

First Choose the Scope and Mission of your Trip:

There are two potential goals for a virtual trip:

  1. This is a detailed plan/dry run for a trip on your bucket list (You will take this trip.)
  2. Since you can’t really go right now, you may as well travel somewhere you’ll never get to in real life.

Which you choose A, or B, will determine a few details later, but either way, we recommend making this trip as detailed and real as you possibly can. This is going to be fun.

There are Two Factors to any Trip:

  1. Are you focused on the destination/objective? (or)
  2. Are you more excited by the serendipitous things that might happen along the way?
1 Destination2 Adventure
A Practice1A Practice Destination2A Practice Adventure
B Fantasy1B Fantasy Destination2B Fantasy Adventure

A good trip will have elements of both, but knowing which factors is your priority will make your planning easier. For the purpose of this trip lets assume that you are traveling the US (since there are so many good guidebooks to Europe that a virtual trip is limited in benefit).

How to Take your Virtual Road Trip:

You’ll be planning this trip step by step and collecting picture, sound, or video to support your journey experience. As you trace the map in pencil, figure out how far you are going each day and where you’ll stay on your over nights. What sites are available to see along the way? What’s worth a detour?

One great resource for this is google earth. You can zoom in and follow your map on the virtual map. Get down into the street level view and grab screen shots of the places you’ll stay and the attractions you’ll visit.

Build a play list for each leg of the journey. Dig into the web pages for each site you’ll visit. Look up the menu of local restaurants and pic out what items you’d like to eat when you’re there.

One last question to answer up front:

Is there something you haven’t done before? Is there some reason you haven’t visited a region? If so, and you intend to really do this trip, what’s you’re plan to overcome that obstacle?

Remember, Detail is King. Make this as Real as Possible!

Step 1: Who is going with you?

Regardless of whether your goal is a practice destination or a fantasy adventure you might be thinking anything from a romantic getaway to a reunion road trip. If your single and you’re wanting a romantic getaway, well, just pick someone you wish was going with you.

If you’re re-living a road trip with college buddies maybe build a Facebook group and plan it together. Have them dig up photos to post too. You can laugh about some of the adventures from the first trip and listen to the soundtrack of that time in your lives.

Step 2: What is your ideal vehicle to travel?

Remember it needs to have enough legroom, cargo space and so on. If you wish to take more than six are you renting a large van? Another option would be a Class A or Class B RV. You could split the cost between you and save on hotel costs.

Price it out and collect a picture of the potential vehicle.

Don’t forget to figure out the fuel economy of the rig, and the size of the gas tank. How many times a day will you need to stop for fuel?

Step 3: What’s the maximum length of each leg on your journey?

A journey needs a destination, but it also needs a number of stop off points. What do you want to do at these stop off points? If you’re travelling for over eight hours it is advisable to eat out somewhere.

Professional drivers are required to stop for a significant rest every 10 hours. That’s a good outside limit for a days journey, but we recommend that you’re really missing the point of a road trip if you go more than 7 hours in a day—and that’s not all in one shot.

Step 4: What to do at each stop.

Eating is a factor. You might pack some food so that you can eat without stopping, or to bring the coast down, or simply to keep from starving in the middle of nowhere when the car breaks down.

However, you will need to stop for bathroom breaks and you’re smart if you move your body a bit on these stops. You’ll also need to get gas. For efficiency it’s best to plan the bathroom breaks with the fuel stops BUT that may not always work out perfectly.

If you’re stopping off at a town or city what you want to see while there? It all comes down to how mobile you are and how long you give yourself to see different attractions. The stops can really zap your progress toward your end goal, or they can be the most memorable part of the whole journey. It depends a little on luck, a little on planning, and a lot on your perspective. This is a virtual trip so hope for the best and leave some wiggle room for life to go sideways.

Step 5: Speaking of Life Going Sideways

Is there a way through cities that avoids all the traffic? Are there back roads leading to the center of town? You might want to start each leg of your trip to avoid the rush hours. Nothing worse than spending vacation time, sitting in on the freeway. LA logjams are no more exotic than New York nightmares.

Is there a place with a view you want to see on the way? These tend to be marked on the map. Do you want to see mountains, lakes or do you want to see something else? Plan the route accordingly. This is a balancing act between driving the long beautiful route and driving the short, fast, boring route.

Step 6: Over Nights

Where are you going to stay in this virtual trip? A hotel? A hostel? A camp site? A chalet? Though you might travel in a camper van you can’t park it anywhere. This all needs to be planned and marked on your map.

Do you want to explore the city where you are staying? Take a look at its city limits or downtown region? You might like to seek out guides for the area or ask questions on forums, just so you have all the details?

One smart idea from European guidebooks is to stay at certain, strategic locations and day trip out to excursions. It can save a little time on checking in and out of hotels and let you plan around traffic more strategically.

There’s always a tendency, even in a virtual plan, to attempt to take on too much. Even if it’s only a fantasy game, try to limit a day to a stretch of coastline or thirty miles movement in a circuit. Keep things as simple as possible.

Think about the people you are travelling with. Look for activities that would please all the party. Not all the people you want to travel with will be with you in a lockdown, your ideal date for instance. What would keep them happy?

Step 7: Your Destination

When you plan your trips it’s not advisable to travel very far on the first day or the last day. You need to use that time to rest. Just be conscious of what you want to do when you get “there,” wherever “there” is? If you will need your wits about you, don’t plan to come in at midnight after a 10-hour straight drive.

Bonus Step 8: How can you make this a real-life adventure?

Could you afford the trip in real life? Maybe you can’t pull it off right after the pandemic lifts, but you could save up for it.

Decide if you could put ½ a percent of your income into an envelope in your sock drawer. If you can pull it off soon, Gas is under $3 a gallon right now and your emotional heart could use a break. Really, how far are you planning to go?

One last word of caution though, there’s always the need to have extra spending money, and money for emergencies, it will end up costing a bit more than the raw date you collect, but you won’t know until you work it out.

So, when are you doing this journey for real, then?

Taking Someone’s Else’s Car For Spin…legally!

If you love, love, love to drive, but you don’t want to put a lot of road trip miles on your car, there are ways to drive other people’s cars long distances. For several reasons, people will drive a vehicle somewhere, like a vacation, and end up flying home. They’ll need to hire a service to get that car back to them and because truck routes are limited it can be less expensive to hire someone to drive it back to you.

Many car and motorhome companies require drivers to take the vehicles back and forth for these road trippers. This occupation seems to be especially strong in Florida where many drivers want to take their car north in the spring. No wonder that there are vacancies for people who want to deliver these vehicles.

You have to be at least 23 years and have a valid driver’s license to become a courier. Please note that some courier companies have a higher age threshold and some may require you to undergo background checks. It is free of charge, but unsurprisingly you need to pay a deposit of $350 before you can deliver a car.

There’s probably a number of weeks spent waiting around for you to get a job, but the jobs may well provide the adventure Americana to scratch your itch.

Motorhome companies with a similar need for couriers. As do ambulances, busses, small fire/rescue vehicles, limousines, and hearse’. What do they have in common? They are too big to fit on a car carrier.

According to ZipRecruiter.com this job should fetch you between $27K and $54k per year. AutoDriveway is one such company that employs drivers to deliver a car.

Of course, if you just want a local job instead of the long haul you can check out your local auto dealership or port where cars are imported. Rental car companies also employ people to deliver cars to and from repair shops and the like.

Expect any of these employers to require a little customer service skill and to require you to fill out a checklist before you pick up and after you deliver the vehicle.

Living in your car: Short or Long Term

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Legality:

The first question is, can you live in your car in your specific state? Whether you are permanently living in your car or just doing it temporarily for an economical grand adventure across the US it is always best to check.

There’s not a lot of agreement among experts, it seems. Perhaps one reason is that it’s hard to make a law against something like that. As much as many cities would like to prevent you from living in your car, what can they specifically ban to prevent it? Sleeping? Many drivers’ education programs told us to pull over if you’re getting tired and take a nap. Truck drivers are required to rest a certain number of hours after driving for 10 hours. Should a patrol car come around every hour and make sure they didn’t fall asleep? Sounds like a good use of tax dollars.

Wimsett_Living 2There are a number of cities in which it is illegal to sleep in your car. One example is Palo Alto, California. Those who get caught receive a $1000 fine and up to six months in jail. Even without these vagrancy laws, you could still get charged with indecency for changing in your car. Or you may become victim to the anti-loitering laws.

There’s a movement among cities to ban car living, and cities like Los Angelis banned decades ago, however, it’s a little difficult to tell someone they can’t use their property for a certain purpose. LA’s law was struck down as discriminatory against the income disadvantaged.

This article in compare.com contains a list of cities that have banned sleeping in your car and they point out that if you are intoxicated you can still be given a DUI even if you never started the vehicle up.

It seems many states are against you living in your car…States like Texas ban it unless at a state rest area. Some states ban it entirely but generally, you can get away with it, with a few caveats. According to AskDeb.com it’s considered suspicious behavior to be asleep in a car as you aren’t necessarily the owner of the vehicle. Police can awaken you and verify your identity; they can search your car and since many people choose to commit suicide in vehicles they can spend as long as they desire to determine your mental state. This can be so interruptive that you aren’t really getting sleep.

Where to Park if you’re not Sure:

For those who simply wish to live in their car while crossing the country, truck stops and rest areas are some of the best places to sleep. Perhaps the most commonly recommended places are Walmart’s or other big box stores, which are notoriously tolerant of overnight guests since they tend to wake up and buy groceries. If you do pick a parking lot the park under a street light. Here’s a list of Walmarts that allow it from allstay.com.

Natural/Federal land allows you to park 14 days out of any single month, as long as following guidelines. City parks are an option if they haven’t posted signs against it. Industrial parks, yachting marinas and so on might be good places to park.

The experts are split on the topic of camping along seldom traveled (blue) roads. Might depend on your personal aura—some of us project a natural sense shield that tells bad guys to stay away yet invites the police to come check us out. If you fall into that category then a rural road might work better than a neighborhood street. One caution about roadside campsites is that they’re often privately owned.

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Learn to spot good neighbourhoods—too upscale and you’ll stick out, too run-down and you’ll get swept up with someone else doing what you’re doing and making a mess of it. Look for a street that looks like you’re just parked there overnight while you’re visiting Uncle Fred.

 

 

Safety:

There’s no real way to guarantee safety. However here are some precautions to help you.

Window tinting is a must for three reasons:

  1. Police don’t notice you sleeping inside you won’t get hassled.
  2. If thugs don’t see you or piles of your belongings you’re less of a target.
  3. Neighbors are less likely to identify you as a vagrant if you don’t have mountains of trash and possessions in your car, which is easy to see without tinting.

According to a Reddit post on the topic which distilled several hours of Youtube video advice down to these points:

  • don’t park in the same spot twice in two weeks
  • Come at dark, (sleep, and nothing else) and leave at dawn
  • Never poop/shower/sleep etc where you sleep–take care of that before and after

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Under the Radar is the Best Policy:

Vans can be more spacious and worth the risk, but the rule of thumb is to avoid looking like you’re living in your car so you may want to choose a vehicle that doesn’t look like you could live in it. Still, adequate space is a must.

By that same token, a new car is less targeted by police and neighbors and less likely to break down on your trip. Breakdowns are more than simply annoying in your situation for bathroom reasons listed as you read on.

Use a sun guard in your front window instead of a tarp or blanket. Again the idea is to blend in but to prevent people from easily seeing in.

The ultimate under the radar is, again, not to do your toiletries where you’re going to sleep. Defecating in your car leads to needing to dispose of said waste and having that on hand is not something you can explain away when they police wrap on your window. Don’t get caught with your pants down.

What to Pack:

You will need a great amount of water, especially when crossing the desert. For practical purposes, you will need an emergency gas can with a couple of gallons of gas inside. Note that gas fumes can be more dangerous than your thinking if you’re asleep, so if you can smell gas put the can outside for the night. Better stolen than dead.

You will also need a fully working camera to record your journey. It is also well worth keeping a journal of your experiences.

Preparing for your Journey:

You may need to rent a private mailbox in order to receive your mail, or you might choose to use the residence of a friend or a relative as a postal address. You may need to put valuables in a safe deposit box in a bank—but never, EVER, put your will in safe deposit box (your executors can’t access it until its officially read. Catch 22 anyone?)

It is always a good idea to have personal ID close at hand, such as your driver’s license and personal insurance forms when the police want to see your details.

It’s a good idea to buy a steering lock and make sure your car’s steering wheel is locked as much as possible. If your car is really your home you don’t want it stolen from you any time soon.

In order to sleep you need a mattress and a blanket. Place your foodstuff in plastic containers when they won’t get smashed.

If you chose to sleep in your car it is my hope that you stay as safe as you can be. Hopefully, your life will pick up soon.