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  1. Default 1 year U.S. Trip

    Hey everyone,

    I am planing a 1 year trip across the country. I am US citizen, although I have lived in Germany all my life. I am 30 years old this is probably my last opportunity to take off on my own and do something this big. I have visited the states at least 20 times. Mostly as a kid though, and it has been 10 years since I was there.

    I have relatives in New England. They are helping me buy a car (which I am planing to sell at the end of the trip) and taking care of insurance etc. I will fly into New York on Sept. 13th and do a 3 week round trip of new England with a German friend. (I hope not all places are as expensive as New NYC ;-)) This is basically to get accustomed to the US and visit people from my past. After that I am on my own.

    I have a budget of about 14.000€-18.000€ (20.000$) for the entire year (the car is excluded from this). I think 2.000$ will be gone after the first 3 weeks, as this will include large cities and hotels during Indian summer in New England. After that I am planing to make full use of campsites and reading all the information on this site regarding ways to sleep in the car.

    I think I might be able to lower the cost by staying longer in places I like and getting good deals. Perhaps finding places that offer a bed and a roof in exchange for work. I have some farming experience.

    I would like to take a month by month approach.

    October/november: Northeast-Washington D.C. Area

    December: Kentucky, Tennessee, ( Have an Aunt in Louisville) ---maybe work on a horse farm for free lodging

    January: Louisiana (perhaps Florida. Although for some reason that does not perk my interest as much)

    February: Texas

    March: New Mexico, Arizona

    April: California

    May: Northwest

    June: Rocky Mountains

    July: Great Plains, Chicago

    August: Get back to the North East

    All of this is not set in stone. And I want to flexible. So I can spend more time if i really like it somewhere.

    I would like to get some feedback. If you think my plan (although still very broad) is doable and sounds like a good idea.

    I don't think that time is an issue. And I could probably borrow some money if I run out at some point.

    I am mostly interested in your guys opinions on living out of a car for such a long period.

    Thanks

    bleedsgreen
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 09-04-2012 at 10:08 AM. Reason: added some white space

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default A Warning Buzzer

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Let's face it. Travel is rewarding, enjoyable, and sure beats working. If we could do it full time, we would. But the fact is that travel is also expensive, which is why we don't. Whenever I see someone planning to travel extensively on what is close to or sometimes even less than a poverty level budget, I just have to raise my concerns as to whether such a plan is feasible. You say that you plan to spend a year on a RoadTrip with a total budget of around $20,000. But you also state that you'll blow through a full 10% of that budget in the first few weeks when you will be sharing the costs with a friend and spending significant time with relatives. Once you leave New England your costs are only going to go up and your 'free' resources are going to dry up. The expectation that you will be able to find occasional work in an economy where 8-16% of people are unemployed and you will be competing with local craftsmen who know their market and whose work is known to local employers is simply unreasonable. If you are lucky, you may be able to get back about 40-50% of what 'you' pay for the car - remember you will be buying retail and selling (a considerably more 'used' car) wholesale. I just think this trip is going to cost a whole lot more than you are planning for.

    AZBuck

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default cost concerns

    I have to agree that Buck has raised some very serious concerns.

    $20,000 is a great amount of money to have saved up for a fantastic trip. However, when you break it down for a full year, its not much more than you'd make working at a fast food chain, and even when traveling cheaply, life on the road is still generally more expensive than being at home. You are certainly going to have to budget your money very carefully.

    A couple things I think you should also consider as you plan for this trip.

    I'd expect it will take several days to get your trip off the ground. Even if you have some help finding a car, its going to take some time to essentially re-establish residentcy, and take care of things like insurance, registration, etc.

    I'd also be very concerned about how cheaply you'll actually be able to live. As Buck mentioned finding work on the road is certainly going to be tough to do in this economy, and is not something I'd count on. I also wouldn't plan on the "might be able to borrow," unless you've actually got something lined up beforehand as a backup source of funding.

    I don't see sleeping in the car as a long term option. Its one thing to do it for an occasional night while covering miles on the road, its quite another to do it as something you are planning to do frequently. Space alone will likely be an issue, since you'll already have all of your camping gear, clothes, and all the other things you'll need to be on the road long term. I'm doubting you'd have much room to lay down with all your stuff in the car.

    Speaking of camping, I think you may be underestimating winter. Even in the south, it gets quite cold overnight. Freezing conditions are quite possible overnight pretty much everywhere in the US, except in Southern Florida. Many campgrounds, even in the south, close up for winter. Have you really prepared for how you will deal with the cold for several months?

    You've got quite an outline, and you can certainly have a pretty amazing trip. You don't have to plan out every detail, but I think there are a lot of questions and specifics you will need to work out before you hit the road.

  4. Default

    Thanks for raising your concerns.
    I actually have the option of downsizing my current car in Germany, thereby gaining at least 10.000$. I could definitely borrow that amount from people at home. As they are sure I could pay them back. Of course, cutting the entire trip by some months is also an option. After looking more into other threads I tend to agree, that 20.000$ is likely not enough for an entire year, if camping is not always an option. For me, the uncertainty of how long I can go with my resources is part of my motivation for the trip. And I would not be heartbroken if it does not go exactly as planned.
    I forgot to mention, that I also have some more relatives and friends across the country. I think I could count on 30 nights, that I could spend with them. Basically cutting out one entire month of lodging cost.
    If I can calculate 70$ for a Motel room and 25$ camping on average. (realistic???) And try to sleep in a motel 1/3 of the time only. I'll be spending about 40$ on average. Even lower if I factor in sleeping for free on some nights.
    If I raise the extra money or shorten the trip, I think I can count on 85$ per day.
    15-20$ for food. That would leave 25$ for recreation and gas. And I will not be driving or going to a pro baseball game every day.
    I am treating the first few weeks as a totally different thing. I am spending a significant amount of time in New York and Boston and have some rather expensive events lined up. I also think it might take some time to get things of the ground which is why I am renting a car for that period. Considering, that the 1 year time frame is not set in stone and I can raise my budget significantly, I really think, I can make the money side work.
    And I am not under the illusion of finding well paid work anywhere. Just a place to sleep. And not everywhere I go, but at some farm I like and could see myself spending several weeks.
    The main concerns I have after reading your posts is weather during the winter. Even though I already plan to take a southern route for this reason. I might have to use a lot of my "motel-time" here. And getting a big enough car for such a long trip. I am thinking minivan by now.

    Appreciate your criticism. And am thankful for input.

    bleedsgreen

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    A few more thoughts,

    Its fine to spend some time staying with friends and family, however, I think you would be good to remember the old Ben Franklin saying: Guests and Fish both stink after 3 days! You don't want to overstay your welcome, and also keep in mind that free places to stay are rarely free. Certainly, you should be showing anyone you stay with a sign of appreciation, which is something you need to factoring into your budgeting.

    What appears to be your plan of working/farming in exchange for a place to sleep seems less likely than working for cash. That would probably have been easier 80 years ago.

    You daily budget items seem reasonable, although it is very easy to spend far more than $25 a day on gas. You can easily spend $100+ in gas during a full day on the road, and even if you aren't on a driving day, you can spend that much just driving around town in a day. Also keep in mind that there are lots of expenses that simply come with living that don't break down as easily into daily categories. Basic things like toothpaste, clothes, and other little things that you only have to buy once and a while, but that do add up.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default More thoughts for your consideration.

    Early this year I was indeed fortunate to pick up a vehicle for my travels at an excellent price for the age and mileage. To date I have clocked up some 23000 miles, with probably another 2500 miles in the next two weeks. The vehicle has been good to and for me, but it has also meant I had to return the favour. So far I have paid in the vicinity of $3500 on repairs and maintenance. Most of it is what one would expect, but there were one or two surprices. Which is not unusual when purchasing a second hand vehicle, despite getting good advice and mechanical check.

    If you are considering a mini van, I would highly recommend that you get one with a flat floor, when the seats are removed. Put in a camping mattress, a good quality sleeping bag (I found top quality ones on Craig's List), and you are good for camping most places during at least three seasons.

    By utilising places such as BLM lands, Truck Stops / Travel Plazas and free camping areas (do a web search for them), you should be able to multiply your 'free' nights, several times over. At truck stops you not only have the bathrooms, there are showers (pay) and all other facilities that professional drivers use such as washing machines and driers, and most times a microwave as well.

    Keep food costs down by buying in supermarkets, and if necessary, reheating in the microwave at truck stops. Keep a box of cereal for breakfast, and buy small quantities of milk each day, unless you have a good cooler or 12v (compressor) fridge.

    Don't overlook hostels. There are some which allow a free night's accommodation for three or four hours work. You can always call and ask if they do this, as I have never known any of them to advertise it.

    One glaring omission from your itinerary, in my opinion, is Alaska. If you are going to do a year's trip, then surely this greatest of all States - and not just in size - deserves some of your attention.

    Lifey

  7. Default

    One glaring omission from your itinerary, in my opinion, is Alaska. If you are going to do a year's trip, then surely this greatest of all States - and not just in size - deserves some of your attention.
    I had the feeling someone would suggest this :-). But I figure my budget is tight enough. So I had not considerd adding such a long detour. I guess it would be worth a trip in itself.

    What appears to be your plan of working/farming in exchange for a place to sleep seems less likely than working for cash. That would probably have been easier 80 years ago.
    I believe I have to clarify my thoughts on this. I grew up on a horse farm and majored in agriculture economics. Part of what I want to see in America is different types of farm managing systems. But I did not want to go the standard route of applying for internships from home and staying on one or two farms. I am quite aware that small scale farming is mostly a thing of the past. But, as in Europe, i'd think there are always exceptions. And family businesses, that are happy to host someone that shows up on there doorstep unannounced, if he shows a decent amount of trustworthiness and interest, must exist.

    I am interested in your opinion on the weather during wintertime. Will it be at all possible to stay at camping sites in the south. I figured, I could play it by ear and decide on the short term whether to stay somewhere "warm" or stay "outside". Do you think camping sites will close up all over the place or will there be stretches (along the gulf coast) that stay open during the winter? I understand the hypothetical nature of this question. I am just trying to get a general feel for the circumstances.

    Also, how do you deal with leaving your belongings in the vehicle when going on hiking trips or other stuff like that. Any specific tips on making your car insides look "unappealing"?

    I really like the way people offer up their advice on this site. I will keep looking up different threads that offer specific information on smaller routes. I think my main concern will be to get my car and gear in order. And lower my expectations when it comes to lasting an entire year. The route and places will dictate themselves.

    bleedsgreen

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default This and that

    Quote Originally Posted by bleedsgreen View Post
    I
    I am interested in your opinion on the weather during wintertime. Will it be at all possible to stay at camping sites in the south. I figured, I could play it by ear and decide on the short term whether to stay somewhere "warm" or stay "outside". Do you think camping sites will close up all over the place or will there be stretches (along the gulf coast) that stay open during the winter?
    Yes, it will be possible to camp. There are some campgrounds all over the country that do stay open all year, although typically with reduced services and often no running water. I've camped in the winter less than 100 miles from the Canadian border.

    But the thing you'll need to think about is comfort. At the very least, you need to have winter gear like a sub-zero rated sleeping bag, and other supplies that are more heavy duty than the average camping gear you'll find at a big-box store. Being too cold to sleep is one of the most miserable things you can deal with. But you'll also have to think about simply living in an unheated environment when temperatures are only in the 30s, 40s, or 50s.
    Also, how do you deal with leaving your belongings in the vehicle when going on hiking trips or other stuff like that. Any specific tips on making your car insides look "unappealing"?
    The best thing you can do is to simply keep valuables out of sight. Put the most expensive toys and gadgets in the trunk, under the seat, or even under a towel or blanket.

    And family businesses, that are happy to host someone that shows up on there doorstep unannounced, if he shows a decent amount of trustworthiness and interest, must exist.
    I have to say, I'm extremely skeptical. I'd think someone who just showed up looking for work and a place to stay would by itself make me question their trustworthiness. In this day and economy, if a farmer has some extra work, I'd bet he already knows a handful of local people who would be willing to take the job. But that's just my instincts, maybe you'll prove me wrong.

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