It’s been more than a month of full-time travel and for the most part we are tickled to death about how everything is going. We’re hiking a ton. My wife is plowing through a bunch of books that have been on her reading list for quite some time. Me? I’m kickin’ my photo hobby into high gear. My sister Twitter account is testament to that fact!
Our first month has been a whirl! Arguably, we moved way too fast over our first 30 days, but we’ve also spent a good amount of time with family. With family, you need to do things! And for us, that has primarily meant hiking.
We rolled out of Tucson and stayed a couple of nights at Picacho Peak State Park about 30 miles north of the city. We hiked to the top of the peak, which was a physical endeavor that thoroughly kicked my ass. Steep inclines and declines with chains to help you maintain your footing. Technical maneuvers through jagged rocks and precarious angles. It was a hell of a hike.
Then, we spent a night at my in-laws to say goodbye before heading north towards Valley of Fire State Park. Wow, amazing place. Red rocks as far as the eye can see. A slew of hikes. Photo ops everywhere I turned. Heaven on earth, I tell you.
It got windy, so we moved on to Utah a bit early to spend a couple weeks camped out in the middle of the desert about 8 minutes from where my parents live in the Saint George area. Here, we put our hiking shoes to the test. Zion gave us exciting hikes like Angels Landing, while the red rock hills north of the city provided amazing views of the surrounding area.
We did all this hiking on weekdays, by the way, to avoid crowds that materialize over the weekend. Mid-morning we were on the trails.
This was our first real experience with boondocking – or, camping out in the middle of nowhere without any electrical, water or sewer hookups. Granted, we had access to my folk’s house for showers and dinner. But, we learned how bad ass our solar power system really is.
Utah has nothing but brilliant sun almost all year. Every day our solar system pushes a ton of power into our 440 amp AGM battery bank in the trailer. We go to bed with 100% battery power most nights. I can run our computer equipment and charge batteries all day long. The flat panel monitor? No problem. Lights? Sure thing. We. Love. Solar.
We’re out in the middle of the desert and generating plenty of power – more than what we actually use. That’s super cool.
We fill up with water every couple of days with two 7-pound water jugs. We bought a water siphon pump from a beer brewing store in Tucson before we left that pumps the nearly 50 pounds of water into our holding tanks. Nearly a month went by before having to empty our waste tanks. Thank you composting toilet! And showers at my folk’s house.
This is a beautiful and incredibly cheap way to live.
We pulled in just shy of $1000 this month due to a combination of passive income and side hustles. Passive income includes ads here on TSR as well as on our YouTube channel and affiliate links through Amazon.com and Personal Capital. I also side hustle with J$ over at Rockstar Finance working on some cool projects that will take the personal finance community by storm. That’s the goal, anyway. 🙂
With a yearly budget of less than $30,000 a year, generating around a grand every month is more than 1/3rd of our yearly expenses. That’s pretty damn cool. We didn’t rely on having this income post-retirement, but it’s nice to know that it’s there. Like I wrote about before, early retirement opens up a world of opportunity.
What’s the downside of this lifestyle?
We aren’t on a vacation, here. This is still real life, and not every facet of life is going to be awesome. We’re living in a 200 square foot Airstream parked out in the middle of nowhere, and just like with any lifestyle, there are some downsides.
Desert equals dust
Holy shit, the dust. One of the ways we keep the inside of our Airstream cool is by keeping the windows open for the majority of the day. It allows the breeze to flow through the entire trailer and keep air moving and things fairly cool. Our Fantastic Fans in the ceiling help pull the air through. However, a few days have been windy. Like, extremely windy. Sustained 40 to 50 mile an hour winds. Gusts that seemed to touch 70 MPH. Stupid fast winds.
When you’re out in the middle of the desert, what does this mean? Blowing dust! And lots of it. Imagine for a moment coming back from a day of hiking to a thin layer of red dust on pretty much all of your surfaces: Our counter, the desk, our closed laptops, the keyboards…pretty much everything. The Airstream stayed cool, though! But yeah, we could have done without the dust. And, frankly, the wind.
Water is life!
While our solar system pumps beautiful energy into our battery bank, we can’t materialize water out of thin air. It’s been easier (and free) for the majority of our first month due to our shameless thievery of my parent’s city water supply (aka: their water hose). In the future, we’ll need to use water-fill stations or campground water spigots.
We’ve found that we need to fill up with water every week or so depending on the availability of public showers – the more we’re able to shower away from the Airstream, the less water we’ll need to put back into our holding tanks. Also, we’ve more or less got the cooking part down. We use very, very little water to cook and wash dishes. Hell – we probably use more water in our morning coffee/tea than we use to wash the dishes at night.
We knew this going in, but dirt is the price you pay for free rent. Our two formerly white dogs are now orange. We vacuum nearly every day. We’re living out in the dust and completely exposed to the elements, and it definitely shows on the Airstream and our truck – not to mention on our dogs. Each time they hop into the trailer after being outside, they get dust on the floor and the couch. We do, too. Our shoes maintain a steady facade of orange-red. Stomp nearly anywhere to expel a gentle puff of dust from the shoe’s fabric.
The dirt is never-ending, but that is all a part of this lifestyle. When you’re out in the middle of nowhere, there is going to be dirt. Luckily, there’s no mud – it rarely rains out here in southern Utah, especially this time of year.
If you’re a clean-freak, then you’ll need to do one of two things: Resign yourself to spending the majority of your natural life cleaning, or our preferred route: Rid yourself of your anal ways and understand that to live rent-free in a 200 square foot trailer, there will be dirt. It’s a fact of life. Clean when you need to, but don’t worry about following every speck of dirt with a dust rag 24-hours a day.
You’ll drive yourself insane.
That’s it! One month is in the books and things are going well. We plan to travel a bit more over the coming months, though we never anticipate spending more than two or three hours driving. I will report back next month with how we did!