First month of full-time travel: Hiking and Dust!

Published May 1, 2017   Posted in In Retirement Travel Logs

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.

Hiking

From the top of Picacho Peak

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.

Angels Landing in Zion National Park

Boondocking

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 byΒ 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.

The beautiful red rocks at Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.

Making money

We pulled in just shy of $1000 thisΒ month due to a combination of passive income and side hustles. Passive income includes ads here on TSR as well as on our YouTube channel and affiliate links through Amazon.com and Personal Capital. I also side hustle with J$ over at Rockstar Finance working on some cool projects that will take the personal finance community by storm. That’s the goal, anyway. πŸ™‚

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 onΒ 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.

Dirt. Everywhere.

Sunset at our desert boondocking spot

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!

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Comments

40 responses to “First month of full-time travel: Hiking and Dust!”

  1. Thanks for the write up and the excellent pictures Steve. It appears to be going very well. The water thing is concerning. I’ll be interested to see how you fare there over longer periods. The important question you didn’t answer though… Are you having fun? πŸ™‚

    • Steve says:

      Hey FTF – we are definitely having fun! A ball, in fact. Lots of hiking. Lots of controlling our own schedule. So far, we couldn’t be happier.

  2. Awesome report – both the good and the bad! I’m wondering if you’ll always have to deal with the dirt though. There will be plenty of places with “normal” levels of dirt (and hopefully a hell of a lot less wind!) It’s good to get used to it though! How did the Airstream hold up in those winds in terms of blowing around? Sounds like it could have been scary – 70 mph wind can wreak havoc on houses with foundations!

    • Steve says:

      That’s a very good point, Vicki. We’re basically in the desert out here, so the dust will be a more common problem where we happen to be. But we also plan to spend the majority of the summer months up in Oregon, so we’ll get a bit of a reprieve then. But yeah, strong winds are no Bueno!

  3. Hard to believe it’s been a month already. Congratulations and love the report. That red rocks picture above – with those colors – gorgeous shot! I’m enjoying the YouTube vids too. Hope the winds die down for you. Looking forward to coming reports. Take care out there!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks, Amy! The winds have finally died down for us now, but we’re also a hundred miles north in the Bryce Canyon area. We escaped! πŸ™‚

  4. apathyends says:

    Looks awesome! Glad to hear that solar setup is working so well – have to keep you two online!

    I will take too cold, too hot, even a sprinkle over wind!

    • Steve says:

      Yeah, I will take almost anything over strong winds. I’ve always hated the wind, and it looks like I’m not the only one! πŸ˜‰

  5. DadsDollarsDebts says:

    Kudos man! Living the dream for the rest of us. Hope we can join you in the future…but the dust. Wooh, I did not even think of that but I can imagine it is brutal. You should make a pop out change station on the outside of the airstream that you can switch clothes and shoes for the indoors!

    I spent the weekend cleaning out (spring cleaning style) our home. Despite moving in 6 months ago and doing a thorough donation run then, I was still able to get together another 5 bags worth of clothes and toys….not to mention books. Craziness but it is part of my goal of clearing out items so that when we make the lunge it will be easier to leave the brick and mortar world behind.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Dads! Hehe, the pop out changing station sounds totally usable…if only it doesn’t get blown away in the gusts!

      And yeah, it’s amazing how quickly we begin to build up clutter. We’ve seen the same thing over here as well. It’s just way, way too easy to accumulate stuff without evening knowing it.

  6. Wow! Looks like y’all are having a blast on that Airstream traveling gig! I do miss watching Arizona desert sunsets. πŸ™‚ Sorry to hear it’s dirty, but it still sounds better than sitting in a cubicle. Mm.

    • Steve says:

      We definitely are, Mrs. Picky Pincher! You’re absolutely right…dusty, but loads better than sitting in a cubicle for eight to 10 hours a day. πŸ™‚

  7. TheRetirementManifesto says:

    LOVE the updates, Steve. It’s great how your expanding other social media channels for the video/photography stuff. The only downside, I’m spending all of my time looking at your pics (Instagram/Facebook) and videos (YouTube). You DO know I’m still supposed to be working, right? Can’t wait to join you, I’m FIRE Minus 13 Months!! Can’t wait to eat some dust.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Fritz! Working is very subjective, you know…the things you do to clear and relax your mind will often assist you in your other J.O.B.-type activities. Consider it…a mental exercise in productivity-boosting relaxation? πŸ˜‰

  8. brian503 says:

    The good news, a 200 square foot trailer doesn’t take long to clean. πŸ™‚ Looks and sounds like a great first month!

  9. Sitting in my RV reading this right now… Can’t wait to travel even more than we do. Your posts are inspiring!

    In the post you mention “pounds” of water – I guess you likely mean gallons. Seven pounds of water is only about one gallon.

    I’m curious how your gray tank is holding up. We’ve found so far that gray seems to be the main challenge for us. We can go 3+ days without running out of water, electric, black tank space, etc… but gray fills up after about three days. Maybe we shower too long, or need to figure a more efficient way to wash dishes. Would love to hear tips you’ve discovered so far on this point.

    Thanks for sharing – good stuff! πŸ™‚

    • ssichler says:

      Here’s what works for us when we boondock/dry camp:
      -Low flow Oxygenics shower head with on/off switch for navy showers
      -Water pitcher in shower to collect initial cold water and use for dishes
      -Paper plates (makes a good firestarter)
      -Do dishes once per day and catch water in basin you can pour outside

      • Great tips – especially that last one. That’s the first I’ve heard it but sounds like it would have a big impact! Thanks.

      • Steve says:

        Yup! We don’t have an Oxygenics shower head yet, but we probably will in the future. We collect the cold-before-warm water in our bathroom sink and wash a few things in it. I would love to use more paper plates, but the wife thinks they are wasteful (of course, that means we go through a little more water). I don’t argue. πŸ™‚

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for your comment, Coach Brad! With our composting toilet, we’ve actually combined our gray and black tank by using a shutoff value at the point where we release the tanks during dumping. We keep both the gray and black tank valves open 100% of the time so the water will essentially auto-level. That has greatly extended the number of days that we can go without a sewer connection. Weeks, now.

      We also take “military showers”, which means we turn the water off while we’re soaping up and then turning it back on just to rinse off. It takes some getting used to at the beginning, but once you have the process down, it’s actually pretty easy.

      But yes, I definitely meant gallons, not pounds. It’s about 50 or so pounds. πŸ™‚

      • That’s a very interesting idea. Our black tank fills very slowly compared to gray. Good idea to use that “extra” storage space to extend your time between dumps. I’ll need to look into that further.

        • Steve says:

          Totally. I’ll be honest – the composting toilet was BY FAR the best upgrade we’ve done. In fact, I’d say it’s a critical component if you do a lot of boondocking like we do.

  10. Mr. Tako says:

    Sounds like you’re having a good time. Love your comments about the dust and dirt — it reminds me of when we go tent camping in the summer. It’s nearly impossible to keep dirt out of a tent!

    • Steve says:

      Hehe, yup! The dust definitely got annoying after a while. Luckily, we’re now out in the woods outside Bryce. Much less dirt.

  11. Joe says:

    Man, I don’t like dust. I’m allergic to house dust, but not sure about dessert dust. Probably not.
    What do you guys do for internet? Some kind of cell device?
    Great job with side hustle. That’s the great thing about living frugally. A little income goes a long way.

    • Steve says:

      Hey Joe! We use a Verizon unlimited plan for our Internet. We also have a 4g cell booster on top of the Airstream that helps a ton. We can stream Netflix and YouTube a lot based on the help from the booster. It was a nice upgrade for us.

      • Which booster did you buy? And was it easy to install / make work? The wifi in many places, if it exists at all, seems pretty lame. Thinking we might also upgrade to the unlimited on our Verizon plan.

        • Steve says:

          We got the WeBoost Drive 4G-X – around $480 through Amazon. We also bought a directional antenna instead of using the POS omni-directional that comes with the booster. That means you gotta turn the directional antenna so it points towards a cell tower, but that’s pretty easy to do. We took down our Airstream’s TV antenna and mounted the directional in its place, which means we can lift it up AND turn it 360 degrees from inside the Airstream. Works great.

          Also, we have one of those grandfathered Verizon unlimited plans – so absolutely no restrictions or caps of any kind. I’m glad to see Verizon coming out with a “similar” plan. That will eventually create another competition that hopefully we’ll start seeing ALL carriers begin to embrace unlimited once again.

  12. Divnomics says:

    It reminds me a bit of the beach when gusts of wind pour all over you… But it looks amazing! We were there not too long ago as well (which we loved!) and we know that we will travel much more often to the US in the future. So looking forward to the pictures yet to come!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for the comment! Yup, the dirt that we deal with is definitely worth it. There are way more positives than negatives to this lifestyle so far. Just so much to see!

  13. Mrs. BITA says:

    Glad to hear the RV reality is living up to the dream. My legs hurt just thinking about all the hiking you are getting in! Smart choice going non-anal with the dust. There are two of you and a few billion dust motes. You aren’t going to win that fight.

    • Steve says:

      Ha! Nope, we definitely won’t beat the dust…just gotta manage it in a way that makes the most sense for us. That’s the best we can do. πŸ™‚

  14. This sounds AWESOME!!!! I’m such a nomad by heart.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for the comment, PP – so far, it is awesome. Choosing a new place to live at a moment’s notice is incredibly freeing. πŸ™‚

  15. Steve, what a great inside look into RV life. I’m sure it’s a wonderful feeling being able to have so much time to invest in your photography and other pastimes. That’s probably my biggest struggle with the 9-5. I enjoy my work, but its tough to carve out time for the real fun stuff!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks MMM – it really is a wonderful feeling. More than I thought it would be, in fact. And, I feel your pain regarding full-time work and fun!

  16. […] ThinkSaveRetire (Steve) wrote an article about what they are doing post-retirement. I think it is a very interesting read and makes me look forward to retiring myself as well […]

  17. Ben says:

    Hi Steve,

    I believe that this will be a nice experience for you. The thought of such experienve is thrilling. There is bound to be trade-off for the rent-free environment. I think that there is one way of enjoying life. Life is not all about comfort. A bit bit of discomfort and inconvenience will make one cherish his/her stress-free retirement lifestyle more valuable. You and your spouse have made the right choice in choosing this route. Kudos to both of you!

    Ben

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Ben! I like getting out of my comfort zone, actually. Forces me to learn new things…to expand my horizons. Works every time!

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