Road to Van Life: MONEY

While eventually embarking on my van life journey and documenting all I can, I also want to document and share my road to van life. One of the biggest factors to consider in wanting to travel full-time is money. I racked up quite a bit of debt through student loans. So for the foreseeable future, a hefty amount is going to be coming out of my bank account every month. [Tip: Avoid private student loans if you can.]

I’m also aware that, just because I will be traveling in a van, doesn’t mean there won’t be expenses. I’ve given a lot of thought to exactly what kind of budget I’ll need in this next stage of my life. I don’t see myself minding working on the road because I will be able to travel and set up shop to work wherever I would like. If I can find a cute spot with free wifi, GREAT! If not, I plan on having internet access somehow for when I go off-grid.

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Van Expenses: Gas is a HUGE and obvious one. I also will more than likely have a car payment, which I don’t mind. I don’t want to buy an older van and risk having to pay more money fixing the van than traveling. In addition to that will be auto insurance. Since it will be my traveling home, I’ll need more protection. Maintaining the van will require me to budget some money aside as well. Not to mention the costs for the actual van build.

Personal Expenses: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle for myself means groceries and not just eating out for every meal. I plan to have a fully functional kitchen space so that I can make my own meals from wherever I am. I’m pretty simple with my regular food choices but definitely not afraid to try new or weird things. I’ll also need some kind of health insurance since I am quite accident prone. No one ever really plans to use their health insurance, but it does provide peace of mind and is pretty mandatory to have.

I also have to factor in that, even though there is a lot of free stuff to do on the road, at some points there may be something really cool that I really want to do. I want to be able to have that freedom to pick a new activity to experience every now and then. For example, I really want to road trip to Alaska. My dad has said he would go with me, so I would want to make sure I had some money set aside to make that trip special.

Traveling With a Pet: This adds a whole other set of expenses. Albus is a very healthy kitty (vet confirmed today at his annual exam) but that means giving him the best I possibly can. Albus started out his life not so healthy and once I adopted him I knew I would do whatever I could to make sure he stayed as healthy as possible. I pay more for a better quality food and pay more for a better, more protective flea and tick preventative. Just because I’m downsizing my life doesn’t mean I will downsize his. Yes he may be in a smaller space that he’s used to, but he will be cared for just the same. He even has pet insurance.


Having so much in student debt, going through bankruptcy, and taking a huge pay cut means I have very little in savings. I plan on spending the next year saving up as much money as I can. There are two main reasons for my savings; the van build and a cushion to have for emergencies.

I’ve had to seek out multiple outlets for money in order to maximize my savings. My main source of income is my job as a mental health worker. It unfortunately does not pay enough for all that we do or deal with. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my job and working with the kids…not every day is stressful and some days are fun. However the stress that it does cause, in my opinion, is just not worth it for the long-term.

It doesn’t earn me much, but I pick up a few hours here and there hosting at a local restaurant. Basically I’m a fill-in for when people want some time off. This suits me just fine because that leaves room for my more important side job–freelancing. I’ve started putting myself out there now so that I can build a reputation for myself in order to have it be my full-time job on the road. I’ve been able to obtain a part-time position as a social media content developer for a small marketing company that works very well with my schedule. This has literally just started, but I can tell it is going to lead to great things!

It might sound corny, but I really do officially feel like I am on the road to van life! I can daydream and browse Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube all I want. But actually obtaining this freelancing position gets me going in the right direction towards making van life a reality. If anyone has any advice on freelancing whether it be social media content or article/blog writing, I am all ears! Well…eyes. Leave a comment and let me know!

Until next time!

Love always,

Caitie♥

 

Adventures With Albus: Devils Den

Yesterday I was quite nervous about the weather. It was supposed to thunderstorm later in the afternoon. I picked up a hosting shift at my second, part-time, job but I also really wanted to get Albus outside for a while. While I was working, the sky was bright but cloudy and the wind picked up at times. However, I was fortunate and there was no rain! I worked briefly from 12-2:30pm, only getting a couple of hours in due to it being slow. So I went home, made myself some lunch, and got Albus ready!

Getting Albus into the car is always the hardest part of our outings. He is still nervous and I think when I picked him up I pressed on his bladder because he peed on me. This isn’t the first time it’s happened, so I wasn’t really phased. I got Albus in the car and

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turned on the A/C then went inside to change. I set up a little litter box for him in the back of my car. I’m happy to say he used it… took a nice big shit as soon as we left the driveway.

I sprayed the pheromone spray that I have mentioned in a previous blog. I didn’t notice a huge change in his behavior in the car so I’m not sure that it lessened his stress at all. However, since I paid like $20 for it, I’ll keep using it to see if it works over time.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on why cats struggle so much with the car. Kind of like harness training, training a cat to ride in the car should really be done from the start while they’re young. Unfortunately I skipped that step when I was harness training baby Albus. That is also the case with anyone who adopts an older cat. Albus’s behavior is anxiety based as opposed to motion sickness. He has never gotten sick in the car, just peed himself occasionally. His drooling is also a behavior that points to anxiety. My goal is to get Albus out and in the car more and more, especially over the summer, to show him that the car isn’t a bad place. So hopefully his anxiety goes down after having the car be put into his semi-regular routine. His vet has prescribed him Prozac to try to help with that, but Albus is a horrible pill taker. My mom actually suggested just last night after I mentioned the Prozac that it is available in liquid form for humans. My plan is to discuss this possibility with my vet. I’ve mentioned it before, but Albus is my biggest concern when preparing for van life. I think he will be fine as he has adjusted to several new apartments in the past. However, this will be a lot smaller and mobile. That is why I plan to make my van the most cat-friendly van on the planet. My design for the van will revolve around him and his needs first to make sure he is comfortable in our tiny home.

So back to the adventure. Living in Gettysburg, there are a number of places that are quite close to take Albus. Yesterday I decided on Devils Den. Devils Den is basically a bunch of really big rocks that was the spot of something important during the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War. Not exactly sure what that important something was but if it is of interest to you… google it.

If I was to have any advice for someone trying to get their cat to be an outdoorsy cat it would be to be patient. Albus loves being outside, yes, but he hasn’t really ventured outside the yard and surrounding immediate areas or truck stops on a couple of long road trips. So when I take Albus to a new place, he is very cautious of his surroundings and sometimes takes a bit to get the courage to explore. After lounging on the rocks for a while, Albus decided to explore and eventually settled on some grass to graze on.

 

Where we stopped in the video is where we sat for the following 15 minutes because some people walked by and he just wasn’t quite sure about them. Like I said… patience is the key. While he may sometimes act like a dog, he isn’t and takes a while to get comfortable exploring new places. We went at his pace and I sat and relaxed when he decided to lay down for a bit. He is very much the boss on our outings and I have absolutely no shame in that.

While we were sitting in a more grassy area, several people asked if they could pet him and showered him with compliments of his beauty and soft fur. I think the extra head scratches made him feel a little more comfortable as he soon got up to explore after the people left.

All in all it was a very good day. Yes, Albus was stressed out a bit in the beginning, but this is a process. Before, he used to be mad at me and hide somewhere in my room the rest of the night. Last night, he disappeared for about an hour then came out to snuggle and receive head scratches.

Keep an eye out for my review of Sons of Anarchy coming out either later today or tomorrow morning! If you like Adventures With Albus, give it a star! I also love getting feedback, so don’t by shy to drop a comment below! Until next time!

Love always,

Caitie♥

Moms Are Joining Van Life?!

So to be honest, I had definitely planned to put this blog post out yesterday but got caught up watching royal wedding documentaries on TV and then I finished up Son’s of Anarchy and was in absolutely no shape to function after that. I’m talking ugly cry kind of shit.

Moving on!

Technically, yes, my moms want a van life. Just not quite as an involved one as I do. They really want to purchase a conversion van. They also like traveling, but prefer the comfort of hotel rooms or houses they rent for a week or two. So we set out yesterday morning to Doylestown, PA to check some vans out that they had seen online. They asked if I wanted to tag along, so of course I went! I wanted to obviously be there to give them my third-party opinion on the vans and also see if there were any cargo vans that I could look at to help get an idea of what I will want when it comes time for me to purchase my van.

Unfortunately, the place we went only sells smaller conversion vans, so no options for me. However, we looked at a few for my moms and it was pretty cool. We sat in four vans; two Chevy Explorers and two Ford Transits. Part of why my mom invited me to go with them is because, while she is around 83% on board with me living in a van, wants me to observe every possible option. That, for her, includes looking at conversion vans and class b camper vans.

They want a conversion van for road trips; the most frequent one being to Maine. Their plan is to eventually retire to Maine, but we still vacation there often. This August, in fact, they rented a house right on the coast for two weeks. It’s going to be the two of them, me, my sister and maybe her boyfriend, and the four doggos. They were also kind enough to invite two of my friends from Massachusetts to go along, so that might happen as well! I got close with two lovely ladies at my old job and it would be great to go on a trip wtih them. They came to visit me not long after I moved and I visited with them as well when I went back up to get my furniture.

Anyway, the main purpose of getting a conversion van is to have lots of space for dogs or humans to travel. They might even get a portable toilet if they deem it necessary. However, like I said, they prefer the overnight comfort of a hotel or rented house.

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Looking at the vans we did yesterday only pushed me more towards my desire to convert a van into my dream tiny home on wheels and to do that myself. Doing it myself ensures that I can make it exactly how I want it. I have done a lot of research on converting a van and that usually led me to YouTube. There are several channels that have a lot of awesome content about how they live van life and what has or hasn’t worked for them on their journeys. Eamon and Bec as well as Minimal Millennials have been two of my favorites to keep up with. Definitely check them out on YouTube and Instagram!

A perk of hanging out with my moms for the day is that it almost always means free food. We decided on Chickie and Pete’s near Philly as we were driving by it on our way home. None of us had been there before, but we all absolutely loved it! The atmosphere was great and they had a large variety of sports going on several TVs throughout the bar area, which included softball! I love watching softball and definitely miss playing. My mom and I shared crab bruschetta and a lobster pizza while my stepmom got a classic Philly cheesesteak. I’d definitely recommend this place if you’re looking for a sports bar in the Philly area.

All in all it was a good day, even though it was raining the whole time. Keep an eye out for more posts in the next couple days including a review of the emotional rollercoaster I went on while binge watching Sons of Anarchy. I’m also hoping to get Albus out on another adventure here in the next couple days if the weather cooperates with me!

Until next time!

Love always,

Caitie♥

New Life Goal: Van Life

For a couple of years now, I have been obsessed with tiny homes. I’d watch all the shows on TV, look up videos on YouTube, and find stuff on Pinterest. My favorite ones to look at were those that could be towed and moved wherever you felt like living.

I liked the idea that I wouldn’t have to live in any given place for an extended amount of time. I mean, how am I supposed to decide where I want to live for the rest of my life when I haven’t seen even a quarter of the possibilities? The more I looked into tiny home living, the more options I saw. One day, I stumbled upon van life. The thought of having a van with my whole life in it, giving me the freedom to pull off into some parking lot to sleep before moving on to my next great destination gets me so excited for this next stage of my life.

I think maybe subconsciously I knew I wanted a more nomadic lifestyle a long time ago. It just took recent events in my life to give me the push and courage to really go for it. I am fully aware that this will be a year or two long process and I’m pretty sure my mom thinks I’m just kidding or going through a quarter life crisis kind of thing. This very well may be a quarter life crisis but I can’t think of a better way to focus my motivation than working towards my dream lifestyle. Better for me to do it now than when I’m 50 and consumed by regret.

I’m 25 now and already carry regret. But while there are aspects of my life I regret, out of every bad situation, there’s come something good. Whether it be in finding new close friends that I’ll have for life or adopting a cat, I’ve always managed to find something positive.

Moving on back to living in a van…

Most of the people I’ve told about this plan think I’m crazy. Maybe I am, but I’ll be a crazy cat lady on the road. Most of them, I’m sure, think it’s a random idea that will work its way out of my system after a bit. But I have never felt so sure of something before in my life. I’ve done a lot of research into what it means and takes to live on the road in such a small space. I currently have a lot of shit, so downsizing is definitely necessary. I also know that van life will not be all sunshine and pretty views.

One thing that I am like 93% sure of is that I want to self-build my own van. In doing that, I want to try to use as much as I already have in the build. For instance, I have a chest of drawers 20180328_081001with a top that lifts open. In that top section, I can fit my makeup and there is a mirror on the underside of the lid. I THINK that I can dwindle my clothing down to fit in that piece (not including sweaters/wintery items). I also have a nightstand that I Harry Potter-ized that I would really like to keep as well because of how cool it turned out. In addition to those, I already have a nice mini fridge.

I have a very particular layout and design in mind when I picture my dream van and the only way I can get that is if I do it myself. I would obviously need some help with the harder stuff like electrical and water hook-ups. I want my van to be able to go completely off-grid. I’m talking solar panels, back up batteries, maybe even a water filter system if the price is right, that way I can take water from any source if need be.

Money is a crucial topic to this project, especially since I am firm on aspects I want in my van. It is going to take a lot of saving between now and the next year or two. A huge part going towards a van. I don’t mind if I have some sort of payment on the van because I don’t want a super old one with a ton of miles on it. But that would just add onto my need to have a job on the road, which is definitely necessary thanks to my college education. What I would ideally like to do is find a remote job doing work such as transcribing or freelance/content writing. Now would probably be a good time to mention that I’ve been working on a fantasy fiction trilogy with a co-author/one of my best friends. So if that takes off, it could prove helpful. Also, even though this blog is more of a therapeutic outlet, I know it can prove to be profitable if done well. Even if I only make a small amount from it, every little bit helps.

I am 100% positive that I want to have in my van is some sort of shower. Not an outdoor one, either and it doesn’t have to be your stereotypical shower. I have found a bunch of different and unique options for a shower in a camper van. I also want a toilet. I would take advantage of public bathrooms when possible, but if I’m camped out somewhere, I’m not a fan of getting out in the middle of the night to do my business in nature.

Another aspect that will play a huge part in the layout is Albus. I want to catify the shit out of the van. My biggest fear with this life shift is Albus. He currently does not enjoy the car. However, the main place he’s ever gone in a car is the vet and no pet likes that. So currently he nervous drools a lot when he goes in the car. However, on the 7 hour drive from Massachusetts, he did very well. He only drooled for about ten minutes then curled up either in my lap or in the back seat. His vet prescribed him some kitty sized Prozac and said that would help him relax in the car. I’ve also found this pheromone travel spray for cats that is supposed to help reduce stress while traveling. I’ve only tried it once so it’s hard to give it a review. While I worry about Albus adjusting to van life, I also think of how much he loves being outside and what an adventurous personality he has. I had him outside yesterday on his harness and I pictured taking him all over the country exploring. I also have a vision of having a ‘catio’ attached to the side of the van so he can get some fresh air even when I have to stay in the van to work.

This is just the beginning of what I hope will be an amazing journey. If you have ever or currently or dream to have a van life journey, I would love to hear from you! Drop a comment below!  Until next time!

Love always,

Caitie♥