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  1. #1

    Default The Indefinite Road Trip?

    Hi, first time poster (well, I'm new anyway :p), long-time road tripper.

    My longest one was a week and a half. I rarely drive with a destination in mind-- usually it's spur of the moment, get in the car and go, and then turn around at some point when I know I have to get back home (for work or whatever).

    Well, I've been egging for a much longer road trip, the kind where I live on the road for an indefinite amount of time. I read somewhere that if you play it smart, living on the road is even cheaper than settling somewhere with an okay job. (This isn't my reason, by the way, just a consideration.)

    I've got an okay job. I can save $5,000 (towards a road trip-- this number doesn't include day to day expenses and bills during that time) by the end of March. Realistically speaking, how much would you want to save up for a road trip like this?

    Though I don't plan on settling anywhere, I'm resourceful enough to find a job-- I worked retail for six years and LOVED it. I know that retail isn't everything and my resume will probably count for nothing, but I learned enough about handling people to feel confident that I might actually be able to find something, even temporarily. I also sparingly take on freelance web design projects and could (reasonably) get more of those for financial support. (But then of course I'd rely on 100% Internet availability.)

    I'm a girl. (Hi.) I don't know any MMA... But I have absolutely no problem with sleeping at rest stops (I have done this on several trips) and in parking lots, or around campsites. I drive a hatchback and am constructing some kind of tent-like thingy to put in the windows while I'm sleeping. I know it's not the absolute safest but I am keen on spending as little as possible to allow the trip to last as long as possible.

    I have a friend who took a cross country trip for about $2k in one month but he lived a life of luxury... I mean, he camped a lot, but he also stayed in hotels much more often than I'd be. (I also have friends around the country who are willing to put me up.) I think he also ate a lot more fast & restaurant food than I have in my entire life-- I know how to frugal shop at grocery stores (because of all those years in retail).

    I've gone through a lot of the details which I'm sure you all already know in your higher plane of experience so I can get a rough estimate of maybe 3 months on $5k (rough estimate because I left a buffer for potential car repairs, although my new car only has 10k on it which sadly is all commuting miles). But I'm curious what those of you who have been doing this, who (like me) tend to be very thrifty even in everyday life, thought when you read that?

    I've gone back a couple pages in this forum to see how many days/how much the road trips have cost and it actually seems like I might be estimating my expenses a little high (there tends to be a $5-700 difference between my estimated totals and their actual totals). I'll probably continue doing this just because you can never be sure, but I guess I am just here without much aim. Sorry about that. I will have $5k and a new camera (gift) by April and I want to follow my dreams. Where do I begin, and how do I know for certain that I have enough saved to embark on something like this?

    Notes:

    US only, with the possibility of Canada only if I happen to get my passport renewed before I leave. (cough) I have a friend in Calgary who'd love to see me but it's not exactly a priority.

    A vague-ish destination would be Seattle (I'm near DC currently) and I wouldn't be stopping at a lot of national monuments or sight-seeing or anything, although I'd be more likely to take scenic routes over highways. I wouldn't necessarily be going to Seattle and then turning around and coming home; it's more like I'd get to Seattle and then re-evaluate my trip. (Likewise, if I get down to $2k and I'm only halfway across the country or something I'll re-evaluate my trip.)

    Food from grocery stores, occasionally Starbucks or local coffee shops, and I do have a book thing so I would probably buy a book from every place I stop as my souvenir (paperback fiction or nonfiction, I'm not talking about one of those huge photographic location books or anything) as well as postcards/stamps to send back home. I'll be journaling & photoblogging and like I said I'll probably have freelance projects anyway so the Interwebs are a must, at least twice a week for work.

    As I said, my primary resting points will be rest stops or camp grounds. I don't totally mind getting "rough around the edges" (and I'll probably be cutting my hair short) but I did budget in two cheap motels per month ($80 each though I think I could find less expensive ones). In Girl Scouts we learned how to "shower" in sinks. I'm more worried about the safety of a 27 year old woman on her own sleeping in rest stops. Should I get an angry looking stuffed dog? ;)

    I've already seen most of America just from growing up here and having parents who like to travel... Or in any case, I've already seen most of the "historical stuff." Plus I know the US has a LOT more to offer than what I've seen, but since I did grow up right next to a million Civil War battlefields and every class in grade school went to DC for field trips, I've been sort of burnt out when it comes to stuff like that. This is an experience/people trip. I want to have a lot of conversations and sit in coffee shops casually like any other person. I'll have a Nikon with me, but I won't be wearing a fanny pack or walking around with a map in my nose. I'm the kind of person who gets lost and doesn't panic.

    I'm probably looking at something vaguely similar to the attached image, although I don't know for sure... I'd like to hit where all my friends live, but they know and I understand that I'm going to end up wherever I end up. ;)

    Okay, phew. This got longer than I expected. I usually do spur of the moment trips as I mentioned so I'm not unaware of what it's like out there. Since this is a longer term one I thought that perhaps thinking it through a little bit more and saving up was my best option. I'd ideally like it to be indefinite-- find some way to make money on the road or whatever but (!) I also know that I might stop somewhere and totally fall for it. Seattle is the vague destination because there are book jobs and IT jobs and so if I like it enough it might just be a good fit. (If not I'll move on. :P) If all else fails, I'll just come back home. I'm basically open to anything that happens but I am here because I want to make sure I've got my bases covered. I don't want to leave home and then two days later realize that I totally didn't even think about packing an extra pair of socks so now I have to reach into my expenses and buy some. ;)

    Also if anyone has links to blogs from people who have taken trips like this (no real itinerary, solo, possibly female!), please please link me. :) I want to read not just about finances and ways to cut corners, but also just about experiences, some do's and don'ts, whatever else an experienced person might have to offer.

    Thanks so much, and I'm sorry if this is too long or in the wrong forum.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    4,322

    Default My kind of trip.

    Hi, and Welcome to the The Great American RoadTrip Forum.

    Quote Originally Posted by papermoon View Post
    Where do I begin, and how do I know for certain that I have enough saved to embark on something like this?
    As I read through your 'novel', I related in many ways, to your preferred style of travel. So where do you begin.

    To my way of thinking, your answer lies above. You have on past ocassions hit the road and headed for the horizon, turning to head home when it was time... for whatever reason. So, is $5000 enough? Well, when you are halfway through it, logically it would be time to start heading home. Really quite simple. No one can tell you if it will be sufficient for you. It depends on so many factors.

    Sleeping at rest areas is not the smartest move, and probably one of the most unsafe things you can do. You may so far have been fortunate, but don't stretch your luck. Many wish they had never made that decision. If you must sleep in your vehicle, do so at truck stops. They are free, safe and hospitable. They have bathrooms, showers, fuel, and you can use their restaurants. Many also have wifi. This publication lists all the truck stops which make overnight travellers welcome. Don't overlook hostels, and have a look at couchsurfing, which is another great way to make friends and see the country.

    Quote Originally Posted by papermoon View Post
    ... I want to read not just about finances and ways to cut corners, but also just about experiences, some do's and don'ts, whatever else an experienced person might have to offer.
    You might like to start here. In the Field Reports you can read of other's trips. And here is a forum dedicated to saving money on a roadtrip. And an article on solo trips.

    Lifey - solo female septuagenarian roadtripper

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    2,274

    Default

    To add to what Lifey suggested - - don't expect to find a temporary job very easily. With the economy what it is today, many people are struggling to find work and have found themselves working in retail when they didn't want to before. While the government is proclaiming "only" a certain percent of unemployment, indicating that the numbers are going down, we figure that's not correct. We have many who are no longer counted among the unemployed because they've been out of work for so long that their benefits have run out!

    Please, please, do NOT sleep at rest areas. It's just NOT safe. At least once a week in the spring and summer months, we hear of someone who was robbed or murdered in a rest area while sleeping someplace. A "tent" in your vehicle just indicates that someone IS in there, and vulnerable. You're better off in a truck stop or in one of the other suggestions that Lifey made.

    Looking briefly at your map, you're looking at what could easily be an 8000 - 10,000 mile trip. You might want to run that mileage, your car's estimated mpg, and $4/gal into the Fuel Cost Estimator here on the website. I just ran 12,000 mi in a 15 mpg pickup at $5/gal (diesel) and it came up with $4000.


    Donna

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
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    7,306

    Default

    Playing devil's advocate here - with today's economy, you cannot count on finding temporary employment on the road, even in retail. There will be plenty of locals everywhere you go competing for the few jobs that are available, and they will get preference. If you need income while on the road, you will have to rely on whatever you can set up before you go.

  5. #5

    Default

    Thanks everyone, checking out the suggested links. I wasn't planning on relying on retail (only as absolute last resort). I luckily have nice parents who, if I'm really desperate, will wire me money to come home (which I'd then have to work to pay off-- but at least I'd be safe). I have three web design projects lined up that will likely extend past April and so I know I'll have income while I'm on the road-- all of my networking thus far has been done online and so while I know I can't rely 100% on getting more web jobs, it's at least a little bit of a boost at the beginning. :)

    Just saw there's another thread with the same title-- though the itinerary is a little different, there are tons of tips in there as well that I'll be browsing through.

    Looks like what I have to worry about the most is lodging. $5000 will be enough to get me wherever I need to go-- wherever that ends up being. :) And if I have to come back before I hit the west coast, then that's okay too. I'll try for next time.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    4,322

    Default More road trip stories.

    Here's another link with lots of stories I have enjoyed reading... and which I could have written myself. I'd forgotten about this link, until one of the mods posted it in another thread recently.

    Enjoy!

    Lifey

  7. #7

    Default

    I too am planning an indefinite road trip as our retirement gift to ourselves. During my planning, I guessed at the number of days for food and lodging (180) and the miles to be traveled and came up with $27K as my expenses. I won't retire until 2014. We prefer a simple life--budget hotels, 1 full (not expensive) meal a day, snacks or fruit/veggies for other meals, I take photos or buy postcards rather than buying 'stuff'--first question: Is my budget realistic?

    I have been working on the route and here is where I drive myself crazy. I am starting out in Pennsylvania mid-March and plan to make a large clockwise circle around the lower-48 and will hopefully be back home before the snow flies. My concern is making the most efficient route in order to see all the items on my list which currently numbers upwards of 388 sites and is still growing. i have only found 1 website, MapQuest, which will allow you to input 26 locations and then it will reorganize the route to make it efficient. In most cases, i make all my stops in one state before going to the next state But there are states like TX & CA where I want to see so much that I am rambling around. For example in CA, so far, I am entering the state at the SE corner and traveling north to Lee Vining and then going west to the center of the state and then south through the center of the state and then west to San Diego and then north along the coast to San Fran and then I am going east to Sacramento and 'wandering' in the north part of the state before advancing to Oregon. When going to LA, there are some TX towns that are close and it may be better to see some TX things before finishing LA moving on to other parts of TX. Can anyone recommend any travel tools that would help me create the best route?
    Don't get me wrong, I am not so structured that i cannot be spontaneous, I will certainly stop when I see something that interests me, even if it is not currently on my planned list, but I don't want to go through the same town two or three times because I have no destination in mind. It is a point of pride with me to be efficient in my planning and in carrying out my plans (and it also saves on gasoline).
    Any guidance would be truly appreciated. Thank you.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
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    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    9,474

    Default RTA Custom Maps

    Quote Originally Posted by jkahler View Post
    i have only found 1 website, MapQuest, which will allow you to input 26 locations and then it will reorganize the route to make it efficient.
    The RTA Custom Maps also has a route optimization tool, using the way points application -- at the moment you can only load 8 way points (plus the start and ending points) but if you break the trip down into sections, you can use the RTA tool PLUS see the list of attractions that we like to recommend along your route.

    Happy Planning!

    Mark

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Upstate NY
    Posts
    87

    Default

    Well, I'm not female, and the trip wasn't infinite, but I did do a 111 day 18,700 mile trip in a RAV4 & 17' Escape fiberglass "egg" trailer last summer. Will be doing it again this starting April.

    Have a great trip!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Joplin MO
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    Playing devil's advocate here - with today's economy, you cannot count on finding temporary employment on the road, even in retail. There will be plenty of locals everywhere you go competing for the few jobs that are available, and they will get preference. If you need income while on the road, you will have to rely on whatever you can set up before you go.
    I'd like to add to this - my 26 year old nephew from San Diego is out in Phoenix going to school. He is a trained and card-carrying security guard with anti-terrorist training and firearms permits. He desperately needs part-time employment to get him through school, and he is having no luck whatsoever finding any kind of work. All the security companies are doing are collecting resumes and not hiring. He has even tried McDonalds and Walmart with no luck - and he even used to work at a Walmart in San Diego. Nobody is hiring anyone in Phoenix that's not a local or a snowbird that's there every winter and has an established employment record in the area.

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