This is the third installment in our series in which we share our cost of living as we experiment with different FIRE adventures and travel to destinations around the world. Our first #vanlife trip in the western U.S. came in slightly under budget, while our backpacking trip around Eastern Europe was a bit more expensive.
We spent another three months on the road in our van this fall, reaching 25 states and 3 Canadian provinces. It was a great adventure, and we loved seeing new places and returning to some old favorites. I can’t say I’d recommend such a brisk pace (or van camping in the northern states late into autumn), but seeing our friends and family around the country was well worth it. If you have the flexibility, though, leave in spring!
Our trip started with a cold but gorgeous few weeks in Montana and the Canadian Rockies, took us through Yellowstone and Grand Teton, and hauled us all the way out to the Midwest for a good friend’s wedding before we took the long southern route home.
The morning after our rude awakening by the police, we were up and out before sunrise, exactly as promised. Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula felt practically abandoned in early November, with no sign of vacationers and just a few locals out and about. Our encounter with the cops had left a bad taste in our mouths, and we weren’t exactly eager to linger in the area, but we still spent the morning exploring some of the area’s parks and taking in the beautiful fall colors and lake scenery.
Cave Point County Park
I woke to the sound of a car door slamming. It was pitch black in the van. I felt around for my phone and checked the time. 1:45 AM.
We were camping in Door County, Wisconsin, out on the Door Peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan. In six months of van travel, we’ve had many glorious nights of legal dispersed camping on public land, usually in National Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management areas. Unfortunately, there’s not a ton of public land east of the Rockies, but we had found a site listed online as U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property. It had three or four positive reviews – a nice place to spend a night in a small RV or camper.
I laid still and listened to the crunch of footsteps in the gravel as they worked a full circle around our vehicle.
A beam of light burst into the van, pausing on our duffel bags and cooking gear for a moment before it reached the two of us in our resting place for the evening.
I shook Daniel awake. “We’ve got company,” I would have announced if our lives were an action movie. “We’re getting woken up by the police” were my actual words.
There was a knock at the window. “Police department!”
My suspicions were confirmed. Ah, fuck.
One of my goals in writing this blog has always been to encourage others to live their dreams – bucking societal expectations and pursuing independence, whatever that means to them.
I was intrigued, then, by a recent request to speak with a television producer about appearing on a show about van-dwelling and traveling on a tight budget. We’re not dying to be the next reality TV stars, but I’m all for new experiences, and I would happily take advantage of such a public platform to spread the word about financial independence, frugality (or pseudo-frugality), early retirement, and full-time travel.
I agreed to an informational phone call to learn more.
I’m late in sharing these photos from the end of our fall U.S. road trip, but hey, what else would you expect from two unemployed travelers like us? Anyway, maybe we can provide some inspiration for your own domestic travel plans in 2017 and beyond!
After two lovely weeks in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, we drove east through Wyoming, making stops in the cowboy town of Sheridan, the hippie-climber-rancher-Indian melting pot of Lander, and Devils Tower National Monument. We found enough free campsites to make do in Wyoming, including some with spectacular scenery.
Off U.S. Highway 26 near Crowheart, WY