Update 8-21-19 Getting closer! Have the insurance check for the new vehicle in the bank waiting to clear (bank wouldn’t finance the vehicle because I don’t have enough monthly income) <eye roll>. I have worked out with the dealer when and where I’ll pick it up on Sept 9. But unfortunately it conflicts with one day of training sessions I’ll have to try to reschedule. I am making progress on sorting the contents of the house. Only have some of the basement remaining to be sorted before the sale. But it will be a time consuming task to go through what is remaining down there! Have already spent about 15 hours on it and feel like I have barely made a dent. But I AM making progress.
UPDATE 8-9-19 The most stressful part of selling everything is keeping track of it all! Getting photos, model numbers, sizes, and figuring out prices. Who wants what, and for how much. When are they coming to get it, whether or not they have scheduled a pick up day/time yet or not. How did they contact me (Facebook, two possible email accounts, text, call, etc.)
It’s mainly the big stuff I’m selling in advance of the estate sale like agility equip, a tractor, the dog’s pool, the dog treadmill, some guns, etc. I think it will be better after this weekend when I don’t also have to worry about trial secretary stuff for a Rat Games trial I’m hosting. I haven’t made any progress on the house for a few days because I’ve been so busy with the rest of this stuff!
And it’s only going to get more busy before I’m ready to hit the road! Finish sorting the house contents, estate sale, building the RV interior, showing/selling the house, getting bills taken care of and new accounts set up, etc. Whirlwind few months and then, if my planned time line holds, I’ll be able to relax and move at whatever pace I want. That’s the end goal. I know it will be worth it!
UPDATE 8-9-19 The estate sale of the contents of the house will be Sept. 13, 14, 15. Mark your calendars and help me move my stuff to a new home- yours! Will have:
- Kitchen contents,
- Lots of dog related items,
- Some gun related items (& maybe guns if I don’t sell them before hand),
- Clothing (lots of dog and gun related T-shirts in M,L,and XL),
- Craft supplies,
- Craft paper (small moving box of it!)
- Clay working supplies,
- Bryer horses from the 60’s/70’s,
- Some collectible car models (hand held size, not real cars),
- LOTS of books and some DVD’s about dogs, horses, building houses, and an assortment of other topics,
- Scentwork/nosework training supplies
- Several picture frames (some filled, some not)
- Lots of office supplies including an entire box of empty binders
- Some decorative items
- And SO much more!
UPDATE: 7-29-19 Just put a deposit on the truck I want! Only difference from what is in the plans below is that the side door slides, so there is a bump out just behind the door that I’ll have to accommodate, and no bulkhead storage. But it is available now. Just have to wait for the insurance check and getting it from WI to me
Plans as of 7-11-19
I am seriously considering going “full nomad”. I would love to see this beautiful country before I am too old and crippled to do so. I have researched this, watched hours of youtube videos about all aspects of this sort of life, read a BUNCH of websites, and have given a LOT of serious thought to the logistics. My goal for the first year or so (or however long it takes to wander) would be sight seeing all over the U.S. Then, I figure I’ll have a good idea of where I might want to either settle or have a few places between which I travel depending on the weather. I can take on Judging assignments if needed as I go and/or there are also some detection dog services that operate nationwide, that use the dogs to search businesses, hotels, industrial areas, etc. for drugs, contraband, bed bugs, etc. for whom I could likely work with a bit more training of Voodoo.
I was originally looking to build an RV in a cargo van, but based on what I have learned and what I have planned (lots of time on the road) I now want the largest Ford Transit chassis (upfitted as an extra wide cargo van with a 14′ interior length) with an extended wheel base and 85″ interior height.
The following photos are of a few different vans, showing most of the features I want.
Might switch to an RV type door handle/lock, not sure yet.
The body is one piece fiberglass, molded to fit the chassis, so it should be leak proof.
The rear step has a middle section that flips down to create a lower step.
If I can, and if it’s needed, I’ll add a pull down RV step to the side door.
I would want a solid roof in place of the skylight, don’t need the side rails, and would eliminate the plastic divider between the cab and rear of the van (building my own divider).
The divider I would build would start where the plywood on the sides begin. This will give me more storage room behind the front seat and a bigger overhead compartment for stuff I don’t access often.
Positives of the Transit over an RV or other vans:
- WAY better gas mileage than an RV, VERY important for how much I plan to drive it
- Much better construction, designed to be driven A LOT (My understanding is that most RVs are meant for a few weekends a year.)
- Can be outfitted however I want inside, including lots of insulation and the layout I need
- Wide body and straight walls means much easier to insulate and finish
- The Ford seems to be the easiest to get service on (some makes have limited service options for their foreign engine)
- Was originally considering a Dodge, but have heard of LOTS of issues with them. The Ford has excellent reviews.
- Can put in much better insulation than RV to keep it cooler in warm temps and warmer in cool temps.
- Can go on roads and to sites not suited to longer/wider RV
- Uses gasoline (Sprinter and some RV are diesel only)
- Can use AAA for roadside service, instead of special RV roadside assistance plan, but I would likely get an RV road service plan anyway.
- I chose a van over a trailer because, if at any point I feel I need to leave a spot, I don’t have to get out of the vehicle to get behind the wheel.
- This will be more “stealthy” than a standard RV, which can stand out if parked on the street or non-camping area. This will look more like a work vehicle so I will have more options for boondocking.
- Much less space to live in (will likely go to a bigger RV or 5th wheel once I decide which places I want to spend more time)
- Doesn’t have the video cameras on all sides like the Sprinter (but can be added aftermarket)
- Overhead clearance issues, no parking garages, but would be the same with an RV or Sprinter.
Design of interior:
Here is how I think I want to have it designed on the interior:
Using Sketch Up, I designed everything to the nearest 1/16 of an inch. Designing it the way I would build it allowed me to work out some kinks in the design in this sketch phase, instead of during the build. Not sure if I would try to do as much as I can myself, or if I would want to pay someone to do most of it (especially wiring, battery hook ups, A/C install, cameras, etc.). I think I can do the wall/floor covering, and build the bed platform, cabinets, wardrobe and front crate platform. But would likely have someone else do the rest. Though I keep finding more videos/websites with additional detailed install info, so who knows.
Because I want it SUPER insulated, I plan to build an interior frame. But first I will use the silver, Reflectix ‘bubble wrap’ insulation over all the interior surfaces of the living area (not shown). This will rest against the exterior surfaces and provide the first heat/cold reflective layer of insulation.
Between all the framing, I would put rigid green exterior Styrofoam insulation over the thin and flexible silver insulation. This wouldn’t completely fill the depth of the studs, so there would be an additional insulating air gap between the Styrofoam and the second, interior layer of silver ‘bubble wrap’. With the air gap, the silver insulation alone provides R21, so add in the Styrofoam, and the R-value should be really high. The Styrofoam will also help greatly with sound proofing, so if I choose (or need) to park in a noisy area, I won’t hear much inside. My goal is that the A/C system doesn’t have to work very hard (draw much power) to keep the inside cool for long periods of time using just solar power. I haven’t decided if I’ll also add an undercarriage mounted generator, but I’d like to avoid it if I can. Don’t want the noise, maintenance, or lower ground clearance.
To finish the interior, I’m looking at using 4×8 sheets of CoreLite. It is the stuff from which RV cabinets are made. Here is what their website says about it:
CoreLite Board is characterized for its phenomenal screw retention and amazing resistance to moisture; it will not rot, mold or mildew. It is also compatible with most resins and adhesives.
It also cuts just like wood, so it should be easy to work with. It is a bit more expensive than wood, but I think it will be worth it. Just have to find out where I can buy it.
The living quarters has a standard twin size bed at the rear, TV on a swivel arm at the foot of the bed so it can be viewed from the bed, during meal prep, or with a glance sideways when I’m at the desk. There is a set of pull out “storage steps” to help get onto the tall bed, the kitchen area with just under 5′ of counter space, sink, hot plate (not shown) and lots of storage.
In the cab, I will choose to not have a passenger seat installed. This allows me to put a crate right next to me. This has many advantages and would be the main crate I keep, even if I only have 1 dog (once Dazzle passes). I can see the dog while traveling, he can get in/out the driver’s door to get to his crate, fast access in an emergency, and he gets to see where we are going. Also gets full benefit of the front A/C if the van has been parked in the sun and not running. This size living space is not conducive to housing 2 people, in my opinion, especially with two 60 lb dogs. So I have no need for a passenger seat.
The roof would hold as many solar panels as possible, a roof vent fan for the living space, and a vent fan for the A/C unit, and possibly an internet booster and TV antenna.
I would add exterior cameras to the rear, both sides, and the front, connected to portable monitors that can be used during driving, or taken to the back for outside views when I’m back there. I opted for no windows because they are not insulated, would mostly be kept covered anyway, and I just don’t think I’d use them much. I currently keep all my house windows covered all the time because I don’t like the “fish bowl” feeling. I prefer my cave 🙂 The video cameras can be like a security system when I’m in the back. And if I really want to have windows/ventilation, I have a couple inserts I can have in with the doors of the RV open.
View of cab:
The storage area that is in the windbreaker over the cab starts where the 2x4s are sticking forward. There is a 4′ long removable, insulated door to access the space (over the front crate). A custom made tray fits on top of the crate to hold lots of miscellaneous items. And an outlet allows charging of a phone or operation of other items, like a fan, while driving. Cab would have heat/air, radio, cruise control, and other comfort features and amenities. The rear floor would be built up above the level of the front floor, so there would be a step. And the front crate will need to be placed on a riser so if needed, it can be slid backwards through the divider to remove it (like when I sell the vehicle).
I would build another interior door for better insulation, that has 2 ‘window’ options. One option is an insulated panel that fills the window space. The other option has window screen on the exterior, and bars or something sturdy on the inside to keep Dazzle from going through it and keeps people from reaching in to try and pet him or unlock the door (& getting bit) if I leave the side and rear doors open for ventilation on nice weather days. With the “windows” open and roof vent operating, it should stay nice inside if the weather is nice. But if I want to insulate it and run the A/C, it should be a quick change with just 4 latches. There is a better view of the inside of the rear window below. Both the side door and rear door windows are the same size, so the inserts are interchangeable.
View of the inside of the side door. You can see the doorway to the cab, the opening where the front crate can be removed, the inside of the side door, storage of the window insert and the insulated panel that covers the opening to the front crate (sitting on the second crate). And a fold down desk over the front crate opening.
Another view of the passenger side of the living space. There is a gap between the crate and wardrobe for a folding chair (for use at the desk), a broom, and any other tall items that need to be stored. The wardrobe is 3′ wide and 22″ deep, so lots of storage space for clothes and other items (mostly other items) 🙂 The bed is a 9″ deep foam twin size mattress I currently sleep on. You can see the inside of the rear window and latches.
The kitchen counter is almost 5′ long, so are the upper cabinets. So there is lots of storage. I would be drinking bottled water and get jugs of water for the boys, so the sink is mainly for washing hands and other items and doing dishes. Water supply is a portable 5 gallon container and the sink would drain into another container the same size. A small pump would siphon the water out of the jug. Easy to re-fill from any hose and the sink water could be dumped just about anywhere as long as I use a plant safe soap. The sink would also provide water for ‘sponge baths’, but I also plan to get a gym membership so I can use their showers. The “bathroom”, for when public toilets aren’t available, would be a 5 gallon porta-toilet with a small trash bag and kitty litter in it. Solid stuff I would try to do in a public bathroom.
At the front, on the driver’s side is a cabinet that holds a microwave, battery powered fridge/cooler, a pull out pantry, the A/C box, and more storage. I would also have a plug in hot plate, and maybe a toaster.
“Fridge”: I looked into a propane fridge, but they were all very large with minimal interior space. But I did find a solar powered cooler, that can also be plugged into regular power or the van’s 12v outlet. The GoSun Chill is very close to being ready for retail sales. And most perishable groceries I can get as I need them.
The microwave is a really big power sucker, so I might only be able to use that when I have the rig plugged in to ‘shore power’ where electric hook-up is available or maybe with the vehicle engine running to keep power flowing to the batteries.
Steps to the bed pulled out and tucked away. These would have a non-skid surface attached and the lids would open to reveal storage within each step.
This view shows the fold down desk on the front passenger side of the living area. I debated and tried several places for a desk and I think this will be the best. While it blocks the side door, with the ‘window’ in, I could sit and look out while updating the internet on my travels and can still get out the front door if I want to get out without taking everything off the desk. The cabinet under the A/C box can hold all the office items.
Speaking of the A/C system… My understanding is that a small window type A/C unit draws less power than an RV type A/C unit. The cooling unit that draws the lowest number of watts from the solar power would be a small, energy efficient window unit (Frigidaire FFRE0533S1 5,000 BTU 115V Window-Mounted Mini-Compact Air Conditioner). Because of this, I want to try this plan:
A 2’x2′ waterproof box (made of corelite and caulked or painted with rubber paint inside to seal it). A vent in the roof of the van that connects to the inside of the box to provide fresh air to what would normally be the outside of the unit. A drain hole connected to plumbing tubing that runs down the wall and out the bottom of the van to drain the condensation water from the unit. The air coming in would go over the coils, out the front of the unit on the inside of the van, and if needed, out the second roof vent. I’m thinking this should work as long as the vent can provide enough air for the unit. And with the super insulation in the van, it shouldn’t have to kick on much to keep the van cool. And if the van is plugged in to shore power, it can run forever to keep the van at whatever temp I want!
But I HAVE to have a way to keep the van cool when I need to leave Dazzle while I sight see. I would have a temperature monitor in the van that sends a signal to my phone if the interior goes above a temp I determine. This way, if something fails, I would know right away and can get back to him. I also really want a way to stay comfortable overnight or when relaxing in the van during hot nights/days while ‘off grid’ since I plan to do that often. So if the panels can keep up with the power draw during the day, it should be able to run the A/C indefinitely during the day. And a big enough bank of batteries should be able to run it at night. Another benefit of the wide body, is more space for solar panels. I should be able to easily get 800W, probably more. And the A/C needs 500W.
For heat, I would use a small “Mr Buddy” portable heater. It seems to be what a lot of the RVers use and swear by according to all the videos I watched.
While the power would mostly be generated by the solar panels, I would also have a converter to change the 12V to standard 120 for anything that normally plugs into a wall socket. The system can be powered by the ‘shore power’ hook up through an extension cord, or it can be running off the batteries that are being charged by the solar panels and van engine. There is a breaker/system that prevents the living area from using the battery the van needs to start the engine. All lights would be LED, and I may use string lights over the center walkway like I have seen in other van builds. The batteries would be arranged in acid proof plastic tubs in the “trunk” (3′ D x 6’4″ W x 2’4″ H storage area under the bed). There is access to this area from inside the van via a 2′ wide door. The height of the storage area means the 2nd crate can be stored/filled back here if it’s not needed in the living space, but still gives me plenty of space to sit on the edge of the bed without hitting my head. There should be useable storage space for stuff like a camp chair, pop-up screen tent, dog gear/food, and lots of other supplies.
For the opening between the living space and the cab, I haven’t 100% determined my plan for how to construct the door. But I was thinking I would create a lightweight “door” out of rigid insulation, covered with 1/4″ plastic sheeting to be put in place to cover the opening between the front and the living space. It could be held in place with magnets or just a snug fit and stored behind the driver’s seat. This would block out all the light from the rear if I want to “stealth camp” for sleeping in free places like parking lots, or on-street parking, that is not usually used for an overnight stay. Once the door is closed, no one would know the van is occupied. I’d also have a curtain option on a tension rod between front and rear so the dogs could access the front crate for sleeping at night (or looking out the front windows) if we aren’t stealth camping and weather doesn’t dictate the need for the door to be closed. In which case the front windows could be cracked open and the roof vent turned on to draw air through.
A drop bar, like the ones commonly used for sliding glass doors, can be used to give the doors more support in the center in case a dog bumps them or jumps on them. Strong magnets could be used to hold the door in place.
Disregard the vent shown in the photo above. The photo is from a previous design. But I could probably add an A/C wall vent between the cab and the A/C box if extra ventilation is needed since the vehicle I’m getting doesn’t have the overhead storage compartment.
This would be a MAJOR lifestyle shift. From living in a 1400 sq ft home on an acre of land to living in a box. But weighing the pros and cons, I think it is something I really want to try. Now that Mike is gone, I have nothing tying me to the house I’m in, so I will sell much of what I own, get a storage unit for what I want to keep, a safety deposit box for small valuables, then sell the house. This alone will take a lot of time (in addition to the build out of the van). I know this isn’t something I would be doing at the drop of a hat. But I DO hope I can be on my way by the 1st of the year.
I’m far from being the first person to do this and many of the people who HAVE adopted this lifestyle (either temporarily or permanently) are “vloggers” (video bloggers) who document many aspects of their lifestyle, including the issues and how to handle them. I am very appreciative of their videos! There are many videos related to living like this and what to expect. I have watched hours and hours of these types of videos and have learned a LOT!
Here are a few things I learned about:
For people that travel the country, they either use an online only bank, or one with branches in many states. Checks I get for Judging can be deposited with a photo deposit system. Most things are purchased with credit cards, so not a lot of cash has to be carried. There are still monthly bills/expenses, which can vary greatly! These include:
- Vehicle insurance (higher for a vehicle you live in)
- Health Insurance (I found a United plan that would cover me nationwide)
- Groceries/general supplies
- Dog Food
- Vet/health care (one location selected for routine stuff)
- Eating out
- Vehicle service (oil changes, tires, brakes/roters, wiper blades, belts, repairs, etc.)
- AAA or RV road side service
- Traveling mailbox (gets me all my mail electronically)
- Can use Walmart stores, Amazon pick up points, or UPS/FedEx offices to collect physical shipments.
- Anytime Fitness Gym membership (for showers and free overnight parking) at 2000 locations nationwide!
- Campground fees (for longer stays in an area, battery charging, doing laundry, and dumping used water).
- Storage unit fees for stuff I have in storage (I’m hoping to get away with only needing a closet sized unit!) Amazing how much I have that I don’t really need!
- Safety deposit box fees for valuables
Where to stay:
While campgrounds are the obvious choice, they are expensive. There are a few programs (like harvest host and boondockers) that cater to this issue that provide a free night at a local winery, farm, or other small business in the hopes you will want to buy something from them (most people do make a purchase and may gift it to the next host or someone along the way).
For a quick overnight stop, several businesses allow overnight RV parking for 1 night
- Cracker Barrel
- Cabelas/Bass Pro
- 24 hr McDonalds
- some 24 hr Gyms (with yearly membership)
- some casinos
- truck stops
- Other such places are regional or local and there is an app for finding them
Some places can be used for “stealth camping” where you pull in, shut yourself in, and go right to bed.
- on-street parking in a residential neighborhood (especially in front of a house for sale)
- 24 hr. supermarket
- church lots during the week
- car dealership repair lots if leaving early or on Saturday eve
- 24 hr Walgreens/CVS
- and my vehicle may look at home in industrial/business areas too
And some places are designed to be a destination and have free or minimal fee camping.
- state parks
- national parks
- BLM land
- wildlife management areas
- national forests
I was surprised to see the number of single women living this lifestyle and most have a video or two about the topic of safety. Some stick to areas where camping is allowed and other people will be, others go off-road to find remote areas where they can stay “bookdocking” till they are asked to leave or choose to move on. But most make use of the variety of options listed above for their overnight stays and go where they want. All agree that if you are not reckless, it is very safe. Safer than living in a big city. You do have to take extra care not to hurt yourself or have a vehicle break down if you are somewhere remote, but cell coverage is getting better and better and fewer and fewer places are without coverage for emergencies. Many post online regularly and have friends or family that know their location and travel plans, so that if the posting stops, someone will be sent looking. I’m not really worried too much about this aspect. Especially if the dogs and Glock are with me. But there are a few states and cities I would completely avoid due to their politics and gun laws.
During the day, I would either be sightseeing at a location or driving between destinations (with frequent short stops to lay on the bed and rest my back). In the evening I’d surf the internet on my laptop looking for info on the next place I want to go, play on Facebook, etc. I would also take that time to play with the dogs, pay bills, do laundry, and other normal life chores. I’d also download the photos I took and update whatever means I decide on to log my travels. I’d find a place to overnight and repeat the next day. Or might choose to stay in one area for a few days if there are several things to see. If the location is pet friendly, both dogs would go with me. If not, Dazzle would stay in the living area, loose, with the doors closed and A/C on (or windows in and vents going if weather is nice). I’d have a temperature monitor that would alert my phone if the A/C quit and the van reached a selected temp letting me know it is starting to get warm.
I know there is more info I have learned, but can’t recall it. I had lots of questions when I started researching, but many questions have been answered by the helpful videos.